When I decided to set Before the Storm and Secrets She Left Behind on Topsail Island, I never dreamed how important this place would become to me. From my very first research trip, though, I knew I’d discovered something special. It reminded me of my childhood at the Jersey Shore and of my early adulthood on the Outer Banks. Like most coastal areas, it has way too many houses crammed together along the beach, but now with the purchase of my own oceanfront condo I’m part of the development, so I guess I can no longer complain! In spite of the wonderfully eclectic hodgepodge of homes, Topsail retains its away-from-everything charm. Just a few restaurants and shops and only one stoplight. It makes a perfect setting for my books– an area where everyone knows everyone else and where a tragedy and a mystery have an impact on all. This has been our first visit to the condo, which I purchased after seeing it for only 5 minutes. It’s wonderful! It needs a little TLC and I’m looking forward to making it mine. It’s less than three hours from our home in the Raleigh area and is a perfect getaway. Keeper and Jet had never seen the beach before and after three days here, they’re still a little perplexed, but at least their ears are no longer flattened against their heads! John hasn’t taken his camera from his face since our arrival. I doubt he’ll ever get tired of photographing the island. As for me. . . I have a simple, incredible, unexpected joy. As my frequent readers know, I have rheumatoid arthritis. It’s under very good control, but my left foot and ankle have a great deal of damage sustained before the “good drugs” came along. It’s hard for me to walk and impossible for me to walk on uneven surfaces, such as the beach. But a year ago, I had a brace made which is built into my sneaker and guess what? For the first time in about ten years, I can walk on the beach! I’ve been overdoing it like crazy the past few days, and enjoying every sandy minute. The other night, I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about my next book, and the characters wouldn’t settle down inside my head. I got up and went out to the deck and lay down on the broad bench you see here in this picture. I listened to the sea while staring up at Orion and the three-quarter moon and thought about how lucky I am to be able to have homes in two places that I love, to be surrounded by the people (and animals) that I love, and to be able to do the work that I love. My hope is that you, my readers, feel equally as lucky in your lives.