Psyched for Romance

Sports Romance & Romantic Suspense With a Psychological Twist

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where I Write

Our special theme for Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop is: Where Do You Write?

I started writing stories at a desk in my guest bedroom, where my internet connection resided. Then I stepped into the 21st century with wireless and haven't strayed from the comforts of my living room sofa.

Usually my plus-sized cat Izzie is with me but she wasn't cooperating with this photo session. A cat not cooperating? Shocker!
I'm trying to rein her in. Watch her try to escape, ha ha.

Check out the favorite places to write for the other authors on the Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Interview with Author Brenda Pandos

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the author of The Talisman Series, Brenda Pandos.

Before I get started, I want to announce a couple of fun events happening soon. We decided to do a monthly theme for our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop (see below), and January's theme is "Where Do You Write?" I'll be posting a photo of my favorite writing spot next week, after I clear the clutter and clean a bit first. *blushes*

Secondly, we're approaching the one year anniversary of Omnific Publishing. Who knew the home of "Romance Without Rules" could publish so many great romances in less than a year? I'm currently reading Shades of Atlantis by Carol Oates and loving it. Omnific is hosting a "Lookin' for Love Webhunt" with nine authors' websites. Basically, I hid a heart somewhere on my website with a secret message (it could definitely be something Sophie tells Grant in Bad Behavior). Starting February 1st, if you find the hidden message on each author's website and then go to the entry form, you might win the ENTIRE collection of Omnific e-books! Good luck.

Now on to my interview with the lovely Brenda Pandos. I've read and reviewed The Emerald Talisman and The Sapphire Talisman Here's a brief overview of book one:

The Emerald Talisman is the first book, featuring Julia, a sixteen year-old blonde living in northern California. Her life is rather normal except for the unexplained death of her mother when Julia was young. Julia reportedly witnessed the event but doesn’t remember what happened.

Her normal life shifts into the paranormal when a strong young man rescues her from peril. Nicholas seems so calming and warm that Julia falls into despair when he doesn’t return her calls. At one point Nicholas is downright cold to her and at others he simply avoids her, though she can still feel his longing for her. Talk about mixed signals! Luckily Julia meets a kind boy named Phil, who just moved into town. It seems like their friendship might help her deal with the loss of Nicholas in her life. However, Phil gets attacked, which sets into motion a threatening vampire triangle with Nicholas, Phil, and Julia—-will Julia survive?
I loved having the chance to hear more from Mizz Author herself!

Jennifer Lane (JL): First things first. Are you Team Nicholas or Team Phil?

Brenda Pandos (BP): How could I choose? They are both the types of guys I like . . . bad and good, daring and dependable, lovable and mysterious. Though, if I were in the car with Phil tempting me to come outside, I'd be a goner. The door would be open in an instant. Then I’d be a vampire and the guilt would ensue after I saw Nicholas again. I'm glad, in real life, I don't have to choose. Team both!

JL: I thought you'd say that! Like many of us, it sounds like you didn't necessarily plan to become an author. Please share your journey to publication.

BP: If you would have told me 10 years ago I'd be an author, I would have fallen over in laughter. But it makes sense that I am. I've always been overly imaginative and crave a good puzzle to solve. Writing gives me that outlet and it fits perfect into my wild-n-crazy life. It's also fulfilling in a way I didn't believe possible.

But the push was my son's autism spectrum diagnosis. I needed something to keep me from sinking into a hole of despair during those really rough first months. Next to cancer, it's the one thing you NEVER are prepared as a parent to hear, even if you think something might be wrong. I wish... I wish... I wish I would have researched vaccines better. Anyway. I started Twilight and thought "I could do this," like so many of my new author friends have done. Most novels are so intimidating to me with the intricacies of the storyline and plot, but Stephenie made it look easy. We both know it's not. Four months later, I had a really rough manuscript I entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel award contest, and I made it to the quarterfinals. That gave me the courage to press on towards publication.

JL: Congratulations of your award! Way to take life's lemons and write hot lemons. How is your son progressing now?

BP: He's doing amazingly well. We are very pleased. We've got the best therapy team ever and he's going to be starting Kindergarten in the fall with typical kids.

JL: How much is Julia representative of you as a 16 year-old?

BP: Quite a bit actually. I'm keen into picking up on non-verbal cues, especially if someone’s just making things awkward, though emotion-reading could be useful. One criticism I often get from 20 to 30-something readers is that Julia fell too fast. At sixteen, if some hot guy saved me from a bloodthirsty stalker and carried me home, I'd be swooning for life (or even now at 38). But then I’m a fast faller. In high school, if cute boy said “hi” or even did a peek-a-boo look at me, he’d be on my mind for a while or until another caught my eye. But since Julia felt the feelings behind adolescent angst, it was a turn-off. Where I’m different is I’m outgoing and pretty decent at math.

JL: I loved the character of Enigma the cat. Do you have cats? How did you create her character?

BP: We’ve got a red-haired tabby named Buster we rescued from the pound. He’s got a great personality for a cat. In one of my brainstorming sessions, I thought a mysterious cat with the name Enigma would make an excellent character. With the fortune teller scene, I wanted the cat to react poorly to Sam and Julia to make things spooky. Over time her back story developed and I pulled her into a larger role. Since I write by the seat of my pants, I let the characters shape the story so I can’t remember exactly how she developed. Now she’s got a huge role in The Sapphire Talisman, which I never predicted and very pleased about.
The Sapphire Talisman

JL: I understand there will be a third book in The Talisman Series, The Onyx Talisman. How's that one coming along? Will there be any more books in the series?

BP: I’ve taken a little break to promote the Sapphire Talisman, but plan to pick it up shortly so it will be ready fall/winter of 2011. I’ve got a loose outline, but it’s still in its infancy. I’ve been writing crucial scenes as they come to me, like I did when writing The Emerald Talisman. The Sapphire Talisman was written from the beginning to the end, and I struggled a little more with it. But I predict, as it’s writing itself in my head, it’ll come together fast.
Thank you, Brenda!
Now on to the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Alpha or Beta: How Do You Like Your Heroes?

I've been fortunate to receive some wonderful reviews of With Good Behavior, and several readers have commented that they fell hard for romantic hero Grant Madsen in all his McSailor McMuffinicious goodness. However, a couple of reviewers commented that Grant was too soft and sensitive, particularly since he's a former Navy lieutenant who just emerged from prison.

I've learned that I shouldn't hang my hat on any particular review, but one of the most intriguing parts of writing for me has been the wildly different reactions readers have for the same novel. Challenging the believability of an emotionally expressive romantic hero really got me thinking about two questions:

1) Can a man be sensitive and kind, shedding a tear when pushed to his limits, and still be masculine?

My answer to this question is a resounding YES! In my role as a psychologist, I observe men cry. Most of the times they're embarrassed as hell and promptly apologize for their tears. But I never view emotional expression like that as a sign of weakness. I think it takes incredible strength to face feelings head on--much more strength than numbing the feelings through a drinking binge, for example. We're human and we feel emotions whether we like it or not.

Unfortunately, our culture teaches men to stifle those emotions. In his thoughtful book Real Boys, William Pollack explores male socialization.

Pollack examines the lessons we pass along to boys. We teach boys to be stoic, strong, and rugged. We tell them to suck it up, that they're only acceptable if they're star athletes. We administer tough love from a young age, erroneously believing that showing warmth and understanding will make boys weak. If boys stray from the tightly controlled behavior we expect of them, others call them cruel names and homophobic slurs. Boys quickly learn to behave in stereotypically masculine ways.

Is this a good thing for male development? I've found that suppressing all emotion sure can make adult relationships difficult. What if a boy feels drawn to be an artist or dancer? What if he hates sports? What if he's not very muscular? These boys suffer greatly and often become the targets of bullies. I believe we should love boys and men for who they are instead of forcing them into a very limiting mold.

Onto my second question:

2) How do you feel about "beta" males? Must the romantic hero be an "alpha"?

I think this is a highly personal preference. Alpha males are typically dominant, muscular, demanding leaders. Beta males are more respectful of women and less power-hungry.

I prefer a man to have alpha and beta qualities. My romantic lead Grant Madsen is a survivor of childhood abuse, making him somewhat of a people pleaser and sensitive to others' emotions. However, he's also physically strong, intelligent, and capable. What kind of romantic hero is your favorite?

Because I love to explore themes of healing and redemption, I strive to write characters growing stronger throughout the series. And I believe that "stronger" could mean becoming more alpha or beta--whatever the man needs to be authentic and confident. I'll be curious to see what reviewers think of Grant's character in the second installment of The Conduct Series: Bad Behavior (coming out in March, 2011).

Well, it's Monday again, and I have to work even though it's a holiday. *pouts* Perhaps the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop will lift my spirits. Check out Lisa Sanchez's blog for details.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Today, I received a Stylish Blogger Award. *beams* And now I'm passing it on!

Here are the guidelines:
Link back to the person who gave it to you.
Give 7 facts about yourself.
Award 15 great bloggers you've recently discovered.
Contact them and tell them about the award.

So here it goes. I got the award from Angela Rain, Author in Training

Seven random facts about me:

* I played piano as a kid, but begged my mom to stop making me take lessons because I was too tired from swim team to practice the piano.

* I can touch the tip of my tongue to my nose.

* I like a good cry. It's very relieving.

* I wasn't sure I could handle being a therapist at first, but now I love it.

* I'm anxious about cars. I know nothing about car repair. Sometimes I obsessively worry I haven't screwed the cap to the gas tank back on.

* Prison Break is my all time favorite TV show. Wentworth Miller = SWOON.

* When I was about twelve, I wrote an essay about why my mom should be "Mother of the Year" and when she won, I got a $200 mall gift certificate!

And now, I’m bestowing the award on my favorite blogs!

(I also love Joanna St. James' blog but she already won the award).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Psychoanalyze Your Characters 6: Bulimia Nervosa

Today I'll wrap up the "Psycho Author" series with a discussion about the eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa. I might return later to tips about characterization based on psychopathology, particularly if I receive requests to cover different disorders. I'll post links to the series on the right of my blog for authors to access.

Earlier I said that Anorexia Nervosa was the deadliest eating disorder, but there are increasing data that Bulimia Nervosa (BN) might be just as lethal. BN involves binge eating episodes (eating a significantly larger amount of food than most would consume in one setting plus feeling out of control) and purging (trying to get rid of calories through self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, overexercise, etc.) Purging can greatly disrupt one's heart and electrolyte levels, as well as a host of other health risks.

Bulimia is Latin for "ox hunger", referring to the intense hunger preceding a binge. Most eating disorders start with a diet, and BN is no different. We know that severe calorie restriction often leads to binge eating. A common pattern is to skip breakfast and/or lunch, believing that helps with weight loss, and then feeling so starved that dinner becomes a binge. Intense guilt and self-hatred follow. Those with Binge Eating Disorder stop there, but those with Bulimia Nervosa frantically try to compensate for the extra calories by purging.

Most people with BN are at an average or above-average weight because restricting followed by binge-eating and purging are not effective weight-loss strategies. Restricting slows down the metabolic fire, and dumping a lot of binge calories on a cold fire means they don't burn well. Purging methods are often ineffective. One study showed that for individuals who binged and then immediately vomited, over 60% of the calories had been absorbed by their bodies. Laxatives work on a part of the digestive tract where over 95% of calories have been already absorbed. Diuretics only affect water weight and are the most dangerous of all purging methods.

Why do individuals continue to binge and purge despite knowing it doesn't help them lose weight? For many it becomes an addiction. Sugar can affect the brain much like cocaine, raising dopamine levels and creating a "high". Likewise, vomiting releases "vasopressin", a hormone that mimics a heroin high. Laxatives and diuretics can create desired feelings of emptiness and a flat stomach.

A way out of the BN addiction is to work with a dietitian and a therapist, as well as a medical doctor. The dietitian can help the client follow a healthy meal plan, eating frequent small amounts, to reduce the risk of a binge. The therapist can help the client learn how to cope with negative feelings (like anxiety and anger) more effectively. Purging is often an angry, punishing act to the body, and there might be a trauma history to heal from as well.

I loved the movie Center Stage about the intense world of ballet. Actress Susan May Pratt played the role of Maureen, a ballerina who fell into BN.
What I loved about this role was that it showed the multiple causes of an eating disorder, like high anxiety, pressure to lose weight, pursuing somebody else's dream (the loss of her "voice"), and low self-esteem.

Now it's time for Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez.

We're adding a new feature to the weekly Meet an Author Monday posts. The last Monday of each month will include a featured post along with the author hop. This month, participating authors will be sharing their favorite writing spot, and posting a photo of where the magic happens. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 7, 2011

With Good Behavior Review Candy

I wanted to post a couple of sweet and yummy 5-star reviews I received this week.

The first is from Megan (magan bagan), an aspiring author herself. She wrote:

"When I first heard that this lovely lady was having her book published, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of it. Then, when I learned that it would be a little romance, mixed with mystery and organized crime, I knew that I would absolutely love it... and I was right.

In her debut novel, Jennifer Lane takes on a journey with her main characters Sophie Taylor and Grant Madsen. They first meet outside of their parole officers office after being released from prison. Each has a story to tell on how they ended up in prison, while learning to trust and rely on each other.

Gripped by a world of organized crime and families that only seem to bring them down, these two convicts have to come to terms with what lead to the biggest mistakes of their lives and how to move past them.

From the very beginning the emotions Jennifer created were so raw and real and only intensified with the story's progression. I loved the sweetness of Sophie and Grant's relationship as they got to know each other and tried to let go of their time in prison. Each new piece of the puzzle that is revealed only adds to the intrigue of what could possibly happen to them next.

And while the majority of the story was intense, Jennifer also expertly threw in moments of comedic relief that seemed to work perfectly for her characters. One of the more minor characters, their parole officer Jerry, cracked me up with how tough and gruff he tried to appear when he really was an old softy.

In this first installment of the CONduct series, Grant and Sophie managed to make it through some difficult stuff, but it's only the beginning. There's no telling what will be in store for them in Bad Behavior, the sequel in this series. I highly recommend this book not only because it has a little bit of everything for your enjoyment, but also because it's a rare glimpse at the raw emotions we as people go through and Jennifer handles them beautifully. "

Thanks, Megan! Check out her blog.

Next, Lisa Langdale somehow found time as a busy mom to read and review WGB, and then post an interview with me on author Laura Kreitzer's blog. In the interview, Lisa stumped me with a question about my favorite candy. Really, how can I choose just one?
What's your favorite candy?

It's fun for me to read reviews that summarize the plot of WGB better than I can, ha ha. Author Lisa Sanchez's review was a great summary, and so is Lisa Langdale's review:

"Jennifer Lane’s made a smashing entrance to the literary world with her debut novel, With Good Behavior.

Sophie Taylor, a smart and driven young psychologist, finds herself unknowingly thrown into a world of organized crime. All she wanted to do was start her own practice and help her patients. Little did she know that one of her patients would ruin everything she’s worked so hard for. Grant Madsen, the sexy naval officer who will steal the reader’s heart immediately, was been forced into doing a job for his family—a job that proves to be over his head and lands him in prison. Freshly released from prison, the two meet outside their parole officer’s office, scarred from their stay in prison and clueless about how to start a new career with a criminal record.

The way their lives come together is funny, sad, shocking, and intriguing. Together they learn to suck up their pride and take on jobs that are less appealing than their old careers. Toilet cleaning anyone? But beyond that, they face something even more frightening than paving a new road in life—they face discovering the truth of what brought them together.

Jennifer does an amazing job of creating rich, diverse characters that leap off the page. Even the supporting characters were developed amazingly well. The story is well paced and slowly reveals the various layers of each character and storyline without losing focus of the deep and unexpected plot."

Awww. Muchas gracias, chicas! Reviews like these are very inspiring to me. Jen xx

Monday, January 3, 2011

Psychoanalyze Your Characters 5: Anorexia Nervosa

If you took a blog break during the holiday, here's my late December post about creating realistic characters who have survived trauma.

Today I'll focus on the most lethal eating disorder: Anorexia Nervosa. There's actually a link between one kind of trauma -- sexual abuse -- and eating disorders. One study found that 1 out of 4 women with Anorexia Nervosa has been sexually abused. The rates of sexual abuse were even higher for other eating disorders: 1 out of 3 women with Bulimia Nervosa, and 1 out of 2 women with Binge Eating Disorder. I'll cover Bulimia Nervosa in my next post.

"Anorexia" means a lack of a desire to eat, but it doesn't necessarily mean a lack of appetite. Individuals who develop this disorder at first have to stave off severe hunger to achieve weight loss. The diagnosis must also include "Nervosa", referring to psychotic thinking including intense fear of weight gain, distortion of body image, and obsessional preoccupation on food, weight, and shape.

There are four symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:

1. Severe underweight (less than 85% of expected body weight or less than 17.5 Body Mass Index). For example, a 5'7" woman would meet criteria if she weighed less than 111 pounds (50.35 kg).

2. Intense fear of gaining weight. Many individuals fear that if they gain one pound, they'll suddenly gain one-hundred pounds. The eating disorder provides a false sense of control, and individuals fear losing that control.

3. Disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight. Individuals determine their self-worth solely based on their weight/shape.

4 Amenorrhea in women (absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles). Individuals meet criteria if they only have menses when on the birth control pill.

When people joke they wish they could get Anorexia Nervosa, I fume inside. This disorder is a personal hell, locking individuals into an addiction that brings so much misery to them and their families. Their self-worth is so impaired they don't feel deserving of caring for themselves -- of living, really. It's selflessness gone awry.

Walter Kaye, M.D. is doing some fascinating research on the brains of individuals with AN, finding logic in the illogical refusal to eat when underweight. He's shown that individuals with AN have high levels of serotonin activity in their brains. Serotonin is a chemical messenger implicated in sleep and appetite, and the high levels of serotonin activity produce agitation for those with AN. When these individuals stop eating, the serotonin activity decreases, providing a sense of calm and happiness. However, eating a combination of carbohydrate and protein elevates serotonin levels, jacking up their anxiety and the "noise" in their brain. If eating made you feel this horrible, would you eat? Probably not.

Individuals with this disorder have difficulty making decisions, tend to be emotionally stoic (not only are they restricting their food intake but they're also restricting their emotions), perfectionistic (often achieving 4.0 GPA's), and highly anxious.

Men can and do suffer from Anorexia Nervosa though it's more common in women. I'm not familiar with fictional heroines suffering from this illness -- are you? A famous singer who died from AN is Karen Carpenter:
Her music is is beautiful, and it's a tragedy the world lost her smooth voice to this illness. In effect, Anorexia Nervosa steals a woman's voice.

Here are two of my favorite books about eating disorders:

There's a lot more I could say but I'll stop here. Please let me know any of your questions or comments.

Now onto the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez.

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