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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.

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.

Author In Progress: your writing friend in a book

Author in Progress coverAuthor In Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published is officially out today from Writer’s Digest books! This is the book I wish I’d had when I first started writing (and still need today). It’s like a writer friend in written form, always there with exactly the advice you need, when you need it.

More than fifty authors from the Writer Unboxed community contributed chapters to this book. Mine is called “Light It Up—Don’t Burn It Down: What to do When You Think You Can’t Write Another Word.” In it, I give you my best advice on how to keep going when you start to hate your manuscript.

Others—including James Scott Bell, Therese Walsh, Donald Maass, Heather Webb, Jane Friedman, David Corbett, and Lisa Cron—tackle topics like choosing your story, finding your process, productivity, characterization, writer’s block, critiques, conferences, revisions, envy, health, finding writer friends, perseverance, and publication.

There is so much goodness throughout Author In Progress that I hope you’ll check it out. Maybe add it to your holiday wish list, or put it in another writer friend’s stocking. 🙂

P.S. Several of the AIP authors—including me—participated in a Twitter chat earlier today. If you’d like to read back through the Q&A, just search for #WDchat.

What part of writing/writing life do you struggle with? Which writing books have become your virtual friend?

Getting back to writing (and giving myself a pass)

WRITE spelled out in block lettersI love writing. L-O-V-E it. The need to build a world, delve into a character’s feelings, create a mood, or explain a concept in a down-to-earth way (often with a bit of humor, and lots of em dashes and parentheses) has lived in me since at least seventh grade.

But that doesn’t mean I always sit down and do it, even when I theoretically have the time. A deployment, a new training platform, a high school graduation, my husband’s retirement from the Air Force, and a Boston-to-Sacramento move took far more of my mental energy over the last year than I expected. I got a little off track, a little out of routine, and my word count plummeted.

But now I’m out of hotels, into my home office, back on an irregular regular writing schedule, and most importantly, mentally back on track.

I’ve written on 17 of the last 18 days and produced more than 11,000 good words on my current WIP. *insert happy dance*

It feels fantastic. There is nothing like finally seeing forward progress in the story—my hero and heroine finally left the damn airport!—after months of going nowhere.

It’s more than being productive in a way that matters to me, but being immersed in my story daily, even if just for fifteen minutes. That daily attention keeps the ideas rolling in, and makes it easier to take advantage of the small gaps in my day where I can fit in a few words, because I haven’t forgotten where my characters are. Or who they are. Writing frequently brings back the joy I had when I first started.

That joy is worth more than gold. (Well, except you can’t buy books with it. Sigh.)

This is a lesson I seem to have to learn over and over, unfortunately.

But another lesson I’ve learned recently (also, again) is that sometimes I need to turn off the pressure valve and simply enjoy the distractions in my life. The last year has been crazy busy, but full of other moments that brought joy, some of them the last with my youngest son before he goes to college. Before we become empty nesters.

Before I theoretically have a lot more time to write. Again.

What gets in the way of your writing? How do you turn things around?

Scrivener for iPad and iPhone is here (TLDR: I love it!)

corkboard with picture cardsFinally!

For years now, iPad® users have been begging Literature and Latte for a Scrivener app for iPad and iPhone®. It took a few years longer than planned (for a variety of reasons), but (I’m guessing you’ve already heard) the Scrivener app is finally here, and it’s pretty awesome.

The app combines the familiar, easy functionality of iOS with the best of Scrivener’s features.

And it works with both the Mac and Windows versions of Scrivener.

extended keyboard and adding annotations

What’s In It?

The Binder, Corkboard (iPad only), and Inspector are there. You can set goals and track progress (with a cool new look), add comments and annotations, color code your documents, apply Label and Status values, add document notes, and even compile your work. And lots more.

In many ways the app is more intuitive than the original software, though some of the best editing features may elude users until they discover the extended keyboard.

progress bar

Honestly, I wasn’t one of those who craved Scrivener for iOS—I’ve always preferred writing on my laptop when on the go—but this app is a game changer. Assuming I’ve already synced my projects through Dropbox (and have wifi or cell access) I can simply open the project on my phone or iPad and tap out my thoughts.

I can even create a new project right in the app and sync it with my computer later.

So now I can leave my laptop at home when I want to travel light and still get some writing done. I’m already seeing the possibilities, especially after spending the last month moving/traveling (with a couple more weeks to go before we’re in our house).

the inspector open

The Deets

Interested? Search for “Scrivener” on the App Store® (beware of imitators, you want the app from Literature & Latte) and buy it today. Or click here for a direct link. At $19.99, I think it’s more than worth it.

In fact, the functionality is so good, you could use it as a standalone program, without syncing to a computer at all if that’s your preference.

Before You Start

I strongly recommend at least skimming through the built-in tutorial, especially the part on syncing. Most of the questions I’ve seen in user groups about syncing today could have been answered with a quick read-through. We all want to jump in and play, but you’ll have much more fun—and less stress—if you take a few minutes to educate yourself first.

A few notes:

– Before you try to sync, you must update your desktop/laptop software to the latest version (Mac and/or Windows).

– You also need to have/get a Dropbox account (if you use this referral link, we both get an extra 500MB of storage, but no pressure!) and install Dropbox on all the computers/devices you plan to use with Scrivener.

– Remember that when you finish working on a project on your iOS device, you must click the sync button in the navigation bar before trying to open it on another computer/device. Likewise, ensure that a project on your desktop/laptop has synced to Dropbox before trying to open it on your iPad or iPhone.

– Probably obvious, but for syncing to work properly, you must have an Internet connection on all affected devices.

Have fun writing on the go!

Are you using Scrivener for iOS yet? What do you think?

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, check out Scrivener For Dummies, read more Scrivener articles, or ask me about private training.