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October’s over already?

view of Surrey/Vancouver from hotel

Surrey/Vancouver from the 19th floor.

October’s been fun, but super busy. The manuscript for book four in the Men of Steele series is back from the editor with great revision notes that I’ll be working on before a few more eyes take a last-minute look at it.

This is Kurt and Caitlyn’s long-awaited story, and I can’t wait to bring it to you in January.

While my editor had her red pen out, I was getting for my trip to the Surrey International Writers Conference (SiWC) in British Columbia, Canada. As prep for one of my workshops, I updated—and added another small section to—Productivity Tools for Writers. Look for the second edition, free at your favorite online retailer. And if you find it useful, would you consider leaving a review?

Productivity Tools for Writers, 2nd ed cover

For those who’ve asked, I plan to publish a print version soon.

SiWC was fantastic. Friendly, diverse, and full of energy. I was so busy giving my own workshops, giving blue pencil sessions (quick reads with feedback), fitting in an occasional run and some fresh air, and recovering from the crowd that I didn’t make it to many workshops. But the keynote speakers were amazing.

blurry photo of Steven Tyler and others at Vancouver airport

Steven Tyler (red jacket) at the airport. Blurry because I was trying to be discreet, LOL.

A few highlights include meeting Diana Gabaldon of Outlander fame in the elevator, and seeing Steven Tyler of Aerosmith at the Vancouver airport on my way home. I also met or reconnected with many other cool people, some of whom I “knew” in person or through social media, and many more who were new to me. I enjoyed them all.

pic of Gwen Hernandez and Kim Strom

Me with awesome creative coach Kim Strom.

For the most part, writers are just plain nice people, and there’s nothing like being surrounded by hundreds of people who “get” you.

Mary Robinette Kowal and her puppet at lectern

Mary Robinette Kowal–well, actually her puppet–giving a keynote.

By the way, you have to check out Tetsuro Shigematsu. This broadcaster, actor, and playwright gave a tear-jerker of a keynote speech about his father—most of the speakers had us alternating between laughing and crying, especially Liza Palmer and Mary Robinette Kowal—and has the best facial hair and wardrobe ever. (Sorry, my pics didn't turn out.) I’d listen to him read just about anything, and I hope his play Empire of the Son comes to the U.S. one of these days. I’ll be first in line.

Now, I’m trying to catch up on my work stuff. Today, my latest Scrivener post went up at Writer Unboxed, complete with video. It’s called “4 Ways to Make Notes in Scrivener” and covers annotations, comments, and document/project notes. I hope you’ll check it out.

empty airport terminal

Deserted international terminal connector in Vancouver. Scary.

Happy Halloween!

End-of-summer news

computer on table under fall leavesSummer’s over—I hope yours was great!—and my boys are both back at school, my dog is moping around because her buddies are gone, and I finally finished the first (and second) draft of book 4 in my Men of Steele series.

I’m so excited to get Kurt and Caitlyn’s story out there! (Probably January by the time it gets through rounds of editorial, cover art, etc.) I love this couple as much as my readers, but for some reason their story has been the most difficult to write, with several false starts over the last couple of years.

If you’re on my romance newsletter list, you’ll hear from me a few times between now and January with some sneak peeks and maybe a special request.

Book 4 has pretty much been my sole focus for the last two months, but for my Scrivener folks, I’m also working on some new courses—the transition course will be free—and maybe a book. If you use Scrivener, you probably know that version 3 is coming (for Mac this year, and Windows in 2018). It has some really cool updates and features that I can’t talk about yet, but if you’re curious, definitely check out Literature & Latte’s posts on the topic at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/blog/.

If you want to find out when I have new offerings, be sure to sign up for my Scrivener newsletter, or check back here from time to time (you can also subscribe to this blog in the right-hand sidebar at the bottom).

The only other new thing with me is that I got a haircut and it came out much too short (chin length instead of shoulder length, ouch). But it feels good and dries quickly, so there’s that.

Have a wonderful autumn (or spring, if you’re down south)!

BLINDSIDED is out now!

Happy Valentine's Day!

What better way to celebrate than with a new romance? I hope you love Blindsided as much as I enjoyed writing it. 🙂

Blindsided cover

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.

💕

Get Blindsided now in ebook or print at your favorite retailer, and check out my book page for fun facts and an excerpt.

Amazon | NookiBooks | Kobo

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 *

Blindsided cover

Blindsided

Men of Steele, Book 3

Blindsided cover

A hacker framed for espionage. A sniper hot on her trail. Enemies who can't resist falling in love.

Framed for divulging state secrets, reformed hacker Valerie Sanchez has no choice but to run. Worse, when the proof of her innocence is destroyed, things turn fatal. She must decide if the sexy terrorist hunter who mysteriously turns up to protect her is an ally or the real threat.

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.

In ebook and paperback at: Amazon | Apple Books | Nook | Kobo | Google Play | Walmart | Goodreads

Fun Facts:

  • In Blindsided, Valerie works for a company called Aggressor, but I had originally called it Red Team. Why? Because, in penetration testing (i.e. testing a company's or computer network's resistance to invaders) and military training exercises, the red team is the one that plays the enemy. But it turned out that Red Team is a popular company name in real life, and it's been used in a couple of fiction series as well. So, I asked my husband (retired Air Force) for ideas, and he came up with “aggressor.” An aggressor squadron is the one trained to act like the enemy in military war games. Perfect!
  • The city of Zachari is a fictionalized version of Oxnard, California (so I could take some liberties with it). According to Wikipedia, sugar magnate Henry Oxnard originally wanted to name the town Zachari—the Greek word for sugar—but encountered too much bureaucracy, so he named it after himself instead. So, this one's for you, Henry. Here's a picture of Oxnard from the beach.
city of Oxnard, CA
Adobe stock image
  • Four Corners, California is also part of my imagination, but would be in the Central Valley, near Yosemite, in the vicinity of Visalia.
  • Scott is the only hero in the Men of Steele universe (so far) who is not a former Air Force pararescueman (aka PJ). Don't ask me why, he just came to me as a Marine scout sniper.
  • I lived in San Diego for two years in college, and it's always been one of my favorite cities. When I wanted a break from the beach (say, what?), I would sometimes hang out at the Botanical Building in Balboa Park. In Blindsided, Valerie and Scott make a stop here to meet someone.
Botanical building at Balboa Park in San Diego
Adobe stock image
  • Scott listens to indie/alt rock—and has pretty much built a wardrobe from T-shirts displaying his favorite bands—and both he and Valerie share some of my own taste in music. My playlist while writing this book included “Starstruck” by Santigold, “Renegades” by X Ambassadors, “First” by Cold War Kids, “Waves” by Blondfire, and “Ophelia” by The Lumineers.
  • Want more Scott Kramer? Check out this interview with him at Read Your Writes (explicit, because he's foul-mouthed 😉 ).

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Bethesda, MD
Friday, 7:00 a.m.

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 laid 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.

Published: February 2017, ISBN 9780991607327

Previous book in the series: Blind Ambition ~ Next book in the series: Running Blind