Category Archives: My books

When Fiction Mirrors Life

My Crescent Falls series has a Minnesota setting so I’ve taken the liberty of showing you their state flower, the Lady’s Slipper. Imagine my delight when I found several growing in Concord, Massachusetts at Walden’s Pond.

Minnesota's State Flower - the Lady Slipper (at Walden's Pond)This series features Ken Hanlon, patriarch of the Hanlon family who is stricken with Alzheimer’s. All four of his daughters must come to terms with this disease and make sacrifices. The theme of each story centers around the age old question: How much sacrifice is too much? How much of their own personal happiness is each sister willing to give up. At the lowest points in their lives, they open up the letter their father wrote before the disease took its toll. In that letter is the answer they’ve been waiting for.

Like many writers, stories accumulated in my brain years before I ever put pen to paper. Over forty years ago when I worked in a Minnesota nursing home, I frequently cared for patients with what we now call Alzheimer’s. I was riveted by the family dynamics and how different members of each family perceived this illness. Some had tremendous hope, choosing to see only what they wanted to see; others made plans immediately to say their goodbyes, realizing within a short time they wouldn’t recognize their loved ones. Fascinating how many years later I still recall these scenes in the nursing home so vividly. I was impacted greatly by watching people suffer tragedy and hope readers find this series something they’re able to relate to.

If you purchase the first in the series, I’m hoping you’ll read them all and post your reviews on amazon. Here’s the link: Maggie




Pen Names

Choosing A Pen Name . . .

For many authors, choosing a pen name is one of the most difficult choices they'll ever make because the name they select becomes their trademark. I recall getting a plethora of advice from other authors about choosing a pen name. Several warned me against picking a long name because the longer the name, the smaller the letters will be on your book cover. That little morsel of advice made me dump my first choice: Shay McCandless and look for something short and sweet.

I'm known to be indecisive at times, so I skipped naming myself and began writing my first women's fiction novel, confident a name would come to me. The setting for the series was based in the west part of Texas, and when I recalled how much my father-in-law loved his Zane Grey westerns, the wheels began turning. Grey--hmm--it had a ring to it and was short enough to ensure my name would be in large print on the book's cover. Not wanting to trick anyone into believing I might be Zane's kin, I changed the spelling of the last name and it became Gray. Ah, but I didn't have a first name. As I continued writing the series, my frisky sheltie would lie at my feet and stay within inches of me all day long. She was my constant companion. As I rose from my chair one day, I nearly tripped over her. "Tessa, get out of the way!" Hmm--Tessa. That's short enough. Tessa Gray--it had a nice ring to it.

P1010713Of course, when you don't use your real name, crazy things can happen. I recently discovered that another author has books with a character name Tessa Gray. And then I began Googling my beloved pen name only to discover that someone named Tessa Gray who lived in the UK was serving a prison term. But that was after I'd published two books under the pen name. For the time being, I'm perfectly happy with the name Tessa Gray, and one of my readers recently told me she thought my pen name suited me well. 

A word of advice here: Google the pen name you're considering using and make sure no one with that name is in the slammer. It could come back to bite you! 





The Real Scoop on Tessa’s Writing Space . . .


This week’s prompt is an important one. Authors were asked to discuss their writing space and talk about an area they’ve carved out for themselves to create well written novels. Since my Dream Catchers Series is based on my experiences at the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas, I snagged one of our spare bedrooms and set up my cowboy headquarters. Decorating it to match the themes in my books was an enjoyable way for me to not only brand myself, but helped my settings become more authentic.

Tessa's Cowboy Quilt (2)

Tessa's Office (2)

The daybed shows off the cowboy quilt I made to go along with my series. My daughter-in-law’s stepmother, Kim, who is a big supporter of my writing endeavors, gave me the fabric, and I think of her generosity every time I look over at the daybed. I love the subtle colors and it makes me almost feel like I’m not working when I look over at the bed. Sometimes my husband comes in to keep me company and relaxes here as I write. The desk is a new addition to the room and I place all the things that inspire me here: my cowboy poetry coffee mug, a picture of my husband and I at my first book signing, and my cowboy lamp. The picture hanging above my desk is of the 25th Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and just looking at it briefly brings back a flood of memories. Changing the ambience of where I write has doubled my productivity. For that reason, I encourage all of you to try and carve out that special writing space.

And now let’s take a minute to see what author Brenda Margriet does to create her perfect space. I encourage you to view her website and read her contemporary and romantic suspense novels with “happily ever after” endings!

Wine & Sign . . . July in Granbury, Texas

The true beauty of writing is to meet other authors with a great passion for writing. Thanks to those of you who joined four Texas authors at D’Vine Wine and made our book signing a memorable event. Getting together with former student Jeanne McDonald (college attendee/author) was the highpoint of the book signing, along with fellow authors Jennifer Theriot and R.E. Hargrave was the icing on the cake. A huge thanks to Diane Hedges for organizing the event, as well as Josh, who was gracious enough to label our wines featuring our book covers! What a thrill! And, of course, we enjoyed purchasing swag for the event. My personal favorites are my great coffee mugs made by VISTA! The month of July truly rocked!

August Bonus: I’ve temporarily reduced the price of my Dreamcatchers Series ebooks available on amazon beginning tomorrow, August 1st. It’s the perfect time for a good summer read!

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Tessa’s First Booksigning!

TX_SUNSET_COVER-web72dpi - final cover on Dec. 20thLTG_Traj_LAST-CHANCE-TX_COVER

On March 16th I had my first book signing at “A Real Bookstore” in Fairview, Texas. To my absolute delight, forty people attended and both my books sold out before the actual book signing even began! It was gratifying to share an excerpt from the first book of my Dreamcatchers Series, LAST CHANCE TEXAS, with my readers. The audience enjoyed munching on my homemade Texas shaped sugar cookies as I shared pictures of the sites in Alpine, Texas-the setting of this three book series. For those of you who prefer shorter women’s fiction novels, I highly recommend TEXAS SUNSET. Be sure and visit me at so I can add you to my mailing list for my newsletter. See y’all at the next book signing!