Good Tuesday morning. Help me welcome Debra Holland, Ph. D, to our blog fireplace. Did everyone survive Halloween? Too much candy? Too much snow? (Couldn't resist that one.)

Debra now knows how nosy I can be. Inquiring minds want to know. Be sure to read to the end. There won't be a test, but there will be a giveaway.

What is your favorite food?

Mexican Food (not spicy) with something chocolate for dessert.


How do you find time to write with job obligations?

It’s hard!!! I don’t have children, but I do work as a psychotherapist and corporate crisis counselor, which can take a lot of my energy. For example, today, I did not one, but two crisis jobs--the death of an employee at one company and a robbery at a bank. It’s unusual for me to have two in one day, but I ever know when I’ll get the call, where I’ll go, and how long I’ll be at the company—from a few hours to several days.

I knew you were busy!

Lately, to get some writing structure in my busy life, I’ve had a friend come over to my house on Mondays and Wednesdays, and we write together for two and a half hours. She sits at one end of the table, and I sit at the other. It forces me to put everything else aside and focus on my writing. I try to do a little writing and editing on other days, but it often doesn’t happen.

What made you want to be an author?As a child, I wanted to grow up and write my grandmother’s stories. She had wonderful stories of the adventures that happened to her as a child. So once I’d recovered from many years of graduate school, that’s where I started.

When did you decide to write romance and how long have you been at it? Also, have you written other genres? I started dating a sexy, young cowboy, and we had nothing in common. I thought, “If we lived a hundred years ago in the West, this just might work.” That was around 1997.

Aside from self-publishing my sweet historical Western romances, I have self-published the first two books in a fantasy romance trilogy, endorsed by the late Andre Norton, the Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

My first nonfiction book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, comes out today! I’m really excited to finally have a book I can hold in my hands and see on the shelf in a bookstore. (You heard it here!)

How do you get over writer’s block?I haven’t really had writer’s block. When I get a little stuck, I need to spend some time thinking about the story, what comes next, and that starts the flow going again.

How do you come up with your ideas? That’s a hard question, because they seem to come from different places. It’s a matter of taking the little grains of an idea that often pop up and expanding on them.

What influenced your decision to self-publish? What about nonfiction books? My first novel, Wild Montana Sky, won the Golden Heart in 2001, and two agents tried to sell it. But the market for romance is sexy, not sweet, and historical western isn’t popular, either. So they didn’t sell, and I set them aside and concentrated on writing nonfiction. Then some friends self-published, and had great success. I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. I’ve had over 30,000 sales of two books in less than six months. Gulp! Awesome!

How many books did you write before publishing one? Six fiction books and most of two nonfiction books.

How many books have you published? I’ve self-published four, with another of the Montana Sky Series coming out in December.

The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving is my first book with a traditional publisher—Alpha Books, a subsidiary of Penguin. They also publish, The Complete Idiots Guides.

On average, how long does it take to write your books? Way too long. About 10 months. I wrote the grief book in five and a half because the contract dropped into my lap. I was more of a writer for hire, than the usual submitting three chapters and a proposal and then selling. I had to start from scratch. It was a tough five months.

Who’s your favorite author to read? Favorite book?

I’m a very fast reader, and I read a LOT! So I have too many favorites to name. I’m in a yahoo group of other self-published romance authors, and I’m working my way through their books. I’m loving it..

How have you coped with rejection?

It was disappointing at first. After a while, I became numb to it.

I also told myself selling would happen when it was meant to. Now I’m SO glad I didn’t sell the novels to a traditional publisher, because I’m doing so well and having fun. Plus, I’m making way more money than I would have if I’d gone the traditional route.

What would you like to tell readers?

Thank you so very much for trying my books! Your positive reviews and fan letters are such a blessing to me. They often bring tears to my eyes!

What themes go through your books? Although the books aren’t religious, there does seem to be a theme about the importance of a relationship with God that’s in most of them.

Which other jobs have you had? I knew I wanted to be a counselor from the time I was thirteen. So I beelined through life straight to doing that. However, I did lifeguard and give swimming lessons during the summer. I also taught physical education while putting myself through graduate school.

I’ve taught karate for the last ten years.

Which "bucket list" types of things have you done?

I’m a second degree blackbelt in karate. I’m currently testing for third degree.

Writing books is definitely a big accomplishment that I’m proud of. I’ve also adapted Wild Montana Sky into a screenplay, which has won awards. Selling it is on my bucket list.

Traveling more is also on my bucket list.

What do you love most about writing and do you not like?

I love the imaginative part of writing—thinking up stories. I don’t like doing the actual WORK of writing.

What are you writing now? I have about 50 pages before I finish Stormy Montana Sky. I’m about 30 pages into Harvest of Dreams, the third book of my Fantasy Romance Trilogy. I’m finishing a short nonfiction ebook on dealing with death in the workplace.

What would you write if you could write anything you wanted to write?

I AM writing what I want to write. That’s one of the joys of self-publishing. And I’m lucky enough to have found an audience. I’m so very grateful!

Who is Debra Holland?

Debra Holland has a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC), and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In her private practice, Dr. Debra counsels individuals and couples. She specializes in grief recovery, and communication and relationship issues.

Dr. Debra consults as a corporate crisis/grief counselor for businesses. She counsels employees who are upset or traumatized by the deaths of co-workers, accidents on site, robberies and other types of violence, and layoffs.

As a corporate crisis/grief counselor Dr. Debra consulted for American Airlines after 9-11, counseling flight crews and staff. She counseled the victims and families of the Metrolink train wreck in 2002. In 2005, she volunteered as a mental health relief worker in Louisiana for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. She also volunteered as a mental health relief worker during and after the 2008 California fires in Brea, Yorba Linda, and Diamond Bar.

In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Debra is a consultant to the film and television industry, and wrote the “Ask the Love Doctor” column for the romance magazine, Arabella. Her current column, “Ask Dr. Debra,” along with a free ebooklet, 58 Tips For Getting What You Want From a Difficult Conversation, can be found on her website:

The scene in Starry Montana where the hero and heroine meet.

On Tuesday afternoon, Wyatt reined-in by the front of the livery stable, mentally consigning Reverend Norton and his good causes to the devil. Not that he had any fear the minister would actually be facing Old Nick. It’s just that Wyatt had better things to do with his time than play cowboy to a bunch of fancy Spanish horses belonging to the woman who’d taken over Ezra’s ranch--like dealing with the horses and cattle on his own ranch. But, he’d given the preacher his word.

He slid off Bill, looping the reins over the rail. He pushed open the barn doors, then stalked inside, peering through the gloom. Although he wouldn’t admit it to a soul, the idea of these South American horses had tantalized him. Maybe they’d be of high enough quality to add to his breeding stock.

A kitten skittered across the dirt floor, and he did a dance step to avoid tramping on it.

“Hey, little fella. Watch where you’re goin’.” He reached down, scooped the kitten up, and cradled the furry body against his chest. Running a finger over the tiny gray head, he remembered his daughter chattering about the litter of kittens she played with whenever she stabled her pony before school. Maybe he should talk to Mack about taking this one home to her.

Still holding the kitten, he looked up. A quick scan showed familiar horses: Cobb’s bay, Banker Livingston’s team, Doc Cameron’s roan, the Appaloosa Nick Sanders rode to town, and a few of the horses Mack Taylor, the livery stable owner, rented out. No South American horses hung their sleek heads over the doors of the stalls.

With a grunt of annoyance, Wyatt set the kitten on the nearest bale of hay, turned on his heel and strode outside, rounding the corner toward the stable office. “Mack!” he bellowed, charging through the door.

Mack Taylor half rose from behind a table, where the remains of a meal rested, and wiped his gray-bearded mouth with his stained brown sleeve. Pepe, lounging against a wall, straightened.

Wyatt didn’t give him a chance to speak. “Where are those Falabellas? Did they arrive?”

Mack and Pepe exchanged glances. Mack straightened, amusement wrinkling his narrow broken-nosed face. He ran a hand through his grizzled shoulder-length hair. “Arrived right on time. No problem et all.”

“Then where are they?”

“In the stable where they belong.”

“No, they’re not. I’ve just come from there.” He took two strides into the room. “If you’ve gone and lost that widow-woman’s horses, the ones I took responsibility for---”

Mack raised a placating hand. “Now, Thompson. I ain’t never lost me a horse in my life. Never even had one stolen. Let’s just mosey out to the stable and have us another look. Perhaps you didn’t see ‘em.”

“You sayin' I’m blind? Those Falabellas aren’t there. I recognized every horse in the place.”

“Let’s us go look-see.” Mack stepped out from behind the table, yellowed green eyes squinting in amusement.

Pepe followed. Although the young man kept his eyes downcast, Wyatt could tell by the set of his shoulders, he, too, found the situation humorous.

Wyatt let them pass, then fell in behind, puzzlement creeping into his anger. Were they playing a joke on him? The top of his ears burned at the thought. While Mack enjoyed a laugh as much as any man, he wasn’t known for being a prankster.

He followed the two men through the doors of the barn. Sunlight filtered through the entrance and an open window above the hayloft--more than enough to illuminate the dim interior. He glanced down the row of stalls, again assessing and dismissing each curious occupant.

Just as he thought, no South American horses. With one part of his mind, he took stubborn satisfaction in being right. With another, he started worrying--a gut churning feeling of concern. Regardless of what he’d felt about the Spanish widow’s acquisition of Ezra’s ranch, he’d taken responsibility for her horses, and Wyatt Thompson took his responsibilities seriously.

He couldn’t even report them stolen. Nobody to take the report. With the retirement of Rand Mather six months before, Sweetwater Springs no longer had a sheriff. Wyatt would have to track the thieves down himself. And how could he explain this to Reverend Norton, much less to the widow?

Mack leaned over the nearest empty stall. “There ya are, little fella. Thompson here worried ya done gone and disappeared on us.”

What the…? Wyatt stepped beside him. It must be a foal, he thought assessing the tiny brown animal with the black mane and tail. But his experienced eye dismissed that thought almost as soon as it came. This compact miniature horse didn’t possess the unfinished stick-legged look of a foal.

Mack glanced at Wyatt’s stunned face and cackled. Pepe’s soft laughter joined his.


“Yep, midget horses. Damned strangest thing I ever did see. Cute little critters, though. Look at the rest.”

Wyatt strode down the aisle, peering over the top of the stalls. Black, chestnut, brown, dappled gray, and a cream-colored one with black legs, mane and tail.... None of them stood higher than his hips.

The burning sensation spread from his ears, across his forehead, and into his cheeks. Why hadn’t that widow woman mentioned midget horses? He ground his teeth. Not a good way to begin relations with his new neighbor.

From Mack’s continuous cackling as the man exited the barn, probably for the nearest saloon, Wyatt knew the story would be all over town in a matter of hours. The heat in his face singed the outside of his skin like a fresh sunburn. He had a reputation in these parts as a calm, logical man of substance. People respected him. He’d built a prosperous life, erasing the disasters and shame of his younger years. Now in just a few minutes, some Spanish widow had managed to overset his hard-earned serenity. And he hadn’t even met the woman! Wyatt turned and stalked down the aisle, keeping a wary eye out for the kitten.

From outside the door, a boy’s voice called, “In here, Mama.”

Before Wyatt had time to step out of the way, a young boy careened into him.

Something jabbed into his side. He grabbed the boy’s shoulders before he could hit the ground and set him on his feet.

“Pardon, Senor.”

Wyatt surveyed his captive. A little overdressed for a weekday. He didn’t recognize the child, but he was familiar with the sticky red and white candy clutched in the boy’s hand. His daughter’s favorite. Wyatt glanced down at himself. Just as he surmised, a red stain blotched his once clean white shirt.

The boy’s gaze followed Wyatt’s. A chagrined look crossed his face. “Sentir ... I mean, sorry, sir.”

“Slow down, son, and watch where you’re going.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”

A melodic woman’s voice asked, “Is there a problem?”

Wyatt looked up. The Spanish widow no doubt. Clad in black from head to toe, she clutched an armload of parcels and sacks. The shadows near the door obscured her features. He gave a gentle push to the boy, heading him back outside. “Perhaps you should wash up. Use the pump by the horse trough.”

Pepe rushed over. “Señora Rodriguez, let me take those for you.” He lifted the bundles out of her arms and disappeared outside. Popping back in the barn, he said, “Is there anything else I may do for you, Señora?”

Non, Gracias, Pepe.”

De nada, Señora.” Pepe hurried back out.

I should have helped her. Wyatt buried the quick spurt of shame under rising anger. She was the cause of his current predicament. “I take it you’re the owner of these midgets?”

She stepped into the light, and her beauty caught him in the gut--like a kick from one of her midget horses. Under her black straw hat, he caught a glimpse of flame-colored hair. Auburn brows and lashes framed wide blue eyes. A flush of peach crept into her cheeks and a determined chin, now lifted several inches higher than before, gave her a spirited demeanor. Not the withered, dark-skinned widow he’d been expecting.

“Falabellas,” she corrected.

“I don’t care what high fallutin’ name you give them. Those horses are midgets.”

“No they’re not.”

“What good are Falabellas anyway? Can’t even ride them.”

He caught the flash of her cornflower blue eyes and watched with appreciation as her bosom swelled with anger. She tightened her jaw and visibly forced herself to give him a civil reply. “They can pull a special buggy. And they’re very playful.”

“Playful?” His words dripped with derision. Shame brushed across his conscience, but not enough to stop him.


“Who needs a playful horse? A good horse is a hard workin' horse.” Didn’t she know anything? She would never make a go of her ranch with her kind of horses.

“They’re very good with children. Although you might not approve of that either.”

He heard the civility slip from her voice and secretly smiled. There was a way to reach past her cool exterior. “If you’re implying that I don’t approve of children, I must inform you I have a daughter. Christine will be out of school in a few minutes, and you can meet her. Perhaps we can get these ... these....”

“They’re Falabellas.”

“I get the name. Falabellas. Do you herd them like sheep or lead them like donkeys?”

“Chico and Mariposa will pull the buggy,” she said, crisping each word. “The rest only need lead ropes. I’ll hire a horse for Manuel, my groom. If we keep the bigger horses to a slow walk, these will be fine. Although I don’t know what business it is of yours, Mr...?”

Beneath the chill in the widow’s icy blue eyes and cool voice burned a passion as fiery as her hair. He could sense it. Like the fires of hell, a man could be consumed by such a blaze. Might even heat up the cold emptiness inside him. He shoved that thought aside. Best focus on the matter at hand. “I’m the help you requested in your letter to Reverend Norton.”

He swept her a mocking bow. “Wyatt Thompson, at your service.

Now is the time to ask questions and make comments. One lucky commenter will win a download of Sower of Dreams. Let the comments begin!.


  1. Mary Marvella // November 1, 2011 at 1:16 PM  

    Good afternoon, Debra!

  2. Pamela Varnado // November 1, 2011 at 2:09 PM  

    Welcome to the Pink Fuzzies, Debra and congratulations on your self-publishing success. It's an exciting time for authors right now. It's as if we're about to cross over into a new frontier.

    I enjoyed reading your excerpt from Starry Mountain. The hero and heroine’s first meeting sparked with tension. And though this isn’t in your excerpt, I can imagine the kids playing all kinds of pranks to get their parents together. I’m eager to read more and have added the story to my to-be-read-first list.

    And your resume is impressive--corporate crisis/grief counselor. Though the work is confidential, I think you could get lots of ideas for stories. I’ve always wanted to help people deal with these types of issues, so I find your job fascinating.

  3. Beth Trissel // November 1, 2011 at 2:47 PM  

    Welcome to the Fuzzies. Wow, to writing with your busy schedule and your amazing Indie sales. And congrats on your new nonfiction book! All around awesome.

  4. Dr. Debra Holland // November 1, 2011 at 3:04 PM  

    Hi, Mary!

    Pamela, you're so right about our new frontier! There will be kids pranks in the story, although not for the reason you suggested. :) I took some of the pranks from real life. My grandmother had quite a few adventures when she was a kid. Wait until you read about the manure pile.

    Beth, thanks for the congrats. I was disappointed today to learn that "out on November 1" means "ships on November 1." I wanted to go see the book in the store!

  5. Nightingale // November 1, 2011 at 3:43 PM  

    Wow Debra, glad to hear you are doing so well with your sales. And I really enjoyed "getting to meet you". Very interesting professions.

  6. Sandy Elzie // November 1, 2011 at 4:29 PM  

    Great fireside conversation...and great excerpt. It's exciting that you're e-book publishing and having success....congrats.

    I admire you for the work you do outside of writing...must be stressful. It's not a job just anyone could do. Kudos.

    Sandy Elzie

  7. Judy // November 1, 2011 at 4:54 PM  

    Hi, Debra! Glad to see you here! Congratulations on your success self-publishing. Sounds like things are going very well. I love the covers of your books and the excerpt was delightful. I'm sure this is only the beginning of your success!

  8. Tami Brothers // November 1, 2011 at 8:54 PM  

    Wow! I'm totally impressed. I was wondering about your marketing. You said that you have had over 30,000 sales in less than six months. I was just curious as to what you did to help market these. I'm just getting started in the indie world and with a VERY limited budget, I wasn't sure what would be the best route to go.

    Love this excerpt of Starry Montana Sky. Definitely going on my list to read.



  9. Barbara Monajem // November 2, 2011 at 12:01 AM  

    Hi, Debra. Congrats on your success! I have the same question as Tami -- How did you market your self-pubbed books to get so many sales?

  10. Dr. Debra Holland // November 2, 2011 at 12:44 AM  

    Thanks, everyone for the congrats.

    Nightingale and Sandy, my crisis work is difficult, but also very fulfilling. I often am drained afterwards and just want to sleep and curl up with a book.

    Judy, I love my covers, too. That's the nice thing about self-publishing. You can choose (or make) your own. I knew exactly what I wanted, and my cover designers produced them. :)


    Thanks for putting Starry on your list. I didn't do much to promote the books. Some blogs. Check out my website. I have a series of blogs about what I think worked.

  11. Dr. Debra Holland // November 2, 2011 at 12:45 AM  


    Your comment popped up in between me reading the comments and responding. I hope my previous answer gives you the information. :)

  12. Josie // November 3, 2011 at 2:15 PM  

    Welcome to the Pink Fuzzies and a thank you to MM for asking you to join us.

    Truly, you are remarkable! Your sales are amazing, and you are working a professional day job, also.

    You and your writing are very impressive.

  13. Dr. Debra Holland // November 3, 2011 at 8:02 PM  

    Thanks, Josie!