Luck isn't a Lady - the last Portland Pioneers book!

When I published my first book in spring 2014, I had very little idea of what to expect. The Lucky Charm was an unexpected--and amazing!--success. I followed up Jack and Izzy's story with Getting Lucky, which followed Jack's best friend Noah and also introduced us to Maggie May King, the sister of the villain in The Lucky Charm.

From the moment Tabitha stepped onto the page in Getting Lucky, I wanted to write her story. I tried all through 2015, with no luck. I rewrote at least three different beginnings of Tabitha's story, but none of them ultimately worked.

In 2016, I published Summer Attractions, and out of that book emerged Nick and Colin. I wrote about them in The Rainbow Clause, and the journey of that book--from writing it to promoting it to publishing it, convinced me that I wanted to write gay romance full-time.

It killed me that I was leaving the Pioneers series unfinished. I still have readers who enjoy the first two books in the series, but without a good hook and a storyline that was worthy of Tabitha, I just couldn't. I wasn't going to write something that didn't do her justice.

Of course, as soon as I had decided that I was done with the series, I had a breakthrough.

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In The Lucky Charm, Tabitha is framed as the villain, with zero wiggle room. Noah has been hurt by her, Jack is angry with her, and Izzy is continually having to live up to her memory in her new job.

In Getting Lucky, we meet her sister, Maggie May, and then unexpectedly, Tabitha appears front and center. We finally meet her as a character, and while I think she does live up to some of her reputation, it becomes very clear that she's different than everyone else's interpretations.

Shockingly, this year's horrific political climate, and the continual condemnation of strong, independent women is what finally gave me the motivation to write Tabitha's story. I realized that I had been approaching her all wrong. She didn't need to be rehabilitated. She didn't need to spend a whole book being humiliated and embarrassed, downtrodden and shunned, so she could get her "comeuppance." She wasn't going to apologize and she shouldn't apologize for being ambitious.

Tabitha's used some unscrupulous methods to get shit done. She's used men's superficial opinion of her to control them and get them to do what she wants. If they're going to discount her brain and stare at her boobs, she's going to take advantage of that.

In Luck isn't a Lady, Tabitha doesn't apologize (mostly!). It's not a book about a character rehabilitation. It's about re-discovering who she is and what she wants out of her life.

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While I was writing Luck isn't a Lady, I decided to re-brand the entire Portland Pioneers series. It started out as primarily a sports romance, and then took a sharp left turn. Because of that, I decided to take a more purely contemporary romance approach with the new covers. While the old covers will always have a special part in my heart, I'm so excited about the new ones that all fit together. Covers for a series where the books all look like they belong together! Amazing!

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The first two  books are available now on Amazon and are FREE on Kindle Unlimited, so there's lots of time to catch up before the last book releases on October 17--yes, that's very soon!

THE LUCKY CHARM <---- catch up on Amazon now!

GETTING LUCKY <---- catch up on Amazon now!

LUCK ISN'T A LADY <---- preorder on Amazon now!

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"You know who I am. Most of what you’ve heard is true. But I'm not offering any apologies, and I'm definitely not looking for redemption."

Content enough with her life, Tabitha King never let herself realize that running from your problems doesn’t actually solve them.

She never planned on going back to Sand Point.

Or giving into Calvin Keller.

All that changes with one phone call, and it turns all her carefully constructed excuses upside down. She realizes it’s time to take control of her life, and part of that means accepting the love she's fought against for years.

Will a second chance be what Tabitha needs or will it drag her back to a place she never meant to go?

Behind the Story: EYE OF THE STORM


Like I talked about in my introductory post on this blog, I started seriously writing fiction by writing fanfiction. I think this is actually something that a lot of current authors can probably claim but for some reason (*cough* 50 Shades of Gray and After *cough*), authors don't often widely publicize those beginnings. For me, I feel no shame about my origins as a fanfiction writer. Before I wrote fanfiction, I didn't believe that I could really write fiction. I'd just graduated from college, and after four years of writing literary analysis, I was convinced that I just wasn't a fiction writer.

I'm forever grateful for the wonderful community of fanfiction writers and readers who helped me become confident and skillful in my own writing ability. That community is exactly how the Frequent Flyers Collection began. My good friend Angel Lawson, who I have known almost from the very beginning of our respective fanfic careers, and I were talking one night about how great it was that so many fanfic writers that we knew had branched out and grown from writing fanfiction to writing original fiction. And we thought, wouldn't it be so great if we put together a collection of authors who had all done just that?

That's how Frequent Flyers began. I knew it was semi-crazy to attempt to write a 20,000 word short story while I was trying to write Getting Lucky this summer, but the collection was something I passionately wanted to be a part of.

Ironically for a story set during winter and in the middle of a blizzard, I wrote most of Eye of the Storm while I was on vacation in Mexico in the middle of the summer.

Eye of the Storm began for me when I decided I wanted to write an alpha male. Jack from The Lucky Charm was very decidedly not alpha, and Noah from Getting Lucky isn't much of one either. I do enjoy reading alpha males (can you say Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh? Or any of Lisa Kleypas' amazing historical romances?), and I wanted to see if I could put my own unique twist on the typical alpha male trope.

Of course, Captain Grant Montgomery III ended up less of an alpha male and more of a mystery, not only to Tess, but also to almost everyone else who knows him. Tess O'Brien, my flight attendant with her Irish background and snarky humor, is such a great foil for him. Tess pushes him out of his comfort zone and gives him a bunch of reasons to show her the real Grant Eye of the Storm copyMontgomery III.

I knew there was no way Grant and Tess would ever have enough opportunities to either break down his walls or change her opinion of him, so I stuck them together in an untenable situation--a desperate drive through Ohio to reach the Cleveland airport, all the while on the leading edge of a blizzard-like storm.

The 20,000 word count was probably my biggest challenging writing Eye of the Storm. Let's face it. My novels are long. I like them long. I like taking my time to develop character and plot. I like writing a lot of characters and plotlines. With Eye of the Storm, I was forced to keep the lens of the narrative focused so tightly on Grant and Tess--and in the end, I think that actually made the story so much better.

T.M. Franklin, who also contributed a story to this collection, did such a beautiful job on my individual cover (as well as the great FREQUENT FLYERS cover). I really think she captured the chaos of the storm that Grant and Tess are forced to drive through, all while trying to maneuver through their own burgeoning connection.

I hope you enjoy reading about Tess and Grant as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Eye of the Storm, part of the FREQUENT FLYERS COLLECTION, will be released November 1, 2014.

Announcing the 2nd book in the Portland Pioneers series!

Long time no talk, guys! I've been so busy this summer, finishing up the draft of the second book in my Portland Pioneers series. It's done, and in edits, and I can't wait for you to read it, but to tide you over, I've decided to release the title of the book. Noah's book is no longer called Noah's book, it's . . .


Funny story about the title. I absolutely had zero intention of putting "luck" anywhere in the title of the second book, or in any other book in the Portland Pioneers series. The Lucky Charm was a great title and it fit Jack and Izzy's story so well, but I didn't want to end up with a long list of cliched titles--and even more importantly I didn't want to end up stuck being forced into using a title or a phrase with luck in it for the third book. Because, let's face it, if I used "luck" twice, I was definitely painting myself into a corner.

Unfortunately, my wonderful other half offhandedly suggested this title to me as we took one of our evening walks. And double unfortunately, I knew right away that it was absolutely, devastatingly perfect, but like any crazy artistic person, I fought it. I worried myself sick over finding a title for the third book that was feasible before the third book was even written. I waited months to announce it, hoping that while I was writing Noah's book that more appropriate inspiration would strike.

It never did.

Getting Lucky was hopelessly inevitable from the beginning.

Also, I've revamped and expanded the blurb of Getting Lucky:

He might have struck out. . .

Noah Fox's life is changing. Ever since he was hit in the head by a pitch, nothing has been the same. Fighting daily headaches and the growing fear that his baseball career is over, Noah goes in search of the woman who once loved and left him.

But he refuses to stop swinging.

What he finds in the tiny town of Sand Point is nothing he could have ever expected. A trained chef and a certified “foodie,” Maggie May King has been perfectly content to devote the last three years of her life to running her baby, the Sand Point Café. Noah’s never met anyone less awed by his good looks or his celebrity, and even though she’s the last person he should be befriending, he finds himself seduced by Maggie’s sweetness and her even sweeter orange rolls.

The release date of Getting Lucky is December 1, 2014.

Kick Ass Rec: Audrey Exposed by Roxy Queen

Sometimes, you read a book and it just works for you on every level, and you literally can't put it down, because it's just kick ass. I had the amazing opportunity a few months ago to read an ARC of Audrey Exposed by Roxy Queen.

Guys, this is a seriously killer book. Generally, I think I'm a fairly decent reviewer, but sometimes a book just makes you go ga-ga and it's all emotion and feeling and well, coherent analytical thought just kind of exits the building.

Audrey Exposed is about a girl named Audrey who has a slight problem. Basically, she's still a virgin, despite all her attempts to lose it. Now, the most obvious reason would be some deep, dark horrible experience in her past, right? But Queen doesn't ever take the easy or the expected route. No, the main problem of Audrey's is that she's too used to maintaining con10374912_246033935582519_6700749796125772070_ntrol and the panic of losing it actually ends up causing quite a bit of pain.

And as we all know pain isn't you know. . .conducive . . .to pretty much anything with sex.

Unless you're Rihanna. And then, she's kind of an exception to a lot of rules, don't you think?

Anyway, so poor Audrey has struggled and struggled, and finally, she relents to see a doctor, who basically tells her there's nothing wrong with her and suggests her for a psychological study.

I loved a lot of things about Audrey, but really what took the cake for me was how real she felt. She was a bundle of nerves and indecision and worry, but she could also laugh at herself. She never took herself too seriously. And she was so damn brave. I'm not sure I could have done what she did, and refuse not to let something so potentially awkward and embarrassing rule her life. I was kind of in awe of kick ass she was.

Graham, the "partner" that Audrey is paired with in the study has a really interesting background and I really liked the way Queen legitimately explained that background. I won't give away too much, but trust me, it's both shocking and believable. Not a combo you run across much in romance these days. Graham is also a delightful combination of absolute insane sexiness and sensitivity. He's so sweet and careful around Audrey, but while at the same time, you know he wants more, and is dying to give her more. That is a really priceless combination, honestly.

What I think enjoyed the absolute most about Audrey Exposed was how Roxy Queen took each cliche of erotic romance and made them fresh and different. I know she's been hard at work at a sequel, and I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on it.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out this amazing, amazing book.

Check out Audrey Exposed on:

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Celebration + a Giveaway!

I firmly believe bragging is a big no-no. So what I'm about to do isn't bragging; it's celebrating! The Lucky Charm has been on sale since 5/4, and in less than three weeks, I've sold 1,000 copies.

This may be small beans to some people, and huge to others, but I can tell you what it feels like to me: it feels like an impossible reality that so many people have embraced me as an author.

All I can really say is two simple words: thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Plus, a celebration isn't really a celebration without two things, booze and gifts. Unfortunately I can't really pop open any bubbly with you, but I can do something about the gifts.

I'm giving away 5 copies of The Lucky Charm, either for your Kindle or your Nook. No strings, no hoops, just enter using the rafflecopter below. I'll give you an extra entry if you follow me on twitter and pretend (if briefly) that you're even vaguely interested in my inane mutterings. But I will add that right now, twitter is the best way to get updates on the sequel to The Lucky Charm, featuring Noah Fox.

The sequel does currently have a title, but I won't be releasing it for a few months. Suffice it to say, the title rocks. And so far, I can pretty safely say that I think the book rocks too. Eventually I'll be putting together a mailing list, which will be an even better way to get updates, but for right now, twitter or facebook are probably your best bets.

Also, Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Jane from Dear Author do a great podcast, and in this latest episode, they talk about The Lucky Charm. I thought that Jane really "got" what I was trying to do with the book, plus the conversation she and Sarah have about reviewing in general is really interesting.

One last self-congratulatory post. . .Mandi Schreiner from Smexy Books did a great review a few weeks ago about The Lucky Charm but she also has put together a post for USA Today, featuring The Lucky Charm as a must-read for summer. Check it out!

For those of you that have asked about Kobo, I'm going to try to get The Lucky Charm loaded on there this weekend. I'll definitely post an update when it's live and available for purchase. Also, the paperback copies of The Lucky Charm are also available now!

Without further ado, here's the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best Week Ever.

Wow, what a week it's been. The Lucky Charm was released on Sunday, and this week has been such an amazing whirlwind of support and love. So much love, actually, that I can't even really process it all.

I've been reading romance since I was about 14 years old, and about ten years ago, became more involved in the online romance publishing community. I've seen a lot of authors debut, both traditionally and self-published, and so I tempered my expectations. First books aren't usually very good. I knew mine had its own share of issues, and expected okay reviews--if I got reviews at all.

Plain and simple, the number of books being released these days is staggering. As a debut author, it is extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd enough to even garner a handful of reviews from readers and bloggers, so again I set my expectations low.

But the truth is, even if I hadn't set my expectations so low, I still would have been blown away by this week.

Jane from Dear Author, one of my favorite review blogs and I'd say, probably one of the more influential and popular romance review sites out there, loved The Lucky Charm. She pimped it all week on Goodreads and twitter, even going as far as to give away five copies. Today, her Recommended Read review for The Lucky Charm went up and it was about as amazing as I could have dreamed it would be.

Sometimes you write for years (in this case, three), and you just pray that all that blood, sweat and tears that you put into the work will show--that the points you wanted to make with the book will come across clearly. That people will "get" your book. And Jane's review demonstrated just how much she "got" The Lucky Charm. It was a great, great moment for me.

Jane also did the incredible thing of suggesting that other bloggers and reviewers she knew read The Lucky Charm. Mandi from Smexy Books read it and loved it too, posting a 4 star review on her blog. Jane also convinced Angela James, Editorial Director for Carina Press, to read the book and she enjoyed it too.

Angel Lawson, a longtime friend and supporter, back even from when I wrote fanfiction, posted a wonderful blog about the book. It was so great to go back to memory lane and remember what we'd gone through at Comic-Con. I will never forget the look on her face when, after being awake for about 48 hours in a row, standing up in the heat, they announced that David Boreanaz wasn't going to make it to the Bones panel after all.

I can't possibly list all the wonderful supporters and reviews I've had for The Lucky Charm. I wish I could. But each and every one, I held close to my heart and cried a little.

Writing a novel and publishing it has been a dream of mine for pretty much my entire life. I was almost afraid to actually do it because what if it failed? How would I handle that kind of crushing, self-annihilating defeat? Everyone around me had so much faith that I could do it, and it was their belief that pushed me forward and helped me achieve all this. A writer is only as good as their support system.

So if you read and enjoyed The Lucky Charm, THANK YOU. You made this week one of the best in my entire life.

And if you haven't, well, what are you waiting for?  :)

Buy the The Lucky Charm:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Or if you're not ready to buy just yet, add it to your to-be-read pile on Goodreads!


PS: The paperback copy of The Lucky Charm is almost ready for order! I received the proof this week and am working my way through it to make sure it's perfect for everyone that wants a paper copy. And Sam from AngstyG did a beautiful job on it!

Endings, Both Good and Bad

Sometimes, timing just sucks. Take this week for example. Monday was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, a great sitcom about not just a man meeting the woman he marries, but a great group of friends. How do I know this? Well, C and I were about halfway through season 6 on Netflix when the finale hit the airwaves.

You know how difficult it is to avoid spoilers in today's social media-overrun world. Yeah, you know where this is going. I know a lot of people liked what happened, and a lot of others didn't. I'd be in the latter category.

I will give a caveat that I did not actually watch the season finale, and I haven't watched any of season 7, 8, or 9 either. But I will say that some of the creative decisions weren't bad, necessarily, it was more a question of execution.

If you're going to pull those kind of plot and character punches, then you've got to have development to back them up. I don't think they had that, not after 9 seasons. I think a braver, tougher choice for the producers would have been to potentially revisit their original ending and revise it to fit a show that ran seven seasons longer than they really expected it would.

The HIMYM finale also got me thinking about other finales, good and bad. My favorite show for a long time (with periods of utter loathing thrown in--it's primary dependability was its inconsistency) was Gossip Girl, which ended last year after six seasons.

Listening to fans who loved Barney and Robin together this week made me all the more grateful that when GG did end, it ended in a way that I wanted. Sometimes we see the ending we want as inevitable, because so many other things in our lives are tailored to fit our desires. But television shows?What we want out of them only matters to us, not to the producers, or the directors, or the writers.

I was sad to see GG end, but this week reminded me of just how lucky I was--to get the ending I wanted (well, mostly. That Dan revelation is still ridiculous).

For those of you who loved Chuck and Blair and their sometimes insane, but always epic love story, this gorgeous fan video I found last night is for you.

And for those of you who are like, who gives a rat's ass about Chuck and Blair and Gossip Girl (don't lie, you are totally out there), another excerpt from The Lucky Charm, in honor of Major League Baseball's Opening Day.

Opening Day was pretty much the greatest day of the entire season, Jack thought as he took the dugout steps and gazed around at the bustling field, finally active for the first time after a long winter.  Someday, when hell froze over and pigs flew and the Pioneers actually made the playoffs, the beginning, when anything was still possible, wouldn’t be the highlight of his year anymore.

Maybe then he’d finally be able to look his twelve year old self in the eye. After the way last year ended, they hadn’t really been on speaking terms. It hadn’t mattered that he’d done everything he personally could to reverse the Pioneers’ losing streak, he still blamed himself.

After all, it was a little hard to blame Foxy when the guy was already a wreck.

“Best day of the year,” Noah said, stretching out his lanky form, echoed as Jack dropped to the outfield grass next to him. For Portland, it was a pretty nice day for April, cloudy with a few tantalizing hints of sun, with none of the cliché torrential downpours that the city was known for in the spring.

Jack leaned back and squinted as one of the clouds parted and sun dappled the flawlessly maintained swath of green grass. “Only one day that’s better.”

Foxy shook his head ruefully. “Man, you care too much. Just gotta take the cash and the chance to play and let the rest go."

And that was precisely the philosophy that had landed Noah Fox in Portland. He’d played for the Diamondbacks in Arizona for the length of his rookie contract, then had turned three good years into a lucrative free agent contract for the Pioneers, catching the team at a point when they’d needed to build some interest from the home crowd. Once, Jack had asked why he’d chosen Portland, and for Foxy, it had been totally cut and dry—they’d been the team to offer the best deal.

Maybe Foxy was right. Maybe he did care too much about winning. Some days, Jack thought he might even be willing to pay the team, if only the Pioneers could get out of their own damn way and figure out how to be the last guy standing.

“It’s abnormal how you don’t care about winning.”

Foxy just shrugged. “It’s not like I like losing. If anyone’s abnormal it’s you.” He glanced down the first baseline, and Jack didn’t even have to look in that direction to see what had caught Foxy’s eye.

Izzy, her long dark hair tousled from the breeze, wearing one of those ridiculously hot pencil skirts she tended to favor making her legs look miles long. Jack looked down at the turf and swore under his breath.

“I told you,” he nearly growled. “She turned me down flat.”

Sighing, Foxy switched from his right to his left side, curling his body across one leg. “Of course she did.  You only asked her once.”

He asked the question before he could stop himself. “How many times did Tabitha make you ask?”

There was a long silence.

“A lot,” Noah finally said. “I asked her a lot. Too many times to count. And even the way it ended, it was almost worth it.”

“Almost,” Jack retorted sardonically.

“You know, while they technically aren’t forbidden to date players, it’s really discouraged. I had to convince Tabitha I was worth breaking the unwritten rule.”

Jack shifted and let his head hit the turf, staring up at the sky. “So you think I should ask her out again.”

“Depends on how much you like her. If you’re going to moon after her all season like a pimply teenage boy, then for your sake and mine, you’d better.” Foxy hoisted himself to his feet and walked over to Finn, the right fielder, who’d just made his way onto the field for his own warmup.

Jack stared at the sky as the clouds shifted above him. He wanted to forget Izzy, wanted to pretend that since he’d asked and she’d said no, they owed each other nothing. Not even a stray thought when they passed each other in a random hallway in some random city. But he knew himself better than that.

The publication date for The Lucky Charm is April 30, 2014.

Cover 2.0

New, improved and even more awesome than before! Book-Cover-KINDLE

My awesomesauce cover artist and I spent some time this morning brainstorming on how to make a great cover even better, and I love what we came up with.

As an extra awesome bonus for the readers out there (you're out there, right? yes? I hope so!), I'm also including a large excerpt from the first chapter of The Lucky Charm. Enjoy!

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When Isabel Dalton was five years old, she proudly boasted to her parents that when she grew up, she was going to be a famous movie star. Mobs of adoring fans, endless red carpets and a neverending supply of rhinestone sunglasses would be hers. She imagined swanning around a glittering blue swimming pool, shaded by palm trees and a legion of Ken doll lookalikes.

But much to her parents’ relief, it turned out that Izzy’s imagination was vastly more developed than her acting talent.

And not much has changed in that department, Izzy thought darkly as she attempted a tolerant smile that her date probably saw through in less than a second.

“So you’re actually in a band? Like a rock band?” From Graham’s puppy dog expression to his pressed chinos (“Light starch only,” he’d informed her when, desperate for a conversation topic, she’d told him she liked his pants), he was about as far from a rock star as she could possibly imagine.

“It’s not a real band, actually,” Graham, the first date Izzy had been on in eight months and thirteen days, admitted sheepishly. “It’s actually a game, but there’s this bar that makes it a whole event. Like karaoke, but with Rock Band, the game.”

He paused and she could practically see the enthusiasm bubbling out his pores.

“They have a real stage, and everything. Every single downloadable song, too. You should come with me sometime.”

It was hard to fault Graham for having passion. It was also hard to fathom having a passion for a video game. This was what men her age did with their free time? Working sixty hour weeks for the Pacific Northwest Sports Network didn’t leave her much free time, but if she had it, Izzy knew she wouldn’t be spending her Tuesdays playacting in front of a drunk bar crowd.

Izzy glanced down at the dry chicken on her plate and contemplated sawing off another chunk, because if she finished her meal, maybe this bad idea of a date would finally be over. It had been an epically bad idea to accept Graham’s dinner invitation, but even she sometimes got sick of being alone.

So she’d said yes when Graham, the IT sub-contractor who’d fixed her work laptop, had asked her out, even though she’d known it was smarter to say no.

“What about you?” he asked, clearly underwhelmed by her own underwhelmed response to his favorite hobby.

“I’m head assistant to one of the executive producers.”

Graham cleared his throat. Maybe his steak was as dry as her chicken was.

“No, I meant, what do you do for fun.”

Fun. Fun. Izzy tried to remember the last time she’d had fun simply to have it and couldn’t. Work wasn’t fun exactly, but it was sometimes rewarding and always challenging. She loved seeing the look of pride on her boss’ face when she succeeded at yet another tricky, impossible task, but it wasn’t what she’d call fun.

Fun had really ended for her the summer she’d been eleven. The hushed conversations, the worried looks she hadn’t understood. Her mother kneeling in front of her, bare head wrapped in a colorful, obnoxiously patterned turban, making her promise to be strong and brave.

At the funeral, she had decided that instead of a movie star, she’d be a doctor and never let another mother die.

That pipe dream had lasted until she was a freshman in college. Freshman Bio had killed it and killed it dead, and then she’d been lost again, aimless and goalless, until she’d come home during winter break and had caught her dad watching a Bo Jackson documentary on ESPN.

An hour later, tears still drying on her cheeks, she’d announced yet another career change. This time she’d be behind the camera instead of in front of it, but from the steady pride in her dad’s eyes, Izzy had known she’d found her new calling.

Exchanging her pre-med classes for journalism, Izzy decided she was going to tell the stories that nobody else knew:  the stories that made viewers cry and laugh and burn to be something greater than the sum of their parts. When her dad died in a car wreck on an icy stretch of I-5, leaving her essentially an orphan at the age of 21, Izzy had only become more convinced of her path. She’d thrown herself into the last semester of school, determined that even if they were gone, she’d make her parents proud.

She’d been hired at the Pacific Northwest Sports Network right out of college, and now, six years later, she knew she’d gotten lost in the job, let it swallow her practically alive. It was hard to explain to people, especially strangers, that work was all she had left. Her family was dead. Her acquaintances from college hadn’t survived six months after graduation.  And her dating life was practically nonexistent. So if she worked long hours, who cared? She didn’t even mind that the entire office whispered about how pathetic she was, only that they did it behind her back.

“You mean what I do when I’m not at work?” she asked, horribly aware of the pity on Graham’s face. He’d obviously heard the office gossip, clearly after he’d asked her out, or else they wouldn’t be here tonight. And here she was, proving them all too true.

Really, that was okay with her. Izzy gave herself a little mental shake. He was just a stupid boy, who liked playing video games. Who cared if he regretted asking her out? She regretted saying yes.

“My boss Charlie and I like to eat,” she finally admitted. “We’ve been to every diner in the greater Seattle area.”  Nevermind that this was more Charlie’s hobby than hers and that after the first month, he’d made it a job requirement so she’d stop turning down his dinner invitations.

If only Charlie wasn’t sixty five, balding, and forever expanding in the waistline, he’d have made the perfect boyfriend.  They had the same dry sense of humor, the same lack of patience for fools and idiots, and he had a way of supporting her that didn’t feel anything like pity.

And he made her feel a tiny bit less alone.

Her cell vibrated and Izzy only hesitated a moment before plucking it from her clutch. She held it up and gave Graham what she was sure was a horribly fake shrug of regret. “I’ve got to take this. Sorry.”

From his decidedly annoyed expression, Izzy guessed she was even worse actress than she’d believed.

“That’s fine. I’ll get the check and we can go,” Graham said, and the barely-concealed sneer in his voice took her by surprise.

“Sure,” she said uncertainly, feeling the phone continue to vibrate in her hand. “If that’s what you want.”

“What I wanted was to have dinner with an actual human being. Not some kind of robot.”

Along with the flourless chocolate cake and crème brulee, humiliation was apparently also on the dessert tray tonight.

“Hey, you asked me out,” Izzy retorted, resorting to her last defensive resort—the withering tone that tended to leave men in the fetal position. “If you’d asked around, you already knew what I was like.”

Graham jerkily shucked a few bills on the table, clearly deciding the evening was over before the check even showed up.  “Yeah, after I did. Stupidly, after you said yes. I thought you were just a pretty girl. Guess I was wrong.”

Izzy decided it was time for this farce to be over before Graham set feminism back another hundred years. “Guess you were.”

He shot her a look that was pure pity and then left, leaving a trail of interested gazes in his wake. Izzy glanced at her half-full glass of pinot gris and reached for it, taking a long, slow swallow, and then another. She didn’t have anything to prove—not to a room full of strangers, anyway—but her pride wouldn’t let her rush out after Graham. She wasn’t afraid to eat alone; she’d done it enough times.

It was only after her glass was empty and she was putting her coat on that she remembered the missed phone call.

The phone number wasn’t one she recognized.  Wrapping her coat around her and heading out into the cold drizzle of February in Seattle, Izzy accessed her voicemail.

“This is Carol Steele, a nurse at the University of Washington Emergency Trauma Center. We have a patient here, admitted for heart attack symptoms. His name is Charles Walker, and you are listed first on his emergency contact list.  Please call me back at (206) 555 – 9035 to discuss his hospitalization.”

Izzy’s stomach plummeted to the ground and her agonized half-gasp left her reaction to Graham in the dust.

Charlie. Her boss. Her boss and so much more. Her guiding light, her mentor, the man who’d taken a chance and hired her right out of college. Charlie, who had somehow found out about her dad and had taken her under his wing when she was still numb with grief and shock.

Not Charlie too.

---   ---  ---  ---   ---  ---

I know the subtitle on the cover is "romantic comedy" and I promise there is lots of humor, but the plain and simple fact is that Izzy's past is almost unbearably tragic, and it's shaped who she is and how she lives her life. At first I tried writing this opening chapter without giving all the details of her tragedies, but in the end, I think it's better for us to know right away what kind of baggage Izzy's dealing with.

Good news is that everything is progressing wonderfully on the back-end prep work for release, and publication date, barring any last minute emergencies, will be April 30.

Restraint - It's Totally HOT

If you've been reading any of my blog posts, it's not so much a surprise that my opinions can be idiosyncratic, strange and sometimes just downright odd. Considering the climate of the romance publishing industry right now, this is going to seem maybe even weirder. I really love restraint.  And no, I don't mean being restrained, though that's definitely hot right now. No, I mean, like, actual restraint. Like the love interests don't jump each others bones on the first page (with a caveat I will admit that sometimes this works, though not often for me, personally), but instead their journey is this crazy long slow burn. I love that. I love when a kiss on a hand is sometimes sexier than a kiss someplace else.

I was re-reading some of my favorite Eloisa James' historicals this weekend, and in A Duke of Her Own (the entire Desperate Duchesses series is pretty much amazing, but I've got special love for Villiers and his novel, the last of the series), Villiers greets Eleanor with pretty much the steamiest hand kiss in the history of hand kisses.

He took her hand. Then, without smiling at her, without saying a word, without doing anything other than meeting her eyes, he slowly peeled off her glove. It was utterly surprising--and scandalous. She heard her mother make a small huff of disapproval as he drew it off.

But Villiers didn't look away from her eyes, just lifted her bare fingers to his lips as if they were entirely alone. His gesture was the antithesis of Gideon's polite greeting. Villiers's kiss was slow and deliberate, giving everyone in the tent more than enough time to enjoy the spectacle.

For Eleanor, the world titled--and changed. She suddenly saw the man before her in focus: his thick lashes, his deep bottom lip, the hard line of his chin, the thick hair tied back and defiantly unpowdered. The maleness of his shoulders. The coiled strength of his body.

A sultry warmth spread from her cheeks and flooded down her body. Yet it wasn't the kiss that did it. It was something in those black eyes that made heat rise in her cheeks. . .and in her body.

No, he's not slobbering all over her hand. No, he's not licking or sucking or anything else. Not that there's anything wrong with those things.

Watching The Originals last night also got me thinking about restraint. Pretty much my favorite character on this show or Vampire Diaries is Elijah, played by the incomparable and insanely handsome Daniel Gillies. Yes, of course, Klaus is smoking hot too, and I love it when he growls and throws people around, but when it comes down to it, I just prefer the subtlety of Elijah to Klaus' theatrics.

Right now, the writers on The Originals have got this amazing slow burn pre-relationship/friendship between Elijah and Hayley, Klaus' baby mamma (don't even ask, I don't watch these shows for the plot).

They haven't actually kissed yet, but their almost kiss is probably sexier than any other kiss I've seen on TV this year.

[su_youtube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtVLJfRea_I"]

I love the message of honor and love.

Plus, the music is awesome. "Hard to Find" by the National.

And in this clip, Elijah desperately tries to save Hayley's baby by cooling her fever.

[su_youtube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEi5Kdu6jgs"]

What is it about water that makes everything automatically sexier? An age old question we may never answer.

In The Lucky Charm, Izzy is way too rational and fearful for her job to just jump into a relationship with Jack, even if he could probably charm her pants off, so theirs is a slow burn as well. Circumstances demanded it, but since it's also my natural preference, it's not much of a surprise that the characters don't immediately jump into bed in TLC.

So much about Izzy's journey is about finding the courage to be okay with wanting what she wants. In this excerpt, she hasn't found it yet, and Jack's there to show her all that she's missing out on.

Izzy whirled around, heart in her throat. Toby couldn’t have come back and heard the one uncharitable thing she’d ever said about him out loud. That would be too unfair.

But it wasn’t Toby. It was Jack, leaning against the doorjamb, grinning at her.

“Not nice,” she panted in relief. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“I seem to have a pretty strong effect on you,” he said, taking a few steps into the trailer and letting the much-abused screen door slam behind him.

“Don’t remind me,” Izzy said, slumping down to one chair. Her knees wobbled a little from the shock of almost telling her boss to his face that he treated her like shit and a little from the shock of the fact that Jack was here. She’d almost gotten used to seeing him first thing in the morning. There was a safeness in their morning routine; he’d never come to see her in the trailer before, or after a game, and the uncertainty of the situation set nerves fluttering in her stomach.

Then his gaze swung to her, like a magnet drawn to its opposite, the interest in his expression completely naked, and Izzy froze.

Don’t think about him naked, she had to remind herself. Somehow, along the line she’d begun to find him more attractive than Noah, and suddenly the trailer felt about half its normally claustrophobic size as he leaned against the corner of the desk and gazed at her.

He’d showered and changed after the media session, and she could smell his soap on the air—something tangy and fresh, like just-cut grass. His close-cropped light brown hair was still wet on the temples, and had just begun to curl in the Florida heat. He was so close to her chair that she wanted to reach up and smooth it down, so she could feel the damp strands against her skin.

She had to do something to break this spell, before he did anything they couldn’t take back; before he did anything to compromised her career even more than it was already compromised.

“What can I do for you?” she stuttered out, hating the way he effortlessly seemed to unsettle her.

“Do I need an excuse to see you?” he asked softly, the words hanging in the air. Izzy supposed it was inevitable that matters would come to this; he’d flirted with her from almost the first moment they’d met, but she’d hoped that maybe flirting was all it would ever turn out to be.


There's a saying that the hardest line to write is the first.  I won't disagree with that--it's sometimes half the battle just to get started, and the first line is all about crossing over from talking about writing to actually writing. But they're lying.  The hardest part isn't just the first line; it's the first chapter.

The first chapter is everything.  It establishes your setting, your tone, the characters and their baseline before the plot happens, and it has to all be wrapped up in a beautiful, enticing package that seduces the reader into wanting to read more.

I know a lot of writers lament the "middle" of a novel--where the plot stalls and sinks like a cake with no leavening--but it's the beginning that causes me the most struggle.

Ironically, it was only a few posts ago (my first post, incidentally) where I was lamenting that I had to rewrite the middle and end of The Lucky Charm.  And it did need to be rewritten, make no mistake about that, but then it turned out that the first chapter needed rewritten too.

What it boils down to is this:  in a novel, the characters go on a journey.  Sometimes literally; but usually, more like metaphorically.  I believe that for a novel to be satisfying, there's a journey each character needs to take on their own, and then if the novel is a romance, there's a journey the two characters go on together.

I understood the destination, and even most of the journey my characters would take to get there. The problem was actually where they began, more with the female protagonist rather than the male. Full disclosure: Jack Bennett pretty much dropped into my head fully formed, very, very passionate about what he was and wasn't, and loathe to change anything about himself.

But Izzy, she was a real issue. I didn't know how to frame her story and tell the reader about her devastating past while keeping the light, comedic tone I really wanted. This is where writing is really hard; as a writer, you try a lot of things and sometimes none of them work.

I tried re-working what I already had. I tried editing. I finally came to the conclusion the entire chapter would have be thrown out and I'd have to start over.

It was totally the right decision. I understand Izzy a lot better now and when I sent it to my mother to read, she said, "oh, I really like her now. I didn't before." My mother is the best beta reader in the world because she is horribly, horribly honest. Like too honest sometimes, but only in the best possible way. She pushes me to be a better writer. She also forces me to look at the logistics of things, and I know to listen to her when she says, "there is no way this would ever happen like that." When she's reading, she's excruciatingly sensitive to problems that jerk her out of the narrative, so if she tells me she doesn't like something, I listen.

The happy ending here is that the rewrite cured the problems with Izzy. She wasn't unlikeable anymore; she wasn't too tough or insensitive or callous. She was finally a character deserving of a happy ending with Jack.

So, without further ado, meet Izzy Dalton:

When Izzy Dalton was eight years old, she proudly boasted to her parents that when she grew up, she was going to be a famous movie star. Mobs of adoring fans, endless red carpets and a never-ending supply of rhinestone sunglasses would be hers. She’d imagined swanning around a glittering blue swimming pool, shaded by palm trees and a legion of Ken doll lookalikes.

And here's Jack Bennett:

“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t put your feet up there.”

Jack Bennett opened the eye closest to the flight attendant and didn’t bother to hide his grimace.

It was her—the same girl who’d already interrupted his nap three times. First, she’d asked if he wanted a refill on his ginger ale. He’d replied, observing that in his experience, drinking more of the beverages the airplanes supplied usually correlated with an above average need to use the airplane facilities and really, he needed more room than that little cramped closet with its black hole of a toilet. But thank you very much for asking.

Now, I'm sure you're dying to read more. And I do plan on putting up a new excerpt every Wednesday until the publication date.

And what is the publication date, you ask? Hopefully, all the moving parts are in place by April 30, but I will definitely keep an update here at the blog.

So, You're a Writer.

My fiancé and I went to dinner with one of his colleagues this week.  After the somewhat mandatory half an hour of technical gibberish that I’ve come to expect from one of these dinners, the colleague turned from C and looked at me.  He then proceeded to ask my least favorite question. “What is it that you do?”

I hate this question because it’s difficult to answer.  Obviously, he meant to ask what I do for a living—but of course that wasn’t the question he asked.

I could have told him that I quit my job last March, and have been working several part time administrative jobs while I revise the novel I wrote last year, all in the hope of publishing it.

But naturally, this explanation isn’t what the man wants to hear, it’s really far too complex, and while I’m debating how exactly to boil down the truth to a pat sentence that makes sense, C (who would shout this from the rooftops if he could), boasts, “she’s a writer.”

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s wonderful that he’s so proud.  I love how sure and succinct he is about it, as if there is no question that a writer is truly what I am.  He’s a tech guy, so in true binary fashion, he sees things in black and white.  I write, therefore, I must be a writer.  And of course, I’m somewhat proud of myself.  Writing a novel isn’t easy.  It wasn’t easy for me, and if anyone out there tells you it was easy for them, they’re lying.

For the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out why the question (and its answer) bother me so much, as well as desperately trying to figure out a way to start this blog without sounding horribly egotistical or mind-numbingly boring all while making out that I genuinely believe someone will read this.

Let’s face it.  The moment you announce you’re a writer, there’s a typical succession of questions that you’re subjected to.  They’re sometimes difficult to answer, but with the slight veneer of anonymity, I feel a lot more comfortable.  Shall we?

What have you written?

A novel, The Lucky Charm, a romantic comedy about a woman who hates baseball and a man who couldn’t live without it.

Wow, that must have been tough.

You have no idea.  I started work on The Lucky Charm in the beginning of 2012.  Last fall, with about 30,000 words written and getting nowhere fast, I decided to participate in Nanowrimo, the National Writing Month.  I committed to writing 50,000 words during the month of November, and planned on adding those words to what I already had, either finishing the novel or getting a heck of a lot closer.

For a lot of people, Nanowrimo is an amazing thing.  It’s not really all that difficult if you are disciplined about a daily word count, which averages about 1600 words a day.  If I’m focused, I can usually manage that in an hour or two.  Unfortunately, what Nanowrimo doesn’t allow you to do is take really any time at all to think about what you’re writing.  You’re only writing.

Again, this works for a lot of people.  They’ve done their thinking ahead of time, maybe, or they don’t need thinking.  Unfortunately, I’m a person who needs to think a lot.  You would have thought I would have had time to do this during the I don’t know, six months before I started Nanowrimo and I would have worked out all my issues already.

As you have probably already surmised, that actually hadn’t really happened.  Why is this?  I’m not sure, actually, which is perhaps a bit worrisome, especially if I try to prevent it from happening on the book I’m working on now.  All I know is that about three quarters of the way through November, I realized I had a major problem.  More than one, actually.  I knew something major was going to need to change plot-wise and I couldn’t really face up to it.

I still hit the 50,000 word mark and yet still had a good chunk of the book left.  If I even wanted to keep the words I’d written for Nanowrimo.

I remember thinking during December and January—months I forced myself to take off for a variety of reasons, burnout being one, an extremely busy work schedule being another—that maybe The Lucky Charm was something that wasn’t meant to come to fruition.

February rolled around, and I toyed with the idea of scrapping everything and starting fresh.  Maybe with hockey instead of baseball.  I mentally tried out a dozen ideas to try to fix the issues inherent in the story.  Maybe it was work-related stress or maybe it was frustration and boredom with the story, but I struggled and stalled out again.

March was the low point.  I’d been fairly happy, if not extremely busy, at my job.  I worked at a CPA firm, managing his 200+ payroll clients.  It was an incredibly left-brain thing for me to do, and when I received my bachelor’s degree in English, I never thought I’d be working with the dreaded math all day, every day, but I was pretty happy.  At least for a time.  Things at my job came to a head in March, and I had to face the fact that not only was I no longer happy in that position and at that company, I was unhappy and unfulfilled in my life in general.

Of course, C begged me to quit.  That’s the kind of guy he is—he isn’t typically a leap first, look later type, but if I’m unhappy, that’s all it takes.  He just wanted me to find something I loved.  He suggested I leave and devote the sixty hour weeks I was spending at my job to writing instead.  E-publishing was reaching a worldwide frenzy by this point, and the obvious suggestion was to finish The Lucky Charm and publish it myself.

I honestly don’t know if I would have done it if the job hadn’t soured so horribly.  Maybe if I’d continued being pretty happy, I would have stayed there, gotten my payroll certifications, and The Lucky Charm would have merely festered on my laptop’s hard drive, a foolish reminder of that silly time of my life when I thought I could be a writer as a job.

But things did sour, and I did quit, and after quitting, I had some (okay, lots) of time on my hands to figure out what exactly was wrong with The Lucky Charm.

The short answer?  A whole lot of things.  I ended up taking out most of what I had written for Nanowrimo—I would estimate about 5% of it stayed, in small bits and scenes, most of which were in a completely different order than before.

Over the spring and summer, I started on the long road to basically re-writing the middle and the end of the novel.  Like a good soufflé, the middle needs to be puffy and light, and basically support its own weight.  You don’t want it collapsing in, leaving a huge ass crater in the middle of your novel, and after Nanowrimo, the crater in The Lucky Charm looked like the Grand freaking Canyon.

I officially finished the first full draft of The Lucky Charm in late August.

What’s The Lucky Charm about?

It’s about Izzy Dalton, who messes up big time and almost ruins her career.  She gets a second chance and it’s a sideline reporting job for the Portland Pioneers, an expansion Major League Baseball team.  It’s in Portland that she meets Jack Bennett, who plays second base for the Pioneers.  Sparks fly.  I could fill in a lot more clichés, but that’s the gist of it.

When I can buy The Lucky Charm?

If everything goes according to plan (*crosses fingers*), you should be able to download the novel from most online retailers in the beginning of 2014.  More updates on the release schedule to follow.

Why are you writing about baseball?

Um.  Baseball is awesome.  I’d love to write about the Boston Red Sox, but they might not like that very much.  Plus, there have been rumors for years about a major league team in Portland.  I actually wish the Pioneers were real; then I wouldn’t have to drive up to Seattle to get my baseball fix.

So the Pioneers aren’t real?

Nope, they’re a completely fictional team that I dreamed up.  But hope springs eternal.  Maybe someday we’ll get a real major league team here.

Don’t I know you from fanfiction.net?

Yep, you do.  I wrote quite a few fanfiction stories, all under the name bethaboo.  They’re all still up.  The Lucky Charm is a completely original novel.  Aside from my general fascination with sports and snarky heroines, it doesn't have anything in common with my fanfiction.

Are you done talking about yourself already?

Definitely.  For now, anyway.  I plan on writing a ton of blogs on what I did wrong while I wrote The Lucky Charm, and what I did right (though we all know which is more interesting), and a lot of other miscellaneous crap.  Recipes, cool youtube videos, TV shows I like to binge on, movies I couldn’t live without, awesome stuff that C does, pretty much anything else I can think of.  Now that I’ve started, I may never shut up again.