Genre: Romance with paranormal elements.
The mysterious recluse…
Owen Campbell holds himself apart from other people. Badly scarred from emotional wounds that have never healed, he doesn’t expect to find true love or happiness. He remains isolated in a prison of his own making, determined to not let anyone close enough to hurt him again.
But his willpower is shaken to the core when Sarah Browning enters his world.
The girl next door…
Sarah Jane Browning is three years into her college degree when a call from home changes everything. Back at the family homestead in the heart of Appalachia, she’s forced to reevaluate her hopes and dreams for the future.
Distraction from her heartache comes in the form of her parents’ neighbor. Whispers about “odd Owen Campbell” abound in their small community, and Sarah’s curiosity is aroused. When she breaks the rules and trespasses onto his land, what she finds is beyond her wildest imaginings.
As Sarah struggles to overcome tragedy and loss, her burgeoning relationship with Owen is sorely tested. Will love conquer all, or will the secrets from Owen’s past tear them apart forever?
Firefly Hollow is the first in a new Romance series by T. L. Haddix, author of the Shadows/Leroy Collection, a series of standalone Romantic Suspense novels. Titles include Secrets in the Shadows, Under the Moon’s Shadow, Shadows from the Grave, and Hidden in the Shadows.
T.L. Haddix was born in Hazard, Kentucky, a small
town in the center of the Appalachian coal fields.
Taught to read by her grandmother, T.L. has had a
life-long love affair with books, devouring
whatever she could get her hands on. From
childhood favorites such as the Trixie Belden series
and Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books, to
her current favorites from authors like Tami Hoag,
Alex Kava, J.A. Jance and Lisa Kleypas (among
many others), T.L. still finds refuge in the written
"Growing up, I wanted to be everything - astronaut,
police officer, doctor, teacher, reporter, psychologist - there was no clear choice for me. I wanted
to do it all. Becoming a writer has allowed me to do just that, because I can live vicariously
through my characters."
A resident of southern Indiana, T.L. is hard at work on her next book, when she isn't chasing
after her three cat-children with her husband.
Guest Post From T.L.
I’m a publishing snob.
There, I admitted it. Oh, I don’t have the normal bias--traditionally published against self-published. No, I’m the opposite. I can’t understand, really, why anyone would want to be traditionally published.
I recently attended a local author forum at my county library. I was one of two self-published authors there, with all the rest of the participants being signed to contracts with publishing houses in some way, shape, or form. One was even with Harlequin YA.
As I listened to them talk, tell their stories about how they’d struggled for years, submitted manuscripts, gotten rejection letters, fought with editors, and even had been told what to write and when to write it despite their own strong desires to write something else, all in the pursuit of this dream of being a writer, I realized something.
I felt sorry for them.
When I first started writing, I got about halfway through my first book and decided to start doing research on how to submit to publishers. This was late 2009, and self-publishing was on the brink of the massive explosion we’ve seen in recent years. One of the first blogs I came across was Joe Konrath’s, where he lays out the reasons he’s pro self-publishing. I did more research, and what he was saying was completely logical.
Why would I want to give up control over my book, have it made into a cookie-cutter cutout by New York, have no control over the cover, no control over the content, and be lucky to make a third of the profits I could be making were I to self-publish? I wouldn’t. That was pretty much the last time I seriously thought about going the traditional route.
It took me about two years to break even. During those first two years, I didn’t move a lot of books. I made some mistakes, and I hopefully learned from said mistakes. But something else I have learned is this - It is possible to produce a book on par with the quality coming out of New York, if not exceed it. It is possible to support yourself writing and publishing. And it’s also still as much a crapshoot as trying to land a deal with a traditional publisher.
For each person who succeeds at self-publishing, probably one hundred do not. The reasons are varied. Most of them have uploaded the first draft of a poorly written manuscript, slapped a stock image (with or without paying for it) on the cover, and expected great things. Some of the ones who do not succeed are actually very talented, and for whatever reason, their books never took off.
Conversely, there’s no guarantee that a poorly written book won’t make many millions of dollars. That said, the chances of it happening are akin to winning the lottery.
That’s why it’s a crap shoot.
The authors who tend to succeed long term, if you can call the short years we’ve had since this latest Revolution began in self-publishing “long term,” are the ones who keep writing, keep producing, keep putting out new work. They keep looking for ways to better their work. They keep learning the craft. And they apply what they learn.
Also, because we’re not constrained by New York’s number crunchers, it doesn’t matter if a self-published author’s backlist isn’t selling as well as their new stuff. There’s no cost for maintaining that catalog. The books don’t go out of print. They’re just there in the ether of the internet. People can buy them or not.
The point is, writers now have more power and control over their work than ever before. They have reliable resources for editing, cover design, formatting. Pretty much the only area self-publishing loses against traditional, at least from my perspective, is in the availability of promotional tools. There, the big guys definitely have us overpowered.
Regardless, I’d have to be offered a tremendously outrageous sum of money in order to sign a traditional contract. I would do it, but it would have to be made very, very worth my while. And I’d still have trepidations. Did I mention there would have to be a ton of money involved? Yes, I can be bought, but I’m not cheap.
But for now, I’m very happy being self-published. I wouldn’t change that. Not at this point in time. I like being independent. It’s empowering.
I’m not constrained by the market if I don’t want to be. I am not forced to put more sex in certain books, less sex in others by my editor. If I have a character who has an opinion that isn’t popular, it’s okay. I believe my readers wear their big-girl and big-boy panties, and understand that people come in all shapes, sizes, and beliefs. I have a reliable team behind me that helps me make my books the best they possibly can be. Who needs New York when you’ve got phenomenal people at your back? *wink*
Excerpt From Firefly Hollow:
Near Hazard, Kentucky
Sarah Browning hurried through the halls of C. D. Napier High School, her head down.
She was desperate to reach the girls’ restroom before her tears overflowed. With a frantic sob,
she pushed open the swinging door and raced into the largest stall, slamming the door shut
behind her. Finally, in the privacy of the quiet bathroom, she let herself cry. The bell had rung
two minutes earlier, signaling the students to return to class from their break, so Sarah had the
restroom to herself. She was going to be late for biology, but she didn’t care. Her sister’s betrayal
cut too deep. Kathy had really gone too far.
Sarah had gone into the drama room at break to ask the teacher a question about the
upcoming production of Death of a Salesman. Kathy was there with her boyfriend and his
friends from the basketball team, including Paul Turner. They were all gathered around the stage,
joking and cutting up, and didn’t notice Sarah come into the room. To Sarah’s horror, Kathy was
talking about her.
“Little Miss Priss. She thinks her shit don’t stink. Paul, you ought to ask her to the prom
and then dump her right before. I’d love to see the look on her face.” Everyone laughed, with
Kathy laughing the hardest.
“That’s a little mean, Kathy. Your sister’s a nice kid,” Paul protested, but only after he
“You can’t say you enjoy having her make cow-eyes at you, Pauly,” Randall Begley said.
Kathy’s boyfriend was always looking for an excuse to make fun of someone. “Besides, Pauly
likes his ladies to have a little more on top, if you know what I’m saying. More like you, baby
doll.” He leered at Kathy’s chest.
Kathy squealed, and the group again roared with laughter.
Humiliated, her face on fire with shame, Sarah carefully backed out of the room and ran
down the hall. Hiding in the bathroom, she didn’t know how she would ever find the courage to
face Paul again.
Ever since eighth grade, Sarah had had a crush on Paul Turner. He was the kindest,
handsomest boy in the world, at least to her. She had always admired him from afar, so when
she’d been assigned to work with him last week for drama club, she had barely been able to
contain her excitement. Those tender feelings had been destroyed today.
After her tears had stopped, Sarah finally came out of the stall and went to the sink. Her
face was splotchy, her eyes red and puffy. She splashed cold water on her face, patting it dry as
her mother had taught her to do. A few droplets of water fell onto her blouse, and as she blotted
them, she cringed. Randall’s words were cruel, but they were also true. She didn’t have much in
the way of a bosom. It didn’t seem fair. Kathy’s chest was huge, too big in Sarah’s opinion, but
the boys seemed to like it.
She studied herself in the mirror, trying to see her image as others might: straight, dark
brown hair, blue eyes, a smattering of freckles. She was taller than some of the girls, and her
daddy teased her that she’d soon be taller than her mother. Sarah didn’t think she was ugly, but
she didn’t think she was all that pretty, either.
Mama tried to reassure her that she’d blossom, but Sarah was convinced it would never
happen. She was destined to be as flat as a board for the rest of her days. She’d die a lonely old
woman tucked away in a tiny cottage at the back of her parents’ property with only a herd of cats
and a flock of chickens to keep her company.
She wadded up the paper towels and threw them away, then gathered her books and
headed for the door. She wasn’t going back to class, not with humiliation still stinging her
cheeks. She decided to go to the school nurse’s office and see if she could stay there until the
final bell rang in a couple of hours. The nurse was stern, but understanding. Sarah would say that her stomach hurt, which wasn’t a lie. Hopefully by the time she had to come back to school and
face Paul again on Monday, she would have an idea of what in the world to do.
~ * * *~
The bus ride home was tense, but Sarah avoided Kathy easily enough. She secured a seat
near the front, where she usually sat, and held her breath. Kathy flipped Sarah’s hair as she went
by on her way to the back of the bus, but that was all. As one of the older, more popular,
students, Kathy always sat with her friends. Sarah figured the half-mile walk up the holler to
their house was going to be trickier to manage, but to her surprise, Kathy only teased her once or
twice when they first got off the bus. She seemed lost in her own thoughts, for which Sarah was
Once home, Sarah quickly finished her chores. With an hour left before supper, she asked
her mother if she could take a walk.
Eliza Browning studied her carefully and reached out to push back a lock of Sarah’s dark
hair. “You okay, baby girl? You’ve been awfully quiet tonight.”
Sarah shrugged. “Just had a bad day at school.”
“And you want to go clear your head?” Her mother’s smile was sympathetic, full of
warmth. “Of course, sweetheart. Keep an eye on the time and be back in time for supper.”
Sarah gave her a quick hug and headed out the door. She’d changed into an old, sturdy
pair of pants when she got home, and with her walking shoes on, headed for the path that led
around the ridge to a rocky outcropping. The ledge was Sarah’s thinking place where she went
when she needed to get some time to herself.
Growing up in a place filled with such natural beauty as eastern Kentucky, Sarah had an
inkling of an idea of how lucky she was. Situated in the heart of central Appalachia, Perry
County was one of the more populated areas of the region. It wasn’t in the low foothills of
Appalachia, nor did it have the soaring ridges and deep valleys of Virginia. Craggy, folded hollows peppered the landscape, looking like nothing more than a green blanket that had been
crumpled up by God himself.
As she approached the rocks, she paused to let the brisk wind carry over her. Though
only late March, the warm weather had come earlier than normal. The breeze almost tasted like
summer, and Sarah felt a calm start to steal over her.
A noise came from the underbrush, and she turned to watch a cardinal fly away,
chirruping at her in irritation. The bird veered off to fly along the old deer path that wound
around the side of the mountain. The trail traversed the ridge that made up the property line
dividing the Browning’s land from that of their neighbors, the Campbells. The Campbell family
owned most of the mountain, top to bottom, encompassing at least three hundred acres. Their
homestead was clear on top, accessed by a road from the other side. For as long as Sarah could
remember, her parents had warned her not to cross that line.
“They’re not bad people, Sarah, but they keep to themselves, and they expect others to let
them be. So you need to respect that line.”
She was curious, avidly so, but she had resisted the urge to explore. She knew there
would be consequences if she broke her parents’ rule, and more importantly, they’d be
disappointed in her. If nothing else, Sarah was a good girl. As she thought about that, Kathy’s
words from earlier came back to haunt her.
“Little Miss Priss,” she muttered. Arms crossed, Sarah looked back through the woods
toward her own home. The house was out of sight, around the curve of the mountain. Biting her
lip, she turned back to the deer trail.
“It isn’t like there’s anyone who’d see. Even Daddy admitted that the Campbells don’t
come down this way much.”
She brought her hand up and nibbled on her thumb. Thinking once again about Kathy’s
words, she squared her shoulders. “I’m going to do it. So what if I get into trouble?”
The decision made, she started toward the deer path, marching steadily. She was about a
hundred yards past the property line when a twig snapped in the woods up the hill. Jumping, Sarah turned. On a flat bench of land above her, a nearly grown deer stood, staring right at her.
The deer was immobile, as though thinking if it stood still long enough, she wouldn’t see it and
would go away.
Sarah gave a startled laugh. “I’m sorry,” she told the deer quietly. “I’m trespassing, I
know. But I had a really bad day at school, and… I don’t mean any harm.”
The deer flicked its ears back and forth, then raised its nose as the wind shifted, but it
didn’t take its eyes off of her. When she realized how ridiculous she was being, having a
conversation with a deer, she shook herself and started walking again. To her surprise, the deer
only hesitated a moment before cautiously following her, albeit on a different track.
Checking back over her shoulder after a few steps, Sarah frowned when the deer
continued to mimic her path. Dismissing the incident as the curiosity of a wild young deer that
hadn’t yet learned humans were the enemy, she let her mind drift. Before long, she heard the
sound of water trickling rapidly over rocks, and as she rounded a curve, she saw a small stream
curving through the mountainside. The branch of water cut into a shallow hollow, one side
protected by a higher ledge of earth that was full of mountain laurel.
Sarah stopped to take in the sight and drew in a cleansing breath. As she looked around,
she realized the deer had followed her and stopped a short distance away. The bench of land it
stood on converged with the deer path alongside the stream.
If Sarah hadn’t known better, she would have sworn the deer wore a look of
consternation. The animal bent its head to nibble at some greenery on the ground, but kept its
eyes on her. It almost seemed to glance between her and the water, as though weighing the
danger of coming closer for a drink.
“Maybe if I turn away, you’ll feel bolder.” The deer path crossed the branch at a narrow
point, and she decided to go a bit further. The water cascaded down a small waterfall above the
narrow point, pooling in a shallow area that would be the perfect spot for a thirsty deer to get a
cooling drink. Hopping across the water, Sarah followed the trail. To her surprise, the path didn’t
continue to the flat bench on the other side of the small ridge, but climbed up and around the rocky outcropping. Curious, she climbed the incline. The sight took her breath away, and for a
moment, she didn’t believe what was in front of her was real.
The rocky outcropping the water cascaded down was a sort of natural dam. On its other
side, a large pool of water had collected. Fifteen feet across and nearly that wide again going in
the opposite direction, the pool was surrounded by sloping granite on all sides except the front,
where the water dropped over the edge. The water was blue-green, going from light aqua to
deeper cobalt, and the banks of rock and earth protected it on all sides.
On the opposite side, a craggy granite cliff rose about ten feet out of the water,
overhanging slightly to form a shallow cave. The mountain seemed to curve around the pool and,
mesmerized, Sarah continued around, crossing the branch once more at a point above the pool.
From there, she was able to climb on top of the granite boulder that created the cliff. Easing to
the edge, she carefully sat down, her legs dangling over the side.
When the curious deer appeared at the edge of the pool below, Sarah laughed. The deer
gave a small jerk at the sound, eyeing her warily.
“I’m sorry.” She felt utterly insane, carrying on a conversation with a deer, but it had
followed her like a curious puppy. Sarah realized that keeping quiet would feel even more
absurd. “It’s so beautiful here. I had no idea any place like this existed.” She looked around,
noticing that the trees didn’t arch out over the pool the way she thought they would have.
“I’ll bet it’s really hot here in the summer, and that water feels so good and cool. Or does
the pool dry up, I wonder?”
For a while, she just sat, braced back on her hands, her face lifted to the sky. The peace
imbued in the place washed over her. When she felt ready, she let herself remember Kathy’s
words to Paul, and their laughter. The memory made Sarah sad and still made her cringe with
embarrassment, but she realized that she didn’t feel quite as angry about it as she had.
“Thank you, God, for letting me hear that today. At least I don’t have to face Paul until
Monday,” she said to the sky. “And… and maybe, if that’s what he likes, then maybe he’s not as special as I thought he was. Let him have his buxom girls. At least I don’t look like a milk cow,
unlike someone I could name.”
A snort came from below, and Sarah jumped. She’d forgotten the deer. Looking down,
she saw that it had moved to the edge of the exposed granite and settled down on a soft patch of
“What are you snorting at?”
When the deer shook its head, Sarah laughed. Even though she knew it was probably
batting away flies with its ears, the deer acted almost human.
She glanced down at her watch and was shocked when she saw the time. She was going
to have to run in order to make it home in time for supper. With a muted curse that she’d heard
her father say when he hit his thumb with the hammer, she scrambled to her feet and looked
around. Another bench ran down from the side of the boulder opposite where she’d come up and
fell naturally into the one the deer had been on when she’d first seen it.
“That saves me a little time.” With one last look at the deer, which had gotten to its feet
when Sarah did, she headed down the bench. “I’ll come back someday,” she promised over her
shoulder. “Try to not get shot or anything.”
For a day that had gone so badly, she thought as she ran, things had turned out to be okay.
~ * * * ~
For a long time after the girl had gone, Owen stood on the edge of the pool, looking after
her. With his enhanced hearing, he could follow her progress down the trail and back onto
He didn’t know what to think. He’d never encountered another human in all the time he’d
been exploring the woods. His parents had seen to that over the years; no one dared come onto
Campbell property without his father’s permission. Now that the property belonged to Owen, he
guessed he was the one who’d have to do something about trespassers. He bent his neck, taking another sip from the water. As the girl had guessed, it was cool
Owen sighed, a sound that came out in deer form much as it did when he was human. The
pool was one of his favorite places to roam, one of his safe places. If the girl came back as she
promised, he didn’t know what it would mean for him. He couldn’t risk being caught, and he
wasn’t willing to give up his solitude. If the girl threatened that… he hated the thought of having
to go to her parents, but if it came to that, he’d do it.