The Countdown

countdown35 days. That’s the tally running in my head. 35 days until we load our family and everything we own onto a plane and move to France.

35 DAYS.

This has been a whirlwind from the start, but now I find myself facing the end of the storm and I’m left a little breathless.

It all started in February. February 8th, to be exact. My mother was driving home from a funeral when she had a vision. A house, a French chateau with 12 bedrooms purchased for less than $200,000 and dedicated as a refuge for missionaries. It was a beautiful idea that left her in tears. She called me that day crying, and the next, and the next. But each day she became more convinced that this was more than just an idea. It was a true vision. It was going to happen.

And it is. It is happening. In 35 days we will fly to France and close on that house. My family will live there as we prepare it for our very first guests. By this time next year, life in France will be falling into the category of “my new normal.” To say I’m excited is an understatement, but I think I’ll be a lot more excited once we get through this next month and arrive in France. Between here and there feels like a minefield of emotions.

As I pull out my planner, I have to face the reality that I only have four weekends left to visit friends and family. A little more than four weeks to pack up the house and sift out what is going with us and what is being left behind. I’m planning quick trips to hug family members we don’t see enough as it is, and knowing some we may not see again for a very long time…or ever. I’m not a complete newb at this. When we moved to Maine from Arkansas, friends joked that we were moving to another country. I remember being annoyed with their teasing, thinking it wasn’t that far, we could visit whenever we wanted. But, in those three and a half years we seldom saw extended family. We missed funerals, weddings, and births in those years away, teaching me a valuable lesson that has me staring at my calendar in tears. What will I miss this time around? What if I can’t get to everyone before we go? Have I already said some of my last goodbyes? Have I loved them all well enough? Have I told them how much I adore them? Did I say it often enough?

Packing lists and the monstrous To Do list I have sketched in the margins of my planner can never compare to the Goodbye List. It’s heartbreaking. But…it’s life. The truth is, we are all saying last goodbyes and we just don’t know it. Whether I live in France, or just down the street, I can’t possibly know when a goodbye is forever or just for now. So, we have to love a little deeper, hold each other a little closer, and say “I love you,” just a little more often. It’s the only way to live without regrets. While I try to fit everyone we love into our countdown, take my advice: Don’t wait to tell the people you love how much they mean to you. You never know when your time is up.

Have you ever had to say goodbye without knowing if it was the last time? How did you handle it? If you’ve got advice, I’m all ears!



Meet LA

Hey guys, I want to introduce you to my fabulous assistant, LA. She’s been learning the ropes around here lately, trying to keep up with my creative whims and fantastical ideas. She’s the best sidekick a fledgling indie author could ever have. We have a lot of big projects we’re working on right now and I can’t wait to share them with all of you. I plan to spend the next three months writing up a storm so she’s going to be taking on some of the blogging and other fun stuff for me. You can catch her take on this wild indie life every Wednesday, but you’ll also see her on Twitter and Facebook once in a while, so be nice to her when she pops in, okay? Without further ado, here’s the fabulous LA:


Hello my name is LilliAnn. I am Heather Sutherlin’s daughter, her student, and now her assistant! I just turned thirteen last month.

I don’t exactly want to be a writer like my mom, but I luv reading, blogging, hanging out with my friends, and most of all I luv MUSIC!!!

All of us Sutherlin kids have had trouble reading while we were young but we all luv it so much now that we can’t hardly stop reading. If I dive into a book I won’t eat sleep or drink until it’s done (slight exaggeration). My favorite books have to be The Plundered Parent Protocol, the Percy Jackson Series, and of course A Light in the Darkness. All of those books are so inspiring and two of them are written by indie writers. My mom is an indie so I guess that makes me an INDIE KID.

When mom started blogging, well I didn’t even know what that was! I guess I do now. When my mom asked if I wanted to be a guest on her blog I totally said yes. I like blogging because I get to say whatever I want here and I get to type a LOT. How cool! Since I’ve started this I realized I want to do just what my mom’s doing with her blog, only with music. Maybe I’ll start a music blog.

When I was ten or so, I learned how to play ukulele and last summer I started learning guitar. Shortly after that I started voice lessons and I am loving every bit of it. I also write music. I love music because I get to tell people anything I want and the message feels stronger than it would if I was just telling someone. If you know me you know I will always be seen with ear buds in my ears listening to either Ross Lynch or K-love wherever I go. I am a music freak 24/7. Someday I hope I will meet Toby Mac and get advice about music to make my own music successful.

Next week I’ll tell you about what it’s like to be Mom’s assistant, but here are some of the projects we’ve been working on lately.

There are many more projects but I’ll tell you more later. So, check back here next Wednesday to see what I’m working on next. ; D

Rock On!

~ LA

blogging, writer's life

A New Direction

Heather headshotI mentioned last week that I’ve been searching for a new design for my website. We worked on ideas for ages, it seemed, sketching out new headers and debating the overall direction of my website. The more we worked on it, the more we discovered that I needed a clearer picture of what I want readers to know about me and my work. It’s hard to look at yourself and try to sum up your entire persona in one image or phrase. That’s called personal branding, and I’m not sure I’m quite there yet. Still, I feel that we’re getting closer. Here’s how we came up with my new theme:

1. Each of my books (so far) includes a big forest scene and to me a forest is always full of mystery and adventures lurk just around the next tree. I wanted to capture that air of mystery and excitement. Also, my lovely assistant suggested that I reminded her of a tree. So, there’s that…

2. We looked at illustrations and clipart of trees, but none of them seemed to capture the mood we were going for. So, in the end we opted for a stock photo. This was when we knew we were getting closer to our goal. The dark forest with it’s rugged pathway bathed in light and beckoning seemed to fit perfectly with the image we had in mind. It would’ve been easier to brand with an illustrated logo of a tree/forest, but we’ll have to find some way to work out that dilemma in the future. (If you’ve got any ideas, PLEASE share them in the comments below!)

3. Next for the tag line. How on earth do I narrow my work down to one short sentence? I’m basically summing up my entire mission as a writer. Yikes! We played with a lot of ideas, but most of them leaned toward one story line or another. I needed something that would work whether I was writing YA fantasy or contemporary romance (hey! It could happen!) Finally we decided on “Escape to another world” because it seemed to sum up what I hope readers will feel as they read my books. Some readers want to experience reality in a deeper way, but I write for those of you who want to escape reality altogether.

In the last week I’ve been reminded once again that I have no natural aptitude for graphic design, no matter how much I wish it weren’t true. I love images and the idea of creating just the right picture to illustrate a thought or a concept to the world. I deeply wish I could design my own covers and all of my own branding material, but it is a TON of work and in the end I”m not very good at it. After fighting with graphics for the last week we’ve decided to start learning Photoshop, so that should be an adventure! I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

We have a lot more to reveal in the next few weeks. I think it’s time you met my incredible assistant, LA. She has been working hard to give me young reader’s perspective and I’ve put her to work researching the best of the best. I can hardly wait to show you all that we’ve been working on lately. I’ve invited her to introduce herself to all of you tomorrow and she’s getting her own weekly spot on this blog so that you can see a little more of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in this indie life. So, come back tomorrow and say hi to my sidekick.

What do you think of my new website header? What else do you hope to find here on Leave your suggestions in the comments below and maybe you’ll find your wish is granted the next time you stop by to visit.

Happy reading!


blogging, nanowrimo

>Let’s Get Started

>Hi!  I am very excited (and a little nervous) to start this new blog.  The idea has been rolling around in my head for quite a while and suddenly tonight seemed like the time to get started on this project.  Let me tell you why.

Every fall I lead an awesome group of kids through an adventure we call NaNoWriMo.  That stands for National Novel Writing Month.  Our goal is to write an entire book in a month.  Each of us bold, daring, young writers (well, the kids are young, but I’m good at pretending!) start out in October getting ready for this wild and crazy adventure.  We practice.  We brainstorm.  We act silly and talk too much.  Then, suddenly it’s November 1st and we start writing.  Something amazing happens after that… we write a book!  Isn’t that wild?

What does all of this have to do with a blog in March?  Not much, really, except that I’ve been missing that writing group an awful lot and thinking about all of the fun things I would like to teach them this year in our pre-nanowrimo writing time.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “Hey, I wonder if there are any other people out there who might like to have some fun writing, too.”  That’s where it all started.

Well, there is this one other thing, too.  Perhaps I should go ahead and mention it here just to be upfront with you.  Remember how I said we write books during Nanowrimo?  Well, I write books, too, not just the kids.  So, now I have three finished (or in various stages of finished, but we’ll get to that later.)  I have been learning an awful lot about how to write properly, how to edit, how to format, how to start writing again, etc.  It’s been amazing and another kind of adventure entirely.  I thought a blog might be just the sort of place to keep notes on what I learn, what I’m working on next, and maybe even someday… what I published!

If any of that sounds interesting, please come back and visit again real soon.  I would love to hear from you.  What did you come here looking for in a blog post?  What are you hoping to learn?

Gotta Write,