Friday, May 31, 2013

Business Solutions, Part 2

What the hell is wrong with me? Robert asked himself again as he listened to his father drone on about the company’s progress. Why did I ask her all those questions?

Replaying his awkward conversation with Janelle was painful. He’d never been good with women, and even he knew the importance of having some tact. But her news had blindsided him and left him scrambling for answers.

He didn't
want her to go.

He hated coming here to Jones & Co., but it was a necessary evil and he’d resigned himself to his fate. One day he’d walked in, greeting everyone as he always did — an easy way of delaying the inevitable conflict with his father — and he’d seen her.

A new young woman, diligently working on her computer. The stack of books on the corner of her desk had been ridiculously intimidating, but the focus on her face was too intriguing to resist. He’d gone over and introduced himself by asking, “Do you get a lot of time to read on this job?”

She’d jumped a little and immediately reached out to grab the stack and move it out of sight. “I’m sorry,” she’d said. “I just got out of class and didn't have time to drop them off before coming here.”

Her pretty brown eyes had taken him in, and she’d asked, “Who are you?”

“Robert Jones.”

“Related to Mr. Jones?”

“He’s my father.”

They’d chatted briefly, until his father came out to harp on her for talking instead of working, and to remind Robert of his duty. He’d fought with his father that day, told him off for treating a new hire that way. Richard Jones had been too surprised by his son’s vehemence to really respond at the time, although Robert’s next visit had been particularly unpleasant thanks to his heroism.

Since that first meeting, Robert had looked forward to seeing her. She was so different from the other employees; she had fire, and he appreciated that, even if his father didn't. He hated the thought that he wouldn't see her again.

He threw a furtive glance at his watch. She was leaving in half an hour. How much longer could his father drone on?

“Are you even listening to me?”

He looked up. “Yes.”

“For Chrissake, pull your head out of your ass. We have a board meeting in a week, and you still haven’t come up with the final project.”

Robert fought down his anger. This is worth it, he promised himself. You’re almost done, and everything will be okay in two more weeks.

Calm, refocused, he nodded. “I’ll have it ready for you to present by the meeting.”

“You’d better.”

And his father was quizzing him again for information about the newest product launch. Thirty-two minutes later, Robert hurried from his father’s office, already scanning for Janelle. But her desk was cleaned out, her computer off, paperwork stacked neatly for the temp.


The night custodian looked up and gave Robert a smile. “Need something, Mr. Jones?”

“Have you seen Miss Rosen? I wanted to talk to her before she left.”

Tim shook his head sadly. “Gonna miss that girl. She was heading to the elevator with her box. She parks on the third level of the garage.”


Robert hurried away. The elevator’s lights were lit up like a Christmas tree; there’d be lots of stops before reaching the parking garage’s causeway. But no one ever took the stairs. He’d never been the most athletic guy, but he worked out. Sometimes. Stairs wouldn't be a problem.

*             *             *

Ten flights down, he realized this had probably been a bad idea. His knees were wobbly, and he knew he was sweating. But he might catch her before she left –

God, if I reach her in time, I swear I will do more squats at the gym. I’ll do more cardio. I’ll stop ordering take-out, he bargained as he barreled down two more flights. One more and he’d be at the causeway.

He staggered through the door and paused long enough to rest his hands on his knees, sucking in huge gulps of air. It always looked so easy to pull crap like this when it was up on a screen. Reality: gamers weren't cut out for this shit. A quick glance behind him showed the elevator had already passed the floor.


He cranked his head to look toward the garage. And there, just a faint outline, he could see her. Janelle, juggling a box filled with her personal items, headed toward her car.

He ignored the ache in his legs, the burning sensation at his sternum, and sprinted after her. “Janelle!”

She didn't turn around.

He could see her fumbling with her purse, getting out her car keys, putting the box in the trunk. She started toward the driver’s door, and there was so much damn distance between them —

“Janelle!” he bellowed one more time, desperation giving the call the strength it needed.

She turned, a funny look on her face, and waited as he ran up to her, gasping for air. He held up an index finger while he tried to get enough air to talk. She leaned back against her car, a bemused smile on her face as she took him in.

“Did you need something, Mr. Jones?”

He nodded. She waited. Finally, he was able to straighten and ask with only minimal wheezing, “Do you have plans for dinner?”


He wasn't about to give up now. He’d made his mind up. All or nothing. “I want to take you to dinner.”

She shifted a little and wouldn't quite look at him. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Why not? You’re not working for my dad anymore. I hate his guts anyway.”

She wasn't convinced, so he kept going.

“And you can’t forget the Christmas party.”

There it was – a slight flush creeping into her cheeks as she tucked a strand of hair back behind her ear. She may not have been looking at him, but he knew where her mind had gone.

His had gone there over and over for months.

Heading out of the main party toward one of the quieter offices. Breathing a sigh of relief when he was away from the chaos outside. Only to turn and find her there, sitting quietly in a chair, reading some huge book.

She’d gasped when she saw him, nearly spilling her drink.

“Sorry!” he’d apologized.

“I – I just needed –“ She trailed off, looking embarrassed.

“Somewhere quiet? Me too.”

They’d talked for the next hour, and before he knew it, he was sitting across from her on the desk, taking in the way her face tilted up to his when she spoke, the way her eyes lit up with excitement as she talked about her plans for the future. He’d been stupid, short sighted.

But at that moment, leaning forward to kiss her had been the only logical option.

Just like now. Except this time, she didn't pull away. Didn't stammer out an excuse of why they shouldn't. Didn't rush from the room like he’d tried to ravage her at his father’s office party.

This time, she just looked at him nervously, eyes widening just a bit as he placed a gentle hand against the side of her face, curling his fingers around the back of her head, drawing her closer to him. This time, she made the noise he’d imagined she would as their lips met, a soft sigh.

And when he finally pulled back and asked, “Dinner?” again, she just nodded.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flynn's dating profile

Well, after Connor pushed him, Flynn agreed to post his online dating profile if my author page hit 125 Facebook likes. Needless to say, it's live and he'll never live it down. It's just a matter of time until Connor has to face this, but for some reason, I don't think this would bother that smooth-talking SOB one bit...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Business Solutions, Part 1

“Miss Roser, if you’re finally done typing up that report, I’d like to get it before we close for the day.”

Janelle Rosen grit her teeth and reminded herself to breathe. “Of course, Mr. Jones,” she responded calmly.  A few swift clicks of the mouse, and the report — which he’d requested she proofread a little over an hour ago — was speeding to his inbox through the annals of cyberspace.

No apology was offered for saying her name incorrectly. He didn't thank her. Didn't even acknowledge her hard work. For the millionth time that day, she decided she hated her boss. But a tiny smile spread across her face when she glanced at the time.

Correction: she hated her soon-to-be ex-boss. As of six o’clock tonight, her internship was over, and she’d finally be free of the slimy old man. She’d had no say on her placement; the economy was so depressed, the college had a difficult time finding any placements for its business students. She’d at least been fortunate enough to find a position with a local firm. Some of her classmates were commuting over an hour to their placements.

Nevertheless, it was frustrating to deal with Mr. Jones’s daily doses of cruelty — snide comments, aggressive body language, openly expressed opinions about the lack of worth women provided in the private sector, and so on — but a week ago she’d gotten an interview with a new company. Her second interview, this one with the company’s founder, was tomorrow morning, and she felt confident.
Literate Solutions was a small start-up, focused on using immersive technology to provide interactive e-books to adults with reading difficulties. The atmosphere there had been infectious, and she’d quickly learned that all the employees were passionate and dedicated to the company’s cause. She’d be trusted to use her creativity and literature background, and the lure of freedom was powerful.

She tried to push the thoughts of tomorrow from her mind. There were still emails to write up, final paperwork to push through for her temporary replacement, and her desk to clean out. Just the thought of that made her giddy.

The elevator dinged, and the familiar “Evening, Mrs. Mokes” directed at the front receptionist made Janelle’s heart do a funny little flip. He was back.

Every two weeks, Mr. Jones’s son, Robert, stopped by the office. She didn't know if he did it out of a sense of familial obligation or because he had to, but his visits were one of the rare high points of her internship.

She quickly looked back at her computer screen, wishing she didn't react so much to his presence. Ever since they’d almost had a moment at the company Christmas party, she couldn't get him out of her head. Which was bad, since she was leaving and he was the boss’s son.

But the sound of his voice, light and almost playful as he greeted each staff member on his way to his father’s office, was so distracting.

She could see movement from the corner of her eye, and feigned concentration on the task at hand. Not that it mattered.

“Miss Rosen, did you mean to type ‘please’ three times in a row there?”

She mentally grimaced at the mistake, but tried to play it cool as she looked up at him. He was leaning against her desk, his hands stuffed in his pockets, a winning grin on his face. Robert was everything his father was not. Instead of an aged suit, he wore casual wool trousers and an untucked dress shirt with a sweater thrown over it. The white Converse sneakers only added to his air of informality. His light brown hair was just a bit too long for the business world, and she was fairly certain that he had a forearm tattoo, since she’d caught a glimpse of something under his sleeves one day when he’d reached across her desk to take a pencil.

She was so distracted by him that she was amazed to hear herself respond, “I was trying to emphasize my point.”

“I see.” The smile deepened, and fine creases appeared at the corners of his eyes. “You meant to emphasize the importance of making my father’s coffee correctly?”

No way out of this one, genius. “Yes. That’s what I meant.”

Robert shook his head, eyes dancing with mirth. “I know he’s a son of a bitch, but will making his coffee incorrectly really set him off?”

Janelle knew the smart thing would be to avoid the comment entirely and change the topic of conversation to something safe. Like the weather.

Instead, her brain —which had decided it was already done with the internship, clock be damned — shared, “It might. And I want my replacement to be prepared.”

“You’re leaving?”

The change in his tone surprised her. “Yes. My internship ends tomorrow.”

For some reason, Robert’s expression changed. The friendliness was gone, and he pulled his hands from his pockets and set them firmly on her desk, deliberately invading her space as he shifted his weight forward. In that moment, she realized that there was something he and his father shared.

“You can’t leave.” His words brooked no argument.

Shock was her first emotion, followed swiftly by irritation. “Yes, I can,” she said. “I’m leaving in exactly–” — a quick glance at the clock — “–one hour and twenty-two minutes.”

“Why are you leaving?”

She couldn't help it. Robert glared when he heard her snort at his question, but didn't move from the desk.

Still, he was Mr. Jones’s son. She didn't want to insult his family, even if his father deserved it, on the last day she’d ever see him again. So she settled for, “My internship is over.”

“That’s a crappy reason.”

She tilted her head. “Maybe. But it’s true.”

“You could stay if you wanted.”

“I don’t want to stay.”

“Why not?”

Why wasn't he letting this go? “I can’t explain.”

He leaned in a little closer, and she caught a hint of his spicy cologne. “Is it my father?”

Oh, so not going there. She pushed back a little from the desk, unnerved by Robert’s intensity. “I think Mr. Jones is expecting you,” she said in a lame attempt to distract him.

Too bad it didn't work.

“My father’s an ass, but you’re good at this job. Tell me that you’re not just jumping into the first thing you can find so you don’t have to put up with him anymore.”

She realized she was biting down on the inside of her lip and stopped. Self-doubt was not helpful at this point.

“Janelle –” His voice had softened. “You’re leaving for something better, right?”

Literate Solutions seemed perfect for her. And she’d been looking forward to tomorrow’s interview so much...until Robert had walked in and started questioning her. And having him so close was making her feel dull and confused because she didn't want to have to say goodbye to him.

Think of the future. She straightened in her chair and met his concerned gaze. “The job I applied for is one I really like. I think it will be a good fit for me, and I like the company’s attitude toward their consumer base.”

And like that, his concern was gone. Happy, smiling Robert was back. “Good. I’ll drop in on the old man then.”

It wasn't until the office door closed behind him that she was able to let out a shaky exhalation and try to refocus on her final tasks. She erased the repetitions of “please” Robert had pointed out in her email, but as she finished it and clicked send, all she could think about was Robert Jones and his strange reaction to her news.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Blast from the past

DH and I are welcoming a new member of the family...

A new computer!

I'm astounded to say that I'm at a point in my life where a computer is now part of my business. I used to consider writing a hobby, but that's no longer the case. Regardless, now that our new darling is on its way, it means I have to go through and organize my old files for transfer.

To say there are some old memories there is an understatement.

But I did find this funny little snippet. It's actually from the college application essay I submitted when I was applying to get into the school's creative writing program. The essay asked me about my plans for the future and how my writing factored into those plans.

I was rereading the essay, looking back fondly on the girl I had been, glad to see the same optimism and trust in humanity's capacity for good, amused by my blind faith in the path I had set for myself in stone, and I stumbled upon this paragraph:

I love to write tales in which the lines of good and evil aren't so clear, where redemption may or may not be possible, where sometimes you must accept the bad times along with the good. I believe the reason life is so hard is so we learn something from our brief time on earth.  Mother Theresa was right. God never gives us more than we can handle; although, sometimes we wish that He didn't trust us so much. This belief is infused solidly into my writing. While my stories may not end happily, there is always something in the story that lends itself to the theory of redemption and unconditional love. If my readers think about these questions, then my fiction has had the desired effect.

Well, shit...

That is my writing in a nutshell, spoken in the words of a high school senior who was positive she would live her life for her characters and stories. Almost a decade after I wrote this (not quite a decade, but close!), while I muddle through the world of author branding, the necessary but horrendous popularity contest that is Facebook, and my own struggles to define why I write what I write, I discover that that girl from my past had known all along.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Call for submissions!

The lovely and talented Kate Cuthbert wants to spread the news: Escape Publishing is actively seeking manuscripts! If you've been holding onto that darling for years, hiding it under your bed, or just finished it, this is your opportunity! I've included her post about submissions below:

Here’s a fun fact: if you submit to Escape now, you can be a published (or multi-published) author by Christmas. We’re working to an aggressive publishing program, and we want stories!
I’m going to list some subgenres/themes that I’m very interested in, but please note: we publish all subgenres all the time. So if yours doesn’t necessarily fit in to the list, I still want to read it.
Here’s our submission page:
Why submit to Escape?
  • Australian location, global reach
  • Actively seeking risky, niche, or cross-genre stories
  • Publishes short stories (of more than 5000 words), novellas, and short and long-length novels
  • Small, flexible team, with the backing of Harlequin’s knowledge, experience, and professionalism
  • No synopsis required! Just a 100-word blurb.
  • Two-week turn-around guarantee for initial response
So what are you waiting for?
Subgenres/themes that I’m particularly interested in:
  • Romantic suspense
  • Erotic romance
  • Historical romance (any period/any time/any setting)
  • Contemporary romance (especially Australia/NZ-set)
Got questions? Hit me:
Can’t wait to see what’s in store-y for me (see what I did there? Puns! Yay!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Out of the frying pan...

The great news? First round of copy edits are done!

The process wasn't as intimidating as I'd expected once I finally buckled down and did it, but I can understand the trepidation that comes when work is being edited. The top three bits of advice I learned from editing would be:

1. Accept that it's a potential blow to the ego - I'm not one of these people (I've accepted I'm one of those annoying people who shrugs and says, "Duh," when someone points out I'm not perfect), but when I first opened the editing document, my DH looked at it and joked that it would be hard for him to accept all those changes. Translation: I had a lot of red marks on my paper. My DH said this mostly from contrariness (one of his many talents), but it brings up a good point. 

We all want to be good writers, and we live in a culture that expects perfection the first time. If you don't achieve that, become a published best-selling author after working at it for two months and wowing your friends and relatives and perfect strangers with your witty prose, it leaves only two options: either you're deficient, or it's not your fault, which is the excuse I hear used most in today's world. To end the potential discussion on this point, let's just say it is your fault and it's high time you sucked it up and dealt with it.

Now that we're back on topic, realize that getting back a marked-up manuscript you slaved over, spent hours polishing, and was positive was perfect has the potential to let your annoying and overly involved inner-editor to say "I told you so." And then you listen to her because she must have been right. And then you never write another story again. Ever. Don't let the inner-editor win. And if you do, it's your fault.

2. Take your time - So, you plan to spend four hours going through all the edits and approving them. I mean, you wrote the damn book in a flurry of NaNo inspired creativity over the course of 30 days, right? And now that it's finished you can sit down and read it on your computer screen in, like, an hour, right? So, going through edits should be a breeze...

Yeah, that's bullshit.

Plan that for every minute you spend dreaming of the moment you see your book in print, you're going to spend at least an hour editing before the book reaches that stage of transcendent bliss. And no, I'm not overexaggerating. 

You'll sit in front of your copy edits and plan to work on them. Genuinely devote yourself to it. And an hour in, your stomach will growl, so you'll get some food, but you can't edit while you eat, so you get onto Pinterest or Facebook or email or God only knows what else so you can amuse yourself while you eat (quickly, of course), but then something else will catch your attention, so an hour later you'll discover you're researching whether raccoons could mate with macaw parrots and breed little macaroons...

You see how it begins?

Sit your butt in the chair. Edit. Get up. Stretch for one minute. For every minute over one minute, dock yourself ten M&Ms from the ever-present chocolate snacking bowl and watch how quickly you'll return to that chair. 

3. Make sure you have a comfy chair - Just teasing...

The real #3. Trust your editor - He or she is there to make your work be the best it can. It may hurt to change some things or adjust your eloquently repetitive wordiness...ness, but it's worth it in the end when you realize that they cut in half the number of times you used the same stinking word and never caught it. 

And it's awesome when you have a comment where your editor tells you, "Not everyone would know what CoD is. I’m a gamer but let’s use the full name here." I mean, with a comment like that, can life really get any better?

Nope. At least not until Round 2 of edits hits my email.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Perfect Con

One of the great writing practices we have in the Harlequin online community is a Writer's Challenge. The challenge: write no more than 1,000 words on a given topic. It provides a great opportunity to practice your craft, since you get feedback from other forum members, and it also allows you to see how much diversity can come from one simple topic. This is one of my old, unused entries from the challenge. Maybe someday it will grow up into a full fledged story!

The Perfect Con

Jack Piper hated the holidays. He’d barely survived his latest job in the glitter and glamour of Carmel; even now, the prize resting in his jacket’s hidden pocket was only a reminder of all his sacrifices. Now that it was New Year’s, he was holding out hope that maybe his life would finally get back to normal. After he dropped off the flash drive in Philadelphia, that is.

A quick glance at his gate showed that few people had arrived for the miserable red-eye flight. Who would he sit next to tonight? A grandma with her young grandson? She glared at him, a clear warning that he wasn't welcome. No problem, grams. A business man, already talking obnoxiously on his cell phone barely one day after Christmas? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But there, sitting quietly in a corner and staring blankly at the wall, was someone…intriguing.

Normally he wouldn't have given her a second glance. Plain was her best descriptor. A closer look though showed that her fair complexion didn't require makeup, and she didn't need the enhancement jewelry would provide. Her posture was impeccable, her luggage carefully tucked away next to her, her fingers drumming on a paperback. She probably enjoyed her invisibility.

Jack made his living by being invisible. And he knew it could be lonely, so he may as well talk to her, even if the only words to fall from her surprisingly kissable lips would tell him to shove it up his…

“Going to Pittsburgh too?” 

Sarah Jameson looked up at the man who had spoken to her, expecting to see an airport worker. It only took half a second to realize this man couldn't possibly be that, not with his worn jeans and leather jacket. Honestly, he would have been completely forgettable, if not for being just a few inches too tall, his hair just a hint too dark, and his jaw just a bit too strong. The light smile on his lips when he noted her slow perusal quickened her pulse.

Not wanting to give too much information, she settled for, “Yes.”

“That’s a bit of a climate change. From Santa Cruz with its sun and sand, to Pittsburgh with its...”

Giving in to his charm, she finished, “Snow and smog? I wouldn't go except I promised to visit my mom and her new husband.”

“You don’t sound excited.” He looked her over carefully, leaving her flushed and more than a little confused about his interest. “I know what it is!” he finally crowed before asking sympathetically, “First time flying?”

Embarrassment swept over her and she gnawed at her lip. “Is it that obvious?”

He chuckled and sat two seats down. “You've got new luggage, a paperback that doesn't even have the binding cracked, and I’m guessing from how you keep shifting in your seat that you followed airport suggestions exactly and arrived three hours before your flight.”

“Are you...are you some kind of security person? Have you been watching me? Because, I swear, I haven’t accepted packages from anyone, and I made sure to pack all my liquids in my checked bag...”

His rolling laughter stopped her mid-sentence. “No, I’m not security.”

“Then how do you know all of that about me?”

He pursed his lips, and for some inexplicable reason she found herself waiting with bated breath. A slow, smug grin spread across his face and he leaned in confidentially. “Can you keep a secret?”

Jack couldn't resist, even though he knew he should. But if he didn't do something crazy, she’d stop talking to him. And for some bizarre reason, he didn't want to end the conversation. “I’m a con man,” he confided.
For a second, she looked confused. Then her eyebrows raised just a hint. Her shapely lips parted and she moistened them with the tip of a pale pink tongue. She started to say something, but reconsidered.

Maybe she was going to make some comment about that being a poor joke, or she’d string him along for a bit before she realized he was serious; he wasn't counting on that though, since she looked more like a church mouse than a flirt.

Instead she surprised him.

Relief flitted across her face before turning into a spine-tingling look of sheer canniness. “You’re a con man?”

He nodded. She really wasn't reacting the way he’d expected.

She shook her head. Sprawling back in the uncomfortable seat, Jack was fully aware that his grin had widened and he was itching for some sort of argument. Which was crazy, since he never let a woman get him riled. But something about this one set fire to his blood.

He didn't immediately catch that she wasn't trying to argue. Instead, she was asking, “How much would it cost to hire you for this weekend?”

“Excuse me?”

“I need to hire you.”


Her eyes narrowed and those full lips tilted downward. “Because I refuse to show up at home without a man by my side.”

“Interesting. Why not?”

“My mom’s husband is my ex-boyfriend from college.”


That earned him a wary look. “Do you really think I could make something like that up?”

“Not unless you’re the best con artist I've ever met, lady.”

“Would you do it?”

Sarah knew her question was ridiculous, but she was desperate and this man - this stranger Fate had thrown into her path - seemed the perfect answer. Still, it would make sense if he refused her or even laughed in her face.

She did not expect him to pause momentarily before casually answering, “Why not? I have a few days to kill.”

“You’ll do it?”

His eyes caressed her figure once more and he added, “For a price.”

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

3 months to go

It's hard to believe that in three months Red Moon will be released. I'm nearing that final stage of editing, when I've been away from the manuscript for long enough that I'm sure I'll look back over the changes and wonder how I missed those the first time through. I'm excited to see the story in black and white, but what I'm looking forward to most is seeing the cover art Escape Publishing is putting together for my novel.

I've always been a visual person. My DH was sweet enough to help me put up a bulletin board near my writing desk, which is currently covered with pictures of the Sinclair boys and Rhys Donovan from Muse of Fire. It's gotten some awkward looks before from visitors to our house (I mean, there is a huge board of rather swoon-worthy men just sitting there out in the open and DH and I don't act like it's a big deal), but when I type, I tend to let my eyes wander. If they wander to on-topic pictures, there's no harm done.

Pinterest has also become a new obsession/organization tool. Instead of collecting tangible clutter, I collect digital clutter. But it also serves as a place to go when I need inspiration.

That's why I can't wait to see Red Moon's cover. I've had those pictures in my head so clearly, and knowing that someone else is recreating those characters, the moments that make them tick, gives me shivers. It makes this entire journey real.

Not to mention, Escape creates the most fantastic covers! Browsing the art is well worth the time. I've included some of my favorites below (trust me, if there were space, I'd be including even more)...

See what I mean? 

I love all the covers that have come out for Escape books...there's always a little detail that makes the cover stand out, or the way the relationship between characters is shown, or the font that's used that hooks my attention.

So, in not too long, I'll be posting Red Moon's cover to this blog and doing a happy dance in my living room. Hopefully you'll be just as excited!