April 2017

One of my favorite times in every year is Publication Date for a new book. Not only is it a celebration date for “birthing” a new title—but it is the time of year when we hold a Book Launch Party for our fans and friends.


Our first launch party was held in 2009 on the Star of Knoxville riverboat. Over 250 fans, family, and friends came to ride down the river on the paddleboat The Star of Knoxville to celebrate publication of my first novel THE FOSTER GIRLS. With every subsequent title we’ve held a launch party at a special place or at a festival where fans could not only celebrate another publication date with us—but also have a wonderful time at a beautiful spot in East Tennessee. 


Saturday, April 8th, we held the Book Launch for my tenth novel DADDY’S GIRL at Wesley Woods Camp and Conference Center off the Old Walland Highway in Townsend, Tennessee—only a short distance from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had worked for many days, as I often do, to make cakes, sandwiches, dips, and a multitude of snacks for the day…. And a wonderful bluegrass group Clinch Valley Bluegrass came to pick-and-sing and entertain for the event.

The day was beautiful and fair with glorious blue skies and sunshine—and over two hundred fans and friends stopped by during the Open House hours from 1:00 – 4:00 pm to enjoy the day with us.

The Launch was held in Wesley Wood’s Tipton Lodge—a perfect spot with its rustic charm and outdoor porches. Many visitors explored the campgrounds enjoying the wildflowers in bloom or walked up the Bob Hayes Trail to a waterfall and back. Not only did friends from around the area come to our Book Launch but friends from other cities and states like Indiana came in for the day as well. It was a joy throughout the Launch to see long-time fans again and to meet new readers and book fans. We are so grateful to all who came, and below are a few memory photos of J.L. and I with many of those who visited with us. Some photos are ours and others were taken by our guests who visited. We wish we could have taken pictures of everyone!

Special thanks to Teresa at Wesley Woods for helping us set up our event and to Camp Director Tony Lee and others on staff for stopping by to wish us well. Thanks also to everyone who took time from your busy lives to come to our Book Launch—and to Sevierville fan and friend Betty Powell for volunteering to help at the refreshment tables for the day.  As busy as we were all day, this help was greatly appreciated!

J.L. and I are also truly grateful to Earl Bull for coming with his Clinch Valley Bluegrass friends to entertain … and to Brenda Hamilton for adding her skills with the hammered dulcimer. We met and got to know Earl and Aurora Bull at festivals attended in past… where Earl and his group performed and Aurora exhibited her beautiful art. One of the unexpected joys of traveling the Writer’s Road has been in making new fans and friends along the way.

Next spring, I’m sure we’ll have another Launch Party to celebrate the publication of my next Smoky Mountain title LOST INHERITANCE, set in Gatlinburg, and to also celebrate publication of J.L.’s and my new parks guidebook DISCOVERING TENNESSEE STATE PARKS. We hope you’ll make plans to come next year! … and please check on the Appearances Schedule on my website for upcoming Book Tour events near you. Hope to see you soon!



March 2017

It is always an exciting time for an author when a new book is getting ready to publish. My tenth novel, set in the Smoky Mountains, called DADDY’S GIRL, publishes on April 1st. It is already popping up on Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Amazon, and other sites for “pre-order” in either Print or eBook. I love bringing my readers to visit a new area in the Smoky Mountains with each book … and this novel takes readers to the charming small town of Bryson City, North Carolina. I blogged about Bryson City in my January blog, noting that my husband and I have happily visited the town often and hiked many times in that beautiful part of the Smokies.

The main character in my new book, DADDY’S GIRL, is Olivia Benton, a young woman who owns a small floral shop in downtown Bryson City. Olivia’s love for flowers traces back several generations and she especially cherishes the beautiful formal gardens lying behind the home she and her father share. As a girl, Olivia enjoyed happy hours playing in that garden with her neighbor Warner Zachery. Warner, always marching to a different drummer, left Bryson City immediately after high school. Full of big dreams, he wanted Olivia to drop everything and follow after him—and was angry with her for saying no. But first loves are not easy to forget, no matter how much time passes, and when Warner suddenly returns to Bryson City ten years later, Olivia is stunned to find her old feelings for Warner much more alive than she expected.Bryson City, NC

Of course, as in all my books, there is more to the storyline that a romance threaded throughout and many more fun and interesting side characters to enjoy. Elements of suspense slide in along the way, as vandals keep defacing public property and unsettling the town’s peace of mind. Bits of mystery begin to unravel with several characters, and troubling problems pop up involving school bullying and high school peer groups. … I hope you will enjoy your visit to Bryson City, North Carolina, as you read DADDY’S GIRL, and that you’ll have fun meeting all the new characters in this heart-warming, small town story.

Daddy's Girl Book Launch InvitationTo celebrate the publication of DADDY’S GIRL you are cordially invited to attend our annual
Book Launch Party on Saturday, April 8th, Open House Hours 1-4 pm, in the picturesque Tipton Lodge at Wesley Woods Camp, Townsend, Tennessee. A wonderful regional bluegrass group, Clinch Valley Bluegrass, will pick-and-sing and entertain during the event and there will be snacks and drinks on hand. If you’d like to bring a snack item to add to the table, I’d love for you to do so since I do my own catering … but there will be plenty either way.

Wesley Woods Launch PhotosYou will find the entrance sign to Wesley Woods Camp on the Old Walland Highway about two miles from Townsend, Tennessee, only a short distance from the entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park. If you are coming from out of state, there are nearby motels and many cute rental cabins in the Townsend and Wears Valley area. April is a lovely time to visit in the Smokies as the wildflowers are blooming. Hikes abound around the area, and there is a fine hike to a waterfall right on the campground.

Our thanks to Wesley Woods Camp for giving us permission to use photos of the Tipton Lodge, entrance sign and camp logo in this post. You will find specific driving directions to  Camp Wesley Woods – and more photos and information – on the camp website at: http://www.campwesleywoods.com/driving-directions.html
… J.L. and I hope to see you all at the April Book Launch. We will have all of our books there – and you can pick up any you have missed and get them personally autographed.

February 2017

Smoky MtnsAlthough my husband J.L. and I are avid hikers in the Smokies now—that wasn’t always so. Growing up in east Tennessee, our families took occasional trips to the mountains for picnics, short walks up the trails, or afternoons exploring the craft shops of Gatlinburg, but J.L. and I never took our first official “hike” until mid-life when we hiked with friends to Grotto Falls one Saturday. To our surprise and delight, we loved it… discovering that hiking was simply a joyous walk in the woods versus some sort of rugged, sweaty, arduous effort like we’d imagined. Always outdoors lovers, we immediately began to explore other trails in the mountains.

Getting into our new adventure with zest, we picked up a pile of hiking guides to learn more about trails to explore. But we then began to run into difficulties—from our perspective. Many guidebooks didn’t begin describing the trail until ten to twelve miles up the way—while we’d turned around long before that as weekend hikers. In addition, the books’ ratings of trail difficulty seldom matched our “new hiker” status, with their idea of “easy” very different from ours. We also found the guidebooks we studied often failed to mention points of interest along the early portions of the trail we were likely to see—a falls, historic home, an interesting bridge—and mileage to these points or to trail intersections along the way were often not included.

afternoon_hiker_fullAs we explored our first trails, I wrote notes in a journal detailing each hike and J.L. took lots of photos. It didn’t long for us to decide to write our own guidebook more suited to casual hikers like ourselves—a book non-Sierra-Club types or average visitors to the park might better relate to. The result, after exploring hundreds of trails on the Tennessee and North Carolina sides of the Smoky Mountains was THE AFTERNOON HIKER, published in 2014. Our book has 110 trail descriptions and over 300 color photos. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the only Smoky Mountain trails book with photos throughout.

If you’ve never hiked in the Smoky Mountains two short trails you might want to explore for a first hike might be The Gatlinburg Trail, which starts at the back of downtown Gatlinburg, or The Rich Mountain Loop, which begins at the entrance to Cades Cove. The Gatlinburg Trail is a short 1.7 miles trail traveling on an easy walking path from the back end of Gatlinburg on the River Road to Park Headquarters Road not far from the Park headquarters and Sugarlands Visitor Center. It travels through an open, shady forest along the West Prong Little Pigeon River. Despite its nearness to a major tourist city, the trail is a quiet and peaceful one to explore with remnants of settlers homes and cabin foundations along the route.

Gatlinburg Trail Scenes

The Rich Mountain Loop begins at the entrance to the loop road through Cades Cove. Park your car just before the road begins and walk a few feet to the trail’s entrance on the right. A 1.5 miles walk leads to the historic John Oliver cabin, a nice point to turn around for a short 3 miles roundtrip walk. Like the Gatlinburg Trail, the pathway is easy to walk, following through a picturesque woodland, across a couple of small creeks, and past views of the Cades Cove valley.Rich Mtn Loop Trail Scenes

If you have never explored any of the Smoky Mountains trails, I hope you will do so on your next visit to the mountains. It is a joyous way to get close to nature and to experience the beauty and peace of the mountains firsthand. To help you plan hikes to take in whatever part of the Smokies you plan to visit, order our hiking guide to take with you… from your favorite bookstore or online. You can read more about the book on my website and see some of the early pages of the guide in the Look Inside feature on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Afternoon-Hiker-Guide-Casual-Mountains/dp/0692020462 … We hope to see you on the trail one day!


I hope you will enjoy my new blog … starting as my tenth novel in the Smoky Mountain series is getting ready to publish this spring in April 2017.  DADDY’S GIRL will take readers to visit the colorful, charming mountain town of Bryson City, North Carolina, on the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

My husband J.L. and I have enjoyed many trips to the Bryson City area.  We love the colorful, small mountain town, perfect to walk around and explore in.  The Smoky Mountain Railroad depot sits right in the heart of Bryson City, offering scenic train excursions, and the downtown streets spill over with quaint shops, galleries, scenic parks along the Tuckaseegee River, and wonderful little cafes and restaurants. One of our favorite spots is Soda Pops with its vintage 50s-60s décor—a great place to get homemade milkshakes, sodas, ice cream, or an old time banana split.

January Blog 1 photo

You’ll find it on Everett Street not far from the Chamber of commerce’s red caboose.

Scenes in DADDY’S GIRL will not only take readers around the town of Bryson City—and for a visit to Soda Pops—but to the Deep Creek Campground area at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. Many beautiful hiking trails wander out of this campground to wind along mountain streams and beside waterfalls. The photos below were taken on Deep Creek Trail in November when the fall colors were a glory to see.  The falls pictured are Tom Branch Falls, not far up the Deep Creek Trail and Indian Creek Falls, a quarter mile off intersecting Indian Creek Trail.  You’ll find Deep Creek Trail a lovely, easy to walk trail any season of the year—so look for it when you are in this North Carolina area of the Smokies.

January Blog 2 photo

And remember to pick up DADDY’S GIRL this April through your favorite local bookstore or on Amazon.