Psyched for Romance

Sports Romance & Romantic Suspense With a Psychological Twist

Monday, May 30, 2011

Series Progression

I’m having a happy Monday (off work!) and I hope you are too.

Today I’d like to discuss fiction novel series. I heard a comment on Goodreads that series tend to get better or worse as they progress, which intrigued me. Since I’m writing my own fiction series (The Conduct Series), that comment also made me a little nervous. Will readers enjoy #2 and #3 even more, or will they think the story’s “jumped the shark”?

Obviously all we can do is our best job as writers, knowing some readers might love it and some readers might hate it. As a new author, I’m hoping subsequent novels will improve simply because I’m learning so much about writing as I go. I was pleased when Rachel from Oklahoma recently left this review on Goodreads for Bad Behavior (#2):

“I don't know how Jennifer Lane got all that story line into this book I'll never understand, but she did it. I really like that we get to see into Sophie and Grant's therapy appointments like we get to see their parole appointments too. Not to mention how far Grant and Sophie both come in this book, it's amazing, and it doesn't seem contrived just to get the book moving. I can't wait to see what happens in book #3!”

Thinking about the progression of my favorite series, I’m not sure if I agree they vastly improve or tank. Some of them seem to maintain the same high quality throughout, even though the focus of the story might change as the characters develop.

The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons: I loved each of these books equally, happy for the opportunity to witness the ups and downs of a married couple.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Incredibly, each book gets even longer in this series! But I’ve enjoyed all seven books so far.
I know some readers had issues with Breaking Dawn, but I believe this was one series that did improve as it progressed.
The first two books were fantastic, but I felt a real let-down with Mockingjay (#3).

How do you feel about the progression of some of your favorite series?

For today only (5/30/11), All Romance Ebooks offers a 50% rebate on ebooks. Here’s your chance to get With Good Behavior and Bad Behavior for $3.50!

Now it’s time for Meet an Author Monday hosted by Lisa Sanchez (visit her blog for instructions).

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

Thank you to Jessica Subject for bestowing this award! Jessica was so kind to read and review my novel, post her review on her out-of-this-world blog, and then interview me too.

First I’ll tell you a few things about myself:

1. I just made carrot cake cookies for book club and they turned out pretty well. I’m a big fan of carrots and other naughty veggies. Winking smile
2. I’ve ridden in an old-fashioned biplane before, cruising the Chicago skyline.
3. My grandfather could golf his age (and I hear that’s not easy to do!)
4. I may be too old and out of tune to try out for American Idol, but that doesn’t stop me from pretending I’m an awesome singer hee hee.
5. I love books that make me cry, like Room by Emma Donoghue.

Now I have the pleasure of passing on the award. I’m aware some blogs are award-free and if you’d rather not accept the award, there’s no pressure. These are some super-sweet peeps!

1. Smash: I’m writing my first post using Windows Live Writer due to this lovely book blogger.

2. Lisa Sanchez: Lisa wakes up at the butt-crack of dawn to host our blog hops on Mondays.

3. Carol Oates This Irish lassie is quite thoughtful and kind.

4. Nicki Elson Nicki claims her thoughts aren’t so deep but I don’t believe it. I know her heart is deep.

5. Kasi Alexander: I think kinky and sweet go together, don’t you?

Congratulations to the award winners! Now go out and spread your sweetness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tempt Me Tuesday

Fellow Omnific Publishing author Lisa Sanchez is always full of fun ideas, including her new meme "Tempt Me Tuesday". I had to join in!
Dude, that guy doesn't have a six-pack--he has a whole case!

We'll be sharing excerpts of our writing. Tuesdays are busy days for me at the "slave mill" so I'll post when I can.

Today's excerpt is from the third novel in The Conduct Series: On Best Behavior. It's my current work in progress.

Grant locked the door behind him and walked in the darkened apartment, keeping his footsteps light upon noticing Sophie crashed on the sofa. The glow of the television framed her relaxed body in muted blue light. Her head tilted back, resting on the cushion, and her long strawberry-blond hair draped in soft waves around her face. She’d propped up her feet on the coffee table.

Smiling fondly, he crossed over to the sofa and sat next to her, studying her delicate features. She hadn’t taken off her makeup, and he noticed slightly smudged eye shadow above long eyelashes feathered shut. She looked so serene. He reveled in the quiet of the apartment after spending the night in a loud bar, stressed from focusing on hitting each note and scanning the crowd for any sign of the Russians.

Glancing at the TV, Grant saw the menu screen for Titanic and surmised she must have fallen asleep watching the movie. Apparently she’d muted the sound before drifting off—the remote rested on her upturned palm.

As he slowly reached in for the remote, his hand halted midair when he heard a faint moan erupt from her lips. “Ahhhhh…”

Sophie and her moans. *shakes head* C'mon authors, join in! Tempt me, baby!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Summer Lovin'

Yesterday it topped 90 degrees in Ohio . . . summer's just around the corner, yeah! What a better time for love and for the Summer Lovin' Anthology from Omnific Publishing!

On July 1st Omnific will release two anthologies that will benefit the breast cancer charity Save the Ta-tas. One anthology will be sweet Young Adult romance, and one will be steamy Adult heat. I'm rather prudish at heart (though you might not know that from The Conduct Series) so I chose to write a YA romance about college swimmers -- my peeps.

Titled The Swim Recruit, my story explores a blossoming romance amidst the fallout of homophobic bullying on a swim team. How do you do the right thing when your world's falling apart around you?

This was my first short story and my first try at first person point of view, and it was so fun! The anthology also presented a chance to team up with fellow Omnific authors, always an inspiring group.

Authors! Under contract or have a book out? Readers! Want to meet new authors? Please join us for the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Uber-Gleek Lisa Sanchez.

Monday, May 16, 2011

How Authentic Should Fiction Be?

I'm fascinated by prison. The idea of being locked up, handcuffed, possibly assaulted, all beyond your's terrifying. Not surprisingly, prison plays a big role in The Conduct Series, my romantic suspense trilogy. My favorite cons, Grant and Sophie, are just starting their parole at the beginning of the series.

As my friend Janine commented on a chapter from my work in progress On Best Behavior (The Conduct Series Book 3), the question about authenticity in fiction novels struck me. In striving to create authentic worlds for our characters, do we risk confusing the reader? How "real" should our stories be?

I have another friend who's a psychologist at a prison, and I recently consulted with her about life on the inside. She kindly shared some slang from the women's prison:

Inmate = "Offender"

Corrections Officer = "Police"

Other cell block = "Across the street"

When I wrote a female inmate telling my main character Sophie that "police" escorted "offenders" "across the street", reader Janine astutely wondered why county police would take inmates outside the prison. Once the manuscript is complete, I have confidence my lovely editors will swoop in and ensure the terminology makes sense to the reader, but for now I ponder how authentic the prison culture should be in my novels.

At times I purposely choose not to be authentic in order to improve the story.

There are quite a few therapy scenes in the series, and I feel more comfortable portraying the psychological world due to my day job. Therapy can be dramatic and insightful, but it can also be plodding and quite frankly boring, and I don't want to put my reader to sleep by portraying the mundane with complete accuracy. The wonderful HBO series In Treatment depicted each therapy client as intensely challenging and dramatic, and real life therapy is just not that way. (Thank goodness! I'd rather not have clients regularly seduce me, attempt suicide in my office, or buy me elaborate gifts).

Real life conversations are also meandering, full of starts and stops. As writers we choose to drop all the "um's, likes, what's?" to create more interesting, active dialogue between our characters.

Authors, how authentic do you try to be in building your fictional worlds?

Readers, how authentic do you want your stories to be?

Lisa Sanchez and fellow authors invite you to be part of the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop! Visit Lisa's blog for detailed instructions.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Good Enough

Happy Monday! I'm in Ft. Myers, Florida for a long weekend with my swimming buddy Eric, having a wonderful vacation. Yesterday we went to spinning class, attended church then a mother's day brunch with his parents, walked on the beach and swam in the ocean, golfed a few holes, then went out to dinner. A lovely day!

The pastor's sermon at church spoke to me. He discussed taking our God-given talents to do our best -- to do "good enough" for God. The sermon encouraged us to work harder, honoring our higher power by demonstrating excellent work with the skills and talents provided to us, whether it's Yo Yo Ma on the cello or a housekeeper cleaning the floor to a brilliant shine.

The sermon made me think about psychology and writing. I had a slightly different take: how can we be good enough without being perfectionists? I'm a hard worker by nature (though you might not know that since I'm on vacation right now!) and I can be rather hard on myself. My psychotherapy clients also tend to be perfectionists, excessively cruel and harsh in their self-talk. Such perfectionism and self-criticism can prevent us from serving God with our talents. I believe doing our best often involves being gentler and more compassionate with ourselves.

As writers, we sometimes become paralyzed by internal pressure and perfectionism. Staring at that blank page with tension radiating through us, wanting desperately to impress our readers, demanding the flow of perfect words on that first doesn't work!

Doing my best as a writer means letting the words come one after another without second-guessing and excessive editing on the first draft. Doing my best means finding my voice as a writer, not trying to emulate the voice of another author who has different God-given talents. Doing my best means appreciating my unique skills and being grateful for the opportunity to create.

May we all strive to be good enough today!

It's Monday, time for the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop. Head over to Lisa Sanchez's blog for instructions and please join us.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Editing is Love

Today I'll share a few tidbits from the editing process of my first novel With Good Behavior. As a newbie author, I had no idea what to expect, but now I can firmly say I LOVE getting my books professionally edited! The process improved my novels so much.

Omnific Publishing has three levels of editing:

1. Developmental Editor Jessica Royer Ocken first went through chapter by chapter, deleting non-essential paragraphs and making the words flow. This detailed edit took the bulk of the time. I'll return to her brilliance later.

2. Managing Editor Cindy Campbell looked over the manuscript as a whole, detecting inconsistencies and shaping it up. She made it purty!

3. Copy Editor CJ Creel polished the manuscript. Apparently I enjoy conjuring up legal aspects of my novels without considering their plausibility but luckily CJ's also an attorney, saving me from making Sophie's arrest totally unrealistic.

All three of these ladies are amazing at what they do. I spent the most time with Jessica, and I'm so grateful we're almost always on the same page. With Good Behavior started off at *coughs* 176,000 words *coughs*...yikes! I asked Jessica to help me cut it down and we managed to lop off 35K words, avoiding a Diana Gabaldon Outlander-length book.

Here's an example of a few sentences we deleted from chapter 14, when Sophie takes drunk Grant home for the night. The deleted sentences are in blue.
For a moment both Sophie and Grant considered how much they would enjoy cuddling up to the other, but both dismissed that idea quickly—for so many reasons.
Kirsten had told Sophie that she should be cautious entangling herself with yet another criminal. And Grant was hesitant as well. Not only was he too soused to see straight, much less make a credible pass at a beautiful woman, but trust didn't come easily to him either. His family had beaten the trust out of him.
Jessica told me that information in blue was redundant with earlier text, which was difficult for me to see as the author. Those blind spots are exactly why having a good editor is so important.

I agreed with Jessica's edits about 99% of the time, but on one occasion I wanted to keep something she suggested deleting -- the "sexy vegetables" conversation Grant and Sophie had with their boss Roger. Some of you may have noticed my slideshow of sexy veggies on the lower right of this blog and thought "WTF?" I hope this little excerpt might help explain the craziness better, but it probably will remain a head-scratcher until you read the book.

Roger's in the hospital and Jodi the dietitian has visited his room, encouraging him to eat heart-healthy foods.


Jodi explained, “Hardening of the arteries is also related to your diet. Do you know which foods should be eaten only sparingly because they aren't heart healthy?”

Roger had a good idea but he was too pissed off by his current predicament to answer.

“Deep dish pizza?” Grant offered, and Roger shot him the stare of death.

“Yes!” Jodi replied. “Cheese, red meat, fried foods, cream sauces...”

“All my favorites,” Roger cried mournfully.

“I’m not saying you can never eat those foods again, Mr. Eaton. You just need to add in more heart-healthy foods, like this vegetable here.” She held up the stalk of broccoli, and Roger eyed it with disdain. “I’d like you to meet my friend here, Ms. Vegetable.” She placed the green plastic blob on the top of the cart and began lining other colorful pieces of plastic vegetables next to it.

“Rog and vegetables don’t get along too well,” Grant explained. “They have a hate-hate relationship.”

“Aw,” Jodi replied, petting the broccoli, “That hurts broccoli’s feelings when you say mean things about her like that.”

Roger gawked at the dietitian, dumbfounded by her insanity, and began to suspect the three people around him were having fun at his expense.

“Yeah, she’s really good to your body, Rog.” Sophie jumped into the fray. “Ms. Vegetable lurves you.”

“Aren’t those vegetables sexy?” Grant cooed, trying to hold in laughter. “Sexy, sexy veggies. You two need to go out on lots of dates together.”

“That’s it you two. Get out!” Roger ordered.

“You want us to leave, sir?” Grant asked innocently.

“He and Ms. Broccoli need some time alone.” Sophie winked, taking hold of Grant’s arm.


Ah, Rog. He is a character.

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into editing. Authors, what was your editing experience like? Readers, what questions do you have about editing?

Time for the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop. Head over to Lisa Sanchez's blog for instructions and join the hop!


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