Brewing Up a Book with Guest Author Liz Crowe

Today I’m doing a little something different on the blog…I have a guest. Please welcome Liz Crowe, best selling author, soccer fan and beer expert. She’s got some words of wisdom about brews, and writing. She’s brought a few excerpts to entertain you and is having a SALE on her books! Meanwhile, for today you can find me over at her place. Check out my post out at Liz’s blog HERE.

BOOK BREWING 101 by Liz Crowe

There is a “regulation” in Germany—the Reinheitsgebot—that states:

“Beer is made up 4 ingredients, and 4 ingredients ONLY:

Water—Barley—Hops—Yeast”

The Germans invented the lager style of beer, using yeasts they discovered, the create a different sort of beer than had been brewed before. Ale beer was truly an ancient form of sustenance, had been around since Egyptian times and was consumed in leiu of water on many continents.

Since the advent of the “American craft beer movement” in the late ‘90s, that regulation has been tossed right out the window in the quest for unique flavors and a sort of one-up-manship among the (now) thousands of brewers seeking an audience of drinkers. Everything from corriandor and orange peel, hot peppers, coffee, and chocolate to cherries, grapes, pumpkin and ginger are now added to a host of “regulation beers” (water/malt/hops/yeast) by breweries large and small. My favorite example of going off the rez with this is the Peanut Butter and Jelly Beer brewed right here in Michigan at Short’s Brewing near Traverse City.

It’s not a bad thing to add these “adjuncts” (beer jargon for “anything not water/barley/hops/yeast). Some of them create unique, well-rounded and interesting beer drinking experiences. Others are, well, just gross but fun to contemplate.

As part owner of a craft brewery, I interact with other owners and beer drinkers every day. I’ve come to value the process of taking “pure beer” and rounding it out in a cool way with well-balanced and considered ingredients seeking alternatives for the many folks who are learning that “beer” has actual “flavor.”

I’ve also written a few books (24 at last count). And, since I have a degree in English Lit, I’ve read a fair few as well. There is a school of thought in this business that there are only seven or so basic plots: overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; rebirth. If you have some time to ponder such things, you will realize that from the Bible, through Greek plays, Shakespeare and today you can apply one or more of these to most works of literature, including popular fiction.

The fact that there are so many great books to choose from is a testament to the fact that authors take these “basic ingredients” and add their own spices, pumpkins, grapes and hot peppers to them to create a huge range of options for readers to consider.

One of the Black Jack Gentlemen novels, now on sale in honor of the soccer World Cup, MAN ON, is set in the world of professional soccer (my first “adjunct” and a unique one as there are not a ton of these around). In it, you meet two of the players for the original Black Jack Gentlemen fictional Detroit-based expansion soccer team. The Black Jacks are not part of a league of “starter-outers.” It’s not a farm team for the more established Major League Soccer teams. It’s part of a “fictionalized Major League Soccer (MLS)” that was awarded to Detroit once it was determined that Las Vegas had bribed officials to get the team. Hence, the “left over” name that Detroit decides to keep.

These are men of all ranges of experience from all over the world who’ve been convinced, cajoled and paid well (i.e. more or less bribed) to come and form a legit new team that can take on teams of equal or better caliber.

My second “adjunct” to this story: these men are bi-sexual. One of them, Parker Rollings, is a young man just out of college who is struggling with his sexual identity. The other, Nicco Garza is an older player from Spain who lost his super-star status when his ex-wife “outed” him.

So you have the set up for “overcoming the monster” (acceptance of yourself as a homosexual and a pro athlete—not an easy task), “the quest” (trying to create a viable new soccer team, getting a bunch of men who’ve never played together and who in many cases despise each other, to form a cohesive group) and even “rebirth” (when Parker accepts himself as a bi-sexual man in love with another man who happens to be a teammate).

There could be tragedy of course. These men have both worked so very hard to achieve success as athletes. It is well known that the general public does not accept homosexual men on their “favorite teams” easily.  So it could be that they find each other, then make a decision to reject their potential private happiness in order to further the public success of their team.

Taking basic plots and adding the adjuncts of setting, characters, conflicts and resolution truly does resemble the crafting of a great beer. We all hope for more drinkers and readers thanks to our efforts.  And, as with craft beer, there is nothing wrong with taking the basics of a plot and adding as many unique additions as possible to craft something interesting—or something fun (or even gross). Just remember, get it edited! The best breweries never serve a beer without a lot of sampling and tasting through the process. Yeah, that’s the fun bit.

Cheers!

Liz

WORLD CUP 2014 SALE

BlackJack Gentleman World Cup SALE

The Black Jack Gentlemen

A city and a sport with something to prove—Meet the men who take that challenge… The Black Jack Gentlemen—Detroit’s expansion soccer team. They play hard. And live harder.

Book 1: Man On

Book 2: Red Card

Book 3: Shut Out

FIND THE SERIES NOW AT: AMAZON   BN   SMASHWORDS   ARe

And coming soon…

Book 4: Set Piece

Book 5: Hat Trick

MAN ON by Liz Crowe

99 cents during the 2014 World Cup!

Get it now at: ARe  AMAZON  BN  SMASHWORDS

Bad boy of European football, Nicolas Garza is about to hit American shores with a vengeance. Signed by the Detroit Black Jack Gentlemen as lynch pin for their expansion club, Nicco only half believes he’s making the right move. But with a past full of ghosts and rotten behavior chasing him from his homeland, he has no real choice.

Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.

Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.

All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.

EXCERPT FROM MAN ON

A handful of fresh-faced young Americans interspersed in the group, which made Nicco feel old. Which totally pissed him off. What was Inez thinking anyway? There were two players per position in the room, two strong contenders for each spot—except his. He sipped his water bottle and glared at the Germans. Nervous tension gnawed at his gut but he kept his face calm. Finally when their temporary coach showed up and flipped the blinds closed, he relaxed.

So everyone in the room has to fight for their spot except me? That works.

He dropped his feet to the floor at Rafe’s pointed glance and propped his elbows on the table prepared to ignore the forthcoming pep talk.

He’d already made plans for the night and wanted to rest up beforehand. This

goofy welcome pep talk would be as good a time as any. Letting his thoughts wander to

the nightclub promising full discretion, he made himself stop obsessing over the recent failed therapy session.

The door clicked open and all eyes landed on the tall, blond man who walked in,

backpack on his shoulder, dressed to play. Nicco’s scalp tingled at the sight of him—

strong torso, long legs, firm jaw covered with several days’ worth of fuzz.

Good Christ but he was a perfect specimen.

Nicco kept his casual stance but startled when the guy’s bright blue eyes and huge white smile landed on him. He resisted the urge to smile back. Something about the man made Nicco distinctly uncomfortable but horny at the same time. He suddenly wished he’d held onto the shrink’s business card.

“And Parker will be working with you, Nicco.”

He sat up, knocking his water to the floor as Rafe’s words got his immediate attention. He stared at the polite hand the kid stuck in his face then over at Rafe. His throat closed up between the proximity of the impossibly handsome man and realization of the fact that the vision of masculine perfection he’d lusted after for the last few seconds wanted to take his spot on the field.

Oh hell no.

He leaned back again and ignored his inner polite self. Instead, he smirked, ignored the punk, and turned to face their coach as if suddenly fascinated by what the guy had to say. Parker stood a minute, and Nicco watched his face turn red before he sat in the one empty chair nearest the door.

Rafe passed out new phones, reminded them of their obligation to “tweet” and “post profile updates” on Facebook at least three times a day. All shit Nicco already knew. Rafe’s hot young lady assistant issued key cards to the ones who’d just arrived,

including the kid Nicco studiously ignored but whose very presence was making the front

of his jeans uncomfortable.

RED CARD by Liz Crowe

FREE during the 2014 World Cup!

Get it now on:  ARe   AMAZON   BN   SMASHWORDS

Free will makes us human.

Choice makes us individuals.

Love makes us unique.

Metin Sevim has it all. At the pinnacle of international soccer playing success, he has managed to craft a perfect world for himself along the way.

When fate strips him of free will and the ability to choose his own path, he retreats from everyone and everything, destroying his hard-won career in the process.

Dragged back from the brink by his desperate family, Metin reluctantly agrees to coach the Black Jack Gentlemen Detroit soccer team but remains debilitated by memories and loss. When a surprising friendship emerges, it renews his passion for life, providing much needed solace… and extreme complications.

A saga of family dynamics and gender politics that cuts across cultures and circumstance, Red Card illustrates the human capacity for forgiveness through the life of one man as he attempts to rebuild his shattered existence.

EXCERPT FROM RED CARD

“It’s your hips that are the problem.”

Alicia started at the sound of his now-familiar, sing-song accent. She’d been kicking a line of balls into the net, one after the other for about fifteen minutes since she’d been early in her haste to get the hell out of her house and away from her sister’s violent disapproval.

Taking a breath, she crossed her arms and studied him. Metin wore a pair of dark blue soccer shorts, plain heather-gray shirt, and cleats as easily as he’d worn the dress pants and crisp cotton shirt the night she’d met him—the night you fucked him, you mean.

He stood, loose-limbed, at ease in his element. His teeth glowed against his dark skin. The eyes she had melted into not forty-eight hours ago shone with something she couldn’t identify—happiness? Sarcasm? Lust? Who knew? Hoping to hide her frustration, she bent down to tie her laces tighter so he couldn’t see her face flush when her gaze hit the front of his shorts.

She rose, determined to resist the take-me-now aura the guy threw her way. He probably didn’t even realize he did it. Not anymore. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s wrong with my hips?”

“Come at me.”

She blinked, confused. “Um, huh?”

“Attack, make like you want to score. You know? Like you do in games?”

“Oh, right.” Dropping the ball tucked under her arm, she glanced over his shoulder at her target. He let her, trotting backward a few steps, then made for the ball. She feinted, maintaining possession before dribbling a few more feet.

He came out of nowhere as she was about to make her final scoring charge, stripping her of the ball and sending her crashing to the turf.

“Ow. Shit,” she muttered, getting to her feet, a familiar, angry competitiveness stripping all the horniness right out of her head. “I still don’t get what….”

“Do it again.” He kicked the ball toward her, harder than necessary, but she stopped it and placed her cleat on top contemplating a different strategy.

Shifting to the side, she danced past him, using all the speed she could muster, and made straight for the goal. And there he was again, taking the damn ball away from her as if she were a rookie.

She tried to shield it, putting her back to him and sensing every inch of his warm, perfect physique against her skin. Forcing herself to focus, she landed a hard elbow to his midsection and escaped his trap then traveled down the field alone, turning on all her motors, no longer hearing anything, way into her zone.

And then, the damn man appeared in front of her again, batting the ball between her legs and taking off in the other direction, hand to his side where she’d nailed him.

“God damn it, Metin. What is your point? You’re a pro. I’m an unemployed college graduate. You’re a man. I’m not. You make money at this, and I never will. What the hell are you trying to prove?” Her legs hurt from her workout the day before and she could barely catch her breath. She was, in a word, miserable. But the sight of him a few yards away, messing with the soccer ball while he stared at her, brought visions of tackling him, holding him down, and kissing him right to the front of her overheated brain.

“Once more.” The soccer ball smacked the back of her legs so hard she yelped. “That’s your fucking yellow card for the elbow. One more and you’ll sit.”

SHUT OUT by Liz Crowe

Only 99 during the 2014 World Cup!

Get it now on: ARe   AMAZON  BN  SMASHWORDS

A submissive once, a submissive forever?

A man on the run from the only life he’s ever known, Brody Vaughn is poised to accept the Black Jack Gentleman’s newly vacant goalkeeper’s position. It’s a desperate move, but one he must take to regain his emotional equilibrium. Reeling from his Mistress’s rejection and on the ragged edge of a total breakdown, he arrives in Detroit. Numb with thinly veiled grief, he walks into the club’s front office completely unaware that an encounter with true destiny awaits him.

Sophie Harrison has seen it all–as Domme, sub, and victim. Now that her complicated circumstances have landed her as legal counsel for the expansion Black Jacks team, she holds herself aloof in body and spirit. Nothing and no one gets past her fiercely guarded walls. Until the day she looks up to greet the new goalie standing in her doorway, his raw combination of vulnerability and strength making her breathless.

Two people, horribly scarred by the excesses of the BDSM lifestyle and hiding from their true selves, meet across a desk over a simple contract. All bets are off.

EXCERPT FROM SHUT OUT

“Vaughn! Goddamn it.”

Brody sat, staring at his feet, ignoring the usual post-match noise and bustle around him. Most especially he hoped to hide from the voice of Rafael Inez, the club’s manager. Reminders of how poorly he’d performed today were not going to help him. He’d been playing soccer in some capacity since he walked, since he had memories of anything. And today had been among his worst, ever.

Since his days on the streets of Nashville and the hills of East Tennessee, he’d been on teams, in clubs, trained by himself, trained by pros, you name it. He’d seen every sort of match condition, coaching, officiating misstep, and parental overreaction. He realized what it meant to suck serious ass—he’d done today. And he understood why, too—hence the dark clouds draping his consciousness

“Fucking… shit.” The team manager drew closer, his deep voice joined by another, as a sort of bonus, really. He leaned against the dark wood lining the walls in the over-the-top, fancy locker room.

Metin Sevim, their Turkish coach, once a Spanish league phenom, had had the world at his feet until a horrific tragedy struck, leaving him drunk and useless for years. He was now recovered. And he had a look on his face Brody Vaughn read loud and clear—the we lost and it is pretty much your fucking fault glare that coaches the world over affected while trying to remain “supportive” of a new player.

Exhausted in mind and spirit, sick of the chewing out before it even started, Brody gazed at both men. Rafe’s snapping eyes reflected the same expression as Metin’s. He opened his mouth first, but the Turk put a hand on his arm. The men regarded each other as the swirl of post-match activity came to a loud peak.

Players in various stages of undress wandered in and out of the main locker room, grabbing towels, pulling on the dress pants, shirts, and ties the club required of them when entering and leaving the facility. One thing Brody would say about the former-hot-headed, player-turned-failure-turned-coach, Metin knew when not to talk. He tilted his head, still pinning Brody with something that faded from this is your fault to what the hell is wrong with you because you are too expensive for me to drop from the roster?

Then he sighed and, to Brody’s surprise, sat down in the chair next to him, leaned forward, elbows on knees, and seemed to examine the expensive, rubberized floor. Brody hadn’t even made it to the shower yet. He felt so weighed down and lethargic, just lifting his arms to put his head in his hands took more energy than existed on the planet. He understood why, along with the fact that there wasn’t a thing to be done about it.

How would he even begin to describe his… issue? Heart pounding, legs aching, shoulder screaming where he’d landed on it, hard, then waved away the trainer at the sixty-fifth minute. By that time all of the players were pretty gassed from the late summer heat, but held on, toe-to-toe, with the Canadian national team in a friendly. The sneaky forward had seen him wincing, favoring his left shoulder, and drove the ball right in on his newly-weakened side. It had been a simple fifty-fifty ball; face to face. He had blown it, him and his overpaid, lame ass, wobbly self.

Thanks to his one quick encounter with the front office legal woman, he’d been left in a quivering, useless, uncertain heap of need. Fuck that. He had to get a grip.

 

ABOUT LIZ CROWE

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger and beer marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe lives Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

lizcrowe.com     brewingpassion.com

facebook.com/lizcroweauthor     facebook.com/groups/lizcrowefans

twitter.com/beerwencha2    a2beerwench.com     Amazon Author Page

In defense of Jace EXCERPT #2 Three Weeks with a Bull Rider…

THREE WEEKS WITH A BULL RIDER CAT JOHNSONIt’s interesting to sit back as an author and watch readers react to your characters. I’m finding that particularly so with Jace from the Oklahoma Nights series. He’s not perfect. I know. I wrote him that way. There are reasons for his flaws and for his behavior, but you, the readers don’t get to see all that until his book, Three Weeks with a Bull Rider. Some readers of Book 2 complained about Jace as a character. What I would hope is that readers realize that if I can make him bother you in Book 2, I have the skill to turn both your opinion and his character around in Book 3.

In real life no one should judge another person until they’ve walked a mile in their shoes because what we see of each other is only the tip of the iceberg of a complete world that makes up each of us. More than that, not one of us is perfect. George RR Martin, author of Game of Thrones, says his favorite characters to write are the ‘gray’ characters because they are the most true to life, and I think, more interesting. I want to throttle perfect characters. They are cardboard, two-dimensional beings. Real people make mistakes. Real people are capable of great deeds, and even greater mistakes and stupidity.

Jace, on the surface, is a fickle womanizer, a player and a fool. Dig deeper and you’ll find a man who’s tortured, Be Kindwrestling with a past he can’t close the door on, as much as he tries to move forward.

Here’s a never before seen excerpt from Three Weeks with a Bull Rider. It’s a peek into a dark side of Jace’s life, his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. They dated for 7 years and even now, a year after their break-up, she’s still a drug he can’t resist. But just like an illicit drug, she’s toxic to him and he knows it. In this scene he’s given his best friend’s sister a ride home from a rodeo because her car broke down. READ THAT EXCERPT HERE But his ex-girlfriend, who likes to keep tabs on him even though they are broken up, is angry at him for being in the truck with another woman…

EXCERPT

Jace drove to the next block, and then pulled to the side. Letting the truck idle, he picked up his cell phone and dialed Jacqueline. He was tired. Bone deep exhaustion began in his heart and had nothing to do with the competition tonight.

Jacqueline answered on the second ring. “It’s after eleven o’clock.”

“I told you I’d call when I got to Stillwater so I’m calling.”

“It doesn’t take that long to drive from Shawnee. What did you do? Pull over and fuck her?”

“Yeah, Jacqueline. I fucked her nine ways ’til Sunday, right here in the truck. Then I dumped her off with her brother—my best friend—and told him what a great lay she was.” Jace’s heart pounded as hard when he fought with Jacqueline as it did when his hand was strapped to the back of a ton of bucking bull. That kind of stress couldn’t be healthy.

“Then why did fifty miles take you over an hour? I know how fast you like to drive.”

“It’s closer to sixty miles and I was towing her car behind the truck. I had to drive slow. Then I had to take the time to unhitch it when I got to Tuck’s place.” Jace gripped the phone tight and tried to maintain calm.

Maybe she’d believe he was telling the truth. Maybe not. That was always up in the air when it came to Jacqueline. He heard the sniffle and the shaky intake of breath.

“There’s nothing to cry over.” He was safe, back in Stillwater and alone. What the hell more could he offer her? Still, the tears always did him in. It seemed more so now that they were broken up. “Hey, you know what else? I came in second. And even better, I didn’t get hurt.”

Jacqueline let out a snort. “Too bad.”

Jace smiled at that. She’d stopped with the accusations about other women and resorted to insulting him. He knew they were on the upward slope of the fight. “This should make you happy. A young kid riding injured beat me out of first.”

“That’s because you’re old.”

“Pfft. Those young guys don’t know shit. You know that. Now me, I’m old enough to know where everything is and how to use it.” Jace’s voice dipped down, low and suggestive.

“Do you have to work early in the morning?” Jacqueline’s tone had softened.

“No.” He never scheduled jobs for the morning after he rode. There were times he needed the recovery time, or a visit to the hospital. Either way, he didn’t want to leave a customer expecting him and then not show up.

“Can you come over?”

His cock heard the invitation in her voice and immediately rose to the occasion. The damn thing was like his parents’ dog when he was growing up. Buster could be at the other end of the house, hear the can opener and come running, thinking it was time to eat. Like a reflex reaction, Jace’s dick heard Jacqueline’s voice and figured it was time for some lovin’. Truth be told, he hadn’t taken it out for a spin since the last time he’d been with her.

He drew in a shaky breath. “All right. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Jace had taken his time on the drive from Shawnee to Stillwater, but he didn’t on the way over to Jacqueline’s apartment. He risked a ticket and sped down the dark, deserted streets as the clock on the dash told him it was getting closer to midnight. He wouldn’t stay the night. It would be too painful. How could he hold Jacqueline all night, wake up next to her in the morning in the home they used to share, and then get up and leave to go back to his empty apartment?

This was self-destructive behavior, and yet he was pulling his truck into her driveway, throwing it in park, and heading for the door . . . and her bed. They needed to talk. He needed to stop this. She needed to stop inviting him over. They both had to get on with their lives.

But not tonight. He’d come over tomorrow in the light of day when he wasn’t so tired and needy. They’d talk like adults and agree to be friends.

Jace felt satisfied with his plan as she opened the front door. He was good with it right up until she grabbed his shirt and pulled him inside and her mouth crashed into his. Then all rational thought was lost. He thrust his hands beneath the silky fall of platinum blond waves that hung nearly to her ass. She’d been the local rodeo queen the year he’d met her, and he had no doubt she’d still be able to take the title all these years later.

Yanking her head back, Jace took possession of her mouth. Without breaking the kiss, he backed her inside, kicking the door closed behind him.

Jacqueline wiggled both hands between their bodies. Blindly, she unhooked the buckle on his belt. After seven years of being together and a year of having sex while broken up, it was no surprise she could maneuver his belt as well as he could. She went to work on the fly of his jeans as he anticipated what would be next—her hands on him. Them on the bed. Him inside her.

He tugged the bottom of the tank top out of her pajama bottoms. Sliding his hands beneath the elastic waistband, he felt the bare skin of her ass. He loved how she slept commando. No underwear. Nothing beneath those PJs but his warm, smooth woman . . . except that she wasn’t his. Not anymore.

But for tonight—for the next hour or two—she’d be his.

Jace hoisted her up and she wrapped her legs around his back as he carried her to the bedroom. As he cleared the doorway of the room so familiar to him, he noticed she’d gotten a new lamp and painted the walls. The changes were physical reminders, like a fist to the gut, that they weren’t together. He tossed her onto the bed where she landed with a bounce on the mattress. He followed her down and knew with certainty they shouldn’t be doing this.

Yanking his T-shirt off over his head, Jace tossed it to the floor, realizing it wouldn’t remain there long. He’d put it on after they were done and drive home. In the morning, he’d wake up alone in his own bed. Tomorrow, he’d go back to wondering when the next phone call or text would come from her. When she’d ask him to come over again. And he’d do it, knowing it would hurt like hell afterward.

He didn’t want to live like that anymore.

The knowledge tickled the back of his mind, but the words never made it out of his mouth. Maybe because his mouth was too busy biting her neck, marking her. She raked her nails down his back, likely leaving marks of her own.

Their sex always had been intense. Rough. Passionate. Almost violent, just like their relationship. The worse the fight, the harder the makeup sex. Today’s argument had been nothing compared to their usual, but Jace was too needy, too deprived for too frigging long to not take her hard and fast.

Two fingers thrust inside her told him she was wet and ready. The damn woman always had gotten off from arguing with him. Jacqueline threw her head back, eyes slammed shut from the feel of his invasion. He could bring her to orgasm fast enough. Just a thumb or his mouth on her would do it. He knew her so well, it would take no effort at all, but he was mad and he needed to be inside her. Needed to pound away the emotions.

Jace reached for the drawer next to the bed.

“There aren’t any more in there. You used the only one left last time you were here.”

There’d been plenty of times he had gone without protection with Jacqueline throughout the years, but not now that they were broken up. Especially not after Tuck’s revelation about Emma and Logan’s unplanned surprise. He sat up. “I have some in my gear bag. Be right back.”

“You what? You carry condoms in your gear bag?” Her eyes opened wide.

Crap. He realized his mistake too late. Jace knew that tone, knew that look. He sighed. “Yes, I have a box of condoms in the truck.”

“Why? Who are you fucking at the arena, Jace? Her? The one I heard on the phone tonight?”

“I’m not having sex with anyone besides you, Jacqueline.”

He should lie and tell her he’d picked up a new box because he’d remembered they’d used the stash he always kept in her drawer, but she’d see the box wasn’t new. Some were missing.

He could tell the truth, that he’d started carrying that box around with him shortly after they’d broken up. Since he hadn’t been with anyone else, he’d never used even one. The strip missing were the ones he’d given to Tuck the night he met Becca. But there was no winning a fight with Jacqueline when she got jealous and irrational.

“You’re a pig! You fuck your little tramp and then come here to my bed?” Jacqueline reinforced her accusation by grabbing the phone next to the bed and throwing it at him.

Only his quick reflexes blocked it from hitting him in the face. It bounced off his forearms as he held them in front of him. She threw a pillow next, which was fine. That couldn’t hurt, but when she reached for the lamp—the new wrought iron lamp he’d noticed when he’d walked in—he took a step back.

Jace couldn’t count how many times he’d walked away from a fight with Jacqueline, scratched and bruised. Being a bull rider, he was always hurt, so no one questioned or even noticed a few more injuries. The physical stuff healed. The hurt inside . . . not so much.

Yanking the plug from the wall, she hoisted the lamp over her head and his anger broke through. Jace had never once laid a hand on her. Even when she’d broken his nose, he’d done nothing but try to protect himself from the blows.

No more. He grabbed her forearm and held tight, hard enough to leave bruises from his fingers. The way he teetered on the edge of losing his temper and his control, if she hit him with that lamp, one or both of them would end up in the hospital.

“No, Jacqueline. No more.”

“Don’t you dare tell me what to—”

“No. No more berating me, or jealousy, or hitting me. No more sex. No more phone calls. Nothing. I have never once cheated on you. Never given you cause to feel or act the way you do. I can’t do this anymore. Don’t call me. Don’t text. Don’t come by my house or my work. I’m sorry, but we can’t even be friends. We sure as hell are no good at it.” He managed to keep his voice calm even as his heart thundered.

The hand that held her shook, but still he held tight. He stayed strong. He couldn’t do this anymore. Live in limbo. Hang on to a small thread of a relationship that he knew deep down was toxic to them both. She’d begun to act crazy months after they’d started dating, but he’d lived in hope she’d get over it, that she’d realize he wanted to be with her and only her. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen.

Jace released his hold on her and remained braced to block a blow, but it didn’t come. She stood before him, wide-eyed and shaking, looking small and vulnerable and making him want to do the one thing he couldn’t let himself—wrap his arms around her and comfort her.

This woman drove him nuts. He’d survived two of the rankest bulls on the circuit tonight, but he’d be lucky to get out of her apartment without a concussion or a few broken bones from a hundred and twenty pound woman wielding a bedside lamp.

In the midst of it all, he felt sorry for her. How crazy was that?

Jacqueline was his drug, his addiction, his kryptonite, and because of that, the only thing to do was go cold turkey. Walk out that front door, drive away, and never look back. No matter how much it hurt both of them.

“Good-bye, Jacqueline.” He turned and headed for the bedroom door. Flinching at the sound of the lamp hitting the floor, he kept walking.

“Jace.” The sound of her footsteps followed him down the hallway. “Please, wait.”

He put one hand on the doorknob and turned it, ignoring her plea and the sob that followed it.

Outside, the cool night air hit his face as he strode for the truck.

“Fine. Never come back!” Her front door slammed behind him, hard and loud, the sound cutting through the quiet of the night. With the truck doors locked and the key in the ignition, he let himself glance at the house, half expecting to see her running at him with the lamp, or the baseball bat he knew all too well was in the hall closet. But the front door didn’t open again. He pulled away from the curb. Only then, did Jace let himself breathe freely again.

The first text came before he’d left her block.

I’m sorry. Please come back.

In the past, this would have been where he’d make a U-turn. Spin the truck around, go back, and bury the anger with makeup sex. Things would be fine until the next fight began. He couldn’t do it anymore. Drawing in a bracing breath, he stayed on course for his own apartment.

The second text followed before he’d driven five more miles.

Where are you? Going over to fuck her? Have fun!

Jace shook his head and swiped a palm over the moisture in his eyes.

This Jacqueline—the angry, irrational one—was a hell of a lot easier to resist than the soft, tear-filled one. He hit the button to power down his phone. He knew her. The texts and phone calls wouldn’t stop all night. In fact, there was a good chance she’d drive over, if not tonight, then by tomorrow at sunrise, and bang on his door until he let her in to prove he didn’t have a girl inside. In fact, given the mood she was in, it was almost a certainty.

Crap. He couldn’t go home. The battle would just continue there. Knowing that, he swung a sharp left and headed away from his apartment, toward the practice arena used by the Oklahoma State rodeo team he sometimes helped Tuck coach.

He’d slept in his truck before, and chances were he’d do it again. It was part of life on the rodeo circuit. Sometimes it was easier to pull over and sleep for a few hours rather than get a hotel room for the night. It was sure as hell cheaper. There’d been other times he’d spent the night in the truck in a parking lot, sleeping off a drunk. He didn’t drink and drive, but that didn’t mean he always took a taxi home. The truck was good enough for him for one night at times such as those, and it was good enough now.

Eventually, he’d have to turn on his phone again and go home. He’d figure out what to do about that later, after some sleep and distance.

Jace cut the engine and stared out into the night. Peace and quiet. Nothing but the stars and the empty practice arena. Easing the seat back as far as it would go, he tilted his hat lower, slumped down and closed his eyes. Tomorrow would be a better day. True or not, he had to believe it.

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TOOLS OF MY TRADE: SmartEdit Update & Review

SmartEdit has had two product updates since my initial review of the product so I figured it was also time for an updated review. I had some PC issues so I never actually got to try version 2, so I skipped directly to SmartEdit 3.011 (released August 8, 2013) and opened  my current Work in Progress (due to the publisher in 4 days, while I leave for a convention in Savannah, GA in 2 days–fyi).

The first thing I noticed upon opening the updated interface was the Word Processor feature and the New Document option, so you can write directly into the SmartEdit window. And where the first version I’d tried required I save my Word .doc as an RTF, the program now supports the Word .doc (and I read, also OpenOffice). This will save me a step and some time.

The Adverb Usage List still remains my favorite feature and that’s the function I go to first to purge my manuscript of junk words. I usually end up cutting over a hundred unneeded words from a full length novel. The other things I loved in the original version–the Repeated Words, and Repeated Phrases, and the Proper Nouns checks are all still there and again have proven themselves invaluable. It was through sorting the Proper Noun list alphabetically that I realized I’d accidentally called the cowboy’s buckle bunny one-night stand Tiffany once, while she’d been Tammy the other 31 times. (Such are the hazards of a romance writer…). The one change I noticed was that all lists are now fully sortable by column, which I love (see more on this later).

There is a Suspect Punctuation List which called me out on my exclamation points, which I use sparingly to begin with but it doesn’t hurt to review them, and for a newbie, this is important because the tell of a writing rookie is the overuse of exclamation points. It also found where I’d added an extra space.

But amid the good old features, there are a few new things I noticed…

The Sentence Start Check can now be alphabetized (which I believe was one of the improvements I suggested in my initial interactions with the developers). So cool that it can be sorted by a count of the uses OR alphabetically. So when the results defaulted to show me I’d started sentences with “He” 482 times, and I knew there was no getting around that in a 62,000 word document about a cowboy, I switched to alphabetical mode and scrolled through to words I knew were an issue for me, such as the 5 sentences I began with the word “actually”. Not horrible for a book this length, but still I figured I could do better. I reviewed those particular sentences, and chose to change a few, which is easy to do by clicking on the sentence fragment in the results window. Then I found I’d used “All right”, “Well” and “Just” to start far too many sentences and I had some more work to do…

I wasn’t sure what the Redundancies List was until I opened it, then I realized exactly what its function was when I saw I’d written things such as “the exact same” when just the word “same” would do. Now, in my writing, with a lot of dialogue between bull riders talking to their best buddies, I can get away with things not being perfect because we all know people don’t always speak in perfect sentences, but still a good feature and worth looking over for any changes that will tighten up the writing. We can all do away with some of the “stood up”s in our writing because really, “stood” will do.

SmartEdit 3.0 is more robust than the original and easier to use than ever. My only remaining complaint is the lack of Mac support but I am willing to squint at the teeny screen and be frustrated by the Windows 7 platform of my Acer just to use this program, which stands as a testament in itself.

Cat

April 2013 Cowboy Calendar Wallpaper & Three Weeks with a Bull Rider Excerpt!

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I’m in a cowboy kinda mood this month as I work toward finishing THREE WEEKS WITH A BULL RIDER (Oklahoma Nights, Book 3). Pro bull rider Jace Mills is proving to be hotter and sweeter than I’d ever imagined he would and I can’t wait to share him with you. Unfortunately, the release probably won’t be until early 2014. But, how about a little tiny taste of him now. Here’s an unedited scene from Chapter 1 of book 3 featuring Tuck (who you might remember from book 1 ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY) and Jace. Enjoy!

THREE WEEKS WITH A BULL RIDER (Oklahoma Nights, Book 3)

Chapter 1 (unedited draft)

“You’re really not gonna come with me?” Eyes wide, Jace Mills stared across the driveway at his supposed best friend.

“It’s not that I don’t want to.” Leaning back against his truck, Tucker Jenkins drew in a deep breath and then let it out in a huff. “I can’t.”

Jace ran his hand across his forehead beneath the band of his hat. “Because why again?”

“I told you already.”

“Tell me again, just so I can be sure I heard you right the first time.” Jace waited for the response. He already knew the answer but he needed to hear Tuck admit the foolishness out loud one more time.

Tuck sighed. “I have plans to go out with Becca and Logan and Emma.”

“And this double date of yours is to where, exactly?” Jace made sure he stressed the most ridiculous part.

Another sigh proceeded Tuck’s answer. “A winery in Drumright.”

“Yes, indeed. A winery.” Jace nodded, lips pursed. “You hate wine. Always have. You do remember that small detail, don’t you? Or did marriage give you brain damage or amnesia or something?”

“Listen, Jace. When you get married you’ll see. A man has to choose his battles.”

And there it was—that annoying defense that all married men loved to throw in the face of smart, unmarried men like Jace. When you get married, you’ll see . . .

“Fine, Tuck. Pick your battles, and I’m telling you right about now would be a damn good time to stand your ground and fight. There’s fifteen-hundred added money. How can you pass that up? We don’t even have to travel far for it. It’s an hour away. Right off the damn highway in Shawnee.”

“I know, but apparently it’s this vineyard’s big annual festival and harvest event or some shit like that. They only have it once a year. Look, I’m not happy about it either, but I gotta do it.”

It was small consolation to Jace, but Tuck’s expression did say he’d rather be riding in Shawnee than sipping wine any day. Jace figured it all came down to the path of least misery. Becca could make Tuck’s life harder than Jace could, so she won this battle.

“Look Jace, just go to Shawnee on your own, win the purse and be happy I’m not there as competition to spank your ass.”

“Oh, you’re not my competition.” Jace shook his head, not willing to concede to Tuck’s boasting, just because Tuck had won a few championship buckles way back when. “Maybe you used to be, before you got soft, but not anymore. Besides, you know how I feel. When I’m on the back of a bull, it’s me against him. I could care less who rode before or who’s fixin’ to ride.”

“Fine. I’ve gone soft. Whatever.” Tuck dismissed Jace’s insult with a wave of his hand, which didn’t give Jace as much satisfaction as if he’d gotten a rise out of Tuck. “I still can’t ride tonight and there’s nothing I—or you—can do about it.”

“I don’t see why Becca and Emma can’t go alone. They can drive themselves. Hell, it’s like twenty minutes away. You guys are always going to Drumright for that smoked bologna you love so much at that restaurant. What the hell’s the name of that place again?”

“Joseph’s.”

“Yeah, Joseph’s. The point is, Becca knows the way to Drumright by now. This wine tasting crap is a chick thing anyway. Or, hell, you know what? Logan can take the girls. He probably likes wine.” Jace felt far less camaraderie toward Logan since he’d stolen Emma away from him.

“I already suggested that.”

“Really?” That was interesting. Maybe Tuck hadn’t handed his balls over to Becca along with the wedding band after all. Jace settled back against his own truck, parked next to Tuck’s in his and Becca’s driveway. “And?”

“It went over like a fart in church.”

Read more about Tuck, Becca, Logan, Emma and Jace in the Oklahoma Nights series from Kensington Brava

ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY (out now in paperback & eBook)

“Fish Out of Water” in the HE’S THE ONE anthology (preorder now for July 2 release)

TWO TIMES AS HOT (preorder now for Sept 24 release)

THREE WEEKS WITH A BULL RIDER (coming in 2014)

Click HERE

One Night With a Cowboy by Cat Johnson Two Times as Hot (Oklahoma Nights Series) HE'S THE ONE.jpg

Insight into the mind of Tucker from ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY

I’m a woman. I’m a civilian. I’m not a testosterone-fueled man. I’m not career military personnel. In light of all of those points, I do one thing to help me write my military characters…I talk (on IM, by phone, on Skype, etc) to active duty, career military personnel as often as possible. Below, paraphrased because I don’t always take notes during these conversations, is what I’ve heard some of them say…

1) “They came by the shop today asking for volunteers to go be door kickers in Afghanistan. If I was 10 years younger I would have volunteered to go.” …Let me interpret this statement for you. This was about 4 or 5 years ago, before the troop reductions had begun. This active duty Marine, nearing his 20 year mark, was safely stationed  in the US. Someone from the Corps came to his squadron to ask for volunteers to go to Afghanistan and become part of a team whose job was to literally kick down doors to inspect the residences and search for insurgents, and men were going, while others who didn’t volunteer wished they could.

2) “I had to pull one of my guys off the Afghan det. He’s really pissed.” This was just last month. A Staff Non-Commissioned Officer is explaining how one of his troops was scheduled to go to Afghanistan this summer with the rest of the squadron, but for some reason he can no longer go and now this Marine is upset because instead he will have stay in the rear, safely in North Carolina.

3) Just a few months ago, another Marine was about to leave in January for Afghanistan when he went to Medical with severe back pain. He was told if his condition didn’t improve, he wouldn’t be able to deploy with the rest of his unit. He was nearly inconsolable about that. He said, “Now I’ll never get to go. We’ll be out of Afghanistan by the time the next det goes.” He did everything he could to heal and though he didn’t get to deploy with the advanced unit as he’d hoped, he did get to go with the main unit and is there now.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’m seeing reader reviews of ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY in which the reader doesn’t understand why the hero would volunteer to deploy to Afghanistan when events at home in Oklahoma make him believe it would be beneficial for him and the woman he cares about if he could separate himself from her for 6 months and then come back. It’s not a large amount of reviewers who say this, it’s just a few, but in my mind, even 1 is too many. 2 reviewers called his motivation “juvenile” and “infantile”. A couple of others thought it wasn’t a believable scenario he’d volunteer to go to Afghanistan. Sometimes that disbelief is because he ends up in a pretty hellacious region of Afghanistan. What we have to realize is this, soldiers don’t get to pick where they end up going. You say you’re willing to deploy, they don’t let you choose which base. This isn’t Club Med. “Kandahar or Korengal? Both are lovely this time of year, though I must say the food is better in Kandahar…”

These men I discuss above are the men I based Tuck’s character on. It’s their motivation I tried to capture.

I know the failure is mine as an author that I didn’t convey the above motivation better in the story. If I’d done my job, Tucker’s motives wouldn’t be questioned, he wouldn’t come across to some readers as a bratty child picking up his toys and leaving when things get tough. My only excuse is I failed to remember that not everyone has my experience with these kind of men. Not every reader is getting the “Good morning, Sunshine”  instant message that I get from the war zone on the other side of the world at night before I go to bed. Not every reader is waking up the next day to another message about how, now that the day is done in Afghanistan, it’s been a hell of a day and he’s heading to bed hoping tomorrow will be better. Not every reader can hear the disappointment in the voice of the man who just got told he can’t go with the rest of this squad. And that’s my fault for not realizing that and writing that better into the story. I’ll try not to make the same mistake in future books should I choose to focus on a military character again. For now, I hope this helps to give readers who haven’t had the same experiences I have a little insight into what I see, and what I’d hoped to convey.

Cat

Product Review – SmartEdit

APRIL 2013 UPDATE: A new version has been released. I hope to test it by month’s end when I finish my current work in progress. Please note the following review is for a past version, not the most recent.

Some of you may remember my Tools of My Trade blog series. I did it in July of 2011 and again in July of 2012. One of the featured tools I wrote up, which I use for every manuscript to clean it up before I submit to my editor, is SMARTEDIT.

Imagine my surprise when the developer of SmartEdit contacted me asking if I’d like to try out the new version they just released. Being a technology geek, I of course agreed. I downloaded the new version and used it to go through the 82,000 word romance novel due to my editor at Kensington on January 1st. By the time I was done, the program had identified, and I had cut hundreds of unnecessary words out of the manuscript, making it stronger and cleaner.

Here are my initial thoughts while they are fresh in my head. To save time and effort, I have pulled some of the feedback I emailed to SmartEdit for you all to read here.

ADVERB USAGES LIST- this alphabetical list is by far the most useful for me and the reason I started using the program to begin with. I go through and cut out as many of the unnecessary ‘ly’ words I can.

REPEATED PHRASES- Also an eye opener. I LOVE that it gives the count of how many time I use certain phrases.

REPEATED WORDS- Again, important feature. Love the count of how many usages. For this one I really would like to see it be able to be sorted alphabetically because there are a few words I know I overuse and I’d like to scroll directly to them to see exactly how many times I did. I gave this feedback to the developer and he will look into implementing this function in a future release.

MISUSED WORDS- This is an alphabetical list of all those words we all misuse from time to time. Those things that SpellCheck won’t pick up the misuse of, such as there-their-they’re. And Your-you’re. It highlights other possible misused words as well. This list can get a bit long. I check it for shorter works. For longer works, it’s too overwhelming and I don’t.

PROFANITY USAGE- This function cracked me up, but again, it can be an eyeopener. Some of my characters cuss a lot!

SENTENCE LENGTH – this was interesting. I never knew I had so many 1 word sentences–1,400 of them in an 82,000 word book. I’m blaming it on the many sections of dialogue and not worrying about it.

CLICHE USAGE and DIALOG TAGS. Two more functions that will help an author to avoid repeating things. The Dialog tag count would be a very useful feature for an aspiring or new writer. The industry is moving away from using them and using ‘said’ has long ago been beaten out of me by my editors, but overuse of dialog tags is a sure way to spot a newbie writer.

PROPER NOUNS- very useful because I’ve been known to suddenly spell a character’s name differently halfway through, or to start writing my heroine Emma as “Emily” because I was also editing a book for a different pub where the heroine’s name was Emily, while I was in the middle of writing the Emma book. Anyway, having all the proper names in a list that is alphabetized helped me to check that and save the embarrassment.

ACRONYMS list was nice. I write a lot of military romance which is full of these. I could see how many, and I could go to each instance and make sure the reader will be able to understand it from the context.

SENTENCE START LIST- A very useful list, but again I suggested the ability to sort by alphabet, instead of just by number of times used.

SUSPECT PUNCTUATION- this function will pick up double punctuation, and other things like that. The only thing for me this list picked up was where I’d accidentally put 2 spaces between words within a sentence rather than 1.

PROPERTIES TAB- this was nice. I found that I had some straight quotes mixed in among my curly quotes, and 1 ‘en’ dash amid my ’em’ dashes. It also had word count.

There are a few other features such as FOREIGN PHRASE USAGE, and a place where the user can customize the program and search for specific, user-specified words.

Full disclosure, I didn’t explore the HELP tab or watch the video. I just went in and opened my file and went to work. The program may do even more than I found, had I taken the time to do that.

Check out SmartEdit. As far as I can see, you can download a free trial of the full version to use for 10-days after which you can choose to purchase a license, or you can download a free version with limited functions. Go give it a try and see how it works for you. I know I’ll continue to be a devoted SmartEdit user, smiting those pesky adverbs where ever I find them!

Oh, one more point, to  date there is no MAC support, but as I said back in July after first discovering this tool, it is useful enough I am willing to break out the old half-broken PC just for this.

More Gifts for Writers…

Yesterday over at Confessions of a Romance Writer I gave a little insight into what I consider perfect gifts for the writers and shut-ins in your life. I posted that and then had to actually go out somewhere, which made me realize something. There were a few more things I needed to add to that original list. So here it is, part 2 of Gifts for the Writer, these for when we must leave our writing den and venture into the cold cruel world.

Touch GlovesTouch Gloves– I LOVE these things. I have no idea how or why they work–they feel and look just like plain old wool gloves–but the magic fingertips make it possible for me to swipe my iPad, and use the mouse on my laptop while wearing the gloves. This makes it much more comfortable to work while I’m waiting in the car with the engine and the heater off, which happens more than you can imagine. My gloves also happen to match my new writing sweater. Bonus!

Power Converter– While we’re on the subject of working in the car…I live in fear of a dead battery on the iPad and the Mac and my cell. I haven’t invested in a separate car charger for everything I own, but what I do have is this thingy that you plug into your car and it enables you to plug any home appliance charger into it. So I can charge my cell, my iPad, and my laptop, all with this one device and the regular power cord.

A BIG Bag– I used to choose purses by how cute they were. Now my criteria is this–if can I fit my iPad, my laptop and a bottle of wine in there, then we’re good. Even better when there’s a zipper compartment to contain the cell, a lipstick (because all a girl needs is lipstick and sunglasses to look good) and my wallet (since when traveling with wine in your purse it’s best to have your driver’s license on you too).

And finally…

A To-Go Cup– Just because we’re not at home doesn’t mean we don’t want to drink. Coffee, tea, wine, whatever. We need a to-go cup with a lid so we don’t spill in the car or on our laptops. Safety first.

So there you go. I think my list if finally complete. Happy shopping!

Cat