Fearless Flying–Sneak Peek

I’m finally putting the finishing touches on Fearless Flying, the first book in The Vivienne Series. To whet your appetite I wanted to give you a sample chapter–a chance to meet Viv and peek into her (very orderly) world.

Remember that you can get a FREE e-copy of Fearless Flying by clicking here and letting me know where you want me to send it. For right now enjoy chapter 1. Goodreads members be sure to add it to your TBR!


Chapter One

 I can count the number of guys I’ve slept with on one hand. I can count the number of guys I’ve wanted to sleep with on one finger. And that man is on his way to my apartment right now. Ironically, if I end up having sex with Danny tonight I have my dad to thank, or blame, depending on how this goes.

It’s 4:05 and the chime on my electronic meat thermometer dings. Perfect. Danny will be here at 4:15 so that gives the roast beef ten minutes to rest before I need to serve it. I do another walk through of my tiny apartment for a final confirmation of the details of my plan of seduction.

Pecan pie warming on the stove top and combining with the roast for the perfect scent—check.

Tools necessary for removing and storing the window A/C unit lying next to it—check.

Pristine linen sheets replaced with Walmart cheepie sheets that I am willing to have sex on—check.

My heart is racing a little but ten years of anticipation will do that to you. I check myself in the full length mirror in my bedroom one more time. Even I have to admit, I’ve nailed this outfit. My new jeans keep it casual, but have strategically placed seems and fading to highlight all my curves. My ass could turn me on in these. My tee shirt looks like I just threw it on, but I shopped for an hour online for this specific one—it’s a little sheer, hangs off one shoulder, and highlights the blue lacy bra underneath. And even through my toes are freezing on the hardwood floor I’m barefoot to show off my shell-pink Pedi. My feet are one of my best features; no way I’m hiding them today. If all goes as planned I can warm them under Danny’s gorgeous muscular legs during our post-sex snuggle.

I grab the tousle spray from the bathroom cabinet and primp my perfectly-styled messy beach waves one last time. Good luck resisting me now Danny. You’re going to need it.

At 4:15 I hear the buzzer from the building’s front door announcing his punctual arrival. I knew it. Danny doesn’t do late. He was never late one day in the eight years that my dad was his boss. Yes, his reliability is one of the reasons I crave this man. I buzz him in and use the two minutes it will take him to climb the stairs to my apartment to pull the roast from the oven and tent it with the waiting piece of foil.

I try to suppress my smile as I open the door. I’m keeping it casual. Like he’s just Danny moving my air conditioner to storage, not my undying crush finally ready for me.

He is definitely looking laid back, leaning on the door frame, hands in his jean’s pockets, looking at the floor. He looks up and shifts the tooth pick to the other side of his mouth, drawing my attention (once again) to how damn full his lips are. I swear I’m already wet and he hasn’t even said a word.

Then he does. “Roast?”

I regain my composure and nod. “Yep.”

He takes a deep breath in and launches himself off the door frame. “Pecan pie too?”

“Yep.”

And he lets out a long frustrated sigh.

     What? NO! Not this. Not again.

He walks over to the window and starts to pull the air conditioner from its perch. It’s wedged tightly into the ancient window frame and puts up a fight. I silently thank it for making this harder for him. In muted distress I watch him as he takes a screwdriver from my tool kit and uses it to push the frame back where it has embedded itself into the unit. After replacing the screwdriver in its correct slot (Do you see why he is perfect for me?), he shifts his weight back, stretches his impeccably muscular arms around the machine and heaves. I can’t help but marvel at the way his shoulder muscles flex then settle as he leans the old hundred-plus pound thing against his chest.

He looks at me, but only to get my attention, then nods toward the door. “Let’s go.”

My weak smile can’t hide my disappointment. Surely he must see that I anticipated and want more than this.

I open the door to my apartment then walk ahead of him down the three flights of steps to the basement storage area. He’s not even trying to make small talk–not asking about my job or my new car. This is worse than I thought.

I admit I knew there was a chance he would turn me down, but I weighted it as a slight chance. He could still be getting over his divorce, but it’s been over a year. She left him. How long can he mourn the loss of the stupid, wussy woman? I’ve written off his reluctance to let her go to the fact that she has their son. That’s the only reason I can see for him not moving on to someone better, someone who won’t bail at the first sign of trouble, someone with a backbone—

Someone like me.

I fumble with the padlock on the door of my storage locker. I probably should have had it unlocked already so he wouldn’t have to stand there holding the A/C unit, but I didn’t want to leave it unlocked for too long and I did not plan on him doing this right away. My roast and pie were supposed to work their magic and slow this project down so it would last until morning, or at least a few hours.

With the lock finally off I open the door and step aside for him to enter the tiny room. I fight the urge to lock him in there and hold him until he wakes up and notices what is right in front of him.

“I didn’t ask you to do this, you know.”

He sets the unit down with a grunt and turns to me. “I know.” He dusts off his hands and walks past me as I shut and lock the door.

“I had already made a deal with the maintenance guy to do this for me.”

He starts back up the stairs ahead of me. “Yeah, well your dad asked me to come over here and do this, so here I am. You’re welcome.”

     God-damn it. I did sound ungrateful, but this was about so much more than the air conditioner. “I made you dinner to thank you.”

We reach the landing with the building’s front door and he turns toward it. I can’t let him go yet. I need to have this out now. “You’re not staying for dinner?”

“Can’t. I’ve got to go to work.”

     Puhleeese. What a lame bull-shit lie. I know where he works, I know his hours, and I know that he doesn’t have to go back to work tonight. His shift ended at three and he’s not wearing his work uniform. “Did you change shifts?”

“No, but I’ve got to go.” He makes a move for the door and I block him.

The war of anger and embarrassment and pain in my head has me at a loss for words. I open my mouth to speak but I’m afraid of what might come out. I needed time to process this and formulate my response. For once I have no plan B. I didn’t plan on failing this spectacularly. All I can think to do is kill him with kindness. “Take the pie at least. I can wrap it up and you can share it with the other guys on your crew.”

“Not tonight.” He moves toward the door again. I block him again.

“Danny, I…”

“Vivey, I told your dad I would come over here and help you move your air conditioner. That’s all he asked me to do and that’s all I’m going to do.” He reaches out and touches my arm as if the contact would somehow lessen the blow. “I…,” He checks his watch. “I gotta go. I’m gonna be late.”

He pushes past me, his size and warmth momentarily engulfing me, his Irish Spring scent lingering in his wake as he passes by me. He doesn’t look back as he descended the stairs then gets on a motorcycle illegally parked on the sidewalk. When did he get a motorcycle? He guns the engine, checks for pedestrians and cars and pulls out onto Drayton Street heading toward downtown.

I’m not sure how long I stand there, recovering from the shock of that short, excruciating brush-off. I had an armory of temptation ready in my apartment and he ran after he caught a whiff of my first shot. I shut the door tightly and check that the handle has locked. I love this apartment and this neighborhood, but I’m not stupid enough to not be aware of its dangers.

On my way up the stairs I pull my phone from my back pocket to call Dom who’s on standby, waiting for her BFF sex summary. She answers, “So soon? Jesus he’s quick on the draw.”

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6 Things To Ask Yourself Before You Become The Chick in Charge

I’ve pointed out in the past that I pretty much had no idea what I was doing when I hit publish on my first book. I mean, I managed to get it up on Amazon but beyond that I was delusional, believing that books sell themselves, that all I had to do was bring my product to market and the rest would be riding the gravy train. (I’ll pause for a minute for all the authors out there to finish laughing.)

It didn’t take long to realize I had not only become a published writer but I had also unknowingly launched my own business; a business that exists in a market that I didn’t understand and requires skills that I did not have. If I had to do it over again I would because I’m actually really enjoying this process, but there’s definitely a few things I wish I would have thought through first.

Most of this occurred to me as I was reading Taylor Pearson’s article, “Why Product Market Fit is Overrated (and what to focus on instead).” In it he hit on several key points that I think a lot of women don’t factor in when they start a business, especially one with very low start up costs. It’s so easy to jump in the game that we often don’t exactly know what game we are jumping into.

Once my book was out there I started to look for blogs who might review it and I was shocked by the sheer number of self-published romance authors. Do you know your market? —the number of people in it and how those people were doing business? Most of us start with the idea stage, we’ve got a cool product, then skip the research and take the leap. In hindsight this is both good and bad. On one hand we don’t know what we are up against so we are more likely to take the leap, but not knowing can also make the first few years so much more frustrating. No matter what the business its always wiser to do the research first, not necessarily to squelch your dream but to give you a better idea of what will be involved in working in that field. Even for home franchise business (like selling makeup or kitchen goods at home parties), it’s good to know how many other vendors of the same line are in your area then look at their online presence.

I didn’t ask, is this business a good fit for my life? I’m a mom first, a job that I’m slowly being phased out of, but one I still hold at least part-time (sometimes full time). Running a business, especially in the first couple years can be time consuming. Everything is new to you. I’ve spent countless hours reading how-to books and articles and listening to podcasts so I can learn more about my business. So far I’ve made it fit, squeezing writing time in between driving my kids around and dealing with standard teenage issues, but there are times I’m cramming in a blog post or rushing to meet a deadline, burning the midnight oil to make it all work.

Another part of not knowing the business in advance was not asking what will I be doing on a daily basis? Being a self-published author is half writing but also half marketing, especially online. This is another area where ignorance may have worked in my favor because I’m not naturally drawn to social media. I’m much more of a lurker than a poster, preferring to see what everyone else is doing and keeping my own rather dull life out of the spotlight. That has changed. I still don’t take photos of my meals to post them but I’ve worked to steadily to remember to include others in my business life; what I’m working on or my latest passion (hello, Taylor Pearson and End of Jobs), generally sharing my journey (like this post!) It’s probably the hardest and most unexpected part of being an author for me.

Do I know my audience? It’s another important factor to consider when deciding if a business is right for you. Social media and marketing becomes so much easier if you know who you are trying to reach. You need to understand and relate to their problems if you are going to solve them with your product. As Taylor Pearson points out, one of his business ventures failed because despite the fact that it was a hot market he didn’t really understand the needs of the clients.

Equally important is, do I know at least ten people in the industry? The old saying, “it’s who you know” still holds true. It’s vital to be involved in your industry, even better if you do this before you hang your “open for business” sign. You are going to have millions of questions (not exaggerating here) and you will need several people to turn to for answers. Being connected also helps you to know industry changes, something that can change almost daily in self-publishing. It’s never too early (or too late) to get involved with industry groups.

The most concise and profound question from Taylor’s article is: “How do you want to spend the next four years of your life?” Because your answers to the questions above will show you what it will be like to spend the next couple years building a business. No matter how prepared you are there is a steep learning curve, and you will be deeply invested, emotionally and financially in making your business work. The more you know about it before you start the better.

One final note, while I now realize that I jumped blindly into my business and I’m paying the price, running to catch up, it’s never too late to ask these questions and in doing so improve your current outlook and knowledge. You will never get it all exactly right. Part of the fun (?) is learning and growing and challenging yourself.

So I’m asking any Chicks in Charge to share their story. How prepared were you to start your business? How has that affected your business? What do you wish you knew in advance? Share in the comments below so maybe we can help other women entrepreneurs learn from our mistakes–pay it forward.

 

Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1

When I worked in an office I always thought job titles were kind of a joke. I can’t say I stressed out too much over what mine was as long as I was doing work I liked and it came with a paycheck, you could call me whatever you wanted. When I became a stay-at-home mom I decided to give myself the title Chick in Charge. I wanted to have business cards made so I could put them in the fish bowls on deli counters and win a free sandwich.  It started as a joke, but the more I thought about it the less silly it became. If I wanted to be taken seriously in all the work I do I needed to take myself seriously.

This past week two writers had me thinking again about the work I do, all my jobs, and how I see myself in those roles. First the wonderful and wise Kristen Lamb posted an article “Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner “Bad Girl” to Reach Your Dreams.” In it she encouraged female writers to take on some male traits and take their writing careers more seriously. She made some fantastic points and reminded me that this is a process I am working through right now. I’m proud to say I’ve definitely made some of the moves she suggests in the post. The second post was by the writer February Grace. Her post “The Worth In All Our Words” addresses the question of when we should call ourselves writers and how this can be debated even within the writing community. Both posts brought up my own ideas about what constitutes “work” and how that work is valued by myself and others. This is such a huge and important topic that I want to address it over two weeks (possibly more).

This week I’ll look at ways we diminish our work as women and how we can give it more power in our lives and in the world. Next week I’ll talk about specific ways you can be more in charge of all areas of work in your life.

So, let’s start with my jobs. I’m a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), a writer and an adjunct instructor for a university. All are equally important jobs even though only one has a paycheck. There have been times in the past sixteen years when mom was my only job. Those were important times for me because I felt like I was making a huge contribution to our family and society but that wasn’t the message I was getting. Unpaid hours spent doing repetitious work can feel as if it has no value and mothering is a job that only becomes obvious if it isn’t done. To make matters worse, it is definitely diminished and written off as women’s work, something uninteresting to the menfolk and not worth discussing in mixed company. This is when my idea for my title Chick in Charge was born. Sure I wanted free food but I also wanted the acknowledgement that I worked. It helped, having a title, but I still wanted the world to give me something that I wasn’t giving myself–credit, worth, value.

Skip forward to today. I truly do have three jobs and I know I am not unique among women. Millions of us take on jobs to add to our family income. I write but I have friends who sell different product lines or make items that they sell online through Etsy or Ebay. Most of us are not making huge sums of money but that’s just one of the reasons we don’t take our work seriously enough. Just like mothering our work is often written off as trivial or unimportant by both ourselves and others. We buy into the erroneous idea that you have to be on the level of Beyonce or Oprah before your work can take priority and be valued. But here’s the catch, Beyonce and Oprah started out like everyone else. They were very small potatoes at one point in time but what they didn’t do was believe that what they had to offer the world was of little value. They believed in the value of their work.

It’s taken me a long time, but that’s where I am (or at least that’s the direction I am heading) and the first thing that had to happen is I had to decide I truly was the Chick in Charge of my life. I needed to run my life with all the seriousness and intention and passion of any CEO. I needed to set some goals and then put things in place to reach for those goals. I also needed to create my own employee rewards program where I celebrated each milestone and goal reached in a way that was meaningful to me.

Key to this whole process was to trust myself, my instincts, when it came to what I wanted to achieve. The world wants to tell you what goals you should set–junior should be reading by age X, your first book should sell X number of copies in the first month, you’re only a successful writer when the NY Times or USA Today says you are. The problem is these goals are set by people who do not know your kid or your business. Maybe your kid is a wiz at music but reading just isn’t coming as quickly. If you follow your knowledge as CiC you will know when he or she is ready to read or potty train or whatever. You will also know when you have succeeded in your business because you sold X number more than last month or you finished writing a particularly hard piece.

The other thing you have to have is a view of the big picture. You need to know where you are heading (in general) so you, and sometimes only you, will know that you are making progress. I guarantee that Beyonce and Oprah and all super successful women saw themselves in a big picture long before they were actually there. I have my big picture. I know my kids will survive high school (and I will too) and go on to live happy lives doing things they love. I know I will write more books and continue to gain more readers who tell me how much they enjoy reading my work. I also know I will be taking some fantastic vacations and doing things that recharge my batteries and keep me excited about my goals. Self-care is definitely part of being a CiC.

Which is what I will address next week. I’ve put some systems in place and changed a few things in my world. None of it was earth-shattering or huge to others, but it was all important to me. It was all to acknowledge my worth and value as the chick in charge of my own life.

Are you a CiC? When and how did you take charge of valuing all your work? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.