I’ve been dreaming about Christmas since July! Seriously.
In less than two weeks, Gallery Books will release my first ever holiday novel, A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS. This is a story I’d been wanting to write for a few years, and when the opportunity finally came, I was surprised by how quickly I wrote it. It’s one of those books that flowed from my heart and mind through my fingertips to the page, like a divine gift. And now it is my gift to you, my readers.
Available October 25, A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS is the story of a Marine, Taylor McClellan, who returns from war with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and grapples with the effects of his mental health problems on his financially-strained family in their small shrimping community of McClellanville, SC. Through the miraculous gift of a service dog, Taylor and his family are led on a journey to rediscover their strengths, family bonds and the true meaning of Christmas.
CLICK HERE to read an excerpt.
PTSD is a heavy topic, so this is a hard-hitting and honest story. But like my favorite holiday classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there is an inspiring, happy ending.
The inspiration for A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS came a few years ago when I was at Florida’s Dolphin Research Center doing volunteer work as part of my research. My time there included working with the Wounded Warrior Odyssey Program, where I witnessed the power of connection between injured veterans and dolphins. I struck up a conversation with one stoic veteran standing on the dock with his dog. You would never know he had PTSD, which is common among veterans because the injuries are on the inside. As we talked, I noticed he was constantly stroking his dog, never once taking his hand off of his furry companion. He told me why his service dog meant so much to him. One thing he said in our conversation that struck me was I love my wife but I need my dog. Seeing that bond between service dog and master was inspiring.
There’s a growing national awareness about the deadly effects of untreated PTSD among veterans, and this makes A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS all the more timely.
I owe a great deal of thanks to Fmr. Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván whose personal testimony and books deepened my understanding of the important role of service dogs for veterans. I highly recommend his award-winning book UNTIL TUESDAY: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever who Saved Him.
I’m also grateful for all I learned from Pets for Vets, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports veterans with PTSD by locating, adopting and training shelter dogs as lifelong companions. I’m honored to support the Charleston chapter of Pets for Vets at my book launch event on Oct. 25. Join me if you’re local! See event details here.
I dedicated A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS to my son, a Marine. And I wrote this story with America’s veterans in my heart. At no greater time than the holiday season are hope and inspiration needed, especially for the military families living with PTSD.