I just finished the edits on Renting to Own, due out in August from Class Act Books. I fell in love with the story all over again, so I thought I'd share a blurb and short excerpt with you.
Back cover blurb: Lily Champion's life has been anything but stable—until now. She has a good job, a house she is renting to own, and a soon-to-be-five year old daughter, Chelsea. But, true to her past, the ground soon begins to shift beneath Lily, threatening her foundation once again. It takes all of her determination and trust to make peace with the past and restore her hope for the future. Falling in love, however, was not a part of her plan.
Excerpt: "Lily, I need you in here. Now."
Not now. Lily Champion looked at her watch—five-twenty.
Veronica Steadman appeared in the doorway and glared at her. "Lily? Now, as in right now?" She turned and stalked back into her office.
Lily grabbed a steno pad and followed. Veronica sat on the edge of the polished oak desk, the phone to her ear. She waved a finger, indicating Lily should wait. Perspiration dampened Lily's palms. She couldn't be late again to pick up Chelsea, and she couldn't just walk out on Veronica.
"You're pacing like a caged cat. Sit down," Veronica ordered, hanging up the phone.
"Can this wait until tomorrow? It's after five o'clock, and I have to be somewhere."
"Where you have to be is right here. I'm scheduled for court first thing in the morning, and I need you to go through these depositions, make sure there aren't any typos."
"I'll take them with me and meet you at the courthouse at seven-thirty in the morning."
"No." Veronica sat behind her desk, leaning back in the leather chair. She locked Lily in a piercing stare. "You must get your priorities straight. I need an assistant who wants to work. A lot of people would be grateful for this job."
"I do want to work, but I also have other responsibilities. I can't leave my daughter at the daycare center past six o'clock."
Veronica waved a hand through the air. "Then I suggest you hire a nanny or something. If you want to keep this job, you'll get it worked out. And if you're going to continue as my assistant, you have to be available to work my hours." She leaned back in the plush leather executive chair and swiveled from side to side, oozing self-importance.
Lily imagined the chair tipping and Veronica crashing through the glass window, falling to the pavement twelve stories below. She shuddered.
Veronica leaned forward and snapped her fingers. "Hello? You haven't heard a word I've said. I hope you're more of a help to Arthur than you are to me. Otherwise, I don't know why we keep you."
With mechanical movements, as if she'd stepped outside of her body, Lily stood. Her hands balled into fists at her side. "Veronica, I think I have my priorities straight. And, you're right, I'm not the kind of assistant you need. I have a life apart from this office, an important one." She paused to swallow and to still the quiver in her voice. "I-I think you need to find someone else. I'll clear my desk on my way out."
The screech followed her from the room. "You can't just walk out. You have a job to do. You have to give reasonable notice." A pause. "Don't even think about asking for a reference."
In her mind, Lily flipped a middle finger at Veronica. Here's reasonable notice. She dumped her few personal items into a plastic bag and carefully placed the framed photo of her daughter in her purse.
The elevator made a slow crawl to the twelfth floor. Once inside, Lily pounded on the button for the garage level. She raced through the parking garage and, with a shaking hand, shoved the key into the ignition of her old Toyota. She fumbled in her purse for her cell phone and dialed the daycare.
"Mrs. Colucci, this is Lily Champion. I'm running late, but I should be there in ten minutes, fifteen max. I know. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
It sure wouldn't happen again. With no job, she couldn't afford daycare. But with no job, she wouldn't need care for her four-year-old daughter. Lily's stomach burned as she realized what she'd done. She lived paycheck to paycheck, and she'd be lucky to get one for this past week, having failed to give reasonable notice.
Tears stung her eyes and she wiped them away angrily. "Just because that bitch, Veronica, doesn't have a life, it doesn't give her the right to judge mine," she muttered, lurching the car to a stop in front of the brick ranch that housed the Small World Daycare. She glanced at her watch. "Shit."
Mrs. Colucci met her at the door. "Lily, we've been through this before. We close at six o'clock sharp. It's not fair for you to be late so often. I have a family, too."
Chelsea ran to Lily, throwing her arms around her waist. "Mommy, I thought you forgot."
"I would never forget you."
Renting to Own, coming August 15 from Class Act Books
An avid reader can become a prolific writer. Such is the case with me. I started out in my teens reading Louis L’Amour. I have one hundred ninety of his paperbacks and fifteen of his books bound in leather. I read them all, loved them and saved them. I only read one romance during my teens, titled The Daring Deception. Lately I’ve tried to find it so I can buy it, but I haven’t been successful in my attempt to locate it. I only want it for nostalgic purposes, since I had no idea I’d eventually become a romance junkie and writer. In essence, that book was my romantic beginning.
I never read another romance until 2003 when I graduated with a Masters in History and decided to read something for fun. A friend of mine always carried a romance novel in her purse and read constantly. I borrowed a couple of books from her, and the rest is history. I was hooked.
I read all kinds of romance, but only write contemporary suspense/intrigue. I had a top secret clearance in the Air Force when I served as a Morse Code operator/supervisor, so I seldom have to research, yet. I’ve done a bit of digging to confirm things I already suspected to be true, but mostly I write from experience or imagination and stick to the facts as much as possible.
I read books from August 2003 until May 2004, and I was lying on the couch reading one day and thought, “What would I write if I wrote a book?” I like action movies that make you think, a story with a good plot with a hero and heroine trying to figure out what’s affecting their lives, bringing them together, and pulling them apart. I started there. I decided to write a suspense/mystery, since neither the reader nor the characters knew who was after the hero/heroine, although sometimes both the reader and characters do know who the villain in my works is, but the villain is allusive.
So, all those books I read, and still read, were a learning process, just as everything else in my life has led up to where I am now. I was a good student, a good military leader, a good reader, and I hope I’m a good writer. Only time and sales will tell.
I wrote a trilogy in summer 2004 while off for the summer from teaching. I wrote another trilogy in summer 2005. I joined RWA in October 2005, after searching for a publisher on the internet and seeing advice to join organizations like RWA and local chapters. That’s how I ended up at CRW, but not until March 2006. Teaching slowed down the process. Darn those daytime jobs.
CRW taught me so much. My first meeting I learned writing is a business and how to write a query/synopsis. I had no idea there were such things. I also learned how extreme the competition is. I had no idea so many writers existed and wanted to be published or what a game it is. I learned it’s all about persistence and taking the steps to get there. I also learned I’m a fly by the seat of my pants, character driven writer, not a plotter.
After joining RWA/CRW I went back to those first six novels and began self-editing based on things I learned about craft: voice, passive, throw away words, POV, etc. I started submitting to agents, editors, and publishers. I took any and all advice from the rejection letters and fixed anything I was told was wrong.
I didn’t start working with Critique Partners or judging or reviewing for magazines until this year(2007). I wasn’t ready, even though I might’ve thought back then I was. I had to climb the ladder. I had to learn craft and even technical programs. I had no idea what track changes on Microsoft word was. I know. Seems silly, huh? Like everyone should know these things.
When I first started coming to meetings, I thought I was so writing illiterate, and I was. Terms most writers are comfortable with totally escaped me. I didn’t know what POV was, or lots of other things. I didn’t go to college to be a writer. I wasn’t an English major. I’d never been a journalist. I worked on a Masters in History. So my background was foreign to what most successful writers have under their belts.
That didn’t stop me. I just kept plugging along. I had no idea how long it’d take. I thought I’d submit and get published. End of story. Boy, what an eye opener the past few years have been, and when I moved from South Carolina and could no longer attend CRW meeting, I joined MORWA in St. Louis, Missouri.
I landed in a few writers’ woes and pitfalls along the way, but my writer friends have shown me the right way to do things. I submitted to an online agency, and it turned out to be bogus. I paid eighty dollars for my stuff to be looked at, and they tried to weasel me out of more. Thank goodness CRW stopped that mistake.
So my fist pitfall was a hoax agency, and then I contracted with an e-publisher that went out of business, but just kept my work and didn’t tell me anything. Come to find out, my editor was holding my ms, and after the ninety days – thank goodness for that clause – she emailed me and told me of the issues within the company. That company no longer exists.
I was allowed to pull my work from their company and resubmit elsewhere. I did. I got a contract for the trilogy I penned in 2005. I signed with The Wild Rose Press: Fueled By Instinct, Cloaked In Assassination, and Destination Ever After. My other trilogy wasn’t ready yet. It was my first attempt at writing, and I’d worked on it, but it took a lot more tweaking to ready it. Now I’ve published it with Champagne Books, and the first book released in January 2009 and made the bestseller list for February 2009 and is listed as Best Book: Coincidence, Combustion, and Consequences are the three titles in that trilogy. I also have a book published by Double Dragon/Carnal Desires: Guard My Baby.
In the meantime, I wrote another story in 2006 after joining CRW. I submitted to Harlequin and was asked for a full ms. The editor liked it, but not enough. I sent that story to an agent, along with a note saying Harlequin asked for a full. When Harlequin rejected, she did, too, but she asked to meet with me in Dallas at nationals.
I wrote another book after RWA nationals and submitted it to her. She liked it and asked for me to fix a couple of things. I made the changes and resubmitted. She asked for one more thing. I fixed that, too. She asked for one more thing, and I’m in the process of doing those changes now and will resubmit soon. In other words, it’s all about not giving up. I suppose there’s a time to quit, but as long as a writer is not at a stand still – work on something else while going through the process of one edit – then it’s not a bad thing to take awhile working and dealing with a possible agent/publisher.
What author(s) inspired you?
My inspirational author is Nora Roberts because I'd like to sell like she does, and she is good, but also she wasn't the first person I read. The first was a Harlequin series, so any published author counts as inspirational.
As authors, we know the importance of reading, but it can pull us away from our own writing? What do you like to read and how much time do you have for pleasure reading in a week?
I only write in the summer. I spend the school year editing and promo and such because I'm a teacher and I like to have large chunks of uninterrupted time to write. And I don't like writing when I'm tired after a long day at school.
Tell us a bit about your books. I have two trilogies, one is a stalker trilogy, one is a series of tough women: CIA, DEA, FBI operatives. I also have a set of six coming out; two are already out. I'm working on the third this summer and trying to finish my dragon story. Most of my working on Contemporary Romantic Suspense and so is the dragon story...with a twist.
Guard My Body (Double Dragon/Carnal Desire)
A hard core CIA covert ops expert like Nash Kincaid takes everything seriously, especially his mission to retrieve classified information from his contact, take it to the right people, and stop the deaths of thousands of children at the hands of home-grown terrorists.
A librarian with a wild side could throw a ringer into his plans, but Ayden Devlin takes most things seriously, too, even when she decides to live out the lives of the characters in the books she reads by helping her sister Leigh, a spy for the CIA. She lets Leigh insert classified information into her mouth where there’s a missing tooth, so she can safely transport the info to Nash.
Nash and Ayden meet in a biker bar, and a hit man tries to kill Ayden. Nash throws his body in the path of a bullet to save her. A bullet grazes Ayden’s head and knocks her out cold. When she comes to, she and her rescuer have to establish trust. They don’t know each other, and the mission has gone awry. It takes time to convince each other of their respective honesty and identity. It takes no time at all for them to realize they’re hot for each other, and not much more time to realize it’s more than heat. Love blooms, stoked by building passion, the flames rising higher with each new dangerous encounter. Will they survive to share their love and lives? ***
Who the hell sends a librarian to do the job of an undercover CIA agent? Covert Operation Expert Nash Kincaid - at least that's what his latest passport said - sat in a seedy biker bar, sipping on his tap beer, waiting impatiently for a librarian - of all people - to show up and make a Top Secret information drop. He scowled and scoffed silently into his foamy brew at the very balls of his friend and fellow comrade in arms, the man who'd set up this preposterous rendezvous. How the hell had Ace ever gotten it in his head that some stuffy old bookworm would be suitable for a transfer of classified information? So what if this Ayden person happened to be Ace's partner Leigh's sister? That didn't mean she could pull off something like this.
And who the hell is the amazing-looking chick that just walked in the door? Nash's eyes widened, and his blood simmered beneath the surface. He let his eyes wander down, and then roam back up, the woman's sexy form. Her slim but amply curved silhouette stood out against the shadows of the barroom. Bright neon lights poured over her sexy outline, illuminating her body in vibrant red and yellow hues, cascading over and around her like waterfalls of color for her to bask in. She wore a skin-tight muscle shirt and a short leather skirt. The shiny, sequined material clung to curvy hips, stopped inches above shapely knees, and topped off endless, toned legs. Her fiery hair hung loose, reaching her narrow waistline, flowing like a billowing sea of red. Nash wanted to grip her waist with one hand, run his other through all that mass of organized tangles, hold on tight, and plow into her beckoning body like a madman.
Okay, so maybe her body didn't beckon him, but he sure as hell wanted it to. # # #
What is the one thing that you think is the most important resource for any writer? Why? I think they should write what they know to some extent, then research when needed. I was a Morse Code operator in the US Air Force for ten years so I use that, and I coach Mock Trial and work with lawyers so I use that, and I teach history and social studies and German and I speak Italian and I've been to seven countries and thirty-six states...so I use all that.
What is your greatest challenge when you're working on a new book?
World building and keeping the fast pace and using good dialog and not bogging the story down with backstory or too much internal dialog.
If you have ever experienced writer's block, how do you move past it? No, writer's block yet, just tough world building on the dragon story.
Would you like to share a bit about any work in progress?
My two WIPs are the third of the series I mentioned and it's called Guard My Life, about a woman being kidnapped and transported in a casket and sold into slavery overseas...but the hero is undercover cop who rescues her...and he knows her from past experience they had together.