Psyched for Romance

Sports Romance & Romantic Suspense With a Psychological Twist

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Psychoanalyze Your Characters 4: PTSD

Onto our fourth installment of Psychoanalyze Your Characters, my attempt to share some psychological knowledge to help you flesh out your characters' psyches. Today I'll shift from Axis II to Axis I, focusing on the clinical syndrome of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It's an anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or living through a threatening event. Most experience a "fight or flight" syndrome in response to a dangerous situation, but in PTSD this reaction is damaged and individuals feel threatened long after the danger subsides. Potential traumas include:
* Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
* Sudden, unexpected death
* Natural or human-caused disasters
* Personal assaults
* Military combat
* Accidents

I've seen PTSD develop after individuals have experienced sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents, childhood bullying, domestic violence, and suicide of a loved one, to name a few. What's interesting is that a group of people might all experience trauma but only selected few develop PTSD. Some factors that increase the likelihood of PTSD include a history of anxiety, past losses, and lack of coping resources. Abuse survivors are more likely to experience PTSD when that abuse occurred at a young age, was frequent and intense, and was perpetrated by someone close to them charged with their care.

There are three groupings of symptoms in PTSD: distress, numbness, and avoidance.

Individuals typically alternate between states of high distress (reliving the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares, feeling on edge or "hypervigilant") and numbness (emotionally flat, exhausted). The distress taxes our systems so much that the body shuts down and goes into a dull state of fatigue at times.

The third symptom is avoidance of the trauma. For example, an individual who was sexually abused might avoid romantic relationships, because intimate situations remind her of the trauma. Or, a car accident survivor might not want to get into a car.

One of the best movies I've seen about PTSD is Fearless. The movie features Jeff Bridges and explores the aftermath of a horrific plane crash. If you watch it, keep the tissues handy.
Another good PTSD movie is The Prince of Tides (except for the part about the psychiatrist sleeping with her client's brother--why does the media always have to portray therapists sleeping with their clients? *winks*). At its most severe, abuse can result in a splitting off of oneself in order to cope with the trauma, resulting in dissociative disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). Primal Fear and Sybil showcase this disorder.

Why do individuals with PTSD behave like they're in danger when they're not? A colleague explained it using a screen door metaphor which I thought was brilliant. Picture a screen door in your brain. When a stressful event happens to you, chemicals like adrenaline flow through the screen door and prepare you to handle the stress. However, when a trauma occurs, sometimes the chemicals scream through so fast that they bust a hole in the screen door. Now individuals are left with a hole in their screen door. The next time they experience something resembling a trauma (a "trigger"), the adrenaline rushes through the hole and they feel like they are re-living the trauma. Their heart races, they can't get air, they tremble, they freeze.

Treatment can be very effective for PTSD. Since the brain is living in the past, one strategy is to bring the brain to the present through using grounding skills. Individuals should use their five senses to anchor themselves in the present: "I see the painting on the wall. I hear the clock ticking. I feel the surface of the sofa beneath me." Deep breathing is essential. When we are very anxious our breathing becomes shallow and fast, and deep breaths help quell the cascade of the stress response.

Treatment also involves correcting dysfunctional beliefs that might have developed. The most common seems to be the belief "It was my fault" for abuse survivors. Because children are egocentric, they believe they alone are the cause of good and bad things that happen to them. As adults they need to learn that they are not to blame for the actions perpetrated by others. Therapy, specifically a technique called EMDR, might help individuals adopt a more functional belief like "I did the best I could."

We all experience stressful events and life is also full of trauma, so this disorder can provide a realistic and dramatic backdrop to your characters. Good luck!

Authors, c'mon and join our Meet an Author Monday Bloghop.
Readers, please hop from one blog to another. :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Psychoanalyze Your Characters 3

Thank you for joining me for our prior discussions about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Today I'll cover the lesser-known Schizotypal Personality Disorder, which can be summed up in one word: odd.

People with Schizotypal Personality Disorder have bizarre mannersims and beliefs, and have trouble forming relationships. Unlike Schizoid Personality Disorder, individuals with Schizotypal PD want to connect with others, but their oddness and high social anxiety make that difficult. You might notice the similarity to the word Schizophrenia, but the perceptual disturbances and magical thinking of Schizotypal PD are not as intense or debilitating as in Schizophrenia.

Here are the criteria for Schizotypal Personality Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association. At least 5 must be met for the diagnosis:

* Incorrect interpretations of events, including a feeling that something innocuous has a direct personal meaning

* Odd beliefs or magical thinking that are inconsistent with cultural norms

* Unusual perceptions, including illusions

* Odd thinking and speech patterns

* Suspicious or paranoid thoughts, such as the belief that someone's "out to get them"

* Flat emotions, appearing aloof and isolated

* Odd, eccentric or peculiar behavior or appearance

* Lack of close friends or confidants other than relatives

* Excessive social anxiety that doesn't diminish with familiarity

I was thinking that "Doc" from Back to the Future might fit this diagnosis, but he's probably more manic than schizotypal. I was also wondering about "Martha" from Lisa Sanchez's novel Eve of Samhain but if she really IS a witch then I guess she's not Schizotypal. :-)

A character from one of my favorite movies (American Beauty) does seem to fit this diagnosis, though:
Ricky Fitts, played by Wes Bentley, is a social outcast. He nails the peculiar appearance and flat emotions of this disorder. Developmental risk factors for Schizotypal PD include a history of abuse and emotionally detached parents, and he has those factors in spades. 

What other characters can you think of that might fit this diagnosis?

I could cover another personality disorder in the next post but I might shift into some Axis I disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or eating disorders. Do you have a preference?

Happy Holidays to you! Please join our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interview with Author Belinda Kroll

It's a pleasure to interview Belinda Kroll, author of Haunting Miss Trentwood (see my review below).

Jennifer Lane (JL): How did you get hooked on historical novels?

Belinda Kroll (BK): First, thanks for having me! Now to answer your question... My mother had the Little House books and A Lantern in Her Hand in her small library... I picked them up when I was about six or seven and I never looked back. Those books emphasized the importance of honesty, integrity, loving people because they were good. I liked that.

JL: What are your biggest influences as a writer?

BK: Well, I grew up reading Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and L.M. Montgomery, so they have forever influenced me and my penchant for historical fiction. However, I also read outside of the genre I write, which is why I'm a "quirky" historical fiction writer. I never know what genre I'll mash up with historical fiction next. I love Neil Gaiman, Jasper Fforde, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Jo Putney, Amanda Quick... the list goes on!

JL: Not only do you write, but you also have skills in computer programming and math. Your left and right hemispheres must get a constant workout! Have you always been interested in a wide range of areas? How is your career development going?

BK: I'm an artist, an engineer, and a design researcher. You're completely right, I have always been interested in a wide range of areas. In high school, my mother began calling me the modern renaissance woman because I had my hand in everything, and I do it fairly well.

In terms of my career development... I just graduated with my masters this past May, so I'm still determining what I want to do, professionally speaking. Right now I'm doing usability analysis, but who knows where I'll be in a year or two. I'm really young, professionally-speaking.

JL: I love the story about how your first novel, Catching the Rose, became published. Would you share that with us?

BK: Sure! So I began Catching the Rose when I was 11 years old. Seven years later, I had a novel that I felt was ready for publication. I had been following Writer's Digest since I was 13... first by borrowing the issues available from my library, and then I bought a subscription. So I knew about print-on-demand and subsidy publishing.

Given the fact that I wanted a book in hand by the time I gave my high school senior thesis presentation, I knew traditional publishing wasn't the way to go. It just takes too long! So I did my research online, my dad looking over my shoulder, and chose Aventine Press. My dad paid the fees to have the book published, and I had submitted a cover... but the publication process was pushed back a couple of weeks because the exterior and interior designer had a root canal. Apparently, he read my book while laid up in the hospital, and offered to give me a professionally designed cover for free to make up for the lost time!

JL: Now that I've read Haunting Miss Trentwood, I want to hear about the different teas you had at your signing and how they represented each character! And you also had coffin soaps for readers? :-)

BK: So I had three teas available, all provided by Ava Misseldine of Sugar Inc Tea and Cupcakes

The first was a roasted almond chai rooibos tea that represented Alexander Hartwell. He's a Beta Hero, through and through. The tea is comforting, with a slight kick in the pants to get something done. Mr. Trentwood, the ghost, is also represented by the tea for similar reasons even though they have different personalities and motivations.

The second tea, Cherry Whisper, represented Mary, the heroine. She is a solid English girl, sweet and loyal without being cloying, strong yet subtle.

The third tea, Shaman's Dream, was an herbal tea to represent Mrs. Durham, poor woman. She's a bit mad. And what better way to represent her than to pick a tea that has an unexpected combination of flavors that is delicious, but confusing.

And yes, I had coffin soaps bundled with the people who helped make the book happen. I got the soaps through the Etsy shop My Vintage Vanity. It was all kinds of brilliant and a lot of fun.

Thank you, Belinda. Now go read her marvelous Victorian ghost story!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: Haunting Miss Trentwood by Belinda Kroll

Haunting Miss TrentwoodHaunting Miss Trentwood by Belinda Kroll

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though I adored the movie Sense and Sensibility, I can’t proclaim to be a voracious reader of Jane Austen type books. However, I LOVED this Victorian ghost story!

Taking place in 1887 in the English countryside, the story begins when 26 year-old Mary Trentwood watches her father’s ghost climb out of his freshly dug grave and begin to boss her around like he did in his living form. Not only is Mary dealing with this frightening predicament, but also the only family member she has to help her with the failing estate is her cold aunt Mrs. Durham.

Soon after Mr. Trentwood’s death, Alexander Hartwell, a mysterious man with a scarred face and brusque personality, visits the estate. At first Mary believes he is her father’s dreaded solicitor but then it leaks out that Alexander is on a hunt for his sister’s blackmailer who is threatening the life of his young nephew. Might the blackmailer be living at the manor? Complicating factors is the arrival of Jasper Steele, a London hottie that Mary still swoons for despite her father’s clear disapproval.

My favorite part of this story is the characterization. These characters feel very real, full of calculation and doubts and flaws and genuine emotion. Mary Trentwood is a plucky, independent, slightly off-kilter lass who’d be just as content to rescue the hero as be rescued herself. Belinda Kroll paces the building relationship between Mary and Alexander just right, with Jasper’s butting in providing the perfect foil. It is such a wise choice to make Alexander scarred, and I enjoyed the intrigue of how he got the scar. Handsome yet caddish Jasper totally reminds me of one of my favorite characters from Sense and Sensibility: Willoughby. Mr. Trentwood starts off as a smug jerk but then it becomes clear how much he loves his daughter and is only trying to do what “father knows best”. Even the funny butler Pomeroy has depth.

Because of the restrained playfulness of the dialogue, I didn’t realize the true danger from the blackmailer until the threat suddenly springs to the forefront of the story. I rarely figure out the bad guy ahead of time in mysteries, and this story kept me in appropriate suspense.

This was a very fresh take on the familiar elements of paranormal phenomena, romantic triangles, and English society. Haunting Miss Trentwood kept me on my toes with a faint grin on my face. It is quite a pleasurable read!

Belinda Kroll and I are both authors in Columbus, Ohio, and I had the pleasure of meeting her. I was very impressed by her writing accomplishments at a relatively young age, and I look forward to reading her future novels!

Stay tuned for my interview with Belinda on Friday.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 13, 2010

Psychoanalyze Your Characters 2

Thank you for your great comments on the first post of this series about understanding psychopathology as a means of providing more depth for your characters. Today the focus is on Borderline Personality Disorder. I wanted to cover this diagnosis not only because Joanna St. James asked me to but also because I can sum up Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in one word: DRAMA! What better traits can you achieve for your character?

The term "borderline" refers to the time in the early 1900's when individuals were diagnosed as either neurotic or psychotic, yet some patients seemed to be right in between: teetering on the borderline between neurotic and psychotic.

Which famous character is the poster child for BPD?

Bunnies boiling on the stove, anyone?
(Glenn Close's character in Fatal Attraction likely has Antisocial PD--criminal behavior--too).

For a discussion about BPD I must reference the brilliant work of Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy specifically for the treatment of BPD.

Emotional instability wreaks havoc for individuals with BPD, who have impairments in three main areas: emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and crisis management.

Emotional dysregulation: heightened emotional sensitivity, quick and intense emotions, wide mood swings, insecure self-image, often feeling empty or bad; heightened anxiety, depression, and anger. "I can't handle this feeling!"

Interpersonal ineffectiveness: turmoil in social life, love-hate relationships (idealizing people and thinking they are the scum of the earth), black-and-white thinking, intense fear of abandonment. "You're a bastard . . . but please don't leave me!"

Chaos and crisis: suicide attempts, self-injury (like cutting), engagement in impulsive and risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, compulsive spending, drug use, reckless driving, and gambling. "If you leave me I'll kill myself."

If you're feeling helpless and manipulated in a relationship, the other person might be exhibiting symptoms of BPD. So how does this exhausting, painful disorder develop?

Dr. Linehan's theory is that individuals with BPD experienced an invalidating environment as children. They are highly sensitive, perhaps starting as "difficult" babies and continuing with anxious or "touchy" temperaments. This sensitivity in itself is not a problem if the family can understand and nurture this special child. However, if family members are not as emotionally sensitive, they may have trouble with comprehension and acceptance, and may unwittingly reject the child, creating an environment that fosters BPD.

I like this theory because it doesn't blame the individual or the family, but rather the poor fit between the two. Family members often believe the loved one is choosing to "overreact" when in fact the individual is wired to feel emotions more intensely, and needs to develop skills to cope with this increased stress.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a skills-based approach, targeting the most destructive behaviors first and incorporation Eastern teachings like mindfulness.

Joanna asked a great question: "Can any of these disorders be treated without therapy?" As a therapist, I'd have to say that therapy is one of the best ways. But I don't want to be so narcissistic as to claim it's the only way. A psychiatrist would say that medication can assist with some symptoms of these disorders. A minister would say that faith is the way to heal. I just watched a fabulous movie, I've Loved You So Long, about a woman released after serving 15 years in prison for the death of her son. Instead of prison rehabilitating her, it was connecting with her sister and her family, new friends, and fine art that healed her. I think we can find healing in many different places.

So, how about you? Would you like to create a Teddi Forrester character in your novel? God help us!

Hey, it's Monday. Stop your booing and join our Meet an Author Monday Bloghop.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2011 Romantic Suspense Challenge

One of my favorite genres is Romantic Suspense, so I'm excited to participate in this challenge!

Jamie from Nitty Gritty Romance and Erotica Reviews is hosting the 2011 Romantic Suspense Challenge.
The Rules:

1. Create a post for the challenge using the image above and link back to this post.
--Non-Bloggers: You are welcome to join too. Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post.
2. Sign up with the Mr. Linky.
--Link to your challenge post when you sign up please.
3. The goal of this challenge is to read AT LEAST 12 novels that are Romantic Suspense between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. Books read before January 1, 2011 do NOT count towards the challenge.
4. Audio, eBooks, paper all count. Re-reads are ok but try to keep them to a minimum. Cross overs from other challenges are ok.
5. There is no need to create your list now. Please feel free to use your challenge post to keep track of your titles if you so desire.

Here's a helpful list on Goodreads if you are looking for some ideas for titles.

I hope you'll join in on the challenge.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Psychoanalyze Your Characters

As a psychologist/author (or psycho author), I'm starting a series of posts today about using psychological diagnosis to assist the development of your characters. The typical layperson is probably more familiar with diagnoses like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. -- what mental health professionals refer to as "Axis I" disorders. However, I'll focus on personality disorders, known as "Axis II".

Personality disorders are clinical syndromes with enduring patterns of inner experience and interactions with the world, with a typical age of onset in late adolescence or adulthood. Because these patterns are inflexible and interwoven into an individual's personality, they are more difficult to treat. The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition) lists ten personality disorders. I plan to cover a few of my favorites, starting with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as "a pattern of grandiosity (exaggerated claims of talents, importance, or specialness) in the patient's private fantasies or outward behavior; a need for constant admiration from others; and a lack of empathy for others."

The diagnosis refers to the Greek myth of Narcissus, a hunter with unparalleled beauty and pride. When he scorned the love of others, the gods punished him. Narcissus became entranced by his reflection in a pool of water, so much so that he was unable to leave and slowly pined away by the water until his death.

The lack of reflection (aka empathy) is so important to the development of this disorder. As children, we need empathy from our parents/caregivers. Here are some examples of empathic parents:

Child: "This is so unfair!"
Parent: "You're disappointed about this (and it's still going to happen)."

Child: "I hate you."
Parent: "You're angry with me."

Child: "I can fly!"
Parent: "You're so happy you believe you can fly!" (hopefully the child's not close to a ledge at this point).

The reflection provided above can teach children to label and accept their emotions, and to connect with others through expressing their emotions. What happens when parents repeatedly fail to provide empathy? At its most severe (neglect and abuse), narcissim can develop.

Child: "This is so unfair!"
Parent: "This is perfectly fair, stupid. How dare you complain about this when I'm taking time out of my busy schedule to make this happen. You kids just take and take, and don't care at all about what I've got on my plate."

Child: (crying)
Parent: "Stop that crying this instant, you little baby! Put a smile on that face or you'll be in big trouble."

How can a child provide empathy for others when he's never received it himself? As an adult he will constantly search for what's missing--that reflection and validation from others. He will build a carefully constructed outer shell that is egotistical and entitled. He will demand that others admire him. Naturally, others will feel frustrated by his apparent egotism and lack of caring, and will eventually shun him. When this happens, the outer hard shell crumbles, revealing an extremely insecure core. The narcissist is quite vulnerable to deep depression at this point.

Narcissists might pursue careers like acting and professional sports. They are likely drawn to acting since it provides that mirror they so desperately seek. Some actors may only feel whole when the audience is cheering and the paparazzi are snapping photos. Likewise, fans adore elite athletes, giving them a pass on misbehavior, as long as the athletes continue performing well.

I'm currently writing a story featuring a narcissist. He's a highly demanding boss and his underlings fear him more than respect him, making fun of him behind his back. When he's angry, he expects everyone to cater to his needs, and he is physically abusive to his children. His wife tolerates this ridiculous behavior because she has some features of Dependent Personality Disorder herself. (It's even more stimulating to create a romance based on several personality disorders!)

Thinking of fictional narcissists, Colonel Nathan Jessup from A Few Good Men comes to mind:

Eek! Do you have any characters with narcissistic traits? I hope this post is helpful to you in your characterization. What other psychological disorders would you like to learn about?

It's time for Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop! It's a great way for authors to network your blog.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Sale at Omnific Publishing!

Through the month of December, Omnific Publishing is having a holiday sale. Buy a print copy of With Good Behavior or any Omnific title, and get the e-book FREE!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview with Author Lisa Sanchez!

Well, I woke up to the first SNOW of the winter this morning in Ohio--a perfect time to cuddle up on my sofa and post my interview with Lisa Sanchez, author of paranormal romance Eve of Samhain (see my review below).

Jennifer Lane (JL): How did you start writing novels?

Lisa Sanchez (LS): I've always enjoyed telling stories. When I was younger, if I wasn't playing outside, I was in my room at my desk imagining goofy stories. I enjoy a good laugh, and have always tried to incorporate humor in whatever I write, even at a young age.

JL: What's been the most difficult part of your journey to publication?

LS: This question made me laugh. The answer is easy: patience. I've had to learn how to be patient, and it's been quite difficult. I'm an instant gratification girl, and with publishing the motto is "hurry up and wait." I'm not sure if there is anything easy about getting your manuscript published. The writing, the editing, submitting ... all of that takes a lot of hard work and determination. Those things, though difficult at times, are what makes the journey as a whole rewarding.

JL: What led to your interest in paranormal romance?

LS: I've always had a fascination with vampires. Even before Edward Cullen, lol! However, when The Twilight saga hit the bookstores, I was a goner. I devoured the first three books in a week and waited very impatiently for the fourth. While waiting I discovered J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series and that was it for me. I was hopelessly addicted.

JL: I attended Notre Dame for grad school so I particularly enjoyed the Irish flavor of this novel. What led to your interest in Irish folklore?

LS: While I love vampires, I knew I wanted to write something different. I did a web search for mythical creatures and found the legend of The Gancanagh. The idea of a sexy male faerie with an addictive touch was too awesome not to explore. The fact that the legend is part of my Irish heritage was a bonus. And really, what woman doesn't enjoy a sexy Irish accent? Woohoo!

JL: I was intrigued by the snarky tone of the novel. Does that represent your voice, or is it more specific to Ryann and Quinn?

LS: Hee hee, the snark is all me. Well, I should say a combination of me and my oldest daughter, Kendall. Quite a few of Ryann's one liners are things that regularly run through my head on any given day. Scary!

JL: I understand that Eve of Samhain is the first novel in the Hanaford Park series. What's the status on forthcoming novels in that series?

LS: Yes, EOS is the first in what I hope will be a four book series. Book two, tentatively titled Pleasures Untold is slated to release in February of 2011. Just around the corner! I'm a little over half way through with book three, and that's really all I can say on that one. I don't want to spoil anything!

JL: Any other projects you're working on?
LS: Not at the moment. Between edits for Pleasures Untold, revisions I just completed for a romantic suspense that's on submission, and book three, I've been pretty busy. I do have a few ideas popping around inside my head, but I'm holding onto them for a while. I'd like to finish book three before I start anything new.
Breaking News: Lisa just signed a contract for her romantic suspense novel! Check out her blog for details.
Thank you for spending some time with me, Lisa. I look forward to reading Pleasures Untold!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Eve of Samhain by Lisa Sanchez

Eve of SamhainEve of Samhain by Lisa Sanchez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Eve of Samhain is a paranormal romance featuring Ryann Pierce, a college student by day and club waitress by night. Losing her parents at a young age has turned Ryann into a feisty, stubborn, independent young woman, and woe to the club patron who tries to grab a piece of her alluring backside--he’s sure to receive a harsh word or quick smack in return . . .

Until Quinn Donegan enters. He’s a tall, muscular, blue-eyed hunk with a sexy Irish brogue and a spirited argumentativeness of his own. Oh, and did I mention he’s a 500 year-old faerie? Ryann’s too disheveled by his tantalizing effect on her to respond with her typical cheek, but that doesn’t stop Quinn from continuing to throw out barbs and insults . . . surely a sign of his affection? Quinn is determined to keep Ryann safe from a nefarious shape-shifter that stalks her and says creepy things like “Mine” while threatening her.

I love how Quinn and Ryann seem made for each other not only due to their physical attraction but also due to their similar impudence. Because of Quinn’s arrogance and womanizing, the faerie queen placed a curse on him long ago. As a result, he and Ryann have to refrain from touching each other, ratcheting up the palpable sexual tension. Quinn’s Gaelic words reminded me of Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series, and I felt like Claire Randall, swooning every time Quinn murmured sweet nothings in Gaelic.

Ryann is clever with her made-up words. I laughed out loud when she calls Quinn a “fastard” and describes her own “badonkadonk-sized keister”, as well as lines like this from p. 47 when Quinn’s describing his powers:

“You’d only lose your mind if I were to shag you.”

“SHAG me?” I said, slightly taken aback. Were we trapped in a Mike Myers film and I didn’t know it?

I also liked how Ryann wasn’t very experienced in the bedroom. It makes her seem more real.

I felt sad for Ryann that she has such negative body image despite being at a lean, healthy body weight and drawing the obvious attention of male suitors. She's obsessed with her appearance to the point that she restricts her food intake and insists on early morning runs no matter how late she goes to bed or how many dangers lurk on her path.

Sadly, this preoccupation with weight and shape can occur even to those women who are closer to society’s “ideal”, and I wonder if her negative body image is a manifestation of her overall poor sense of self after growing up without parents. Ryann lacks confidence in general, a vulnerability hiding beneath a hard exterior, and she funnels all that self-doubt into hating her body. They say that the love and acceptance of a romantic partner can improve body image, and I was pleased when Ryann begins focusing on more important aspects of her life as Quinn weaves himself into her world. It was good to see both characters grow as a result of their relationship.

Reading how things turned out in the end, I felt happy and satisfied. Overall a very enjoyable read by Lisa Sanchez!

View all my reviews

Time for Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop! Visit Lisa Sanchez's blog for the details.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Men in Uniform Reading Challenge

I have a thing for men in uniforms, particularly military uniforms.

The closely cropped hair, freshly shaved skin, sharply pressed tunic, chiseled jaw, integrity to fight for his principles . . . *fans self*

Even though Tom Cruise is kind of a tool now, I think I saw Top Gun about 25 times in 1986.

"Son, your ego's writing checks your body can't cash!" (or CAN it?)

And then some brilliant person made this manipulated image of my favorite actor, Wentworth Miller:

*jaw drops* "Oh, officer! Let me unbutton that for you."

So naturally I want to embrace the challenge of reading books with men in uniform.

The Book Vixen is hosting Men in Uniform Reading Challenge!
Men in Uniform Reading Challenge
•Runs January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011(books read prior to 1/1/11 do not count towards the challenge). You can join at anytime – Sign up on The Book Vixen’s blog.

•The goal is to read as many novels that involve men in inform as you’d like. It can be a policeman, firefighter, paramedic, Army, Navy, Marine Corp., etc. – As long as the leading man wears some sort of uniform, it counts. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. Nothing is set in stone; you can change levels at any time during the challenge.

•Books can be any format (bound, eBook, audio).

•Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are fine.

•You can list your books in advance or list them as you read them. It is not required that you review the books you read for this challenge but feel free to do so.

•Post this reading challenge on your blog so you can keep a list of the books you’ve read for this challenge. Please include a link back to this post so readers can join the challenge too.

•You do not have to be a book blogger to participate. You can keep tabs on books you’ve read for this challenge on Goodreads or LibraryThing if you’d like (maybe make a shelf for “Men in Uniform Reading Challenge”). If you are not on either of those sites then you can list the books you read for this challenge in the comments on my wrap-up post, which will be up at the end of 2011.

My novel With Good Behavior features some men in uniform, and here's a list of military books on goodreads.

And don't forget our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Fragile Beasts by Tawni O'Dell

Fragile BeastsFragile Beasts by Tawni O'Dell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love stories about dysfunctional families, and this was one of the best I've read in a long time.

Fragile Beasts opens with the narration of Kyle Hayes, a 15 year-old boy who admires his older brother, Pennsylvania high-school baseball standout Klint, as well as his younger sister, Krystal. Kyle's attended every one of Klint's baseball games, and has drawn countless pictures for Krystal. Problem is, Krystal now lives far away in Arizona after their mom scooped her up and left their father for another man. An even bigger problem is that their father just inadvertently killed himself in a drunk-driving accident.

It's quite a dilemma about where Kyle and Klint will live after their father's funeral. Their dad was a blue-collar drunk, but he looks like "Parent of the Year" compared to their cruel, cold mother. Enter the wealthy, childless Candace Jack. Miss Jack agrees to take in the boys, mostly to spite her nephew (the owner of the local coal company) but also to protect the boys from their mother.

Candace Jack has an intricate history of her own, and her family rivals the Hayes for putting the fun in dysfunction. She has a Spaniard, Luis, living with her, and decorates her large home in the brilliant colors and bullfighting paintings of Spain. It turns out that Candace had loved one of Spain’s most artistic torreos, Manuel Obrador. His death in the bullfighting ring in 1959 left her bereft, and she’s never recovered. But she did bring back to Pennsylvania the bull that killed Manuel, and the bull’s grandson now lives on her estate.

I adore the character of Kyle. He’s one of the sweetest teenage boys I’ve ever met. He’s inquisitive, artistic, empathic, and kind, but he still maintains the voracious appetite and ogling of girls characteristic of his age and gender.

Klint, on the other hand, is not so sweet. He’s morose and haunted, harboring a life-threatening secret.

Tawni O’Dell is a master of metaphor. Here are some of my favorites:

“All three of the (bulls) are massive coal-black monsters with sharply pointed upturned white horns that look like they’d slide through a grown man’s chest as easily as a power drill through butter” (p. 137)

“Bert stands nearby, impeccably and elegantly groomed, holding the dog’s gaudy neon pink, fur-lined, jewel-encrusted carrier coolly at his side, looking like some homophobic screenwriter’s idea of a gay doctor who makes house calls” (p. 203)

“…time passes more slowly at the beginning and ends of our lives. As children time is thick and sweet like syrup yet we can’t wait to get older. We enter adulthood and time escapes like water through an open hand. Then it slows again in the twilight years, becoming the congealed consistency of fat skimmed off a stewed chicken, and we have nothing left but to wait for death” (p. 288)

I also loved the author’s exploration of artists, whether they be bullfighters, painters, or baseball players.

“An artist doesn’t create in order to get money, or fame, or acceptance, or love. It’s a force inside him, something he must do or his soul will shrivel up and die” (p. 142)

I’m a former college athlete and Ms. O'Dell totally nailed what happens to athletes who are depressed or suffering some sort of malaise:

“An accountant can be down in the dumps and still add up his daily figures. A teacher can be concerned about her sick mother and still assign chapters for her students to read. A truck driver can be angry at his spouse and still cover all the miles on his route. But an artist’s self is his work. If something is wrong with one, the other falls into decay. I imagine it’s the same for an athlete and his performance” (p. 152).

My only criticism is that the plot sagged a bit at the end of the second act. While I loved Candace and Luis, I didn’t find their points of view as appealing as Kyle’s.

Brilliant characterization, gripping emotions, a plot with depth and heart – this novel is a must read.

You may not have heard of Tawni O'Dell, but she's an awesome author as far as I'm concerned. Her novel Back Roads was an Oprah pick, and here is an interesting interview with her about her path as a writer.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Club Selections

This month it's my turn to host book club, meaning that I'll be providing dessert for our discussion of Fragile Beasts by Tawni O'Dell (my 5 star review will be forthcoming on this blog), as well as selecting our book for the next two months. Check out the "Book Club" tab above to see a photo of my lovely book club!

I have several possibilities running around my mind for my selection, and wanted to ask your opinion. I usually like to preview books before I select them but of the ones mentioned below, the only one I've read is The Hunger Games. What do you think of each book?

The Hunger Games trilogy. Overall I loved this series and want to share it with my friends, but I have a couple of hestitations: 1) if they end up reading the trilogy, I wasn't happy with the ending of Mockingjay, and 2) we don't typically read Young Adult books.

Let the Great World Spin by by Colum McCann. I haven't read this but it was recommended to me by another book club. It takes place in the early 1970's in New York and is about several different stories that weave together in the end. However, it's only available as hardcover and my club tends to prefer paperback.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This is a book told from a dog's point of view. The dog's name is Enzo, which happens to be the name of the vicious mafia don in my novel, so that should be an interesting challenge for me!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. A Young Adult book about a girl and a wolf that I've been wanting to read (as well as the sequel Linger).

Any thoughts on those books? Or are there any additional books your book club loved that you'd like to recommend?

Time for our Meet an Author Monday Bloghop. Read instructions here. This bloghop is hosted by Lisa Sanchez, whose book Eve of Samhain I just started and it's awesome!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and WeptBy the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting take on a romance novel. It was probably more of a spiritual and philosophical guide, but romance did figure prominently. I read it for my book club at work.

From the back of the book: "Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her deovted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader... Now, they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties..."

What I liked most in this story was Pilar's battle between her head and her heart. She'd grown weary of dreams and possibilities, and had settled into a life of mundane details, dominated by concerns like paying the bills and taking out the trash. But then she was faced with the prospect of reuniting with a childhood love, a man who owned no home and who made his living through preaching miracles--specifically, the feminine side of God. Pilar's heart fluttered and her head worried. I can totally relate to Pilar.

The writing was beautiful and lyrical, full of so many thought-provoking quotes, like:

"But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current." (p. 31)

"For years, I had fought against my heart, because I was afraid of sadness, suffering, and abandonment. But now I knew that true love was above all that and that it would be better to die than to fail to love." (p. 104)

"But he wasn't listening. He had stood, seized my hair in his hands, and was kissing me. I clutched at his hair, too, and squeezed himm with all my strength, biting his lips and feeling his tongue move in my mouth. This was the kiss I had waited for so long--a kiss born by the rivers of our childhood, when we didn't yet know what love meant...A kiss that had been lost so many times and now was found. In the moment of that kiss were years of searching, disillusionment, and impossible dreams." (p. 148) Now THAT was a kiss!

I have a special affinity for water after being a competitive swimmer all my life, and I love what Coelho wrote about the Goddess manifesting herself to us through water. The metaphor of breaking a glass representing breaking through our fears was also masterful.

It was fascinating to me that Coelho never names Pilar's male friend. No doubt the author is audacious and unique!

What I didn't like so much was the ending. It felt rather dry after the rich, flowing text that came before it.

I joked on my blog that I needed a Clif's Note version to understand this book, but I can proudly say that I wrote this review all by myself and I think I grew to understand and like this book better in the process! I'm giving it 3.5 stars. It's not really my cup of tea--I need more plot and character development--but if you're in for a thoughtful read, this is it. Someday I'd love to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 8, 2010

Envisioning the Future

Hard to believe that 2010 isn't much longer for this world. As Americans turn our clocks back (an extra hour of sleep, yeah!), we can all look back at the past year and marvel at how quickly it's gone. And as we gear up for holiday celebrations and weather changes, we look ahead to the murky future.

Did you set New Year's goals last year? How's your progress coming along? Do you plan to set goals for 2011? In my psychology practice, I've worked with many clients to set SMART goals:

      S  = Specific
     M = Measurable
     A  = Action-oriented (what's your plan or process to the outcome?)
     R  = Realistic yet challenging
     T  = Time-oriented (short and long term goals)

For example, after finishing reading a book for one of my book clubs, a SMART goal might be something like "I will post my review of By the River Piedro, I Sat Down and Wept on by 1:30 p.m. today, by noting my favorite quotes and passages and by searching for other reviews online so that I can try to understand what in the hell Paulo Coelho was talking about in the book."

See? I was specific, noting details about the what, when, and where, which also makes the goal measurable (knowing whether or not I will have reached the goal). I've laid out a specific plan for achieving the goal. I think the goal's realistic though the longer I spend writing this blog post, the more challenging it becomes. :-) And, it's a short-term goal. My long-term goal is to read and review all of the books written by Omnific Publishing authors. Eve of Samhain by Lisa Sanchez is next!

Written goals are wonderful, but visionary goals are even more inspiring. One member of my book club works at a women's prison (you can bet I picked her brain for my novel With Good Behavior), and she has formed a book club of her own with the female inmates. They read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and decided to make "vision boards". One prisoner's vision was to be free, and voila! Miraculously she was released from prison, ahead of schedule. You can imagine how popular the prison book club became after that event!

My friend brought the vision board idea to our book club, and we all made our own boards last December.

What are vision boards, you ask? You simply take a piece of posterboard and fill it with images, stickers, words, you name it, representing what you want in your future. We had a stack of old magazines that we flipped through, cutting out pictures and words that we envisioned for our bright futures. Then, we went around in a circle sharing our vision boards with each other. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other, reflecting and looking forward, and have supported each other in pursuing our vision the past year. When we have our holiday party in December this year, we'll review our progress and make new vision boards for 2011.

It's been a great year for reaching my goals, some expected and some unexpected. Here are some of the pictures and words on my vision board:

1. Go to New Zealand to visit my college roommate Maggie. I can proudly announce that I have a trip booked for early 2011! Can't wait.

2. Get healthier. This is still a goal in progress. (Feel free to skip over this health saga.) I've been plagued by hip and lower back pain for years. Last year I had a hip scope to repair a torn labrum and just two weeks ago I had radiofrequency nerve ablation to quiet the nerves in my S/I joint. A doctor got in there and fried those little suckers and now I'm almost pain free in my back, woot! I'm also finally rectifying my vitamin D deficiency. Now my goal is to get back to jogging and eating more healthfully to tackle my weight gain associated with these health problems. My trip to NZ should also help my health. Maggie and I were college swimmers together, and I predict she'll be cracking the whip with a very rigorous hiking and sightseeing itinerary.

3. Develop professionally. I'm serving as president of my psychology organization this year, so this goal is going well.

4. Fall in love. (This goal totally violates the SMART guidelines in oh so many ways, but what the heck). Well, this goal is yet to be reached, but I'm hopeful for 2011. I haven't really had the time or energy for dating with all the other cool stuff going on in my life, though I think I'm closer to being ready to diving back in.

5. Write. It's funny, but on my board I have a tiny little word cut out from a magazine: writing. When I made my vision board, I hadn't yet found the wonderful treasure that is Omnific Publishing, and I seriously doubted my ability to become a published author. What a difference a year makes! My first novel was released 7/13/10 (see sidebar for a giveaway I'm hosting) and we're making steady progress on editing the sequel, Bad Behavior, slated for release in 2011. You can bet my NEW vision board will be filled with goals about improving my writing and continuing to meet awesome folks like yourself.

So, what's your vision? I'd love to hear it!

Please join our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop! Authors, enter your blog using our linky tool. Readers, please hop from one blog to another. We bloggers love comments!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

With Good Behavior Giveaway!

I'm giving away two print copies of With Good Behavior at

Goodreads Book Giveaway!!!

With Good Behavior (Paperback) by Jennifer Lane

With Good Behavior

by Jennifer Lane


Giveaway ends December 18, 2010.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.


Enter to win

Monday, November 1, 2010

Naming and Promoting a Series

In the midst of editing the sequel to With Good Behavior, titled Bad Behavior, I got to thinking that this would be a good time to name the series. Omnific Publishing will release Bad Behavior in 2011.

I haven't decided if I'll write a third novel in the series, but if I do it will likely be titled On Best Behavior. I have lots of plot bunnies hopping around in my head for the third installment.

If you haven't read With Good Behavior, here's a brief synopsis:

How would you recover from being unjustly imprisoned? Sophie Taylor and Grant Madsen are finding out just what it takes. Freshly paroled in Chicago, Sophie and Grant meet on their parole officer's doorstep. The former psychologist and Navy lieutenant help each other navigate life on the outside, failing to realize the hidden mafia connection that will threaten both their love and their lives.

Would you help me brainstorm some series titles? Here are some potential titles:

The Behavior Series (snore)

The Naughty Behavior Series (sounds like a bodice-ripper for sure hee hee)

Behavioral Analysis (this taps into the therapy component of the series but may be a bit dry)

The "Oh Behave" Series (my editor Jessica suggested this, ha ha. Yeah, baby!)

Other ideas?

Also, I'm hoping to start a Facebook page for the series sometime in the near future. Since I'm a technotard, I'm not sure which kind of page to create. What are the pros and cons of creating a profile vs. a page? A community page vs. an official page?

Thank you in advance for all of your help!

Now onto the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop. Read about the details here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Haunting Miss Trentwood Book Launch!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Belinda Kroll, author of Haunting Miss Trentwood. It's so cool to meet another author in Columbus, Ohio! Belinda's hosting a Tea-Tasting book launch tonight, 10/27/10 from 6:30-8:30 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. If you're in the area, please stop by.

With Halloween approaching, it's a perfectly ghoulish time for a Victorian ghost story.
The tea and cupcakes for the event provided by Sugar Inc sound absolutely delicious! There will be a pairing of a particular tea with each main character.

I love the idea of a book launch that showcases the themes of the novel. I hosted my first book signing at a wine shop, but maybe it would've been more appropriate to host it at a bar where we could've done tequila body-shots, like my characters Grant and Sophie. :-)

I'm quite impressed that Belinda's only in her mid twenties (I'm, er, a bit older than that) and Haunting Miss Trentwood is her second published novel! Wow! Plus, she's friendly and smart.

Belinda Kroll and Jennifer Lane together at our favorite wine shop.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Interview with Author Jennifer DeLucy

Today I'm interviewing author and sweetheart Jen DeLucy, whose second book in The Light Series is being released today by Omnific Publishing!

JL (Jennifer Lane): How did you get interested in writing paranormal romance?

JD (Jennifer DeLucy): Well, I'm a lover of all things supernatural and inexplicable, and I believe in otherworldy phenomena quite firmly. I also think that this life is filled with more mystery and magic than we realize, so, why not explore every idea? Plus, we all need a place to escape to that can inspire us and leave us feeling alive. Books do that for me, and I'm grateful for the chance to share the experience with others.

JL: The sequel to Seers of Light, Whisper of Light, launches TODAY 10/26/10!

Tell us about Whisper.

JD: Whisper of Light pretty much picks up where Seers left off. Notice I say "pretty much", because the book utlizes a minor time overlap in order to connect both stories and show how these lives are all linked together.

The novel centers around the character of Nicole Abbot, a non-Sentient (meaning that her soul is not as advanced as the Sentients around her, and so she does not have supernatural gifts). The readers will see a major character from Seers of Light (Christian Wright) carried over to Whisper, which was very purposeful. The theme of this series is the interconnectedness of all our lives, and how, when we do brave things, act from love and don't give up hope, we'll find our destiny.

JL: How did you choose to write a sequel? Did you know this would be a series all along?

JD: I did know this would be a series all along, although, for a while I wasn't certain who the second book would be about. It didn't take too long to realize that Christian's story needed continuing, though, and that Nicole Abbot was a name-drop from book one that needed expanding upon. I was too in love with the world to give it up quite yet.

JL: What was your process in writing a sequel? How did it compare to writing the original?

JD: Ooooh, the process was definitely more challenging for the second book! The main reason being that I had to tie in plot issues and consider how it would all impact book three. I also dealt with darker, more human themes in this book -- more angst, more struggles for the main character. Seers of Light had been a cake walk, because I was just discovering as I went, but Whisper pulled in elements of foresight and planning that I did not have to use so much in the first book. It's also more of a challenge to keep things fresh in a supernatural world. I tried to keep things open and flexible, but I had a loose outline, as well. All in all, Whisper of Light taught me a lot of lessons that I needed to learn as an author and a person.

JL: Any advice for authors who are writing a series?

JD: The same thing I tell any hopeful author. Don't micromanage things so closely that you leave no room to be surprised. I find that the best and most fulfilling resolutions and plot twists come out of sudden inspiration to the author. Keeping things fresh will hold your interest in your own story and encourage you to keep writing.

JL: What are your plans for The Light Series?

JD: I am currently writing book three, which will take the reader back to the group from book one and really bring things full circle. From there on, who knows? I'll likely write something different after that, but I could never rule out more Light Series books.

Thank you, Jen! Now get out there and buy Whispers of Light!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seers of Light Review

Seers of Light (Light, #1)Seers of Light by Jennifer DeLucy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read the first chapter of Seers of Light on right away I knew I wanted to read the whole book! I instantly loved the heroine of the story, Lily Hunt, for her warmth and spunk. (And she even has big feet like I do). Because she's a character I cared about deeply, her frightening first encounter with a paranormal creature in her bedroom really FREAKED me out.

But not all of the supernatural beings in this fic are creepy. Some *coughs* William/Christian *coughs* are quite the opposite--yummy and huggable! I'm a newcomer to the paranormal romance genre, and I thoroughly enjoyed the foray into the battle between sentients and vampires. The "soul merge" was so damn cool. And the sex scenes were quite "touching" hee hee.

My favorite part of the novel was the well-written dialogue, which often had me chuckling and really brought the characters to life. Here's one example on page 75:

Lily: "And do you care to explain how this is done?"
William: "Just trust yourself. It's in you to know this stuff."
Lily: "Ugh, please, Mr. Miyagi. Spare me the wax on, wax off."
William: "Must you ALWAYS be so unpleasant?
Lily: "No, not always . . . just with you."

Another favorite quote, page 183:

"And I praised Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Allah, Santa Claus, and Oprah all at once as he kissed me, pressing my body into the wood, leaving me absolutely incapable of standing on my own two feet."

Ha ha ha and oo la la!

I also really enjoyed Jen DeLucy's reworking of the Narcissus legend. And the ending between William and Christian was quite satisfying.

Fortunately for me, the sequel, Whispers of Light, will be released by Omnific Publishing TOMORROW! (10/26/10). Yeah! Great job, Jen. Thank you for sharing Lily's world with us.

Check back for my interview with Jen DeLucy.

View all my reviews

It's Monday, time for Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop! Authors -- have a book out? Are you under contract for publication? Make sure you join in the hop. This is a great way to network your blog and let readers know who you are.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Passion Fish Author Alison Oburia

Will you be in the Orlando, Florida area this weekend? (I wish I would be!) Alison Oburia, co-author of Passion Fish, will be at the Florida Writers Association Conference October 22-24. This is a great time to get a signed copy of her contemporary romance novel.

Alison was the managing editor for my novel, and a really great writer!

Here's the book trailer for Passion Fish.

Monday, October 18, 2010

E-Readers for Excellent-Readers

Happy Monday! Please check out our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop at the end of this post.

The time has come. I've waited long enough to purchase an e-reader, and I wanted to pick your brain about which e-reader you like the best. The big three that I'm aware of are the Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony E-Reader. Any more I should know about? What are the pros and cons of each one?

You'd have to be living in a cave not to know about Amazon's Kindle. The library of e-books is extensive, and my novel With Good Behavior has been available on Kindle since its release date HERE

However, I don't think Kindle is for me since you can't read PDF's or library books on it.

Barnes & Noble's Nook is more appealing to me. From what I understand, there may be fewer e-books available but they seem to be less pricey and you can read non-proprietary books in PDF formats. And, I'm very excited that Omnific Publishing just made With Good Behavior available for the Nook HERE!

I don't know as much about Sony's E-Reader but I've heard good things from customers.

I'm leaning toward buying the Nook and curling up into a nook in my condo to read e-books galore! But I want to hear your opinion before I lay down the cash. Do you own an e-reader? If not, do you plan to buy one and which one looks most appealing to you? If you own one, how do you feel about your purchase? (typical psychologist "How do you feel" question :-)

Finally, did you buy the Wi-Fi or 3G version? Pros/Cons?

Thank you! Jennifer Lane

It's time for Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Choosing Character Names

It's a tricky business, choosing names for your protagonists and other characters in your novel. I'm guessing it might be akin to choosing a name for your child. After all, our characters sort of feel like our children, don't they? And just like with baby names, people have wildly varying reactions based on personal preferences and knowing individuals with that name in their lives.

Personally I'm not a big fan of naming one's son after the father since I believe it might interfere with the son's identity development. And when my sister named her middle son Dylan James, I blanched when she told me that they'd call him "D.J.", thinking that name sounded straight out of the TV show Roseanne! (Now that I know and love my nephew Dylan, I'd be fine with the name D.J., by the way).

How did you go about choosing your character names? Did you base it on your favorite names--names you'd like to use for your children someday? (George Costanza wanting to name his daughter "Seven" comes to mind!) Or did you try to infuse meaning into the names?

For my debut novel With Good Behavior, I did a combination of the above. I tried to be thoughtful in choosing the surname of my story's depraved crime family: Barberi. And for the son of the most vicious, psychotic character associated with that family, I picked the surname Madsen. (Plus, I love the actress Virginia Madsen and needed a Scandinavian name for the storyline).

For my protagonists I simply chose names that I liked: Sophie and Grant. Imagine my surprise when astute reviewer Ana Josefina Borge told me that she loved how the meanings of their names translated into their character strengths (Sophie = wisdom, Grant = great, tall, a gift). I was tempted to pretend that I'd intended that all along but I did fess up that it was a happy accident. ;-)

I'm currently reading Seers of Light by Jennifer DeLucy (and thoroughly enjoying it!) and one of her character names caught my eye: Christian Wright. At first I thought this character would be a total goody-two-shoes, but as I get to know Christian, I'm finding that he is very much a multi-faceted character. It seems her sequel Whispers of Light will explore his layers even more in depth.

How did you choose your character names? What are some of your favorite names?

It's Monday, time for the Meet an Author Monday Blog-Hop! A great chance to meet new authors.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interview with Nicki Elson, Author of Three Daves

Today I interviewed Nicki Elson, author of the college love-romp Three Daves. See my 4 star review below!

Jennifer Lane (JL): How much did you enjoy your college experience? How did real life translate into fiction?

Nicki Elson (NE): Let's see...a lot! College is not like any other time of life. It's that perfect combination of freedom without total responsibility. I think a part of me will always yearn for those days, and that's what got me to sit down and write this story.

I attended Eastern Illinois University, and anyone who went there, particularly in the 80s, will recognize the campus, the bars, Jimmy Johns. Most buildings and businesses were given fictional names in my story, but the physical descriptions are heavily influenced by my alma mater. The overall story line is original and not in any way autobiographical, buuut there are most definitely bits and pieces of reality scattered throughout---for example, I saw Wang Chung in Daytona in '87 and once invented a game called Dial-a-Drink. It's like this, if Three Daves is a delicious smoothie, then my real life experiences are the strawberries---they flavor the story but the end result is something completely different.

JL: (And that strawberry smoothie was delicious.) I think I read on your website about your mother's horrified reaction to realizing there would be sex scenes in your book. Thankfully my parents have chosen not to discuss the sex scenes I've written. Totally awkward! Any advice about dealing with the aftermath of writing intimate romantic scenes?

NE: Ah yes, the inspiration behind my first ever blog post: Should I Have Faded to Black? So, I guess my first bit of advice is to write a blog post to make yourself feel better! Hehe. Actually, the first step is before the book is ever published---make sure you feel good about what's in there and that it's justified. People are all going to have their own opinions, and they are entitled to them, but if you know what you wrote was right for the story you wanted to tell, then the negative feedback won't sting so much.

My mom's reaction was to be expected, and I don't blame her in the least. I think I could've prepared her a little better before she actually read it. As a result, I think I overly prepare other people. What I've heard quite a few times is that the level of detail I get into is nothing compared to a lot of what's out there, but then they stop and say, "I'm a little surprised you wrote it." That cracks me up because I'm a little surprised too! But the story required a certain level of intimate detail (for reasons I explain in my blog post), and not one bit of it was gratuitous.

JL: Music is an important part of this story. What are some of your current favorite artists or songs?

NE: Confession: I honestly do still listen to a lot of 80s new wave. It's great music! But I promise that I did move on in the 90s to Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cranberries, and Pearl Jam, and even though I don't listed to a lot of new stuff, current bands I enjoy are Dropkick Murphys, Rammstein, and Stone Sour. And I'll have you know that Madness is still recording new songs and they rock!

JL: What was your journey to publication like?

NE: It was one of those times in my life where God was being very patient with me and then finally had to clunk me over the head with it. I wrote Three Daves a few years ago, simply because I was gripped by the story and wanted to read it, so I wrote it. I did a bit of research into getting published and learned about literary agents and query letters and all that and sent out a few queries---I think twelve. And I hated every minute of that process. It felt like work, and sales is not my forte, but that's exactly what you have to be gifted at---selling your novel in a one page letter. I revised that letter so many times, but apparently all versions sucked because I didn't have any luck. And I get it, the agents get so much sent to them and have to think strictly from a marketing point of view. Unknown authors are a big risk, and my story didn't fall neatly into any pre-packaged category. But that process was killing the joy of writing for me, so I stopped pursuing publication.

I turned back to on-line writing, fanfiction and original, because that's what I enjoyed doing---writing and sharing my stories. While doing that I entered and won an original fiction contest with my short story, Impressionism 101, and I suppose that's what caught the attention of Elizabeth Harper, owner of Omnific Publishing. One day I got this amazing e-mail from her telling me that she was starting her own publishing company and that she'd like to see some more of my original work! I read that e-mail about five times trying to believe it was real. She liked what I sent her for Three Daves and after a whirlwind of editing and polishing and cover design and video trailers etc., etc., etc., here we are.

JL: Do you still wear banana clips, leg warmers, o-rings, or ribbon barrettes? :D

NE: Oh you're real funny! That would be a resounding NO! But hey, 80s fashions are making a comeback---I've seen the legwarmers, so give me about six months and I just may be sporting pair of those. ;)

Thank you for the interview, Nicki, and for the wonderful ride back in time with Three Daves. I loved your book!

Please join us for our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop.

Cali Cheer Mom (Lisa Sanchez) has all the details (and a lovely review of my novel on 9/28) on her blog.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Three Daves Review

Three DavesThree Daves by Nicki Elson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun and Insightful 80's Romance!

Omnific Publishing released Three Daves in February of 2010, and I recently had the pleasure of reading the novel. Three Daves features Jen, a college student at Central Illinois University, and her travails with three men named Dave. The first sentence draws the reader right in: "Jennifer Whitney was the last American virgin."

Wow, I really identified with Jen. Not only does she share my name (and doesn't like to be called Jenny), but she has the same self-doubts I had in college: wanting more experience in bed while feeling nervous about getting said experience, being known as a good girl (Gigi) but drinking too much on occasion, relying on friends and frantically trying to figure out how to resolve conflicts when there are spats, working hard at school, and taking an eternity to realize that this guy is "the one".

I really thought that Nicki Elson showed a realistic portrayal of college. Sure, we grow intellectually at college, but personal development seems to matter the most during these years. The formation of Jen's identity was subtle yet strong, aided by the Three Daves along the way. She starts off as a chameleon but grows into a confident young woman who is not afraid to be herself. In terms of which Dave she chose at the end, I was very satisfied. (He was my choice too!)

Here are some of my favorite 80's references in the book.

* "Cool beans". I STILL use this phrase!
* Wang Chung playing at Daytona Beach for Spring Break. I must admit that my very first concert was Wang Chung when I went to little sibs' weekend at Miami University to visit my sister. "Dance Hall Days" is a great song!
* David making Jen cassette tape mixes. Ah, the days of cassett tapes. And such great music . . . "Boys Don't Cry" by the Cure, "Red Red Wine" by UB40, and bands like the B52's and Echo & the Bunnymen.
* Perms and banana clips. *snorts*

Overall, a great read!

Stay tuned for my interview with author Nicki Elson tomorrow, when we will discuss 80's fashion and the fine art of writing sex scenes, hubba hubba.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fall Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to K_Sunshine_1977!!!

She is the big winner of the Fall Giveaway, winning two vampire books:


Enjoy Edward and Bill, K Sunshine!

Thank you to the 60 entrants--I hope you won books and swag at the other blogs partipating in the Fall Giveaway. I look forward to chatting about books with you on your blog or at! And if you happen to read my novel With Good Behavior, please stop by and tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcoming the Fall Giveaway

It's time, book aficianados. Welcoming the Fall Giveaway!

For the next week (9/22/10 through 9/29/10), I'm joining an awesome group of book bloggers for a giveaway. In honor of Halloween approaching, I'll be giving away two vampire books: The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas and Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (the first book in the series that inspired True Blood). Bloodsuckers abound!

Before Edward Cullen, there was Edward NOT vegetarian.

And then there was vampire Bill. Really? The vampire is named Bill?

To enter (U.S. residents only), leave a comment with the following information:

* Your name and email address (if your email address is private then send me a message at and leave a comment here)

* Your point total (between one and four). One point each if you:
   * Follow this blog, Jennifer Lane Books (+1)
   * Follow JenLanebooks on twitter (click on the birdie, top right) (+1)
   * Friend Jennifer Lane on (click on the "g", top right)  (+1)
   * Add my novel, With Good Behavior, to your "to-read" list on goodreads (+1)

Each point is a chance to win these two books! I vant to suck your blood.

Now go visit the other participating blogs!

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