Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Daily Cup: Marketing and PR Tips for Pros

I'm starting a daily blog written exclusively to help business leaders and owners learn more about marketing and public relations tips to grow business.

Q: Do you know what your media kit should contain?

A: A press release

That sound basic enough. Yet many professionals don't know what should be in a media kit. A press release is the most obvious answer, but not everyone knows what a media kit is or what it's for much less what it should contain. A press release is written to give your service, product or business exposure to the media. What does the media want to see? Most media is for entertainment or news. Whether it's broadcast, print or online, every press release should have a "news hook" and the news hook should relate to the headlines of the day or be relevant to something going on in the world.

For more information, contact us at 916-300-8012 or send email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Friday, September 25, 2015

We're All Dead: Introduction


Introduction
Why We’re All Dead

I am the last free man on Earth. I think. In vampire terms, though, I am a free-range human.

Actually, maybe I am being slightly melodramatic. I saw the second-to-the last woman on Earth about three weeks ago when I was wondering the Apocalyptic Highway to Hell. She looked awful and complained about the blisters on her feet. No sooner did I meet her in her all tired and dirty, that night a vamp flew in out the darkness and scooped her up. I have no idea where the dude took her. These stinking vamps and their flying talents – they’re like those nasty spider monkeys and swoop in and grab you to carry you off to suck on you for weeks. They do feed you, though, to keep you alive so that’s pretty good. Some people kind of like it and become super happy companions with their dead masters. I’ve even heard of some vamps marrying their human food source, and everyone is all fat and happy about it, throwing god damned valuable rice at the freaks. I for one will never give into the vamps. So, I am the last free human on Earth.

Now I’m walking through this dust bowl with fine, dry dust blowing everywhere across the barren Midwest wasteland since the damned zombies killed all the Midwesterners when the tried to nuke the corn fields in Iowa. Yeah, apparently the zombies and vamps got into a dispute over the human food supply. The vamps need humans for food. The zombies need humans for procreation and to dominate the species. Fucking stupid zombies thought it would be cool if they nuked the cornfield and cut off humans from their food supply. Some dumbass named General Wilhelm something or another didn’t think it all through, though.

He was such an idiot (rotting brain kills cells) that he only thought the vamps wouldn’t have food, forgetting that he might decimate so many numbers of them that he wouldn’t get what he wanted either – to create more zombies. Then the vamps got all “pissy” and decided to defy Wilhelm and start a human baby farm and create their own food supply. Problem is they forgot these are human beings with free will. Some humans rebelled and started making war on both the zombies and vamps. And well, here I am – all alone in a barren wasteland the only free man around. The other people got eaten, enslaved or committed suicide. They didn’t want to be a zombie or vamp. So they just killed themselves. You know heaven has to be better than this hell.

I was born and raised on one of those baby farms too. The first three years of my life, my “blood” mom sucked on me by night and my real mother nursed me by day. As I grew older, I never was comfortable being a slave to death. My vamp mom old Granola (the vamps have really weird names) decided I should be married off to some vamp girl named Tamberlyn, who was this violent bitch who liked to beat her prey, fuck and then read old vampire books like Twilight and lament about how none of the boy vampires were half as cute as Edward Cullen. 

Well one day after a particularly brutal beating, I thought, “Fuck this. I’m leaving.” When I declared my intentions to Tamberlyn, she didn’t believe me. She barely looked up from her Eclipse book. So I just left the compound. It was that easy. I did hear them sound an alarm but by then I was safely ensconced in my first of many hiding places under a big rock.

It’s not a pretty story – and now hear I am wandering the world, the last free man that I know of.

Here’s the deal too. I have to hide at night or those fucking vampires will scoop me up too and suck on me like a god damned Capri pouch. Then I have to escape from them, again, when they retire for the day. What a pain in my neck. Sometimes one of them will get all lovey-dovey over my sexy-back and want to keep me, you know, for like a slave too. Well, I’ve gotten real good at escaping when the sun rises.

So far, no one has tried to ship my tired ass back to the human freak farm, though, so that’s a relief. Unfortunately, vampires are strange breed of supernatural creatures. A lot of them are super flamboyant and like to act some gay Dracula-queen. They’re pretty omini-sexual too, and I’m not gay. So I don’t appreciate the bloodsuckers that think that part of the package means I’m going to have sex with them.  One blood-lover once caught me and tried to give me a little “rear entry,” which turned out to be a blessing. The minute he tried to flip me on my back, I grabbed the leg of a nearby chair, pushed him off me, broke off the leg, and managed to stake his ass. Yeah! Take that you blood-sucking freak!

Staking in the heart is but one of several ways to kill a vamp. Some of the myths are true except for a few – that thing about silver actually turned out to be you had to have this element called Rhenium. Rhenium is a silvery metal but rarely seen as such on account of its high melting point, which is the third highest after carbon and tungsten. Rhenium is very hard; it resists corrosion but slowly tarnishes in moist air. See the vamps spread that myth about common silver killing back in the 21st century with that campy vamp show True Blood. A bunch of “fans” called “Truebies” bought that all right, and when the vamps really did rise from the grave some years later and there was none of that so-called “blood substitute” really invented, well, the vamps were all happy campers when humans tried to “silver” them. They just cracked up and chuckled amongst themselves – and then ate their lunches. My people used to watch too much television. Although I caught some reruns on Blu-Ray once, and I really liked that Sookie Stackhouse chick and her vamp lover, Eric. Yeah, they were hot. I just don’t see it with the vamp sex shit. On the show it looks all sexy-fied and bloody great, and honestly let’s be truthful. Have you ever been bitten by something with fangs? Just asking, because it fucking hurts. I don’t see how that’s a turn-on unless you’re one of those S&M folks who thinks pain and pleasure are the feel-good approach to getting it on.

So back to the whole Rhenium as a bloodsucker killer … let me tell you, it isn’t easy finding Rhenium at your common hardware store. So outside of staking with wood to the heart, it sometimes hard t find inventive ways to kill the mo-fo’s. You can rip their heads off, but I’m not strong enough to give them a quick head ripping so there you go. I have to stake them or just escape. You know what, though, I don’t like getting sucked on, so I try to hide. Sometimes it’s really hard to find a cave or dark place in the shadows to hide from them. They like to come all hours of the night so I can’t light a fire or it will attract those fools. It gets really cold out here in the wasteland, which is fucking unpleasant. Oh, and fire doesn’t kill them either. Those fucks do heal really easily just like the legend suggests. It has to be a stake or go on a needle hunt for the damned Rhenium. I do have some spare stakes in my backpack so screw Rhenium.  

So now I wander by day, looking for water and foraging for food. I managed to get some frees can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli in my backpack for tonight. I found an old 7 Eleven super store where they had a mega Zom-Slurpee bar – and it was miraculously being run by zombies who intended to infect me. These zombies were so fucking dumb that when I walked in covered in dirt I was able to convince them I was a new zombie. They just all shook my hand and welcomed me into the fold. Fucking idiots! They’re all pretty stupid; it’s just degrees of stupidity. These two morons asked me if I wanted anything as a “gift” since I was newly turned. They didn’t happen to notice I wasn’t rotting in the least.

I took a bunch of canned goods and even stopped and had a Coke Slurpee. They offered to top it with a pituitary gland for a “special ‘cheery’ on top,” but I declined and said I had heartburn from the rancid pancreatic pizza I ate for lunch. They bought that line of shit all right. They just nodded and gave me the canned goods unquestioningly, patted me on the back, and sent me on my way. Dumb mother-fuckers! I can sort of respect the flamboyant vamps – at least they’re not so sub-IQ; but the putrid zombies. I will never like them. They’re too retarded to tolerate; but it does mean I can get free food pretty easily.

Well, a few weeks ago, I decided to get off the Highway to Apocalyptic Hell and head for sunny California (it’s warmer in California than, say, Wisconsin in winter and I always migrate back and forth). It took me a while to get there. I did manage to hitch a ride on the back of a zombie scooter with another stupid idiot who just thought I was a fledging zombie. He had me on the back of the scooter clear across Utah, Colorado and Nevada till we stopped one day. He gave me his “stink” eye and asked why I didn’t smell putrid yet. I told him I was using Irish Spring soap and showed him a green bar as proof. He got real suspicious though and tried to bite me. But he was one of those super deteriorated versions so I manage to rip off his arms. He cursed in some German or something, and I just ran away.

So tonight on my latest search for cover, I found this strange opening to a cave that actually had a door fashioned to it. I was in what on maps says is the Sierra Mountain foothills in what used to be. I had just wondered down out of the mountains and noticed this trail into the woods. I figured it might lead somewhere safe and discovered this door. So I slowly opened it, peered around for any vamps using it for a resting place, and noticed it looked abandoned and probably pretty safe. Cobwebs and dust were all over what seemed to be like some office or something. Old desks and chairs were strewn about. It smelled old, damp and musty. I also noticed something that resembled an old Apple printer and a Mac. A bunch of eBook readers were strewn about too.

“What is the fuck is this place?” I said aloud.

Then I noticed something interesting. A file cabinet had been pushed over and the drawers were hanging open. I walked over, rolled it upright, and then opened the drawer all the way. It was all bent up, and I had to yank it off the tracks. It had a crushed lock on it that had been jammed with something like a screwdriver. Inside, I saw four perfect-bound books. The first one read Colonel Bapista; the second one read General Wilhelm; the third one read Cookie Gingerbreadhouse; and the fourth one read just Bob.

“Hmm … this is damned interesting,” I said aloud.  I recognized those names from back in the day. Old oral stories told of the last grand stand in Iowa and how these four were involved. Now I’m kind of intrigued and want to know what are these books. I grabbed the books, and scanned them. They all read like journals. On first glance, they seem to each be telling similar part of stories.

“How strange,” I thought.

I moved over to an old executive chair and took a seat. I opened my pack, pulled out a can of ravioli, grabbed my spoon to eat, and started reading back and forth. This could be real entertaining!  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

We're All Dead: Preface

Preface

It’s the year 3010 and the great Apocalypse of Death is nearing the end. After 50 years of death, war and destruction, the zombies, vampires and humans are about to take their last stand. What is at stake – the survival of the human race.
 

Zombies and vampires have brought the human race to the verge of extinction. Now only a small population of humans have survived, which has created a great famine for vampires. The head of the vampires Colonel Baptista has declared all zombies must be annihilated. His rival necromancer General Wilhelm, though, has a secret weapon – one that is sure to kill all of the remaining
humans, and therefore, eliminate the food source of the vampires and destroy their race as well.
 

And then zombies will rule the world.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

3L Publishing Featured Author: Norma Jennings, Passenger from Greece


Why did you write Passenger from Greece?

In a Huffington Post article, I once read about the rising tide of drug cartels in developed countries that use certain Caribbean islands as conduits for the movement of illegal drugs into the United States. The article cited Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic as primary targets, with the Dominican Republic being responsible for 6% of illegal drugs coming to the U.S. My home is Jamaica, and I'm a former flight attendant, so I began to think about how I could bring this international and social dilemma into the spotlight, and also draw readers in with a captivating story.

Your cover is gorgeous. What made you select that image to be illustrated?

I'd been awe-struck by the beauty of the Greek countryside, and there are shocking facts about the tenacity of the Greek drug cartel, so I decided to use Greece as the developed country in my storyline. My main character, Olivia Reid, is portrayed as an international flight attendant from Jamaica. While deciding what to do about my book cover, I reached out to my friend, Dr. Talib Aleem, whose passion for classic photography can be compared with my passion for writing (despite our demanding careers). He informed me that he was on his way to Santorini to take photos for his collection, and would allow me to choose from shots taken there. He returned with the stunning photo I chose as Passenger from Greece's gorgeous cover.

What is your favorite part of the book?

My favorite part of the book is chapter 17, where the two main characters, a Greek and a Jamaican, finally become lovers after weeks of delicious fantasies about each other. In this chapter, I was able to write about beauty, innocence, love, lust, and turmoil, all rolled into one.

Who is your favorite character?

Olivia, the main character, is my favorite. Her innocence, integrity, self-centered behaviors, and foolish spontaneous decisions leave readers shaking their heads while questioning the emotions that make them love, as well as dislike her.

This book was your second. How was writing your sophomore book compared to Daughter of the Caribbean?

While writing Passenger from Greece, I was much more aware of the likes and dislikes of American and international audiences, and how successful novels are configured to capture and hold the audience. My first novel, Daughter of the Caribbean, came from my heart and soul. With Passenger from Greece, I put heart, soul and the wisdom of a more seasoned writer into the work, and I reveled in writing some sizzling erotic moments. Then I sent the manuscript to a reputable critique professional, who gladly landed a few blows to my ego. So I stepped back, recovered my resolve, did the rewrites, and just kept going. After all, writing is my passion.

You tend to write about family and relationships. Why do you focus on those topics?

Family and relationships are the fuel that shape our characters and drive us to make decisions, whether wise or foolish. Having been born and raised in the Caribbean, certain standards dictated that you should love your family unconditionally, show strength under fire, trust until you're given reasons not to, be thankful for what you have because there is so much hunger in the world, and never let anyone see you sweat.

What is the strangest thing you've ever done you're willing to reveal to the world?

Marrying a dentist despite a powerful fear of the dentist's chair. It must have been the fact that my ex could put needles to your gum, and you didn't even feel a prick. We're no longer married, but he's the best dentist I've ever had. Where did my fear come from? In the islands, dentists would visit our elementary schools annually. They would strap you into a chair; have you bite down on a cotton ball soaked in nova cane, then pull your tooth if you had a cavity. After the first such experience, I would hide in the bushes of my grandmother's Twickenham until the dentist had left the premises.

Who is your favorite author and why?

British writer Daphne DuMaurier is my favorite author. She had a remarkable way of describing sceneries and behaviors so succinctly, you were right there with her on the page enjoying, hating, or being terrified by the journey.

Would you rather eat on patio or inside at a restaurant?

For me, there's no experience better than having a meal on the patio of my condo on the hillside of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, while watching the cruise ships dock on the turquoise Caribbean Sea, as tropical birds sing melodies in the trees of the limestone forest behind me. I use this condo as my writing studio and get-away, and it is available for rental to tourists and other writers or artists.
If you compared yourself to a great hero in life or fiction, who would it be?

My father is my greatest hero. He was exotic, adventurous, kind, flawed, intelligent, beautiful, and he loved unconditionally. It's always an honor for me to be told 'you're just like your father.'

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Programs to Make Your Book a Best Seller


This is Michelle Gamble, CEO, 3L Publishing. I wanted to personally let you know that we have some affordable new programs for writers to promote their books. You can find out more about 3L Publishing and my background as a PR expert on our website at www.3LPublishing.com. Please feel free to email me at info@3LPublishing.com.

Bronze Package - $499.99
1. Media Kit (press release, about the book, book spec sheet, FAQ, sample chapter)
2. 1 Page Pitch Letter
3. Links to Book Reviewer Lists

Silver Package - $799.99
1. Media Kit
2. 1 Page Pitch Letter
3. Links to Book Reviewer Lists
4. Press Release posted to our blog
5. Press Release link posted to Facebook (personal and fan page) (4700 connections) and Twitter
6. One hour of consultation on media relations and book marketing

Gold Package - $999.99
1. Media Kit
2. 1 Page Pitch Letter
3. Links to Book Reviewer Lists
4. Press Release posted to our blog
5. Press Release link posted to Facebook (personal and fan page) (4700 connections) and Twitter
6. Featured Author Interview (Newsletter (800 Readers, 4 issues), Blog and Website homepage
7. About the Book Posted on the Blog with Amazon link
8. 1 hour of consultation on media relations and book marketing

Platinum - $1999.99*
1. Media Kit
2. 1 Page Pitch Letter
4. Press Release posted to our blog
5. Press Release link posted to Facebook (personal and fan page) (4700 connections) and Twitter
6. Featured Author Interview (Newsletter (800 Readers, 4 issues), Blog and Website homepage
7. About the Book Posted on the Blog with Amazon link
8. 10 hours of Media Relations to regional and national media lists and book reviewers

*This price does not include postage and packaging materials to send to media upon request; postage and packaging billed at the end of the cycle.

We do offer payments programs for the $999.99+ values of either 2 or 3 payments.

Please let me know if you would like to participate in these programs. Our clients have been reviewed in SheKnows, France Today, Critic's Circle, Fresh Fiction, Cyrus Webbs' Conversations, Author's Show, SciFi Radio, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal radio network, Forbes, Success Magazine, Redbook, Elle, Good Day Sacramento, Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Magazine, and so much more. We know how to get results.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What is the No. #1 Reason a Book Fails?



By Michelle Gamble, CEO, 3L Publishing

What is the answer to that question?

Poor writing
Weak characters
Uninteresting story
Lack of pacing

Would you believe the answer is “none of those things make a book fail?” Are you wondering what does make a book fail or (to rephrase it positively) what makes it a top-seller?

The answer is cracker-jack public relations and marketing. P.T. Barnum put it best, “Advertising is to a genuine article what manure is to land – it largely increases the product.” In my estimation that is a crass way of saying (in book-ease), let people know you have a book and increase its sales.

Books aren’t the same as selling widgets. You can advertise a widget pretty easily, and consumers caught up in the idea or the sensation or fad will invest their dollars. Readers though are interesting audiences to crack open. An advertisement for a book won’t convince a reader it’s any good. Book advertising will increase brand visibility, and that’s a marketing term we’ll reserve for another article on the subject. Book advertising WON’T give a book CREDIBILITY – book reviews give books credibility.

Credibility convinces readers (especially in the era of self-publishing) that a book is good, mediocre, or bad. Reputable book reviewers’ endorsements of a book will increase interest and hence sales. Readers believe book reviews because reviewers were not paid to review the book – well, most of the time not paid.

With so many self-published books on the market, a new type of PAID book reviewer (e.g., Clarion) has emerged on the market. I’m not a fan of PAID reviews. When an author presents a manuscript with one of these reviews (and as a publisher I know the paid reviewers’ brands), red flags fly. Is this book legitimate? My first thought, and my second thought is a great book should be able to get reviews from credible sources.

Now let’s say the book is great. The author stands behind it, but it’s still self-published (professional efforts in self-publishing aren’t a problem and actually open often-closed doors to new writers); but the author still can’t find an audience. The author doesn’t even know how to get reviews from credible sources. So what happens? A great book goes unread. An unread book without an audience is literally pointless. Isn’t the idea of writing a book to get people to read it? Now sometimes the goal is to get family and friends to read the book – and that’s fine if it’s the actual intent behind it.

New authors who find themselves in the disappointing positions of finding their books ranked on Amazon in the millions (meaning no readership) may give up. They don’t even know where to begin the promotional process. Maybe they even invested $200 in one of those blog tours for authors and found their rankings remain stagnant. Now what?

This news may frustrate those with no money to invest in their books, but it’s the reality all business people face on a daily basis (and it’s very cliché): YOU HAVE TO INVEST MONEY TO MAKE MONEY, which is the essential truth to all business endeavors. And yes authors, the minute you put the word “author” behind your name you are officially a businessperson (you just might not have realized it).

Whether you are published traditionally or use self-publishing or hybrid publishing methods, you will have to promote your book to find an audience. Some books will find an audience easier than others. The best way to find an audience is to use traditional public relations and marketing services. Now you can try on your own, but unless you have the specialized education and knowledge in the area, you will not know where to start or what the industry expects.

Public relations for books is a specialty under a specialty. It means that while a public relations pro can promote products or services, it’s best to find one who knows the book and publishing world. Book media relations for national and regional media (print, broadcast and online) requires knowledge of a massive marketplace – and sometimes in the case of niche books, a niche within a niche.

One article cannot possibly break down this profession into pieces to be easily digested by the average author. After all public relations is a degree program offered in higher education. Book public relations is also a specialty one learns in a crash-course called “doing it” or we could call it a “process of discovery”.

What is amazing: one well-placed professional book review can ignite sales in a big way. Two, three, four or even five reviews can create what is called the “snowball effect” or “momentum”. Imagine if you will the snowball picking up more and more speed and getting bigger and bigger as it rolls downhill. When multiple reviewers praise a book the outcome can be bigger and bigger sales – and ultimately an Amazon book that cracks the top 10.

Are you an author? Is your book selling? Do you even have legitimate reviews? Would you like to get featured on national TV shows or magazines? Would you like to be reviewed by the Critic’s Circle or Fresh Fiction or the Author’s Show? Would you love to see a no. #1 ranking next to your book’s name on Amazon? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, 3L Publishing can do all of those things – and we’ve done it many times over for authors and writers.

Contact us today for your consultation at 916-300-8012. Ask for Michelle Gamble or Scott D. Roberts by sending an email to info@3LPublishing.com. We are also holding a workshop titled “How to Write a Media Kit” for books. For more information, please log onto www.3LPublishing.com.



Friday, September 4, 2015

California Girl Chronicles: Brea's Big Break - Chapter 11



11

The next day, Kale summoned me to the office – early again. He said he wanted to talk about something important. When I arrived, he was dressed in a button-down, light-blue, short-sleeved shirt that matched his eyes and jeans. He looked happy to see me. We seemed to be making progress – our relationship had mellowed into a comfortable ambiguity.

It felt so warm and nice to be around him that I thought I would take what time I could get alone with him and enjoy it. I also suspected he called me in early to ensure quality alone time before the staff arrived. It seemed like Monica had made it her habit lately to interrupt us. I didn’t know if Kale had noticed, but I sure had. I had completely avoided any discussion that would define their relationship because I held out hope that their intimate closeness was in my imagination. A California girl could hold out hope anyway.

Kale walked straight over to me and hugged me. To my utter shock, he leaned over and gave me a simple, but sweet kiss on the lips, not the cheek. I was completely blown away by the simplicity of what amounted to an intimate gesture. Yes, I knew our relationship had progressed well beyond kisses, but there was a familiar tenderness to it and certainly no seduction behind it.

“Hey,” I said as I pulled back with a surprised look on my face.

“Let’s do something fun,” he said.

“Fun?” I asked. “Not work? Why?”

Kale sat down on the edge of his desk, crossed his legs and shrugged. “We did a lot of things backward,” he admitted. “I thought about it. Who was I to assume I knew who was in your life?”

I stepped forward and said, “I didn’t exactly tell you.”

“True, sweetheart, you didn’t, but I don’t recall asking either,” he said. “My bad.”

“Are you forgiving me?” I asked as my heart started beating quickly.

Kale just stared at me with those strong, bottomless eyes I loved so much. “Not sure,” he said simply. “I do want to know you, though. I want to spend real time with you.”

I grinned and said, “Not just my body?” I moved forward a little closer and cocked my head in a flirtatious way.

“Brea, you are the most gorgeous woman I know. I also realize you can have any man you want when you want. Do I want your body? That’s not even a question,” he said with a quiver of a grin. “I could seduce you now – maybe not even regret it, but where did that get me last time? So no, not your body … for now.”

I reached out and lightly touched his bicep. His eyes drifted down to the touch and then back up. He stood up, which forced me to drop my touch. “What I want is your time.”

“To do what?” I asked.

“Just time, sweetheart,” he said. “I own a boat. We’re going out to catch fresh fish off the bow. I’m going to cook it for your dinner,” he said and started to walk toward the door where he stopped and waited.

“What if I said I get seasick?” I asked.

“Well, then, sweetheart, we’ll stop and get you Dramamine,” he said in his silky voice and opened the door. “After you.”

I hesitantly walked toward the door, stopped right in front of him, gazed into his eyes and smiled. What I saw was acceptance of some sort. This gesture, this quasi-date was a test of some kind – I felt it. Was he going to forgive me? He said he was uncertain. Would he ever forgive me? The answer was as vague as the gesture. I reached the quick conclusion that my lesson for the week was about staying in the moment and accepting it for what it was.

We strolled out into the hallway and ran smack into Curtis, who looked from Kale to me and asked, “Where are you two going?”

“Boating,” said Kale, unaffected by the question.

“With her?” he asked as if I was not standing there.

Kale’s eyes drifted to me and back to Curtis. “And your point?”

Curtis raised his hand with the coffee cup in it. “No, man; no point. Have fun.”

And as Curtis walked past me I felt his eyes shift down on me. I could sense jealousy and a hint of anger. It made me uncomfortable. Kale also looked from Curtis to me. We walked to the elevator and got in it.

Kale turned to me and said, “I’ve known him for years. Good guy. Does he bother you?”

“Um — no,” I said and deflected the truth.

“You have nothing to worry about with him. All bark, I promise,” he said. “Because you would tell me?”

“Tell you?” I asked flatly.

Kale eyed me suspiciously and then shrugged. “All right, sweetheart, you play it that way.”

Shit! Every time I came close to true intimacy, something ruined it. I wasn’t sure if Kale was upset, suspicious, frustrated or what. I saw his expression become more guarded again. I wanted to tell him the truth, but it seemed like a reckless choice – one that would ultimately shut down production on my first film. This industry was littered with films that almost were – and movie shutdowns were often instigated by far less trivial problems than a rivalry over the screenwriter. If I told Kale, he might protect me but at what cost? Could my career afford that kind of protection? And, with our romantic relationship still questionable, was now the right time? Maybe Kale would tire of the sexual drama that I seemed to invite.

Later that morning, we arrived at a dock in San Diego at the marina. We walked out on the long wooden planks that had boats moored on each side like parked cars. The gentle breeze blew cool air and pushed my hair back. I reached in my bag, pulled out a band and tied my hair back off of my face. It felt good. Kale came to a sudden stop in front of me, and I turned and looked. This was the “boat”? It was a yacht with wide-open windows on the upper deck. I looked up and stared, and I’m sure my surprise registered on my face.

Kale chuckled. “You weren’t expecting a rowboat were you?”

“No,” I replied with a smile, “but I wasn’t expecting a yacht either!”

One of the deckhands was waiting for us on the boat. Kale reached down and helped me up on the plank between the dock and the boat. I took his hand (it felt good) and allowed his assistance. He turned and whispered something to the deckhand, who disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later with a glass of water and two pills in an outstretched, white-gloved hand.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Dramamine,” he responded.

I took the water and tossed the pills in my mouth just as Kale turned to look at me. He had a weird expression on his face.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing.” He grinned. “I’ll meet you up on deck, all right?”

He headed off to the front of the boat with the deckhand and disappeared into a room. I looked around, spotted some stairs just inside the main cabin and made my way up them to the upper deck. As I emerged through the top, I saw the view of the open sea out off the stern. It was incredible – blue and clear. The water shimmered and rippled in the midday sun. The sea breeze blew and swirled through my hair. I heard the engine rumble and start. I looked over the edge and saw two more deckhands undoing the ropes and tossing them on board. I sat down in a plush, beige chair with a round table separating it from a matching chair. Just as I looked up, a steward appeared in front of me holding out a tray containing champagne, cheese and fruit.

“Miss,” he said quietly.

I grabbed the champagne by the stem, took a small plate of grapes and cheese and set both down on the small, round table next to my seat. My phone chirped to alert me of a text. I pulled it out of my purse and looked – it was Lance. He asked to see me later. I replied maybe and put the phone away. I wasn’t sure what time we would return. I was worried about Lance. He said the chemo was terrible, but he wouldn’t share much more than that. I suddenly felt guilty being so preoccupied with my own petty concerns when Lance was so sick. And I hadn’t been a good friend to him at all. I needed to step up.

Kale emerged from below and came to sit next to me. “Have you ever gone deep-sea fishing?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I fished for trout in a river with my sister when I was little.”

“Oh, you have a sister?” he asked.

“Her name is Lulu, and she lives in northern California. We’re not close.”

Kale nodded and smiled. “Maya loves you,” he said frankly. “She wants us back together – tells me every morning,” he said with a laugh.

I looked at him and leaned across the table. “So do I,” I said and popped a grape into my mouth.

Kale leaned in closer and looked at me. “You fucked us up,” he said briskly.

I sat up straight. “Yes, I did.”

Kale looked at me. “An honest answer. Now we’re getting somewhere.”

I looked down and then took another sip of champagne. “In my defense, it was just … I don’t know — unexplainable. Haven’t you done something like that before?”

Kale picked up a pair of binoculars and started looking at something off in the distance. “Two whales,” he said and handed the binoculars to me and pointed off to the south.

I took the binoculars and looked. Yes, two whales. They were merely ripples under the water, but I could see their spray from their blowholes sending up water like a fine mist in the air. I handed the binoculars back and sipped more champagne. He wasn’t going to answer that question.

“You don’t think I’m honest?” I suddenly asked.

Kale, who had returned to gazing through the binoculars, took them down from his eyes, raised an eyebrow and sort of smirked. “Do you think you’re honest, sweetheart?”

I shifted back into my seat and looked down at my hands. I considered that question very carefully. “I didn’t lie … exactly.”

“That’s not what I asked you.” He looked me right in the eyes.

“It’s not lying if I just didn’t mention what was going on. And I never said I loved you.” As I said those words, I could see pain cross Kale’s face. I suddenly wished I could grab the words and shove them back in the proverbial bottle. Wrong answer.

Kale got up, grabbed his champagne and finished it off in one full gulp. He wouldn’t look at me anymore. “I’m going fishing. You joining me?”

I stood up and said, “I’ll watch.”

Kale and I walked down to the bottom of the ship and to the back. A deckhand was waiting with a huge fishing rod. Kale immediately worked to put giant-sized fish chunks on it as bait. I found my way to a cushy bench nearby. As I sat in the warm light of day, rocking with the soft, gentle sway of the boat, my eyes grew heavier and heavier. I thought it was the champagne. Within minutes, I realized I could barely hold my eyes open. Kale was busily fishing. So, I thought I would lie down on the bench and just close them – that was the last thing I remembered.

The next thing I knew my eyes were open – and it was sunset. Kale was standing over me in all his tallness, nudging me awake and laughing. “Brea! Wake up. Dinner.”

“Huh,” I whispered and forced my eyes open. “What?”

I pulled myself up, and Kale reached out and grabbed my hand to steady me. “You all right?”

“I couldn’t keep my eyes open,” I explained.

Kale softly laughed and looked out on the horizon and then back. “Dramamine, sweetheart. I tried to warn you, but you just took both pills at once.”

“Oh, what? I don’t understand,” I replied.

“It causes drowsiness,” he replied, and we started up the staircase back to the top and the dining area.

When we got to the deck, I noticed the table was perfectly set with every piece of silverware and glassware in its proper place. The deckhand pulled out my chair for me. Kale sat across from me. His cheeks were a nice shade of rosy red from being in the sun, which made his eyes look even bluer than usual. He looked so relaxed and satisfied.  He told me he caught white sea bass, which we were having for dinner. It sounded so succulent and fresh. The deckhand poured another glass of champagne as we spoke of the afternoon that I had managed to miss in my sleep. Kale was deliriously happy about the adventure. He said he saw so many whales it was unreal and even a breech. I’d never seen a man so happy to describe a breech in my life. He said it was a huge tail that came up vertically and than flat down with an amazing splash. He ate his fish with contentment, and you would think he was angler of the year.

“Do you really think I’m a liar?” I asked quietly, eating my fish.

Kale took a bite, chewed and considered his answer. “No, I think you’re young,” he admitted.

“Immature?” I asked and dreaded the answer.

“You’re extremely focused, talented, kind and, of course, easy on the eyes,” he said and smiled at me. “I never once thought you intended to hurt me.”

“I’m immature then?”

Kale’s expression softened into a sweet, paternal look. “You’re weak. I don’t dislike that about you exactly. But you’re also vulnerable – and that is a beautiful thing, especially here in La La Land,” he said mockingly. “The first time we met, and I offered to put you in the movie and you instantly declined, I knew you were well beyond anyone in that room.”

I grabbed my champagne glass and took a swig. I felt really bad. The subtext of this conversation was creating a pit in my stomach. I could hear the imaginary “but” without him actually saying it. All I wanted to do was reach across the table, clear the plates and dishes and have fantastic out-to-sea sex; but I could see by his tender expression and the subtext that it was not going to happen – not tonight.

“By the way, who’s Ryan?” he asked.

“What?” I asked, surprised he knew about Ryan.

“He texted you 10 times. I looked,” he admitted.

I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I liked his snooping on my iPhone. “I’m seeing him,” I said frankly. After all, I was certain Kale was involved with Monica. Why would I not be seeing someone else? We weren’t together anymore.

“I see,” he said. “And what about Johnny? Aren’t those two friends?”

“I was never involved with Johnny,” I said and thought at least this answer might make him happy.

“Hmm … ” he said and looked me straight in the eyes. “Are you fucking Ryan?” he asked with this unsettling intensity.

“Yes,” I replied bluntly.

“Honesty … twice in one afternoon. Impressive.”

“Ryan is fun. He’s not you. I would be with you if you wanted me,” I said.

Kale looked up, set down his fork and moved closer to me. He leaned in very close to my face so that I could smell his scent – fish, peppermint and just Kale. It was a mixture that was not displeasing. Nothing about Kale was disappointing. He grabbed my hand and gently placed it on his substantial and familiar manhood and smiled.

“I never said I didn’t want you,” he whispered.

I felt a surge of heat well up into my thighs. I met his gaze with the same intensity, but right then he pulled away and out of my space. I felt a jolt of shock mixed with intense lust and longing. Kale gripped the champagne bottle chilling on ice and poured my glass back full to the top and topped his own off. He smiled his captivating grin, reached out with his glass to suggest cheers and took a brisk drink. I sat back in my seat, stared at him and took my own sip. I was completely enthralled with him.

“We’ll be back at dock by 8:00 p.m. Your friend Lance wants you to come by at 8:30. I texted him and said I would have you back in time.”

What? Now I was reeling in shock. I looked down. What was he doing? Messing with me? I didn’t really know. “I’m — I’m not sure you should have done that,” I said quietly.

Kale stiffened a bit. “I want to trust you again.”

“But that’s my private phone,” I replied.

“Well, then I’ll try not to look at it from now on,” he replied and looked me straight in the eyes.

“You have no idea how much I want you,” I suddenly blurted out and admitted.

Kale sweetly smiled out of nowhere and said, “Good.”

I kept staring at him, but he made no move toward me. I backed down and concentrated on my food for the rest of the evening. He wasn’t going to make this easy.