Midweek #ROW80 Progress Report

Operation Goddess In Training

I have…nothing to actually report on this progress report.  The last day I wrote was Sunday.  I’m up to the 2 scene midpoint of this novella, and I’ve dropped everything to help a close friend who is going through some major life upheaval.  This would be that life stuff I’m always preaching about.

Meanwhile, on the Operation Goddess In Training front things have been going well at the gym.  This is all about establishing routine.  I’m in my 3rd week of a 6 week lifting program (technically 4th but I took off most of last week due to injury), and 3rd week of C25K.  And so far I’m seeing modest progress on the scale (without doing anything but swapping to the smaller plates).

I had a really demoralizing experience in the J.C. Penny dressing room a couple weeks back.  It’s worth prefacing this by saying that I generally have a pretty positive body image.  I’m not the skinniest, and I’ve gotten fluffier and flabbier than I’d like to be, but in general, I feel okay about how I look.  So in conjunction with all the back-to-school stuff, there have been big sales, and I was trying on some stuff in the dressing room, which had multiple mirrors in such a way that you can actually see 360 degrees of your body.  And I’m standing there in my jeans and bra, between trying on tops, and I realize…I have back fat.  And I’m like…

I…did not know this about myself.  I can’t really see anything but the front and part of the side in the bathroom mirror, and I don’t spend that much time looking to begin with.  And I HATED it.  Not so much the fact that it’s there, although I hate that, too.  But the fact that it INSTANTLY changed how I saw myself.  And that is all kinds of not okay.  Thankfully, I’m the type to act rather than wallow, and I’ve tacked on a finisher workout for tank top arms, abs, and back toning on my running days to start tightening things up.  But it just…sucked.

It seems like this year I’ve been getting all kinds of reminders that I am NOT in my 20s anymore.  Thank you, Universe, I’m aware.  You can stop now.  I’m having to work harder for what seem like much smaller results.  Which is frustrating.  But less frustrating than just living with a total lack of results and giving up.  That’s not in my nature.  I’m just having to work on being okay with the fact that this is going to be a VERY SLOW PROCESS.  Lifestyle changes.  One day at a time.  Making better choices.  And all that jazz.  Let’s do this.

Sidebar, I’m reading Love, Beer, and Chocolate by Violet Duke right now and LOVING IT!

Hilariously delightful and sexy.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Enchilada Cornbread Casserole

Recipe

We so enjoyed the Mexican Chicken Cornbread Casserole, I decided to make another version based around enchiladas.  Enchiladas are something I’ve tried several times, and I always like them, but they often end up being too spicy for hubby.  In deference to that, I’m steering away from my chipotles in adobo sauce and just sticking with some Mexican tomato sauce (a favorite staple for Mexican dishes in our house) and eliminated the green chilies that are so often part of enchiladas.  Be sure to serve this enchilada cornbread casserole with sour cream (or sour cream substitute)

Ingredients:
  • For the sauce
    • 2 8 oz. cans Mexican tomato sauce (or 1 can Mexican tomato sauce and 1 can plain if you want less spicy)
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 2 tbsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp masa flour
  • For the meat:
    • 1 lb ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
    • 1 medium onion, finely diced
    • 1 red or orange bell pepper (or 4-6 mini peppers) diced
    • 1 4 oz. can chopped black olives (drained)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
  • For Cornbread:
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond), soured with 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1/4 cup melted Earth Balance spread
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegan cheddar or pepper jack shreds (like Daiya or Go Veggie Dairy Free shreds)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
Directions
  1. Let’s start with the sauce.  Whisk the masa flour into a small amount of the chicken stock until not lumpy.
  2. Add to the remaining chicken stock in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until well combined.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and salt.  Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened.
  4. Brown the meat in a skillet.  Drain and rinse.
  5. Sauté the onions and peppers until soft.  Add back the meat, salt, and black olives.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Add the thickened sauce to the meat mixture and stir until well combined.
  8. Pour meat mixture into an 11×7 glass baking dish (sprayed with cooking spray).
  9. Mix up your cornbread.
  10. Add the cheddar shreds and green onions to the batter.
  11. Pour cornbread batter over the filling.
  12. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cornbread topper is cooked through.

 

Gluten Free Dairy Free Enchilada Cornbread Casserole
 
We so enjoyed the Mexican Chicken Cornbread Casserole, I decided to make another version based around enchiladas. Enchiladas are something I've tried several times, and I always like them, but they often end up being too spicy for hubby. In deference to that, I'm steering away from my chipotles in adobo sauce and just sticking with some Mexican tomato sauce (a favorite staple for Mexican dishes in our house) and eliminated the green chilies that are so often part of enchiladas. Be sure to serve this enchilada cornbread casserole with sour cream (or sour cream substitute)
Author:
Recipe type: Casserole
Cuisine: Gluten and Dairy Free
Ingredients
  • For the sauce
  • 2 8 oz. cans Mexican tomato sauce (or 1 can Mexican tomato sauce and 1 can plain if you want less spicy)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp masa flour
  • For the meat:
  • 1 lb ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper (or 4-6 mini peppers) diced
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped black olives (drained)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • For Cornbread:
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose gluten free flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk (I used almond), soured with ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup melted Earth Balance spread
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegan cheddar or pepper jack shreds (like Daiya or Go Veggie Dairy Free shreds)
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
Instructions
  1. Let's start with the sauce. Whisk the masa flour into a small amount of the chicken stock until not lumpy.
  2. Add to the remaining chicken stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and salt. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced and thickened.
  4. Brown the meat in a skillet. Drain and rinse.
  5. Sauté the onions and peppers until soft. Add back the meat, salt, and black olives.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Add the thickened sauce to the meat mixture and stir until well combined.
  8. Pour meat mixture into an 11x7 glass baking dish (sprayed with cooking spray).
  9. Mix up your cornbread.
  10. Add the cheddar shreds and green onions to the batter.
  11. Pour cornbread batter over the filling.
  12. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cornbread topper is cooked through.

5 Reasons Why SyFy’s Killjoys Is Satisfying My Firefly Fix

Musings

So SyFy has a new show out called Killjoys.   Check out the trailer:

 

SyFy’s Killjoys is about space bounty hunters, y’all!

So, let’s talk about why I love this show.

  1. cast_killjoys_dutch

    Dutch

    For me, this show feels like it could happen in the same universe as Firefly.   The world, the tech–I have no problems imagining them running into Mal and the crew from Serenity.  The Company is this overarching conceptual villain, much like the Alliance.  They’ve set up this ruling class society that makes for all kinds of struggles between classes, with lots of people being subjugated–making for lots of CONFLICT CONFLICT CONFLICT.  There hasn’t been a boring episode yet, and each one seems to unfold a new layer for the viewer.

  2. The lead badass is a woman.  Dutch.  Oh, I have so, so much love for Dutch.  She’s this marvelous blend of Mal and Zoe with a bit of Inara thrown in.  She’s sassy, sarcastic, and kicks so much ass.  And the reason for WHY she’s so good at kicking ass lies in the mysterious past that unfolds over the course of season 1 (final episode of that tonight), which is a metaplot that’s sparked my interest from the word go.
  3. killjoys john

    John

    John.  Played by Sean Ashmore, John is this wonderful, snarky, science geek badass, who can fight and will put himself on the line for family–including the one he’s made for himself.  He’s loyal and wonderful.  Oh, and their ship, Lucy?  Totally in love with him.

  4. Davin.  John’s brother Davin doesn’t have the same growling appeal as Jayne, but he’s absolutely got the tortured hero down.  He’s whatever this universe’s version is of an Army Ranger or Marine–an ex-soldier who doesn’t know what to do with himself outside the military.  Courtesy of his brother, he gets pulled into their Killjoy team, which makes for some interesting intra-team conflict and some cool dynamics when he busts up in the middle of the long-term partnership between John and Dutch.  He’s got his ownbackstory mystery that’s been slowly unfolding over the season.
    cast_killjoys_davin

    Davin

  5. Well choreographed fight scenes and good pacing.  In general, I’ve been really happy with the fight choreography.  It’s gritty and sometimes bloody, and just well done.  The writing of the show itself has good pacing, very little drag time. They consistently deliver a solid episode, with resolution for whatever the episode problem is, along with an advance of the various threads of metaplot and further illumination of the world.  I’m picky about such things, so this pleases me muchly.  All in all, I call this a winner, and I hope like hell it doesn’t get canned.

Midweek #ROW80 Progress Report

Progress Reports

Late with my progress report again.  So a thing I have learned about myself–being on deadline for a project makes me want to work on EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD BUT THAT PROJECT.  In addition to working on plotting out Autumn and Judd’s book, I’ve also gone hard-core into plotting one of my other plot bunnies (more contemporary stuff, but unrelated to Wishful–a trilogy).  I’ve still been cranking out words on the novella (nearly 4k since Monday) and if I can keep on point, I might hit the midpoint by the end of the weekend.  Which would be awesome.

I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about the current iteration of Kindle Unlimited, now that the rate per page read (and that would be KINDLE pages read, not, like, normal book pages) has been announced, a LOT of people are doing VERY VERY well with this new version.  It’s definitely a seductive idea.  My sales are not so uneven across distributors to merit pulling my existing work out and going all in for KU, but as an experiment I did pull Genesis (since all the individual novellas in it are still available everywhere).  I’ve done absolutely nothing with it yet (and I ought to do some kind of promo to get that out there again), but we’ll see .  But KU is what has me thinking about this other plot bunny.

I’ve long wanted to experiment with what others have tried…by having back to back releases of multiple books in a series.  I’ve never done it because it takes me a long time to write stuff and I’m just not that patient (plus I’ve been pushing to get to a critical mass of work out there on the contemporary side), but I’m back to thinking about it.  This particular bunny is a trilogy, planned to be category length, and hella commercial in concept.  So I’m circling back around to the idea of writing more than one book at a time.  This has always been an epic fail in the past.  But maybe it was because I never had two books talking loudly enough at the same time to mange.  Who knows.  But I’m going to try it.  IF it works, probably it would be end of next year at the EARLIEST before I’d have all three done (it pains me…the idea of hanging on to finished work that long, but there are a LOT of practical financial/marketing reasons to do it).  We shall see.

My husband is shifting to a new schedule (still night shift but instead of working 3 days one week, 4 days the next, they’ve moved them to…something else I haven’t quite got a handle on), so I’m still trying to sort out how that’s going to impact my writing schedule, figuring out how I can get what I need to get finished actually finished and still spend time with him.  And I’ve got another 5 or 6 weeks before life at the Evil Day Job slows down and I’m not traveling so much.  The end is in sight!

Late Sunday Summary and #ROW80 Progress Report

Progress Reports

It’s been a LONG WEEK.  So I’m very late writing my progress report.

  1. First off was the Great Punctuation Debacle in my preorder file for Know Me Well, where more than half the periods were missing.  I spent days laboriously correcting things and going rounds with Amazon about whether they would notify the people who’d pre-ordered.  Ultimately, it was determined to be a “minor quality issue” and no email will be sent.  I’m sorry, having half the major punctuation missing from the entire book makes for a pretty serious impact on reader experience.  But it’s out of my hands.  All I can hope is that since this was the third book in the series, that the handful of people who pre-ordered are on my mailing list, read this blog, or hang out over in the Wishful group on Facebook and have seen the notice about the problem and won’t ding me with a crap review.
  2. And then there was the release of Know Me Well on Friday which I wasn’t even around for because I was on the road for work.  High point, I had some FANTASTIC food while I was in Natchez.
  3. I had some issues with Windows 10 on my laptop, with a broken update that kept my computer in a reboot loop.  That took a while to get around.
  4. I finally REALLY got back to Wish I Might yesterday.  I knocked out 2400 words and finished 2 scenes.  If I bust my hump, there’s actually a slim possibility I could finish this novella actually ON TIME (i.e. the end of this month) and within word count (what a concept).  And then…THEN…Autumn and Judd.
  5. I’ve been going through a lot of audiobooks lately since I’ve been in my car.  Last week I knocked out The Chocolate Kiss by Lauren Florand (DELIGHTFUL) and Treasure on Moon Lake by Amy Gamet (Enjoyable but could have benefitted from another 10-15k of plot to support the romance).  And I just started Loving Lauren by Jill Sanders this morning.  I’ve been on a kick lately where I deliberately search out the freebie lists for ebooks I might like to read that have Whispersync companions for cheap (less than $3).  Feeds my habit for a lot cheaper than my original Audible subscription.
  6. Here’s hoping this week is a little bit calmer.

Know Me Well Sneak Peek: Meet Liam

Books

Know Me Well releases TODAY!  You can grab your copy from Amazon, iBooksSmashwords, Barnes and Noble, or  Kobo.  Meanwhile, here’s your introduction to ex-Marine Liam Montgomery!

~*~

Liam could still feel Riley shaking. His instincts shouted to soothe and protect, and he was becoming very aware that the woman in his arms was a long damn way from the girl he remembered. He’d known that, objectively. But seeing with his eyes was a helluva lot different from feeling with his body. Now he knew just how well those exquisite curves of hers fit against all the hard lines of him. And damn him, he liked it.

She shoved again. Liam wasn’t sure her legs would hold her yet, but because he wasn’t positive she wouldn’t try to slug him again, he released her.

She stumbled, throwing up a hand in the universal stop gesture, even as he stepped forward, reaching out to steady her. Because, of course, she’d rather struggle than take help from him. And he’d earned that.

Liam curled his hands into fists to keep from touching her.

Riley let out a shaky breath and straightened. Whatever momentary softening had been brought on by fear was gone. “Jesus Christ, you about gave me a heart attack. What are you doing here?”

Clearly continuing to fuck things up with you.

He eyed her still clenched hands and tapped the tape clipped to his belt. “Measuring.”

“For what?”

“Mom’s decided she wants to rent out the apartment. She wanted me to look into doing some renovations up here.”

“She didn’t tell me.”

Liam found himself wanting to smooth away the furrow between her dark brows. Instead, he backed up a few paces to give them both some space and kicked back against the kitchen counter. “She only just decided at dinner. I ran out of projects at home, and I think she wants me out from underfoot. I’m making a floor plan.”

“At ten-thirty on a weeknight?” Riley demanded.

“It’s as good a time as any.”

“In the dark?”

“Most of the light bulbs are burned out. What are you still doing here? The pharmacy closed hours ago.”

“I’m working. Or I was, until you scared the bejeezus out of me.”

“Doing what?”

“Stocking.”

“What happened to Ruby?”

“Are you living under a rock? She’s out helping with Vivian Buckley’s wedding.”

Liam dimly remembered his friend Reuben Blanchard, who owned the local boxing gym, was standing up as best man in that wedding. He knelt to pick up the counting spatula Riley had dropped. “And you were planning on doing what with this?”

She scooped a hand through her dark brown hair and didn’t quite meet his eyes. “Intimidating the intruder.”

Liam lifted a brow. She scowled back at him, an expression he’d come to expect whenever he got within ten feet of her—which wasn’t often. It was a far cry from how she’d looked at him in high school.

“Good to know you still remember some of the self defense I taught you. That probably would’ve worked on somebody without combat training.” She could do with a refresher course, but now was absolutely not the time to bring that up.

Something flickered in her eyes before she held out her hand for the spatula. “Thankfully, I haven’t had cause to use it until tonight.”

“Glad to hear it.” He’d worried about that after he’d enlisted. Not that she’d have believed it, and not that she’d given him opportunity to say so in the last twelve years.

“I’ll go ahead and warn you, the police are on their way.”

“Sensible to have called them. Why didn’t you wait for them?”

“Good question.” This came from the open doorway.

Of course the responding officer would be Judd. Because the best friend who’d had Liam’s back since fifth grade was going to walk into this situation and know something was up. Shit.

Judd stepped inside, thumbs hooked in his utility belt. He nodded a greeting to Liam before pegging Riley with a gimlet stare. “I know Janette told you to stay put.”

“I thought it was just kids,” she protested.

“Was that before or after you called 911?”

Her shoulders stiffened. “If he had been a burglar, he could’ve trashed the place and been gone before you ever got here.”

“And you could’ve been hurt or worse,” Liam pointed out. “You know better.”

Her blue eyes narrowed to slits. “I’m not a child anymore, Liam, and you are not my keeper. Judd, I’m sorry to have wasted your time. As it’s not actually an emergency, I’m going home. It’s been an exceptionally long day. If there’s nothing further?”

“Just a warning. Next time you have to call on the police, wait for us to do our jobs instead of charging in blind. You might not be so lucky as to have one of the good guys on the other side of the door.”

Riley shot a glance at Liam that clearly questioned whether he fit into that category. “Understood. Thanks for coming. Goodnight.” She strode by him with an aloof grace worthy of any silver screen diva and slammed the door behind her.

Judd raised a brow.

Liam shook his head. “Sweet. She used to be sweet.”

“She still is—to everybody else. What’s up with that? I thought you were supposed to be charming with the ladies.”

“Obviously not that one.” It was exactly his luck that the closest he’d managed to get to Riley Gower since he came home was by nearly scaring her to death. It made repaying his debt damned hard.

Judd radioed the all clear to dispatch. “What was that about you teaching her self defense?”

That was a secret he’d told no one, and Liam didn’t plan to start now. Not even with one of his oldest friends.

“There was a time once when she needed it.” A time when she’d needed a helluva lot more than that. “It was a long time ago.”

Judd waited with that expectant cop stare he was as likely to use on the job as over the poker table, but Liam didn’t volunteer anything else.

“I know something about putting your ass on the line for somebody who can’t defend themselves. It’s hard to let go of the sense of responsibility you feel for that person.”

Because that hit uncomfortably close to the truth, Liam shrugged. “As she said, I’m not her keeper.”

“You lookin’ to be?”

“No.” There were a whole lot of reasons Liam wasn’t fit to be anybody’s keeper. But he couldn’t deny that Riley fell under the heading of unfinished business. Business that had consumed far too many of his waking—and sleeping—thoughts since he’d walked back into her world. This apartment renovation right over her head might be just the opportunity he needed to get some much needed resolution.

“Uh huh.” One corner of Judd’s mouth quirked. “I’ve got eyes to see you noticing she’s not a kid and ears to hear around town that you haven’t said yes to any of the assorted offers of female companionship that have come your way the last six months.”

Liam wondered how long it would take him to be replaced as one of the hottest topics of local gossip. “I would have to be dead not to notice she grew up to have a rocking body, and why does my rejection of female companionship have to have anything to do with that?”

“Because you’re not dead, as you pointed out.”

“Man, you were at my welcome home party. My mother fully expects me to find some woman, settle down, and start giving her grandchildren. She gets a whiff of interest in anybody, she’ll start pushing china patterns or some shit. This town is too small and too damned nosy—as you’ve just illustrated—to be anything but very careful in choosing my companionship. I haven’t even settled on a permanent job yet. I’m sure as hell not in any position to start looking for a permanent woman. And even if I was, Riley Gower is not for me.”

So why the hell couldn’t he get her off his mind?

“Admittedly, she’s not one of the candidates in the pool Omar’s running up at Dinner Belles, but that’s just because nobody’s thought of it.”

“And they can just keep on not thinking of it. Everybody is doomed to disappointment if they expect me to provide fodder for the gossip mill. I am not that interesting.”

Judd laughed. “You keep telling yourself that, buddy boy.” His radio crackled to life. He answered the dispatcher and turned for the door. “Duty calls. See you in the ring Wednesday morning?”

“I’ll be there.” Liam bumped his fist, watched him go.

Free of interruptions, he finished up measurements for the floor plan, made notes about which were the load bearing walls, and locked up. He circled around front, but the pharmacy was dark other than the security lights. Looked like Riley actually had gone home.

Liam didn’t like the thought of her alone in the pharmacy this late at night. Defenseless. Or mostly. This was Wishful and the crime rate was low compared to the rest of the country. But she was still guardian of all kinds of controlled substances. What if somebody decided they wouldn’t take no for an answer? She’d had enough experience with that kind of victimization. The memory of that had him clenching his fists.

It had been twelve years since he’d walked away from his self-appointed duty as her protector. She’d shown absolutely no indication she wanted him to resume that role, but Liam couldn’t shrug off that sense of responsibility so easily. Knowing Riley wouldn’t thank him for his concern, Liam made a mental note to check with his mom to make sure she’d upgraded the alarm system before she sold the business. If she had, well, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure the system was still up to spec. And if she hadn’t, he’d take care of it.

Know Me Well Sneak Peek: Meet Riley

Books

Since Know Me Well releases TOMORROW, I thought it would be good to give y’all a sneak peek introduction to my shero, Riley.  She’s one of those heroines who turned out completely different from how I originally envisioned her.  Mule stubborn wasn’t on her initial character profile, but as things got rolling, that’s exactly how she turned out.  She gives ex-Marine Liam Montgomery a real run for his money!

~*~

Riley Gower hadn’t planned on spending her anniversary surrounded by boxes of stock and empty shelves. From a business standpoint, the empty shelves were a good thing. It meant people were actually buying the products she carried, in addition to the medications kept behind the counter. In the year since she’d bought out her boss’s share in Wishful Discount Drugs, that had often meant the difference between keeping the lights on and having to rob Peter to pay Paul. She was in the black—barely—and that merited celebration, albeit more of a chips and queso and margaritas at Los Pantalones variety than champagne and caviar.

Instead of celebrating, she was camped out filling shelves, well after the late summer sun had faded, because Ruby Fellowes, her cashier/stocker/order-taker/general-Jill-of-all-trades, who’d worked at the pharmacy since God was a boy, had taken off all week to help prepare for her niece’s wedding. At her current rate, Riley would be lucky to eek out a half-assed celebration with the emergency bar of Toblerone in the vegetable drawer of her refrigerator before she fell into bed and passed out from sheer exhaustion.

“Happy businiversary to me,” she muttered.

The butt busting was worth it, even if owning her own business felt a little more like prison than freedom at the moment. It meant she’d succeeded on her own terms, without a handout or a hand up from some man. Her success and its consequent stresses were hers and hers alone, and she couldn’t put a price on the value of that.

As her phone rang out with the tones of “Crazy Train.” all pleasure in her accomplishment bled away. She could ignore it, let the call go to voice mail. It might be nothing.

But long experience had her instincts tightening with dread. She knew it wasn’t nothing. Bracing herself, Riley answered. “Hi Mom.”

“Hey, baby.” Sharilyn sounded tired, with that forced edge of cheer that made Riley’s stomach curdle.

“What’s wrong?”

“Wrong? Why should anything be wrong? Can’t I call my only child to say hello?” She was talking too fast, too breezy, so Riley said nothing, just waited. At length, Sharilyn hiccuped and burst into tears. “Hal left me.”

Riley repressed a curse and tried to find some sympathy. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

Sharilyn launched into a diatribe about everything that had gone wrong on the multi-month cross-country RV trip she’d taken with her most recent beau. By the time her mother finally wound down and got the tears under control, a tension headache had sunk claws deep into Riley’s scalp.

“I really am sorry.” And some part of her was. Because her mother had truly believed Hal, like all his predecessors, was The One, and she’d given herself whole-heartedly to the relationship.

“It will be all right.”

The note of determination creeping into Sharilyn’s voice made Riley wonder whether she already had some other guy in mind to save her this time. Or was it to be Riley herself in the role of knight to her mother’s damsel in distress? Riley’s own armor was pretty damned battered after all these years.

“I need a favor, sweetie.”

Wary, she asked, “What?”

“I’m out here all on my own and Hal didn’t leave me with anything.”

Don’t say it, Riley thought. Don’t you dare say it.

“I need you to loan me some money.”

She said it.

Riley pinched the bridge of her nose. Why was she even calling it a loan? It wasn’t like she’d paid back any of the other loans Riley had made her over the years when the boyfriend or husband du jour turned out to be a shit and not interested in dealing long-term with the damsel in distress routine her mom had perfected. Christ, Riley had taken over the bill management in junior high school, started paying the mortgage her freshman year of college.

“Just enough to get me home,” Sharilyn continued.

“Mom, did you forget you sold the house?”

“Of course I didn’t. But Wishful is still home.”

How could it still be home when she had nowhere to live here anymore?

“I thought I could stay with you for a while.”

Oh God. Riley could actually feel the blood vessels behind her eyes threatening to burst.

“There’s no room at my place, Mom. I don’t even have a guest room.”

“I could sleep on the couch. It’d just be for a little while. Until I get back on my feet.”

Until she found another sugar daddy with a savior complex. A thump sounded from above, pulling her attention.

“Riley?”

“Hang on a sec.” Straining, Riley listened harder, expecting scratching or other signs that squirrels or raccoons had taken up residence in the empty second floor of the building. But what she heard were clear footsteps. Person-sized footsteps.

“Mom, I need to go.”

“But what about—”

“I’ll wire you money for a bus ticket home.” Never mind that it was her last $300. She couldn’t leave her mother stranded in Timbuktu. “Text me where you are.” Riley hung up before Sharilyn could say anything else. Striding across to the light switch, she flipped it off so she could see the street outside. The empty street.

Surely anyone with legitimate business up there would be parked out front. And what legitimate business could there be? The upstairs had been vacant forever.

She dialed 911.

“911, what is your emergency?” Riley blessed the interconnected nature of small towns as she recognized the voice of the dispatcher.

“Janette, it’s Riley Gower. I’m at the pharmacy after hours and there’s an intruder upstairs.”

“Are you alone?”

“Yes, I’ve been stocking.”

“Are the doors locked?”

“Yes.”

“Okay you stay put. I’m sending somebody as soon as I can, but it might take a little bit. There’s a pretty big domestic disturbance going on across town.”

Assured someone was coming, Riley hung up and called Molly Montgomery. Her old boss still owned the building, so whatever was going on up there affected her. From behind the counter, she listened to the phone ring and watched the front windows, waiting to see one of the police cruisers along Pitts Street or a shadowy figure coming out of the alley. Nobody picked up. Riley opted not to leave a message until there was something more definitive to report. No reason to worry her unless something was really wrong.

In the silence, the ticking of the wall clock sounded almost as loud as the intermittent footsteps over her head. The intruder wasn’t making any efforts to be quiet. There were no sounds of stuff being moved. Of course, there might not be any stuff to be moved.

Five minutes dragged into ten that seemed more like weeks. Still no police.

Riley was tired and edgy, and all she really wanted was to head home. But she couldn’t just go with somebody up there. Somebody who was evidently in no particular hurry to leave.

Oh for heaven’s sake. This was Wishful, not the big city. Anybody looking for drugs would try to rob the pharmacy directly. It was probably kids, looking for…who knew what. Maybe some kind of love nest or a place to smoke. They’d be more scared of her than she was of them.

Riley swiped the counting spatula from behind the counter. It didn’t have an edge and might have had more in common with a pie server than a knife, but in the dark, it sure as hell looked like a blade and it was better than nothing. Taking a deep breath, she stepped outside and circled around to the side of the building. Slipping cautiously through the access door, she noted that no light shone in the stairwell, but a faint glow spilled out from the partially open door at the top.

Hardly daring to breathe, Riley climbed the stairs, thanking God that the treads were concrete, instead of wood or metal that could creak. At the landing she hesitated, peering inside.

In all the years she’d worked for Molly, she’d never been up here. Hadn’t ever had reason to. Like many of the buildings downtown, the second floor of the pharmacy was an apartment. Or at least it had been at some point in the distant past. In the narrow entryway, wallpaper peeled off in strips. She couldn’t see past the wall to the room beyond. Everything was silent now. No footsteps. No sound of teenagers necking.

Was there another exit? Had whoever broken in managed to get out before she came upstairs?
Ignoring the voice in the back of her mind telling her to turn back around and wait for Wishful PD, Riley clutched her counting spatula tight and eased inside.

No one was in what passed for the living room, which boasted two of the four street-facing windows. A hall branched off at the rear of the room. The only light shone out from a single open door on the wall opposite the windows. Moving as quietly as possible, Riley sneaked over to the door and looked into the room.

A hand clamped down on her shoulder.

Riley shrieked. The spatula fell to the floor as she reached across her body to grip his wrist, acting on long ago training as she tugged her assailant forward, jamming her elbow back into his ribcage, as she ducked and pivoted to twist his arm behind his back. Except that he countered, moving with her, doing something to shift the balance, until it was her arm twisting, her body crumpling.

Terror whitewashed her mind. She lashed out, no finesse, no technique, striking whatever she could reach. Her assailant let out an ooph and wrapped her in a bear hug, pinning her arms. She couldn’t suck in enough breath to scream again.

“Hey, hey! It’s okay! Riley, stop. It’s okay. It’s me! It’s Liam.”

Liam Montgomery. Her one time savior.

Because he meant safety, she let out a sob of relief.

His arms loosened, shifting her to face him, and she couldn’t fight because her legs had turned to noodles and every atom in her body wanted to turn into him and hang on.

“It’s okay. I’ve gotcha.”

Except he didn’t. He hadn’t. Not for twelve years.

She stood on her own now.

Straightening, Riley pushed at the wall of his chest. “Let me go.”

“Just take a minute to catch your breath.”

How the hell was she supposed to catch her breath when he was right there, in all of his big, badass Marine glory? Her heart renewed its frenetic thumping for entirely different, wholly unwelcome reasons. She shoved at him again before she could do something really stupid, like fist her hands in his shirt and drag his mouth to hers to put all this adrenaline to better use.

“Let me go, Liam.”

Midweek #ROW80 Progress Report and A Formatting Disaster

Progress Reports

So, I’ve been talking for the last MONTH about my preorder of Know Me Well, which releases THIS FRIDAY.  Yay, rah rah and all that.

Except I discovered day before yesterday an egregious formatting disaster.

A Find and Replace horror of epic proportions that had somehow made half my periods disappear (not all, just some, which is why I didn’t catch it on the last skim).  I’ve spent the last 2 days painstakingly correcting this mistake (and dear God, if I ever do this again, just shoot me and get it over with).  But because it’s a preorder, I can’t upload the corrected file to Amazon until the book actually releases for sale.  I’ve emailed Amazon to beg for some alternative, but I don’t expect to actually be given any quarter.  It was my mistake.  I should’ve checked and noticed before I uploaded the final version.

Given I have a reputation for well-edited, perfectly formatted books, this is AWFUL.  With any luck, everyone who was a preorder can be reached because they read my blog, are part of the Wishful group on Facebook, or on my mailing list, so that I can notify them to delete the file automatically delivered to their Kindle and download it again.  But, of course, I live in fear of those people that may not be, who will blast me with a horrible review because of a freaktastic and careless error.  UGH.

So that disaster has overtaken any actual progress on the novella for the last several days.  Bleh.  I am hoping to get back to that tonight.  I’m traveling for work this week, too, so I’m sure that will throw me off.  The Evil Day job has been hideously busy this week, and my brain in general just feels fried.  Is August over yet?

Know Me Well Playlist

Books

Since Know Me Well comes out this Friday, it’s become kind of a tradition now to share with y’all the playlist that goes along with the book.  A lot of the music that goes on these playlists doesn’t necessarily seem to have anything to do with the final product of the book.  I have playlists created for books that won’t get written for years, just because sometimes I hear a song and it reminds me of something in the story–either explicitly or simply in a mood.  This was the music that inspired Liam and Riley’s love story.  I hope you enjoy!