Last Stop: Lessons Learned

Today is the last day of my blog tour. It’s been a fun and eventful week. Thanks for following along and I hope you learned some fun facts about me and my book. My final stop is Fabulous and Brunette, which is very fitting because I’ve got the brunette thing going and I’d like to think I’m fabulous too. Read on to learn about what writing this book has taught me.

Writing This Book Has Taught Me…

To be more open to trying new things. I’ve reached the point where I feel like I’ve been there, done that. I’ve become comfortable with the familiar. Nowadays that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Isn’t everyone trying to grasp onto the nostalgia of happier times? If you haven’t heard, 2021 is the year of the TV reboot. Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster, anyone? And it’s no surprise people want to surround themselves with the comfort of a simpler time. But after writing this novel, I wonder if I’ve grown too complacent. I’ve never been an adventurous person. I’m the cautious one, the middle child who plays it, well, in the middle. Perhaps that’s why I love writing: it allows me to create characters who do things I wouldn’t normally do. They can push the boundaries I can’t.

In my newest release, Into the Fire, Veronica Clayton goes on a journey of self-discovery. As the daughter of a senator, she’s always been conscious about how her actions affect her family. Since a young age, her life has revolved around putting her father’s needs first. She could never make a decision without thinking about how it would appear to others. How it would impact him or his campaign. She perfected the art of small talk, being gracious, polite and poised. She knows how to evade a question she doesn’t want to answer, not to let her emotions reveal her true feelings, and to put aside her desires. Because the one time she pushed the boundaries it backfired, badly, and almost cost her family everything.

She hides—from herself and others. She doesn’t let anyone get to know the real Veronica—she’s not even certain who that is anymore. At twenty-nine years old, she’s never made a decision for herself. And she was OK with that. Until he came along. Rob Ashford is the one man who challenges her. Who stirs up memories of the adventurous girl she used to be who yearned for more. As they dive deeper into their relationship, Rob awakens parts of Veronica she had long since buried. He makes her realize her past doesn’t have to define her.

Veronica comes into her own because she’s willing to push past the fear. She tries new things, tests her boundaries, and listens to the inner voice she had silenced. She learns to put her trust in others, but more importantly, herself. I admire that about Veronica. She’s inspired me to be more open and less risk adverse. I’m starting small. I finally gave in and got a puppy, which is actually is a big thing in my book. It never seemed practical and I didn’t want the mess. The very idea pushed my comfort zone. But Daisy’s been a great addition to the family. And now I can’t imagine life without her. While there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe, as Rob reminded Veronica, “Without risk there is no reward. And I promise you, the reward will be well worth it.” In this case, it certainly is. 😊

Don’t miss out on your final chance to save. Into the Fire is only $0.99 on Smashwords through 2/8. You can indulge in something hot for less than a cup of coffee.

Me and Daisy

Behind the Scenes with Romance Novel Giveaways

Blog tour day 4: Romance Novel Giveaways asked me to share some fun facts about my newest release, Into the Fire. Here goes!

This is the first book in The Elements series. I started with the idea that Fire, Light and Water are three of Earth’s key elements. They are beautiful and powerful forces of nature, each with their own unique properties. Just like love, when they come together, there is no stopping them. I didn’t have any characters in mind when I came up with the idea for the series. I looked to my past novels for inspiration because I like making those connections for readers.

In In Search of Mr. Anonymous, Lucy Chalmers plans the dream wedding of Veronica Clayton and Rob Ashford. They seemed like the perfect power couple—she was the poised daughter of presidential hopeful Gary Clayton, and he an ambitious self-made millionaire. I thought it would be interesting to give them a backstory. How did they meet? Why was she the only woman who could break through his hardened demeanor? They provided the inspiration for Into the Fire.

I wrote much of this book during COVID. I was in a rut at first, unable to focus or motivate myself to write. It was hard for me to get into the mindset when there was so much pain and uncertainty around me. But then it became my escape. It was the only place I could go where I could leave all of that behind, even if just momentarily.

This book has more love scenes than any of my other books. It seems the heat level rises with each one. It was strange writing them with a house full of people. No one at school or work. So, I’d hide away in my office in the wee hours of the night. It was the only time that felt right, like I could put some separation between my role as mom and my role as writer. After the first draft my editor told me I needed to spice things up because I wasn’t delivering on my promise. It was hard for me to tow that line. The book is a Contemporary Romance and I didn’t want it to feel like Erotica. But the premise lends itself to some steamy moments. At times I had to push my boundaries, just as Rob pushed Veronica’s. Hopefully readers will feel I captured the right balance.

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The Chemistry of Love

Today is day 3 of my blog tour. I’m stopping by All the Ups and Downs to share my thoughts on the qualities I find most attractive in a significant other. And learn more about my heroine, Veronica, from my guest post at Viviana MacKade.

I was thinking about the qualities I find most attractive in a significant other, and it’s funny because if you’d have asked me that when I was entering the dating scene, my answer probably wouldn’t have changed much. As a forty-something wife and mom, I have a different perspective on relationships, but I think the core tenants of what makes relationships work are the same. Here are the qualities that top my list:

Loyalty

Knowing someone will always stand by you is a powerful thing. When he’s with you, he’s with you 100%. You know you can rely on him for the small things, and more importantly, the big. While you have different interests, he’s willing to spend time doing what’s meaningful to you, and vice versa. He’s kind to the people in your life who are important to you and goes out of his way to establish a good relationship with them. He’s supportive of your feelings, hopes, and dreams, and you know he’ll always have your back, and you, his.

Honesty

Being open and honest is critical to the success of any relationship. This is the foundation for building trust, which I think is one of the key building blocks for a future. Because once it’s broken, it can never truly be repaired. Part of being honest is being true to yourself. And by that I mean not being afraid to show someone who you really are, and not who you think they want you to be.

Drive

I like guys who are passionate about what they do. There’s an energy they have—a competitive spirit that drives them toward attaining their goal. They aren’t the type to sit back idly, but rather, go out and make things happen. You feel safe in their presence because you know they can handle whatever challenge is thrown their way. There’s something sexy about a man who takes charge of a situation, but it needs to be balanced with a sense of compassion and not doing it at the expense of others. 

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Eclectic Review: Heat & Heartache

It’s day 2 of my blog tour. Today’s stops:

The Eclectic Review 

Long and Short Reviews

Huge thanks to The Eclectic Review for taking the time to read my book. It’s always terrifying for me to see how my words will resonate with someone else who is reviewing my work. I’ve been anxiously awaiting Sharon’s post and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her opener.

Holy cow! I absolutely consumed this romantic unobtainable love interest story filled with heat and heartache. I literally couldn’t put it down. 

Yay. Yay. Yay! I’m thrilled Sharon enjoyed the book and totally nailed the premise. I think she articulated the summation better than I did! You can read her full review here. Thanks again Sharon for making this author’s day!

And you can read my thoughts on a recent phenomenon at Long and Short Reviews: Happiness Guilt.  Enjoy!

One of the key reasons why I write is because it makes me happy, and in turn, I hope my writing brings a bit of happiness to others. However, I’ve found myself less motivated to write during the pandemic. It’s not a matter of time, more a sense of guilt. There’s so much devastation going on in the world around us. Stories of hope are few and far between. When so many bad things are happening and people are suffering, I feel guilty doing something that brings me joy.   

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Into the Fire: Blog Tour and Giveaway

I’m excited to kick off my blog tour featuring my latest release, Into the Fire. Follow along all week for guest posts and your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. In celebration I’m running a limited-time special offer: e-book purchases are only $0.99 on Smashwords now through 2/8.

First stop: An interview with Lisa Haselton and It’s Raining Books. Happy reading!

Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

Please tell us about your current release.

Into the Fire is the first book of a new series: The Elements. It follows the journey of self-made millionaire Rob Ashford and the elusive Veronica Clayton as they dive headfirst into the flames. Like its name, this Romance is packed with heat and plenty of heart.

Growing up in a political family, Veronica was governed by a set of rules that revolved around preserving her father’s reputation. She never made a decision for herself or let her emotions reveal her true feelings. When she meets Rob, she discovers parts of herself she had long buried. With him, she wants to test her boundaries and rediscover the woman she once was, and perhaps who she is meant to be. Rob has demons of his own he’s never confronted, until Veronica challenges the choices he’s made. The book is about their path to finding themselves—and each other.

What inspired you to write this book?

In the Lost & Found series, Lucy Chalmers plans the dream wedding of Veronica Clayton and Rob Ashford. I thought it would be interesting to give them a backstory. How did they meet? Why was she the only woman who could break through his hardened demeanor? They provided the inspiration for Into the Fire.

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Into the Fire: Chapter 2

It’s almost launch day! Here’s a final inside look at select chapters of my newest novel: Into the Fire.

Follow the journey of self-made millionaire Rob Ashford and the elusive Veronica Clayton as they dive headfirst into the flames. Like its name, this Romance is packed with heat and plenty of heart. Read on for a sneak peek of Chapter 2.

Chapter 2

Rob – Greedy Bastard

She’s even more beautiful in person. Of course I researched all of Spark’s staff before agreeing to take a meeting. Her photo doesn’t do her justice. She captivated me right away with her accomplishments alone. And the fact that she’s giving to those less fortunate tells me she’s compassionate. The persona on paper was at odds with the woman I met today. I wasn’t expecting Veronica to be so aloof. She was by all means professional and treated me like the potential investor I am. But it seemed that she put up a front. I want to break through all the bullshit and see what she’s really like. It’s unlike me to have those expectations, especially because I can’t promise the same in return. But I’m a greedy bastard, so it’s par for the course.

At ten o’clock the ding of the elevator door signals her arrival. I don’t have a full office staff here like I do in New York. It hasn’t been warrantedꟷuntil now. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot more time in Chicago. The doors open and our eyes meet across the expanse of the lobby. Her hair is once again pulled back in a loose bun framing her delicate face. She’s dressed on the conservative side in a blouse tucked into a pencil skirt. At least I’ll have a nice view on the way out. She is understated compared to many of the women I know. There’s a quiet beauty about her.

I minimize the photo on my screen as she approaches. It’s one I found of her and her father from a political fundraising gala. Her long, dark brown hair is loose, spilling past her shoulders and ending just below her breasts. It’s glossy and thick, the kind of hair I imagine most women would envy. She’s wearing a tasteful cocktail dress that accentuates the curves of her petite frame. But perhaps what captivated me most were her expressive violet eyes. Elizabeth Taylor eyes. They hold a hint of mirth, as though the photographer was in on a shared joke. I want that version of the woman who now stands in front of me.

“Veronica, thanks for meeting with me.”

“It’s nice to see you again, Mr. Ashford.”

“You can call me Rob. Can I get you anything?” I ask as I walk her to my office.

“I’m fine. Thank you for asking,” she says as she takes in the sparse surroundings.

“This is a temporary space. My home base is New York, so I only use this office from time to time.”

She nods.

“Sit, please,” I say, motioning toward the chair across from my desk.

She places her bag at her feet and crosses one leg over the other. She has great legsꟷlong and shapely. My eyes linger on the expanse of creamy skin. Not that I’m staring, it’s just hard to ignore when she’s sitting two feet away. Her eyes travel to the file on my desk.

“I would love to hear more about your interest in Spark.”

I was not expecting her to try to take control of the meeting. But I’m pleasantly surprised by it.

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Into the Fire: Chapter 1

In celebration of my book launch get an inside look at select chapters—only available here.

Follow the journey of self-made millionaire Rob Ashford and the elusive Veronica Clayton as they dive headfirst into the flames. Like its name, this Romance is packed with heat and plenty of heart. Read on for a sneak peek of Chapter 1.

Chapter 1

Veronica – Pretenses

I have never encountered a problem I couldn’t solve. Even when I was younger, I was able to reassemble a Rubik’s Cube in sixty seconds flat. I thrive on being able to navigate seemingly impossible situations, finding a solution no one thought could work. Like Olivia Pope, I’m a fixer. It’s only natural that I made a career out of it.

After I graduated college I wanted to see the world. Most twenty-somethings visit Italy, Spain, and France. But I’m not like most twenty-somethings. I went to places like Africa and Cambodia, wanting to help those who were less fortunate than me. I was moved by the women I met and the challenges and injustices they faced. I wanted to become an advocate and give them a voice. So I became involved in a number of non-profit organizations, most helping women and children. My father was happy to support my passion. I’m sure it helped that it reflected well on him and his political career. But unfortunately doing good doesn’t always pay the bills, so I entered the corporate world.

I still spend much of my free time dedicated to the causes I care about. And while I have a stimulating and satisfying career, good friends, a supportive family, and my own vintage apartment that I adore, I can’t help but feel as though the girl who has it all isn’t me. That this girl is playing the part of dutiful daughter and good citizen. I don’t deserve this comfortable life at the expense of others who have suffered. Now I’m paying my penance. I thought helping others would help heal me. But I’m the one thing that has proven unfixable. Someone on the outside looking in would never know my secret. I’ve never even told my family the impact my negligence has had on my life. I carry on as if everything is fine. But there’s a restlessness that follows me like a shadow. With time I’ve learned to bury it, but every once in a while it resurfaces, and I worry that my seemingly perfect life will go up in flames.

So I continue to play the part. I’ve become quite good at it. As a senator’s daughter, I’ve perfected the art of small talk, being gracious, polite and poised. I know how to evade a question I don’t want to answer and to never let my emotions reveal my true feelings. I don’t date much. The men I’ve met have proven it’s not worth my time. I’ve had one boyfriend since Kirk and, while he said he loved me, he didn’t. Because I never let him see the real me. I don’t know that he would have loved that girl.

These days work is my respite. There, no one cares who I am or who my father is. I work for a small think tank called Spark. We work with a select group of clients to help them solve the unsolvable. They bring us their business problems and we find solutions. My clients are often amazed at the possibilities we’ve uncovered at the end of just one session. I’ve come to realize it’s all in the way you look at something. I look at things differently than most.

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Into the Fire

It’s that time again—book launch! It’s always exhilarating and terrifying to put your words out into the world. This next title, Into the Fire, is the first of a new series: The Elements.

Fire, Light and Water are three of Earth’s key elements. They are beautiful and powerful forces of nature, each with their own unique properties. Just like love, when they come together, there is no stopping them.

Follow the journey of self-made millionaire Rob Ashford and the elusive Veronica Clayton as they dive headfirst into the flames. Like its name, this Romance is packed with heat and plenty of heart.

In Veronica’s words: “I have been hiding my whole life. Doing what’s expected has become who I am. Until I met Rob Ashford. With just one look into his stormy blue eyes, I knew I was lost. I’ve come to realize he gets what he wants. And what he wants right now is me. As much as I want to succumb to what he’s offering, I’m not sure if I’ll lose myselfꟷor find who I was meant to be.”

In celebration of my upcoming release I’ll be sharing a preview of some chapters—only available here. Read on for a sneak peek.

Prologue

Veronica

I have never feared the dark, but each hour that passes without any light eats away at my soul. It’s as though the blackness is slowly draining my will to survive, and I’m a fighter. At least I used to be. I don’t know how long he has kept me here in captivity, but considering the little food or drink he’s given me, I can’t imagine it has been more than a few days. Although the constant darkness in this windowless room has skewed my sense of time. I take a deep breath to quell the rising panic and a dank, musty smell fills my nostrils―it’s a stench I will never get used to. Once again I attempt to break free from the chains binding my wrists. With all my strength I yank the cold metal, but it’s little use. I’m no match for the hard and unyielding force that is meant to keep me here. My skin is rubbed raw and I know I’ve reopened the wound when a warm trickle of blood trails down my fingers. The metallic smell mixes with the moldy air and I fight back a wave of nausea.

I heave my body back and forth, attempting to find some sort of leverage. Again, it’s no use. Exhausted from the attempts, I cry out in despair, my wail piercing the otherwise silence. I’m no longer worried he will hear me. He hasn’t been here in a while. I don’t know if I should be concerned or grateful. I wonder what he’s waiting for. If he thinks Rob is going to swoop in like some white knight and save me, he is wrong. Rob Ashford is no white knight.

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A New Beginning

still-unwritten

Whenever I finish a manuscript, there is nothing more satisfying than typing the last sentence. While I don’t officially write “The End” on the page, there is a finality to that last period that signifies my journey is done. As a Romance author, my books always have a happily ever after. While the road there is never easy, I love seeing where the characters take me and how they overcome obstacles to wind up where they are meant to be.

Ironically, when I write I typically start with the ending. I have a premise and I know how the story will end–it’s the middle that I need to fill in, and sometimes, the beginning. There’s comfort in knowing how things will turn out. It’s the unknown that is often scary. I entered into the unknown last week. For the past two years, I’ve worked at a startup. It was fast-paced and challenging, but it was an invigorating experience. It’s rare you have the opportunity to help build a company from the ground up. As a marketer, I’m grateful I had the chance to shape brands that touch people’s lives.

About a year ago my company announced a merger–we were being bought out. It was positioned as two complementary companies coming together, but unlike my books, mergers always don’t have happy endings. And with my case, they were looking to scale back the Marketing department to eliminate redundancies. It’s been a long journey and while I anticipated the outcome, it’s still hard when that anticipation becomes reality, especially during these uncertain times.

Less than a week in I’m already on my search for what’s next. I have a new book launching in the next month, I’m trying to help my kids with e-learning, train our new puppy, and find a new job. That’s a lot of new things at once. My plate may be full, but I’m still restless. It’s the unknown. As much as I’m trying to embrace my new beginning, I don’t know how things will turn out and where I’ll land next. For someone who always likes to maintain a sense of control, it’s hard to manage the uncertainty.

So for now I’m taking one day at a time. I’ve always loved the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. We go on countless journeys and often wind up in places we didn’t expect. In some cases we can’t control the ending, but we can control how we deal with the obstacles. We can either let them deter us or figure out a way to move past them. I choose the latter. Starting over is both scary and exhilarating, and it’s a necessary first step. Whenever I write a new chapter it feels as if it’s a clean slate. It’s one small part of the bigger picture. This is but one moment in time, the ending unplanned. It’s still unwritten. I’m moving on to a new chapter in search of my next happily ever after. This time I won’t know the ending beforehand, but I look forward to a new beginning.

Into the Unknown

fear of the known

I hope you and your loved ones are doing well. These past few months have been a roller coaster, to say the least. My heart goes out to every small business, every furloughed worker, and anyone who has been personally affected by COVID. I am so appreciative of all our essential workers who have made sacrifices to keep our communities running. Whenever I think about what’s happening in our world the song “Into the Unknown” always seems to pop in my head. And then I can’t get the tune out, so my apologies because it’s likely stuck in your head now too. At least it’s a good song, IMHO. Anyway, that’s what it feels like to me. We are headed into this vast, new territory without a roadmap. None of us asked to be on this journey, and we don’t have the tools we need, like a compass, for starters. I am so grateful for all those who are working around the clock to find solutions. While there is a lot of dissent and a sea of differing opinions, it is something that unites us. We are working toward the same goal, which everyone wants to reach as quickly as possible.

Until then, I am doing my best to manage our household, keep my family safe, and my sanity intact. Like many others, my company is looking to cut back, so I’m now among the furloughed but am grateful to be doing freelance. Some days are better than others, so I am trying to take things one day at a time. It can be overwhelming thinking about the future and the what if’s, so I find that breaking things down helps me manage each day based on the information available at the time. There will always be uncertainty, but I am trying not to fixate on it and instead focus on the knowns.

For me the facts are often scary, so I like searching out tidbits of good news. And I try to focus on the positives, no matter how small. As we all adjust to this new normal, I’ve been looking for ways that I can give back. I make an effort to support local businesses and donate to food pantries. I’ve come to realize sometimes it’s the small things that help us maintain a sense of normalcy. So I’m participating in the Smashwords Authors Give Back sale, which offers deep discounts on e-books. I’ve always loved reading, in particular because there’s nothing like a good book that can immerse you in a different world and away from the stresses of daily life. Books are one of the small tools we have in our arsenal to offer a brief but much needed escape. That’s why I am offering all of my books at a 60% discount, with the exception of Out in the Open, which is free. In addition to reading, I’ve been doing more writing lately because that’s my personal escape. Whatever yours may be, I hope you can embrace it. As we continue our journey into the unknown, stay safe and be well!