Sneak Peek: Golden Handcuffs

I stand outside the strip club and look up at the sign: Kitty City. It’s the hot spot in Detroit and owned by the notorious Motown gang. Besides it being one of the most dangerous cities in the country, I don’t know much else about Detroit or how its streets are run. But I do know that the Motown gang rules it, and this is their headquarters.

Taking a deep breath, I run a hand over my hair to smooth it down before walking inside. The black tile floors and lack of windows make the club dark. The only lights are from the bar that’s to my left and the stage in front of me. There are chairs spread out, covering the big and otherwise empty space. A few booths line the walls. It’s quiet, not what I expect from the most popular place in the neighborhood.

The sign outside the door says they’re open, but there’s no one inside. That familiar nauseating sensation in my stomach comes back. It’s been there since the moment I finally decided that getting a job here is the only way I’ll be able to afford to open my beauty store and get out of my mother’s house.

A door slams in the distance, and a woman with blond hair comes from behind the stage and walks toward me. There’s a smile on her face, but she looks tired.

“Hey, can I help you?” she asks.

I shift in my heels. “I’m…um…looking for a job,” I sputter.

She gives me a look that I can only describe as sympathy. “Oh, honey, I don’t—”

“Bunny.” A deep voice cuts her off. It’s not loud, but it has a punch to it that demands attention.
Movement to my right catches my eyes as a man stands from one of the booths. I hadn’t noticed him before, probably because of the black T-shirt and dark jeans he’s wearing. I wonder if he chose his outfit with the intent to hide in the darkness. As he walks toward us, I’m able to pick up on more of his features. He stands over six feet tall, muscular but not bulky. His hair is cut short with deep waves embedded in the strands. He has dark, smooth skin that looks untouched by the elements, but I know that’s not true because the man staring at me is the most dangerous in the city.

“Let’s talk in my office,” he says coolly.

At first, I’m not sure if he’s talking to me or the woman next to me he called Bunny. When I don’t move, he raises an eyebrow at me.

“Oh yes…that would be great,” I say.

His lip twitches as if he wants to laugh. Jerk.

Bunny gives me a wave as I follow behind him into an office. There are no computers, bookshelves, or decor besides a mahogany wood desk; nothing else indicates it’s an office. Even with the lack of decoration, there’s still a warm feel to the space. There are no windows, and the only light comes from a lamp on the desk.

“Sit,” he says, closing the door behind us. I take a seat in one of the oversized chairs. He walks around to sit on the opposite side. I expect him to ask me some questions, maybe interview me, but he doesn’t. Instead, he stares, like he’s unsure what to do with me. It’s uncomfortable to have those light brown eyes on me, eyes that have probably caused more destruction in Detroit than I can imagine.

I clear my throat before shifting in the seat.

“I’ve never danced,” I blurt out. “I’ve seen girls dance…well, once. It was a long time ago. On vacation, not here, here like at this exact club. But I can do it. I just need a teacher or mentor. I’m a hard worker, and if you give me a chance, I’ll show you how good I can be.”

I feel like an idiot as I finish my word vomit. I wait for him to respond. One minute turns into two, then three.

“You don’t belong at a place like this,” he finally says, his eyes roaming over me, taking in my long black hair, which I’d installed yesterday just for this meeting. I wonder what else he sees that makes him think I’m not cut out for a “place like this.” His tongue jets out to lick his bottom lip before he sits up straight and grabs a weed grinder from the table. He acts like I’m not even there as he opens up the grinder and sprinkles out the weed onto rolling papers.

“You can go now,” he says, not even bothering to look up. My cheeks heat with embarrassment. I came here for a reason, and I’m not leaving without a job. I’ll do anything at this point to leave my mother’s house.

“No,” I say.

He glances up at me, his expression blank.

“I’ll bartend. I don’t have to dance if you don’t think I’m…um…if I don’t fit the look.”

The side of his lip curls in an amused smirk. He’s still staring at me, and I get the feeling he’s a man who is comfortable with silence.

“If I put you on that stage, you’d out-earn every single one of my girls,” he says in a slow drawl.

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Why are you so desperate to work in a shitty strip club?” he asks, ignoring my question.

I don’t answer.

He sits back and lights the blunt he rolled.

This is useless. He’s not going to give me the answer I want, so I might as well just go back to the drawing board. I stand on my feet, ready to leave. At the same time, he reaches under the desk and passes me an envelope across the hard surface.

“Take this down to Harry’s, ask for Elvis, give this to him. Then come back.”

I look at the yellow bubble mailer. There are drugs inside. There has to be. He’s the biggest gangster in Detroit. I swallow.

“Or you can leave,” he offers.

I pull my shoulders back and lift my chin. “I don’t have a car.”

He tosses a keychain on the desk.

“You’re giving me a lot of trust,” I say.

“My trust lies in my reputation, not in people.”

Another shiver runs down my spine. I hear the message underneath his words: You know what I’m capable of, so you won’t betray me.

I take the keys and the bubbler.

“Come right back,” he warns as I leave the office.

My Burnout Story

I am not a stranger to burnout. I’ve burned out from pretty much every single job I’ve worked since I was sixteen. It’s part of who I am, I can become a bit of a workaholic and then I burnout. I take awhile to recover and then I move on to something new. The timeline is usually about two years. Two years of doing the same thing and then I get exhausted and do a major life shift. This time I lasted three years before I hit writing burnout.

My burnout story starts where I think a lot of peoples do which is the beginning of 2020. At the start of 2020 I was just starting a new job that I love and I felt secure enough to write at a pace that works for me. When I felt overwhelmed by other parts of my life I’d take a break from writing. There was no rush when it came to writing and publishing. I was what a lot of people would call “balanced.” But, here’s the thing about me and “balance”. I hate it. I think it’s boring and boredom is my arch nemesis. So when the pandemic hit and my job did this weird thing where we worked from home every other day. I 10x’d my author career because my full time job doesn’t have a lot we can do from home so it was basically data entry which meant I had a lot of time to think about story ideas and plot them out in my head. On top of that everything was closed which meant I didn’t have to cancel plans with people, something I’m notorious for doing. I could just BE. I thrived in the beginning of the pandemic. I got new covers for old books, wrote and published four new books, grew my mailing list, worked with a PR service, etc. etc. Basically I started to take writing seriously and it felt AMAZING! I requested my release days off so I could talk with my readers and respond to blogs. And then August 2020 hit.

Before I start to talk about the mudslide into my burnout let me preference this by saying I don’t regret all the work I did. It was needed and it set my author platform up for success so now I can just focus on my writing and marketing and not with all these silly admin task. But in August I was back at work in the office full time, the shutdown that we all thought would last a month was still going on, my apartment was starting to feel like a prison, my relationship was getting increasingly worse, my mental health was giving me warning lights.

If ignoring my body and health was a sport I’d be in the Olympics. For those that follow the Gallup strengths I have high Competition, Focus and Achiever. Which basically translates to I ignore everything around me in a attempt to get shit done. So that’s what I did. I wrote another book, and another book, and then I paid wayyy to much money for a image that I figured I’d turn into a cover. I set up a book for pre-order that I hadn’t written yet because my readers wanted it. I was on a high. All while working full-time, all while pretending the pandemic wasn’t happening, all while acting like my 9 year relationship hadn’t slowly died, while acting like I hadn’t gained 30lbs. And then it finally hit.

I couldn’t write anymore. Nothing else got my attention. And for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out. Why can’t I write? I don’t believe in writers block, I don’t believe in excuses. I’d gotten up at the crack of dawn everyday for the last three years, I put my butt in the chair and I wrote damn it. No excuses ever.

I woke up early, I put my butt in the chair, and…nothing. The well was dry. Ok I know what to do here I’ll take a day off. That usually does it, one day off, I won’t be able to stop thinking about my WIP and then I’ll be ready to write tomorrow. I’ll be itching for the keyboard. One day turned into two, three, four. And I wrote, don’t get my wrong I said no excuses ever but damn it hurt and it was horrible. Not like “first draft just get it down” horrible I mean actually horrible. It didn’t even sound like my voice. I wrote 10,000 words and then I deleted 8,000 of them. I started over. I started new books. I had a pre-order up and the clock was ticking! I tried writing at night instead. I tried everything.

Meanwhile I still have books that are in some part of the publishing process. I needed to soothe the pain of not being able to write because I could feel the reality seeping in, so I did what any logical person would do…I tried to buy a house. That didn’t work out. So then I applied to college in my sleep(I literally sleep applied) because that was obviously the change I needed. Finishing my degree had to be the answer. That also didn’t work out.

Then it all stopped. Like a train slamming on its breaks everything came full stop. Holy shit there’s a pandemic! I’ve been working basically two jobs the entire time, Holy shit I’m single! Holy shit I got fat! Holy shit I’m broke, I’ve been ordering Amazon packages like it’s no one’s business. Holy shit now my apartment is wayy to small because of all the Amazon packages. I used to be a minimalist.

My feet finally hit the ground and damn did it hurt. It was all too much so I finished the books that were already in process and then I quit. I deactivated my Instagram. I cancelled my pre-order and I stepped away.

To say stepping away was hard would be a understatement. It was painful but I had to fix myself. I made a plan. If you follow gallup strengths I am #1 Futuristic which means I had to remember everything I wanted in life within this world that is currently a little out of whack. Who do I want to be? What do I want my life to look like? At the time I seriously didn’t know if writing was going to be apart of this new me because it was so painful to think about.

The first thing was I had to fix my health. I think I was starting to get sleep apena due to my weight and that scared the shit out of me. I’d wake up gasping for air and I felt like my neck fat was literally choking me. Gross, I know. I was always physically active but I was using food to cope. It had become my only sense of joy.

The next thing was my living situation. I moved but I’d failed to make my new apartment home. I needed the space to feel like mine. A place I could be comfortable, the great thing about my new apartment is that there’s a ton of windows and natural light is my bliss.

Next was hobbies. I didn’t have any. My hobby was writing that’s it. So I started socializing with friends as much as I possible could. At this point the vaccine was out and I felt a lot safer. I could actually go to a restaurant with friends. I started crocheting again, I got into crystals and tarot cards. I went to small business vendor events. I went on vacation for the first time in YEARS!

Then it was my appearance. I stopped caring. I don’t know when it happened I think it was around the time a friend said, “You’re going for guys out of your league.” but I wasn’t! These guys were in my league I’d just let myself go. Or it could have been when my sister said. “You look like you work in a cubicle all the time.” I could scream from the rooftop “I’m pretty, I swear!” all I wanted but no one is going to believe me unless I actually started putting effort towards how I looked. Cue, the hair dye, acrylic nails, Brazilian blowout, make-up bag and clothes that didn’t scream “cubicle.”.

My feet were firmly on the ground, I was living again and only then did my fingers itch and I could write. But I had to set boundaries. I’d heard about boundaries before but I never clearly understood them until this year. I’d set my boundaries for my relationships- things that I won’t and will never tolerate in a romantic partner, I’d set them for my appearance,-unless I’m just taking the dog out for a potty break I won’t leave the house looking like a swap creature. And now I needed to set them for writing.

  1. Until I can write full-time I won’t force myself to write more than three books a year. That fourth book sent me over the edge lol. (Thank you everyone who read Escaping the Bratva it was a labor of love.)
  2. I won’t do it all. I’m narrowing my focus to writing/book production and two marketing tactics that I can do consistently. THAT IS IT! No ifs, ands, or butts about it.
  3. I lowered my expectations. My goals now is just to make enough to keep funding my writing. I have to set goals I can attain at the place I’m at or else I’ll never be satisfied. (Of course I have bigger long term goals but for now this is my focus.)

For my readers, I am more than okay now. My current work in progress; Golden Handcuffs feels so good to write. It doesn’t feel forced by any means and the story is beautiful. You might not see me on social media but I’m here creating books I’m passionate about and living my life. 🙂

Taking a social media break

This weekend I decided that a social media break was necessary. I finished setting up Loving the Bratva for pre-order and scheduled all my release activities one day before getting my new puppy. If you’ve ever gotten a new dog then you know how much time and energy has to go into caring for it. So in order to stay sane between being a new dog mom, preparing for my new release, and working full time I decided to take a social media break.

It’s been three days and I’ve already noticed some of my creative juices coming back. I haven’t been feeling very inspired lately. I have four book ideas that have been swimming around in my head but I’ve failed to get them down on paper. I don’t feel connected with the characters yet and although they still aren’t ready I’ve found myself day dreaming about them more.

I also start blogging again (obviously). Blogging was my first love before writing romance. I used to have a blog called MinimalistPrincess which was moderately successful while I was in college. I got burnt out and deleted it but I always enjoyed writing the post and creating the content for it. I was going to make a entirely new website devoted just to my blogging but I figured my readers might want to chance to know me outside of the books I write.

Over the years I’ve purposely kept my personal life pretty private and have limited my platform to only talk about book related things but I feel a need to explore some other parts of my creativity that have nothing to do with writing romance. With that said there will surely still be plenty of posts about indie publishing and romance books because it’s part of my life.

As for everything else…I’m not sure what I’m going to write about on here. I’m leaving it up to my intuition to guide me.

I’m excited to start this new regular blogging journey as well as see how this social media break goes. Wish my luck!

Sneak Peak: King of the Bronx

It took my eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness of the underground gambling room. The few overhead lights were dim. I’d done that on purpose so that the politicians and “upstanding citizens” could better keep hidden. I was used to the celebrities and politicians that came through, gambling away taxpayers’ money because it was now an addiction. I couldn’t judge; I didn’t even pay taxes.
Once my eyes adjusted, I could see every table was filled, which meant a good night for me. I crossed the room, slapping the hands of some of the regulars. I made it to the bar and ordered a water. I choose to stay away from alcohol. I didn’t have anything against it. Alcohol just made me sleepy, and I still had work to do before I could call it a night. I thanked the bartender as Tommy took a seat beside me.
“What’s good?” I asked Tommy, reaching my hand out for him to slap.
“Nothing much, trying to see if someone shows up.”
That caught my interest. “Someone owe you money or something?”
It might turn out to be an exciting night after all.
Tommy shook his head. “Nah, nothing like that.”
He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t push. It was probably business with his crew. Tommy was notorious for avoiding problems. He probably didn’t want any extra people involved in whatever it was. He signaled for the bartender, and I turned around to face the room. The gambling ring was underneath a row of shops on the strip. Essentially, it was the connecting basement of the stores. It was a big enough space for six tables. There were only a couple spots open at the blackjack table. Harris was going to have to start turning people away at the door soon.
“Gio tell you about the new Irish boss?” Tommy asked.
“Nah, what’s up?” This must be fairly recent if I hadn’t heard yet. I knew everything about what happened in this city.
“Gio got a new boss in place. Niall’s own son, he took out his dad. Apparently, the guy helped us out. A win-win kind of situation.”
Well, fuck, that was convenient. “Because of that chick?” I asked. Everyone had been a little hush-hush about Giovanni’s new girlfriend. I just wanted confirmation.
Tommy chuckled. “Fuck yeah. He almost blew my head off because I was talking to her at Lucas’s restaurant one day.”
“She hot?”
He took a sip of his drink. “I can’t answer that. I like all my limbs attached to my body.”
I smiled. Well, damn. Giovanni finally settled down.
“I did catch her with Wes, but you didn’t hear that from me.”
I almost choked on my water. “You got to be shitting me. Wes is a dead man if he was sticking his dick in the boss’s girl.”
“She said they all had an understanding.”
“That’s some freaky shit.”
My head turned toward the door as it closed. Not much surprised me these day, but a woman walking into my gambling ring made me freeze. Long red hair fell to her waist. She wore heels that made her look tall, but without them, she probably barely reached my chest. The dress she wore showed off every single curve of her body. She walked with her shoulders back, confident, despite the fact that she was the only female in the room. When I looked back out to the floor, I realized she hadn’t just caught my attention, but also the attention of every other man in the room.
“Damn,” Tommy mumbled next to me. Her heels clicked against the cement floor as she walked to the blackjack table and took a seat. She acted as if she’d been here before, but I was one-hundred-percent certain I’d remember if she’d walked in here before. The men in the room went back to focusing on their cards, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
“You’re drooling,” Tommy said.
“Shut the fuck up.” I turned away from the woman and grabbed my water to take a drink.
“You know her?” Tommy pushed.
I shook my head. “No, but I’m going to get to know her.”
The door shut again. It must have been who Tommy was looking for because he pushed away from the bar and went to greet the man. They both walked back outside together.
I turned and watched the woman, fascinated with her. That long hair would be too easy to pull on. Her hair was so bright, I doubted it was natural. I spend enough time around women to know fake from real. What reason did this woman have to be so confident in a room filled with men with severe gambling problems? My attraction to her mixed with a hint of suspicion. She’d chosen to sit at the open blackjack table. She must know something about cards if she took that seat. I watched from my place at the bar as she pulled out a wad of cash from her purse, counted out the amount she needed to buy in, and slid it to Larry, one of my dealers. They didn’t use chips or coins to play here. Cash only, although we did occasional take money in the form of houses or cars. That’s how I knew someone’s gambling issue had gotten out of hand. When a man would bet the house his family was living in, it was time for him to get treatment. Larry dealt the cards out. It was obvious this wasn’t the woman’s first time. She peeked at the cards quickly, already memorizing them. They went around the table, each person telling Larry to give them another card or skip them. Afterwards, they flipped the cards over to reveal their hand. The women lost, but she didn’t show signs of disappointment or surprise. She accepted it as if it was just part of the game. She either didn’t have a gambling problem or had a lot of money to bet. One of the men got up to leave, and I crossed the room to take his spot, right next to Red.
“You in, Boss?” Larry asked.
I nodded, and he went on dealing everyone a new hand of cards. He didn’t need to ask for my money. We’d have a problem if he did.
Up close, the woman was even more beautiful. While she was seated, the dress she wore lifted slightly, revealing her creamy legs, which led up to a flat stomach. Her breasts weren’t huge, but they were perfect for her body shape. Her thick ruby red lips matched the color of her dress. Her face was perfectly heart-shaped, which gave her a youthful look.
“Can I help you?” she snapped, having caught me staring. Everyone at the table froze, but she didn’t seem to realize or care about the mistake she made. I ran the underground, so no one was allowed to talk to me like that.
I smiled at her. “Just admiring your beauty,” I said, throwing her one of my typical lines. It wasn’t hard for me to win over women. Once they got a look at me and realized who I was, it wasn’t long before I took them home.
Her lips twisted into a snare, and she turned away from me to look at her cards. Well, damn.I looked over my cards, bored with the game already. Gambling wasn’t my thing. I preferred to make money, not lose it. Larry dealt to those who wanted another card. Red and I both lost the first hand.
“What’s a pretty woman like you doing in a place like this?” I asked her. She didn’t even bother to turn my way as I spoke.
“Just trying to play the game.”
“Most women stay far away from this place. Most don’t even know about it.” I was digging. She might be beautiful, but this wasn’t a spot you just stumbled upon. I had this place well-hidden for a good reason.
She whipped around to look at me. “Is there something you are trying to ask me?” Her voice sliced through the air like a whip. I could feel the tension coming off the men around us, like they were holding their breath. Her sharp attitude only excited me. I liked that I was getting her riled up. Her skin was turning a soft red color that matched the rest of her. A couple men got up from the table, probably uncomfortable with the conversation.
“Maybe we should start over,” I suggested.
“Maybe we shouldn’t, and you should just let me play my hand.”
It took everything in me not to smile. I rested an elbow on the table and leaned my head on my hand. I’d forgotten about Larry and the rest of the men sitting around the table. “I would, but I own this place, Red, and if I ask someone why they’re here…I want an answer.”
She swallowed as a lump formed in her throat, and I smiled. She should be afraid of me. The Bronx’s underground was a dangerous place I’d created years ago. I was the most dangerous part of it all. She looked away, breaking eye contact. I sensed there was something she was afraid to tell me.
Did she have a gambling problem? She didn’t look like the typical addict. I reached a hand out and grabbed her chin in between two fingers. She jumped. I steered her head around to look at me. Her blue eyes were glossy with unshed tears. My eyebrows drew together as I tried to figure out what was going on. What had made this woman so desperate to put herself in danger to come here?
I opened my mouth to ask when Harris appeared by my side.
“We got a problem, Boss.”
I stared at the women for a moment longer before letting go of her chin and leaving the seat. I walked with Harris until we were out of ear shot.
“What’s up?”
“Charles and Leon are getting into it again next door,” Harris said.