writing

Author Interview with RelationshipsAreComplicated.com

I love to write complicated relationships, and the lovely folks at Relationships Are Complicated interviewed me about my characters’ bonds HERE. I mention my sports romance and romantic suspense novels, as well as some past dating complications. 😀

Image by Juan Fernando Yeckle from Pixabay

Do you have relationship questions? Check out https://www.relationshipsarecomplicated.com !

insecure writers support group, writing

#IWSG Writing in the New Year

Happy 2022, insecure writers!! I love our founder Alex Cavanaugh’s inspiring message about the new year:

“We all know it’s been creatively challenging the past two years. Some managed to write like maniacs, but a good portion of us were sidelined by events wrought with turmoil and uncertainty.

But 2022 can be different. We can take control of our own creative future. We need to maintain hope. Without it, we won’t make it. We need to feed that spark of hope. That creative spark! That’s our wheelhouse.

So, we need to believe in ourselves. Believe in the words we write. And believe 2022 is our year!”

Join us here.

Thank you to our competent co-hosts: Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

January 5 question – What’s the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

I regret not knowing more about the craft of writing before my first novel was published. Though I still feel a fondness for the characters of my first novel, adverb abuse, head-hopping, and bloated prose hurt the writing quality.

I have tried to overcome this regret by learning more about the craft through reading, studying writing, and working with my critique partner and editor. It felt great to edit my debut novel to reduce my cringe reactions.

Cheers to a healthy, happy 2022!

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IWSG Stresses and Delights

Hello, you COVID-weary writers. Join us for the Insecure Writers Support Group, created by Alex Cavanaugh. It’s a beacon of encouragement for writers everywhere.

Thank you to this month’s wonderful co-hosts: PJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

This month’s question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

What stresses me the most is the extended path toward finishing a novel. I’m rather impatient, and I wish writing didn’t take so long. I’ve never been one to whip through a crappy first draft without editing as I write. I guess the hundreds of hours that go into a novel make it all the more satisfying when it’s done.

Image by  Jan Vašek from Pixabay

What delights me? Readers identifying aspects of the story I hadn’t planned or considered. The first story I wrote, Bad Blood, was about one man betraying another. At the end, the hero fought for his life after being poisoned in his prison cell. It wasn’t till a reader commented about his poisoned blood representing the title that I saw the unintentional connection.

Image by Harmony Lawrence from Pixabay

What stresses or delights you as a writer?

~*~

I need to make an appetizer for our upcoming holiday book club. Do you have a favorite Christmas recipe? Here’s a delightful one from my friend, Chelsi:

Brussel Sprout Salad

1 pound Brussel sprouts (thinly sliced – “shredded” – I find them at Trader Joe’s)

Dried cranberries – a few handfuls

Chopped pecans (pan toasted) – a few handfuls

Diced, cooked bacon – about 5 slices

Shaved parmesan – almost a whole tub. Mix most in and then sprinkle the bigger, prettier shavings on top

Dressing –

1/3 cup olive oil

Thinly sliced shallots – 2 small

Fry the shallots in the oil until they’re crisped, then stir in the rest of the ingredients (2 TBSP apple butter or fig preserves, 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper) and let marinate for a bit

Toss everything in a bowl

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#IWSG Blurbs, Titles, and Covers Oh My!

Happy November to all insecure writers everywhere. Join us here, and thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for creating and sustaining this writer community.

Kudos to the co-hosts for November: Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery!

This month’s question:
What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

Eek, I’m getting the shakes from this question. I thought Halloween was over? Both tasks can bring a writer to her knees, but I have to choose creating titles as more difficult.

Blurbs kick my butt at first, but after scuffling with the sentences, my critique partner and editor always help turn the blurbs into something coherent and catchy. (Whether or not the blurbs are appealing enough to make readers want to buy my books is another matter.)

Titles, though? I’ve ridden the struggle bus drumming up titles for at least four of my nine novels.

The toughest title was for my swimming military murder mystery romance published in 2012. (Maybe covering 11 genres in one novel was the start of the problem?) The initial title was Swimming Against the Tide, then Against the Tide. However, when it came time to publish, both titles seemed cheesy.

My hero faced countless obstacles, including an abusive father, and he had a talent for exploding off the walls on his flip turns. I suggested the swimming term, Streamline, to signify a tight body position allowing him to slice through even the roughest waters.

My publisher thought “streamline” evoked a corporate takeover more than a new adult sports romance. She was probably right. But, I couldn’t think of another damn title! So we went with it.

In addition to blurbs and titles, I want to add another TOUGH task of publishing: creating a book cover. I’ve had countless back-and-forth convos with book designers over the years. My publisher grappled with the cover concept for Streamline, but I love the design they landed on, representing an underwater kiss scene from the book. Still, I wanted the image of the characters to be bigger.

Streamline by Jennifer Lane

How about you? Which writing task gives you the willies the most?

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#IWSG Drawing the Line

Join us HERE, the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh.

Thank you to this month’s co-hosts: Jemima Pitt, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

Hope your October is off to a great start, writers! Warm weather has continued in Ohio, allowing me to sneak in some outdoor swims late in the season. Friends and I swam in a local quarry last week, and the 72-degree water temperature was brisk but invigorating.

Sadly, I had to cancel a swim vacation in Baja, Mexico. We planned to glamp and swim 2-4 miles a day in the Pacific, but international travel didn’t seem wise in the throes of the never-ending pandemic. But maybe I’ll fulfill my dream of swimming in Spain next year instead.

This month’s question: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

I rely on my reading preferences to draw the line in my writing. I enjoy reading creative curse words and healing from horrific traumas. Therefore, my characters sometimes swear like sailors, and I embrace the challenge of delving into the aftermath of sexual trauma or criminal violence in my sport romance and romantic suspense novels.

Though romance is my favorite genre, I don’t enjoy reading plentiful, graphic sex scenes. It’s no surprise that I avoid writing erotica.

I also value free speech. While I don’t want to offend readers, I hope to stay true to myself without worrying about political correctness.

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Writing Success #IWSG

Created by Alex Cavanaugh, join us here.

Many thanks to the cream-of-the-crop co-hosts for September: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month’s question:

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

For me, this image speaks to the essence of writing success:

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 

It’s the pure joy of your words capturing an idea and connecting with a reader. When your words elicit deep emotion from readers, you’ve made it.

How do you define success?

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#IWSG Mental Blocks and Resilience

Holla, writers! Happy August to you.

Join us at IWSG or Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to the wonderful August co-hosts: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve binged on coverage of my two favorite sports: swimming and volleyball. American swimmer Caleb Dressel was electrifying!

Credit: Los Angeles Times

I’ve also felt inspired by stories of resilience in multiple sports, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Athletes like the brave and lovely Simone Biles have strived to handle challenges such as mental blocks.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, but what about mental blocks? Overcoming them in sports like gymnastics, diving, and equestrian is one such opportunity for resilience. Mental blocks, also known as balking or the yips, occur when athletes struggle to complete skills they’ve done hundreds of times before. They try to force themselves, but they just can’t go. Every gymnast has experienced mental blocks. But how difficult to face one on the world stage at the Olympics!

Sport psychologist Alan Goldberg frames mental blocks as a trauma response. The traumas can be a serious injury, scary fall, or even witnessing another athlete survive a near miss. If I made a mistake in swimming, I swam slower. When gymnasts make mistakes, they might sustain horrific injuries. And their bodies remember the past fear, creating the fight, flight, or freeze response. No matter how hard athletes try to throw the skill, their bodies freeze. It’s so frustrating for them.

Traumas can also be personal, like a severe car accident or sexual assault. For an athlete who has experienced multiple traumas, their bodies may lock up. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a survival mechanism. I applaud any athlete experiencing this struggle who takes care of herself and puts her health first. These superstar athletes are human, with needs for safety and respect just like all of us.

This month’s question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique.

Speaking of trauma, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is enlightening.

I also enjoyed the classic On Writing by Stephen King.

writing

Behind the Scenes of Sports Romance RIVALS

How important are critique partners and editors? If writing is a sport, then . . .

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, is the helmet that prevents my concussion:

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay 

And my editor, Jessica Royer Ocken, is the kneepads that stops floor burn.

Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay 

I’ll demonstrate with a scene from my latest release, sports romance Rivals.

Ohio State volleyball coach Lauren is angry with Michigan Wolverines football coach Jeremy for a thoughtless request. Jeremy’s star quarterback, Evan, is struggling, and Jeremy asked Lauren to bring Evan’s twin, Emma, to console him. However, Emma is Lauren’s star player, and both Lauren and Emma would’ve had to miss an important volleyball match to help Evan.

Here’s the original scene when Jeremy tries to make it up to Lauren. What do you think of his apology?

 “I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose down at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance and massage his muscles instead. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into a flush of arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his solid body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchy of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister has, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? I have to concede that his solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him again.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” says Jeremy. “And I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His tired eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, thought his apology didn’t go far enough. This is where characterization edits can really help. I know my characters’ intent, but sometimes their motivation gets lost in translation between my mind and the manuscript. I incorporated Nicki’s suggestions to beef up Jeremy’s apology and explain what it means to Lauren.

Editor Jessica Royer Ocken helped tighten and clarify my writing throughout the manuscript, including changes to tense, spelling, and word deletion in this scene.

Here’s the edited version:

“I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his firm body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchey of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. That was one-hundred-percent desperation. But there’s no excuse.”

Damn straight.

“Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? His solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him.

We let go of each other but still stand close.

“But Evan doesn’t matter as much to me as you do, Lauren. I’m so sorry I put him ahead of you today. I promise I’ll never do that again. You come first with me, okay?”

Something shakes loose inside of me as I listen to his words. I realize he’s the most important person in my life, too—ahead of my parents, Sam, Alex, and my assistants. Here I was, so scared to let any man in, worrying he’d hurt me like Paul did. And somehow this Michigan Wolverine has burrowed his way into my heart, inch by inch. His prominence in my life is the very reason his earlier actions hurt so much. But his apology seems sincere. I can see the fear in his eyes as he begs for my forgiveness.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” Jeremy says. “But I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

What do you think of Jeremy’s apology? I hope it resonates better with the reader on my second attempt. How do your critique partners and editors help you as a writer?

Links for Rivals:

Amazon US https://amzn.to/3cOoZDu

Amazon CA https://amzn.to/36Omdu0

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/3rsHG3K

Amazon AU http://amzn.to/2LtL2UT