Inside the Author: At the Ready

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At the Ready by Sharon Michalove Banner

At the Ready

by Sharon Michalove

August 28 – September 22, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

At the Ready by Sharon Michalove

What happens when a hunky French-Canadian security executive falls for a feisty Chicago lawyer?

Micki Press and JL Martin both have complicated lives, but when they come together, the sparks are undeniable. Micki is trying to make it to the top of one of the most conservative corporate law firms in Chicago. JL is the CEO of WatchDog Inc., a successful security company, and is struggling with his own family complications. When Micki’s former lover stalks her, JL steps in to protect her, and the two soon realize their feelings go beyond friendship. But with their complicated pasts and the struggles of the corporate world, are they ready to take the next step, or will the twists and turns have them singing the Chicago blues?

If you enjoy a story of complicated love and corporate ambition, you’ll love At the Ready. If you enjoy fast-paced action, romance, and a dash of karaoke, you’ll fall for At the Ready.

Inside the Author of At the Ready:

I’m so excited to share that Sharon Michalove, author of At the Ready visited with me recently. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I could be facetious and say that until I finally succeeded, I had been writing my first book my whole life. In reality, after many attempts over the years, I found living alone for the first time so difficult that I created a workable story and fabulous characters to give me someone to talk to. I so wanted to know Max Grant better, that I kept going, when I hadn’t been able to do that in the past.
I had several false starts—traditional mystery and romantic comedy—before I found my niche with romantic suspense. Even then I had to work through too many subplots, finding the best way to open the book, and the final version was only written a couple of months before the release.
Finding my voice was another challenge. After three drafts in third person, past tense, I experimented with first person present. And it worked! At First Sight was the result.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not much. I changed a lot while I was writing and most of it works really well. I might have removed JL’s uncle, but he was the reason for the trip to Vancouver, Several of my critique partners suggested taking him out, but my editor told me that she felt those scenes added a lot to the story and to JL’s character.
Much of the plot was locked in because of events in At the Crossroads, so I didn’t have much maneuverability. I originally made JL from Vancouver because it was unexpected for a French Canadian. Unlike most of the places I write about, I’ve never been there. But I would have had to change him from the beginning of book one, so that wasn’t an option. Would have saved me a lot of research, though.

Who has impacted your life the most and in what way?

The biggest impact on my life was my husband, Peter Michalove. I met him in graduate school the day before classes started and we knew almost immediately that we belonged together, He was finishing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition, and I was a new library school Master’s candidate. Even though he was ahead of me, we were the same age. He just pushed through, and I worked for a few years before coming back to school.
We were married nine months after we met and stayed together for almost forty years before he died in 2013. While he is not Max Grant, he is the inspiration for a little bit of Max. He’s in my thoughts every day even ten years later.
Push and pull in long-term relationships, the attraction of opposites, likes, dislikes, talents all play into my writing. Ask me questions like why do I use so much foreign language? Peter’s influence. Why is there so much classical music? Peter’s influence. Where do the bad jokes come from? Peter’s influence.
I might never have gone back to writing if I hadn’t been so lonely after he died. I only wish he could see what I have been able to accomplish. Writing can indeed fill a well of loneliness.

What event in your life do you remember first when asked for a humorous story?

Buying tickets to the wrong city might seem funny now but it was fraught at the time. In fact, it’s happened twice. The first time, my husband and I were taking two back-to-back tours, one in Spain and one in France. Somehow, when we were in Bilbao, we realized that instead of booking a flight to Reims, we had instead gotten tickets to Biarritz. Much finagling later, we were on the right flight to the right place. Reims, Biarritz, so much like—not.
The second time, a friend and I were in Paris, having a farewell dinner on the Place des Vosges (an area that appears in both At the Crossroads and At the Ready), before we took off for Bruges, Belgium. I mentioned to the waiter that I had been surprised that the train station was going to be Gare St. Lazare, rather than the expected Gare du Nord, He kindly explained that in the ticketing system, Bruges was south of Paris and Brugge was in Belgium. The next day, we turned up early enough at the Gare du Nord to get tickets to the proper Bruges/Brugge.
Both trips ended well, but I was obviously a slow learner.

Wow, Sharon. Sounds like you’re just the person I’d want with me on an experience. You seem to enjoy life 🙂

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Coffee and Eclairs Books (self-published)
Publication Date: August 2023
ISBN: 978-1-7369187-6-0
Series: Global Security Unlimited, 3
Book Links: Amazon | Book Bub | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chicago, February 2014

One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.—Benjamin Disraeli

Micki

Today’s the day. Best suit. Flawless hair and makeup. Every inch the polished senior associate. No four-inch heels, though. Frederick Lanscombe, managing partner, is a little sensitive about his height and this meeting is the crucial first step in the campaign to be the next partner at Miller, Lanscombe, Baker, Francis, Masters, and Hargrove.

The door to the small conference room is wide open, Fred at the head of table, eating a donut. My mentor, Rebecca Masters smiles and gives me a small thumbs up. Tyler Miller nods to acknowledge I’m there. More than there. After a hundred years, this firm is still a boys’ club but I plan to crack into top echelon and become just the second woman to make partner.

I fly through the door and end up on hands and knees when Hayden Forbes-Cartwright barrels into me. When I look up, Fred’s donut is poised at his open mouth. Rebecca’s hand is over her mouth. And Tyler laughs. “Great entrance, Micki.” The censure I hear pricks my balloon of confidence.

A snigger erupts from Hayden as his big hand reaches down to pull me up. “So sorry, Micki. Couldn’t put the brakes on in time.”

Upright, balanced a little precariously on my toothpick heels, my glare has the heat of the Milky Way. Not that Hayden pays any attention. His bogus concern is yet one more layer of deceit. Still, points to him. I’m the klutz and he’s the chivalric hero.“Have a seat, Micki, Hayden.” Fred gives each of us a once over. Dressing well is one of the unspoken rules. Hayden’s navy blue pinstripe is comparable to my silver gray jacket and matching pencil skirt—points even on wardrobe. My phone is in my lap and I pull up my spreadsheet. I’ve kept score since the first time we met. The advantage has seesawed back and forth, but we’re competing for the pinnacle in the stakes race, so I’ll have to up my game.

Hayden and I were adversaries from the get-go. We started here, on the same day eight years ago. Me half an hour early. Hayden fifteen minutes late strolling in with his uncle. All my muscles clenched when he looked me over with his trademark devil-may-care smile.

“I know you received the memo. With Sonny Philips’ retirement, the firm will promote one associate to partner this year. As the two seniors, you will be the leading candidates.”

Hayden stops fiddling with his Chicago Yacht Club tie. “Does that mean other associates might be considered?”

“Technically, yes, but in reality you two are the only ones qualified right now. The partners will evaluate you on several criteria besides the competencies you’ve shown in your time here.”

He pauses.

Hayden rushes into the short silence. “Does every partner get a vote?”

“You know they do,” Tyler chides his nephew impatiently.

“And are some votes weighted more heavily than others? Like seniority?”

“No.” Rebecca’s response is explosive. “Please go on, Fred.”

When I glance toward Hayden, he shows no embarrassment, not even a slight flush. We all learn to put on a neutral face. I permit myself a very small smile. Minus five to Hayden.

Fred looks at the sheet in front of him, then from Tyler to Rebecca. They nod. “The criteria include enthusiasm, treatment of others, the opinion of your mentor, maintaining personal control, commitment, successful building and protection of your reputation and that of the firm, consistent hard work, always available, constant improvement, and most important— being perceived as trustworthy.”

Hayden’s eyes dart like tiny silverfish, his tell when he’s scheming. on how to get the edge. While I put in the long hours and never turn down a request, Hayden skates by, taking credit for the work of junior associates. Boasting about staying late when he disappears in the middle of the day. When your uncle’s name is on the door, you have an extra pass. Tyler Miller will definitely push for Hayden to be the next partner.

Fred is still talking and I wrench my attention back to his droning monotone. “Besides the formal evaluation, the other piece will be assisting Rebecca with a high-profile insider trading case. It’s more than usually sensitive because our client is a candidate for a Senate seat. He says he’s been set up. Not necessarily a strong or provable defense. You’ll be combing emails, social media, accounts, and documents to see what evidence you find.”

Bucket of nightcrawlers? Come on, Micki, try to show some enthusiasm. Can’t jump up and down.

“What a great opportunity for us to show what we’re made of.” Hayden’s wide smile and crackling delivery is phony as a carney barker’s come on.

Our managing partner nods his head approvingly. Hayden is his favored candidate too. Fred and Tyler have some kind of mutual admiration society and Hayden benefits.

Yeah, he’s a suck up.

My turn. Say something but avoid the gush. “This is a amazing challenge. I really appreciate the chance to work on a case so important to the future and reputation of the firm and, potentially beyond, Fred.”

Rebecca produces a small smile, so I hope I’ve hit the right note.

As we walk out, she stops me. “Micki, I have a lunch appointment, but let’s have a drink after work.” She looks around but doesn’t see anyone in lurking mode. “We haven’t had a good chat for a while.”

“Great, Rebecca. Just come by my office when you’re ready to leave.”

Then I cancel my date for the evening. Work comes first, always.

*****

The Gage is lively at five thirty. After-work drinks have replaced the three-martini lunch, unless you’re Hayden Forbes-Cartwright. He indulges in both.

Rebecca manages to get us a quiet table in a corner near the tile fireplace. We won’t have to shout and have less likelihood of being overheard.

After the drinks are ordered, she pulls out a legal pad. “Thought we could go over some strategies for the work. My thought is that you’ll work on the emails, social media, anything online and whatever documents we can upload. That way, while you’re traveling, you’ll have plenty of material to access.”

“That would be great. I’ve been anxious about being away at such a crucial point in my career.”

The pencil between Rebecca’s fingers moves up and down like a seesaw. “Thanks to technology. Years ago we were tied to the office, the library. I’m glad you can go to the awards ceremony. Kind of like the Oscars for authors.”

“Yeah. Still five working days away…”

“Our new legal research assistant is already busy organizing everything as documentation comes in.”

A Paris Rose is put in front of Rebecca, who pushes her legal pad to the side, but not before a few drops splash onto the paper, leaving a light pink trail. My Jabberwock is in a coupe. She takes a sip just as the cheese board is deposited in the middle of the table along with a basket of fried pickles. Cheese is a magnet for me. My grabby fingers snatch some almost before the server gets the platter on the table.

“Simon Greenberg is an attorney with Talcott, Maier, and current Republican candidate for Senate from Illinois. The SEC received a tip claiming he made use of private information to trade stocks from several companies he represents. After an investigation, the Commission decided on civil charges. Unfortunately, because his candidacy has made him a public figure, criminal charges are pending as well. Maybe some questions about election finance too.”

“Wait. Shouldn’t Hayden be here?” Not that I want him, but if we’re a team, he deserves the same explanations.

“Hayden has already been briefed.”

Be professional. In control. Pretend it doesn’t matter.

“Oh. I see.” But I don’t. Not at all.

Rebecca takes a huge swallow of the pink liquid. “Not by me. After our meeting, Tyler and Fred took Hayden to lunch and briefed him there.”

How does she know? Or is this an assumption? My heated protest escapes before I can rein it in. “But it’s your case.”

She waves the comment away. “He was so full of himself when he got back. Swanned into my office. ‘Simon Greenberg, huh. I wondered after the rumors flying around. Good for us.’ Then he laughed and walked out.” Her scowl could freeze the Chicago River. “I was sure Tyler at least would make sure he’s up to speed and I wanted to get you in the loop right away. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fred and Tyler didn’t give Hayden some instruction on how to handle things and he will take advantage of the time you are away in April.”

My cocktail beckons and I chug it down, sputtering slightly. “Should I cancel the trip?”

She ignores that. “You’ll meet the client tomorrow, so make a strong impression. You’ll have plenty of work to do while you’re out of the office. Get your laptop set up with VPN. It will be your lifeline to the firm. Video meetings will help too. Make sure you can report on progress every day. A strong impression while you’re in Paris will give you a leg up.”

We see the waiter in the distance and Rebecca catches his attention. Once we have refills, she takes a sip, then leans forward. “Show you’re dedicated to the firm and the case and that you can work without supervision. I’ll try to schedule the meetings first thing in the morning to mitigate the seven-hour time difference.”

“And the other complications?”

“Hayden is one, as I’m sure you’ve guessed. More in terms of your selection as partner. That will be decided long before the case is finished. But he’ll push for every plum he can pluck. The other is that because of the election cycle, Greenberg is pushing to get this cleared up or buried quickly. News of the pending charges will hit the papers tomorrow.”

Why haven’t they leaked already?

Rebecca must be a mind reader. “The papers are planning front-page splashes with stories, commentary, and reactions on at least two inside pages.”

I can picture the Tribune. Huge headline and photos on their broadsheet front page. Stories about the investigation, the campaign, lots of background on the candidate, a piece where the rest of the field comments. Then an editorial on the op-ed pages. Maybe a political cartoon. The Sun-Times tabloid format will be just as comprehensive in a more compact form. “Collusion?”

“Cooperation.” Her forehead wrinkles, brows touching. The corners of her mouth turn down.

“Keeping him from making incendiary comments is going to be a job in itself. We want as little coverage as possible while we work on clearing him—if we can. The damage to his reputation is a gift to the other contenders. He’s been the front runner, the poster boy for the party.”

In two swallows, the Jabberwock has disappeared. I order another, then cram more cheese into my mouth.

“Hey, guys. Didn’t get the memo.” Hayden pushes into the tufted leather booth and reaches for a pickle, almost knocking me to the floor. “Uncle Tyler thought you might be here, Rebecca. Said it’s your usual watering hole.”

“A casual afterwork drink.” Rebecca’s voice is flat.

Hayden reaches over and taps her legal pad. “Sure you aren’t strategizing?” The twinkle in his eye shows malice, not amusement. “By the way, I met Laney this afternoon. She’s a cutie.”

“Laney?” The name is unfamiliar.

With a leer, he says, “Our legal researcher. Fresh out of her paralegal program.”

The server comes by with my third drink.

“Are you running a tab?”

Rebecca nods.

“Two Satan’s Whiskers. Need to play catch up with these two.” His smirk makes my skin crawl.

“How appropriate.”

He snickers. My snarky comment bounces off his crocodile hide.

Before the drinks guy can take off, I hold up a hand. “I’d like to order something to go.”

Pad out, he looks a bit like a bird, head to the side.

“Shrimp cocktail with no sauce, and the Apple Salad. Just put the shrimp on top of the salad with the dressing on the side.”

“You got it.”

Hayden puffs out his chest like a pouter pigeon. “Me, I have a date as soon as I finish these truly spectacular drinks.”

“Drinks named just for you.”

He grins. “You know it. Scary but seductive. And I have some seducing on tap.”

Probably with our new researcher. I push the sour feelings back. “Have fun.”

“Oh, I intend to.”

Rebecca’s warning look doesn’t make any impression either. She grabs her coat off the empty seat. “Off to have dinner with my hubby. He’s cooking tonight.”

I trudge to the office, takeout container in hand, ready for a little research of my own.

***

Excerpt from At the Ready by Sharon Michalove. Copyright 2023 by Sharon Michalove. Reproduced with permission from Sharon Michalove. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Sharon Michalove

Sharon Michalove writes romantic suspense and traditional mystery as well as being a published historian. After growing up in suburban Chicago, she spent most of her life in a medium-sized university town, working as an academic professional as well as teaching history. She was married to a composer and frequently uses her knowledge of music, history, and food to enrich her novels. A hockey fan, Sharon moved back to Chicago in 2017 so she could go to Blackhawks games and spend quality time at Eataly Chicago.

Catch Up With Sharon:
CoffeeAndEclairs.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @sdmichalove
Instagram – @sdmichaloveauthor
Twitter – @sdmichalove
Facebook – @sharonmichalove
AllAuthor – @sharonmichalove

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1 Comments Text
  • Great interview! That is so sweet that your husband was such a great influence for you! You have some great memories!
    OH MY GOSH! Booking tickets to the wrong city… twice! LOL but not so LOL. 😛

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