FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE Excerpt!

With one week to go until FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE releases, I thought I’d have a little fun and share an excerpt! Before you get a first look at Jasmine and Devon, be sure to check out the rafflecopter for some cool prizes from yours truly! Rafflecopter ends on June 20, 2017.

And don’t forget to pre-order! FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE goes on sale June 27, 2017! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | and more

Chapter One

Jasmine

Chilly midnight wind blew my trench coat up as I stared at the fluttering note taped to my basement apartment door. I needed to get out of the freaking cold air, but I stood rooted to the spot by a sloppy handwritten letter that didn’t even mention my name.

 

To Whom It May Concern,

Your residency is terminated. Please collect your belongings and move out ASAP.

 

I’d seen one too many letters like this in my twenty-one years. Some taped to doors, others shoved underneath them, and still more sent certified mail. All back when I lived with my mother. This was the first I had managed to collect on my own.

I shouldered the door open, then used my hip to force it closed. The letter—now crumpled in my hand—landed on my wobbly kitchen table. I still hadn’t found the right combination of books to keep it level. Not that I had many books to begin with.

The wind outside stopped, but my postage-stamp-sized studio didn’t exactly come with heat. I flicked on the tiny portable heater and sat on my bed, waiting to thaw out.

I never wanted to be in this situation. Not again. Served me right for accepting a cheap Craigslist apartment. I paid my rent on time, in cash. I kept to myself. If I’d somehow created too much noise, then they needed to tell me. Deaf ears couldn’t tell.

I took in a deep breath of questionable moldy air. Thirty days. That was standard for evictions. I could work out something in thirty days.

I had to.

With a bit of warmth finally reaching my skin, I changed out of my clothes and into a baggy tee shirt, then added sweats and a sweatshirt. I had to tighten the drawstring to keep the pants up, but the extra fabric helped keep me warm. Clothes stolen from Dev, my BFF. Perks to having a guy friend. I had no clue if he knew I’d stolen his clothes or not. I didn’t care. He’d give me the shirt off his back if I asked; nothing wrong with skipping a step.

From my bed, the entire studio apartment stretched before me. Okay, so cramped was a better word than stretched. A half kitchen that consisted of a mini fridge, a sink, and a microwave, a small table, one lousy tiny window, and the bathroom that held a stall shower and just as much water pressure as heat: almost nonexistent. The only positive thing about this place was the rent, cheap enough that I could save as much money as possible. My phone vibrated, and I picked it up, welcoming the distraction.

Dev: How did the date go?

Considering I sat on my bed wearing his clothes instead of being warmed up without any clothes on at all? I sent back a thumbs-down image.

Dev: That bad?

Me: Greg was disappointed I wasn’t in my bar clothes.

Served me right for picking up a guy at the bar I worked at. He had seemed to be nice and far more of a gentleman than most of my customers. He even knew a few signs. I had hoped for a little fun, a departure from my daily life. In the end, we had nothing in common. He wanted the shot-girl image, not a real person.

Dev: That asshole. Want me to beat him up?

Me: I know you have a love affair with your punching bag, but this one requires no fists. Sorry.

Dev: You OK?

I stared up at my ceiling. The man always managed to read between the lines.

Me: I’m fine.

Dev: Liar.

I scrunched my nose and tapped at my phone until his image appeared on-screen, too-long hair included. “I just had a bad date. Are you done picking on me?” I signed.

He tried to keep a straight face, but his eyes laughed at me. “I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held the phone farther back and let him see I was ready for bed. How much more fine could I get?

“So that’s what happened to my college sweatshirt.”

I angled the phone to the emblem on my leg. “Pants too.”

Dev laughed and shook his head. “Come over. You don’t have to stay at your crappy apartment tonight.”

“I happen to like my crappy apartment.” Okay, that was a lie. I hated this place. But I liked my privacy. And even if I stayed at Dev’s a few times a month, that didn’t mean I needed to right this second. Not when I’d be losing this place soon.

I didn’t sign that. My problem. I’d handle it. I’d learned a long time ago to never let a wannabe social worker get involved unless I wanted to give up control. Dev had no boundaries when it came to helping others.

“Please?”

“Are you seriously begging me to come over at midnight?”

Dev had the decency to shrug.

“Tomorrow. Come to the bar. For now, I have a date with my pillow.” Sure, the pillow was flat as a pancake, but I wanted alone time.

“Fine. If you change your mind, come on over.”

I nodded and ended the call. I had his spare key, but we both knew I wouldn’t use it.

My eyes traveled over the room once again. The cracks in the walls, the cracks in the cement floor. I had snagged the place for one reason and one reason only: to save money and buy my own bar.

Like my father had. I wondered if he’d recommend it or if he’d try to convince me to choose a different career. Maybe we would have worked side by side, handling customers and drinks. In truth, I’d never know what might have been.

I pulled out my notebook, the one with the pale blue cover on which I had penned Jas’s Bar. Here I planned out everything I could for owning my own bar. From rules and regulations, to which brands I wanted, to recipes and other ideas. I mapped out my finances, what I’d need to make this a reality.

I wasn’t there yet. Hence the cheap apartment and meager living.

Maybe I should have crashed at Dev’s. A little comfort went a long way when life spiraled out of control. I knew I was young and I had time. But I wanted my happy. I’d paid my dues; I deserved my dream.

I was still staring at my notebook when a light flashed by my tiny window. Outside someone stood with a flashlight, shining it into my apartment. I didn’t need to adjust to the light to know who that someone was with the one, two, three blinking pattern.

It took five steps to stomp over to the door. Dev came in once I wedged it open. He pushed the door closed.

“You can’t have your clothes back,” I signed, even as I was grateful to see him. When Dev was around, even this place sorta felt like a home.

“I don’t want my clothes back. Not now, at least. I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held out my hands, showing that I was fine. Even if I did scan my coffee table and breathe in relief that the eviction letter was facedown in a crumpled mess.

He studied me, searching for all my little tics that spelled I was in trouble, tics only he knew. I blanked my face; otherwise he would latch onto there being a problem. A big one. Dev shoved a hand through his hair, those wavy locks rioting into one massive sexy-as-hell bedhead. I missed the days when he was a spindly little thing, before he grew into this hunk I could never unfriendzone. He meant too much to rock the boat, and I didn’t dare risk losing him. He scratched at a day’s worth of scruff, the black stubble contrasting with his pale skin. Then he kicked off his shoes, tossed his coat on the back of a chair, and plopped down on my bed in a way that had to have a spring or two digging into his back.

He didn’t budge.

I wanted to laugh. Forget me time—neither one of us had given the other the right to be alone since we first met. Still, I couldn’t let go of our usual bickering match. “Go home.”

He folded his hands behind his head, not moving. I crossed my arms. A few seconds later he sat up, grabbed my laptop off the floor, and flipped it open. “We’ll watch a movie.”

“My laptop can’t handle Netflix. You know that.”

He closed the laptop. “Right. Forgot.” He unlocked his phone and placed it on the bed.

“Tiny viewing tonight?”

“You refused to come to my place.” Underlining meaning: we could have watched on a large flat-screen TV.

Since there was no budging him now that he had settled in, I climbed onto the bed with him. He picked up the phone so we could watch, and I settled my head on his chest.

I didn’t pay much attention to the action flick he put on. Most days I loved the intensity of those movies. Tonight, those explosions felt too close for comfort. Instead I made a mental list of my options. Had to before Dev found out. He’d want me to stay with him. And being cuddled up with him, I had to admit, had potential. More so when I placed my hand on his firm stomach and took in a deep breath of the ocean scent of his soap. Problem was, I needed to be on my own two feet. The last person to take care of me—my mother—had failed. I couldn’t trust anyone else.

Not even Dev.

SIGNS OF ATTRACTION First Birthday and Giveaway!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since SIGNS OF ATTRACTION released! I’m still so excited I’ve had the pleasure of sharing Carli and Reed’s story with the world!

In honor of SoA’s first birthday, I thought a giveaway was called for! Check out the rafflecopter below for your chance to win a SIGNED paperback of SIGNS OF ATTRACTION!

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And that’s not all, I’m also giving away a book charm pendant of SIGNS!

AND, since it’s less than two weeks to my next book’s release, how about a pre-order eBook of FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE?!

I’ll also give away bookmarks of both books.

This contest is open internationally. Click on the link below to go to the giveaway (since I unfortunately can’t have it loaded directly.) Good luck!

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The Importance of Diversity in Publishing

Diversity is a hot topic in publishing these days, as it should be. But, like any hot topic, it’s misunderstood by some. Let me take a moment to break it down:

Yes. We need more diversity in publishing. In the people behind the scenes, in the authors given deals, in the books being published.

No, it’s not up to you to represent diverse attributes that are not part of who you are.

Yes, it would be great if your novels represented a more realistic version of the world, but unless you are willing to do research and treat these characters with respect, you need to tread very carefully.

Why? It seems some people can’t understand this. Some people have always seen themselves in print and film and never had a lack of material to relate to. So, let’s play a little game. Let’s say that you like pizza, but most other people don’t. So every food critic you read has someone mentioning pizza with disgust, or staying clear of mentioning pizza at all.

But pizza is important to you. Then, one day, you find a restaurant, and it specializes in pizza! So exciting! But, the pizza is presented without any sauce at all, and that’s not pizza to you, pizza has to have some form of sauce.

You feel disgruntled, left out, alone. You feel not worthy because of your love for pizza. Then you find another restaurant specializing in pizza. You tread carefully, remembering the last experience. However, this chef is a fellow pizza enthusiast! You enter the establishment and there is nothing but love for pizza, with appropriate sauce. Finally, you have a restaurant you can connect with.

That’s what the diversity movement wants. That’s why we want own voices, writers writing about their own diverse traits. This isn’t about you, it’s about us.

Now, gather around, a little story time from yours truly. I wrote a novel where one of the main characters was of a different race than my own. I did it during a time when I really noticed the lack of diversity in novels. I did it because I write characters with hearing loss. Hearing loss spans all races, genders, sexualities, religions, disabilities, etc. I wanted to show some of that variety in my novel.

I researched. I talked with others. I had sensitivity readers. And, still, I listened to authors of color talk. I worried. Not because I didn’t do my work. But because I know how I feel when I pick up a book with a deaf/hard of hearing character written by a hearing person. I know how I feel when I find all these little details that are not accurate.

I don’t want to do this to someone else.

And yet, this character was as I saw her, each time I tried to see her in a different light, she lost something. She was diverse, in more ways than her ears.

In talking with a friend a suggestion dropped on the table: make her Jewish. Now, this isn’t another thing I had to research, this is who I am. And yet, most of my characters are not Jewish. I’ll write a hundred deaf characters before I write a Jewish one. But, more on that later.

The Jewish aspect clicked. The character took shape. Writing her became easier. I no longer worried I messed something up. The character shifted, because when you change part of an identity, other personality traits follow. Parts of the character that remained unchanged were now viewed in a different light, based on societal impressions.

The experience was a learning and telling one for me.

And then, antisemitism explodes on twitter, targeting Jewish writers. Reminding me why I hesitate to write about my faith. Simply put, I’ve been taught not to. You don’t grow up Jewish without knowing most of your ancestors have been killed for being who they are. You don’t grow up Jewish without knowing that at times it’s best to keep this part of you hidden. You know there are risks.

Those risks make me proud I’m taking this step. Because while my non-white character was important and underrepresented, so is my Jewish character. And like when I write about hearing loss, I can take a part of myself that most people don’t know about, and shed some light on it.

But I’ve never worried someone would attack me for writing Deaf and Hard of Hearing characters. I do have to worry about writing Jewish.

So, that’s me, where I’m at, exploring my own diverse traits in my main characters, while ensuring my supporting characters represent the world larger than myself. I’m supporting my fellow diverse writers. And hope that the non-diverse ones can either join in on the support, or take an honest minute to see why. This is only a fight because of lack of representation.

If you want to meet the character mentioned in this post, her name is Jasmine, and she’ll be out in the world on June 27.

What Writers Can Learn From Fandoms

I recently fell head over heels into fan-mode with a television drama (Once Upon A Time if you must know, and yes, I’m happy to chat about it). As such, I ventured into hashtag fan territory on twitter, as an observer, and walked away realizing how valuable an experience this was for me as a writer.

The very first thing I realized? You can’t please everybody. For every person who loves an episode, character, or plot arc, someone else does not. Nothing quite shows this like a trip down hashtag fandom lane. One tweet loves what the next tweet doesn’t and there are quite a few that, frankly, I’m not sure why they continue to be involved in the first place!

The second thing? Fans take their fandom in a deathly serious grip. Fans have invested in the characters, which makes it even harder to please everyone when a particular story idea might not mesh with what someone had envisioned for a character.

A third is the very strong and very real alternative universe that lives separately from the work of fiction and is a living and breathing being. Pretty cool, honestly, how creative works can and do take on a life of their own.

Writers talk a lot about not reading reviews (spoiler, most of us do)—hashtag fandom land shows exactly why. For every compliment there is a criticism, and some of those critics are harsh. For me it put things into perspective and really drove home a point I’ve already mentioned: you can’t please everyone.

The next time you worry about a review, or how your book will be received, visit a fandom you enjoy and read. And read. And read. It’s reason enough to step away from reviews entirely. But more importantly, it puts those reviews into perspective.

Not everyone will love your book. And that’s okay. In fact, in many ways, it means you’ve made it if someone hates it. Keep in mind, humans are a wide and vast people. We don’t all agree and we like different things.

Oh, and some us just like to complain.

Cover Reveal: FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE

I’m so excited to share my next cover and book blurb with you all!

I’m ridiculously attracted to my best friend.

Today is a bad day. The worst actually. After dealing with the constant manhandling that comes with being a cocktail waitress at a dive bar and surviving a date from hell, I see an eviction notice slapped on the door of my sketchy basement apartment. Great.

When my best friend Devon shows up at my door and uses his stubborn charm (emphasis on stubborn) to get me to move in with him, I give in. We’ve had about a million sleepovers since we met in the kindergarten Deaf program, but this time it’s different because I can’t stop thinking about his hard body covering mine, every single night.

I know Devon would do anything for me, but I’m afraid what I want to happen will ruin our friendship forever. And the more time we spend together in close quarters, the harder it’ll be to resist the spark of attraction I’ve always felt. But maybe it’s possible to have the best of both worlds: keep the one relationship I can’t live without and indulge in an attraction I can’t deny.

I guess the only thing we can do is try…

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(Author fun fact: Before you check out the amazing cover, there are two details I absolutely love, be on the lookout for them. One, the model’s hands appear to be in motion, almost as if he’s signing. Two, my amazing graphic artist managed to add a hearing aid, as Devon himself normally wears two.)

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Friend(withbenefits)Zone HiRes

Coming June 27, 2017!

Available for pre-order at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | and more!
You can also add to your Goodreads list!

AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR by Laura Heffernan

I’ve had the good fortune of getting an early read at the second book in this series and trust me, this is one you do not want to miss!

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In AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR, Jen is cast on a reality show after she loses her job, her boyfriend, and her home. She hopes to win the cash prize but finds she also wants to win the heart of fellow contestant Justin. Fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic won’t want to miss this charming, witty read published by Kensington’s Lyrical Shine.

Rafflecopter for America’s Next Reality Star Virtual Blog Tour Giveaway:

Laura is offering one (1) lucky winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

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About America’s Next Reality Star:

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Title: America’s Next Reality Star
Author: Laura Heffernan
Publisher: Lyrical Shine – Kensington
Series: Reality Star #1
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781516101542

SEEKING THE SMART ONE

Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.

Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

Add to your TBR list: Goodreads

Available at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iTunes

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Excerpt:

He touched my chin with two fingers, bringing my gaze up to meet his. Damn those green eyes. I searched them for answers, wishing I knew whether he was putting on an act for the audience. Even with the lights off, the cameras stationed in the yard would capture us. The producers filmed everything, day and night. Everyone in America would know if we kissed. For a moment, I struggled to remember why that was bad.

“I guess it’s not your fault, since I got the question right,” I said begrudgingly, shifting slightly backward.

“If that is the best I can get, I’ll take it. But I’m going to work on complete forgiveness. I’ll pay you double interest on our bet—six cents.”

“Well, then,” I laughed. “Maybe I’ll have to reconsider once I get my money. I’d hate to have to send Birdie to break your kneecaps.”

The image of five-foot-tall Birdie coming after Justin with a baseball bat cracked him up. I laughed, too, crossing my legs and settling more comfortably in the lounger. My knee practically touched Justin’s leg. He didn’t move.

We sat quietly for a few minutes. I wondered if he heard my heart pounding. Even not wanting to get caught kissing on national television with a near-stranger, I found something about Justin irresistible. Possibly his smile. Or his dimples. His brains. The ease of talking to him. His personality. The fact that he was practically perfect for me in every way.

That line of thinking wasn’t helping. I needed to change the subject before I started calling him Mary Poppins.

“It’s a beautiful night.” I gestured at the sky.

“Yes, it is,” Justin said, his eyes never leaving my face. Did he lean forward slightly? Only inches separated our lips.

The warmth definitely wasn’t the beer. I licked my lips nervously and leaned in, closing the gap. If he moved the tiniest bit…

“So—”

Copyright © 2017 by Laura Heffernan

About Laura Heffernan:

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Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 

 

Writing, Stress, and Self-Care

The end of 2016 was a very stressful period for a lot of people, and 2017 isn’t shaping up to be much better. This means that many of us are trying to get through our regular stressful days, squeeze in time for our writing, and deal with many new outside stressors. Many of us are struggling to find our words, to embrace our voices, to cultivate the creativity we thrive on for our passion.

I’m one of them. My 2016 ended with me very sick with a nasty virus for over two months, and I’m still struggling to get back to normal. During this time, I was working on my writing and trying to keep my words flowing. When I managed to arrive at a breaking point I pretty much crashed into a mindless haze. It has been one of the most challenging periods of my writing career thus far.

This is why self-care is so important. I tend to mostly read for pleasure, with very little TV watching. In my mindless haze I started binge watching shows on Netflix. At first, when I was really sick, I did so with very little enjoyment for myself. Then it grew into habit. In fact, a lot of non-productive behavior has grown into habit, and some of this is truly for the better.

Be kind to yourselves, writers. If the words take longer to appear on the page, let them take longer. If you need to turn off the internet and play a game or watch a movie, do it. We can’t create if we continue to maximize ourselves.

Prioritize your time. If you’re on a non-self-imposed deadline, do your best. If the deadline is yours? Let it slag if you need it to. But most importantly, know yourself. If you need that deadline to stay focused, then hold on. But keep your self-care in mind. Nights off, no matter who imposed the deadline, can be the best creative tool.

Above all, keep moving forward. Be proud of the words put on the page, even if they are only 100. Let yourself fall back into your words, or bleed them out.

Find your path. Find what works for you. Lean on your friends. The creative juices will come back, I promise you. They may need time, or pressure, or force. They may look and feel different than normal. But they are still there. They are still a part of you.

Be kind to yourself, I can’t stress that enough. And find a new normal that allows you to continue forward amidst the stress. I know you can do it. I believe in you.