The scene on the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

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When I decided to write romance novels set in Chicago, I knew that sooner or later, I would have to include a scene on the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier. The Ferris Wheel was invented in Chicago — did you know that? A man named (you guessed it!) Ferris invented it for the Columbia Exposition in 1893, and they even used to call the Chicago wheels instead of Ferris wheels.

So in Teacher’s Pet, Dennis and Audrey meet at Navy Pier and take Dennis’s son Cole for a ride on the big wheel. Here’s a little taste of what happens in that scene.

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The car inched smoothly higher. Dennis found it hard to concentrate on anything but the smile flitting around Audrey’s lips and the warmth of her arm against him.

“Where’s our house?” Cole asked. “I want to see our house.”

Dennis examined the north shore. A tall building blocked the view of their apartment, but the gondola swayed up a notch.

Dennis said. “There. Behind the one with the blue light on the roof.”

“I can’t see it!” Cole complained, so Dennis pointed. “Oh, there it is.”

“Where?” Audrey asked.

It was all the excuse Dennis needed. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her snug against his body, then he leaned close to rest his cheek against hers. Her skin was soft, softer even than Cole’s. He resisted the urge to nuzzle his beard shadow against that smooth cheek.

He lifted his other arm and tried to point out his apartment along her sight line.

“There,” he whispered. His voice felt thick in his throat.

She held perfectly still. He couldn’t even feel her breathing. The warm skin of her cheek caressed his as the car bobbled higher.

“Oh,” she said, the word a long breath.

He turned toward her head, and his lips grazed that tender spot where her cheek met her lips. He almost groaned with the desire to kiss her. To really kiss her.

Turn to me. Kiss me.

Woohoo! Party time! Launch day!

Today, Teacher’s Pet is available wherever books are sold. I’m so excited!

This is the very first romance novel I ever wrote, many years ago. It has a complicated history involving many editors and revisions — writers know this kind of sad story, but it’s not one that readers often hear. An editor liked it well enough to ask for a few changes. This is usually a good sign as they don’t waste time trying to revise a book unless they think they might publish it. I made the changes and sent it in, and the editor switched jobs. She still liked the book, so we made some more changes that might make it work better for the editor’s new acquisition duties. And then the editor quit working in publishing altogether, a new editor came on board, and the new editor asked for extra time to evaluate the manuscript. More time passed, more things changed at the publishing house, and more changes were requested to reflect new goals.

And it Just. Kept. Happening. Fast-forward (I should say slow-forward!) so many years — so many years, you guys — and the book is finally available to readers today.

This is a really common scenario, and all I can say is Whew! I’m really excited to have this one done! I hope people enjoy it!

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“You’re the busiest person I know.” #MFRWauthor

Today’s prompt in the 52-week blog challenge is “Managing Writing Time.”

I’m not a member of the Cult of Busy. You know what I mean — sometimes there’s a cultural push to be busy all the time. We’re urged to work more, play more, schedule more outings and activities, all because we seem to place some added significance on a jam-packed calendar. Wring the most out of each day! Live life to the fullest! Work hard, play hard! These are the messages from the Cult of Busy.

I never thought of myself this way, as someone pushing to squeeze everything into my already-stuffed schedule. Instead, I think of myself as someone who has a lot of things she really wants to do. I really want to go to farmers markets, cook fresh meals instead of eating out, and try new recipes. I really want to knit sweaters and sew skirts. I really want to run and lift weights and go for long hikes in the woods or on the beach. I really want to succeed in my career, and I really want to write books. Lots of books. All the books.

Am I busy? Sure, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels more like I get to do all the things that I love. There’s little stress from trying to do too much, just the pleasure from doing the things I love. So it came as a surprise to me when I was having dinner with a group of girlfriends when one of them said to me, “You’re the busiest person I know.” And all around the table, my friends chuckled, nodded, and chimed in their agreement. I just don’t think of myself that way. But they sure do!

How do I manage my time, especially my writing time? Here are my favorite tips for time management.

  • Love what you do, and do what you love! Then instead of thinking that you have to do things, you’ll think that you get to do them.
  • Turn off the TV! I do watch some TV but not every day. It soaks up so much time! I save my limited viewing time for shows I absolutely love, and I skip the rest. It’s not a deprivation when I get to do other things instead!
  • Focus! If I only have an hour to work on something, I make sure to work on that thing before I get distracted by social media or other fun toys. If I finish before the hour is up, I get to play online for a few minutes. It’s a good reward!
  • Use a timer! This might sound a little silly, but does it ever work. I set a timer for small bits of time — 15 to 30 minutes, usually — and lock onto a project or task until the timer chimes. If I feel the urge to back off the task before the bell dings, I take a deep breath and keep going. If I know it’s just for a few concentrated minutes, it’s easy to keep going!
  • Delegate! If I can dish off a task that someone else can do better, faster, or cheaper than me, I do it. I have no pride about this. I don’t have to do every single thing myself!

So this is how I balance two jobs, freelance work, a workout schedule, hobbies, a family, and all the other things that have to happen in my week.

What are your favorite tips for time management?

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Discover Great New Reads with Book Hooks! #MFRWHooks

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Books Hooks is a blog hop that lets readers discover great books just by following the links! How easy is that?

Welcome to anyone visiting through Book Hooks!

Now let me tell you a little about Teacher’s Pet, which is still available for the special pre-order digital price of just 99 cents for a few more days. Get it on Amazon here!

Memo to Miss Turner

Audrey Turner owns Miss Turner’s School, a top-tier preschool in the posh Lincoln Park neighborhood. Her students are the children of some of Chicago’s most successful doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs, and these parents expect nothing short of the best.

No parent is more demanding than wealthy investment banker Dennis Delaney. Every day, Audrey receives a morning memo from him containing precise instructions for his son Cole’s care. No detail is too insignificant to escape this single father’s notice. When Dennis finds himself coping with a short-term summer childcare issue, Audrey agrees to be his temporary nanny. It’s a chance for a close view of their lifestyle, and if she can keep Dennis Delaney happy, then all the other parents should be content, too.

It’s only two weeks. Two weeks of daily contact with Chicago’s most meticulous parent – and its most eligible bachelor. Two maddening weeks of rigorously high standards and sizzling sex appeal. Audrey can handle anything for two weeks, right?

Excerpt

He stared at her pink lips and wondered what it would take to get her to kiss him, to talk freely to him, or even to use that pink-rimmed mouth in ways he dared not envision at the moment. If he tried to kiss her, would she recoil? They hardly knew each other, after all. They’d spent a few evenings together talking about his son, their careers. But she knew nothing of his past, nothing of what was in his heart. He told no one these things. He banned himself from even thinking about them.

The distance between them was his fault. But it was one problem he could rectify.Kayla Drake_TP Ebook Cover_Final_

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About the Dandelions

 

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I’ve always loved dandelions. After a cold, gray Chicago winter, some of the first color on the spring landscape arrived in bright dandelions. As much as the first spring sighting of a robin, the first dandelion in spring was a sign that the season had changed. Those yellow blossoms were lucky. Unlike other flowers, they didn’t follow the sun. The sun followed them, growing stronger and warmer after dandelions started to dot the landscape.

“Beautiful as a dandelion-blossom golden in the green grass, this life can be.”
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Not only a source of cheerful color, dandelions are also a food source. But there’s a trick to eating dandelion greens. On their own, they’re bitter. But paired with the right ingredient — a smooth oil or a creamy cheese — the greens lose their sharp edge. Isn’t that the way with people, too? When we’re isolated, we might become a little unpalatable. But with the right partner, we can be transformed into something delightful.

“Had she never been hungry enough to eat a flower?”
~ Adam Johnson

There’s an old saying that life is better when we learn to love the dandelions. That’s a nod to the way these plants can thrive almost anywhere, even in the slimmest cracks in the pavement, as long as they can grow a strong root. There’s no point fighting them. They’re really tenacious. Try to mow them down, and they find a way to bloom again. And then the most amazing thing happens to those blooms.

“Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons.”
~Vladimir Nabokov

This is the best thing about dandelions, really. Hope. We make our wishes and blow on the fluff, and the seeds scatter. Our hope and a deep breath carries the seeds to new places, where new life can thrive. If we blow all the seeds away, our wish will come true. We want our wishes to take root with the strength of a dandelion. We hope for that golden new life.

“Last summer I spent almost an hour blowing dandelions off their stems towards him, so that he had a chance to wish for everything he wanted.”
~ Helen Oyeyemi

So when my graphic designer and I were discussing some options for graphics, and the concept of dandelion fluff came up, I knew it was exactly right. It’s a beautiful superstition tied to a sign of spring for a strong plant that’s better in a couple. Perfect, really.

 

September Challenge: Read, Write, Plan

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I’ve watched social media posting challenges in the past, and they seem like so much fun! This month, I’m going to join in on one that’s for people who like planners. I’m kind of a planner junkie (understatement!), so this should be pretty easy for me to manage. Over on twitter (@KaylaDrakeBooks — come say hi and follow me!), I’ll be posting photos and tips every day of this challenge.

Today, I posted a blank spread for my monthly page in a planner dedicated to tracking my writing and editing projects. Nothing is written in these pages yet! I use the weekly pages in this particular planner for planning and scheduling, and I use the monthly calendar page to track what I actually managed to do. I’ll have color-coded notes in all of these boxes but two — the box for September 8, when I will be taking a day trip and won’t be working, and the box for September 11, when Teacher’s Pet launches. (It’s on preorder sale for only 99 cents now!) By the end of this month, these pages will be so covered in colorful notes that I’ll hardly even notice the mermaids!

So be sure to check out this challenge on twitter, instagram, and other social media sites — it’s a fun one if you like planners!

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