Anyway, when it comes to digital media and marketing, I feel like Rob Morrow as he enters the bathroom: on the verge of an entire new world of possibilities!
Like many writers who struggle to fit writing into an already overflowing schedule (day job, family, keeping the fridge stocked and the bills paid), I need to prioritize how to spend my time. Do I work on my next book or market the ones that are already out? Do I tweet, post on Facebook, or blog? And how about promotion? So many services! Blink, and a new one pops up. Which are worth the investment of time and money?
I don't know what the right mix is, and would be happy to hear from more experienced writers about their thoughts.
In the meantime, I'll continue to fly by the seat of my pants. Always a little behind. Always trying to catch up. Bear with me, and I promise to eventually get it right!
Today, I'm trying something new. Sample Sunday - where a writer puts up a sample of her latest work for readers to enjoy. It's Sunday night (actually, 1:28 am Monday morning--do you sense a theme here?), and this excerpt is from This Time for Keeps (Doctors of Rittenhouse Square, Book 3). Each book in this series can be read as a stand-alone, though some characters do overlap.
And now, without further ado...
A random act of violence...
When a senseless act of violence shatters her perfect world, Dr. Isabelle DiStefano struggles to rebuild:
new life, new job, new man.
A second chance at love...
But sometimes the past can be hard to let go of, especially when old flame Luca Santoro reappears in her life and decides he wants to start over
...this time, for keeps.
Suspect Still at Large After Deadly Clinic Shooting
May 5 | 7:45 pm
Philadelphia (Reuters) — Police are requesting the public's help in apprehending the suspect in today's deadly shooting at the Women's Health Clinic in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.
The man entered the building at 10:30 Thursday morning and shot two staff members and a patient before fleeing. A single 9mm handgun was recovered from the scene.
The shooter, identified by police as Lamar Jones, was described as being 5’ 10”, about 190 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen driving a 2011 silver Ford Focus. According to authorities, Jones was arrested for domestic violence in March, but was released without any charges being filed. He was previously convicted for cocaine possession and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for which he was sentenced to six years.
Police spokesman Lt. Tom Sanford said during a news briefing that the suspect was believed to be the estranged boyfriend of one of the victims, who was critically wounded and died en route to the hospital. Her name is being withheld, pending notification of the family.
The woman’s doctor, Isabelle DiStefano, was also shot. A specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. DiStefano had been volunteering at the clinic on a regular basis since she was a medical student. She was transported to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), where she underwent surgery, and is listed in stable condition.
The third victim was Michelle Alvarez, who worked at the clinic as a nurse. Ms. Alvarez was treated at a local emergency room for minor injuries and released.
Staff and patients at the federally funded clinic were still in shock hours after the facility lockdown was lifted.
“You never expect a tragedy like this,” said Dr. Tameka Washington, the site’s medical director. “Especially when the well-being and safety of our patients and staff have always been our highest priority. We’ve been in this community ten years, providing health services to women who might not otherwise have access to affordable medical care. We are all greatly saddened by this terrible event.”
Authorities are asking for the public’s help in finding Lamar Jones. Police have set up a tip line at (215) 555-7192. A reward of $25,000 is being offered for any information leading to the gunman's arrest.
September, two and a half years earlier
Isabelle DiStefano closed her eyes and pressed the sweating glass of Long Island Iced Tea to her forehead. The throbbing techno-beat and pulsing strobe lights did nothing to ease her headache. Maybe arranging this ladies’ night jaunt to a strip club—or male revue, according to the website—hadn’t been the smartest thing she’d ever done.
At the time when she’d made the reservations, she’d thought it would be a blast. Worth it just to see the bride-to-be’s expression when she realized what was in store for the night.
How many times, over countless brunches and dinners, had she heard Jane say, “Nothing would surprise me”? And how many times, over the years, had Isabelle risen to the challenge?
So when Samantha, the maid of honor, had given her free reign in planning a bachelorette party, Isabelle had of course tried to live up to her reputation for outrageousness. After all, they had the rest of the weekend to enjoy sedate pre-wedding activities like the spa day Sam had arranged, and an elegant rehearsal dinner at Moonstone Manor, where the wedding itself was to take place in two days.
Except things hadn’t gone as planned. First, Isabelle got delayed at work with an emergency C-section. By the time she’d tucked her pre-eclamptic patient in for the night and signed out to the on-call physician, it was past eight.
Then her trusty little Prius failed to start. It took another twenty minutes and some light flirting with the AAA driver to get a jump start and be on her way—only to get bogged down in traffic that turned her usual ten-minute commute home into thirty.
She texted her friends to begin the evening without her. No point in Jane and Sam losing out on reservations to the much-touted Vetri just because Isabelle was running late. She’d pick them up after dinner in a cab.
She showered in record time, slipped into a halter-neck dress and heels, pulled back her unruly hair, and slicked on some lipstick. Her stomach growled, thanks to another day of working through lunch. Just one more black mark against the new and amazingly inefficient electronic medical record that the hospital had forced on its staff. Ignoring her hunger, she figured she’d grab some food at the club before the show. Too bad no one had bothered to inform her ahead of time that the kitchen closed at eleven, and all that was available were watered-down drinks and phallic-shaped pretzels.
And to top it all off, Jane had merely lifted an eyebrow when they’d pulled up in front of the black-canopied entrance around the corner from the main gentlemen’s club. As if this were something she did on a daily basis.
“Want to try out the hot seat?” Isabelle prodded, once they were settled into a booth close to the stage. Men with ripped pecs and abs gyrated in various degrees of undress beneath the spotlights.
Jane quirked her lips in a half-smile. “Sure, Izzy. After you.”
Samantha eyed the man closest to their table. “You think they know what anabolic steroids do to the heart?”
Isabelle shook her head. Leave it to ever-practical Sam to look past the eye-candy and see medication side effects. It was a wonder she’d managed to snag a major hottie for a husband. Then again, Alex Kane wasn’t an easy man to ignore.
A waiter approached to take their drink orders.
Isabelle eyed the man’s outfit—black bow tie, gleaming bare chest framed in black suspenders, tuxedo pants cut a little too snug in the crotch—and remembered the other reason she’d chosen this venue.
For someone who’d deliberately cultivated a reputation as a party girl, Isabelle’s life these days was remarkably staid. The only memento of her rebellious college years was the tattoo of a miniature asklepian she sported on her left hip. Somehow the desire to shock had been overtaken by the desire to succeed, to prove to herself and her family that she, like the rest of the DiStefanos, was no slouch in the brains department. And besides, who had time in med school and residency to do anything but study and work?
As for life after residency, between office hours, OR time, hospital rounds, supervising residents and medical students, serving on various hospital committees, and volunteering at an off-site free clinic, she was lucky if she had enough time to grab a sandwich in the cafeteria and a quick shower in the L&D locker room.
Which was why, she supposed, her social calendar was so empty. In fact, these gym-sculpted, testosterone-enhanced entertainers were the closest she’d been to an almost-naked male since….
She thought back. Was it really four years? Her senior resident, when she’d been a lowly intern. Twelve months of frantic fumblings in the call room, hurried couplings squeezed between endless hospital shifts and meals eaten on the run. And then…nothing. A long dry spell of living vicariously through her friends, as they paired off, one by one.
Samantha’s wedding three months earlier had been small, intimate, with just a few close friends and family in attendance. Beautiful, despite the rushed preparations and surrounding media frenzy. It wasn’t every day that the last bachelor on Fortune magazine’s “Forty under Forty” list got married. But the furor eventually died down, and now it was Jane’s turn.
Unlike Sam and Alex, who’d gone from first meeting to exchange of rings within two months, Jane and Ross had been engaged for ages. They’d reserved the wedding venue a couple years ago: a bucolic twenty-five acre estate two hours west of Philadelphia. Extended family from both sides were gathering for a reunion and wedding rolled into one, with festivities lasting through the Labor Day weekend.
For Isabelle, the wedding was another reminder of what she had yet to attain. As if her job wasn’t enough of a reminder. She was an obstetrician, constantly surrounded by evidence other people’s happiness. Every day was filled with women, their husbands or boyfriends in tow, basking in glowing pregnancies, popping out perfect babies to round out their perfect lives.
Lately, it seemed everyone in the world had someone. Everyone except Isabelle.
To hell with that. She gulped down the rest of her drink and flagged down their waiter for a refill. She was here to have fun, damn it.
“You might want to go easy on that,” Sam said.
Isabelle ignored the warning and smiled at the waiter. “What are the chances of getting some real food?”
“Sorry, ma’am, the kitchen closed ten minutes ago.” A flash of dimples and toothpaste-ad white teeth. “But I can get you some more pretzels, if you like.”
She plucked a penis-shaped pretzel from the small bowl he’d brought around earlier and slowly licked off the salt. “Sure, why not? You can never have enough…pretzels.”
Jane chuckled as he sauntered off toward the bar. “You’re incorrigible.”
Isabelle bit into the pretzel and chewed a little more vigorously than necessary. “Is thirty too young to be a cougar?”
Sam grinned. “No, ma’am.”
Isabelle chucked a pretzel at her. “You don’t have to rub it in. He’s probably what, twenty-one, twenty-two? Anyone past twenty-five would be a ma’am to him.”
“If you say so.”
Jane nudged her into silence as the waiter returned with fresh drinks and snacks.
Isabelle murmured her thanks and turned to watch the flexing muscles of his retreating backside. “You’ve got to admit the talent here is quite…amazing.”
Sam rolled her eyes.
“I just hope none of our patients sees us here,” Jane said.
They’d all gone to college together, and then medical school, though Jane had chosen to pursue psychiatry, and Samantha family medicine. Up until a few months ago, they’d lived and practiced within walking distance of Isabelle’s Rittenhouse Square townhome. That had changed when Sam took up a locum tenens position in the central Pennsylvania town of Oakridge. She’d ended up staying and marrying the local golden boy. Jane was in the process of relocating there as well, to live with her soon-to-be husband.
Isabelle waved a negligent hand. “You’re far enough away from Oakridge that I wouldn’t worry about it. My patients, on the other hand…”
She trailed off, frowning. A brief sweep of the room yielded no familiar faces. Not that it mattered, really. She was off duty, on her own time. Starting this weekend, she had two long, blissful weeks of nothing to do but relax and have fun. Tonight was the kickoff. Tomorrow she’d enjoy some pampering at the spa Sam had arranged. Then the rehearsal dinner tomorrow night, followed by the wedding on Sunday.
And after that, she was off to Italy for a well-earned and much-anticipated vacation. Nothing to do but play tourist in a country full of gorgeous men. No pager, no cell phone, no patients or residents calling her at all hours of the day and night. Pure relaxation.
“I wonder what the men are doing,” Jane said.
It took a moment for Isabelle to realize she wasn’t talking about the dancers on stage. “The same thing we are, I suppose,” she said. “Except their strippers probably stuff their bras instead of their jock straps.”
Jane frowned. “Ross mentioned something about Patterson’s pub. He and Alex were going to meet Luca there and talk business. I don’t think strippers were on the agenda.”
“They’d better not be,” Sam said, “if Alex knows what’s good for him.”
Isabelle fluttered her fingers. “Um, hello? Does the term ‘double standard’ ring a bell?”
“Yes, but I’m not the one who booked this place.”
“Speaking of reservations,” Jane interrupted. “Dinner at Vetri was lovely, Iz. Thank you. I’m sorry you had to miss it.”
“Yeah, me too.” Isabelle grabbed another handful of pretzels. “So, who’s this Luca person?”
Jane folded her napkin once, then again, smoothing the creases with her thumb. “You know Ross and Alex are doing a new start-up, right? Luca’s the third partner. Teaches computer science at Princeton. He came up with some algorithm they’re using as the basis for their new software.”
“Alex says he’s some kind of genius,” Sam added.
“He’ll be at the wedding,” Jane said. “So you’ll get to meet him. You’re sitting together at the reception.”
That got Isabelle’s attention. “I thought bridesmaids were supposed to be paired with groomsmen.”
Jane shrugged. “You’ll have a groomsman on one side, Luca on the other.”
“Wait a minute,” Sam narrowed her eyes. “Are you trying to set them up?”
“So much for subtlety,” Jane sighed. “But it worked for you, didn’t it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You and Alex.”
Sam straightened in her seat. “You didn’t set us up.”
“Who told you about the job opening?”
“You did. But…” She paused and frowned, then turned to Isabelle. “Do you know anything about this?”
“Hey, leave me out of it.” She finished her drink, rattling the remaining ice cubes before setting down the glass. “Though frankly, Sam, you’ve got nothing to complain about. Doesn’t matter how you and Alex met. Fact is, you’re together. And your life is pretty rosy now, isn’t it?”
Sam reared back, as if slapped. Jane shifted in her seat, but for once didn’t say anything to smooth the waters.
Isabelle bit her lip. Okay, so maybe that was a bit harsh. But as far as she could see, Samantha had it all: a hot husband who adored her, a successful career, and the perfect balance of time and opportunity to enjoy both. It hadn’t come easily, Isabelle knew that. And she didn’t begrudge Sam her good fortune. But she was allowed to feel just a teensy bit jealous, wasn’t she?
Her attention caught on a flurry of activity at the front of the room. One of the men had danced his way off the stage, pausing at a nearby table full of screeching women. Fists waving bills of various denominations reached for briefs that barely covered him. He grinned and performed an exaggerated bump and grind. One of the women, egged on by her less-than-sober girlfriends, staggered up and plastered herself against him, draping her arms over his shoulders, and wrapping a leg around his hip. He took it in stride, settling his hands on her waist and taking her through a few dirty dancing steps, before letting go and returning her to her companions.
Jane shook her head when he approached their booth. Sam slouched down in her seat as if hoping that would make her a less conspicuous target. Isabelle offered him an apologetic shrug and a folded bill she’d managed to fish out from the bottom of her purse. He swiveled his hips closer, and she gingerly added the money to the bills already sprouting from his waistband, then scooted back into the safety of the booth. Objectively speaking, he met all her criteria in the looks department: tall, dark haired, olive skinned. But the muscles were a bit too well-developed, the smile a little too slick, the moves way too blatant.
She felt suddenly embarrassed for him and the other performers, baring themselves for the lewd appreciation of women who were clearly more sex-starved than Isabelle herself. This wasn’t what she’d envisioned when she’d booked the show. It felt tawdry and somehow desperate. And it was starting to give her one hell of a headache.
She breathed a sigh of relief when the man winked and moved on to the next table. If she hadn’t skipped lunch and dinner, if the pressure weren’t building behind her right eye, if the sleep-deprivation and physical exhaustion of the last few years hadn’t finally caught up with her, then…what?
She pressed the chilled glass against her forehead and closed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Sam.”
A moment passed, and then a slim hand settled on her arm. “You’re a brat, Iz, but I love you anyway.”
“Thanks.” She opened her eyes. “So. About this Luca…”
Jane cleared her throat. “Yes, Luca. He’s a good guy. You’ll like him.”
“He’s easy on the eyes,” Sam agreed. “But he’s a player.”
“Don’t scare her off, Sam. Ross and Alex wouldn’t have taken him on as a partner if they didn’t think highly of him.”
“I didn’t say he was stupid.”
“Of course he’s not stupid. He got tenure at Princeton.”
Sam dismissed that with a flick of her hand. “The fact that he’s smart has nothing to do with how he treats women. I’ve never seen him with the same woman twice.”
“He’s been burned,” Jane countered. “Went through a nasty divorce last year. Give the guy a break.”
“Like I said, Izzy. Enjoy yourself, but don’t forget the condoms.”
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