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I was born a fighter. You had to be, to survive in Camden. Lucky for me, I loved it. The thrill, the pain, the glory. Until one night things went too far and I almost lost my ticket out.
So I swore off fighting. Never again. No matter how much I wanted it.
I went to college. Got a degree. A job on Wall Street. Yet I still wasn't smart enough to stay away. So now I'm back. And it's just as bad as I remember.
Enter Dr. Susan Jones, superstar neurosurgeon. She's brilliant, she's sexy and she's a pain in my ass. I can't get enough and she's too busy for a relationship. She wants to hook up, get off, go home. She doesn't have time for a thug from Camden. But she keeps coming back.
This place brings out the worst in people. Every day it threatens the project I'm working on, the plans I'm making. Every day it drags me down just a little more, until the hands I vowed to keep clean start itching to get dirty.
If I don't start fighting for what I want, I'll wind up with nothing, and I didn't come back to Camden for nothing. I came back to start something. And when people hurt the things I care about, the gloves come off.
Book 3 in the Time Served Series.
As I've done for each book release, I've prepared a series of posts for each day of The Good Fight's release week. Check them out below!
Check out the first chapter here:
RELEASE WEEK POST ONE
THE GOOD FIGHT
I started writing The Good Fight in early 2015. By July I had finished it, and sent the first few chapters to my editor at Carina. I can honestly tell you I’ve never submitted a book I didn’t think was good. I’ve certainly written ones that aren’t good, but they’re stashed away in a drawer somewhere to be burned under the cover of darkness. So when weeks passed with no response, it started to sink in that the news wouldn’t be good. And sure enough, I eventually got an email from the editor saying she was sorry, but she would have to pass on this book as it was. I wasn’t surprised, but I did feel pretty dejected. (Well, maybe VERY dejected.)
I’ve been rejected before so I knew that this disappointment would fade and I’d regroup and either rework the project or move on. The editor gave me a thoughtful list of the reasons the chapters hadn’t worked for her, so I made a mental note of those issues and let it sift around in my brain for a while. In the meantime, however, I had another idea percolating, so I decided to get started on that. It was a New Adult story about a good-girl-turned-bad-girl-turned-good-girl-sorta, who moves in with the campus heartthrob and unexpectedly falls for his best friend. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever finish it, or what I’d do with it if I did, but I wanted to flex my writing muscles, so I started typing. In early fall, I felt re-inspired to work on TGF. I set aside the New Adult story and started revamping TGF, incorporating the editor’s notes and making new changes. I realized the ending was pretty awful and needed a complete overhaul, so I spent a couple of months writing and re-writing new chapters until I had a stronger story than the one I’d originally submitted. I resubmitted it, this time with a feeling of nervous dread.
There’s no telling how long someone will or will not take to get back to you, so I resumed work on the New Adult story. By Christmas I had a first draft. It needed some tightening, certainly, but I felt pretty good about it. I’ve learned something from every story I’ve written, and I feel like each book improves upon the ones before. These two were no exception.
Then I got an email from my editor—she liked my changes and wanted to acquire TGF! Oh, hallelujah! I could sleep soundly again. She told me TGF would likely come out in summer 2016, and I felt a bit anxious about having such a big gap between books. (In Her Defense had come out in September 2015.) I thought about the New Adult story I was working on. Could I self-publish? I know other people do, but could I? I decided I could, not only to avoid having nearly a year delay between books, but for the experience.
All this is to say, there are many ways to fight the good fight. It’s not always about winning, or even getting right back up when you get knocked down. It’s about what you do while you’re down there, how you regroup so you get up stronger every time. That rejection stung, but I (eventually) went back to my desk and opened a new Word doc. I called it Undecided, but there was never any question. I want to be a writer, so I write.
What’s your good fight?
RELEASE WEEK POST TWO
WANT VS NEED
In my second year of university I took a creative writing class. You had to submit samples and be accepted, so getting in made me feel very elite and accomplished. The class was hard. And because I’m a keener, I tended to be the only person who actually completed assignments and then brought in the requisite number of copies for everyone to read…and critique. You know what it means when no one else brings in their copies? That the whole class is devoted you…and critiquing you.
They were mostly pretty nice. We were all young and new and everyone thought I was brave (or dumb) for always bringing in my stuff. I mean, bringing in your stuff was the rule and I’m not sure that any of those people passed the class, but it was a pretty soft introduction to learning how to take criticism. Until one day I wrote a poem. I’m not a poet but it was the assignment, and one freezing winter day I was walking home and I passed a tree with a handful of birds sitting on bare branches, their silhouettes still and pretty against the horizon. I wrote a poem about that. I spaced out the lines and used only one comma as punctuation. I thought it was pretty great. After everyone sat silently and read it (and I chewed off nine of my fingernails) the instructor looked at me. “Why did you do that?” she asked. I stared at her blankly. “Do what?” “Write it like this. The spacing. Only one comma, no periods?” I didn’t know what to say. I just…did it. Because I wanted to.
I’d like to tell you I came up with a brilliant answer to her question, but I just sat there helplessly until some kind soul changed the subject. But that moment stuck with me. “Because I wanted to” is not a good enough answer. Did I need to? The truth is, I spaced it like that because that’s how the birds looked. Why the no periods? I don’t know. I thought that was poetry. But I learned a valuable lesson: have a reason. Wanting is not enough. Why does my poem/story/song need to be written this way?
I tend to write single POV stories because I don’t think they need two POVs. Do people want two POVs? Sure, I see that comment often, sometimes for my books, sometimes for others. But so much of the time I read dual POV that feels unnecessary, it’s just an opportunity to tell the reader what they want to hear, and I don’t think that does anybody—the author, the reader, the characters—any favours. Don’t tell me that you want it. Tell me why you need it. The challenge I enjoy about single POV is that it forces me to get creative when writing the other characters’ actions and dialogue. I have to think of new ways to convey that information without simply feeding it to you through an internal monologue. I like that challenge as an author, and I respect it as a reader.
Now let’s take a moment to sing the chorus of the Rolling Stones song we’re all suddenly dying to hear: You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometime/You just might find/You get what you need.
RELEASE WEEK POST THREE
YEAH, BUT WHY
I love character arcs. I love it when someone starts out tetchy and difficult and learns to shed a few of those prickly parts in exchange for some love and happiness. They don’t lose all their prickly parts, mind you - just enough. Just enough to be in a better place than when the story started, enough to let readers know that they’re on the path to a more permanent happiness with just the right amount of prickliness. (I’m not going to say prickly anymore, promise.)
One of my more familiar criticisms is that my characters - the heroines, in particular - aren’t all that likable at the beginning. (Or sometimes throughout.) I always want to shout, YEAH, THAT’S THE POINT. They’re going somewhere. They’re going to learn and grow and transform. That’s what the next 300 pages are for. If they start off perfect and end perfect, what’s the point? (Totally different story if someone starts off perfect and ends up considerably less so. That’s interesting, too.)
This is why Dr. Susan Jones, the heroine in The Good Fight, is probably my favourite heroine to date. There’s a line when Oz first visits her at home and she mentions that her sister used to live in the next apartment. “Were you close?” Oz asks. “Yeah,” Susan replies. “She lived right across the hall.” That’s Susan. Trying her best to get it right, and maybe coming across a bit mechanical in the process. But always trying, greasing the wheels, getting better. Her fight is an internal one, a private one, and for Oz, a 6’4” former fighter, she’s an example he didn’t know he needed. She never backs down from a fight, she always gets back up when she’s knocked down, and by the end of the story, she’s getting there.
I’m a person who’s always wondering “why?” I don’t especially care if someone’s passionate about growing green beans, but I am interested in knowing why that particular vegetable caught their eye. I like understanding the motivations behind things, peeling back the layers and discovering the hidden bits and pieces that make people, well, people. I don’t care if those pieces are perfect and beautiful, that’s not interesting to me. The scrapes and the stumbles, the flaws and the fumbles (I swear I didn’t intend for that to rhyme) are what make characters and stories compelling. That potential and promise is what keeps me turning the pages as a reader, and trying to fill them up as a writer.
RELEASE WEEK POST FOUR
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
My grandfather’s name was Oscar, so when I chose this name for a minor character in Time Served, it was meant to be a private nod in his memory. Using the name of someone I know for a small part in a story is one thing, but using that name for a major character—the POV character—is a much bigger deal. I mean, it’s kind of weird. And my grandfather isn’t here anymore so he’s not going to read the book and think, WTF? but I really didn’t want to write *this* type of book with that in the back of my mind. Plus…Oscar’s not exactly the name of a romance hero, is it? Hence the hero’s nickname, Oz.
Susan is in the middle of a divorce. She goes by her married name, Dr. Susan Jones, but she’s in the process of becoming (or re-becoming) Dr. Susan Dufresne. (I also never intended to give Susan a book, so her name was really just a throwaway when I first introduced her in Caitlin’s story.) Susan’s changing names represent very different points in her life. They symbolize her reclaiming the parts of her past that she wants to keep in the present, and shaping the present pieces so she can become her full self.
I wasn’t planning to have Susan insist on calling Oz by his proper name throughout the story, but that’s what she did, so I went with it. As the story progressed, I realized that the names here were more than just names—they were indications of the characters’ growth and development. Oz spent ten years working on Wall Street before returning to Camden, and now he can’t figure out if he’s Oscar, the thug that grew up here, Oz, the suit-wearing guy he became when he moved away, or someone in between.
I never intended to incorporate any sort of name game when I started writing, it just sort of occurred to me that if the pieces were already there, it was up to me to do the best I could with them. Sometimes those pieces don’t end up making the final edit, but these ones did. So if you’ve been wondering why, in a time when characters have names like Kinsley and Sage and Grayson and Zane, these two are named plain old Oscar and Susan, now you know. It was an accident.
RELEASE WEEK POST FIVE
RANDOM “GOOD FIGHT” FACTS
5 stars from Delta at The Romance Reviews
I'm a huge fan of the Time Served series and Ms. Keyes's funny writing style with a healthy dose of the feels thrown in for good measure, and The Good Fight didn't disappoint! Read the rest of the review here.
A- from Kini at Smexy Books
Susan lights a fire under Oz’s butt to start this green space he has dreamed of for Camden. It is a great project. Along the way this allows for the relationship between Oz and Susan to grow. It is a tough road for them. There are some up and downs. But their love had a realness about it that just made me love them both so much. Read the rest of the review here!
4 stars from Maria Rose at Straight Shootin' Book Reviews
I think my favorite thing about this story is how flawed the characters are and yet they recognize and accept these flaws in each other and it doesn’t diminish their feelings. They go through enough rocky times in their courtship that you definitely feel they deserve their happy ending. 4 stars for a gritty, realistic and thoroughly entertaining story. Read more here!