Ethan & Juliet Cover Reveal!

I absolutely love this cover. The composition of the image absolutely slays me. The embrace perfectly symbolizes the push and pull of Ethan & Juliet’s relationship. (Scroll down for a larger image.)

Ethan & Juliet: The first in the Try Again Series, a collection of three interconnected second chance romances releases December 4th, 2018. Look for Sparkle & Shine and Read & Wright in 2019!

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When Juliet Hawthorne met Dr. Ethan Harvey during her final semester of nursing school, she thought he was hot, but too arrogant to be worth the trouble. Plus she had Rich, the only man Juliet thought she’d ever want. But when Juliet’s world shattered, Ethan was the only one there for her.

Ethan hasn’t let himself think about Juliet for four years. But when she shows up at his hospital with an emergency patient, Ethan realizes that Juliet is still the woman of his dreams, even if she’s about to become a certified nurse midwife. Ethan’s never had much time for midwives, but he’s willing to set his discomfort aside, because she’s exactly what’s been missing from his life.

When Ethan sets out to woo her, Juliet is forced to choose between the career that has given her life purpose and the man she never thought she’d fall in love with.

Listen to my Ethan&Juliet playlist on Spotify
(Photo by Joanna Nix)

Ethan & Juliet Chapter One

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have heard me talking about Ethan & Juliet since August at least. And if you’re one of the real lucky ones who read all the way to the end of The Other Lane, then you’ve already seen it. BUT, for anyone who hasn’t, this is an early teaser of what’s to come December 4th!

Chapter One

Juliet slapped her palm against the steering wheel as traffic closed in around her. She should have known better than to get on the highway at eight o’clock in the morning even if it was the fastest way to get from Overland Park to Midtown. And she needed to be in Midtown ten minutes ago.

Fifteen minutes ago, Juliet had stepped out the front door of the birth center into the brittle warmth of the spring morning with no other plans than to go home and nap. She’d squinted past the newly leafed trees and into the sunlight. Juliet had basked in the afterglow of assisting in the uneventful birth of a healthy baby girl. The high of witnessing new life never got old, but the adrenaline of it had already worn off. Exhaustion had pressed down on her shoulders like she’d been carrying both her physiology book and her pharmaceuticals book in her bag at the same time again. She’d wanted to go home and sleep and sleep and sleep.

Juliet had taken one deep, cleansing breath in through her nose and out through her mouth and had just turned toward her heap of a twenty-year-old Toyota when her phone had buzzed in her pocket.
The screen had flashed Gina’s name, and Juliet’s heart had ticked up a notch when she’d heard panting over the line instead of words.

“Gina? Gina are you OK?” she’d asked.

A whimper had been her answer.

“Gina are you in labor?”

Juliet had heard her friend draw in a deep breath, then in a shaky voice, she’d said, “Regular contractions, getting strong fast. And they hurt more than last time. A lot more.”

Juliet had done a mental sun salutation since she hadn’t had time for a real one, then she’d pivoted on her heel and walked right back into the birthing center. On her way, she’d asked if Gina was experiencing pain between contractions and if she’d noticed any spotting. A yes to both.

“And Colin is still . . . out of town . . . and it’s too early.” Gina’s voice had been a sharp whine interrupted by hard pants.

Gina wasn’t due for three more weeks, but that hadn’t been what had Juliet worried. Not by a long shot. “It’s not too early. Call Rich to stay with Noah, and I’ll be there in a flash.”

Gina had groaned as another contraction came on.

“Scratch that, I’ll call Rich. You hang tight.”

Juliet had snagged Charlie, the midwife she’d worked with the night before and filled her in.
“She needs to get to the hospital,” Charlie said.

Juliet nodded in agreement. “She’s only a few blocks from KU Med. I can have her there in thirty minutes.”

Charlie had offered to take care of the official transfer and meet them there. Then Juliet had been off, only to wind up stuck in traffic ten minutes into a twenty-minute drive. The wait was long enough for every awful thing that could be wrong with Gina to pass through Juliet’s mind. When she felt panic crushing her diaphragm, she focused instead on how good it had felt for Gina to adopt her when she’d first moved to Kansas City. How all the nights drinking wine and dancing had forged a sisterly relationship that withstood Juliet’s split from Gina’s brother.

Juliet’s pulse slowed as she remembered and breathed. They were both strong women. Gina would survive this. Juliet would get her to the hospital. The University of Kansas Medical Center was the best hospital in the area, with the best doctors. Gina would be fine, and Juliet could do this. She was a nurse, almost a full-fledged midwife, she was trained to stay calm in these situations, so she would, even when it was one of her best friends in danger.

Juliet practiced breathing in through her nose, out through her mouth, and it did almost as much as a good round of yoga.

Then she remembered she’d offered to call Rich and cursed.

Juliet fumbled her phone out of her satchel, and scrolled through her contacts, keeping one eye on the road in case the car in front of her moved.

“Durand.” He answered, with a perfect French accent.

“Are you going by your last name now?” Juliet asked.

A pause, and Juliet imagined a sexy, confident smile sliding onto his face. “Oh, Juliet. It has been too long.”

Juliet snorted. “Whatever. Have you talked to your sister lately?”

“I’m on call for the baby.”

“Yeah, well, the baby’s coming now.”

All the flirtation fell from his voice as he said, “Is everything okay?”

“I’m on my way over so I can take her to the Med Center. Colin’s still out of town, so I need you to get over there now. Stay with her until I can get there, and I need you to take care of Noah and let Colin know what’s going on. If she starts bleeding or can’t handle the pain, call an ambulance and don’t wait for me, got it?”

From the scraping and scuffling noises in the background, Juliet guessed Rich was gathering papers off his desk. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” Then he hung up.

It might have been the least amount of flirting Rich had ever pulled off in one conversation. At least he understood the situation. Rich had always respected her professionally, even if he hadn’t been good for her in any other way.

When Juliet arrived, Rich was making Noah eggs, but paused to help Juliet get Gina into the car. Juliet’s hope that Rich had somehow been horribly scarred in the last two years were dashed the second she laid eyes on him. His thick, wavy dark hair fell in his earnest brown eyes. His olive skin glowed in the morning sun as he gripped Juliet’s hand and thanked her for being there for his sister. Looking up at him, Juliet was reminded of the first time they’d met. He was just as gorgeous at thirty as he’d been at eighteen. Possibly more so.

Juliet snatched her hand back and only just resisted wiping it clean on her scrubs. “I’ll call with news as soon as I can.” Then she joined a groaning Gina in the car.

The drive to KU Med took less than ten minutes, and Charlie met them at the emergency room doors along with a nurse who got them checked in and into an ultrasound. Then they were admitted to the high-risk wing of the Labor and Delivery ward. Juliet helped Gina through contractions while Charlie coordinated with the hospital staff.

After what Juliet considered far too long, the door opened and a man in a white coat entered the room.
Juliet’s heart might have stopped beating when he snapped the file he’d been reading shut, revealing his rugged face and bright blue eyes.

It was him.

Juliet knew she would run into him eventually. To have made it four years without meeting him when they worked in the same field was almost a miracle.

What wasn’t surprising was the near scowl he wore as he took them all in one at a time. He’d always hated midwives, and here were two, along with a patient in distress. That would make him cranky. And if his greasy hair and thick stubble were any indication, it was well past the end of his shift. Oh yeah, he would be in a great mood.

Gina squeezed Juliet’s hand, and Juliet tried to give her friend a reassuring smile, but that was when the doctor spoke.

“I’m Dr. Harvey,” he said, pulling the last empty chair in front of Gina’s bed. “I’ll be performing your cesarean today.”

“Cesarean?” Gina blinked.

Juliet and Charlie had explained to Gina that they thought she had a partial placental abruption, but the hospital staff hadn’t said a word. When asked, the nurse had said they were waiting for the doctor to get out of surgery to confirm the results. The doctor they had been waiting on was now exchanging glares with Juliet’s boss.

“She doesn’t know?” he asked.

“Your staff hasn’t exactly been forthcoming,” Charlie said. “We warned her it was a possibility.”
“It’s the only way to deliver safely at this point,” he said, angling his head back toward Gina.
“Is the baby okay?” Gina asked, her voice quavering in panic.

“The baby is fine,” Juliet said, nodding toward the fetal monitor. “Dr. Harvey means that a vaginal delivery is too risky for you right now.”

“And for the baby,” Dr. Harvey said. “Stillbirth would be the most likely outcome.”

Gina let out a little sob of shock and her heart rate monitor beeped a little faster.
“Ethan!” Juliet sent him a silencing glare as she felt Gina go rigid beneath her palm, then said to Gina in a soothing voice, “C-section is the best way to make sure you don’t bleed too much if the placenta detaches, but the baby is okay.”

Gina looked to Dr. Harvey who said, “The risk of hemorrhage is high.”

After grimacing through another contraction, dulled by the pain medication they’d given her, Gina asked Juliet, “You’d do it?”

She was pretty sure she heard Dr. Harvey’s teeth grind.

Juliet made sure she smiled as she said, “In a heartbeat.”

Gina nodded, looking determined. “Alright then. Let’s do it.”

Dr. Harvey explained the surgery and recovery as if his life depended on him doing so in fifty words or less. Then he swept himself from the room with a dark look in Juliet’s direction. She didn’t flinch. It wasn’t her fault his bedside manner was so atrocious that she’d had to translate for him.

“That’s it?” Gina panted through a contraction.

Charlie said, “He’s abrupt, but if you have to have a c-section, he’s who you want.”

Juliet nodded and squeezed Gina’s hand back, and said, “He’s the best,” trying not to let anything else show on her face. In her mind, Juliet was poking Gina in the shoulder, saying “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over, and maybe throwing a “He’s the one!” in there.

Juliet hadn’t seen him since she’d finished nursing school. Her life was completely different now, but Ethan hadn’t changed at all.

He was still broad and sturdy like a rugby player, only three or four inches taller than she was. His shaggy, dark hair still escaped from beneath the surgical cap that matched his blue eyes. He still couldn’t take the time to talk to his patients and was apparently working so much he couldn’t even be bothered to shave. The Dr. Harvey she remembered had always been miraculously clean shaven, even at the end of a twenty-four-hour shift. He looked more ruffled this morning than he used to get, but Juliet had to admit she liked the beard. It matched him somehow.

Gina huffed, her face still contorted in pain. “I hope he’s better at surgery than he is at conversation.”

A nurse with a consent form arrived then, and Juliet focused again on Gina, and not on the way Dr. Harvey’s eyes had looked at her in annoyance. Not that she wanted him to look at her at all, she wanted him to focus on Gina. Juliet did not want to talk to him, or about him. She’d avoided all reference to him for four years. All she had to do was to make it through this surgery, and she could go back to forgetting he existed.

Only once the surgery started, Juliet had trouble not watching him. She was positioned by Gina’s head, so she couldn’t see his hands, but the poise of his shoulders, the stillness of his body as he worked, the soft whisper of his voice, efficient with his words as he directed the staff. Juliet noticed every breath he took. He was impressive, and despite herself, Juliet felt a pull in her belly to be near him as he worked.

She wasn’t the only one. When she’d been in nursing school, Dr. Harvey had been the young, handsome doctor who notoriously never dated nurses. Which meant each of Juliet’s classmates had wanted to be the exception to the rule and flirted shamelessly whenever he was near.

Despite her attraction, Juliet hadn’t bothered. She’d had Rich back then, and they’d been talking about getting married. While she’d noticed Dr. Harvey’s sparkling blue eyes and unshakable confidence, she’d also noticed they came with an air of entitlement and a healthy dose of arrogance. He didn’t just not date the nurses, he spoke to them over breakfast with half-teasing condescension, and sometimes even a hint of derision. Even among his fellow obstetricians Ethan incited controversy and lead discussions with a tone that implied anyone who disagreed with him was an idiot.

Rich’s soft charm and poise had been magnetic by comparison. Rich’s passion had been so intoxicating that even when Juliet had met him at fourteen, she hadn’t been able to imagine loving another man. Most days she still couldn’t, but she was no longer as naive as she had been four years ago when she thought she and Rich would get married, have babies, and live happily ever after.

In that moment of regret, Dr. Harvey raised his eyes to hers and held. It lasted only a moment before his eyes were back on his work. She wondered how he remembered that night, and if he despised her for being there with a birthing center patient.

“Birth,” she remembered him saying about at a group breakfast one morning, “could go from normal to dangerous in a split second. Why would anyone endanger themselves and their child by choosing not to have every modern option available?” It had maybe been those words, more than anything else that had kept Juliet from seeking him out again, not when she’d been angling for the job at the birthing center near the end of her nursing degree, and not after she’d started her midwifery program two years ago.
A cry broke through the quiet stillness of the operating room, and Juliet left her memories to share a tearful smile with Gina as Dr. Harvey said, “It’s a boy.” He handed the baby off to a nurse and returned his attention to Gina.

Juliet stayed with Gina until the surgery was over since Gina’s husband had arrived just in time to accompany his new son to the nursery.

When they wheeled Gina to recovery, Juliet escaped back to the room and collapsed into the nearest plastic chair. She let relief wash over her. Abruption could be so, so bad, but they’d gotten here in time.

Every muscle protested in exhaustion as she checked her watch. It was after eleven. She’d only slept four hours in the last two days. Juliet couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten, and she’d have to be here another couple of hours at least.

The door opened, and Juliet sat up, expecting to see a nurse wheeling Gina in. Instead, Dr. Harvey leaned against the door frame.

“She’s doing great,” he said. “She lost a lot of blood, and she’ll be here a few days, but she will be alright.”

“Thanks,” Juliet said. It wasn’t information a doctor confided in a colleague, but family. She sat up straighter. “Your bedside manner is still abominable.”

“A compliment so soon?” he chuckled, then sobered, his eyes narrowing in on her. “You were smart to bring her straight here.”

Juliet sat up straighter and squared her shoulders, looking down her narrow nose at him. “I’m not exactly new to all this.”

The corners of his mouth twitched, as if he were trying to smile at her, but couldn’t bring himself to follow through. “You’re wasted at that freestanding place.”

Juliet thought, that considering the circumstances, she was just what they needed, but said, “Are you offering me a job?”

“How about breakfast? Dino’s?” It was the diner across the street, the usual gathering place.

The allure of eggs and hot coffee was too good to pass up. “I sometimes dream about Dino’s breakfast.”
A real smile lit up his face this time. “Great. I’ve got paperwork to finish up, then I’m done. Meet you downstairs in an hour?”

Juliet nodded, knowing her confusion showed on her face, but he smiled like maybe he didn’t despise her after all.

I hope you’re ready to read chapter two! I don’t have pre-orders ready just yet, but check back here next week for the cover reveal, and I will definitely have links for you then!

What else are you reading right now? I just finished Kingdom of Ash, and boy howdy was that an intense book. I picked up RS Grey’s Anything You Can Do as a palette cleanser. I love her books.

How to Prepare for Nanowrimo When You Don’t Plot

It’s that glorious time of year again. That time when thousands of people frantically write a new novel together. It’s like a writer’s Christmas time.

This year I have given myself the extra challenge of releasing a book four days after nanowrimo ends, which means I will be writing a brand new book from scratch while I’m promoting a Ethan & Juliet. Yes, I probably lost my mind, but it seemed like a really good idea in July when I was an anxiety ridden mess. Now that it’s here, I’m committed.

My 2018 Nanowrimo novel is actually a companion novel to Ethan & Juliet. It will be the third and final book in the series, starring Juliet’s little sister, Colleen. Colleen doesn’t have a huge part in Ethan & Juliet, but she has a few of my favorite lines. She has a practicality and clarity to her that Juliet lacks. That same practicality can get her in trouble a lot though, which is why the beginning of the novels finds her more or less moving back in with her parents at 26. *wince*

If you want to know what it’s like preparing for nanowrimo as a pantser, you should check out my Instagram for a look at my brainstorming.

I don’t do a lot outwardly to prepare for Nanowrimo. I do a lot of mulling and thinking, and a little bit of note taking. Otherwise I spend time making sure I have the tools I need to make November go as easily as possible. Since I’m going to spend most of the month with my mind wrapped up in figuring out how this story unfolds as I write, I take steps to make life easier on myself.

    • I’m going to clean and organize my office
    • I’m going to find a couple of meal plans on pinterest so I don’t have to think about cooking or groceries, just go by what the list says.
    • I’ve announced my novel on the nanowrimo site, complete with synopsis
    • I made a cover for my novel
    • I started a playlist (started being the keyword, there’s only five songs so far)
    • I started a Pinterest board–again started, there are only two pins so far, because the only I know for sure is who my characters are. (I don’t actually use Pinterest boards for inspiration, I use just do them for fun and sometimes research.)

The other thing I do is give myself a daily goal of 2000 words–every year. That way I’m ahead of the game from the very beginning.

My personal goal is usually to hit 50,000 by Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving is on a reasonable date like the 27th, that’s totally doable. Since Thanksgiving is the 22nd this year, I highly doubt I’m gonna make that. I’ve chosen the the 26th as my 50,000 word goal.

What’s the number one thing I do to ensure a nanaowrimo win?

I pre-order the winner shirt before November even starts. I have literally invested money in this, and I can’t spend money on a shirt I’m not going to wear. And I can’t wear a winner shift if I don’t actually win. So, I write my 50,000 words and wear that darn shirt everyday for basically the entire month of December, because that’s how good it feels.

Are you doing Nanowrimo? What are you doing to prepare?

Ethan & Juliet is Coming!

Sometimes I get so busy writing I forget I have a blog. The past couple of months that has so been the case. I spent July finishing the first draft of my fourth novel, The Van Birch Incident. Then I spent August revising Ethan & Juliet and beta reading. September passed in a blur of revising my third novel, Sparkle & Shine, and here we are back in October putting the final touches on Ethan & Juliet before it goes to print because that’s right, Ethan & Juliet is coming out on December 4th, 2018!

I am so excited to bring you my second book. I started work on this story in 2016 just before Rufus was born, and it took me a year to complete a full first draft.

Each time I write a book it comes together a little easier than it did the first time. Don’t get me wrong, the struggle of pulling words out of my brain still leaves me bloody and raw, but I’m getting more efficient at it.

I’ve settled into a good routine where I rotate projects by month. That gives my head a good amount of time to recover and come back to each project fresh. I’m already working on my 2019 writing schedule, which kind of blows my mind, because I’ve never been the kind of person who plans ahead. But! I have two more books that go along with The Van Birch Incident to write, plus a languishing haunted house story that I’d love to get back to. So that’s three books to write from scratch next year, plus all the revising and publishing and promoting. It sounds exhausting already, but so worth it.

Anyway, you didn’t come here today to hear about my publishing schedule (maybe some other time, right?) You came to find out about Ethan & Juliet.

Here’s the synopsis!

When Juliet Hawthorne met Dr. Ethan Harvey during her final semester of nursing school, she thought he was hot, but too arrogant to be worth the trouble. Plus she had Rich, the only man Juliet thought she’d ever want. But when Juliet’s world shattered, Ethan was the only one there for her.

Ethan hasn’t let himself think about Juliet for four years. But when she shows up at his hospital with an emergency patient, Ethan realizes that Juliet is still the woman of his dreams, even if she’s about to become a certified nurse midwife. Ethan’s never had much time for midwives, but he’s willing to set his discomfort aside, because she’s exactly what’s been missing from his life.

When Ethan sets out to woo her, Juliet is forced to choose between the career that has given her life purpose and the man she never thought she’d fall in love with.

For the first updates, make sure you’re signed up for my newsletter (you’ll also get a free copy of When Abe Met Lane) and follow me on Instagram.

Why Yes, There are Books Out There That Aren’t About Rich White Dudes

Sometimes I forget I don’t live in a safe, feminist-thinking, people loving bubble.

I mean, at home, we have two mostly non-verbal kiddos. It’s a love-fest of speech coaching, playing in the hose, and sneaking words in on the stair case when the kiddos aren’t looking. My husband is the wokest straight white dude I know. He’s pretty fantastic actually.

I work at a bar/restaurant where they ask for preferred pronoun on the application.

And I choose not to engage with bullshit online trolls, because I ain’t got time for that shit. I have novels to write, damn it.

But last night. Oh, last night, sexism smacked me right in the face.

It was about 11pm. I’d just gotten off work and was at the bar paying for the cajun tots I was bringing home for Brock. (Midnight cajun tots is where it’s at, yo.) Sitting next to the bar register is this older white guy by himself. I pretty much ignore him. I’m off the clock, but still wearing my work shirt, so I’m transitioning out of customer service mode.

The bartender asks me when my book is coming out. I cheerily tell him it came out last week, and his (appropriate) response is to say, “Well, I better get on the Amazon then.”

The guy sitting at the bar turns to me and says, “Oh, are you an authoress?”

First off, I give him the benefit of the doubt, dude might be trying to cutesy, but I still have to grind my teeth at the word “authoress.”

I answer that, yes, I write novels.  When asked, I specify that they are romance novels.

Now, I am not ashamed in the slightest about the kind of stories I write. In fact, I am damn proud of them. That shit is hard to do, but I show up everyday and get the words down and do the revisions and do the promotions. I am making a career for myself, and I don’t give a crap if people think it’s useless.

At the same time, I know when people aren’t going to appreciate the work I do. I already knew this guy was going to brush my books off as unimportant, but when the next words out of his mouth were, “Are they tawdry books for bored housewives?”

I almost kicked him in the shins.

But, since I was still mostly in work mode, I kept my tone of voice kind of light, almost teasing, and said, “I wouldn’t call them tawdry. There’s a bit of tawdriness, but they almost straddle the line between romance and women’s fiction.”

Now, before we proceed. I would like to say that there is absolutely nothing tawdry about my books. Is there sex? Absolutely. But it’s never gratuitous. Sex always helps advance the story in some way, but I wasn’t going to defend my work, and they people who read it to someone who clearly doesn’t give a damn about any of us. And The Other Lane does butt up on women’s fiction is places, but it is still first and foremost a romance novel. Could I have made it literary? Absolutely. Did I want to? No. The rest of my books are more romancy, because that what I have the most fun writing. Sue me for doing fun things that bring me fulfillment.

Then, dude dropped to a whole new level of scumbaggery.

He said, “Huh, women’s fiction. I didn’t know that was a genre that existed.”

I’m pretty sure my head exploded. I know I said something after that, but I have no clue what it was. I’m assuming it wasn’t the “fuck you” that was echoing through my head, because the guy left me alone after. I finished up my transaction and escaped, because I like my job, and telling a customer to fuck off while still in uniform sounds like a good way to lose it, but I’m still spitting mad about it this morning.

I couldn’t think of a way to defend my work and the people who read it (Bored housewives my ass. Women who stay home, with or without kids are still people with minds and emotions that are valuable) without sounding like a petulant child. At the same time, I’m angry with myself for not doing so, because I have a voice.

Next time, I start in on the lesson in intersectional feminism from the word, “authoress.”

 

Anxiety

Anxiety is not my friend.

It’s the demon on my shoulder that I’ve carried around since I was 7 or 8 who consistently tells me I’m not good enough. Who tells me I am going to fail. Who tells me to give up and not even try.

It drives my otherwise fabulous blood pressure sky high. It hovers in my chest, threatening panic attacks over the smallest things.

I exercise daily.

I walk.

I do yoga.

I write.

I meditate.

I published my own fucking book–and it is selling.

And I still doubt myself so much, it physically makes me sick.

I am still living with this fear.

But I am better than this.

I am strong. I am capable. I am pliant. And my words mean something. They are important.

It is worth pushing through the fear.

The Other Lane is Live!

Today’s the day! It’s here!

So, first things fist, where can you buy the book?

Pick up Your eBook Copies Here:
Kobo
iTunes
Nook
Amazon

And the Print Copies:
Get Your Autographed Copy Directly from Me!
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Now, there are two other big things you need to know. First, I am hosting a live Virtual Launch Party on Instagram today at 1pm central time. To attend, all you need is an Instagram account, and to follow me. I am @marlaholtauthor. Just login in at one and it should tell you that I’m live. Just click the notification and join me to celebrate, talk books, and ask any questions you have about the book or my publishing journey.

Second, I am