Sarah Ballance: LAST CALL Doesn’t Like Me

A guest blog from author Sarah Ballance

The author/story relationship is not unlike that of two people: sometimes they get along, sometimes not so much. Sometimes it’s insta-love, while in other instances the opposite may be true. While I generally get along well with my stories, let’s just say LAST CALL goes in the “other” pile. Y’all, this story does not like me at all. It never has.

I think there were too many transitions. The plot idea was originally supposed to be part of a series, but things went downhill with the publisher in question, so I chose not to add to my catalog with them. This meant I had to change the characters just a bit since I couldn’t integrate their stories from the first book. No big deal, only things seemed to snowball from there.

LAST CALL did not want to be written.

From the first word, I was trying to get through an increasingly mucked-up release process with another book. The ordeal, in retrospect, wasn’t the end of the world, but it dealt a blow to my confidence. I started down that wreck of a “you can’t” path, and the doubts settled in. Doubts, of course, breed faster than dust bunnies, so by the time I was halfway through the book I couldn’t even look at it. I took a lot of time off, in the process finishing TWO other stories (at least one of which turned into an awesome opportunity). Doing so gave me a boost—a feeling maybe I knew what I was doing after all—but when I went back to LAST CALL all those feelings of inadequacy returned. For a long while, I looked upon it as my toxic manuscript. I wanted to toss it, but I refused to give up. Fortunately my editor not only kicks general butt, but she has no qualms about kicking mine. With her help—and the opinions of two readers—I finally reached the point where I felt ready to let it go … not to that great recycle bin in the sky (or on the desktop … at least that’s where I keep mine), but to virtual bookshelves.

Do I love this story? Yes, but not for the conventional reasons. I love this story because it saw me over some of the most difficult walls I’ve faced as an author. It represents sort of a “coming of age” moment in my career, and when I look back over the year I picked it up and put it down and picked it up again (rinse and repeat … and repeat), I see in those starts and stops how I finally took steps out of my comfort zone and found something amazing: belief in myself and the knowledge I can do this writing thing even when it doesn’t come easy.

I can make things happen, and I have. And the proof is within these pages.

LAST CALL

In a perilous game of trust, a shocking betrayal deals a dangerous hand.

An accidental witness to a murder-for-hire, ex-cop Rhys Clark becomes the target of ruthless killer—one determined to silence her at any cost. Playing dead seems to be the most likely way to stay alive, but when her protection comes in the form of mega-sexy former adversary Nick Massey, Rhys can think of  a few fates worse than death.

Nick Massey may have walked away from his troubles, but he never got past wanting Rhys. Once paired undercover, they’d been nothing but fireworks until a botched assignment ended her career, sending his into a tailspin. Now a mysterious client threatens Nick’s life if he doesn’t keep Rhys safe, but it isn’t until fate takes a critical turn that he realizes the devastating truth: he’s been her greatest threat all along.

  • Title: LAST CALL
  • Author: Sarah Ballance
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Publisher: For the Muse Publishing, 2013
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-9889995-0-3
  • Audio ISBN: N/A

LAST CALL is available from: For the Muse PublishingAmazonBarnes & Noble, andSmashwords (formats: .mobi, .epub, HTML, PDF, RTF, LRF, PalmDoc, and Plain Text). Click here to add to Goodreads or here for reviews.

Cover art by For the Muse Design

Last Call | Excerpt

Rhys Clark swore and jerked her foot from the murky puddle that had just claimed one of her new running shoes. Perfect. The day was now officially perfect.

She blamed Nick Massey.

Blaming him was easy enough. She didn’t know which required more nerve on his part—leaving town or crawling back—but both events left her bitter and raw. And wet, she grumbled inwardly. With the sky spitting rain and the occasional pellet of sleet smacking her face, she should have skipped her evening jog. The street was little more than a concrete alley of shuttered businesses, and the bleak weather amplified the emptiness. But tonight, with Nick hot on her mind, running through the cold was her last ditch effort to return to her senses.

It hadn’t worked.

Another blast of icy air howled through the narrow street. If she hadn’t been standing still, she probably wouldn’t have heard the shouting that followed.

A few months ago, an altercation wouldn’t have been unusual in this part of town. But the whole area was under reconstruction. Local crime dissipated to nothing with the razing of several apartment buildings, and until now Rhys had long found her route to be a place of solace. She glanced around as the voices drew closer and more intense. Rapid footsteps smacked the wet pavement. Then the echo of a gunshot cracked the night.

Where fear left her paralyzed, instinct insisted she get out of sight. She looked around and found an unbroken expanse of concrete wall offering few options. Heart pounding, Rhys ducked into the recessed doorway of a vacant storefront and hoped the deep shadows would keep her concealed.

Terrifying seconds passed. The sound of her own suppressed breath roared in her ears.

Voices came, clearer this time. Close.

“If we screw this up…” The words, terse and hushed, were encapsulated in panic.

“Shut up,” demanded a second voice. “No one messed up. He’s as good as dead.”

“You think you’re going to sell that without a body? We didn’t get paid to lose him.”

“He took one to the gut. He won’t get far. We’ll find him.”

“He’s leaving a trail. Blood. We got the big bucks for a clean—”

Shut up.”

A hit? Rhys shuddered, fear scaling her spine. A professional hit would have been silent—something not accomplished by the gunshot or the ensuing conversation—but in this game, experience wasn’t always a prerequisite for willingness to pull the trigger. Two years of undercover work had taught her as much.

So had a bullet.

Rhys froze, waiting for the voices to pass. But luck was not on her side. Rather than drawing away, the footsteps ceased.

“Well, well, well,” said the confident one. “Looks like our little game of hide and seek is over.”

Hope crumbled. The voice was far too close. Had they seen her?

She dared not move. Through her lashes, she saw nothing in her narrow view of the dimly lit street but dirty puddles and the occasional bit of trash plastered to wet pavement. She prayed they didn’t look her way should they walked past.

Grunts erupted nearby, followed by the sound of sneakers scuffling on concrete. Then two shots fired, and all sounds of struggle gave way to profane celebration.

In the same instant, a man fell to the sidewalk in front of Rhys. His eyes, sightless and familiar, bore into her.

She choked a gasp.

A man stepped into her line of sight, his weapon at the ready. Before she could stop herself, she locked eyes with him. Big mistake. The decision threw her into a cloud of emotional shrapnel, the past flying at her in shards. She’d been shot once before.

It hadn’t ended well.

The gunman opened his mouth and formed an ugly grin, his breath coming in visible puffs through yellowed teeth. “Looks like a double header tonight, T,” he said, never taking his gaze off Rhys.

“Whaddya mean?” came the reply. The voice . . . she blinked until the second man shifted into focus.

She knew him. From where? She couldn’t think.

She glanced to the dead man, and her vision wavered. Panic shifted her world into a screen of jarred pixels, the flashback jagged and severe.

Rhys! Stay with me, Rhys. Do you hear me? Rhys!”

Blood. So much blood.

“Nick.” She touched his face, feeling stubble beneath her fingertips. Then the weight of her arm was too much; as gravity won he slipped away. The world twisted into a sickening spiral until all that was left was his voice, the desperation in his tone bringing warmth to the darkness.

“Rhys!”

Motion jarred her to the present.

The gunman gestured. “Our witness here is about to have an unfortunate accident.” He raised the weapon, aiming for the kill.

It was a short view down the barrel at point blank range. She expected that.

What she didn’t anticipate was the speed with which he pulled the trigger.

Or how quickly the pain hit.

LAST CALL is available from: For the Muse PublishingAmazonBarnes & Noble, andSmashwords (formats: .mobi, .epub, HTML, PDF, RTF, LRF, PalmDoc, and Plain Text). Click here to add to Goodreads or here for reviews.

Cover art by For the Muse Design

About Sarah Ballance

Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or seeking that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her.

She loves creating unforgettable stories while putting her characters through an unkind amount of torture—a hobby that has nothing to do with living with six children. (Really.) Though she adores nail-biting mystery and edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Sarah writes in many genres including contemporary and ghostly paranormal romance. Her ever-growing roster of releases may be found on her website

Author Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

It’s a pleasure having you visit and speak of your experience writing. Thanks Sarah. Come back any time, my friend.

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6 thoughts on “Sarah Ballance: LAST CALL Doesn’t Like Me

  1. Thanks for this honest look at writing this book! I have a similar one (not in premise, but in the fact that 1) I keep thinking it’s not good… but when I re-read it, it is and 2) I can’t seem to finish it). Reading this, I’m going to finish no matter what. Huzzah! 🙂 Thanks.

    • Thanks for commenting, Kelly! It’s funny how these books get in our heads like that. (Well, not funny. I was SO not laughing, lol). I don’t consider myself so narrow minded, but I could NOT get past my doubts. Putting LC out there was a leap and then some, but I’m glad I did it. The only thing worse than hitting “send,” so to speak, would be knowing I let the darn thing defeat me! ;c) And I’ll congratulate you now on getting yours finished because I know you can do it!

  2. Hi Sarah – waving!! I am so very pleased for you that Last Call has ‘finally’ released. With everything that happened during this process, I’m glad that you were able to successfully overcome those feelings of inadequacy and take on some new challenges, too. Last Call is a great story and I’m finally going to say it: told ya so!!! :o) Count on me sticking with you and cheering you on, Sarah.

  3. Pingback: #Blogger #Giveaway: Post a Promo or Host LAST CALL for a Chance to #Win a #Giftcard! | Sarah Ballance

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