“Are You Bailey?”

My fans ask it with a squint in their eye. They ask it with a hint of a smile–because they love Bailey–and a hint of concern–they know Bailey’s life in an abusive foster home is a wreck.

I’ve never seen the point in evading the question. In fact, I’m surprised more people don’t ask.

“Yes,” I tell them. “I’m Bailey.”

To clarify, I was never in foster care. I was never physically abused. I was never sexually abused. But I was mentally and emotionally abused for the first twenty-six years of my life. So while our exact circumstances were different, the ways in which it affected us are the same.

My fans absorb what I say. They nod quietly. Their eyes are full of sympathy. They ask no further questions. It would be impolite. It’s not their place to pry.

And until recently, I was okay with that. My abuser suffered brain damage and is incapable of comprehending the harm she does. I feel no need to blame or harass her for things that aren’t even entirely her fault.

Nor do I feel the need to kick the bee’s nest. As often happens with mental illness, my abuser vehemently denies her illness and takes strong offense to anyone who suggests there may be something “wrong” with her.

But the longer I write, and the larger my platform grows, the more I ask myself what my role is in this world. Do I have a passion? A charity? A cause? I have your ear. (Thank you for that, by the way.) What do I want to speak into it? If I could choose some good to try to do in this world, what would it be?

The words that come back are these:

Take care of your heart. Take care of your spirit and your soul. Take care of your emotions. Take care of your mind.

In short, take care of this thing we call your mental health. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t.

I write about broken people. Bailey believes she’s worthless, invisible, and unlovable. Tommy struggles to talk about matters of the heart and believes he’s too much of a failure to help Bailey. Ryan believes the narrative that he’s shifty, immature, and unreliable–and he doesn’t believe he could break that mold. Monica tries to bury her pain under a fierce exterior and flawless performance.

Yes, it’s a suspense series. But ultimately, it’s not a story about stopping the bad guy and saving the world. It’s the story of how broken people fought bravely to not be broken anymore.

That’s what I write about in my novels. And increasingly, it’s what I want to write and speak about more openly, with the veneer of fiction removed. The stories I tell are real stories. Mine, yours, a lot of people’s. There’s power there. The kind that can save lives and change the world we live in.

Going forward, you might see me writing more about what happened to me and how it led to the stories I write. As I do, I hope to normalize conversations about our mental health. About our hearts and what’s going on inside them.

We’re all broken, somehow or another. That’s just life. With my words, I want to inspire people and help them to be a little less broken.

There’s a comments section down below. How about dropping a note of encouragement, a prayer, or a positive intention–for you, for me, for anyone you know, for the other fans, or the world at large. Let’s spread some joy.


My First Winter in Lake Geneva

As many of you know, I was in Lake Geneva a few weeks ago. Thanks to everyone who came to see me at the Cornerstone Shop!

But my primary reason for coming to Lake Geneva was to finally see the area in winter. While I’m currently writing Mailboat V (set at the end of summer and releasing this August), I’m already planning Mailboat VI, which is set in the off season.

(And because I know you want to know, my outlines suggest there will be about eight books all together in the Mailboat Suspense Series.)

Seeing Lake Geneva under ice and snow for the first time was AMAZING. I’m so glad I went! So enjoy this photo journal of my trip.

Have coffee, will travel! Even while waiting for my first flight out of Missoula, I was writing the next chapter of Mailboat V for my Patreon Page. (They’ve already read 20 chapters over there!)

My first time at O’Hare! I only got lost a few times… Also, I arrived really late, and didn’t roll into Lake Geneva itself until one in the morning, LOL. I was tired.

Since Book VI takes place in winter… Bailey will be in school! I reached out to my friends at the Lake Geneva Police Department and asked if their School Resource Officer at Badger High could give me a tour.

Officer Theon Ward was fantastic. Our tour lasted THREE HOURS. Any time he asked if I wanted to see this or that, I replied, “Dude. I live fifteen hundred miles away. YES, I want to see that.”

Thanks, Officer Ward, for making my research so complete! And thanks to Courtney Hinzpeter of the LGPD for coming along and photographing our adventure.

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with Badger High. With all the classes and opportunities offered, it was more like touring a small college than a high school. Here’s my favorite photo of the tour–Officer Ward appreciating an EXTREMELY talented monolog by one of the students from the theater department.

I couldn’t go to Bailey’s high school without picking up a tee shirt! This is now one of my prized possessions. Go, Badgers!

One of the reasons I was so excited for this trip was to see Winterfest and the International Snow Sculpting Competition! My favorite sculpture was, of course, by Team North Dakota–a sea serpent wrapped around a Viking longship. My home state took third!

Since I was so busy with research, I made time for only one public event, a book signing at the Cornerstone Shop. Some of you drove two or even three hours to come see me! Thank you so much, I felt the love. Here’s a pic I got with Paula, one of my top fans.

For anyone who was looking for me in Lake Geneva and couldn’t find me… I spent a lot of my down time here! This is the new Mobile Command Unit for the Lake Geneva Police Department. It’s essentially an office on wheels, making it easier for the PD to manage large events like Winterfest, or respond to emergency situations.

And most importantly, IT WAS WARM–one of the top reasons I kept finding myself there, LOL. I got to check out the PD’s latest tech, brush up my skills writing cop stories, and hang out with my friends from the PD–some of whom I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemic. Dang, it was good to see them.

Speaking of old friends… I found the Mailboat up at its winter berth in Williams Bay! We had a good, long talk. So much love for this boat…

My friend Stacy managed to wrangle a ticket for me to see the Ice Castles, even though they were sold out that weekend! What a magical experience. Yes, I totally tried the ice slides.

Back at O’Hare, I had time before my flight to upload pictures to my Facebook and Instagram pages–and listen to Bailey go on and on about her life post-series, including memorable trips she took out of O’Hare Airport. My characters always feel so real–and LOUD!–when I’m in the places where the story is set.

And it hasn’t really worn off. Feeling inspired by Bailey’s excitement for her life post-series, I spent time this week fleshing out the big-picture series outline. You know it’s good when you make yourself cry. So much joy.

And then I was home! It was great to be back with Charles again–but my trip was definitely too short. In great news, I’ll be back in Lake Geneva next August for the release of Mailboat V! I can’t wait to see you then.

The Sunrise Is Waiting

Through the course of writing the Mailboat Suspense Series, one thing has come to mean more to me than anything else: the light I see in your eyes when you read my books.

At readings, book signings, and book clubs everywhere I go, I see the same thing—this unmistakable spark of life, love, and hope. Those of you who’ve read the books know that they’re so much more than a mystery series. They’re a prism that scatters light and darkness across the canvas of your mind, promising that light will win out in the end, if only we can figure out how to hang onto hope, friendship, and our most authentic selves.

You might have guessed that I’ve been through some pretty dark places myself. I’ve walked through that darkness, found myself, and come out the other side determined to scatter light as far and wide as I can.

To date, my books have already out-sold most traditionally published books. The pre-orders for Book IV (The Shift in the Wind) were five times greater than Book III (The Captain’s Tale). And I’ve been approached on two separate occasions about my film and TV rights. The sun keeps rising on my dreams, and I plan to keep sailing towards that light.

But it saddens me that, as the author, I get to bask in the joy and the fun of these stories all year long, while you only get to experience it once a year when I release a new book. I know how hard it is for you to wait while I carefully craft every word.

At the same time, releasing my new books and watching the light rekindle in your eyes is my favorite part—and I only get to experience that once a year, too. The time in between can feel very long and lonely.

Meanwhile, growing a business is no small undertaking, especially a creative business. It’s challenging enough to cover current expenses, never mind expanding. You know I have thrilling plans on the horizon—for instance, those audiobooks you keep asking me about.

Guys, I have a solution that can help with ALL those problems.

Let me introduce you to Patreon, a platform where truly avid fans can show their support for creators they love. Like a nobleperson of old, you can become a patron of the arts, helping keep the wind in my sails while I captain the ship toward that glittering horizon.

For as little as a few dollars a month, members of my exclusive Patreon page will get to read my next book AS I WRITE IT. I plan to release one to three chapters per week, allowing you to spend time with Bailey, Tommy, Ryan, and Monica all year long, just as I do.You’ll also be joining a community of TOP Mailboat fans. With every chapter release, you’ll be able to post your comments and talk with each other about what you loved, plot twists you never saw coming, and what you hope will happen next. I’ll be active in the discussions—and your comments will almost certainly affect the course of the story. You might not know this, but I love playing off your ideas. (Almost all of Mailboat IV was based off fan suggestions!)

Best of all, like the stalwart sailors you are, you’ll be taking an active role in helping me bring this story to as many readers as possible—helping me mount the brightness I forged from darkness at the top of a lighthouse. I’ve lost count how many people have told me that this story brought them to a better place, or inspired them to throw a life ring to someone else.

So come aboard! I can’t wait to see you on Patreon. The sunrise is waiting