Psyched for Romance

Sports Romance & Romantic Suspense With a Psychological Twist

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Winner of Hoppy Easter Giveaway

The winner of a signed copy of With Good Behavior or Bad Behavior is . . .


*drumroll*

JENNIFER from Book Noise!

Congratulations, Jennifer and thank you to all 143 who entered.

I'm excited to announce I can now offer signed copies of my novels for sale in the U.S. and abroad on the Thoroughly Smitten blog.

Check it out HERE!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Darcia Helle: Review and Interview

Today I'm interviewing Darcia Helle, author of SIX novels! I had the pleasure of reading Enemies and Playmates, and here's my review from Goodreads:

“Wife Beater Meets His Match”

In this suspenseful and entertaining novel by Darcia Helle, Alex Covington is a powerful attorney who beats his wife and terrorizes his children (his college student daughter Lauren is the protagonist). When Alex tries to add private investigator Jesse Ryan to his corrupt payroll, he finally meets a man strong enough to challenge his vicious ways.

The story begins as Lauren’s friends drag her to a nightclub where she meets Jesse, and their mutual attraction is tangible. I liked how it was unclear if Jesse was one of her father’s minions at first. Then I really grew to love Jesse. He and Lauren are excellent characters.

Lauren has a younger brother Stephen, and his storyline is heartbreaking. Due to his father’s harsh criticism and bullying, Stephen has immersed himself in drugs. Lauren wants to help him but doesn’t know how.

There were several unexpected developments that kept me on my toes. The Gina storyline shocked me. I was also surprised when Kara, Lauren’s mother, pulled some moves of her own. And, happily Darcia is not afraid to kill off characters!

I particularly enjoyed the banter between Jesse and his police friend. The story was a good balance between romance and suspense. I thought Alex’s character could have been more multi-dimensional, and I was frustrated by Jesse taking so many risks but I guess that’s the kind of hero he is.

Overall a great read—-one I’d highly recommend! And now on to the interview.
 
Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome, Darcia! I really enjoyed Enemies and Playmates. What inspired you to write that novel?

Darcia Helle (DH): Hello everyone and thanks for having me here today, Jen!

Enemies and Playmates is my first novel. I started the original draft way back around 1993 and did about a dozen revisions and edits before finally publishing a couple of years ago. I don't remember there being any specific inspiration for the story. I was going through a tumultuous period in my life and I think Jesse was the hero I wished would rescue me.

Writing was something I always did, though at that point only poetry and short stories. From early childhood, I had elaborate daydreams and scenes would play out for me like movie clips. One day, pieces of the first scene from E&P popped into my head. I sat down to write it, only because it haunted me. I had no intention of writing a novel. But the story kept moving and evolved on its own. Sometimes I'm not sure I should even take the credit!

JL: What genres do you usually write and why?

DH: All six of my books to date are some form of suspense, though none of them were planned that way. Actually, I don't plan and don't outline. Characters pop into my head, have a story to tell, and I follow where they lead. I'm fascinated by human nature. What makes one person seek revenge, while another walks away and forgives? This is always where I begin, with a character and a concept. Suspense seems to be the natural evolution of my exploration.

JL: Could you tell us a little blurb about each of your novels?

DH: Enemies and Playmates is romantic suspense, exploring the roots and effects of domestic abuse. Lauren has grown up with abuse and her natural instinct is to keep the family secret. Jesse is a private detective who stumbles into Lauren's world and helps her to dig her way out.

Hit List is suspense with a twist of insanity and a side order of romance. Lucianna is a private detective hired to find out what happened during one woman's last sane day.

No Justice is suspense and my first Michael Sykora novel. Michael is a hit man whose mission is to prevent others from suffering the sort of tragedy that tipped his world upside down.

Beyond Salvation is my second Michael Sykora novel. He is asked to find a teenage runaway and, in the process, uncovers a world where salvation comes with a price tag and God's words are used to incite fear in a congregation of believers.

Miami Snow is part suspense and part drama, exploring the consequences of divorce on a man who wanted nothing more than to be a husband and a father. Nick's desperation after losing everything he believed in leads him into a world of sex, drugs and murder.

The Cutting Edge is dark comedy/suspense and is the closest thing to autobiographical that I've written. Skye Summers is a hairstylist, burned out on her job and her clients, and fantasizes about gruesome things she could do with her surgically sharpened sheers. The salon in this story is a spinoff of the salon I worked in and helped manage for 15 years. The clients and conversations that take place within the salon are based on real clients and conversations. I've only changed the names and minor details to protect the innocent and hide the guilty. I need to make it clear, though, that we had no murders at our real salon!

JL: I've heard that name recognition is so important to the success of an author. How has publishing multiple books affected sales?

DH: Having a backlist definitely makes a difference in sales. The biggest bonus, I think, is that readers who enjoy one of your titles will come back and buy another. Rather than working for each individual sale, an author with multiple titles can make multiple sales by finding one reader.

The indie book world has exploded with new authors and continues to grow by the hour. That makes it difficult for authors to get noticed. With only one or two titles, you easily get swallowed up by the masses. When your backlist grows, your web presence does as well. This makes it a little easier to stand out from the crowd.

I also think that some readers look at authors with backlists as better established. With more titles, you're likely to also have more reviews. These things help nudge readers into trying a book by an author unknown to them.

JL: You also generated interest in Enemies and Playmates by offering it for free for a period of time. Any suggestions for indie authors on pricing their ebooks?

DH: Getting E&P listed free on Amazon was pure luck. Most readers are not aware that Amazon does not allow indie authors (self-published) to list their books free for Kindle. We must charge a minimum of 99 cents. Only major publishers are allowed to offer free ebooks. However, Amazon does price match and will pluck up indie books and offer them free when the mood strikes them. I had listed E&P free for a few weeks on Smashwords, Amazon caught up with it, and set it free for Kindle. In just five days, I had more than 30,000 downloads.

That exposure has made an enormous impact on my subsequent sales and author status. My other five books began selling like never before, which I attribute to readers who had downloaded the freebie, liked it, and continue to come back for the others.

That being said, I have mixed feelings about the freebie thing. Yes, it absolutely helps indie authors get our names and work out there. The promotion factor can't be overstressed. On the other hand, in our desire to promote our work, we've created a bit of a price war amongst ourselves. In order to compete in the overcrowded indie world, we're expected to price our ebooks at 99 cents or, better yet, give them away. Most of us spend the better part of a year or more on each book and, quite honestly, I think we're worth more than a buck.

A major point I noticed is that free really only works well on Amazon. I had E&P free for an entire month on Smashwords and that had no effect at all on my sales there. At the time, I had Smashwords set up to feed Barnes and Noble, so E&P was also free on the B&N site for the Nook. My sales there spiked minimally. Yet, Amazon picked it up for a mere five days and my sales skyrocketed.

Having multiple titles published also makes a difference. Free does not work as a promotion if it's the only title you have published. I now have E&P priced at 99 cents and it remains my bestseller. The others are all priced higher and sell quite well with minimal promotion. The low price of one works as a great draw when you have others.

JL: How has coping with a chronic illness affected your writing?

DH: Chronic health problems have always been an issue for me, though they've intensified quite a bit over the years. Consequently, I can't really compare a time when I was well and wrote to not being well and writing. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, writing has truly been my salvation. When I'm writing, reality fades away and I exist through my characters and their world. For the past eight years or so, I've been mostly housebound and writing is a welcome escape.

The challenge comes in when I go through a particularly bad spell, like this past year. Concentration becomes a larger than normal problem and the writing process slows way down. I'd intended for my work-in-progress to be completed and released early this spring. Now I'm hoping that will happen by late summer. Chronic illness has taught me the art of patience and adaptability.

JL: We met through Bestseller Bound. Please tell us about that site, what made you start it, and how it's going.

DH: I am an author but I'm also an avid reader. I was looking for a group where I could connect with other readers and writers, share thoughts on books we've read, authors we like, etc. I also wanted to be free to talk about my own writing. I don't mean that so much in the promotional sense but rather in simply talking about the process, asking opinions and being involved in general discussions in which it would be okay to mention my own books. I searched for more than a year but could not find a place where I could be both a reader and a writer.

I joined a few readers' groups that were great but talking about my own work was forbidden. If a topic was being discussed, I could not mention that I'd written about it in one of my books. While other people talked about their jobs and what they did with their day, I was not allowed to do the same, since even mentioning that I'd spent the day writing would be considered promoting my work. I always felt like I was being asked to check a part of myself at the door.

On the opposite spectrum, I joined writers' groups where the entire focus was promotion. No one discussed other books they'd read or even really supported each other's work. Those groups were great for networking and finding marketing ideas but they never had a welcoming feel for me.

Through Facebook, as well as reading other indie authors' books, I began to build a small network of very good friends who were having the same problem finding a comfortable place to express themselves. Since I wasn't the only one searching for this, I decided to build us that place. Stacy Juba and Maria Savva agreed to come in as moderators. As I was building the site, they gave me tremendous support and insight. They each played a large part in helping to create what we have today.

The site - http://www.bestsellerbound.com/ - is designed as a reader and/or writer friendly environment. I've met some of the most amazing people through the site and the support I receive there is irreplaceable. I designed and maintain the site but it's the members who make it work so perfectly.

Thank you Darcia! And now on to the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Once I saw this adorable Giveaway Hop button, I knew I had to join! Thanks to Kathy from I Am a Reader Not a Writer and Yara from Once Upon a Twilight for hosting the hop.

Since I am a reader AND a writer, I'm offering a signed print copy of one of my novels in The Conduct Series: With Good Behavior or Bad Behavior. It's the winner's choice.

I'll announce the winner Tuesday 4/26/11.

The giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!

Here are links to generate points on your entry form:

Twitter: JenLaneBooks
Goodreads: Add Friend Jennifer Lane
Goodreads: Add With Good Behavior to your TBR list
Goodreads: Add Bad Behavior to your TBR list
Facebook: Add Friend Jennifer Lane

This is the first time I'm using a google docs form. I'm so grateful to Parajunkee for her tutorial!

Thank you to EVERYONE for entering the giveaway. It is now over. Winner will be announced on Tuesday!

Monday, April 18, 2011

YA or A: What's Your Preference?

Greetings, followers! I have two questions for you today:

1) Do you prefer young adult or adult fiction?

2) What exactly is young adult fiction?

When Omnific Publishing released my first novel -- decidedly adult fare -- I suddenly heard all about Young Adult fiction. I think I might have even asked fellow author Susan Kaye Quinn "What is YA?" Ha ha. Sure, I'd read the Twilight saga, but back then I hadn't realized there was a specific category for this age group.

I now understand YA is typically for protagonists ages 14ish to 20ish. But what I'm still trying to grasp is how YA differs from Adult fiction. My confusion only increased when reading the very adult themes in The Hunger Games.

According to Wikipedia, plot, setting, and character are more marketable to young adults than elements like theme and style. At the same time, common themes of YA novels include the problems of youth, like identity, coming of age, drugs, family conflict, sexuality, and depression.

What sets apart YA for you?

I tend to prefer adult fiction because I like to examine events and struggles affecting people like me, at least those rare times when I'm acting like an adult.

However, I have written a couple of YA stories, and I'm particularly interested in the 18-23 demographic. As a psychologist I love working with college students because there is so much growth occurring at that stage of life. It's exciting to be part of it. I also loved S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, long before I knew it was a YA book!

I'm curious about the huge popularity of YA novels. If you enjoy writing and/or reading YA, what draws you to it?

Aw man, is it Monday already? Must be time for our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez!

Check back on Wednesday when I'll be participating in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop! A print copy of With Good Behavior or Bad Behavior will be up for grabs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where I Read

The lovely Yara from Once Upon a Twilight asked me to post about my favorite reading spots on her blog. Go check it out!

It's Friday! Have you heard this super annoying song? Dance with me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Women Writing and God

I recently began reading the magnificent self-help book Women Food and God by Geneen Roth, which "…shows how going beyond the food and the feelings takes you deeper into realms of spirit and soul--to the bright center of your life". The book is about how we use food to escape facing the pain in our lives. We eat mindlessly to push away awareness of the present.

I won't be discussing my relationship with food here because I'd need about ten posts or ten years to explore that quagmire. Even my cat has food issues.

What I would like to talk about is my relationship with writing. I find myself focusing too much on reviews and sales. I want to go beyond the critiques -- beyond the longing for acceptance -- beyond the doubts and insecurities -- to reach the "bright center" of writing.

Geneen Roth mentions the malaise we feel in the moment, longing for a change . . . the "When I Get Thin (Change Jobs, Move, Find a Relationship, Leave This Relationship, Have Money) Blues". I'd like to add to the list the "When I Become a Bestseller Blues" and "When I Receive Critical Appraise Blues".

On page 58 Ms. Roth writes "It's called the 'If Only' refrain. It's called postponing your life and your ability to be happy to a future date when then, oh then, you will finally get what you want and life will be good."

I really identify with the “if only” refrain. How many times do authors think "If only I’d arrive, then I’d be happy"?

Once my book achieves critical success, I’ll make it.

When I get more positive reviews, I’ll finally enjoy writing.

I confess getting stuck in that mindless trap. I’m a review whore. I eagerly anticipate reviews of my novels, excitedly opening goodreads.com to see if new readers have found my book and liked it.

What I really want to focus on is the sheer enjoyment of writing -- of translating murky visions in my mind to the paper with creativity and clarity. I want to focus on the process, on the now. I want to make myself laugh and cry as I write, and participate in the moment. I want to connect with the reader.

Breathe. Grin devilishly when I torture my characters. See the world from my protagonist’s perspective.

Why do we get sucked into “if only” land? For me, one reason might be my newness and insecurity as a writer. In contrast, I believe I’ve found a more mindful place in my psychology career, sitting with each psychotherapy client and thriving on our connection. I feel confident I can help clients with almost any conundrum they bring to the session. It helps that I’ve been practicing therapy for sixteen years.

I look forward to the time when I’m more experienced and confident as a writer, engaging in the experience without putting off my present enjoyment for that elusive moment in the future when I’ll “arrive”. In the meantime I’ll focus writing my next chapter in On Best Behavior, hanging out with Grant and Sophie, creating their world with love and hope.

One word at a time.

Lisa Sanchez and fellow authors invite you to join our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Coffee Aroma Draws You In

As I'm sipping my morning coffee (laced with flavored creamer of course), I invite you to mosey on over to Coffee Time Romance blog today (4-6-11) with two posts. If you leave a comment on any of my posts, you can enter to win an ebook of With Good Behavior or Bad Behavior!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Healing Over

This week I’ll be talking about themes in my novels With Good Behavior and Bad Behavior. Today I discuss healing and Wednesday I’ll be at Coffee Time Romance covering redemption.

To me, it’s quite interesting to write characters that start off damaged and broken. I enjoy torturing them further throughout the novel (*shrugs* I’m sick that way), but the end goal is always the same: healing.

Grant Madsen is a survivor of child abuse, and has the low self-worth to prove it. His conviction for aggravated robbery and subsequent prison sentence only serve to reduce his abysmally low self-esteem. Released on parole, he’s now supposed to find the confidence to rebuild his life. Good luck with that!

Sophie Taylor had a more stable childhood but is now dealing with broken family bonds due to her mother’s death and her father’s estrangement. She’s fiercely independent after putting herself through ten years of school to become a psychologist, yet she yearns for connection, especially with men. She continues to date bad boys in an effort to get back at her father. Her most recent dalliance with a bad boy landed her in prison, and now she too must battle to get back on her feet.

How do we heal from the past? There are books and books of psychological theories addressing this question, and my favorite is the interpersonal approach developed by Harry Stack Sullivan. We learn how to relate to ourselves and others through repetitive family interactions, and we heal from dysfunctional patterns by learning new ways of relating as adults. In other words, relational healing is the key.

It may sound corny, but I’m a big believer in the power of love to heal. It’s not Sophie’s background as a psychologist that helps Grant slowly develop more confidence in himself. It’s her implicit acceptance of him, her ability to filter through the damage to see the good in him, her openness to receive his love despite being burned so recently. And Grant’s love helps Sophie heal too. Ironically she has to fall in love with an ex-con on parole in order to find the good man she truly seeks.

Two wonderful novels were my inspiration for characters healing each other through their love: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy and The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Both stories feature broken characters striving for wholeness, assisted by their faith in each other. The journey is rocky but beautiful.

Another inspiration is the lovely song “Heal Over” by KT Tunstall.


Please stop by Coffee Time Romance on Wednesday to read my thoughts on redemption. Those who leave a comment can enter a giveaway for an ebook from The Conduct Series!

It's a rainy Monday, ugh. Time to brighten things with the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, today hosted by Nicki Elson!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hawken's Heart by Suzanne Brockmann Review

Happy Friday!
In 2011 I'm participating in a Men in Uniform Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen's Blog and a Romantic Suspense Reading Challenge hosted by Nitty Gritty Blog. It's surprising how few romantic suspense novels I've read given that I write in that genre, and I always swoon over men in uniform. Thank you to my goodreads pals for introducing me to some great books to try, like Hawken's Heart by Suzanne Brockmann.

Here's my 5 star review:

Thanks to Buggy for recommending this book! This was my first foray into Suzanne Brockmann’s Tall Dark & Dangerous series, and it certainly won't be my last. (The cool thing is that "Harvard's Education", which I think is #5 in the series, also came in the ebook package I bought for my Nook). When Buggy mentioned that a hot uniformed man was imprisoned for murdering his commander, I knew this book was right up my alley!

Some things I really enjoyed:

* Nell's character. She had a softness about her but she was also very strong. I also laughed when she made fun of "Crash's" name. What the heck kind of name is that? Very appropriate for a SEAL, I guess. I thought she should've called him Will.

* Crash/Billy. He epitomized the brooding, stoic hero, and I loved when his walls finally came "crashing" down (with Nell's help).

* The line "If you'd die for me, why won't you LIVE for me?" Go Nell!

* The little surprise at the end.

* The tightness of the story. The book was on the short side, mostly because there wasn't unnecessary fluff, and I liked how I could finish it in one weekend.

I wish more of the story took place in prison but I think it was important to know the development of their romance in order to connect deeply with the characters. A great read!
 


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