Making Your Own Sunshine

Saturday morning, the sky was gray. It was too warm for November, and misty rain hung in the air, frizzing hair and adding a heaviness to the already gloomy day.

Once I wrangled myself out of bed, I texted a friend. We met up and spent the day shopping. We started at the Boerne Homemade Market, and she showed some great places in Boerne: Vintage on Main, Cielo, and The Dienger.

In one of the shops was a small bag that said “Sometimes you have to make your own sunshine.” I think that perfectly summed up the day.

I bought a few things. The star looks great above my fireplace, and that framed tin will be a fun addition to my craft room.

By the afternoon, we saw glimpses of the sun, and the rain moved on. That night, my sweetheart and I went dancing. It was an all-around great day.

Y’all, there is so much to be said for making your own sunshine. Grab a friend and find a place you love. San Antonio is full of wonderful spaces to enjoy. Or, if your friend is busy, grab a book. I can give you a few suggestions.

Read an Excerpt

Finding Claire, a romantic suspense novel set in the Texas Hill Country, is the first book in the Hill Country Secrets series. Below, I’ve included the first two chapters.

Finding Kate, book two in the series, picks up on the same day that Finding Claire ended.

Excerpt from Finding Claire


January 8, 2016 – 9:27pm

The night I woke up in the back of a van with my hands bound, my whole world changed. It was a Friday.
I opened my eyes and fought to remember how I ended up in a dark, moving vehicle. As if rising from the depths of a deep lake, I struggled, desperate for a glimpse of the familiar. Rope burned my wrists. I didn’t have the presence of mind or the courage to formulate an escape. Panic rendered me useless as someone drove me to the middle of nowhere.

The kidnappers’ most helpful accomplice, my own fear, held me prisoner. The worst part of it all, my mind hid memories from me. I didn’t even know my own name.

A greasy, foul-smelling man marched me into a dark house. Images of how I’d be killed flashed through my mind when he shoved me into a putrid closet. Another man did his bidding, and talked incessantly. More than a day, being fed nothing but bologna sandwiches, I wallowed in that tiny space.


January 10, 2016 – 12:48am

I stumbled through the brush, ever conscious of the darkness pressing in on me. The flashlight did little to hold it off. With my hands tied together, I slugged through the night, fighting to stay on my feet.

The circle of light jostled as I moved. I tripped on fallen limbs as noises spurred me on faster. I tumbled, and my knees connected with a large rock, half-buried in the ground. My hands in front of me, I caught my fall. But my palm oozed blood where something sharp tore through my flesh.

Exhausted, I pulled cold, wet air into my lungs and struggled to my feet. The heavy mist plastered my clothes to my skin. But the wet ground absorbed the pounding of my footsteps, keeping the sound from echoing through the night.

Progress was impossible to measure in the grey haze. Everything my light touched looked the same. I prayed I wouldn’t circle back to the house I’d left.


I pushed between juniper bushes, wincing as the evergreen branches scratched at my cheeks. As I cleared the trees, breath caught in my throat.

A house.

I approached it slowly, making sure it wasn’t the same one I’d just left.

I picked my steps through the underbrush, then hurried up the three porch steps. I knocked, over and over, louder and louder. All my pleading accomplished nothing. I walked around the outside hoping for a glimmer of light in a window. But silence and darkness encased the house.

Tears stung my scratches as I continued my search for help.


Drips ran down my hand, leaving a trail of blood as I stumbled through the trees. The clouds above still clung to their rain. The smell of moist earth permeated the air. I glanced up and wished for a just a glimpse of the moon or stars. The darkness taunted me, mocking the fact that I was alone.

I clung to the flashlight as I zigzagged around a prickly pear cactus. The ones I didn’t see left their marks on my legs. Tears filled my eyes, blurring my surroundings. I yelped as I snagged a barbed wire fence. The echo cackled as it scurried through the trees.

Leaves rustled nearby. I froze. The sense of something closing in tightened in my chest.


The screech of the owl sent terror pulsing through me. I pulled away from the wires, and my clothes tore. The whimper of an animal faded into the distance. I tried to forget that the blood and shreds would be easily visible in the daylight. I stared at the fence, desperately pleading for a way through. I tamped down the bottom wires with my foot and tried ducking under the other wires, but it didn’t work. Finally, I dropped face first to the ground and slithered under the bottom wire. I swallowed my cry as the barbs scraped my back.

I pushed forward, my heart wanting to run, my feet hindered by limbs and rocks. I glanced behind me into the darkness, sure the men were in pursuit, following the sound of my pain.


Shivering, I stopped to catch my breath. Wisps of white appeared in front of me each time I released my hot breath into the night.

Something near me hit the ground. I whipped around, bumping the switch on the flashlight. I was plunged into a vat of ink.

A snapping sound carried through the air. I looked back expecting lights bouncing through the trees. Feeling around the flashlight, I found the switch. When the light clicked on, the shadows returned, my welcome companions.

The underbrush slowed my progress as I hiked away from captivity. Somewhere in the night safety called to me, like Heathcliff on the moors. I’m hearing things.

I walked a bit farther and stopped. I heard it again. Laughter. I turned my head and waited for the sound to return. Pushed down by the damp air, it couldn’t have carried far. I tightened my grip on the flashlight and turned it off. Suffocated by the darkness, I scanned around me for light, any glimmer.

The wind blew, and for a moment, light appeared far off somewhere ahead. I hit the switch and surveyed to see what shielded the glow I’d seen. More juniper bushes. Their scent, pleasant only in small doses, clung to my clothes and hair like cheap cologne on an urban cowboy.

I shoved my way through the bushes, unsure of what lay on the other side, the light beckoning me forward. A house. My next step sent me skidding down. I bounced down the rocky incline on my hip, my tied hands useless to stop me. When I hit the bottom, my hip burned, and my head ached.

I crawled to a nearby boulder and used it to help me up. My legs were gelatin. When I stood, blood trickled down my face.

I limped toward the house, anticipating freedom from the rope and safety from the kidnappers. The sounds from before, clearer now, raucous laughter and men’s voices, rang out from the haven in front of me. I hurried my pace.
Closer, I smelled food. My mouth salivated.

A crunching sound beneath my foot stopped me cold.

I pointed the flashlight down. Beer cans carpeted the ground.

I darted, still limping, toward the trees before my legs gave out. The hope of safety torn away left a gaping hole in my chest. The light and sounds, so welcoming at first, mocked my fear. The front door opened, illuminating me. Not yet to the trees, I kept moving but switched off the flashlight.

A man stepped out the door. His pee splashed on the leaves, and I prayed he wouldn’t see me.
As I neared bushes, he shrieked, but I didn’t stop until I was hidden.

“What’s wrong, Gil?” A man called from inside the house. The s sliding into the word beside it.

“I saw someone.”

Cackles and snorts erupted from inside. “He saw Bigfoot.”

“Shut up! I know I saw someone. A woman, I think.”

“Gil’s little wife is sneaking out to check up on him.”

Their conversation devolved into yelling, and then someone threw a punch. What wasn’t safe before became outright dangerous. I pressed on, disappointment pouring out of my eyes. Blood, clothing, and now an eyewitness. So much for leave no trace. If I didn’t find help before the sun crested the horizon, I’d be eating a bologna and mayo sandwich for breakfast again. My stomach wretched at the thought.


My hair snagged on a mangled branch, and I ducked to keep my eyes from being punctured. The circle of light just ahead of me, fear nipped at my heels. I had to keep moving. Beyond the beam, a shroud of darkness made it impossible to see if I’d walked in circles.

Desperation disguised as hope propelled me forward, trusting that the lack of familiar sights meant I’d pushed farther away from the closet.


I skirted around yet another stand of juniper bushes. My sobs escaped into the night before I could catch them. The whoosh of fluttering birds, disrupted from their roosting, echoed around me.

A solid rock wall blocked my path, the side of a hill sheared off, leaving the white rocky insides exposed. It was too steep to climb. I stumbled to a large rock and crumpled into a heap. Blood dripped from my gashes and scratches, dotting the limestone, leaving yet another marker along my trail.

I pointed the flashlight to the right. The stone continued farther than the light could reach. The other direction, the rock sloped into weeds and bushes several yards away.

Mustering the last remnants of strength from my tired muscles, I pushed myself off the rock and trudged to the left. I inched my way up a small incline. Exhausted, I sprawled on the damp ground. Cold and sore, I ached to be inside somewhere, to be safe and protected.

The chill of the wet earth permeated the skin on my cheek. My eyelids begged to close, the temptation to sleep growing stronger every second I spent on the ground. The sky opened up and thundering raindrops pounded me. The rain urged me to continue, promising to wash away my tracks.

I lifted my head. A cabin. Just a few paces ahead, a cabin sat nestled in the trees. Firelight flickered in the windows. Adrenaline coursed through me. I struggled to my feet.

The lure of safety pulled me forward, my footsteps nearly silent on the soggy ground. A cat jumped onto the window sill. My heart raced. I dragged my tired body to the door.

Finding Schatzenburg

For me, there is something captivating about the landscape of the Texas Hill Country. The lush greens and vivid colors contrasted against the sharp edges and cold grey of the limestone make for a rugged yet beautiful place. It was this place that inspired the first ideas of Finding Claire and the series.

As a kid, I remember watching Mr. Rogers when they’d focus on the picture frame and we’d be transported into the land of make-believe. The characters were familiar, but the story changed a little each time. Books are the lands of make-believe that we never out-grow.

I’m working on a project that will give a better picture of Schatzenburg. Until then, enjoy these tidbits about the community, the tiny make-believe town at the heart of the Hill Country Secrets series.

Four buildings form the “downtown” of Schatzenburg. At the corner of Main and First sits the church, a bed & breakfast, a post office, and The Drugstore.


Free Short Stories

I enjoy writing short fiction from time to time. Here are some I’ve written in the past.

  • Could Be – Lisa comes home from work like any other day, except instead of her front door, there are two. Two doors, but only one chance to get it right.
  • The Attic – Gavin answers an ad to clean out an attic. The woman who answers the door welcomes him in but warns him that what’s inside the attic will change his life.
  • Mismatched – Kent decides what he’s willing to live without to be with the woman he loves.
  • Fridays at 3 – What’s really going on with Lily on Fridays at 3:00? Nathan has his suspicions.

New stories are sent out to newsletter subscribers and members of my inner circle, then I will post them on the blog. Look for Fiction Fridays.

Fiction Friday – Mismatched


A short unbelievable tale.

Emotions swirled as Kent peeked over a newspaper, waiting for his twin brother, Brent, to pop the question. Kent had bought the ring and convinced his brother to woo Miranda—the love of Kent’s life.
Brent reached across the table and clasped Miranda’s hand.
The sensation of touch–and all the emotion it brought with it–flooded over Kent.
Her brow pinched, and she straightened her shoulders as Brent slipped his hand in his jacket pocket while making declarations of love. Tiny frowns dangled at the edges of her smile. Her unhappiness stung.
Kent grabbed his phone, awash in guilt for his selfishness. He tapped out a quick text to her: I think about you all the time. Will you give me another chance?
She let go of Brent’s hand, looking at her phone. Her fingers danced on the screen.
Kent held his breath.
Her reply stunned him: I love you, Kent. Always.
He slipped out of the restaurant as Brent flagged down the waiter, giving them time unobserved to break off the relationship.
A block away, Kent ducked into the alley as Miranda hugged Brent. Kent felt it, but only for an instant.
His back pressed against a building, eyes closed, he savored the lingering sensation, the last moment of feeling her arms around him.  He loved her but only felt her when she touched his twin brother.
Love meant sacrifice. Kent exchanged the feel of her for the look of love in her eyes. Being with her, making her happy, erasing the frown became his singular focus. He stayed where he was for several minutes, then felt lips pressed against his. Confusion mixed with jealousy. Why was she kissing Brent again?
Kent opened his eyes, Miranda smiled at him, her lips hovering over his.
“I can feel you.” His chest pounded.
Her eyes widened. “What?”
He’d never told her the truth. “I put Brent up to it.”
“Did you? There was always a magic, a spark in his touch until our goodbye. When I hugged him, I felt it disappear.”
“I love you, Miranda. Being with you, making you happy is what’s most important to me.”
She tangled her fingers with his, and he stared at their joined hands.
“I couldn’t feel you before. Only when you touched Brent.”
“I know. I’ve known all along.”
“What changed?” He brushed his lips against hers. “Why can I feel you now?”
“I guess sacrifice, selflessness broke the spell.”
Brent shook his head as he walked up to them.
“I’m sorry.” Kent winced.
“I’ll get over it.” Brent turned to Miranda. “I thought you hated peppermint.”
“Can’t stand the stuff. My twin sister ate it non-stop. I don’t even like the smell. Why?”
“You smelled like peppermint when you hugged me. Please tell me she’s not married.”
“She’s not.”
“I think we’re destined to meet.” Brent winked.
“Please tell me you only have one sister.” Kent pulled Miranda closer.
“And three brothers, triplets, but they’re married.”
They all shuddered and laughed.

Fiction Friday – The Attic


This is one I wrote it for a 1000-word challenge. The prompt was to write a story using 1000 words or less that was an unbelievable tale.


Coffee in hand and a half-eaten bear claw on a plate, Gavin paged through the paper, scanning the classifieds. When calls for work evaporated, he resorted to answering ads. He set down his mug as he read the request printed halfway down the third column.

Wanted: A man to help an old woman clean out her attic. Must be single, hardworking, and ready for adventure. Rewards will be great. 555-0123

He chuckled and picked up his phone. Cleaning an attic, he could do, and the lady that posted the ad sounded like a hoot. “Hello. I’m calling about the ad in the paper. You need help with your attic?”

“Ad? Oh my! Has it been sixty-five years already?” Her voice sounded dream-like. “1515 Story Lane. But I won’t know if you are right for the job until I meet you.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be there in a half-hour.” He ended the call, shaking his head. What criteria did she have for cleaning out an attic? Sixty-five years? What was that about? He finished off his pastry and downed the rest of his coffee. As he darted past the display case in front, the fruit-topped tarts caught his attention. Maybe a sweet treat would make him right for the job. He ordered two, then asked for another to be added to the box.

He drove across town to the well-kept Victorian. Before making his way to the front door, he stopped to admire the ancient structure. Flowers that despite the nip of fall in the air bloomed brightly along the walkway and in pots on the porch. He glanced up at the dormer, where he presumed the attic awaited its cleaning. Curtains moved.

Gavin hurried to the door, afraid the older woman had started without help. He rapped three times and waited, the box of tarts growing heavy as his anticipation mounted. He had to give the old woman credit. She made something so mundane as cleaning an attic seem exciting, almost daring.

The door opened, and a woman well into her eighties with the eyes of a twenty-year-old smiled. “Thank you for coming.”

“I brought you a little something.” He lifted the lid to show off the pretty treats.

“You are perfect for this job. Come in.” She shuffled out of the way, a cane clutched in the hand he hadn’t seen. She hadn’t been in the attic. “Carry those into the kitchen for me.”

He followed her through doorways surrounded in carved wood moldings and across richly colored rugs laid over wood floors. “Your house is beautiful.”

“It makes me happy to hear you say that.” The sadness in her voice contrasted with the words she spoke. “I’ll be moving soon, and this home deserves someone who appreciates its beauty.” She pointed to the refrigerator as they stepped into the kitchen.

He tucked the box of sweets into an empty spot. “I’m ready to get started.”

The woman touched his cheek. “The minute you climb into that attic, your life changes. Are your really ready?”

He inched backward, unnerved by her touch and her words. “How do you mean?”

“In every box in that attic is a treasure. You must find the one that calls to you. When you accept it, it is for life. And this is where you will live.”

“Whoa. I thought I was here to help you clean.” Gavin spun on a heel and started toward the front door.

“Sixty-five years ago, my Nathanial stood right where you are, his hand on the doorknob, ready to flee because what he’d heard sounded unbelievable.”

He glanced up the stairs. “What made him change his mind?”

“I’m not sure he ever changed his mind—until the day he died he called it unbelievable—but he listened to his heart. You brought three tarts.” She rested a hand on his arm. “Once you choose her, she’ll call and place an ad to run sixty-five years from today.”

“How do I get into the attic?” He set aside the ridiculousness of believing such a tale and hoped maybe love waited behind that moving curtain.

“At the very top of the stairs is a small door.”

He breathed in deep before trusting his weight to the well-worn stair. The creak caught him off-guard, but whatever hid behind the dormer pulled at his curiosity. One more step, then another, and his pace quickened. He raced up the last few stairs and bent low to get through the miniature door. The sunlit space held boxes and trunks. What had he expected to find? In every box is a treasure. He scanned the room, unsure how the process was supposed to work. He opened the box closet to him. Inside sat an ornate hand-held mirror. He peeked into another bin which held a pair of heels, the color beyond description. Next to the front dormer, sat an old steamer trunk. Like the pull of a magnet on metal shavings, he moved toward it. Faded stickers from ports of call all over the world adorned the outside. What treasures lay within? He knelt in front of it and lifted the lid. At the bottom lay a treasure map and a small music box.

Gavin cradled the small wooden box in his hand and wound the key on the underside. He opened the lid and watched the dancer spin around as a tune from his dreams echoed through the attic.

A hand touched his shoulder. He squeezed it and turned to see the dancer in front of him.

“You came.”

Gavin pulled her into his arms. “And I brought you a treat.”

Fiction Friday – Could Be

Here’s a fun little read for your Friday. I wrote it for a 500 word challenge. (I didn’t win.) But I like this story. What do you think?



At six o’clock, Lisa pushed open her door and paused. Instead of her apartment, she faced two doors, labeled Is and Could Be . Shaking her head, she glanced from door to door, and reached for the Is door, half-expecting the other to disappear as soon as she touched the knob.

It didn’t.

The Is door creaked as she pushed it open, only a sliver. Peering through the gap, she spotted her table, her couch, her cat. What stopped her from rushing in, returning to her routine was the mystery behind the Could Be door.

She wrung her hands, her gaze glued to that door. Summoning courage, she touched the knob and breathed in deep. She twisted the handle, and the door swung open.

“That you, love? Dinner’s in the oven.” A husky voice called from somewhere out of sight.
Excitement danced in her chest. She tiptoed toward the voice. “Hello?”

Tall and chiseled, the man standing in the kitchen padded toward her, his jeans dragging around his bare feet. “How was your day?”

“Good.” Lisa scanned the room, searching for any hint of his name. A mechanic’s shirt draped over a chair rescued her. “Thanks for making dinner, Blake.”

He wrapped her in a hug and kissed her forehead. “It won’t be ready for an hour.”
Lisa’s cheeks warmed at his tone and implication.

He reached for her buttons, giving her a clear view of the ring on his left hand that matched the one on hers. “That enough time?”

“Yes.” Eagerness raised her voice an octave.

He carried her to the bedroom and laid her down on crisp cotton sheets. Goosebumps rose to meet his fingertips where they brushed her skin. He stretched out on top of her, catching her lips in a tango of desire. Lisa moaned, her dreams becoming reality.



Birds chirped outside the window, waking Lisa from the best night’s sleep she’d ever had. She hesitated, not wanting to open her eyes, afraid the entire evening had been a conjured dream—a satisfying, delicious dream.

Whiskers pressed against her shoulder. “Morning. I need a shower. Mind grabbing the paper?”

Lisa rolled him onto his back and slid on top of him. “I thought last night was a dream.”
He drew hearts on her back with rough and calloused fingers. “Good one, I hope.”

“The best.” She tasted his lips before slipping out of bed and pulling on her robe. “Be right back.”

In the hall, she picked up the paper, then turned back to the door, which hung open a sliver. She pushed it open and paused in horror.

The cat meowed, welcoming her back to her old life.

Her taste of what could be had vanished.

Swiping at tears, Lisa called the first garage listed in the phonebook. “Hi. My car’s making a funny noise. I wanted Blake to look at it.”

Working down the list, she repeated the call until she located a mechanic named Blake.

She grabbed her keys and raced across town.

Cover Reveal: Finding Kate

Covers for the Hill Country Secrets series are inspired by the setting. The photo from the cover of Finding Claire was snapped while on a walking trail not far from my house. It’s a snapshot of the Texas Hill Country.

After writing one particularly heart-pounding scene in book two, I knew what I wanted on the cover of Finding Kate. The bridge pictured crosses a creek along the Leon Creek Greenway and offers a glimpse of hope at a critical point in the book.

Finding Kate releases July 24, 2017.

For those interested in helping me get the word out about my books and staying in the know about what I’m writing, I’ve started a new group on Facebook. Join my inner circle and become a virtual resident of Schatzenburg, TX. Send me a note if you want to join.

Review: When the Timer Dings

Katharine Grubb, author of Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day, released a new book. Here’s my review of When The Timer Dings:: Organizing Your Life To Make The Most of 10 Minute Increments.

Schedules and I have a love/hate relationship. I appreciated this book because it wasn’t a how-to book or a do-it-this-way book. It focused on different facets of organizing. The chapter titles give a taste of what you’ll read about:
Organizing Your Foundational Truth
Organizing Your Attitudes
Organizing Your People
Organizing Your Time
Organizing Your Habits
Organizing Your Stuff
Organizing Your Tools
Organizing Your Margins
Organizing Your Fails
It’s not a book you’ll toss aside discouraged because you can’t make her system work. The book is encouraging and prompts you to look at your own motivations. I recommend this book.

You can order the book on Amazon.

Guest Post: Sandrine Spycher

Today, Sandy joins us to tell us about her newest book, Creative Therapy 2.

Creative Therapy 2: More Words by Sandrine Spycher

In the continuation of Creative Therapy (published in December 2016), Creative Therapy 2: More Words is a collection of poems written spontaneously day in day out depending on the mood and emotions of the moment. The title refers to the therapeutic aspect of art and creativity. And the subtitle More Words can be read simply as a description of continuity from the first book to the second one, or as a metaphor where words are solutions to the everyday problems.

Writing Out Loud

My poems in Creative Therapy 2 are not structured or organized according to any plan fixed in advance. I didn’t outline the texts at all, but wrote as the words came. I call this technique “writing out loud” because it’s like thinking out loud except I write as I think. I chose to write spontaneously and without structure to preserve a sort of “journal” quality in my writing, which means writing the emotions as they come to record and process them.
Writing without a plan was also a way for me to stay honest and transparent in my poems. As I have written in the Foreword to Creative Therapy, being transparent was one of the main characteristics of the poems since the beginning. Transparency is indispensable when writing is used as therapy because too many embellishments would hide away the very feelings that I’m trying to make sense of.

Amusing Muses

I get a lot of inspiration from friends and partners. Although I write about my own feelings, there is always a little, or sometimes a lot, of them in my words. Their presence is highly important in my life and therefore they are also present in my poems. My friends have an influence on my heart and my mind, and although not explicitly dedicated to anyone in particular, my poems mention some of my loved ones.
I find it interesting also to see the different influences from different people, some of them on an emotional level and others on an artistic level. My writing evolves as the influences in my life change. Writing as feelings arise implies that when a new friendship is created, a new mode of writing comes into play. On this note as much as on the mental health aspect, my book is biographical and transparent.


the more my friends leave,
the more I feel
how precious and irreplaceable
your voice and your presence are—

the more my friends leave,
the more I believe
no picture can ever replace
your hair to run my fingers through.

then I let go of my phone
(too late)
and beg for physical contact
(already gone)
so please don’t leave me behind.

The particular writing process that I used when working on Creative Therapy 2 allowed me not only to make sense of my emotions, but also to keep track of the influence of my friends and the many sources of inspiration in my life. Form and content are strongly linked in this collection. The book will come out both in paperback and digital format, with a short biography by my friend Jude Sirbu and a couple of illustrations by myself.