Happy Friday the 13th, y’all. A few important things.

  1. I’m feeling decent for the first time in a long time. Hallelujah!
  2. As a result, I shot 9 online courses for the SkipJack School, for writers (I am so sick of my own voice). They’re not all released yet, but you can still see what we’ve got already, HERE: http://skipjackpublishing.teachable.com.
  3. We’ve enjoyed some weather in the teens in Nowheresville, but still managed a few half day trail rides with the big hooved ones. Pics below, along with a few randoms 🙂
  4. I’ve adored having our youngest home for a few weeks, but she leaves after this weekend. I’ll miss her so, and I’ll be so glad she’s gone, an enigma in a riddle in a paradox, ha.
  5. Thus, it’s time for me to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.

The plan is for me to figure out Ava and create 3 Ava books, then return to 1 last Michele (which is partially written and unnamed at this time) before I move on to Laura and Maggie, with a few ensemble novellas along the way. I’m about 4 chapters into my first Ava book (working titles of her books are Bombshell, Stunner, and Knockout), and so far Bombshell is a disaster, but somehow I will find Ava’s voice and my way. I have faith. I could use prayers and positive energy this month though as I try to kickstart that part of my brain, and host my mother-in-law. Are these things mutually exclusive??? I hope not!

I tested out my writing tent, which is now a writing lean-to since it has a tin roof (thanks, honey!), and warmed up with poetry. I am not a poet, but I wrote about what I could see, sad over the death of a friend, and what came out felt right, felt like a precursor to re-immersing myself in the WDKY world. I called it “Texas Winter.”

Ropy vine in cedar,

wind tossed,



Morning glory echo,

wild and



Turquoise-yellow butterfly,




Spring is not a promise.

I also wrote a ridiculously long love letter about my horse on Facebook, which is another sign that I’m in the starting gate, about to write.

Facebook post as writing prompt/meme, LOL. If I’d just written a chapter of Bombshell instead of that post, right? But it doesn’t work that way for me. Think of this as stretching for the brain.

Meanwhile the audiobook of Fighting for Anna came out, narrated (fantastically) by Natalie Gray. You can get it on Amazon, Audible, or Apple. Hardbacks on BarnesandNoble.com, and e-books and paperbacks everywhere. Reviews greatly appreciated.

2017. Let’s do this.

p.s. If you want to get your hands on my mystery novella, Act One, the only way to do it is to subscribe to my monthly newsletter, as this novella is exclusive (and free) to subscribers.

World’s most expensive dog bed.

Country life. 🙂

If you’ve read Fighting for Anna (and if not, why???), you’ll know why this find in the forest was so amazing!

With my best girl, Katniss.

And with my best guy <3

Another anniversary with the world’s greatest husband, and, of course, a head band!

If you’ve followed me very long, you’ve probably realized I’m pretty Type A. I’ve been accused of being intense, over-structured, and the Energizer Bunny, notwithstanding these last six months of getting less done, which you can read about HERE if you must 😉

I am a huge believer in outlining, character studies, writing-from-once-upon-a-time-until-the-end, and one-pass revision. So one day when I was out walking the dogs and had my digital recorder in hand, I pressed record and starting talking. But not just any talk. I talked my way through a twenty thousand-word novella, a prequel to the What Doesn’t Kill You series. Without any outlines. Without any character studies. Without any planning at all. I had no idea what I was going to say or what I would be saying it about.

And it felt freeing. It felt right, for right then.

It was my second foray into digitally recording my drafts, so I was better at that part at least. Still, as I talked my way through it, I ran into obstacles. I hadn’t written Ava, Laura, or Maggie points of view yet. I waffled back and forth between first and third person, past and present tense, simplicity and complexity, accent and diction, as I experimented on the fly with my women. I struggled as I wrote a mystery without knowing who the bad guy would be, and what red herrings and clues to drop.

When I got the first draft back in written form, it was a hot mess. I could totally see why outlining first was my usual methodology!! And guess what I ended up having to do? Write character studies on the new women, who I thought I knew well from their supporting roles in earlier novels, but of course, it turned out, that wasn’t nearly enough to put them in the drivers’ seats. Possibly because it was only 20% as long as my novels, I found revising the plot line easier than I’d expected. I had fun re-immersing myself in characters whose minds I hadn’t dived into for awhile.

And I discovered a big surprise: my beta readers loved Laura and Maggie! They already knew they enjoyed the other protagonists (Katie, Emily, Michele, and Ava), because they’d gotten to know them very well. Their notes and comments about the new women were immensely gratifying.

The story behind the story of Act One, thus, is that this old dog is learning a couple of new tricks, turning over new leaves. And to keep it with cliches, I put the cart before the horse, and what didn’t kill me made me stronger 😉 Also, I found out I could write something shorter than a novel and pull off a complete mystery.

It was liberating . . . and I can’t wait to get back to OUTLINING my next novel, write after I finish my CHARACTER STUDIES!!!!

p.s. If you want to get your hands on Act One, the only way to do it is to subscribe to my monthly newsletter, as this novella is exclusive (and free) to subscribers.

I love catching up with the What Doesn’t Kill You women and imagining where their paths will take them next! Here’s their 2017 resolutions:


Plan a reunion with my best girls.


Got accepted to Texas Tech law school, so I guess decide whether to become the oldest day student in the class of 2018.


Prepare for my big role as maid of honor in Papa’s wedding!


Party like a rock star. Kiss my man under the mistletoe.


Quit worrying about what other people think. Study less. Hug Mickey and Farrah more.


Smile in the checkout line even though every gossip rag in the rack has a “Where Are They Now” story about washed up stars featuring me on the cover.


Happy 2017, y’all!

This is the week of the year where I usually post the Hutchins Christmas letter, but I didn’t actually write one this year. In fact, I haven’t written much of anything since May. One reason is that it’s a lot of work managing employees who are administering the programs for my books. We launched three this year: Hell to Pay, Fighting for Anna, and Act One. The second reason is that I have been producing online courses for the SkipJack Publishing school for authors; that knocks out time I didn’t have. The third is that buying a house in Snowheresville, WY and a couple of enormous horses were a time-consuming and highly enjoyable distraction. The fourth is that I’ve had  a run of writers block and thus wrote anything and everything except new material. The fifth is that we hosted a paleo Thanksgiving for fifteen people, six dogs, and two cats. The sixth is that I traveled multiple times with Eric and he with me on our respective work trips.

The seventh is the big one. I’ve been sick. Sick in a way that started when I had my hysterectomy and horrible reaction to anesthesia in 2015 and worsened considerably in August of 2016. I’ve written about it before, so if you care, you can read it there. I don’t want to repeat it. No one was able to diagnose why the hysterectomy affected me so horribly. Lots of theories were knocked about. Thyroid imbalance. A stroke. Unexplainable reaction to the anesthesia. Nothing was confirmed and I tried lots of natural remedies (for memory), but it’s been affecting me all this time, so much so that I doubted my ability to ever write again. I have terrible short term memory. That’s not true. I have terrible memory altogether. Since my anesthesia reaction, I didn’t think I could knock out 300+ pages and hold the threads of story and characterization together. Truth be told, it was much, much harder on these last three books. But it wasn’t insurmountable. It just took more time and more help (especially encouragement and understanding) from Eric. I found it much less taxing and scary to hike, ride, and cook: things requiring less focus through my fog.

Beginning in August, I noticed that my memory issues, lack of motivation, and inflammation/pain (and some other symptoms I don’t feel comfortable writing about here) were joined by a crippling anxiety and complete lack of emotional bandwidth. Since then, there have been whole weeks I didn’t write for no other reason than my inability to deal with the anxiety. Racing heartbeat. Endless loop thought patterns. Paranoia and irrational thought. I wracked my brain for what had changed. I started experimenting with ways to fix myself and finally locked in on changing my multivitamin. I also backed off on my thyroid meds, which increased my all-over body pain. The anxiety eased. I accidentally took the multi-vitamin again. My anxiety sky-rocketed. I got off them. A week later I was feeling a little better, although I realized that over a few months my immune system had gone to heck, and, come to think of it, my allergies were worse.

I went to my doctor’s office. I’m a big believer in integrative, natural medicine (as is my physician father). I’ve written about my past successes with it HERE and HERE. Last year, after my symptoms started post-hysterectomy-anesthesia, they’d noticed my homocysteine had doubled. They put me on active folate and tri-K. This year when I came back and told them about my reaction to the multivitamins and other systems, they tested me for MTHFR, a gene mutation that they felt explained my overreaction to anesthesia and inability to recover from it. My allergies and cruddy immune system. My inability to handle wheat and dairy. We learned my multivitamin had folic acid in it, which is basically poison to someone with MTHFR mutation. And we learned that, yep, indeed I did have the MTHFR mutation. They also said that because of this stockpiling of “poisons” and the prevalence of many other environmental toxins (that impact all of us), I should undertake not just MTHFR protocol, but also a comprehensive detox program. They warned me I would feel worse before I felt better (they were right, and that’s where I am right now, unfortunately).

So I’ve been detoxing in accordance with the protocol at MTHFR.net, where you can read all about what MTHFR is and how to get tested and treated for it. I won’t bore you with the details, other than an exciting picture of me in a portable infrared sauna. They’re funny looking, but they’re supposed to work, and I’ll try anything. Sure, I feel a little angry now that I’ve learned how easy it would have been for my anesthesiologist to ask a few more questions so he wouldn’t accidentally poison me with something it has taken my body 1.5 years and counting to get rid of. But I’m grateful beyond measure it didn’t kill me, and now for answers and a program that gives me hope.

It’s too early to celebrate, but I’m feeling pretty merry, and hopeful. Hope is the important thing.

So what I plan to do this Christmas is breathe. Continue to recover. Believe. And not pressure myself to write, at least not yet. Eric and I are going to play with our dogs, ride our big horses, and embark on a yaupon eradication program at Nowheresville.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Recently I received this e-mail:

I enjoyed the books I read in this series (5,6,7) but was somewhat perplexed by some of the characters in the book, Emily’s character in particular.  I was struggling with the concept of church going, prayers to God for direction, protection, etc. while still having a sexual relationship out of wedlock.  I am a Christian…believe God sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin as well as the sin of others, that Jesus was without sin and died in my place, was raised from the grave, and sits on the right hand of the Father so even though it wasn’t stated for fact in the books I read that Emily was a believer, the book suggested a relationship with God.  Believers do sin and have to ask for forgiveness but certainly should not be ‘living in sin.”  So as I said I was perplexed with the story line that had no problem with sex outside of marriage.
Thought I should at least share my concern.
Your Reader

I responded, after much thought and  chatting with my assistant, Bobbye, who keeps herself busy (more than)  as mom-to-four, romantic mystery author, and pastor’s wife, amongst about a bazillion other things. Here was my reply:

Dear Reader:

Great to hear from you, and I think you’ve nailed one of the themes of the book. Can an imperfect person believe and still sin? I think the answer is yes, that is a normal condition with a multitude of sins, not just “living in sin”. 😉 I didn’t try to write Emily perfectly, just authentically, which means having flaws consistent with her upbringing and experiences. If I wrote Christian fiction, I would have left Emily in a different place in her personal development, but I don’t, so I left it to the imagination of each reader to figure out where her growth will take her next.

Thanks for writing!

After our talk, Bobbye asked if she could guest post on this topic, and I loved the idea, so, I want to share her interpretation on this question, from a bigger perspective than just my novels, to include all the novels from SkipJack Publishing, my publisher. She rocked it, so here you go!

By Bobbye Marrs, romantic mystery author and publishing assistant at SkipJack Publishing

SkipJack Publishing is a small, indie-focused publishing company.  We may be small, but we have huge expectations. Our authors are professionals with award-winning masterpieces. The types of books we publish are “novels for adults that are not inconsistent with a life of faith—whatever that faith may be, and however questioning.”  Wow—that’s a mouthful. Recently a reader showed concern for one of our main characters who appears to be a Christian, but displays behavior not traditionally Christian. This incongruity of choosing a lifestyle that some would consider sinful, but also praying and appearing to have a relationship with God, was cause for confusion.

So where does this “faith—whatever that faith may be” come in to the writing process for our SkipJack authors? If you were hoping that because I’m a pastor’s wife that I’m the in-house expert theologian, you are in for disappointment. But I hope I can give some insight as a reader into the characters of the What Doesn’t Kill You series, and those from Whippoorwill Hollow as well as  the characters from Pennies from Burger Heaven that sleep beneath the Warrior Angel statue.

It really boils down to one thing: Authenticity.  When you read the pages of these books you’ll find people struggling with addiction, dealing with broken relationships, behaving in ways that might not be considered polite. And that’s authentic. To take those things out would be to write a sci-fi novel about a utopian society (which sounds interesting, but not what we publish). Or to include them and resolve them consistent with the highest aspirations of the Christian faith would be Christian fiction (and that’s not what we publish either).

If I were to meet some of these characters in real life—Katie with her “sloppy drinking habits,” or Emily who lives with “smoldering and mysterious” Jack, or Michele who has a hard time controlling her language, or Copper who’s seen more than any kid should, or Wallace and Ethan, the homosexual couple from the Emily and Michele books—what would my reaction be?  How would I treat them?  I hope I’d be a nice person. I sincerely pray I wouldn’t be a jerk. I’d like to think I’d be my authentic self, too—BTW, that’s someone with “a past,” someone with flaws, and someone always in need of an extra measure of grace.

I’ve thought about Emily’s specific situation, which Pamela’s reader referred to as “living in sin.” Let’s be super clear here and identify the actual issue here is sex outside of marriage. Wow, that’s can of worms if I ever saw one, but it is an issue at the foundation of the Christian faith. In the course of my adult life I’ve had many friends and loved ones in Emily’s situation; specifically, people who were Christians but lived a life not necessarily consistent with the values they professed. What have I done? I’ve smiled. I’ve hugged. I’ve welcomed people into my home. I’ve hoped that I’ve been a blessing to those around me. Maybe that’s just part of getting the plank out of my own eye before I worry about the splinter in someone else’s. I try to be totally authentic in real life, and I want that in the characters I read about, too.  As a reader I love to get to “peek behind the curtain” and see the emotional turmoil in a character’s life.  It’s rewarding to travel with them along their character arc.

We write fiction here at SkipJack, but that doesn’t necessarily mean fake. SkipJack books are not faith-based books, but our writers understand that within the human heart is a place made for faith. And just like in real life, that faith takes on a lot of different forms. For many of our characters their religious upbringing or their experience in church or their search for life’s meaning is what makes them deeper than just the page they’re written on.

So if you see characters whose actions don’t always match up to what they may profess to believe, take a look around the real world, or even in your own mirror. I’ll bet you’ll see some real people just like that.


Bobbye Marrs is a supermom extraordinaire with currently 5 jobs, 4 teenagers, 2 dogs, and a husband crazy enough to be a pastor.  When she’s not working or Bobbyelearning some new hobby like the HAM radio, she is trying to be a romantic mystery writer. Look for her book, I Am My Beloved’s to debut this spring.  In the meantime, she started a t-shirt business to support her writing habit at www.greetingsfrommarrs.com.


Everyone that subscribes to my e-newsletter is a winner today and gets an EXCLUSIVE What Doesn’t Kill You e-book, the first chapter of which you can read below (teaser! teaser!). But before you begin, we have two special winners of the Fighting for Anna butterfly pendants/charms out of 750 entrants: Jo and Pat. Congratulations!

Now, on to Act One.

Act One (What Doesn’t Kill You, Prequel): An Ensemble Mystery Novella




A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative takes place before that of a preexisting work in the same series.




A unit or group of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect.




A short story with a compact and pointed plot.

~ OCTOBER 2007 ~

Five years before Saving Grace (What Doesn’t Kill You, #1): A Katie Romantic Mystery


Maggie teases her brunette hair with its chunky blonde streaks into a bigger rat’s nest. She leans in a nose length from the mirror, eyes unfocused and crossing, then hefts an industrial-sized can of Aqua Net and blasts her roots. Instant stink. Her ballast shifts, and she loses her balance, stealing a quick glance every which way, not realizing I see her bobble from where I stand behind a rolling costume rod. When she’s steady-ish, she flips her hair over and bends at the waist. I get an eyeful of ripped fishnet hose under her miniskirt and learn two things I wish I didn’t know: she doesn’t wear panties, and she shaves her girlie parts. She starts spraying again like she’s wielding Raid and her hair’s full of jack spaniards, but this time she clutches the wooden ledge in front of her.

The woman is a Grade A drunk, and when she isn’t drunk, she’s high. The bitch of it is she’s drop-dead gorgeous and has more talent than anyone in this dime-store-turned-murder-mystery-dinner-theater. Including me, because Jah hates me. Or God, as they say here in Wack-o, Texas, aka hell.

“Careful,” I say. “You’ll break your head.” I keep my voice light and use my pretend-helpful tone.

Maggie stands up quickly, swaying, looking for me, not fooled even three sheets to the wind. She tells me she thinks I’m number one with a middle finger salute from her left hand. “Diva,” she says in a hiss.

Maybe she’s right, but it takes one to know one. “Watch you’self. You fangs showing.” I play up my island accent and drop the continental diction I normally use here in the states. “Yanking,” we call it on St. Marcos, where I’m from, as in “talk like a damn Yankee.”

From behind me, the director—if you can give such a hoo-ha title to the cat herder in charge of It Happened One Weekend in Waco—scolds me. “Ava! Leave Maggie alone. We need her at her best tonight. It’s a sold-out crowd.”

The director’s always talking down to me. I’ve been stuffing cash in a pillowcase for a move back home, and I’m so close I can taste fresh island mango on my lips. I’d followed a no-count sumbitch named Zach from NYU to Vail to here, where he suddenly ups his game to a pill-popping, trailer-park-ho-banging, credit-card-stealing, bank-account-hacking loser who’s about to feel the long arm of the law.

I swallow the tone I’d like to use. “Yah, mon,” I say to the director, and I curtsy.

Lizbeth, as in no-E-no-A-because-I’m-not-Elizabeth, gazes at me, her expression vacant. Then her eyes shift, and she gets a load of Maggie. Her face sours, lips puckering. She turns back to me, and her tone is pure pain. “I was going to have Maggie take the lead tonight since Julianna called in sick, but”—she shakes her head—“I don’t think that’s gonna work. Can you take the role?”

Before I can answer, Maggie staggers forward. “That’s bullshit!” Her words are full-on slur. “I’m the first understudy.”

First understudy? What does she think this is, Broadway? I rake the crappy dressing room with a quick glance. Plywood walls with exposed wiring. Cracked linoleum squares on the floor. Bare lightbulbs dangling overhead. It’s dingy and low rent, and I almost gag on the stench of cigarettes, body odor, and old garbage underneath the Aqua Net. Ah, but how the mighty have fallen. Maggie used to be a bona fide rock star, Texana folk version, on the cover of Texas Monthly not even that long ago. She looks like a younger, hotter version of Shania Twain and sings like a folksier Natalie Maines. I hear tell she plays every instrument better than her band. Sometimes it’s her licks on their tracks. Yep, she was on an express train to Nashville and the big time, until she got kicked out of every festival she was booked to play at in the last year. Scuttlebutt is her band members up and quit on her, as did her manager, her agent, and her record label. Maggie’s sunk down with us bottom-feeders now. But she has to pay for that expensive Jack and coke habit somehow.

I ignore her and to Lizbeth say, “Irie,” the island version of “It’s all good.”

Lizbeth raises an over-tweezed set of eyebrows. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

It’s better than a yes, because if I kill it tonight, I might steal Julianna’s part out from under her. That could mean a big fat raise and put me a few weeks closer to the Promised Land.

From across the room, I hear another cast member and her boyfriend shouting at each other. It’s Becky, a mousy thing, but nice and not catty and stabby like Maggie. A secret admirer had sent her a huge bouquet of long-stemmed red roses earlier, and her man’s none too happy about it.

She yells, “I’ve got a show, Randall. Get over it, and get out of here!”

Lizbeth doesn’t allow anyone but cast backstage before a show, so I know Lizbeth is upset about Maggie being wrecked, since she doesn’t notice Randall. I keep a straight face as I watch Randall leaving in a huff from the corner of my eye. I didn’t know Becky had it in her.

The director goes on, speaking to me, but she’s eying Maggie. “Becky will cover your part, Ava. I’ll go tell her now.”

Lizbeth walks over to Becky, but stops short. A pale-skinned woman in sodden clothes, her freckles the color of her dripping hair, is rifling through the costumes, her face hidden. But everybody knows who she is. She tried out for my part, and she still can’t quite accept that I got it instead of her. The woman needs some Prozac.

“Cast only—you know the rules. You’ll have to leave now, Sandra,” Lizbeth says, putting a hand on her shoulder.

The space between all her freckles turns bright red. Sandra nods and scurries out the way Randall had a few moments before. She leaves little puddles behind her. It’s supposed to rain like a sumbitch out there tonight. Must be already.

Just as Sandra’s leaving, Maggie starts throwing a tantrum like a spoiled teenage girl, tossing her hair over her shoulder, fussing some more with her makeup, and muttering snotty and loud enough for everyone backstage to hear. “Nobody in the audience is going to buy some no-count black karaoke singer from the Islands playing a Baylor sorority girl.”

The room descends into an awkward silence, which I break with a sweet smile, Yankin’ in my best Texas drawl. “Chi-O, Chi-O, it’s off to bed we go.” I smooth my hair, which is shaved nearly to my scalp.

That brings the house down, or the back of it, anyway.

I skip off to change my costume and put on the blonde high-ponytail wig. I’ve always looked damn fine in red and yellow.


To continue reading, click HERE and subscribe to my monthly newsletter via email. This novella e-book is an exclusive gift to subscribers.


phutchins signature

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to let you know that I’M IN AMSTERDAM!! It was a popup work trip for my husband Eric, and I had enough miles to tag along. So, instead of writing a post today, here’s a few happy pictures from a grateful Thanksgiving.

And NEXT WEEK you’ll get the first chapter of Act One (and subscribers will get the entire exclusive free novella!!).



Thanksgiving in Nowheresville. We forgot to take pictures on Thanksgiving, so we missed Thomas and his girlfriend. And somehow Clark Kent and Allie evaded pictures (by not hot tubbing or riding horses). Rats!




Eric with our niece, enjoying the cool side of the swim spa.


Our youngest, Susanne, with our niece.


My brother sweet talking Katniss.


Even Feathers is smiling! And that’s after everyone in the house took a turn riding him, sometimes two at a time.


Just us girls hot tubbing.



My mother and her lookalike granddaughter.


Our niece, displeased that something so unladylike came out the back end of my beautiful girl horse!



The french braids I did in my nieces’s hair.

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The women of the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series have a few gratefuls to share this 2016 Thanksgiving.

Before we start, I wanted to let you know that my fellow SkipJack author Ken Oder is offering his mystery The Closing for the discounted price of 99 cents in e-book form through Black Friday. Be sure to snatch up your discounted copy this week, HERE.

  • Katie: The Dixie Chicks concert in Austin with Nick.
  • Michele: Looking forward to what’s coming next, for the first time in a long time.
  • Emily: Jack, Betsy, and me visiting Greg and watching the Masked Rider at a Tech home game.
  • Ava: Getting what I need and finding out it what I want.
  • Laura: Grand opening of Right Turn Equine Camp!
  • Maggie: A music studio in my birth mother’s house.

And a few of their favorite people want to chime in, too.

  • Nick: My hot business partner.
  • Rashidi: That I not born a redneck.
  • Wallace: A Texas wedding!
  • Nadine: No.More.Drama.
  • Jack: (lopsided, one-dimple grin)
  • Collin: If I told you, I’d have to kill you.
  • Mickey: Everywhere I turn, kids, kids, kids.

As for me, I’m thankful for my (1) husband, 5 kids, 2 horses, 3 donkeys, 2 cows, 3 dogs, lots of goats, health, safety, extended family, readers (!!!), Nowheresville, and Snowheresville. And that Hell to Pay won the 2016 USA Best Book Award for Cross Genre Fiction. Woot! Most of the winners/finalists this year were traditionally published, dominated by the big houses, so winning for the second year in a row was especially sweet.

What are you grateful for this year?


p.s. Don’t forget to sign up for my e-newsletter (monthly) to receive your exclusive free copy of Act One: A What Doesn’t Kill You Prequel (Ensemble Mystery Novella)!!

p.p.s. Butterfly charm/pendant winner announced next week!

p.p.p.s. Have you read Fighting for Anna yet? I’d be honored if you left an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (or wherever you like, for that matter!).


Change of gears. We’ve been talking F4A, F4A, F4A for a month now, and while it’s still on my mind, we are only two weeks away from the official release of ACT ONE, a prequel novella set five years before Saving Grace, featuring all six of my protagonists in an ensemble at a point in which their lives intersected at the scene of a murder. It’s going to be an exclusive to e-newsletter subscribers. Can’t get it anywhere else, can’t pay for it. The only path to it is to earn it with your awesome, awesome loyalty. Please note that I won’t release it on this blog, as that would make it public. So if you’re a blog subscriber, please also make sure you’re an e-newsletter subscriber, so you’ll get ACT ONE. The link to subscriber is http://pamelahutchins.us1.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=f34cdacfa75cea609a1b51121&id=85d5ed8820. If you have any trouble making this work, email me at pamela at pamelafaganhutchins dot com. I can manually add you to the list.

Before I reveal the cover, let me remind you that you have one more week to enter the giveaway of the Michele BUTTERFLY pendant/charm from Jewelweed Sprouts to celebrate Fighting for Anna’s release! Winner announced next week on the blog. Enter through the Rafflecopter, below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, with no further ado, here’s the cover for ACT ONE.


I love it! It’s the first cover done by my assistant, Bobbye Marrs, so y’all give her some love in the comments and emails you send me.

Don’t forget to make sure you subscribe so you’ll have it in your inbox on December 2nd!

Coolness: Saving Grace is now available in Italian, with other languages coming soon.


And last but not least: we now have my novels available in hardback (Barnes & Noble online only), in addition to the e-book, paperback, and audio versions (links to all formats and sales sites HERE). We hope you’ll consider making the What Doesn’t Kill You gang part of your holiday gift giving <3 <3 <3.


Fighting for Anna ebook

Thank you for your support in the Thunderclap!!

We believe it is a huge contributing factor in successful launches of my novels. And successful it was. Fighting for Anna reached #2 in hot new releases and top 15 sellers. Pictures are better than words though:



Before we begin the FINAL part of this 4-part installmentStory Behind the Story Series, I have a reminder. Remember how I gave away a little fox charm/pendant with the launch of Hell to Pay? Well…I’m giving away a little BUTTERFLY from Jewelweed Sprouts to celebrate Fighting for Anna’s release! Pictures coming soon. Enter through the Rafflecopter, below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, the last installment in the Story Behind the Story of Fighting for Anna (F4A), the 8th novel in the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series, featuring Michele. Here’s a look at the practical magic behind F4A.

By now you guys know that I love me some everyday, practical magic. Magical realism some call it. In G4K, the practical magic arose from Michele’s relation to her Papa and Mexican abuela/grandmother, who taught her Aztec mythology. Her father nicknamed her Itzpapalotl after a knife-winged butterfly goddess. Michele channeled Itzpa in her times of greatest stress.

In F4A, Michele is starting to feel tired to her bones, despite being only forty-one. She is beginning to feel drawn toward another man, with her husband Adrian now dead for more than a year. Michele doesn’t feel like a butterfly. She feels dirty and old. She no longer identifies with Itzpapalotl. Instead, she imagines herself more and more like Tlazolteotal, the “eater of filth.” As an Aztec goddess, Tlazolteotl rules over the cycles: ritual cleansing, female menses, the growth and life/consumption/expulsion/fertilizing cycle, and the sexual cycle (especially of woman). She is the goddess of sexuality and the forgiver of sexual sins and taboos.

She fit Michele’s “stage” and mindset like a glove in F4A. I’m writing the last Michele novel now, and I can’t wait for you to see where she goes next. However, you’ve got three Ava novels coming first, before you get another dose of Michele.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Story Behind the Story series as much as I have. I have a free novella coming out after Thanksgiving, exclusively for subscribers to my blog and newsletter, so I’ll write another piece for this series “The Story Behind the Story” series when Act One: A What Doesn’t Kill You Romantic Mystery Novella (Prequel Ensemble) comes out. [Be sure to let your reading friends know to subscribe!]


p.s. It was a big week for other reasons.




Eric competed in the Oilman Half Ironman triathlon. He crushed his goals, didn’t get injured, and had fun. I was so proud. I’m sure he was too: I did a cartwheel on the edge of the course during his run, while I was cheering for him. Mission accomplished: he laughed.


Horses and donkeys got to know each other.


Donkeys stole our hearts. (Fitz, Kathryn, Annabelle)

Fighting for Anna ebook

It’s RELEASE DAY for Fighting for Anna! Woot! Get your ebook copy before the price goes up from 99 cents to $4.99!

Help us spread the word about Fighting for Anna by joining the Thunderclap (click below):

Before we begin the third part of this four-part installmentStory Behind the Story Series, I have an announcement. Remember how I gave away a little fox charm/pendant with the launch of Hell to Pay? Well…I’m giving away a little BUTTERFLY from Jewelweed Sprouts to celebrate Fighting for Anna’s release! Pictures coming soon. Enter through the Rafflecopter, below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, the third installment in the Story Behind the Story of Fighting for Anna (F4A), the 8th novel in the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series, featuring Michele. This week, I’m sharing the story behind Gidget, Michele’s charming neighbor at the beginning of F4A. [Next week, I’ll close the series with a look at the practical magic behind F4A.]

When my husband Eric and I became empty nesters, we moved into our dream house on our dream property in Nowheresville, Texas. We expected to love our place. What surprised us was how much we loved the people in our community. They welcomed us warmly.

One night we were at an opening for an antique mart. There was a display of 70s-80s women’s clothing including a long white linen gown. Something about the gown called to me. Not as an art piece. I wanted to put it on myself and wear it. I picked it up, admiring it, and Stephanie—the most authentic, open, empathic creature I’d ever met—walked up to me and told me the story of the dress, which goes something like this:

A woman appeared in a house in Nowheresville, moved there by those “close” to her, suddenly and somewhat forcibly. They’d packed up dirty dishes in her sink, they were in such a hurry to exile her from Houston—where she’d lived and been an art gallery owner until she started experiencing health issues. She wasn’t in great shape. People got to know her, a little. Enough to know she was never seen without her devoted little dog.

She hadn’t been seen for a few days, when her little dog broke out a window in her house and went for help. Neighbors found her collapsed. She survived, but moved into a facility that could provide her greater care. Some time after her death, Stephanie’s family bought the house the woman had lived in, the one her dog had broken out of to save her. Stephanie spent weeks going through the woman’s things, getting to know her, connecting to her, and, ultimately, telling me her story.

The story she told me summoned the muse, and instantly a fictional version was born in my head. I bought the dress and wore it while I drafted F4A. I wrote an ending for the dog, whose story no one seemed to know.

I’ve left out most of the good details Stephanie shared with me, and possibly better ones that she didn’t. But that’s okay. My story to tell was Gidget’s. The other belongs to Stephanie, and I hope she writes the true account some day.


p.s. New stuff to get excited about: subscribers-exclusive novella, Act One, coming out next month. It’s a prequel to the series (which started with Saving Grace) featuring all of my protagonists, past, present, and future. Cover reveal soon! Be sure to let friends know that the only way they can get their hands on it is by subscribing on my website.

p.p.s. November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Before I was published, I did it several years in a row. I wrote the original drafts of Saving Grace, Finding Harmony, and Going for Kona during NaNoWriMo. Well, this year, my schedule called for me to draft my next novel during November. So . . . I’m NaNoWriMoing this month, writing BOMBSHELL, #9 in What Doesn’t Kill You and my first novel featuring . . .AVA!! Yippee!! Here’s Eric prepping my writing tent, with a photobomb by Horse Feathers. Note no tent on the frame. We lost it in storms May 2016. Someday maybe we’ll re-tent the tent.


p.p.p.s. A cougar has killed the last three surviving baby goats from this year’s crop. We suspect it is a female with yearling cubs, because there are no birds, rabbits, or deer in our area. Something is HUNGRY. So we got three donkeys to help defend the goats (and the big scaredy-cat horses, who, at 1500 and 1800 pounds, are not cougar-bait). Aren’t they cute? Their names are Fitz, Annabelle, and Kathryn.

Fighting for Anna ebook

Help us spread the word about Fighting for Anna by joining the Thunderclap (click below):

Before we begin this the second part of this four-part installmentStory Behind the Story Series, I have an announcement. Remember how I gave away a little fox charm/pendant with the launch of Hell to Pay? Well…I’m giving away a little BUTTERFLY from Jewelweed Sprouts to celebrate Fighting for Anna’s release! Pictures coming soon. Enter through the Rafflecopter, below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, the second installment in the Story Behind the Story of Fighting for Anna (F4A), the 8th novel in the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series, featuring Michele. This week, I want to focus on art: pop and junk. [On release day, I’ll share the story behind Gidget, Michele’s charming neighbor at the beginning of F4A. Last but not least, I’ll close the series with a look at the practical magic behind F4A.]

Art is in the eye of the beholder and central to F4A. It starts with the art of the murder victim and her history as a gallery owner in Houston. I had a ton of fun creating Gidget’s art and the art in her gallery. I think I was inspired by the beautiful art created by my assistant, Candi, honestly. I had even more fun researching Andy Warhol and building him into the story. He even helped me explore the religious element.

All of what we normally consider art is juxtaposed against the junk art scene of the Roundtopolis area of Texas, very similar to what we all watch on television shows like Fixer Upper (best show ever!), American Pickers, or Junk Gypsy (they really are based in Round Top, by the way). A good friend of mine in Nowheresville, Tiffany, inspired me when she made her dreams come true with the real Flown the Coop (which can be found in Burton, TX, just down the road from its fictional counterpart). There, art abounds, in the form of repurposed, rethought, reused, and up cycled industrial, retro, primitive, and vintage pieces. So of course my supporting female character and newest future protagonist, Maggie, is a junker.

By extension of including junking and the Roundtopolis area, I got to include some of my favorite places as well as invent a few new ones. Props to my assistant Bobbye for discovering Moore’s Fort, the oldest building in Fayette County. It was originally in La Grange and later moved to Round Top, where it was most recently moved to a central location between Espressions coffee house and Probst wine bar. Once upon a time this twin blockhouse was a shelter for settlers. Now it is a piece of art, if you will, in creating a town entirely of “once upon a time” rebuilds. (Check out the Round Top library, also in the book, as another crown jewel of this phenomenon.)

Pop art meets junk art, and the result is awesome.


Fighting for Anna ebook

Help us spread the word about Fighting for Anna by joining the Thunderclap (click below):

Before we begin this four-part installment of the Story Behind the Story Series, I have an announcement. Remember how I gave away a little fox charm/pendant with the launch of Hell to Pay? Well…I’m giving away a little BUTTERFLY from Jewelweed Sprouts to celebrate Fighting for Anna’s release! Pictures coming soon. Enter through the Rafflecopter, below. (Email subscribers may need to visit this post out on my website)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, the first installment in the Story Behind the Story of Fighting for Anna (F4A), the 8th novel in the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series, featuring Michele. This week, I want to focus on two elements of the book: religion and politics. Next week, I’ll cover art: pop and junk. And on release day, I’ll share the story behind Gidget, Michele’s charming neighbor at the beginning of F4A. Last but not least, I’ll close the series with a look at the practical magic behind F4A.

You know the adage not to talk about politics and religion in polite conversation? I’ve always followed that rule. I’ve found that I can’t change other people’s minds and they don’t change mind, 99.9% of the time. I play the averages, and I like serenity, what can I say? 😉

In the last year, my Facebook feed has been clogged with posts about religious freedom, discrimination, and politics. Whether or not I’ve agreed with them, I’ve found the underlying issues fascinating, even if I wanted to see pictures of horses and goats and bunnies in my newsfeed instead. I bided my time, and I did what all of us lucky enough to write novels do: I put them in my next book. (I do this in all my books, as you know if you’ve read all my Story Behind the Story posts)

Very near our Nowheresville home are some historic churches called The Painted Churches. My husband Eric and I visited most of them all on an anniversary a few years ago. You can read about that HERE.  I mentioned them in Going for Kona, and the property Adrian bought in G4K is smack dab in the heart of them.

Last fall, Eric took his mother to see them, and on that tour he visited the one closest to us, which we’d failed to see on our earlier tour: St. Paul Lutheran Church located in Serbin, Texas. This church was founded by Wendish immigrants in the late 1800s. The Wends are a Slavic people who fled religious persecution in Germany in the latter half of the 19th century, seeking religious freedom elsewhere. The Serbin group were originally led by a pastor named John Killian, who allied their church with the Lutheran Church – Missouri-Synod. Over the years, they assimilated into their predominantly German Texas community, giving up, for the most part, their own language in favor of German, and then English. You can still visit the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum and even experience the culture at the annual Wendish Festival in Serbin.

Originally enchanted by their church, I became equally fascinated with their story. I decided to include it thematically and as the backdrop for F4A. I realized that I could explore freedom of religion and discrimination organically this way (you’ll have to let me know how you think I did, after you read the novel!). Eric and I had a lot of fun driving around, visiting the church and museum, talking to folks, and taking lots of pictures. I was lucky to find some resources for this (and other) research on the internet as well.

Just recently, I was emailing with the former owner of Nowheresville, a Lutheran pastor. I told him about the inclusion of the Wend’s story in F4A. He shared with me that he has had many Wend families in his three different congregations near us. Somehow, this brought it full circle for me. I live on ground once occupied by someone with a huge heart for the Wends. How could it be otherwise that once I moved out here on this same ground, my heart would open to them as well?

I love how the universe works.

But what’s a “conversation” about religion without throwing some gasoline on the fire, in this case, politics? Nothing better for drama than mixing church and state. So I did. For starters, I included a former Senator, a Tea Party Republican, in a prominent role. No, I didn’t base him on Ted Cruz. My fictitious senator lives in Round Top, but no, he’s not Rick Perry (the former Governor lives a hop, skip, and a jump from Nowheresville). My fictional senator is just a politician. {There are lots of them, you know.} To stoke the fire, I added a potential presidential campaign and a pass at an underage staffer. Then to keep things interesting, I threw in some current events (the novel is set in the summer of 2015): Houston’s HERO battle (transgender bathroom usage became the big issue in a fight over adding GLBT to a municipal anti-discrimiation regulation) and the pending (then) case of gay marriage before the Supreme Court.

Because of the death of the woman that launches the plot in F4A, there are also local “state” issues: the probate of the will becomes quite the hot topic, especially when a major bequest is made to a daughter no one knew existed.

These state/political/legal issues meshed really nicely with the religion/discrimination story lines, I think. At least it felt right to me.

Now, lest you think this is some serious head-pounder of a novel, it isn’t. It’s a romantic mystery. But y’all know how I like to do things, right? I like complex characters with rich histories and complicated right-nows. That’s where all this good stuff comes in. Well, and with the plot, too. But I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll stop there.

Enter to win a butterfly! Support the Thunderclap! Pre-order your copy of F4A now! Pamela, stop using exclamation points!!


p.s. A week of horse joy . . .

Eric working “online” developing trust and rapport with Feathers, HERE (must watch, so cute, and very short)


Partying with my parents at a cousin’s wedding


Don’t you love how weddings remind us to love one another?

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Before you read today’s installment of The Story Behind the Story, please join my Thunderclap for Fighting for Anna?

Probably the two most well-known stories I’ve told about my books relate to Leaving Annalise (Eric and the potential Annaly burglars when he had a bunch of cash from a liquidation/estate sale, which you can read HERE) and Going for Kona (that I was mad at Eric one day and had written three chapters in which I killed a triathlete husband in the second chapter by that night, which you can read HERE).

So I’m not going to repeat that old Going for Kona story. Instead, I’m going to share with you the quantum change that occurred on my umpteenth rewrite, five years after I first wrote the book. The story starts with an agent who loved Going for Kona except that she didn’t like the protagonist, Charlotte. It continues past my decision to go indie and even past the publication of Saving Grace and Leaving Annalise. Over the years, I’d done several rewrites of G4K (as we call Going for Kona at my house), but I wasn’t happy with the results. When I picked the manuscript up again in April 2013, it was do or die time. I’d done the 60-cities-in-60-days book tour. My novels were selling well. I had great reviews, including from Kirkus. Finding Harmony was nearly done and ready to queue up. I needed to act like a professional author and get my next book finished and in production.

Except I was terrified of it. I didn’t know how to fix it, just that I’d been told it wasn’t right, and knew in my core that the agent was on target with her opinion. Those closest to me loved the novel, though, and were just as scared of me changing it and possibly ruining it. What to do???

The book was intensely personal, very emotionally different from the first three in the series, and featured my first foray into a “Friend of Katie” protagonist. The intensely personal aspect was the problem. The protagonist was far too much like me, and the relationship with the husband was stymied by the fact that I identified him with Eric and with us. I needed distance. Writing what you know about protagonists who could “almost” be “you,” is one thing, but writing with accuracy about your own relationship is another!

So I planted my butt out in the Quacker trailer at Nowheresville (this was before we built a home and moved there) for three weeks. I shut out the input of others and trusted my gut. The weather was gorgeous and cool. I spent a lot of time in a chair in a field of wildflowers with butterflies all around me. My editor, Meghan joined me for a week (working independently but enjoying Nowheresville together), and Eric was there as much as he could be, but I mostly tuned them out as I immersed myself into a power rewrite.

The first piece that fell into place was channeling my cousin Michele into the protagonist role, to break it away from being a reflection of me. Michele’s father Arturo is Mexican and her mother Patrice is a Caucasian Texas native. Michele was, at the time, a single mom with a great son, and dating a very athletic guy she has since married (and with whom she has an adorable daughter). I realized that at least at the surface level I could make Charlotte into Michele.

What a relief that was! Immediately, it freed me up to realize Michele’s differences from me. Hallelujah. I realized she had a hyper active imagination, and my favorite scenes with her became the ones where her imagination ran wild, like when she discovers Scarlet has betrayed her, and marches away from Scarlet and the ESPN producer, convinced she’s morphed into a knife winged butterfly who takes off and bursts into flames. It rivals the Katie-mewling-like-a-kitten-in-the-courtroom scene from Saving Grace as one of my favorites of all time to write.

Since Charlotte was no longer me and Michele was now Michele, Adrian, the husband, was no longer married to me, and thus no longer my husband Eric. He was still a good guy, but I could talk about his flaws in writing without betraying my husband/talking bad about him in public. I could prepare Michele for a three-book romantic mystery story arc that would move her on from Adrian. This was much harder for Eric than me, especially when I wrote the next Michele novel, Fighting for Anna, but it worked for Michele, and that was all that mattered for the novel. (Eric and I could hug it out when it came to the rest, and we did ;-))

I put Michele in the occupation of attorney-turned-editor-turned author. I allowed myself to build on that to create what others perceive as the author life, instead of sticking with accuracy—Michele’s experience as an author is far more glamorous than the real thing for most authors.

Finally, as I wrote the Katie books, it had become increasingly clear to me that magical realism, or day-to-day practical magic, was part of the way I viewed the world and thus woven into what I wrote. Since Michele now had a Mexican Papa, she had a Mexican grandmother, and in came Aztec mythology. Oh how excited I was, sitting there in a wildflower field surrounded by butterflies, to discover Itzpapalotl, the fearsomely beautiful knife-winged butterfly goddess. Itzpa, oh Itzpa. The rub between Papa’s heritage/Michele’s desire to honor it, and her mother’s practical Methodist upbringing. Itzpa, as Michele’s alter ego, brought the magic to the book.

I wish I could say Michele no longer was anything like me, but she still retains my strengths/challenges. A nail-biting perfectionist who is more about getting it done than having fun, she’s a woman I can relate to. I wrote my worst fear in G4K: what would I do if I lost my own husband and had no one to turn to but myself to solve the mystery of his death and protect my family. I wrote it down to my secretly held belief that in my grief I’d be no good to anyone, even our beloved kids, and that hurt. In fact, it hurt so much that when I read this novel aloud to my teenage son (yep, Sam is based on him) and got to the horrible confrontation between Michele and Sam, my son started crying and told me to shut it and never make him read it again. Ouch. But I could understand. It cut to the bone with its unfortunate ring of possible truth for me, too.

In the end, my goal with the book was that it still have humor and move quickly even as it wrung emotions out of readers. Michele is a more serious protagonist than my others, to date anyway, and you’ll see more of her in Fighting for Anna (aka F4A), due out November 4th. Don’t worry: I don’t kill any more family members. Not in F4A anyway 😉

Stay tuned for part one of four of the final installment (for now) of the story behind the story, when I share the secrets of Fighting for Anna!


p.s. A fun time was had by all in Nashville, as we joined three of our offspring for a Vanderbilt game, after a successful week presenting and moderating at AFPM for Eric.



Oh yeah, I worked on my upcoming Free-and-exclusive-to-subscribers, prequel, ensemble What Doesn’t Kill You novella. So did Georgia, in my lap in the swing.


The gang’s all here, but Dad’s manning the camera.


Vanderbilt lost, but we scored some good shirts.


First, the winners of the Katie & Annalise audiobook codes will be getting an email from me directly. Thanks for your interest and leaving an honest review. I appreciate y’all and hope you enjoy it!

I so excited, y’all! I got an email on October 1st from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing announcing that my novels were included in their Celebration of Great Writing #PoweredbyIndie.


Since I’m in the middle of my story behind the story series, the story you’ll get this week is the story behind my decision to become an independent author.

(The following is an adapted excerpt reprinted with permission from SkipJack Publishing from my nonfiction hilarious how-to, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?)

A few years ago, I stood at a crossroads in my writing journey. I had three novels out with three great agents. I had their cell phone numbers on my iPhone. I didn’t have offers of representation, but I did have phone dialogues going and requests to see rewrites. I wasn’t there, but I was this close.

At the same time, the publishing industry was at a crossroads of its own. E-books seemed poised to take over the world. Profit margins were tight. Major authors like Stephen King (gasp, the moneymakers) were discovering self-publishing. And it wasn’t just them. There were the indie authors. Amazon was offering 70% Kindle royalties. E-commerce was truly accessible, and print on demand (POD) had become almost easy. Gone were the days when a writer’s only alternative to traditional publishing was an expensive vanity press. Amanda Hocking had burst onto the scene, making millions off books spurned by agents and editors. J.A. Konrath had shown that a middle-of-the-pack author could turn his backlist (backlist = all an author’s books but the newest one) released from contract by his publisher and future indie-published writing into a more than respectable income.

A steady stream of authors began making their way over to Amazon. Their dribs and drabs of sales plus the sales of self-publishing rock stars summed up to something significant that the publishers felt in their wallets and in the deepest, darkest, most scared places in their hearts. The indie sales didn’t, however, make much money for the self-published authors themselves, who tend to have trouble selling a copy outside of their immediate families. And 70% of nothing is, well, nothing. Or rather, it’s nothing in terms of money, but if your goal is to share your words and your worlds, it’s a whole heck of a lot of something—and to the major houses, all of that something started taking a bigger and bigger toll.

The publishers needed to figure out how all this change would impact their business model, but frankly, at the time that I was deciding whether to indie publish, they hadn’t yet. Writers discovered the concept of disintermediation, where the only truly necessary players in the game of book sales were author and reader, save possibly a freelance editor, a digital artist, a publicist, and a business consultant, all of whom an author could retain for herself if she chose to.

Slim publishing-company profits narrowed further while I went back and forth over many months in dialogue with agents, and I had a decision to make: Should I keep chasing after a possibility that kept getting less likely and would cost me control of my work? I mean, who really knew what return I would get on my three novel rewrites? I certainly wasn’t guaranteed representation, and even if I got it, a book sale was not an automatic. Until I signed a sales contract, the size of my potential advance would be shrinking daily, and the other terms of my deal would be growing less favorable as well, because this was business, and a business on the rocks. That potential deal would still require me to promote and market my own book on my own dime and my own time. Bottom line: I had no guarantee of a return, or even of ever traditionally publishing.

I started seriously considering throwing my hat into the ring of indie publishing. I’d still have no guarantee of a return, and I could lose my own money, at that. But the rewards were huge. I’d get the chance to share my works with whoever wanted to read it. I’d retain control—beautiful, blessed control—and publish the book of my heart, not the book of someone else’s balance sheet. And that was the crux of it to me: control. I’d been an entrepreneur for nearly twenty years. I knew how to run a successful business. And promotion was a wash; I’d be doing it whether I went indie or stuck to traditional. How big a stretch was it, really, to move from entrepreneur to authorpreneur? Bottom line: I had no guarantee of a return on my investment as an indie, but I did have a guarantee of publishing, and I could do it my way, which is what really drove me.

“You can make no money with someone telling you what to do, or you can make no money calling your own shots. Which one would give you more joy?” my husband asked. “And don’t answer that, because I already know. So I’ll help you.”

And he did. Oh, how he did, and does.

I’d love to say the result was an immediate gusher, but I’d be lying. It was a smashing success to us, but modest by major house standards. I sold 5,000 copies of my debut novel in the first six months, and almost half of those sales were of paperbacks. Combined with Kindle giveaways during that time period, 50,000 people got a copy of Saving Grace. It was picked up nationwide by Hastings Entertainment for their 137 stores, and regionally by Barnes and Noble. It led to greater exposure and sales of my backlist of relationship humor books. It paved the way for my future books. It beat the performance of most debut novelists with major houses. For all of that, I am grateful and excited, but not rolling in money, although eight books later, I’m a full-time author and retired attorney who calls all the shots in my business and enjoys the excitement of developing and implementing strategy as well as writing books that connect with readers.

I’ve learned that the upside potential of publishing as an indie is huge. The downside is you publish your book, which isn’t a downside. The buck stops with me. My story. My editor. My cover. My efforts. My mistakes. And my rewards. Best of all, as an indie, there’s no one standing between my readers and me, managing the relationship. It’s just us, diving into the imaginary worlds together. And I can price my books so that my readers can afford to indulge their habit. We both win.

So, for some of us writers, despite the odds and the cons, our goals reflect our desire for independence. The intrepid souls, stubborn to the bone and yearning to work like a pack mule, the kind of losers who’re right for indie publishing.

Like me. <3 <3 <3

(Thank you Amazon KDP for making this dream come true possible for me and so many authors, and for including me in Celebrating Great Writing #PoweredbyIndie!)

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p.s. Join in my Thunderclap for Fighting for Anna?

Before we start the story of the story behind Hell to Pay, I wanted to let you guys know Fighting for Anna comes out November 4th, and I need your support. How? People most often buy books based on some kind of recommendation. By Amazon. By word of mouth. By their friends on social media. And often authors’s friends want to help them but don’t know how. I have an easy way you can help me on your social media, using the message and image below. If you click Join This Thunderclap, then on Nov. 4th at 8:30 p.m., THIS message will be posted on your social media (and the social media of all my other supporters).  Same time, same message, best chance of “trending” or “going viral.” I’ve vetted the privacy of Thunderclap myself and want you to know I am quite sure they don’t use your social media for anything other than this post, but read for yourself if you have concerns (I’ve done them before with no problems).

So…click below? (Email subscribers may have to visit the post on my website to participate) And then share the opportunity to support the Thunderclap with your followers, too?

Thunderclap supporters will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Nook/Barnes & Noble gift card.

Now, back to the story behind the story!

Despite over a year of conversations about the plot and characters in the Emily books, it was on the eve of drafting Heaven to Betsy that game-changing inspiration struck. I discovered a terrorist group operating in West Texas, my childhood stomping grounds. As a potential plot river, it was timely (in light of terrorism in the name of religious beliefs occurring around the U.S.: Boston, Chattanooga, and others). But it is different from those. This is a domestic terrorist group of U.S. citizens which bases its judgments and actions on Christian beliefs, not Muslim ones. Think Westboro Baptist Church. I’m not going to name the group, because its name doesn’t matter. All terrorism is terrorism. All these groups are, to me, using religious interpretations to make judgments upon which they base actions.

Now, I’m no religious scholar, but I am quite familiar with Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged, and I was taught that Judgment was the job of a higher power. I admire evangelists who seek to convert through education and legal, nonviolent, nondestructive persuasion to make the world a better place and save souls, even in situations where I may not share their beliefs.

I despise terrorist acts.

I despise them even more when they’re happening in the community where I grew up, in the name of the religion practiced by myself and so many wonderful people there who are living positive lives of positive acts and positive intentions. I do not appreciate a terrorist group using my faith as the justification for their bad acts.

(I know Muslims who feel this way, and I feel sure most people would feel this way about any affiliation of theirs where a splinter group misuses their name and beliefs.)

So, as a result of me discovering this group, the Mighty is His Word of Emily’s world was born, an Army for God, willing to do things that the God I know doesn’t sanction.

Honestly, it felt goooooood to write about them.  To let the story find its way to me, to feel the tentacles of all the story lines weaving themselves around this cult, to untangle them carefully at the climax and slip Emily, Jack, and Betsy from their grasp. To give them an ending I felt was just for the fictional version. I loved writing about the compound, the Hodges, and Emily’s indoctrination. [My real favorite in this book, though, was Phil’s mother. Writing that scene was a highlight for me.]

As usual, I won’t spoil the plot for you, but I will add that since I centered this novel more in West Texas and less in New Mexico, I honed in on the Hopi Native Americans for the story’s “magical realism” and sought Emily’s maturation through her reliance on her spirit animal.

I also began to explore something deeply fascinating to me, that I see as a future for the Laura books: equine therapy (equitherapy or hippotherapy) for children.

It occurs to me that in writing about this cult I am, in a way, judging their judging. I’ll have to ponder on how I feel about that for awhile 😉

Before I go, I want to offer each of you a chance at free codes for the just released audiobook box set of The Katie & Annalise Romantic Mysteries from my What Doesn’t Kill You Series (Books 1-3).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Email subscribers may have to visit the post on my website to participate)

My best,

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p.s. We had a great time in Alaska at the Alaska Writers Guild annual conference. I taught a workshop, a breakout session, and participated on the Q&A Panel, and Eric led a critique circle. We met awesome writers, and we were enchanted with Anchorage.


Paneling with an agent, an Alaskan indie author, and a NYT bestseller-turned-Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) author. Fun!


Dinner at the lovely home of author Jim Misko and his wife Patty with a view of the Chugach mountains.


My sweet husband, who had flowers sent ahead to our hotel room.


Celebrating a fun, successful trip (and a win by the Texas Aggies over Arkansas) with fried halibut at F Street Station.

My first-ever hardback is now available, with the rest of the novels coming soon!


It won’t hurt my feelings at all if you order one.

Want to hear me talk about publishing with media expert TJ Walker? It’s a great podcast, for readers and writers. And you can access it RIGHT HERE. Easy peasy, fun.

I’m off to Alaska this week, speaking at the Alaska Writers Guild Annual Conference. I’ll be back with the next installment of the Story Behind the Story next week.

Be well, my friends.

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screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-7-14-23-pmI’m so thrilled to be a guest of TJ Walker’s on his Speaking with TJ Walker podcast! I met TJ nearly fifteen years ago when he provided (outstanding) presentation and media training for my organization. He is the bomb; really knows his stuff. You can read more about him and the wonderful services he provides on his website.

I promised him I’d list a bunch of fun giveaways his listeners are eligible for, all in one place, and that goes for my subscribers, too.

For people interested in publishing, subscribe to my SkipJack Publishing list, and you’ll get my exclusive Book Launch Promotion ebook, HERE.

BONUS: take my online course, How to Sell a Ton of Books in 5 Simple Steps, totally free, HERE.

For those of you who love to read (and who doesn’t??), subscribe to my Pamela Freakin’ Hutchins list, and you’ll get my exclusive ebook, Puppalicious and Beyond, which weaves in and out of fiction and (my) fact. Get it HERE.

And because I’m (foolishly) generous, you can download the ebook of Heaven to Betsy, my USA Best Book Award Winner, and the first Emily romantic mystery in the What Doesn’t Kill You series, HERE, until I come to my senses and stop this free nonsense.

Get to downloading, y’all!

And just in case you hadn’t already listened to this podcast, here you go:


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Where to start? Earth to Emily was an accident. I had thrown out a few clients that Emily and Jack were working on when drafting Heaven to Betsy, the first Emily romantic mystery. I picked up the story of good-guy-in-a-bad situation and imagined it back to its inception, which required it to crossover the other storylines, in this case, Jack, the love interest, and Emily’s family life. As I sit here typing, it defies my own imagination where my husband and story partner Eric and I came up with it. 😀 Just kidding, sort of.

In the second book featuring Emily, I wanted to figure out what happened to her father. From there it wasn’t a stretch that I wanted his path to intersect with Jack’s and create a rift between Jack and Emily. I needed a murder to start the book—it’s a mystery after all—and it had to relate to the father storyline and the good-guy-in-a-bad-situation client plight.Pretty soon we realized that meant we would be crossing state lines with “goods” in commerce, thus we’d need to involve trucking or railroads, and trucking fit best. We needed to incorporate Betsy, Jack’s family, Judith, Emily’s mom, Wallace, Nadine, Mickey, Laura, Jarhead, Melinda, and Clyde. We had baggage to resolve with Collin and Tamara. I wanted to set up future Ava novels with an appearance by her.  I wanted to test Emily’s heart for children, to see how far she’d go to help kids in need, even at risk to her relationships with Jack, Wallace, and Betsy. I had to figure out the magical realism (or what I think of as practical or everyday magic) element. And we needed a big ending with Emily using her brains, brawn, and special skills to save the day.

As usual, I was having trouble putting the elements all together at first. It’s always such a big wish list, and in the beginning feels insurmountable. It’s funny, though. When I think back on writing Earth to Emily, I don’t remember fretting about the plot or Emily’s personal journey. The one thing that resonates with me, that brings a smile to my face, is the Native American “magical realism” element. That was the piece that, when I figured it out, pulled the book together.

But it wasn’t easy. The Mountain Spirit Dancers in Heaven to Betsy were a no brainer. I loved them, and I loved how the Mescalero Apache used them to teach each generation with humor—and not a little fear—about those things that could harm them. By using them in the first Emily book, I felt like I had exhausted the very best of the Mescalero Apache mythology, though, and panicked on where to go from there.

I dug deeper, which is hard when you’re looking into a culture without a written history, except as recorded by people outside the culture. I mean, think about it. The whole point of Mountain Spirit Dancers is to teach in lieu of a written history. The dancers existed to pass on the learnings of history to the young. So my entire research was based on the interpretation of non-Apaches, which gives me the oogies. But it was all I had.

Imagine that, in our world of instant gratification, of knowledge via the Internet at our fingertips. We’ve become so far removed from passing our history down verbally. By song. By dancers. By poems. By stories. They didn’t have the What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series, for goodness sakes!!

But I digress.

I dug deeper, and I found the Mescalero Apaches’ incarnation of foreboding and evil. Not the devil, more like a Grim Reaper, if you will. For them, the Owl, sometimes called the Owl Man, embodied these things. The Mountain Spirit Dancers taught the children that the Owl Man would sometime eat children. And when I read  about this, it was like a bomb went off in my head.

From there, the story unfolded neatly with the Owl/Owl Man as the glue that symbolically held it all together.

I am interested: how many of you caught the Owl “drops” throughout the novel, and if you did, what did they mean to you? Do you find the “magical realism” in books like Earth to Emily a plus, a negative, or neutral?

By the way, I’ve always loved owls. We have little ones in the trees behind our Nowheresville house most evenings, and there’s a huge barn owl that lurks overhead all day in the loft window of my friend Lisa’s barn in Snowheresville. Owls rock. But after writing E2E, they spook me a little more than they used to.

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p.s. Enjoy some memories from our last week in Snowheresville 2016 summer.


No saddle, no bridle, no problem with my Katniss.


Feathers getting in the trailer to head to Nowheresville.


Maybe my favorite picture of us from the summer, up at Circle Park.


Eric and his giant friend Feathers, a tri-color paint Shire/Gypsy Vanner draft cross.


My beautiful Percheron/paint cross mare, Katniss.


I feel short in this picture, but I want to point out that Eric is standing on a higher rock.


Hiking with my awesome parents.


A quick visit from my brother AKA the inspiration for Collin in my novels.


I wrote about the overall inspiration for writing the Emily novels in my last post. I want to focus in a little more closely now on each one, because I had a lot of fun with these books. And Heaven to Betsy is special to me because it was my first national contest win for fiction.

So here’s the truth: I wanted to throw Emily back into her conservative hometown, after she’d moved away and become more moderate. Almost every element of the plot was written to show this hot seat she found herself in, where she questioned everything she was taught growing up, at the same time as she slowly came to appreciate some of it again. Her mother and Melinda Stafford most exemplified what she railed against. With her mother, at least, Emily eventually comes around.

Delicious (to me) irony: the original copyeditor for this book (a woman in her 20s) scolded me like I was a child for being politically incorrect and insensitive to every single non-white, non-Christian, non-American I wrote into the book. She did NOT shame me for stereotyping conservatives. Yet the one group that I stereotyped most blatantly was conservatives; largely white, straight, American, and Christian. LOL. I guess it’s okay to stereotype if goes against a group she doesn’t like??

But that brings up a few things that are important to me, so rather than tell you more about why I wrote the plot I did (which is that—in addition to the things I wrote about in the last post—I was fascinated by the issues around immigration, especially in border states, at the time this book is set):

1. Why did I let myself generalize more with conservatives, and paint them at times more negatively?

Because we are in Emily’s point of view, and she is questioning her past as she observes the bad behavior of certain people in her present.

2. Why did I occasionally lean toward political incorrectness with Emily’s observations of the world around her?

BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN AUTHENTICITY. PERIOD. Did I mention we are in Emily’s point of view? She has to think like a woman brought up in the time and place she was raised in (Amarillo with a rodeo cowboy father, and educated at Texas Tech), something I have great familiarity with.

Personal side note: I have spent most of my career working within organizations on creating and maintaining respectful workplaces. I have facilitated diversity training for twenty years. I have conducted thousands of interviews in harassment and discrimination investigations. My brother called me a femi-Nazi decades ago, before that copyeditor was even born. I believe in equality and respect. I believe some of my choices, actions, and stands helped pave the way for her and other women. And I believe she was wrong about Heaven to Betsy, as did her boss, who did the manuscript consult on this book and stood by it when I let s/him know about the copyeditor’s input.

I also believe I can impact ever so slightly how people view the world if I create the right characters and story (Please understand I don’t believe I can save the world with a romantic mystery, only impact it ever so slightly, one reader at a time). But only if I as a writer create authenticity. I can’t create a perfect world by rewriting it inauthentically. If, because of who they are, one of my characters will think about gender, national origin, religious, and race representation in, for example, their book or movie recommendations, then I make sure that I portray them doing just that. If my characters won’t give a crap about whether any female or GLBTQ or non-white writers or directors are represented in their  list, then I portray them in that way. I don’t balance out the recommendations that character gives because of MY need to right societal injustices or inequities. I don’t use my characters to set an example for humankind. Instead, I want them to reflect accurately humankind in their place, experiences, and time.

Does this make sense??? I hope so.

So I may have characters behaving or thinking “insensitively” at times. I think if you take a step back from the words on the individual pages of a novel like Heaven to Betsy, though, you’ll see a broader theme emerge that is one about creating a kinder world where we care more about each other. At least that is what I see and what I intended. IMHO it is in the jagged, ugly beauty of authenticity that we achieve this every now and then as authors.

3. Why does Emily behave so recklessly with regard to her pregnancy and future reproductive abilities?

BECAUSE SHE IS EMILY. SHE IS DEFINED BY HER RECKLESSNESS, by her lack of self-love, by feeling she is of no real value to anyone. She is at a point in her life where she takes chances, ignores risks, and—because she has not faced reproductive challenges—doesn’t yet realize both how much she wants a child and how fragile a woman’s ability to conceive and bear one can be.

She isn’t you, even if she ALMOST could be.

And that’s critical for readers to understand about fiction. The characters are meant to be someone other than you.

To me, good fiction is about a character who doesn’t do what we would do, yet, for reasons of his or her own, their choices are possible and just within the realm of belief, within a set of circumstances that are possible but not probable. It’s life re-imagined, not life just like we’d do it. So Emily (and my other characters) sometimes make choices I wouldn’t or that you wouldn’t. I’ve come to accept that, even when I’m disappointed in them, LOL. I didn’t like Katie’s behavior in Saving Grace, for instance. But she is her, not me. I just wrote her anyway. Same thing with some of Emily’s choices. And don’t get me started about Michele 🙂

[So to anyone out there who might have found it painful to read about Emily in Heaven to Betsy: I get it. Just like life, fiction can be hard. There are books I’ve closed, because they hit so painfully close to home (my home) that I didn’t want to experience it again in the pages. I’ve kept reading those authors, most of the time, just not those books. I encourage you to do the same. You are in control of what you let in, and what you push out. I don’t avoid topics to create safe zones because you aren’t forced to be inside the pages of my novel; you have to create your own perfect space, and there’s no easier place to do it than within a book. Shut it. Delete it from your ereader. Throw it in the crapper, for goodness sakes. And move on. I promise, there are no hard feelings.]

These, my friends, are the issues I struggled with as I wrote Heaven to Betsy. They are the story behind the creation of this story, if you will. And ultimately they led to it winning the USA Best Book Award for Cross Genre Fiction for 2015. <3 <3 <3

And it brought me to an awesome new copyeditor who swooped in to finish it with me, as well as the next three novels I’ve written. Rhonda Erb, you are the bomb, and I appreciate the heck out of you.

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