Allow me to say upfront, that I’m not an Indie-Nazi. The decision to go with a traditional publisher or indie-pub your stories is a personal and totally subjective choice. (Gee, who knew writing could be subjective?
Now while I’m not an Indie-Nazi, I am an unabashed “Tree Hugger.” Even before making the determination to go indie, I only queried digital publishers because of my deeply held belief that we need to conserve our planet’s precious resources and cutting down trees to make books didn’t jive with my principle. (Okay, jumping off that soapbox.)
So I knew from the get-go that I wanted my stories published digitally, but why go indie? Answer: reality. The reality of any writer is that no matter how much an editor loves you, your story, your voice, it’s not their call whether or not the publishing house takes on your book. It’s up to the marketing department. The marketing department. In other words, a bunch of number-crunchers get to decide if your book is commercial enough. Granted, for traditional houses, this procedure helps to ensure they spend boo-koo bucks on a turkey of a print novel, but it was that cold, hard truth which finally motivated me to walk the indie-pub road.
Other authors’ reasons for going indie are probably as varied as the authors themselves. Some crave the control. Others like retaining their rights – and their royalties. Make no mistake, though, going indie in NOT an easy out. Everything, and I mean everything, becomes your responsibility. If your book isn’t well-edited, people (ie, the readers) will let you know. If you don’t take the time and energy to promote your book, you won’t sell anything. BUT if you’re willing to put a little extra effort into your work, it will pay off. Maybe not right away, but eventually. Like the saying goes: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Good thing I’ve got my track shoes on.
Now two incredibly virile men are vying for her affections. How can she possibly choose between them? Can’t they just all get along…together?
Here's Chapter One from Lynda's latest release: The Boy Next Door
Boy Next Door
Julia Keller wanted to scream. A bone-chilling, dead-raising shriek guaranteed to peel the paint off the walls. But the sight of the shadowy man in her kitchen seized up her lungs in terror.
Instinct demanded she run. But wedged in the narrow doorway, with a heavy box straining her arms, she couldn’t run. Fall, yes. Down twenty steps to the cement basement floor. Run? Not a chance.
The last thing Julia wanted to do, but the one thing she did do, was burst into tears.
The brawny man lunged.
She flung her ex-husband’s vintage LP record collection at the intruder. Too bad she only managed to send the classic records down the wooden stairs. She drove a high-pitched screech past her lips, so loud and long, her ears rang. She pivoted to follow the box. An immense hand closed around her arm. Even through the thick sleeve of her sweatshirt, fingers bit into her skin. Screaming harder, she clawed at the vise-like grip.
A somewhat familiar voice broke through her harried yells.
“Mrs. J! Careful or you’re gonna fall! It’s me. Thane.”
Julia stilled and the hold eased. She definitely knew that voice. Turning slowly, Thane Fitzgerald’s face, with those memorable green eyes, came into teary focus.
Her shoulders slumped. Then she snapped upright and yanked from his grasp. “What the hell are you doing?” She slapped his arm. “You scared the living bee-jesus out of me!”
“Sorry, Mrs. J. I saw the back door open and wanted to make sure everything was all right.” Thane’s crooked, apologetic smile knocked a hole in her ire, albeit a small one. “When’d you get back home?”
Julia pulled in a breath to slow her runaway pulse and swiped a hand across her wet cheek. “I drove up from Decatur yesterday.”
“Really?” A crinkle creased his forehead. “Everything all right with your mom?”
She sucked in another shaky breath and shook her head. “Mom passed away the first part of May.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry for your loss.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. The warmth of his touch seep through the bulky material. “I know how close you were with your mom.”
The gentleness in his voice pumped more tears to Julia’s eyes. She missed her mom with a severity that tore through her chest. “Thank you. Mom’s sixty-eight years were very full. I don’t think she had any regrets. Still…” Her voice cracked.
His hand squeezed. “I know how tough it is to lose a parent. No matter how full their life.”
Fighting the irrational need to turn into the younger man’s solid chest, Julia cleared her throat. Thane did indeed know. He’d lost his father at the tender age of seven. She was an adult mourning the death of a parent. She couldn’t imagine what it would have been like for a small boy. Remorse wracked her that she reminded Thane of his loss.
Chagrined, she shifted from his comforting hand and diverted her attention to the crumpled box at the bottom of the stairs. Ed’s gonna be pissed. Over forty years of vinyl records had likely been destroyed.
Just one more thing for him to rail about. She tossed her head. Like I care. She started down the stairs, Thane’s footsteps behind her. “How are your mom and Bill?”
“Good. Enjoying retirement. They’re spending the summer with Bill’s brother in Niagara Falls.”
“That’s nice. When are they coming home?”
“End of August for about a month. Then they’re off to Arizona. They’re gone so much, I moved back in next door.”
“So you had a reason for being in the neighborhood other than scaring ten years off my life?”
His deep chuckle chased a shiver across her neck “Yeah. I came to mow your lawn.”
Julia stopped and twisted around. Thane stood on the step above her and she felt a crick in her neck at having to look up. She felt even more dwarfed by his height and maybe a teeny bit feminine. Shadows hugged his face, but his eyes were two pinpoints of light. “You still mow? I thought you had employees for that.”
“I do, but there are a few jobs for special people I still like to do myself.”
She ignored the zing in her chest and continued down the steps. She knelt by the broken box and scattered LPs. “What’s so special about me?” God, could she sound any more pathetic, like she was desperate for a compliment? Embarrassment heated her neck.
He squatted beside her, a charming grin on his face. “You were the first person to ever hire me to mow your yards, remember?”
Yes, she did. Though only fifteen, he’d been enthusiastic, yet serious about his “job.” Any lingering mortification dissipated and she returned his smile.
Thane’s hair, bleached by the sun, brushed his shoulders and framed his tanned face. With his high cheekbones, straight nose and chiseled chin, he really had no choice but to grow up into a dreamboat. Which he did. A different, hotter, heat warmed her cheeks. Dressed in tight blue jeans and a green t-shirt which sported the logo of his landscaping business, the gangly fifteen-year-old boy from next door had grown into a very virile man.
The scent of cut grass wrapped around her, emphasizing how close she was to him. She eased back and sifted through the albums until she found Rubber Soul, the 1965 Beatles album. Thane picked up an autographed copy of the White Album. He gingerly bent the cardboard holder. It cracked and snapped.
He whistled low. “Sorry, Mrs. J.”
Julia took the album. “Don’t be. It was an accident. Ed has no personal connection to these records. He bought them as an investment a few years back.” She tossed both albums onto the pile then pushed to her feet. She brushed her hands together before folding them across her chest. “And just so you know, my last name isn’t Joyce any more. It’s Keller. I went back to my maiden name after the divorce.”
Like a mountain lion uncurling from sleep, Thane stood. His sea green eyes, sharp and attentive, darkened to the color of a rainforest. “Oh?”
Julia’s heart stuttered at the intensity of his stare. An awareness seeped beneath her skin. An awareness of what, she wasn’t sure. But it was definitely there. She wanted to look away, but couldn’t. “Um, yes.”
“I didn’t know you and Mr. J. were divorced.” His gaze meandered to her mouth.
She licked her lips, unable to stop from ogling his full lips. Full lips that looked perfect for kissing. Where the hell did that come from? “Didn’t your mom tell you?” Her tinny laugh made her ears hurt. “Maybe she didn’t figure you’d be interested in what the old neighbors were doing.”
“Maybe.” He rested his hands low on his hips. “You’re not old.”
Julia choked on another laugh. While only forty-one, after the last two years of singlehandedly taking care of her mother, she felt like a hundred and one. “Anyway, I’m back from Decatur.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Was that a purr in his voice? Yeah right. Get a grip, Julia. No way is he interested in you.
She swept a hand down the filthy front of her sweatshirt then stuffed her hands in the pockets of her holey jeans. Compared to Thane, she resembled a train wreck. Hell, a train wreck would be an improvement. “Anyway, Ed wanted to sell the house, but I wouldn’t agree. This place is home. No matter what he says.” She bent to pick up the box.
“Here, let me.” Thane deflected her attempt to lift the mangled mess of cardboard and vinyl. “Where should I put this?”
“On the workbench will be fine.”
Julia stared at his bulging biceps. A flash of strong arms holding her tight clouded her vision. He dropped the heap on the scarred wood table with a thud. The noise jolted her back to the present. Good thing, too, because he turned and almost caught her gawking.
Thane leaned against the bench, his hands on the edge behind him. His tight t-shirt stretched even tighter across his broad chest, accentuating the sculpted muscles beneath the jersey fabric. Silence swallowed the dank basement air.
“So. You’re back in town.”
Julia’s skin prickled at his low, promising tone. Promising what? She cleared the dustbowl from her throat and gave herself a mental slap. Holy shit. This is Thane, for crying out loud. “Yep.”
“This is a big house for just one person. Two story, with four bedrooms.”
“Very true, but Oak Park is within driving distance to Evanston. Ryan has another year at Northwestern and he’s talking about getting his master’s degree there as well. I suspect he’ll make his way home from time to time. Especially when his fridge is empty.”
“It’s still big.”
“Yeah.” She couldn’t suppress an impish grin. “Ed keeps reminding me of that fact. He wants to sell to knock off a few years from his alimony payments.” Her grin withered. “His new girlfriend is a flight attendant based out of Minneapolis and has some very expensive tastes, from what I understand.”
Thane’s eyebrows drew together. “That’s pretty lousy of Mr. J.”
To say the least. Julia turned her attention to the cluttered basement. “I need to clear out what he wants and send it to him.” She nodded toward the box behind Thane. “Minus a record collection or two.”
Her cell phone jiggled. Ed’s ringtone. Irritation peppered her skin as she wormed the phone out of her back jeans pocket. She pressed the button to send him straight to voice mail. She sooooo didn’t need him right now.
Thane raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
She returned the phone to her pocket. “Ed has the uncanny ability of knowing when I’m talking about him.” She cast another glance at the dust-covered boxes as glumness pressed on her shoulders. “Until I get his junk to him, he’s gonna keep calling me. It’ll take me the summer to get everything out.”
“Shouldn’t Ryan be home from school soon to help?”
“He’s buried this summer doing an internship.” Pain pinched her chest. “Plus he’s still upset about the divorce, even after two years. Helping to move his father’s things isn’t on his list of things to do.”
“Well.” Thane pushed from the workbench. “I could help, starting tomorrow if you’d like.”
Julia scrunched her nose. “Don’t you have a business to run? Can you just take off anytime you want?”
He grinned. “Anytime I want. It’s the advantage of being the boss.”
“But it’s the start of summer. I’m sure you’re too busy.”
“I’m not even needed. I’ve got two full-time foremen and one part-time. They handle the crews.” His lazy shrug probably shouldn’t have struck her as sexy. “I’m just the guy who signs the checks.”
“I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than help me out.”
“Not really. But if it’ll make you feel better, you can pay me.”
Disappointment dropped her stomach to her shoes. After countering all her excuses, she’d started to think he actually wanted to spend time with her, but of course he didn’t. Idiot. She squared her shoulders with a nod. “That’s fair. How much?”
“Okay. I could spring for some take-out pizza.”
“Nah, uh. No pizza. I’m thinking Maxine’s Steak House.”
Julia bit the inside of her mouth. Whoa. It was one thing to have Thane help her around the house then feed him pizza, but a wholly different thing to be seen together in public. She could just imagine what would be said about her going out with such a young guy. She refused to become fodder for the Oak Park gossip mill again. She’d never forgotten the stain of having to get married twenty-one years ago because she’d been stupid enough to get pregnant. Nor had she forgotten the pain her stupidity had caused her beloved parents. Though they were dead, she wouldn’t allow anyone to further sully their reputation. She shifted her weight. But how to tell Thane? “Maxine’s a four-star restaurant, right?”
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Thane, if I gave you the impression that I took Ed to the alimony cleaners. I didn’t. There’s no way I can afford Maxine’s.”
“Guess that means I’m buying.”
“I can’t let you do that. Besides I’m supposed to be paying you.”
“Well, if you owe me, then you should let me take you out to a nice dinner. Is it a date?”
The word stuck to Julia’s tongue. Thane seemed to have shifted closer, yet she was positive he hadn’t moved. His eyes were clouded to the color of stormy ocean waters and his male scent infused her senses. A tickle of warning skated down her spine.
She should say no. Nothing good could come out of this.
Yet his expression was so earnest, so hopeful. So dangerous.
Her nipples tightened as her womb quivered. How long since felt like this? Had she ever felt like this?
Definitely should tell him no. “Okay.”
What the hell did I just say?
Thane’s face erupted with joy. “Great! I’ll pick you up at six.”
Julia balked. “What, tonight? I can’t go tonight.”
His eyebrows instantly veed together. “Why not?”
“Because I—I have too much to do.” She waved her hand about. “Unpacking. Grocery shopping. Plus I’m exhausted from the drive yesterday.”
Thane’s stance eased. “Make a list of what you want from the store, and I’ll do the shopping while you pick out something nice to wear. After which, you can take a nap.”
Her jaw dropped. “I’m not asking you to do my grocery shopping.”
He walked to her. “You’re not asking. I’m offering.”
Julia spread her arms. “I look like something the cat dragged in.”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pivoted her toward the basement steps. “No, you don’t.”
“You’re not going to win this argument with me, Julia.”
Her heart stammered to a stop. That was the first time Thane had ever said her given name.
The three syllables rolled off his tongue as his mellow baritone caressed her nerve endings like warm honey. Her panties dampened. Her panties dampened, for Christ’s sake!
What the hell is wrong with me? I can’t possibly be turned on, can I? Thane is just a boy.
He gave her a gentle shove. “Now, go. I’ll be up in a minute once I’ve salvaged some of Mr. J’s vinyl.”
Julia hesitated, knowing she should be miffed, if not downright pissed, that Thane was taking charge, but she couldn’t marshal any anger. Not since she was a child had anyone put her care and comfort first. Without another word, she climbed the steps.
~ ~ ~
Once Julia was out of sight, Thane relaxed against the bench.
God! The effect that woman continued to have on him, even after all this time, was mindboggling. And arousing. Thankfully, he’d managed to keep his body under rigid control in her presence. At least he hoped he had.
Julia Joyce was now Julia Keller. He rubbed the tight muscles of his neck.
Thane had always liked the sexy brunette with the nutmeg eyes. He snorted to himself. Liked? What a pathetic choice of words. Since the age of twelve, he’d lusted after her. Had wet dreams about her. Had masturbated to her image. Had sometimes walked around with a permanent woody for her. He was way past just liking her.
Throughout puberty and into his teen years, Thane had assumed his lustful feelings were because Julia was hot. Really hot. Lava hot.
In college, all the girls he dated—Thane couldn’t bring himself to call them women—were compared to Julia. That’s when he realized his feelings for his former neighbor ran deeper.
Just how deep, he wasn’t prepared to admit, even to himself. She’d been older and married. Now at twenty-eight, he was older, and she wasn’t married any more. His cock pulsed against his fly.
And she was back in Oak Park.
His balls tightened as a smile curved his mouth. After years of fantasizing about Julia, he might finally have the chance to be with her.
A chance he didn’t intend to squander.
It was obvious she was uncertain. The wariness in her eyes reminded him of a cornered rabbit. He needed to proceed with care or he could blow this opportunity.
Thane turned his attention to the box of records, plotting how he would seduce one Julia Keller into his bed.