The Song of the Sea

“The Song of the Sea” Wins 2 Goldies!

I am so beyond happy to announce that, this past Saturday, “The Song of the Sea” won TWO Goldies! It won in the category of contemporary romance (mid-length) and debut novel.

I remember the first lesbian fiction novel that I read. It was “Behind the Pine Curtain” by Gerri Hill. I don’t remember how I came across that book, but I devoured it, and then read everything else Gerri Hill had written. I found Radclyffe’s books, and started working my way through all of those. Then, Georgia Beers’ novels… Soon, I had a bookshelf filled with lesbian fiction by many different authors. I was dabbling in writing lesbian romance novels, and dreaming of the day when I could be an author on such a bookshelf.

I wrote my first novel in 2006. It’s a disaster of a novel that I have no intention of ever editing for publication, but it was the first step on my journey to becoming a writer.

By the time I started writing “The Song of the Sea,” I already had a handful of finished first drafts of other practice stories. With each book, I learned a little more, but none were worth seeing through to publication. The first draft of “The Song of the Sea” was also a mess, but there was something about the characters that resonated with me, bringing me back to revisit them for a second draft, a third draft, a fourth draft…

Meanwhile, I kept reading lesbian fiction, and I studied the craft. I knew about the Golden Crown Literary Society, but I hadn’t joined yet. I wrongly thought that I needed to be an established writer in order to join GCLS. (As an aside, even if you read lesbian fiction without ever wanting to write a single word, you should join GCLS – they do an amazing job of connecting readers and writers) I hadn’t joined yet, but I knew that my favourite authors were winning Goldie awards for their novels, and I set that as my absolute dream goal.

I wrote and rewrote “The Song of the Sea.” I tried to figure out what exactly the book was about, and when I eventually figured that out, I got lost in a sea of doubts. Am I really going to write a book that deals with a character losing a child? Who am I to try to tell that story? Who is going to read that story? So many doubts that it seemed easier to set the novel aside. Start a new project. A less messy project.

And then I decided to join the Golden Crown Literary Society. I applied for the writing academy, and was thrilled to be accepted. I was encouraged to apply for the Sandra Moran Scholarship, submitted what I’d finished of “The Song of the Sea” and was surprised and elated to find out that I had won the scholarship. I attended that summer’s GCLS conference in Chicago, and I heard feedback from those who’d read those opening pages, telling me that they wanted to read more. I still had all of my doubts, but I pushed through them, and I finished the manuscript.

2 years later that book was published.

And now that book, that little project that I dabbled with when I had spare time throughout university, has won that award that I always dreamed of being able to win one day.

I consider  it such an honor to have my book recognized with the Goldie awards.

So, in celebration, I wanted to offer a signed copy of “The Song of the Sea.” All you have to do is reply to this post with a comment about what joining GCLS has meant for you or if you haven’t joined yet something you think you could gain by joining GCLS.

I will enter all the names into a draw and pick a winner on Friday, July 24th.

Books, Home

“Home” is Now Available!

I am so excited to share that my second novel, HOME, is out now! This novel is scheduled for a wide release on May 26th, 2020, but you can get your copy in either e-book or paperback directly through!


These books are gorgeous. Ann McMan designed another incredible cover, once again capturing the book perfectly. When my author copies arrived last week, I recruited my daughter, Addie, to help open the box of books. She immediately claimed the first copy for herself, but there are plenty more to  go around!

HOME release ad (1)

I will be blogging more about this book in the next few weeks, but for now, here is the back cover blurb and the opening scene!


What do you do when the heart wants what it wants?


Rowan Barnes never planned on living in Texas, and she’s not sure she likes it. She tells herself that her dream job as grill chef at a new up-and-coming restaurant was worth the relocation from her Portland home, but she feels out of place and alone in the lone star state.

Kate Landreth, on the other hand, is Texas through-and-through. Rowan meets Kate while picking up beef from a local cattle ranch, and is immediately drawn to the woman whose heart is as big as the state she loves. As the two women become closer, Rowan begins to see Texas through Kate’s eyes, but Kate is hesitant to fall too deeply for a woman who makes it clear that Texas will never be her home.

When Rowan finds herself at a crossroads, she must decide if she wants to stay in Texas, or if she wants to return to Portland—to the family and friends and familiar places that she has so desperately missed. The question Rowan has to ask herself is whether or not home is where she grew up, or whether home really is where the heart is.


Chapter One

Rowan Barnes couldn’t figure out why Texans were so scared of hellfire when they seemed to already live and thrive in it. How is it so damn hot outside? She wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her arm, and then continued pushing the shopping cart across the parking lot. The inhospitable heat reflected off the pavement, making the air feel like an oven, and she couldn’t help but believe the metallic clanging of the cart’s wheels were the warning bells of a doomsday harbinger. The walk from the grocery store to her car was a short distance, but even that short walk felt like an unending trek across the desert. The sun beat down relentlessly without even a single puff of cloud to absorb the intense burning glare.

“I’m gonna die,” she said to no one in particular. “All these damn little black birds are gonna peck the flesh from my body. They’re all gathered up there on those power lines waiting for an outsider like me to keel over from heat exhaustion.”

She managed a single bitter laugh. It was official. Her brain was being fried. She’d been in Fort Worth, Texas, barely a week and already she was talking to herself.

By the time she reached her car, her shirt was damp with sweat, clinging to her uncomfortably. She hurriedly tossed her groceries in the trunk, returned her cart, and then slid into the metal broiler of a car that was at least fifty degrees hotter than the outside air, by her estimate. She didn’t close the driver’s side door. She turned on the car and cranked the air conditioning up as high as it would go. The vents only blew more hot air. It would take a while before the engine had cooled enough for AC to have even the slightest hope of counteracting the exterior heat, so she rolled down all the windows, hoping that the drive would at least generate enough of a breeze to prevent heatstroke.

“You’re so brave moving to Texas alone.” Rowan had lost count of the number of friends who had said that to her. She had thought they were talking about taking the leap to move to a new state. She hadn’t known that she’d need bravery for when driving from the grocery store became a survival mission.

By the time she pulled up to her apartment complex, the car-oven had cooled down from deathly “broil” to merely an uncomfortable “keep warm,” which she supposed was the best she could ask for in Texas. Cold was clearly not a temperature that existed there.

She parked in front of her building as close to the stairs as possible in an attempt to minimize her time outside. She pulled in next to a truck with a bumper sticker that read, “Pro-God. Pro-Gun. Pro-Life.” Her little Civic hybrid was dwarfed by the vehicle which belonged in a monster truck rally, not driving through the city.

At least my car will be out of the sun, she thought. The truck’s shadow neatly covered the entirety of her car.

She took a breath of the merely “keep warm” air to brace for the scorching heat. Then she turned off the ignition, went around to the back of her car, and started grabbing her bags of groceries from the trunk. She wanted to spend as little time outside as possible, so she gathered all of the bags at once, attempting to balance the weight evenly for each arm. She strained with the weight of all the bags, but the last thing she wanted was to have to make a second trip.


Rowan was already en route from her car to the stairs when she heard the deep voice, thick with a Southern drawl. She turned.

“Do you need help with those?” An early middle-aged man climbed down from the driver’s seat of the truck, tugging his jeans up and over his beer belly with his belt.

“I’m good, thank you,” Rowan said, but the man was already making his way over to her.

“I insist.”

The next thing she knew, he was pulling a couple of bags of groceries from her hands.

Rowan’s tired arms thanked him, but she was fairly certain she didn’t want this pro-God, pro-gun, pro-lifer knowing where she lived, on the very good chance that he was anti-feminist, anti-atheist anti-lesbians. She was too hot and tired to protest, though, so all she said was, “Thank you. I’m up on the third floor.”

“My pleasure.”

She led the way, rolling her eyes at the situation she found herself in, while uber-Texan followed with her groceries.

“Y’all new ’round here?” uber-Texan asked.

Y’all? She looked around to confirm it was, in fact, just her. There was no all.

“Yeah,” she said. “I moved here last Tuesday from Portland for work.”

“Portland,” uber-Texan echoed. “That’s quite the change. Well, welcome to Texas. I’m Dave.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I’m Rowan.”

Dave kept talking. “I live down in 2b. Don’t hesitate to holler if you need anything. I’ve been here two years now, since my wife and I split. It’s a friendly bunch ’round here.”

Too friendly, if you asked Rowan. Apparently incessant small talk was another Texas thing she’d have to adjust to. She reached her apartment and fished for her keys.

“Thanks for helping with the groceries,” she said as she unlocked her apartment door.

Dave set the groceries down, but didn’t make any move to leave. She hoped he didn’t plan on carrying her groceries all the way inside and into the fridge. She tried to think of how to politely tell him that she was good from there, but Dave spoke first.

“Have you found a church ’round here yet?”

She wasn’t sure if she should laugh at the absurdity of the assumption, or if she should be outraged. Instead, she shook her head and said a simple, “No.”

“First Ministry down on Panhandle Street is close,” Dave answered, oblivious to the offense Rowan took at his question. “That’s where I go. It’s a pretty good group there.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she lied, feeling the Bible belt tighten constrictively around her.

Dave tipped his hat, told her that he hoped he’d see her there one Sunday, and then wished her a nice day while she tried to recover from the conversation. Finally, she was able to open the door and step into her apartment, where she was greeted with blissfully cool air from the AC which had been running all day. She kicked off her shoes and sank into her couch. Her floor lamp provided a soft light. She had chosen the apartment for its large floor-to-ceiling windows that filled the rooms with natural light, but one of the first things she had bought after the move was a set of blackout shades. The sun was insufferable. She’d pulled the shades tight as soon as they were hung, and hadn’t cracked them even slightly since. The cool dark was so very welcome.

She could feel the heat leeching out of her pores. Her skin had a reddish tint, not from sunburn, but from its raised temperature. The back of her neck was sticky with sweat, and she already needed a second shower for the day.

But she didn’t move from the couch. Instead she fished her phone out of her pocket and dialed the familiar number.


Rowan closed her eyes at the sound of her best friend, Alycia’s, voice. She’d hardly been gone over a week, and yet it felt like forever.

“Remind me again why I moved here?” she asked.

Alycia laughed.

“I’m serious,” Rowan said. “I met my neighbor today. Ultraconservative uber-Texan with a bumper sticker declaring all of his right-wing world views.”

“Well, if I recall, I did warn you that Texas comes with Texans.”

“You did.” She was reluctant to admit that maybe she should have taken that point into more consideration before booking the U-Haul.

“And what did you say to me?” Alycia pressed.

Rowan sighed, repeating the mantra she’d said to all her friends and family as she’d packed for the move. “That this was a great opportunity. The type that would launch my career, get me out of being a prep cook cutting potatoes forever, put me on the map.” This time, the mantra lacked all of her prior enthusiasm.

“Exactly,” Alycia confirmed. “And you were right. You maybe should have prepared yourself more for the whole Texas aspect, but Rowan, this is your dream job. You get to cook with Daniel Stanford. Chances like this don’t pop up every day.”

Rowan nodded as her friend spoke. Alycia was right. She’d been working as a prep cook for four years, after working as a dishwasher for three. Meanwhile, she’d finished her culinary arts degree and continued to take every cooking class she could. She watched videos online to learn new techniques, spent hours practicing her knife skills, and read cookbooks cover to cover. She wanted to make a name for herself in the culinary world, and landing the job as grillardin—the grill chef—at Daniel Stanford’s up-and-coming new restaurant opening in Texas was a golden ticket opportunity. It was her in.

“But it’s a million degrees outside,” she complained. “I’ve had to institute a strict ‘no-sunlight’ policy in my apartment. I feel like a vampire. Also, I’m pretty certain I’m the only person in this complex who doesn’t own a gun. Based on the bumper stickers I’ve seen, I’m surrounded by a fucking militia. And have I mentioned it’s a million degrees outside?”

“Hey, if you can’t take the heat . . .”

Rowan felt the small smile that formed on her face. Alycia always had been able to find the perfect mix of empathy and humor to lift her spirits, able to vacillate between the two as needed.

“You’ll be fine,” Alycia promised, her voice softening around Rowan like a warm hug.

“You mean, ‘y’all will be fine.’ Apparently, I’m a y’all now.”

“Oh God,” Alycia said with a laugh.

Rowan laughed as well, the discomfort melting as some of her earlier excitement for this new adventure sank back in.

“When do you start work?” Alycia asked.

“We have a soft opening on Friday, and everything officially kicks off next weekend. But I start tomorrow. We’re getting everything ready for this soft launch, so the kitchen staff are meeting in the morning to finalize the details of the menu and then my boss has me scheduled to go out to a cattle ranch. Is that not the most Texan thing you’ve ever heard?”

“That is officially the most Texan thing ever.”

“Right? Talk about farm-to-table. I get to go assess the cuts directly from the ranch.”

“You’re going to kill it,” Alycia said. “The opening. Not the cow I hope.”

“Thanks,” Rowan said with a laugh. She shifted so that she was lying across the couch with her feet up. She could practically imagine herself sitting in Alycia’s apartment, perhaps with their friends Kris and Hannah there as well, making beer flights to taste test their latest craft beer finds and talking about their weeks. She didn’t feel a thousand miles away.

“I’ve got to run, but I expect a phone call Saturday morning to tell me all about how the soft launch went,” Alycia said. “And also all the juicy details about this cattle ranch adventure you’re going on.”

Rowan already looked forward to their next conversation. “Will do. Bye, Aly-cat.”

When the call clicked off, Rowan pulled her cell phone into her lap and stared down at it.

“This is a great opportunity,” Rowan reminded herself, believing the words more than her earlier tired recital of the phrase. “The type that will launch my career, get me out of being a prep cook cutting potatoes forever, and put me on the map.”

It was also the adventure of a lifetime. Before now, she never could have imagined herself visiting a Texas cattle ranch. She didn’t have to live in Texas for the rest of her life. A year or two to get some experience working with a high-profile chef was all she needed. When she returned home, she’d have all sorts of stories to tell.

Finally, she got up from the couch. Her skin still felt warm, but it no longer burned. No longer quite so drained from the heat, she began putting her groceries away.

The apartment was littered with boxes, everything but the essentials still packed. She contemplated opening one of the boxes and starting to organize her place, but that made the move too real. She grabbed a beer from the fridge, trying to tell herself that she was too tired and that she’d unpack later.

She could pump herself up to be ready for her Texas adventure, but she wasn’t ready to live in Texas.

It wasn’t home.

Books, The Song of the Sea

Cape Breton Island Adventures

When I was 11, my family took a trip to the east coast, and I fell in love. As a teenager I used to dream of moving to the coast and living by the Atlantic. This is probably why I was so drawn to writing a novel set on the coast. I had so much fun researching Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, and immersing myself in the fictional town of Craghurst.


Writing the book also gave me the perfect excuse to travel back to the coast. During a very early draft of The Song of the SeaI decided to take a trip to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, rent a car, and drive around for 10 days of exploring and writing.

Here’s me at a lookout along the Cabot Trail.

One of the big takeaways from my trip, that made its way into the book, was how sleepy the island is in the off-season. I was working on my undergrad at the time, and I booked the trip for the end of April — after exams, but before starting full-time summer work. I had visions of the Cape Breton Island that I’d read about in guidebooks: lively and vibrant, with lush green trees lining the coast, fresh seafood, and east coast music. First of all, I’m from Canada; I should have known that April is not summer. Many of the trees still didn’t yet have their leaves, and some parts of the Cabot Trail were still lined with snow. But more notably, the island did not have tourists. It did not have traffic. At times it seemed like it did not have people.

It was as beautiful as I’d anticipated, however.

In one town, I rented a tiny cabin by a lake. I stopped at the main lodge to check in and get the keys, and was greeted with only a note that said my keys were in the door and that my credit card would be charged the following week. I didn’t see a soul. While staying in this little cabin, in the woods by the lake, completely and utterly alone, it occurred to me that this seemed like the setting of a horror novel, rather than a romance novel.


Realizing how quiet the island gets in winter, I knew I needed to readjust some of the scenes in my book. Catherine’s, the restaurant that Rachel and her father own in The Song of the Sea, wouldn’t be a bustling hot spot year round. Most of the restaurants that I tried to visit were still closed for the season, and when I found a restaurant that was open, I was almost always the only diner there.

But still, I fell further in love with the coast, the quaint buildings, and the quiet little towns. Some of the details that made it into the book that were taken from my trip to the coast include maple blueberry coffee, driving the Cabot Trail and listening to Beatles tunes, delicious clam chowder, lighthouses, rocky beaches, and gorgeous coastal views.


I tried my best to capture all of the things I loved about Cape Breton Island. Hopefully that shines through in the story.

And if you want to read a copy of The Song of the Seayou can find it at


Books, The Song of the Sea

“The Song of the Sea” is here!

I’m so happy to announce that my novel, The Song of the Seais here! Its wide release is scheduled for June 25th, but it is available NOW in both print and e-book at!


Last week, the box of books arrived on my doorstep. It was the first time getting to see the physical copy of this book — the first time getting to hold my own work in print — and there were no words to accurately describe the moment. The book is beautiful. Ann McMan designed the gorgeous cover that so perfectly captures the feel and setting of the book.

I am so excited to finally be able to share this book. It took me over seven years to write, and the project has been a labour of love. I’ve enjoyed spending those seven years writing about Lisa, Rachel, and Declan, and I hope that readers enjoy spending some time with these characters as well.


Lisa Whelan wasn’t planning on falling in love.

The ocean has always been a place of comfort for Lisa Whelan, so after her newborn son passes away, she returns to her family home to seek solace in the song of the sea. She’s not expecting to meet anyone, and is caught off guard by the attraction she feels for Rachel, the co-owner of a local restaurant. That initial spark is dampened, however, when Lisa learns that Rachel has a young son.

Rachel Murray has worked to build a good life, but raising Declan hasn’t been without its challenges. Each day when Rachel picks him up from school, she says a silent prayer that he will be waiting for her in his classroom, and not in the principal’s office because of his disruptive behavior.

Despite her grief, Lisa finds herself drawn to both Rachel and Declan. She believes she can keep her emotions at bay—keep from drowning in grief and keep from falling in love—but she finds both to be a tidal wave washing over her and sweeping her off her feet.

For Lisa, tears may be the silent language of her grief, but the love she feels for Rachel and Declan has the power to become the resounding song of hope—if she allows herself to hear it.


In celebration of the book’s release, I’m sharing the opening scene of The Song of the Sea. If you want to read more, you can head over to and pick up your very own copy!


Chapter One

The first time Lisa Whelan had ever listened to the singing of the ocean she was seven years old, sitting with her grandfather on the rocks along the shoreline, trying to make sense of her grandmother’s death.

“Do you hear that?” her grandfather had asked as they stared out at the rolling waves. “Do you hear the water?”

She had nodded, listening to the soft rush of the surf as it rolled toward shore, then back out to sea.

“It reminds me of music.”

She remembered seeing her grandfather, his face tilted up toward the sun, eyes closed, head swaying as though he heard an entire symphony.

Lisa had mimicked him, trying hard to hear the song. At first, she heard nothing more than the steady back and forth of the water, but eventually she began to pick out the melody laced above the rocking rhythm of the waves. She heard the gulls and the boats and the distant voices—sounds blending with one another to create harmonies and accents.

“It’s the song of freedom,” her grandfather had said. “Don’t you think?”

She hadn’t known what to say, so again she nodded.

“Your grandmother’s not in there.” Her grandfather had motioned back toward the grief-filled house. “She’s out here. You can hear it.”

As a child, she had been too young to attach much significance to her grandfather’s words, but twenty-six years later, that moment occupied her every thought, as she found herself desperate to hear the song.

Lisa drew the paintbrush across the page, a curving shoreline stretching out toward the horizon. She gave herself over to the smooth brush strokes of the blue, curling waves. Along the shore, she outlined the water with a line of white, creating the foam of the breakers, which she also speckled above the crests of the waves. Lines of gray formed the jagged boulders that stacked upon each other, until they reached the grassy field above the cliff.

She set her brush down and closed her eyes, visualizing that moment. She wanted to capture the soothing rolling of the waves, the gentle swirling of the clouds, the calming sun that shone in fat, distinct rays down onto the water like lights from Heaven.

A bird circled over the water in search of fish, and she opened her eyes, dipping her brush in dark brown paint and painting the small line of its wingspan in the distant sky.

She closed her eyes and remembered the briny scent of salt water and seaweed, the comfort of her grandfather’s solid figure settled in beside her, the feel of the cliff rising up to support her.

She didn’t hear the music.

She did hear the ring of her phone, jarring her from her thoughts. It was the third call that morning, and she frowned at the cell phone that lit up and vibrated along with the tinny ring tone from her kitchen counter. She should have turned it off. Her agent had been calling all week, inquiring about the frames she was supposed to have sketched for the new book. The deadline was fast approaching and she had yet to start.

She exhaled slowly and then got up and crossed the room to silence the phone. She could answer and ask for an extension, but she didn’t have the energy. Her brother’s name lit up across her phone instead, so she hit “talk” and placed the phone to her ear.

“Hey, little brother.” She leaned against the counter with the phone to her ear.

“Hey, Lise,” Andrew Whelan answered. “How’s everything?”

Lisa straightened the stack of unopened mail piled next to her coffeemaker and moved the dishes on her counter onto the pile of dishes building in her kitchen sink. “Good. You?”

“I’m good,” he said, but the intonation to the words suggested otherwise.

“You need help hiding the body?” Lisa asked.

He didn’t laugh.

“What’s the matter?” she pressed.

“Nothing’s the matter. I’m good. Really good, actually. I just, well, I have some news. I wanted to call you first so you don’t hear this from anyone else.”

“Okay?” She waited, unsure if she should brace herself for whatever Andrew was about to say.

“Sarah’s pregnant.”

At those two words, everything stopped, Lisa’s breathing included. The air was knocked from her chest as though she’d been punched. She could feel the walls of her apartment tighten around her.

“I needed you to know first before we tell anyone else,” he continued. The words only barely registered. They were distant, hollow background noise.

“Thank you.”

“Are you okay?”

She shook her head, and reminded herself to breathe. Somehow she managed to form words. She could hear herself answer, as though she was an outside observer. Her own voice was as distant and muffled as her brother’s. “Of course. Congratulations. Kara and Susie will be such great big sisters.”

“They will be.” Andrew’s voice lifted, his excitement breaking through. “Susie, she carries around her little baby dolls, feeding them bottles, and wrapping them in blankets, and I can see her with the baby, you know? She’ll be so gentle. And Kara, she’s such a goofball and an entertainer. I’ll bet you ten bucks now that she gets baby’s first giggles.”

“I’m happy for you,” she said. “I mean it.”

“Thanks, Lise.”

“Listen, I’ve got to go, though. I would love to talk more, but I’m waiting on a call from my agent about the new book. Say hi to Sarah and the girls for me.”

“Bye, Lisa. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” she said, already pulling the phone away from her ear to end the call. Her chest was tight, her breathing shallow, and she didn’t trust that she could get another word out without her voice breaking. There was only so much she could fake.

She turned off her phone and set it on the counter. She stood in her kitchen, not sure what to do with herself. Her hands itched to hurl something or hit something, but there was nothing. The anxious energy pulsed through her with nowhere to go. She bit back the tears that stung at her eyes. It was so easy for Andrew. He and Sarah had the twins, and now a baby on the way. Four years ago, when Sarah was first pregnant, he had come over to see Lisa in a panic and had gotten drunk off his ass at the thought of being a dad.

God, he’s your brother. She hated the jealousy that burned in her chest. She wished she could be happy for him, but the pain swelled up within her until a sob choked out.

She had wanted to be a mom for as long as she could remember. She’d wanted to be a mom so desperately she’d been willing to do it all single. She’d decorated the nursery, bought the onesies, and even chosen schools for Mitchell. She’d conceived him in her heart years before she’d ever gotten pregnant.

But she never got to lay him in his carefully curated nursery. She never got to dress him in the onesie she’d selected as his “going home” outfit. She had had only a few short hours with him, just long enough to hold him against her chest and feel his little heartbeat.

She took in the painting through the blurry threat of tears. That solace she’d felt as a child she needed to feel again. There had to be some comfort somewhere. She couldn’t bear to stay in the pain.

She went to the bedroom, careful not to look at the closed door to Mitchell’s nursery on her way past. The door was a painful enough reminder on a good day. Seeing it now would crush her.

She didn’t know what she was going to do until she had already pulled her suitcase out of her closet and begun filling it with clothes.

This place was suffocating her. She needed to breathe. She couldn’t ever move forward staying in this apartment with its closed doors and closed dreams.

Lisa packed her necessary belongings, then pulled open her laptop to check for flights.