Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Here’s a little taste

I have got the edits for The Croaking Raven back, and I thought to share the first chapter with you. I hope you like it. But first, here’s what the book is about:

Harper George, a crisis negotiator for the Metropolitan Police Service, is having a bad day. A hostage has died, the MPS has given her the boot, and she has to handle a heist negotiation drunk. It doesn’t end well.
It’s about to get worse.
A criminal organisation wants Harper to work for them. When she refuses, people start dying. The seemingly random deaths turn out to have a common nominator: Harper, and a negotiation she has failed. Someone wants revenge, but who and why?
Harper is determined to solve the mystery before more people die – and before she has to give in to the criminals’ demands. But then it’s too late. Harper has to face the toughest negotiation of her career: that for her own life. 

Chapter One

“Here’s to Johnny.” Harper saluted with her glass to an audience of zero, and then drained the contents. It wasn’t a proper way to show appreciation for the expensive whisky, but the memory she was trying to erase couldn’t be wiped away with anything less than eighteen-year-old single malt.
She waved the empty glass towards the barman at the other end of the curving bar, who was chatting with the only other customer in the pub, a sales rep type of man having lunch. “Hit me again.”
The barman frowned – and was it just her or were barmen getting younger by the day? He couldn’t possibly be old enough to drink legally, let alone to serve alcoholic beverages that were. “I think you’ve had enough.”
“And what, pray, is considered enough these days?” She wasn’t even slurring yet, and her sarcasm came through clear enough. He lifted his hands in defence.
“Hey, no offence. Just an observation.”
“If I were a bloke you’d pour me another.”
He shrugged. “Could be. But you’re not. And women your size can’t really take as much as a man.”
Harper sat up straighter on the barstool, a reaction of hers whenever her short size was mentioned. All her psychological training hadn’t cured her of the habit. “Ah, but you’re not taking age and practise into consideration. And those say I’m good for at least one more drink.”
“Fine, but this is the absolute last one.” He poured her a generous portion of whisky and she paid for it. “The next one is coffee.”
“Yes, Mom.” There were other pubs in London.
“Let me guess. Broken heart, am I right?” the sales rep type asked.
She gave him a slow look. “Because a woman couldn’t possibly have any other reason for drinking than a man.”
He flustered slightly. “Clearly something’s brothering you.”
“You mean I can’t get plastered at…” She glanced at the clock on the wall behind the bar. She had to squeeze her eyes a little for the numbers to come in focus. “Two-thirty on a Monday afternoon just for the heck of it?”
“Well, it does seem peculiar. Is it work related?”
The question made her want to empty her glass. “Yep.”
The man wouldn’t give up. He wasn’t actually bad looking, which probably meant that she had, in fact, had enough to drink. “A deal gone bad? Did you lose a lot of money?”
“Money? Who drinks because of money?”
“We are practically in the City, and the way you’re dressed, I assumed you’d be working there.”
Harper glanced at her red skirt suit, custom made like most of her clothes had to be. At five foot four she was slightly too short for her weight, the excess of which concentrated mostly on her backside and front top, making it nearly impossible for her to find readymade clothes that fit. Shoes were black pumps with higher heels than were regulation, but she needed every extra inch they gave her.
“Well, you got that wrong.” She doubted any City executive would deign to show up in this dump of a pub in Whitechapel anyway. She had only chosen it because it was close enough to work that she hadn’t had to go far, yet was devoid of any co-workers.
“What is it that you do then? A doctor? Did you lose a patient?”
She was a doctor, actually, but not of medicine. Psychology. “If doctors got blasted every time someone died, they’d be permanently incapacitated.” She wasn’t looking for a conversation, but he looked so expectant that she sighed and gave in. “I’m a crisis negotiator.”
“Oh. What’s that then?”
She stared at her drink. “I mediate in crisis situations so they can be resolved without violence or loss of lives.”
If she was successful.
“Who for?”
“The police.”
“Bank heists and such, where people are taken hostage?”
She shook her head. “There hasn’t been a single bank heist that needed a negotiator during my almost decade with the Metropolitan Police Service.”
“So what do you do?”
She sighed, not really wanting to explain. “It’s ninety per cent domestic situations that the police can’t defuse by themselves, and attempted suicides.”
“So no hostage situations at all?”
“Yes, but they’re usually domestic too. Custody battles where one parent takes the children. Or a guy threatens to blow himself or his family up if his wife doesn’t return home, or he doesn’t get his job back.” Maybe I should try that one. “The rest is counselling after traumatic incidents.”
“Did something bad happen to get you drinking? Did someone blow something up after all?” He gestured for the bartender to turn on the TV.
She braced herself for the news that would definitely bring up the cause for her drinking. But she had a more mundane reason for it, too. “No. I was fired. Budget cuts. Nothing ever blows up, so the powers that be decided we’re not actually needed.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. That’s a hell of a way to start the week.”
“You have no idea.” She squeezed her eyes tightly to forget the video she had seen that morning, but the images were clear in her mind. The drinks weren’t working. A barrel of whisky couldn’t erase the memory.
The news was rolling on the BBC 24. There was a police operation underway in London, a large one by the look of it. Blokes from the Specialist Firearms Command were on the scene too, geared up, ready to offer the unarmed personnel armed support if needed – or defuse a bomb. They all operated from the Leman Street station, as did the crisis negotiators, so she knew most of them. She tried to detect familiar faces, but her gaze was too blurred to see the screen clearly.
Then Johnny’s face blasted on the screen and she was filled with the agony of sorrow and failure. “Islamist militants have this morning killed a British hostage, Jonathan Hooper, a photojournalist working—” She covered her ears, and closed her eyes not to see the rest, but too late. A picture of Ashley flashed on the screen with the text ‘journalist still held captive’.
Her beautiful, wilful little sister.
The thought of Ashley in the hands of people who had beheaded her partner was too much to bear. She emptied her glass, but the alcohol had stopped working.
Her phone rang, mercifully claiming her attention. Her boss. Ex-boss. “What?”
“Where are you?” Hugo Cobb barked in the phone.
“In hell. Why? You want to join me?”
“I need your arse down here, immediately.”
“I was fired, remember?”
“Not yet you weren’t. Now move! There’s a situation on.”
“Tough. I’m drunk.”
That made him pause. “How drunk?”
“Halfway between pissed and arse over the elbow.”
He growled. “Can’t be helped. I’m sending someone to fetch you.”
That piqued her interest. “What’s so important anyway?”
“You’ll hear it soon enough. Text me your address. And start drinking coffee.” He hung up.
“Well, fuck.”

A man walked in the pub when Harper was down to her second cup of coffee. She gave him a onceover and approved of what she saw, fairly sure it wasn’t the alcohol affecting her opinion this time.
He looked around, ignoring her and the sales rep at the bar. When the place proved empty of other people, he turned to them, frowning. “Harper George?” The question was military sharp.
Harper gave him a lazy salute. “Aye.”
He startled, as if he hadn’t expected her, but recovered and walked to her. “Garret Thomson, from Thomson Security.” He offered his hand to her. She shook it automatically, trying not to wince when his grip turned out to be military sharp too.
She had come across the type before — ex-soldier who had put his training to use by starting a security business. This one was so new to civilian life he hadn’t let go of his training yet. He was tall and fit with lean muscles, and alert like not even the cops were, as if constantly prepared for getting killed.
“Are you ready?”
“Could I see some identification first?” To his credit, he didn’t hesitate to whip out his ID, and she tried to peer at it. Close-up didn’t work so she pulled it arms-length away from her face.
He snorted, amused. “I was warned that you’d be drunk. But … wow.” He shook his head.
“Yeah, well.” She finally managed to read the ID. He was thirty-four to her thirty-six. He looked older than that, courtesy of the harsh conditions of military life. His skin looked like it had been sand-blown, and there were crow’s feet around his brown eyes. His near black hair was military short with a hint of grey at the temples. The picture was fairly recent, or he always wore a similar black T-shirt. His black cargos looked well-worn too, so he probably lived in them.
“Are you the boss himself, or is there another Thomson pulling the strings?”
“There’s only me.” His tone, a mixture of pride and annoyance intrigued her, but she was too drunk to analyse it.
“Well, aren’t I flattered. Who sent you?”
“Not trusting my word?”
He nodded, approving. “Hugo Cobb, the chief crisis negotiator for the Metropolitan Police Service.”
“And why you?”
“He couldn’t spare anyone else.”
That sparked her interest. “What’s going on?” She should have paid better attention to the news after all.
“I’ll tell you on the way. Let’s go.”
Harper began to climb down from the tall barstool, an operation for her even when sober. Her legs gave under her, and he reached to steady her by her arm. “Whoa. Give me a second.” The room was spinning uncomfortably and she had to swallow to keep the contents of her stomach in.
He frowned. “We don’t have a second. Take off those stupid shoes. You’ll break your ankles.”
“Well excuse me, but not all of us are over six foot tall. I need every extra inch to make an impression.”
“You’ll make an impression all right.”
“Hey, I’m not the one dragging a drunken woman to a crime scene.”
He huffed, and before she realised what he was about, wrapped an arm around her waist and marched her out of the pub. A large black off-roader sporting the name of his security firm on its side was waiting outside the door, and he helped her onto the high back seat. “Don’t throw up in there.”
He took the front seat next to the driver, who got the car moving before he had properly closed the door. “This is Riley Wilkins, my right hand man.” Riley gave off a similar military vibe as Garret, but his hair was completely shaven and he had greater upper body bulk, which made him appear both younger and much larger.
“There’s coffee and bacon sandwiches in that bag,” Garret said, pointing at a Tesco bag on the seat next to her.
“Thanks,” Harper said, peeking in. The notion of eating didn’t exactly entice her, but she had to sober up. She opened the sandwich package and the smell of greasy bacon hit her nose, making her gag.
She didn’t want to sober up that badly.
Fighting the nausea, she didn’t pay much attention to where they were going. West, towards the City at first, but then Riley turned to the ring road that circled central London from the north.
“Where are we going?”
“What, the bear took everyone hostage at the station?” She snorted at her own witticism, but the men weren’t amused.
“No. A man has locked himself in a small branch of NatWest with hostages and explosives.”
Harper’s hand paused midway in stuffing a sandwich in her mouth. “Really? Well, that’s convenient timing. Who’s at the scene?”
“Pretty much everyone.”
“Then why am I needed?”
“Because, Miss George, the hijacker requested you.” 

If you liked the first chapter, you can read the second chapter on my webpage

Monday, 15 December 2014

Genre hopping. (And a cover reveal!)

I have written a thriller. Or maybe a crime novel. It could be a suspense story too. I’m not entirely sure. I haven’t written this kind of book before.

I’ve been genre hopping.

All my books so far have been romances. There are paranormal romances and contemporary romances. Romantic suspense and romances just for romance’s sake. This book: no romantic elements whatsoever. And no paranormal elements either, for that matter.

I didn’t intend to switch genres. I have quite a few Two-Natured London books still to write, and I didn’t really have time for this book. But the idea struck and wouldn’t let go, so I had no choice. What’s more, I believe I will write another book in this genre too. Because I liked it.

The lack of romantic elements was refreshing. I didn’t have to think of every interaction between characters in terms of romantic interests. And unlike in romances, the heroine didn’t have to find fulfilment in the form of a husband and the happily ever after.

New elements replaced the old. There was the matter of good and bad, for example; the good guys and the bad guys, and – hopefully – all the characters in between that are both, or not quite either of those. There is a crime or a mystery to solve, preferably one that readers won’t figure out too early. And there is a hero or heroine solving it.

The heroine is the cause for my genre hopping. She materialised from the depths of my imagination and wouldn’t go away until I wrote her a book. Her name is Harper George, and she is a crisis negotiator for the Metropolitan Police Service in London. She is connected to the police, but not accustomed to detective work. It allowed me to have a different angle to the crime solving process that I hope isn’t done to death already.

I couldn’t avoid the clich├ęs entirely. It’s difficult to when writing in a genre of any kind. My heroine ended up being a bit of a loner with a budding drinking problem. In her defence – or mine – she has personal issues that occasionally require a glass of whisky. But I tried not to make that her defining characteristic. And I gave her other features that I hope will help her stand out.

The book is called The Croaking Raven, and it’s about revenge. Harper is being coerced into working for criminals and when she refuses, people start dying around her. But the deaths aren’t random. They are connected to a hostage negotiation she was involved in that failed. Someone wants revenge, and she is determined to find out who before more people die.

Writing in a new genre brought up the issue of pen names too. I have two, Susanna Shore for my paranormal romances, and Hannah Kane for my contemporary romances. For almost the duration of the writing process, I was sure I would create a new pen name for this book. I didn’t want my existing readers to be disappointed with the lack of romance or paranormal elements – or the new ones to find my previous books disappointing, if they venture to read them.

However, in the end I decided to publish it as Susanna Shore. Even though the book isn’t urban fantasy, it has similar elements. It has a strong heroine who is thrown in an unfamiliar world and has to rely on her wits to survive there. People around her are alien, not because they are paranormal creatures, but because she has never encountered quite their like. And despite the lack of romance, there are a couple of strong alpha males like in any good urban fantasy. It feels like a Susanna Shore book to me.

All in all, this hop to a different genre has been refreshing. I learned a lot writing it, and feel energised and ready to return to writing the next Two-Natured London book. With romance and all.

The book is currently with the editor, but as soon as I get it back, I will publish an excerpt on my website. Stay tuned for that. And, as promised, here’s the cover. As always, it’s my own creation, and I’m pretty satisfied with it. Its genre appropriate, eye-catching, and fresh. What do you think?

The Croaking Raven by Susanna Shore

Monday, 1 December 2014

Running a Facebook ad? Here's five things to consider.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a new Facebook page. Last week, I tried my hand in advertising on FB for the first time. The experience was positive. Partly it’s because advertising there is easy; partly it’s because I had a limited campaign to run.

I ran a Kindle Countdown Deal for the Two-Natured London series on amazon.com from Thursday to Sunday, which I advertised from Friday to Saturday. Having a limited time, specific location, and selected books made it easy to compose the advertisement. I had my target audience (readers of paranormal romances), and FB knew where to find them.

Facebook makes it easy to advertise there. Compose the post – I had a large colourful picture to add with mine for maximum attention – and click a button. You can then choose the target area (the US in this case), target demographic (women between 25 and 60 for my books), the sum you’re prepared to use (FB tells the minimum, you can choose how much you’re prepared to use), and the number of days the advertisement will run (two days). 

You can then further specify the audience based on their interests. I chose those interested in e-books, romances, werewolves and vampires. The payment options were credit card and PayPal, and the account was charged afterwards.

Based on my settings, Facebook promised me a reach of 2000-5000 people; not all that lot, considering the potential. Spending more would have given me a wider reach, but since this was my first try, I wasn’t prepared to do it. I was also informed that the photo I used in my ad might not meet the requirements, because it had too much text in it. That turned out to be a false alarm. However, it tells that they won’t allow you to advertise just anything there.

This is the image I used in my ad.
How did I do? According to FB, the ad reached 4880 people. Of those, 62 people liked the ad and two people shared it. 19 people clicked the link. Furthermore, my FB page got seventeen new likes. All in all, FB stats inform me there were 114 acts on it; about 0.023% of those who saw the ad reacted to it. Its not terribly much, but I count it all as a plus. It’s a new page and it needs all the attention it can get.

I didn’t sell many books. However, compared with the sales before the ad – some – there was a change. The advertisement paid itself, but that’s about it. It’s difficult to say, if spending more on the ad would have brought me better results. I might have got more likes for the page, but I’m not sure I would have sold enough books to pay for it.

Even though I didn’t sell many books, I liked the experience, and will try it again. So here’s a recap of what I found important:
  1. Make a good, visual ad. (Truly put some thought into it.)
  2. Make sure you advertise a specific item or event. (The audience must have a certain way to react to it, buy, enlist etc.)
  3. Target the audience carefully to those interested in what you sell. (Don’t make it too narrow, though.)
  4. Limit the advertisement to your target audience. (More isn’t better if no one is interested.)
  5. Even a little sum can bring (good) results. (It's better than nothing.)
Here are my thoughts after the first try. Do you have good advice to add?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Readers and the social media

“If your readers aren’t on Tumblr, there’s no point in wasting your time with it.”
The above wisdom sailed down my Twitter stream the other day. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the good sense to favour it so that I could give you the exact quote or – more importantly – who came up with it. But the message is understood without them:
In order to reach new readers, you have to be present where they are. It won’t happen the other way round.
Back in a day, authors would only be available at a given time and place, i.e. on book tours. Readers would either show up or not, depending on the popularity of the author. Book tours haven’t disappeared anywhere, but they have become a luxury that publishers pay only for selected few. For most self-published authors, they aren’t an option at all.

Thankfully, there’s the social media, where authors can be available at all times for everyone, everywhere. Depending on the popularity of the platform you use, the number of potential readers you could reach can be substantial. Provided it’s the platform your readers use.

My personal favourite platform is Twitter. I like the fast pace, the amount of information I find there, and the ease of communicating with complete strangers. I have a nice following there, to whom I tweet regularly about my books too.

But here’s the rub: my Twitter followers aren’t my readers. Most of my following is fellow self-published authors, most of whom couldn’t give a damn about my books. So, from a marketing point of view, Twitter is the waste of my time.

Good thing I like it for personal reasons.

The same is true with other platforms. Tumblr may be great for what it’s created for, but if your readers don’t use it, investing a lot of time and effort on it, expecting it to generate sales, is pointless. Most opt for Facebook, as statistically readers of any genre or author are likely to be found there. But even Facebook won’t help marketing your books, if you only ever reach other authors there.

The difficult part – obviously – is finding where your readers are. The biggest might not always be the best place for you to be. For example, writers of middle grade books might find their readers on one of those new platforms that are more popular than Facebook among school children – even if it’s their parents that ultimately buy the books. A smaller forum specialised on your topic might work well too.

Your effort should be put on finding the readers, not on spending time on all platforms with the hopes that one of them might work. Only very dedicated readers make the effort of finding the author, and that only after they have already read and liked something by them. Your presence on multiple platforms works brilliantly for that. But to find new readers, you have to go where they are.

That said, I won’t give up Twitter, no matter how much time I spend on it – which is too much. However, I finally caved and opened a Facebook page. I’m not a fan of FB, and I don’t really know how to use it, but it is the platform where my readers are, and therefore I have to be there too. Take a look, and then ask yourself, is this were my readers are? Or should I be elsewhere?

Monday, 3 November 2014

Prologues, yay or nay?

I don’t like prologues. Never have. They are usually boring, overly long ramblings of things the author thinks a reader needs to know to understand the book. At worst, they are a necessary read before one gets to the actual book without any real content; at best they give a short glimpse to a character that then promptly dies, inciting the events that  follow.

Whatever form they take, I have never written one for my books. I have heartily embraced every writing advice that tells to delete them. My books don’t need them.

I was, therefore, rather surprised when I found myself writing a prologue. The book was doing fine without it. It didn’t even occur to me to add it. Yet, the moment the notion of writing it entered my mind, it felt self-evident that the book needed it. So now it has one.

I’m writing a thriller – of sorts. Most of it is in the protagonist’s point of view. It works when I’m trying to keep the reader as much in the dark as the protagonist is, but at times it can be limiting. Sometimes a reader needs to know more than the protagonist does. It adds to the tension.

That’s what my prologue is for. The reader knows to expect something that the protagonist has no clue of. The contents of the chapter are essential, but also the form. It needs to be a prologue, not merely the first chapter, otherwise the reader might be led to believe that the people in it are the protagonists. It’s a fine definition, but I think it’s there.

And so, at least for now, my upcoming book has a prologue. And I don’t mind it all that much. The book took a whole new shape after I added it. That doesn’t mean I will start writing them to all my books from now on. The rule still stands.

Epilogues, on the other hand. Those I like.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Exclusive or not, part 2.

A quick blog post on a familiar topic: Kindle Unlimited. Mainly to draw attention to two posts, Author Earnings Report for October 2014, and Hugh Howey’s blog post about it.

The previous time I wrote about the topic, Howey held that he might move his books exclusively to Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. After the latest report, he’s having second thoughts. He notes that especially those indie authors with middling sales aren’t doing very well on KU, mainly because compensation per borrow is less than what they would make per sale. Moreover, he finds troublesome a system that rewards those who do well while leaving others worse off. Therefore, he might stay off KU for ethical reasons.

Howey isn’t against KU. He encourages authors to experiment. If your books aren’t on other platforms yet, sign up for 90 days and see what happens. You can always leave if it doesn’t work for you. However, he questions the need for exclusivity. Perhaps it’s time that Amazon drop it. As he says, Amazon is by far the biggest site for finding ebooks. Giving up the demand for exclusivity won’t change that.

Personally, I’m keeping the books I have on KU there for now. They don’t move terribly well, but borrows still outnumber the sales. And as Amazon announced larger fund for this month, maybe the compensation per borrow will rise to make it financially worthwhile to have my books there. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Exclusive or not?

I’ve read two posts in recent days about pros and cons of selling books exclusively on Amazon. In the first, Hugh Howey leans towards exclusivity. His books move well through Kindle Unlimited, and even though he earns a little less per book there, the sales on other venues aren’t enough to compensate the loss of those loans, should he take his books out of KU. Another post took a view that it’s bad for competition to have only one major operator in e-book business, and so one shouldn’t limit the sales to Amazon. Both views have their merits.

Not all of us have a choice, though. For many self-published authors, Kindle Unlimited has meant an almost complete stop of sales, and the loans haven’t compensated the loss. On top of dwindling borrows, the compensation per borrow has gone down. But books don’t really sell well on other platforms either, so for those currently exclusively on Amazon, the idea of taking the books off KU to sell them elsewhere seems like too much of a gamble. Because if even a bestseller like Hugh Howey can’t sell his books well on other platforms, what chance the rest of us have? And he probably sells more than most of us combined there, just not enough.

Some have probably already left KU, despite the meagre options. So Amazon is trying to make KU more attractive. They introduced a bonus system last week, which rewards authors whose books are borrowed the most. But it’s only for a couple of hundred people each month, of thousands of authors, even if they aren’t the same people month after month. It isn’t an incentive for most of us to stay.

I haven’t seen any statistics about how many people have left KU – or how many are considering it but stay, because the option is a complete loss of sales. So, basically, we’re stuck. Exclusivity isn’t a choice for all of us; it’s the only option.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Uninspired? Here are five things you can try.

We’ve all been there: the book is going fine enough and the story is solid, but inspiration is gone. No matter how much you stare at the screen, it won’t return. When that happens, the temptation to abandon the entire project can be great. But before you do, there are some things you can try.

I wasn’t terribly inspired when I wrote my latest book, It happened on a Lie. The story was there, but no matter what I tried, I was bored and couldn’t bring myself to finishing it. I didn’t want to abandon the manuscript though. I had a cover I wanted to use for it, and I liked the characters.

My solution was to start fresh with a different writing style. I wrote shorter paragraphs and chapters than I usually do, and took away all but the necessary descriptions and backstory. And all of a sudden I had a new story in my hands. It wasn’t what I had thought to write, but it inspired me. In no time at all, I had the book ready.

So, if you’re stuck, don’t give up. Try something new. There are many approaches to this.

  1. Tell the story from the point of view of a different character. Write a chapter or a scene to see what it would bring to the story. You don’t have to keep it, but then again, it might lead you to restructuring the entire book.
  2. Write scenes out of order. Pick a scene that intrigues you and write that instead. Don’t worry about how it would fit into the rest of the narrative. You can change it later, or you can change the rest of the book to suit that scene. Everything is possible.
  3. Change the narrative from the first person point of view to the third person, or vice versa. Try a chapter to see how it goes.
  4. Change your writing style. If you’re a fan of florid sentences, try a simpler style. If you haven’t used an adverb in your life, try writing more complex sentences.
  5. Change the pace. Shorter chapters will make the story flow faster, and longer chapters will give it time to breathe. The entire story will look new.

There are plenty of other approaches you can try, as long as they’re new to you. They are not merely novelties for their own sake. They’ll force you to consciously think how you do things and look for new approaches. And if you’re like me, you’ll learn a new skill in the process.

If you want to see how my shorter paragraphs and chapters work, you can read almost two chapters for free on Amazon.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A look into my next book

Happy September, everyone. This week’s post is a preview to my upcoming short romance, It Happened on a Lie. Here’s the blurb:
Zoe Lawrence believes that the end justifies the means when it comes to preserving historically valuable buildings, especially such a rare shipyard as Wakefield was. So a little trespassing doesn’t much weigh on her, until she gets caught by the owner. Who happens to be an extremely attractive man, who absolutely refuses to listen to her.

The lifelong dream of Aiden Rowe has been to build a luxury estate on a prime location. Now that he has found what he wants, he isnt about to change his plans just because the historical preservations society says so. Not even if their representative happens to be a beautiful woman who captures his interest from the start.

But Aiden isnt above asking Zoe for a favour: if she pretends to be his girlfriend for just one night, he will give her a fair chance to convince him to preserve the shipyard. One lie leads to another, and things soon get out of their hands, and they hardly know whats real themselves.

But they know the truth in their hearts. If only they could make their heads listen.

And here is the preview, a mix of the first two chapters. You can read the first chapter in its entirety here, and the second chapter here.

[…] It was a fine August Saturday to conduct a preliminary survey. Perfect for taking beautiful photos of the buildings that would show them in the best light. She dug out her camera and tripod from the backpack and started to work.

As always when she was photographing, the task immersed her completely. She spent ages finding perfect angles and waiting for the correct light to land on details she needed to capture. The workshop might be ramshackle, but it looked charming in photographs.

She tried to get inside the dry dock and the workshop too, but like with the new gate, all the doors and windows had been recently covered with plywood. It had to be the work of the new owner, but she couldn’t fathom why they were so determined to keep people out. If they intended to demolish the place, what did it matter if local kids did some damage to the place.

Only because she relied on perfect light did she notice the sky darkening alarmingly fast. A storm was rising from the sea. It was overdue, the month had been hot, but in her opinion it could have waited for one more day.

Frowning in annoyance, Zoe considered her options. She couldn’t get home fast enough to avoid the downpour. Even if she could catch a bus immediately, the shipyard was some way away from the nearest stop. And she would have to make her way over the fence first.

She dashed towards the main building. She might find cover in one of its niches. Preferably on the far side where the wind wouldn’t throw the rain on her.

As she turned a corner to the far end of the building, she saw a window where the plywood had been partially removed to allow illicit access into the building. It was slightly too high up for her, but she would have to try – and fast. Already the first drops were falling.

She put her camera and tripod back into her bag and fastened it to her back. Taking a hold of the windowsill, she hoisted herself on the level with it and dove into the opening just as the skies opened. Only to get stuck.

“Bloody hell!” With her backpack on, she couldn’t fit through. She made to drop on the ground again to take it off, but she couldn’t move. The backpack was stuck on something.

No matter how much she wiggled, the bag wouldn’t come loose. She didn’t dare to make large movements, in case she broke her camera, but she couldn’t hang here much longer either, her torso inside the building and her legs protruding out of the window, in the heavy rain.

She couldn’t even reach her pocket to get her mobile phone. Besides, she couldn’t exactly call the fire brigade, could she. She was trespassing here.

Exhausted, she let her body sag. The sill ground painfully into her stomach, making it difficult to breathe. She couldn’t take this much longer.

And then someone grabbed her legs.

“Gotcha! What do I have to do to keep you kids out? Don’t you know better? It’s dangerous here.” Aiden pulled the bare legs hanging out of the window, surprisingly shapely for a young kid, but they just wriggled and kicked against his hold. “Stop fighting and come out.”

He’d had a safety and security assessment done when he bought the place, and at its recommendation had put up a security fence and boarded all the windows. The dry dock especially had been deemed dangerous with its deep, unfenced basin. His insides went cold with a thought of what would happen if the children hurt themselves while on his premises.

The kid wouldn’t obey. Taking a better hold of the legs – and he really shouldn’t notice how great they looked – he pulled, only to be kicked in the chest. “That does it. Come out or I’ll call the police.”

“Don’t you think I’d come out if I could, you twit?”

The voice didn’t belong to a kid. “What do you mean?”

“Gee, I don’t know, maybe that I’m STUCK!”

Aiden paused to assess the situation. Rain was falling heavily, soaking through the jacket of his suit and her shorts. She was hanging over the sill on her stomach, a backpack on her back. The bag seemed to have got stuck to what was left of the window frame. 

He was a tall man, but the window was a bit too high up for him to help her. “Hang on, I’ll have to get inside.”

“As if I have a choice.”

Pressing his head low against the downpour, he dashed around the house. The front door opened easily, the lock changed after he bought the place. It was dark inside and the penlight he had didn’t make a great difference, but he managed to get to the correct window without mishaps.

The torso protruding through the opening definitely didn’t belong to a teenager. “Are you sure it’s your backpack that’s stuck?” he asked innocently.

“Witty. Help me out.”

Chuckling, he went to detach the backpack. It took some manoeuvring, but eventually she was free. She made to glide back out the way she had come in, undoubtedly to run away before he could catch her. He would have none of that.

He grabbed her under her arms and pulled her easily in, even though she tried to wiggle free. She stood in front of him, full of defiance, and he saw why he would mistake her for a teenager. She barely reached his chin. “You’re not very tall.”

“Well aren’t you astute.”

She might have the attitude and the height of a teenager, but the body belonged to a grown woman with nice, lush curves that made his mouth dry for just looking. Her hair was a shoulder-length mess, but he couldn’t see the colour clearly in the dim light. Her face, likewise, was hidden in shadows. He shone the light to it and she grimaced and closed her eyes.

“Could you please point that thing elsewhere?”

“It occurs to me that I’m the one who should be making demands.” But he lowered the light.

“Are you the owner?”

“Aiden Rowe, at your service.” He bowed, the gesture elegant despite the soaked condition of his clothing. “Who might you be, and what are you doing here?”

“Zoe Lawrence.” She hesitated before offering her hand to him and he shook it. Her hand was small like everything about her. “I represent the Greenwich Conservation Society.”

“Those old biddies?”

She arched a brow. “Are you always this offensive?”

He bowed again, more stiffly this time, her words – and lofty tone – like an echo of his school days. “My apologies. I was merely surprised that a representative of such an esteemed society would stoop to trespassing.”

She had a good grace to look embarrassed. “Yes, well, you wouldn’t return our phone calls.”

“There was no need. I didn’t spend all that money to preserve this place. It needs to turn profit.”

“And it can even if you keep the existing buildings and merely convert the insides.”

“I’ve already discarded that option. It’s too time consuming and expensive.”

“But think of the PR value it would bring to your company,” she pleaded, but he shook his head.

“Out of the question. This plot needs to be empty by the end of the year.” He had a clear vision of how the estate would look and it didn’t include buildings that had been allowed to rot for half a century. […]

I hoped you liked the preview. The book should be out next week the latest. Stay tuned.