Changing the Play Is Out Today!

Today is a very exciting day. My brand-new contemporary sports romance, CHANGING THE PLAY, is hitting readers’ eReaders as we speak!

It’s an enemies-to-lovers, second chance romance set in the tense weeks before the NFL Draft, but you don’t have to be a football fan to fall in love with Rachel and Nick! Keep reading for more details.

The game changed when he walked back into her life.

Rachel Pollard has never been a push-over. That’s why she’s a superstar in the world of sports management, making a name for herself with a shrewd eye for overlooked talent. She certainly isn’t taking any chances with her latest NFL draft prospect, Kevin Loder, who’s poised to shake up the league. But when Nick Ruben, a tenacious sports reporter who also happens to be the crush who ignored her all through high school, picks up the scent of a long-buried story, Rachel suddenly finds herself playing defense for the first time in years.

Craving More Historical Romance? This List Is for You

A lot of new-to-me readers picked up my historical romance, The Governess Was Wanton, last week when it was on sale for $0.99. Thank you! It was great seeing it get into the hands of readers across the world!

Since that book’s short and sweet and might leave you craving a little more romance, here are some books from me as well as other authors to look at for your next historical romance read.

The Governess Was Wicked, by Julia Kelly

If you enjoyed The Governess Was Wanton, this is where the series starts. Elizabeth, our titular governess, is convinced that Dr. Edward Fellows would never be interested in a working woman. But little does she know that he’s been pining for her for years…until the two of them share their first kiss.

The Governess Was Wild, by Julia Kelly

My road trip book! The Governess Was Wild starts when Jane (the last of our governesses to find love) wakes up in an inn and finds that her charge has disappeared and one very angry baron is missing his horse. That’s a problem because her charge was sent away from London to keep her from following through on marrying a throughly unsuitable gold digger. Jane convinces the baron to accompany her on the road to find both horse and girl before the runaway couple can make it to Gretna Green, but it’s Jane who finds true love on this trip.

The Look of Love, by Julia Kelly

When Ina, a near-spinster who loves nothing more than sculpting, finds herself in a compromising position that threatens to ruin her reputation, a matchmaker convinces her to marry her best friend, Gavin. But what she doesn’t realize is that Gavin has loved her from a distance for years, and this marriage of convenience is going to be a lot harder than either of them expected. You can’t read this one quite yet, but you can preorder it, making it a gift from Current You to Future You.

Think of England, by K.J. Charles

This is a wonderful Edwardian M/M romance…with spies! Think Downton Abbey with more political intrigue.

An Extraordinary Union, by Alyssa Cole

More spies! This time during the Civil War! (I really like spy historical romance.) Alyssa’s book is the wonderful, richly layered romance that everyone’s been talking about this year.

The Countess Conspiracy, by Courtney Milan

One of my favorite historical romances, this is a great book if you like your romances sciencey and your heroines nerdy. Be prepared for some deep angst in this friends-to-lovers book.

“Sweetest Regret” in What Happens Under the Mistletoe, by Meredith Duran

If you’re craving some Christmas a little early, this is a wonderful novella to tide you through the end of the summer. It reunites a diplomat’s daughter with the rogue who ruined her reputation, forcing them to face old wounds during the holiday season.

Your First Look at a New Sports Romance

As much as I love writing historical romance, you need to spice things up from time to time. That’s why, in just a couple weeks, I’m giving you a taste of a sexy, fast-paced new sports romance series published under a brand-new name—because what lady doesn’t need a second, not-so-secret identity?

My new Julia Blake book, Changing the Play, is the first book in the Game Changer series, and it comes out on August 21. It’s a second chance romance between Rachel, an agent at the top of her game, and Nick, the sports reporter trying to wheedle a story out of her biggest new client. Things are extra sticky because Nick also is Rachel’s high school crush who never paid her any attention—or so she thinks.

You can preorder Changing the Play now to make sure you’re in the game the day the book hits stores.

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play | Books-A-Million

To give you a little taste of what you can expect, here’s the first chapter.

Chapter One

Rachel Pollard huffed out a breath and wished desperately for a shot of whiskey in her coffee. She’d been up all night reviewing an endorsement contract for Katerina Baranova, and now the spoiled tennis player and her equally loathsome father were tying up her office line with even more demands. Not a fun way to end a workday.

“Why does Serena get to design her own dresses?” Katerina whined, her Russian accent softened by years of training at an exclusive Palm Beach tennis academy.

Because Serena Williams revolutionized the women’s game, and you only cracked the quarterfinals of your first Grand Slam last month.

“Katerina should be focusing on her forehand,” barked Yuri. “Not dresses. Not shoes. Not visors.”

His daughter sniffed. “I’m interested in more than just hitting a ball around a grass court.”

“If you’d learn to respect the grass, you wouldn’t have lost in the second round of Wimbledon last year,” Yuri said.

Rachel pressed two fingers to the bridge of her nose and pinched. Hard. She had neither the time nor the desire to get dragged into the middle of another Baranova brawl. What she did have was a hot date with a bottle of cabernet, a scalding bath, and three contracts on her iPad. Not exactly an evening of romance, but the contracts had to be read, and doing the work at home trumped late nights in her midtown Manhattan office any day.

“Look,” she interrupted, “your contract very clearly states that you’ll be given a selection of clothing at the beginning of each season. For now, all you can do is keep winning, Katerina. Wins mean more leverage when it comes time to renegotiate with the sponsors.”

“See,” said Yuri. “Miss Pollard tells you to win. You do what Miss Pollard tells you.”

Rachel was so happy to hear a Baranova agree with her that she didn’t even point out that she went by Ms. and not Miss. Not that Yuri cared. He was more focused on grooming his daughter to be the next Maria Sharapova than he was on pleasantries. Typical nightmare tennis dad.

Five minutes later, Rachel dropped her desk phone unceremoniously into its cradle and slouched in her chair. A glance at the gold watch she always wore on her left wrist told her that Katerina and Yuri had sucked up twenty-four minutes. Much too long. It was time to start weighing whether the troublesome tennis player was worth the investment—Grand Slam appearances or not.

Most of Rachel’s clients weren’t a problem because most treated her with the same reverence a fifth grader holds for a strict but beloved teacher. In her business, reputation was key, and over the years she’d become known for finding raw, untested young athletes and grooming them into stars.

Working with her came with some caveats, of course. She operated under strict rules. You work out. You practice. You don’t fuck up. If you don’t fall in line, you get dropped.

You do not want my cell phone to ring at three in the morning because you’ve done something stupid, she told each of them. Most—if not all—followed that rule.

Rachel unplugged her iPad and slid it into her purse along with a file of loose papers. She blindly felt for the unforgiving black pumps she’d kicked off under her desk hours ago and wiggled her feet into them before gathering up her coat.

“Night, Nathan,” she called to her assistant as she passed his desk. But then she stopped. “You’re going home, aren’t you?”

The tall, skinny young man with spiked brown hair blinked a couple of times before shaking his head. “Sorry, yeah. I’m just finishing up the edits to this press release.”

“It can wait. Go home.”

He mumbled something that sounded like a yes, but the way he bent his head over the keyboard told her odds were slim he’d actually follow her instructions. She couldn’t fault Nathan’s work ethic. She’d been the same way when she was an assistant—hopeful and hungry for her break.

Halfway down the hall, the door to Emma Robbins’s office was still open. Rachel stuck her head in and found her friend on the phone, pacing the room in stocking feet.

Emma smiled when she spotted her but held up a finger. “I’ll send you all the details ASAP. I’ve got to go. Call me first thing tomorrow, and don’t even think of talking, texting, or tweeting anything. To anyone.”

She raised her eyebrows when Emma ended the call and let out a long sigh.

“What’s going on?” Rachel asked.

Her friend flopped down in her leather desk chair and tucked her platinum blonde hair behind her ear. “Someone leaked to the press about Dante not being happy with his contract. Now this reporter from the Seattle Times is threatening to publish some bullshit story. I’m working up a press release saying—”

“Dante Helms loves Seattle and wants nothing more than to help bring another Super Bowl win to the city,” she finished for Emma.

“Exactly.”

“And the truth?”

“Dante wants to get back to Chicago so badly, he’ll burn rubber on I-90 doing it.”

“Looks like you’ve got a long night ahead of you. Are we still on for the Nets game on Wednesday?”

Emma nodded. “Wouldn’t miss it. I need to get out of this office.”

She laughed. “Don’t we all? See you tomorrow.”

In front of an office a few feet down the hall, Rachel’s other friend, Louise, was poring over something on her computer.

“Hi there,” Rachel said, stopping in front of Louise’s desk.

The younger woman slid her glasses off, rubbed one of her eyes, and froze. “Dammit. I forgot about my mascara.”

Rachel did a quick check of Louise’s makeup. “You’re good.”

Louise sighed. “That just means I rubbed it all off earlier.”

“Is Brad making you stay late again?” she asked.

“I’m doing his expenses, but I promised myself I’d break free at eight no matter what.”

A few years younger than Rachel and Emma, Louise had the misfortune of working for “Brad the Bad.” The agent had installed her in an assistant’s chair four years ago and had been coasting on Louise’s hard work ever since.

“You’ve left after me every night for the past three weeks. I wish you’d let me talk to him,” Rachel pleaded.

Louise shot her a tight smile. “It’s just a busy time.”

“Too busy to catch the game Wednesday?” she asked.

Louise’s shoulders slumped. “Probably, but I’ll let you know if it changes.”

She said her goodbyes but made a mental note to talk to Emma. They had to figure out a way to get Louise off the assistant’s desk and building a client list of her own. She deserved it.

Rachel should have been able to make the forty steps from Louise’s desk to the elevators with no interruptions, and she would’ve been home free if her cell phone hadn’t rung just as she stopped in front of the stainless steel doors.

The number was blocked. She was tempted to let it go to voice mail, but it was her job to be reachable, day or night. Sometimes, she thought as she swiped to answer, being available 24/7 sucked.

“This is Rachel Pollard.” She pushed the elevator’s down button with one red-polished nail.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. She repeated her greeting—her voice clipped and short this time as she tapped her foot.

No response.

But just as she was about to hang up, a man’s deep voice broke the silence, “Rachel, it’s been a long time.”

She frowned. “I’m sorry, I don’t know who this is.”

“It’s Nick.”

“I know a lot of Nicks.” She glanced at the elevator display. The closest car was fourteen floors away.

The man cleared his throat. “Nick Ruben. We went to high school together.”

The ball of her foot hit the floor with a sharp click and stayed there. Nick Ruben. Oh, she knew exactly who he was. The two-sport star of Prescott High School. The golden boy. She’d spent most of their sophomore and junior years wondering if he’d ever notice her, and all of senior year forcing herself to get over her crush. And now, he was calling.

“How can I help you, Nick?” she asked, putting on that little edge of professional ice she used when speaking to reporters, because while she’d grown up to become one of the most in-demand young agents in sports management, she knew Nick had become a journalist. One, it would seem, who couldn’t ignore her any longer.

“I was feeling nostalgic, so I thought I’d call and see how you’re doing.” His voice might be sweet as honey, but it wasn’t thick enough to coat the bullshit that lay under the small talk. She didn’t have the time or inclination to wheedle out why he’d called. He’d have to come out and ask for whatever interview with whichever of her clients he wanted, just like anyone else.

And that’s when Nick would learn that she was the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper didn’t do favors.

Mashing the elevator’s down button again, she said, “Nick Ruben. Reporter and sometimes anchor of New York Sports Network’s Sports Desk. You got a job in Kansas right after college covering the Royals for the Associated Press. Then you made the move to TV in Kansas City. After that you headed to one of Seattle’s local stations, and two years later you landed in Chicago. Your work was good enough that NYSN snatched you up to cover the Devils out of their Newark bureau. Since getting there, you’ve worked your way into a general assignment and fill-in anchor position. You’ve been in the tristate area for the last three years, here in New York City for the last two. You won a Murrow Award for your reporting on sub-concussive hits on high school football players in 2014. You also occasionally land in the gossip columns. Page Six in particular seems to like reporting on your dating life.

“I’m not big on nostalgia, Nick. Consider us caught up.”

When he didn’t respond immediately, she was certain she’d scared him off. She talked fast and took no prisoners—not everyone’s favorite set of qualities and ones that didn’t jive with most men’s first impression of her. All they saw were a pair of legs and a lot of red wavy hair standing quietly behind some of sports’ biggest stars during press conferences. Most men weren’t prepared for her to steamroll them.

Instead of sputtering, Nick began to laugh, the rich tone filling her phone’s speaker, and all at once her stomach clenched. How many hours had they spent just feet apart from each other in their high school baseball team’s dugout? In those days, she’d just wanted a sign that he saw her as something more than the gangly manager who took down game stats. A long time ago, she would’ve paid anything to elicit that kind of laugh from him.

“Sounds like you’ve been following my career pretty closely,” he said.

The elevator doors opened and Rachel stepped inside, her grip on the phone just a little bit tighter. “It’s my job to keep an eye on the talent at all of the major broadcast outlets. You’re no exception.”

You’re not special. I’ve been watching your career because this is what makes me so good at my job.

“So tell me, Nick,” she said, forcing the chill back into her voice, “what can I do for you?”

* * *

Nick stared at his cubicle wall, unsure of his next move, which was annoying as hell. He always knew what to do—even when someone turned him down, there was always another angle to get what he wanted—but somehow Rachel Pollard had managed to put him on his ass in two minutes flat. Just like she had in high school.

He caught his producer’s eye as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He should’ve have taken the call privately, but Mindy had insisted on being there. She was as invested in getting this interview as he was, but now she hovered over him like a mother hen, knocking him off his game.

Or maybe you’ve just never had game when it came to Rachel.

No. He had too much riding on this call to start thinking like that.

He took a deep breath. Time to turn on the charm and try again. “Like I said, can’t old high school friends—”

“The most you ever said to me in high school was ‘Can I get my game stats?’ or ‘Hand me that water bottle,’” Rachel interjected.

He frowned. That wasn’t true. Was it?

He remembered her, skinny as a string bean with her long red-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and stuffed through the loop of an Arizona Diamondbacks ball cap. Quiet and closed off, she was always around, standing just a little apart. Unapproachable.

In the fall, she was never far from the football field, watching practice armed with a pad of paper, constantly taking notes on plays and strategy. The football coaches mostly tolerated her—probably because having her hanging around the bleachers didn’t really hurt anyone.

Each spring, she’d ride at the front of the baseball bus, crunching stat lines and talking tactics with Coach Callahan. The man used to brag about her knack for defensive positioning and her encyclopedic knowledge of pitchers—and how it was a damn shame none of the boys on the team ever developed a head for “that kind of advanced strategy.”

But while Coach Callahan treated her like a protégé, Nick’s teammates were ruthless, breaking her down in the locker room, where she couldn’t defend herself. They said she was weird. They dismissed her because they figured she must be crushing on someone. And then they’d try to guess who she had the hots for. As a wide receiver and a pitcher who saw a lot of game time in both of his sports, his name came up a lot. The mentions had made the back of his neck burn red because, deep down, Nick had liked her.

He hadn’t gone after her like he had Melanie Crawford, who he’d talked into kissing him in an empty hallway at Winter Formal sophomore year. Rachel wasn’t the cheerleader that he, the jock, was supposed to chase. She was the quiet girl, and somehow that made her seem cool, distant, and unattainable. He’d been so sure she’d turn those deep blue eyes on him and shut him down.

And now here he was, trying to stave off another kind of rejection a decade and a half later.

“Look, I apologize for being an idiot teenager,” he said, switching tactics and swallowing his pride. “Most teenage boys are idiots.”

“They are.” She hesitated. “An apology is a start.”

For the first time since she’d picked up, he heard something underneath the ice—the faintest hint of a smile. It wasn’t much, but Nick knew from a lifetime of experience that the moment he could make someone smile, he was in. Now all he had to do was get Rachel in front of him for five minutes, long enough to convince her to grant him the interview he needed.

Taking a calculated risk, he asked, “Meet me for a drink?”

Mindy shot him a horrified look, so he fixed his gaze on the dozens of press passes hanging on his cubicle wall.

“Like I told you, I’m not big on nostalgia,” Rachel said. “Look, I’m kind of busy right now . . .”

Damn. He’d miscalculated. She was going to hang up, and he was going to have to call back and beg.

Quickly he said, “Last time I was back home Coach Callahan asked about you. You’re right, I do have a favor to ask, but I also want to be able to tell him how you’re doing next time I see him.”

There was a slight beat—a gap in her armor—but he wasn’t expecting the warmth in her voice when she asked, “Did he really?”

“He got on my case about not having met up with you, since we live in the same city. He still thinks you could teach me a thing or two.”

That got a laugh out of her. “I’m not so sure about that.”

She had a good laugh—full and throaty. It made all of the bullshit worries about sucking up his pride and calling her fall away. Suddenly, hearing her laugh again seemed very, very important.

“Is that false modesty from Rachel Pollard?” he asked.

“It’s knowing a lost cause when I see one. You never really listened to your coaches. You just kind of did your own thing.”

He couldn’t help the urge to test the elbow he’d injured in college. Too many pitches in his freshman season and a natural weakness in a tiny tendon had landed him on the surgeon’s table. Even after months of physical therapy, his pitching arm had never been the same.

“Guilty as charged,” he said. “So what do you say? Meet me for a drink.”

“I’ve got a lot going on tonight,” she said, starting to hedge.

He took another gamble. “No you don’t.”

“How do you know?” she scoffed.

He grinned. “Because you thought about it for a split second. You were weighing whether meeting with me was really worth your time. My guess is you’re bringing work home. Maybe you have some plans to see your boyfriend—”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

His grin spread into a full-on, shit-eating smile as he stored that little bit of information away. Not that he’d ever pursue Rachel. Chasing after an agent with her client list would be as stupid as running headfirst into a wall over and over again, never mind that it would land him straight in his news director’s office as soon as word got out that he’d made a play for a high-profile woman who could also become an important source.

“The fact that the boyfriend is the thing you’re correcting me on just proves I’m right,” he said. “You’ve got a free night.”

“A better man would have let that go.”

“Good thing I’m not a better man,” he said, swiveling around and raising an eyebrow at Mindy. His producer rolled her eyes.

“Come get a drink with me,” he continued. “Unless you’re scared.”

That laugh filled his phone’s speaker again. “You haven’t scared me since I saw you wipe out into a bench of Coconino High School players.”

Automatically his hand went to his chin to rub the thin, pale scar he’d gotten that night.

“You know Artemis in Columbus Circle?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“I’m going to be there in twenty minutes.” Without another word, he hung up the phone and put it facedown on his desk.

“Well, that was either the most brilliant or the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do,” said Mindy. “And I’ve seen you do a lot of stupid things.”

“No you haven’t,” he said as he stood to put on his suit jacket.

“I’ve wing-womaned all over Manhattan for you. That means I’ve seen you karaoke ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ with some blonde you were trying to talk into bed. You still owe me for that one, by the way. Your singing voice is even worse when you’re drunk.”

He remembered the night in question. Mostly.

“That was two years ago. Let it go,” he said.

Mindy smirked. “Never.”

“I’ll bet you twenty bucks that I get Rachel to agree to grant this interview by the end of the night,” he said, smoothing his lapels against his chest.

Mindy folded her arms. “Right. Because she sounded so willing to walk down memory lane with you. Are you sure she’s even going to show?”

His phone buzzed, and he glanced at the screen. It was one of his college friends asking for fantasy basketball advice.

“Got a hot date?”

He looked up and caught Mindy’s smirk.

“None of your business,” he said.

“Who is it this time?” she asked. “A hedge fund analyst? A lawyer? A publicist? Or do I have to wait until you two wind up in the tabloids to find out?”

He shot her a dirty look and put his phone away.

“Why do you think Rachel’s not going to show?” he asked.

“From right here it sounded like you were bombing pretty hard. Even if she comes, there’s no way she agrees to work with us.”

“So take the bet.”

Mindy adjusted her black-framed glasses in that way that reminded him of librarians and elementary school teachers. Only none of the teachers who’d taught him paired them with leather leggings, long slouchy sweaters, knee-high boots, and piles of wood bracelets.

“Fine,” she finally said, sticking out her hand to shake. “Twenty says you can’t convince her to let us do the interview.”

He clapped his hand on hers and squeezed. “That twenty will buy a couple of sweet-tasting victory beers.” Just barely, damn New York prices.

Nick glanced at his watch. It’d take him ten minutes to walk to the bar, which would give him another ten to settle in, order a drink, and wait. Every man had his game, and part of Nick’s was making sure that he was never the last one to show up to a meeting—whether it was a date or a drink with a source. He wanted to pick the location, the time, the mood. He wanted the other party on their toes, just a little flustered at finding him halfway through a drink.

“I’m looking forward to taking your money, Ruben,” Mindy shouted after him as he walked out.

Never going to happen, he thought as he made his way out of the newsroom. There was no way he was going to let Mindy or himself down.

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play | Books-A-Million

SALE: Get The Governess Was Wanton for $0.99!

The Governess Was Wanton is on sale for a very limited time! The second book in the Governess series is a retelling of my favorite fairytale, Cinderella, but this time The Fairy Godmother gets her happily ever after!

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N | Google Play

Mary Woodward, a young veteran governess, has one job: guiding a young debutante through her first season in high society. And up until now, keeping her focus and avoiding temptation has been easy. But never before has the father of her young charge been as devilishly handsome as the single, wealthy Earl of Asten…. Convinced to risk it all, Mary let’s herself enjoy one night of magic at a masked ball in Asten’s arms, but will they both regret everything when the Earl learns her true identity?

Surviving Your Next Conference: How to Prepare, What to Do, and How to Unwind

In lieu of my usual #5forFriday, I’m taking a quick moment to talk about something near and dear to my heart: conference season.

Every July I pack up my suitcase and head somewhere in the U.S. for the Romance Writers of America national conference to take meetings, see friends, and learn a bunch of stuff about the business of writing romance. It’s a huge, fun, exhausting five days, and the first time I went it was totally overwhelming.

Because we all remember being paralyzed at some point during our first conference, the founders at HBIC Nation and I put together a handy Conference Survival Guide to help you navigate any professional conference you’re headed to. This digital magazine breaks down goals planning, packing, tackling your schedule, in-conference self care, and decompression once you head home. Whether you’re a veteran or a newbie, there’s something helpful in there for everyone!

#5forFriday: ‘Night Games,’ Blondie, and Morris Dancers

A quick #5forFriday this week as I’m in the middle of writing the first draft of The Allure of Attraction, the third book in my Matchmaker of Edinburgh series.

1. I’m loving the iTV mystery The Loch. It reminds me of Broadchurch, just set in the Highlands and without a very pasty David Tennant (a shame I know). I’m not sure when it’s out in the U.S., but it’s a good one to keep an eye out for.

2. I blew through Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire by Carolyn Dyhouse this week. Dyhouse looks at the men who have been deemed desirable throughout the early 20th century in movies, romance novels, and more. If you’re interested in history, gender, and sexuality, it’s a fun read.

3. I run around Hyde Park, and I’ve recently been seeing lots of signs for the British Summer Time concert series which kicks off in the concert tonight. While Phil Collins is the first headliner, Blondie’s got second billing so I’ve been listening to Heart of Glass, The Tide is High, Call Me, and Sunday Girl all afternoon.

4. Alexis Anne’s new book Night Games is now out! She’s writing a lot about baseball these days and while I know it’s not specifically to make me happy it does have that very nice side effect.

5. On Wednesday night we were randomly visited by Morris Dancers. Well, they visited the pub across the way. It made for an…unexpected night.

#5forFriday: New Shows, Jazz, and Wonder Woman

Another week’s gone by and I’m feeling more settled than ever into London. Here’s a look at five of my favorite things from last week:

1) A brand-new book from a good friend! When I met fantasy author Nigel Henry two years ago he was just wrapping up his Demons of Sedona series and starting to think about writing this kick-ass monster fighting high school girl named Ria. Well, I’m happy to say that Ria’s Web of Lies is now out at digital retailers everywhere and looks fantastic! I’ve got this one loaded up on my iPad, and I’ll be diving in this weekend.

2) This week I handed in the developmental edits on my book The Look of Love which is due out in October. After a couple back-to-back deadlines, it’ll be nice to have a little free time to work on book 3 in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series, The Allure of Attraction, before the craziness of RWA Nationals kicks off in late July.

3) I managed to unintentionally sync my move to the U.K. with the start of several new shows airing here on iTV. This week alone I’ve watched the first episodes of The Loch, Fearless, and Riviera (plus plenty of the half hour soap Emmerdale). It’s been a great switch off for my brain after long days of editing and rewriting.

4) I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz as I work this year and this week I’ve been on a Lester Young kick. Give his dreamy version of “I Can’t Get Started” a listen:

5) I’m finally seeing Wonder Woman this weekend! I’ll be heading up to Oxford for a visit with my sister and her Scottish fiancé, and we’re all excited to pile into the theater and watch it (a week after everyone else, but we’re just helping keep the box office healthy).

#5forFriday: London Living

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve done a #5forFriday because things have been a little hectic what with moving countries and all, but I’m settled in and back!

1) I’m living in London! After what felt like months of preparation and waiting, I finally arrived, jet lagged and slightly disoriented in my new city. More than a week later, I’m mostly settled in and enjoying exploring my new city.

2) I turned a book in! The second book in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series hit my editor’s inbox yesterday afternoon. I celebrated by pouring myself a big glass of wine and watching the British soap opera, Emmerdale.

3) I got interviewed! C. Steven Ellis from The Writer’s Mind interviewed me just before I left for London, and now the interview is live. You can watch it on YouTube or download the episode on iTunes.

4) I’m reunited with my dogs! Nick and Nora, my family’s bichons, have been the stars of my Instagram and Instagram stories for the past week. They even helped me edit — sort of.

Someone decided to read over my shoulder while I edit…

A post shared by Julia Kelly (@juliakellywrites) on

5) I went dancing! I’ve been a swing and blues dancer for more than ten years and that means that no matter where I am in the world I can always find a friendly community of people who love blues. Since I only know a few people in London, I took myself out dancing on Tuesday and met a great group. Not a bad way to kick off my first week in a new place!

Getting the Most Out of Your Creative Day

This post is part of an ongoing series for HBIC Nation, a community that helps creatives learn, grow, and dominate in their fields. Our motto is Dream. Do. Dominate. You can find out more by going to HBICnation.com or joining the HBIC Nation Facebook Group.

I recently transitioned from working a full-time day job and writing on contract for a publisher to writing full-time. I’ve been dreaming for years about making this jump. I figured I’d wake up, roll out of bed, and the words would just flow. If my fantasy was a formula, it would look like this:

All the time in the world + Writing full-time + Dream fulfilled = All the books in the land

Wasn’t I adorably naïve?

Instead of being the writer utopia I’d imagined, all of this uninterrupted time was daunting. In the past, my day job forced me to be extra disciplined and protective of my writing hours. I was getting stuff done before because, ironically, I had so little time in which to do it. It turns out that for me the formula looked like this:

No time + Deadlines + Stubborn determination = 4 books a year

Obviously, I was happy that I had one focus in my professional life instead of two, but without the structure of a demanding schedule I was feeling lost. I was too unstructured.

Fortunately, I have lots of creative around me who don’t work traditional day jobs. Instead, they create their own schedules that work at the pace of their own artistic flow and — this part is key — still get the work done.

I reached out and got a lot of great advice from women who’d made this jump before me, including from HBIC members Alexandra Haughton and Tamsen Parker. Then I took a step back to assess my own working habits and came up with these things that have been working for me.

Survey Your Week

I’m going to come right out and admit that I’m not great at future planning. At least not long, long-term future planning. However, what I am good at and find incredibly helpful is looking at the week ahead.

Every Sunday I sit down with my bullet journal and brain dump a list onto a piece of paper. I write down my appointments, important emails and calls, and every project that I know I need to get done next week.

Here’s a sample list of things I jotted down on my weekly to do list:

• Email London networking contact
• Finish The Taste of Temptation draft
• Make notes on Patreon
• Dinner with Maegan, Tuesday
• Agent/Editor lunch, Thursday
• Podcast interview, Friday
• Pick up dry cleaning
• Long run
• Cancel cable

See what I mean about brain dump?

One thing I don’t do is write down every little step to get those projects done. Finish The Taste of Temptation draft could look like this: finish hero realization scene, write grand gesture scene, write epilogue, finish transitional heroine scene you neglected to write because you got excited about other things. That, however, doesn’t help me see the big picture for the week. The nitty gritty details? Those are more likely to cloud up my view. Apparently I’m exactly who that seeing the forest through the trees adage is about

Make a Daily List and Make It Early

Once I’ve got a weekly list (which I make on Sunday nights), I get down to my big organizational tool: day-to-day task lists. The night before I start writing down everything I need to do the next day. Monday gets planned on Sunday night, Tuesday gets planned on Monday night, and so on. I do this because it helps me shut off my brain and keeps me from working 16 hour days. If there’s a to do list for tomorrow, those things can get done tomorrow.

This day-to-day list is where those nitty gritty tasks I avoid putting on my weekly list become helpful. They keep me on task and help break big projects down into actionable steps.

I’ve also found it to be helpful to sometimes write out a little schedule for myself like so:

7:45 a.m. — Shower, breakfast, morning pages
9 a.m. — Morning writing session
11:30 a.m. — Run errands, lunch
1 p.m. — Afternoon writing session
5 p.m. — Email catch-up
5:30 p.m. — Run

3 Daily Goals

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a lister. I put everything on lists, and that sometimes makes it hard to figure out what absolutely needs to get done and what can potentially get pushed to another day. Because of that, I like to highlight the three biggest things that must get done on a given day. I literally write a 1, 2, 3 next to them to mark that they’re my priorities, but you can use this prompt to help you organize:

Today I Will:
1)   ____________________

2)   ____________________

3)   ____________________

If those three tasks get done, the day’s a win for me. (Don’t we all need little wins for motivation?)

Make Time for Admin — And Keep It

Admin has been a huge pain point for me for a long time. The problem isn’t so much sending emails, writing blog posts, and social media. It’s getting myself to stop once I start. There’s always one more thing that I could be doing. One more newsletter draft. One more Facebook post. One more tweet. It’s enough to make an HBIC want to pull her hair out.

I’ve started to think about admin like I think about my writing time. I build out space in my week for it and I protect it fiercely. However, I’d say I go one step further when I work on admin during the predetermined time because I’m protecting the rest of my life from it creeping out and taking over everything.

On Sundays I’ll go into my CoSchedule app — an expensive but worth-it-to-me content marketing tool — and set up my blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagrams for the week. If I have a newsletter I’ve got to send that week, I’ll make sure that’s ready to go and scheduled in MailChimp. I’ll fill up my Buffer with snazzy content from friends and make sure I’ve got some things ready to go if people I know have launches or book sales during the upcoming week.

Then, after all that is done, I close CoSchedule and walk away. Other than making sure that my content is going out into the world, I try not to open it again. I’ll jump on Facebook and Twitter from time to time, but that’s mostly for interaction and catching up on everyone’s news rather than promoting my content. The temptation to cut into writing is just too great. All of this content creation is supposed to serve the writing, not hinder it by taking excessive time and mental energy away from me.

I’m still learning my own best practices for working as a creative full time, and would love to hear what works for you whether you’re working on a side hustle or your art is your full time gig! Leave me a comment or shoot me an email at julia@juliakellywrites.com, and be sure to check out HBICnation.com.

#5forFriday: One Week in Hawaii Is Breaking Up! (And That Means You Save)

This is a special #5forFriday today because it isn’t every week I get to announce TWO deals for readers.

  1. My anthology ONE WEEK IN HAWAII is breaking up! What does that mean for you? A 99¢ book that gets you not just one but four sexy novellas just in time for summer beach read season. But remember, you’ve got just one week for the sale because after that the ebook comes down and you’ll only be able to get it via paperback.
  2. Speaking of great deals, my publisher has put together a bundle of 12 free reads including THE GOVERNESS WAS WICKED! It’s all in honor of a great site redesign for XOXO After Dark. Definitely check it out, and don’t miss this video the authors of Pocket shot for the big anniversary. I’m in there, big hair and all.
  3. My sister and her Scottish boyfriend are coming to NYC! In fact, mere hours after this post goes up, they’ll be on the ground (and probably jet lagged). My sister used to live four blocks from me in New York, so it’s been tough not having her around. Fortunately…
  4. …my moving to the U.K. going along about as well as I could hope. There are a million little things that need to be done before I get on a plane, but I’m crossing things off the very long to do list.
  5. Normally I’d round this out by saying I finished a draft of a book (true!) or turned in proofs (also true!) since my last #5forFriday, but really the best thing that’s happened to me all week has been seeing friends and getting together those last few times. Even though I’ll see many of them in a couple months — I literally just booked airfare to come back to the U.S. for my best friend’s bachelorette party in Austin AND RWA in Orlando — there’s something about celebrating seeing each other in the same city that makes all the difference.