From Imagination To Publication

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Hey! I'm releasing my next book, The Mercenary's Daughter, in 10 days. Here is the first chapter for anyone who wants to give it a try :)

When Special Ops recruit, Tara Kafee is dishonorably discharged, there's only one place to go—Home.

But there’s more waiting for her there than she’s ready for.

It’s been four years since she’s been back and ten since her mother walked out on the family never to be heard of again.

She’s determined to rekindle things with her father and keep him close. That is, until he goes missing.

Soon after stumbling upon a safe room full of weapons, fake passports, and a mission’s dossier marking a target in Cuba, she reluctantly accepts the help of her angsty teenage brother. He’s the only one she can trust, so together, the two set out for Havana.

Tara is determined to get her father back, whatever it takes, but things are never easy when you’re the mercenary’s daughter.

MARCH 31, 2020


SOMETHING BROKE IN ME the day my mother left, and maybe that’s why I hardened on the outside, trapping all my hurt behind an iron curtain of indifference.
It wasn’t something I could take back. She was the one who’d walked out.
As I sat in the car in front of a stream of cool air, I tried not to think of her. She didn’t deserve my thoughts, but it was hard not to wonder where she was. And why? Always why?
 What kind of a woman leaves her twelve-year-old daughter without a word? It had been ten years, and I still couldn’t come up with an answer.
As I killed the engine to my Jeep, I smothered all thoughts of her and stole a glance in the rearview. Thankfully, I had Dad’s full lips and olive skin tone, but Mom’s soft brown eyes still stared back at me through every mirror. I raked my wavy locks of dark brown hair off my forehead.
I was a feminine-looking girl, and as a Marine that always proved to be a mind grenade to the random stranger. Being a soldier wasn’t what I would have chosen to do with my life, but I ended up good at it, anyway. Maybe because it was the perfect way to release my rage.
After being let out of juvie for the third time, it seemed like my only option. Well, my only legal option. I’d barely finished my GED so there weren’t exactly a slew of Ivy League colleges beating down my door. And frankly, jumping out of planes seemed a lot more fun than the prom I’d missed a few months earlier. 
But the real reason I enlisted was Dad. More specifically, it was the look on his face as we left the detention center. He tried his best to hide it, but it was clear he didn’t know what else to do. There was a hopelessness in him. The look affected me so much that on the drive home, I’d literally blurted out my plan to join the military like it was a well-thought-out decision. After seeing the life rush back into his eyes, I knew I had to follow through.
Which was one of the reasons I was still in my car while he waited in the bar to see me for the first time in nearly four years. I wasn’t looking forward to facing him. Not after what happened.
After three years in the Marines, I’d been one of the first women to make it into Special Ops. I’d almost completed the training. It was a big deal, but just like everything else, I’d found a way to screw it up. At twenty-two I was bounced out on a dishonorable discharge. Great job, Tara.
I blew out a deep breath and grabbed my purse from the passenger seat. It was now or never.
The Miami heat was oppressive, but nothing compared to the desert. Triple-digit temps in full military gear was an entirely different kind of torture. This seemed almost pleasant in comparison. Stepping off the curb, I tugged at my white T-shirt, using it to wipe my forehead, and tucked my cell phone into the back pocket of my ripped jeans as I crossed the cracked, worn parking lot. Combat boots were probably a little much in this weather, but I liked the familiar way they hugged my feet.
As I passed a set of tinted car windows, I caught a glimpse of the tattoo on my upper arm: a picture of an eagle landing on a globe, with the words Semper Fi in a banner below. I pulled my sleeve down to cover it up. I’d gotten it with a few other recruits right after getting through boot camp. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it only reminded me that most of my closest friends had been lost along the way. I told myself it was a tribute, but the truth was, it made me sick to look at it.
Sidestepping a constellation of crushed glass, I headed to a bar called the Ugly Tarpon Saloon. The door handle stuck to my palm as I gave it a yank, and I wiped the residue on my jeans, opening the door with my foot.
Inside it was pretty much like every other bar in Florida. Sure, there were pockets of culture to be had, but most of the state was painfully nondescript and littered with dumps like this, all fashioned with the same décor: bits of random crap on the walls, maybe a couple pool tables and, of course, the ever-present line of booths packed with overly tan drunks slurping half-empty beers. 
The place smelled of dribbled bourbon and tangy old popcorn, but they must have been known for their food, otherwise Dad wouldn’t have picked such a scummy place to meet for lunch. Thankfully, I didn’t see him at any of the tables, which meant I hadn’t kept him waiting. 
 A woman with tire-streak eyeliner passed me as I plopped down into a vinyl-clad booth, where a light poof of cigarette-stink burped from the cushions. To my right, a group of college boys sat along tipsy-legged tables and gave her their best “How you doin’” chin pump. I ignored them and threw my feet onto the torn cushions as the bartender across the room gave me a hard squint. Only a year over the legal drinking age, I still encountered my fair share of skeptics. 
I turned and stared him down, and after a moment, he looked away. Years ago I learned that most people preferred to avoid conflict. I’d been using that to my advantage ever since.
“Hey, Terror,” a voice came from the entrance of the bar.
A half smile bent my lips. There was only one person who called me that. 
“Hey, Harry,” I said, instead of Dad, volleying his verbal jab.
Dad was a tall, attractive man with short, graying hair. A salt-of-the-earth sort. The kind of guy who didn’t smile much, but when he did, it meant something. And gosh, I missed that smile. I scooted out of the booth as he approached, and just the feel of his strong hug and the smell of Old Spice made me regret staying away for so long.  
 “Good to see you, Tara,” Dad finally relented. He had a firm, solid voice, like a heavy door with a good swing, and my smile widened at the sound of it. 
“You, too...Dad. I’ve missed your face.” 
As we sat down, he held up two fingers, signaling the bartender, who gave him an understanding nod. Then came the concerned look I was expecting. I’d seen it a hundred times, but it still made my heart skip with guilt. He rested his elbows on the table, hands cradling his chin, and I braced myself for the oncoming dissection of my life.
“So, how’s my little girl?” he asked. 
I stiffened. He wanted details about the dishonorable, of course, and I should have thought of something to tell him, but I wasn’t ready. No matter whose fault it was, shame still colored my cheeks. Instead, I opted to skirt the issue with a brush off.
“Fine. I guess,” I answered.
Thankfully, he didn’t push.
“You look good,” he said, giving me the full once-over. “Except for the wardrobe.”
His words were a hint. No uniform. I pretended not to notice.
“This? It’s combat chic.”
He let out a deep breath. “Everything’s a joke—”
“Dad, really?” I leaned back in the booth. “Do we have to just start right in?”
“I’m your father. Someone’s got to do it.”
“Really?” I asked, eyeing the bar. “Because I’m twenty-two now, which kinda makes me an adult.”
“An adult who’s apparently still pushing boundaries.”
I sat up straighter, picking up on the disappointment in his voice, but he had no idea what I’d been through. I knew what he was thinking, that I’d gone wild, broken rules. Typical loose-cannon Tara. But it wasn’t like that. “The dishonorable discharge…it wasn’t…” I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. Silence hung in absence of my confession. 
“What matters is you’re back home.” Dad nodded. “Safe. That’s all I care about.”
I hesitated, feeling the need to explain, but the words died in my throat as I remembered the unwelcome hands on me, the force of strong arms holding me down. The details of my discharge went deeper than I’d let on over the phone. I hadn’t even told the whole truth to my superiors. I couldn’t prove it, so what was the point? The shame of admitting what actually happened kept me quiet.
Dad shook his head, clearly still dwelling on the topic. “It’s a bummer, you know? You could have had a great career. Now what?”
“I’ll figure it out,” I said, my voice spiking with conviction. “You grew up in the ’70s. Wasn’t everyone wandering around, trying to find themselves?”
“’Course not.”
Dad frowned, the lines on his whiskered face deepening. “I’m serious, you’re just gonna wing it from here? No grand plan?”
“Nope,” I flashed him a cheesy fake smile. “The whole world’s my oyster.”
But I wasn’t kidding about the first part. There was no grand plan; there wasn’t even a short-term plan. I had no idea what was next. Despite the sardonic front, having no set direction did bother me. I’d banked everything on a career in the Marines and now that was over. I dug my thumbnail into the wooden table avoiding Dad’s eyes.
I’d always envied people who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. It was only by chance I’d found the military, but it worked for me. Ironically, the skills I’d acquired on the streets, what had gotten me arrested in the first place, was what made me so good at being a soldier. Funny how when you’re one of the “good guys,” pointing a gun at someone suddenly makes you the hero. Dad was right to be worried. I didn’t know what to do with myself. 
“Tara?” he said loudly as the bartender set down two steak sandwiches and a basket of fries.
I looked up and snapped back into focus. “Yeah?”
“I asked if you knew where you’re staying?”
“I...thought I might stay at the house,” I said, grabbing a fry.
Dad paused, finishing his bite. “Maybe you should stay with a friend.”
A friend? The suggestion felt like a betrayal. He was the only one in the world who cared about me and suddenly I wasn’t welcome home? 
“Why?” I asked in shock, my eyebrows raised in genuine misunderstanding.
“It’s been four years. You’ve barely spoken to Mitch. Never wrote,” Dad rubbed the back of his neck. “He’s a little…angsty about it.”
 I pressed my lips together and nodded. “No sweat. I should have my pick of homeless shelters, maybe find an unlocked car to crawl into...”
Dad’s eyebrows sank into a deep furrow. 
“I’m kidding. I’ve got places I can crash,” I said, hiding my hurt feelings with an eye roll. “But come on, does he have to turn into a whiny little girl about everything?” I blew away my wood shavings and looked up. My brother and I had our own issues, but I did miss him. “How’s he doing, anyway?”
“Good,” Dad answered. “He’s enjoying his senior year, already got accepted to a few colleges. Looks like it’ll be MIT, though.” 
“I know. There’s an admissions counselor who calls every couple of months. They’re pretty much courting him at this point.”
“Wow,” I said, savoring the flavor of real food. “That’s great.”
“Didn’t get those brains from me. Makes me wanna go get a paternity test.” We both smiled, and Dad leaned back into the vinyl booth seat. “He’s been helping me finish an office I’m putting up in the backyard.”
“Really? Kid barely knows how to hold a hammer.”
“It’s not much, some finish work, light electrical. But you’d be surprised. He’s grown up a lot in four years.” Dad smirked. “The little brother you left is taller than you now.”
“Jeesh, that’s hard to swallow.”
Dad nodded. “So, listen...I’ve gotta run, but you’re coming to dinner tonight, right? We’ll talk more then.”
“Oh, so I can come to dinner but can’t sleep in my room?”
“I just don’t want you guys to fight,” he said, throwing some cash on the table and making another gesture to the bartender.
“Us? Fight?”  
“Never,” he teased. “We’ll see how it goes.” Dad smiled and pulled keys out of his pocket. “I’m heading back to the office. You need a ride somewhere?”
I laughed. “I have a car, Dad.” But the fact that he didn’t know made me realize how much distance had grown between us. “I’m gonna see about a job.” 
“Job? With who?”
Dad’s eyes went wide. “Jesus, Tara—”
“It’s not like that, Dad,” I cut him off. Although I couldn’t deny, deep down I was looking forward to seeing my old fling. “Really. Vince is totally legit. He’s running his dad’s business now. Tropical fish.”
He seemed to use every muscle in his body to nod. “I see. Well...if he’s turned his life around, then...maybe.”
“Yeah, maybe. I think this could be good for me.”
As we got up from our booth I felt bad for making him worry. I shouldn’t have mentioned Vince. 
“Six o’clock, sharp. Pot roast,” he said, gripping his keys.
I threw my napkin onto my empty plate. “Yummy. I do love me some pot roast.”
“And hey...go easy on your brother,” he added. “He has a point. You could have written.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll cut Nancy some slack.”
He gave me a warning look. “He hates it when you call him that.”
“Uhh, yeah. Why else would I do it?”
Dad reached out for a hug, and I wrapped my arms around him, releasing the burden of all those months overseas and the years away. No matter what issues we had to work out, I was finally home. He kissed the top of my head like he always did, and although I didn’t mention how comforting it felt to be near him, how scared and alone I’d been in a world of sand and heat, how hard I’d fought, how much I’d missed him, I didn’t pull away.
“Missed you, Kiddo,” he said for me. “Glad you’re home.”
Maybe being discharged was a good thing, I thought as I watched him exit the bar. It was a second chance. A chance to not make my mother’s mistakes. I could be a better daughter. A better sister, even. This could be a fresh start.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

YA Scavenger Hunt & COVER REVEAL for my new book!

Thanks for stopping by for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Today is exciting. Not only is it the hunt, but I'm revealing the cover of my new book, THE MERCENARY'S DAUGHTER! I hope you like it.

"One of the coolest and downright fun books I’ve read in a while."
Tommy Wirkola, writer/director of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “Dead Snow.” 

"A hugely entertaining novel. It pulls you in and doesn’t let you go."
Tom O’Conner, screenwriter of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” and “Ironbark.”

"Big action. Tons of heart. I was hooked from page one."
 Matt Lieberman, screenwriter of “The Christmas Chronicles, “The Adam’s Family,” and “Free Guy.”

"Completely compelling. The pages might rip from turning them so fast."
Neil Tolkin, screenwriter of “License to Drive” and “The Emperor's Club.”

**scroll down for YASH info**

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are FOUR contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PURPLE TEAM--but there are three other teams for a chance to win a whole different set of books!


Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the purple team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am hosting Eric Lindtrom on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! 

Eric Lindstrom enjoys writing Young Adult novels, including his debut novel NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST followed by A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL. He also raised children, which led to becoming first a school volunteer, then a substitute teacher, then a part time kindergarten teacher, then getting a credential to teach elementary school, and most importantly the discovery that Young Adult books are awesome. It’s pretty much all he ever reads, and now writes, in his house near the beach on the west coast, with his wife and, yes, cats.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book here!


For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to conceal her diagnosis by keeping everyone at arm’s length. But when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium. As the walls of Mel’s compartmentalized world crumble, she fears the worst—that no one will accept her if they discover what she’s been hiding. But would her friends really abandon her if they learned the truth? More importantly, can Mel bring herself to risk everything to find out?

Many Goodreads reviews for A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL have wished there were more scenes with Aunt Joan, aka Hurricane Joan, aka HJ. Mel has bipolar disorder with most of her time spent in depression, while her aunt’s type is mostly hypomanic, making her energetic, impulsive, obsessive, opinionated, and volatile. My early drafts did have more scenes with HJ, but she was taking over too much of Mel’s story so many got cut. But for those who’ve read the book, here’s a scene with HJ that didn’t make the final draft; and for those who haven’t read, this is as good an introduction as any. The title of the book actually comes from a scene where Mel watches HJ get ready to go out on a Friday night, thinking the spectacle is both wonderful and tragic, and this scene below takes place the following morning...

Aunt Joan isn’t home yet when I get back to the house around ten. Mom’s in her room, probably because she was up late with my boyfriend, Netflix. Maybe she’s cocooned in her bed for the same reasons I wish I were in mine—it’s hereditary—but I can’t do it. It won’t feel good to lie in bed, eyes wide open, with the Ritalin running my Hamster in its wheel in my head.
          Sometimes I miss when my meds weren’t so well tuned. I wonder if sober alcoholics miss how it feels being drunk. These are the times I miss Nolan most. My onset happened after he’d gone so I never got a chance to tell him I finally understand what it’s like, being him.
          I strip and climb into the shower.
          The bathroom door opens. I’ve been standing for some unknown length of time facing away from the hot spray, hands cupped by my collarbone to direct half the water down my chest while the rest hits my neck and runs down my back.
          Porcelain clanks. I know it’s HJ from how she barged into the bathroom with me in it, from how hard she landed on the toilet seat, from the insane power of her morning urine blasting into the water. If that weren’t proof enough, she pisses in Morse code, never passing up a chance to practice her Kegels…
          …pss, pss, pss…pss…pssssshhh, pss, pss, pssssshhh…
          I taught myself Morse code last year just to decipher HJ’s toilet monologues. Over time I discovered I didn’t need to; she only used the same three letters, in the same order, over and over. It used to make me smile to hear it, and I didn’t mind memorizing Morse code for nothing—I wasn’t sleeping much at the time anyway. It’s true all she ever thinks about is S-E-X, but once I understood that she can’t help it, and can’t stop it, it stopped being funny.
          I turn off the shower and stand a moment, dripping, chilling, and waiting. Not for HJ to leave because I’m modest, but to gauge her mood. Mornings after her late nights out are always the most unpredictable. If she tosses my towel over the curtain, it’s safe to talk.
          The TP roll spins hard. The toilet flushes. The sink does not turn on. The door opens and doesn’t close.
          Not safe. I climb out and grab my towel. Before I’ve wrapped up, the door to HJ’s room slams shut.

And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Jessica Therrien, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 846. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the purple team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!


To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author!

Monday, August 19, 2019

New Book Announcement!


I'm releasing a new book on March 31, 2020 
I had an incredible opportunity to work with screenwriter Joe Gazzam (who is currently writing for Magnum P.I. on CBS).
The book is complete and cover design is in the works!! 🥳
Follow me on Instagram for more details

When Special Ops recruit, Tara Kafee is dishonorably discharged, there’s only one place to go—Home. 
But there’s more waiting for her there than she’s ready for.
It’s been four years since she’s been back and ten since her mother walked out on the family never to be heard of again.
She’s determined to rekindle things with her father and keep him close. That is, until he goes missing.
Soon after stumbling upon a safe room full of weapons, fake passports, and a mission’s dossier marking a target in Cuba, she reluctantly accepts the help of her angsty teenage brother. He’s the only one she can trust, so together, the two set out for Havana.
Tara is determined to get her father back, whatever it takes, but things are never easy when you’re the mercenary’s daughter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Life With Three Kids - Welcome Home Annabelle Rose!

It's been almost six weeks since we welcomed our third child, little Annabelle Rose, into the world. Life has been is expected with three, but we're so blessed and happy to have her here.

The third baby is easier in some ways. I feel like I know what I'm doing, and caring for a newborn is something I've done twice before so there is a level of confidence. In other ways it's harder. With the first and second I didn't have any older kids in school. Meaning we could all sleep in until 10am to catch up on the hours missed throughout the night. It also meant I didn't have to worry about any older kids bringing home colds or the flu from school.

Having my oldest in Kindergarten has me up at 6am to make lunch and hustle him to class no matter how rough the night was, and I've had constant stress that he's going to bring home the flu...I'm not ready to deal with a newborn and a house full of sickies just yet...

Despite the new challenges, Annabelle is an easy, happy baby, so I got very lucky there. My boys are just as in love as we are, and I realized on one of her panic-crying car rides on our way to school, that having siblings is teaching my children to care for others. As Annabelle cried, my oldest hushed her, speaking with a comforting voice, telling her it would all be all right. Her sobs quieted and she fell asleep to his "Shh shh shh" sound. Moments like that help remind me that even though my time and attention is spread thin and divided by three, they will (hopefully) find companionship in each other and be better people for having to care for and share with their siblings.

Life with three is fun and crazy and chaotic. I'm a mess most of the time, but learning and loving it all the time...even when it's hard (which is often).

Well, back to juggling babies, books, and business... wish me luck people ;)

Friday, February 1, 2019


Have you ever wondered how authors get their start?
How do they get agents?
How do they get published?
Is it luck? Talent? Drive?

This segment is an attempt to satisfy my immense answer the one question I'm dying to ask every author out there: How did your book become a book?

Visit the full catalogue of "My Publishing Journey" interviews HERE.

Today's Featured Author

PJ Colando

Author of
The Winner's Circle



Life in rural small town can dull the senses. A trio of gal pals—mired in middle age, Middle America, and other people’s problems—long to escape.

When Bonnie wins the Boffo Lotto, her circle of friends urge her to lawyer up, invest, and sequester herself. 

But secrets are inconceivable in small towns, so Bonnie and Carl invite close friends to witness their Vegas wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii with endless vagabond beyond. The sky’s the limit!

The allure of travel is fun for a while—hilarious, in fact. But when the husbands are jailed, wanderlust is no longer a romp and things get complicated when you’re halfway round the world, untethered from all you know and love. 

Life has its consequences… and there’s no place like home.

Hello PJ! Thanks for agreeing to share your publishing journey. First, please give us a brief summary of how you got where you are and why you chose this path.

I was a speech-language pathologist for many years. I wrote thousands and thousands of clinical reports – and some of them contained fabulous fiction (wink-wink). 

It was a career I adored, but it was time to ease into retirement, which my husband and I had promised we’d achieve by age 55. Writing creatively has freedom, fulfillment, and leisure-pleasure, as well as compassion for characters, a feeling that carries forward from my work with patients and their parents. I adore my encore career of writing as much as my former career as a speech-language pathologist! I call my genre ‘loose-with-the-truth.’ It’s fun to fictionalize!


How did you find Acorn Publishing? And what made you decide to go with Acorn?
I consider it a ‘co-find process.’ One of my best decisions ever! (after deciding to marry my husband) I feel blessed. It’s an important relationship. I am more than pleased to be shepherded and guided within the ACORN Publishing team.   

What do you like about hybrid publishing?
My decisions are independent yet fostered within a framework of choices based upon the hybrid publishers’ prior experiences. There’s less scatter of my efforts and attention, less hunt-and-peck. I feel as if ACORN is funneling me into success and I am glad to be on their path.

Which formats (hardcover, e-book, paperback, audio) are you putting out and why?
Hardcover – my first time! – because I love my book, The Winner’s Circle, cover and I want my book in libraries. eBook and paperback will also be released because these are more affordable options for my family and friends to buy. You, too, blog reader!

Did you choose to do everything yourself (such as website design, formatting, etc.) or did you hire out?
Because I am Boomer-aged and less technologically savvy than the present generation of writers, I enlisted the services of others with these skill sets. The best service delivery model for me and my age and stage of life.


What marketing tactics did you focus on and why?
Because I’d been involved with my local – and densely-populated – writing scene for many years, I chose to rely upon personal relationships and interactions to market my book, The Winner’s Circle. I like connections and look forward to Book Club conversations. Bring ‘em on!

Thirty years ago, I’d built a highly-successful private practice in speech-language pathology with steadfast work and initiative, so I had a well-honed paradigm for achievement: provide quality service to meet others’ needs and they reward you with loyalty, blowing your horn for you. 

I call myself a plodder, neither a plotter or a pantser when I write, and the term applies to my marketing non-tactics. I believe that’s called ‘organic reach’ nowadays.

Do you have any advice given your experience marketing your past books?
Stay abreast of current best-practices for book publishing-and-marketing by following blogs. As with all aspects of life, the thing that is changing the fastest is change. Conversely, don’t adhere to fads and formulas, but rely on your own instincts and style.


What lessons have you learned? Any advice for those about to go down your path?
While indie publishing worked for me, hybrid publishing is better because you have a team to rely on.