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BLIND FURY is free!

To celebrate the February release of Blindsided, the first book in the Men of Steele series, Blind Fury, is now free in ebook.

If you’re new to the series, or haven’t read Mick and Jenna’s story—or maybe you just need a break from the real world—now there’s no excuse not to indulge in a little steamy, suspense with a guaranteed happy ending. 😉

Blind Fury coverAmazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

SHE’S DESPERATE TO LEARN THE TRUTH

When always-play-it-safe Jenna Ryan starts questioning how her brother died in Afghanistan, someone decides she must be stopped. Permanently. Her brother’s best friend—a sexy thrill-seeker she can’t stop thinking about—won’t reveal what he knows about the fatal shoot-out, putting Jenna at odds with the only man she trusts to keep her alive.

THE TRUTH IS THE ONE THING HE CAN’T GIVE HER

Former pararescueman Mick Fury would give his life to keep his best friend’s irresistible sister safe. He took an oath to stay silent about their last mission, but Mick’s will is tested by the white-hot attraction to Jenna he’s tried to ignore for years. Now he must risk everything—even falling in love—to protect her from the truth that could destroy them both.

BLINDSIDED cover reveal

BLINDSIDED (Men of Steele #3) is up for preorder now, and releases Feb 14th!

I’m excited to share this fast-paced romantic suspense between former Marine sniper Scott Kramer—who played a key role in Blind Ambition—and gutsy white hat hacker Valerie Sanchez.

Blindsided cover

Here’s a short description and a preview of the first chapter. Enjoy!

SHE’S RUNNING FOR HER LIFE

Framed for espionage, reformed hacker Valerie Sanchez has no choice but to run. Worse, when the proof of her innocence is destroyed, things turn deadly. Can she trust the sexy terrorist hunter who mysteriously turns up to protect her, or is he the real threat?

HE’S HOT ON HER TRAIL

Former Marine sniper Scott Kramer’s job was supposed to be easy. Follow the hot computer geek who stole plans for classified weapons until she meets her buyer, then let law enforcement take over. But when Valerie becomes an assassin’s target, Scott’s gut says she’s innocent. Now, he must risk his life—and his heart—to keep her safe.

CHAPTER ONE (EXCERPT)

Valerie Sanchez summoned her most dazzling smile and prepared to lie through her teeth. She unzipped her long wool coat as she approached the Westgate Defense Systems security desk before the early crowd of employees arrived.

“Hi, there. It’s my boyfriend Brian’s thirtieth birthday today, and I’d like to decorate his cubicle before he arrives.” She tugged the bouquet of Star Wars-themed helium balloons she had picked up that morning, making the shiny Darth Vader and R2D2 bounce.

The security guard, his badge pinned proudly to his chest, glanced around the empty lobby and swallowed. “I’d like to help you, ma’am, but I can’t let in anyone without an employee ID or visitor’s pass. Your boyfriend would have to vouch for you.”

“That would kind of give away the surprise, wouldn’t it?” she asked, her grin cheeky. “But, I understand.” Resting her free elbow on the counter, she leaned forward enough to give the man a glimpse of her already ample, plumped-to-the-max cleavage.

When his eyes strayed to the shiny little charm sewn to the front of her bra, she asked, “What if you escorted me?”

He snapped to attention, raising his eyes to meet her gaze, and cleared his throat. “I can’t leave my post. Not until the other guy shows up.” He checked his oversized sport watch. “And even then, you’d need someone to sign you in.”

Based on her previous surveillance, she was ninety-nine percent positive the other guard wouldn’t arrive for at least ten more minutes. Her partner Jay had pegged this one as more vulnerable and figured if she could get him alone, he’d be more susceptible to her “wiles.”

“I could be your guest,” she said, pushing the red-framed prop glasses onto the bridge of her nose.

His eyes widened. “But I don’t know you.”

“Well, let’s change that.” She held out her hand and smiled. “I’m Vanessa Rios.”

His face reddened all the way up to the roots of his receding brown hair. For a full five seconds, he didn’t respond. Then he grasped her hand in his own thick, clammy one. “John Watkins.”

She resisted the instinct to slide her palm against his. If she laid on the sex appeal too thick, he’d question her devotion to Brian, the programmer whose computer had access to the entire network at Westgate. A man she’d never met.

“Nice to meet you, John. I work in human resources at Farmington International. That’s where I met Brian before he got the job here. We’ve been dating for about two years.” She raised her eyes in thought. “Let’s see, what else? I’m a Libra, my friends call me Van even though I hate it, I have a sister, two cats, and a small apartment in Georgetown. I love living in D.C., but hate the traffic, and someday I want to do something important that changes the world for the better.”

He was giving her a funny look, but she was pretty sure she had him. “Or would it be easier if I just showed you some ID?”

A small part of her almost hoped he wouldn’t give in. As much as she wanted her pretext to work, this guy would be in big trouble if she succeeded. And he seemed nice.

Then again, if he wasn’t doing his job properly…

John chuckled and shook his head. “If you can wait until my partner shows, I’ll take you up.”

She glanced at her watch. “Unfortunately, I can’t. I have to leave for work in the next five minutes or I’m going to be late.” Frowning, she asked, “You know what? When your other half gets here, can you put this stuff on Brian’s desk for me? I was going to really do it up”—she placed a sack of streamers, banners, and party favors on the desk—“but the balloons will have to do. Oh! And don’t forget the cupcakes.”

Popping the lid on the Tupperware full of chocolate cupcakes with colorful confetti candy on top, she pulled out two and leaned over the counter to set them on John’s workspace. “One for each of you.”

The guard laughed outright and shook his head. “You’re something else, Van.” He glanced around the empty lobby, chewed on his lip, and stewed for several seconds before nodding. “All right, surrender your ID and I’ll give you five minutes.”

“Oh, my God, thank you.” She flashed him a smile as she lay her jacket and scarf over a nearby chair. Then she traded the fake license for a clip-on visitor’s badge, grabbed the party supplies, and turned for the elevators. “I’ll be quick.”

“I’ll be watching.” He pointed to the TV monitors.

Heart pounding, Valerie had to keep herself from running across the gleaming white marble. Not that she could have run in her heels anyway. She didn’t have enough practice wearing them, and they were pinching her toes. A minute later, she emerged onto the third floor and made her way along a row of blue, cloth cubicles. Based on the map Jay had found God-knew-where, Brian’s desk was the fourth one on the right.

The entire space was eerily hushed, with no sound but the faint hum of fluorescent light bulbs and the whoosh of warm air coming from vents overhead.

She glanced up at the camera stationed on the ceiling behind Brian’s cubicle and waved. Then she clipped the balloons to the desk, casually positioning them to block the camera’s view of the computer. Draping streamers with one hand, she leaned over the keyboard, giving the guard a shot of her ass. She let her dress ride up as she used her other hand to snap a tiny gadget into a slot on the back of the computer.

Quickly, she finished decorating the small workspace and hightailed it to the lobby. “Thanks so much. I really appreciate this, John,” she said, smiling as she returned the badge for the license and donned her winter armor.

“Brian’s a lucky guy,” he murmured as she walked toward the tall glass-encased exit.

If he only knew. She gave the guard a little wave and forced herself to stroll nonchalantly into the cold.

* AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER NOW AT AMAZON, iBOOKS, & KOBO *

The friends in my head

faces of eight men and women

When I started writing Blind Fury in early 2010, I didn’t realize how long the characters I created—both main and secondary—would be part of my daily consciousness. Sure, it took me four years to craft, revise, and finally publish the book, but it’s more than that.

Blind Fury spawned a series, so long before Jenna and Mick found their happy ever after, the secondary characters were swimming through my mind, looking for their own love match, stumbling into their own dark alleys. I’ve been brainstorming and plotting (as much as a mostly-pantser can) and scheming for Dan and Scott and Tara and Kurt and Caitlyn and Jason and Todd for years now.

I need to write faster—look for two more Men of Steele books in 2017, including Blindsided in February!—so I can get to all of their books (some of them overlapping 😉 ). I’ve come to know my characters better with every book, and I’m impatient to tell each of their stories.

(And even those whose stories have been told like to say hello now and then.)

Beyond the current series, I want to write about the other characters in other worlds who are calling to me, for whom I’ve also been pondering and dabbling with scenes for years. (Have I mentioned that I need to write faster?)

This is both the joy and frustration of being a writer. So many ideas/characters, and not enough time to write them all. Luckily, that means I have years of material ahead of me. But the really good news is that I love my characters. They’re partly the best and worst of me, and partly pure fiction, and I enjoy having them around.

When I started writing, I didn’t realize I was building long-term relationships with the growing list of friends in my head, but I’m not complaining.

A winter without snow (finally)

dog in snowFor the first time in six years (minus the year in Alabama, where we did actually get a dusting), I’m not anticipating any snow for winter. Nor any below-zero, ice-particle-blowing, freeze-your-face-windy, shovel-till-you-can’t-lift-a-mug-of-tea days.

winter collage

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty excited about it.

I prefer to visit the snow on my terms, and if I get the urge, Tahoe is only a few hours, some tire chains, and about 6000 vertical feet away. Yosemite, Shasta, and Mammoth are all fairly close too.

As much as I (yes, still) want to live closer to the coast, Sacramento’s location in the upper Central Valley is great because it has four distinct, but relatively mild, seasons. Summer gets pretty blazing hot without lasting too long, fall brings plenty of glorious, tree-turning color, and we can enjoy frosty nights and cool days in winter without having to turn out in twenty pounds of gear to stay warm.

And while the multitudes of deciduous trees are busy dropping their leaves, the fall and winter rains turn the wild grass emerald green.

red tree

No rush, but I’m looking forward to seeing everything blooming and unfurling in spring, even as the grasses fade to summer gold again.

Of the two countries, nine States, and 14 metro areas I’ve lived in, everyone of them has had a perfect time of year. What’s your favorite season where you are?

Great Gifts for Writers

typewriter pine boughs presents

The holiday season is here, which means you probably have some shopping to do. If you have a writer in your life—or you want a list to print and leave lying around as a hint—see if one of the following cool gifts fits the bill. There’s something for every budget.

  • Amazon Echo Dot, $49.99. I love the Dot! Sure, you can ask Alexa to order more sticky notes and colored pens, but there’s so much more. Stuck on a word? Ask for synonyms. Want some noise? Ask her to play music from your Amazon Music playlist or one of theirs. My personal favorite background noise is Ocean Sounds or Rain Sounds. She can set a timer (writing sprints, anyone?), tell you the news, and even control your lights. amazon echo dot
  • Philips Hue Light Bulb and Hue Bridge, $69.99. My husband bought me a Hue light for my office (we already had the bridge/hub). I can turn it off/on with the Echo Dot or my phone, dim it, and change the color. I like a blue tone for daylight or concentration, and a warmer tone for evening or relaxing. It even comes with color themes, like Tropical Twilight, Arctic Aurora, and Energize.
  • Fingerless Gloves/Mittens, $3+. Anyone who works on a computer a lot can attest to the struggle of cold hands, especially this time of year. Fingerless gloves are perfect and come in colors, styles, and price ranges to suit everyone. If you’re handy with needles, you could even knit them yourself. These are the perfect stocking stuffer. fingerless mittens
  • Body Blanket, $13+. Sitting or standing still for long periods of time can make it tough to stay warm while laying down the words. A soft blanket is great; a body blanket is even better.
  • Neck and Shoulder Heat Wrap, $33. Working on the computer for long periods isn’t great for posture, and writers especially hold a lot of tension in their neck and shoulders. This warmer helps loosen tight muscles and is really relaxing. I have the Sunbeam Renue Heat Therapy Neck and Shoulder Wrap. I love the soft material, the way it drapes, the magnets that keep it in place, and the choice of heat settings.
  • Bookstore Gift Cards, $1+. Writers are readers first. You can never go wrong with a gift card that lets your favorite writer fill up their tablet or bookshelf with their favorite books.
  • Coffee Shop Gift Cards, $1+. Unfortunately, working at your local coffee shop or restaurant isn’t a tax-deductible office expense (though it should be!). Help a writer out with a gift card for their hangout so they can keep the words coming.
  • IPEVO PadPillow Stand, $23.95. Great for anyone who loves to read, this lap stand holds a tablet comfortably in either orientation while sitting in a chair or on the sofa, or lying in bed. No more pillow-propping required. I use mine pretty much every day. padpillow
  • Scuba Slate, $4.50+. Know a writer who gets their best ideas in the shower? This one’s for them. 😉 Alternative: Rite in the Rain spiral notebook, $7.94. riteintherain

These are a few of my favorite gift ideas. What are some of yours?

The art of finishing

To do

At the beginning of the year, I was writing Blindsided, the forthcoming third book in my Men of Steele series (look for it in February!), while simultaneously creating a new training platform and expanding my Scrivener course materials to include more screenshots, more detail, and videos.

I set deadlines for both, happily announcing them to my newsletter recipients, thinking this would force me to meet them.

But my deadlines were unrealistic given the scope of each project and the number of significant events/changes going on in my life. I made myself sick trying to stay on schedule for both projects. If I was writing, I felt guilty that I wasn’t working on the class. If I was creating course content, I wanted to be writing.

It doesn’t help that I’m my own boss for both. I don’t miss working for someone else, but there are some advantages to the typical day job, one being that your non-writing work hours have already been prescribed to you. (Others include a steady paycheck and face-to-face human contact…)

Setting my own hours is the hardest part. I either don’t work enough or I never stop.

So, I was struggling until I read a short article that had a huge impact (I’m sorry I don’t remember who wrote it). The gist was this: You will never finish anything—at least not in a timely manner—if you constantly divide your attention. Instead, list your projects in priority order and work on the first one until it’s done. Then move to the second. Repeat.

Despite the fact that I knew this approach was more effective—and applied the same “single-tasking” idea to my daily priorities—I had rebelled against it because I didn’t want to stop writing for two months to update my classes.

But the reality was that if I didn’t, the courses wouldn’t be done before we moved to California, which meant they probably wouldn’t get done until fall, if at all. And the book probably wouldn’t be done either.

So I quit writing (so painful!) and focused on my class platform and lessons. Then I got back to the book. Now I have a new site and a finished manuscript, despite the huge distraction in the middle of my year where I accomplished very little.

Moving forward, I’m trying to set my schedule such that I can still work on training and writing, but one always has precedence. The other gets attention when I need a break.

Right now, my manuscript is with an editor, so my main focus has shifted to creating a Scrivener for iOS course. Research, craft reading, and fleshing out the next book are secondary activities that I do when I need a break. My plan is to finish the course before it’s time to work on edits.

The single-focus concept is simple, but my daily process is a perpetual work in progress, and I have to fight the urge to work on everything at once to feel productive. Occasionally I have to stop and ask myself which is more valuable: Many unfinished projects in various stages of completion, or a single finished project?

The answer is easy.

So, do you struggle to tame your project list? I’d love to see your tips for tackling it.