Psyched for Romance

Sports Romance & Romantic Suspense With a Psychological Twist

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Release BREAKING FREE by SM Koz: Review, Interview, FREE on Amazon


I had the pleasure of reading the ARC of Breaking Free, a YA/NA contemporary romance by SM KOZ.



It's free on Amazon 8/1 and 8/2...get after it HERE.

First is my review, then an interview with the author.

Breaking FreeBreaking Free by S.M. Koz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love Blooms in Wilderness Program

This New Adult romance will be released 8-1-14, and the psychological aspects of the story enticed me to read an advanced copy.

Kelsie is a 17-year-old cheerleader who’s a hot mess. Her best friend died in a car accident, and Kelsie unfairly blames herself. To numb her emotional pain, she starts self-injuring. While cutting oneself is horrifying, I didn’t fully appreciate the horror until I was right there with Kelsie, feeling her pain and her disgust from taking it out on her body.

To try to curb her harmful behavior, Kelsie’s father sends her to a wilderness therapy program. She is ill-prepared and ticked off, with her huge suitcase and even bigger attitude. But the counselor Chris knows just how to handle her, and Kelsie settles down enough to get through the first day, eventually growing closer to the other teens in the program.

JC is the young man who captures her attention the most. He’s athletic, light-hearted, and also blames himself for a loved one dying.

Keslie tells her story to the woman hired to keep her safe—Marta—after she finishes the program. Therefore, the novel consists of flashbacks, which might not have been the best choice for the pacing of the plot. I thought the story took a while to get going. Also, the nicknames Kelsie bestows on each program participant seemed to interfere with clarity and my connection to the characters.

But once the plot kicks into gear, I was riveted. Another boy in the program has it out for JC, and a brewing storm threatens the safety of the group. That’s when Kelsie is forced to grow up fast, discovering that people may not be what they seem.

I dislike when parents are portrayed as incompetent twits in YA and NA stories. Though Kelsie's stepmother is a shrew, I'm glad her father works hard at redeeming himself.

Kelsie’s interactions with JC provide much-needed lightness given the darkness they’ve experienced. The characters seem to be their age, which I appreciate.

I grab a handful of shirts and organize them by type, short-sleeved or long-sleeved, and color. After a few minutes, JC stands behind me and places his hand around my waist. “You really are OCD.”
“Is that a problem for you?”
“Yes, that is the final straw. I can handle everything else, but putting my shirts in rainbow order is too much.”


I loved the ending, which left me with a relieved, buoyant feeling. This is a wonderful debut novel!

View all my reviews


And now an interview with SM Koz:

Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome to the blog, SM! How did you get started as an author?

SM Koz (SK)Thanks for inviting me! Technically, I first started writing about nine years ago. The story was a murder mystery that took place on a cruise ship and one of the main characters had an English bulldog named Penelope. I wrote two pages, realized it was too hard, and then never looked at it again for five years. After my husband and I moved to a sleepy little village, I found myself with a lot of free time. One day while I was cleaning up computer files, I ran across my story with Penelope and was somewhat impressed by what I read. Having lots of time on my hands, I decided to write a full-length YA novel. That one was about a girl who moves to the beach to live with her older sister for the summer and falls in love with a boy as they help a stranded dolphin, named Maurice, recover from a mysterious illness. That one will never be published, but it’s fun to go back and see what my first attempt at a novel was like. Since then, I’ve been writing about one book a year, some fanfiction and some original. Breaking Free is the only one I feel compelled to publish at this time, though.


JL: Blogger Christina Rodriguez recommended I read Breaking Free for the psychological elements, and I’m grateful she did! What inspired the therapy aspect of this story?

SK: I love Christina's blog! Not many people are aware of this, but she helped me with my translations. As you know, I have a couple Hispanic characters, so I wanted to make sure my rudimentary Spanish made for realistic dialogue. She was a huge help!

As far as the inspiration for the story, I have a friend and a family member who have both cut in the past. When I first learned about self-injury, I didn’t understand why people would purposely hurt themselves and, therefore, I thought it was to attract attention. I ended up spending quite a bit of time researching the topic, which opened my eyes. Most people who cut don’t do it for attention. In fact, like Kelsie in the book, they try to hide what they’re doing. They’re ashamed, but it’s beyond their control as it has become an addictive coping mechanism to try and deal with their overwhelming emotions, whether it’s depression, anxiety, whatever.

After learning so much about self-injury, I wanted to help others who were in my position—wishing to help their friends, but not understanding how to or even why their friends did what they did. That’s when I decided to turn it into a story. Because I typically write adventure-filled books, I knew immediately that the main characters would be in the wilderness for their therapy and run into some unexpected hurdles along the way. I think it ended up being a nice mix of emotion, suspense, and romance with a couple plot twists to keep things interesting.



JL: You’re getting some lovely reviews. What has been your favorite comment about your debut novel?

SK: Thanks. It's hard to pick just one, but there have been a couple people who have commented on the realistic nature of the story. Furthermore, some of these individuals have indicated they themselves have experience with cutting. Although I did an incredible amount of research for this book, it's always challenging to write about something that you have no firsthand experience with. So, receiving this type of feedback provides me with a great deal of satisfaction. If people who share similar backgrounds are able to relate and connect to Kelsie, then I hope they'll find strength in her story and learn better coping methods for their own self-injury behaviors. With Breaking Free, if I prevent or help stop one person from cutting, then I'll feel like it was a success.


JL: I see on Goodreads that you’re planning a Young Adult novel next. What draws you to YA?

SK: Initially, I thought it would be easier. My story with Penelope was meant for adults, but I felt like my plot wasn't complex enough for that audience. So, I switched to YA for my next one, but after writing the entire thing, I determined that plot was way too simplistic even for teen readers. That's when I realized YA isn't differentiated from adult fiction by complexity or writing quality, it's about the type of story, the characters, and unique conflicts.

I enjoy slipping into the complex minds of teenage characters. They don't always do what you'd expect or behave the way you'd like them to, but that's okay. It's all about their underlying nature. Everyone makes mistakes as they grow into the person they want to be. I enjoy playing with that because I think it allows for more interesting characterization and a lot of internal conflict as well as external.

Breaking Free is my first book that really focuses on the emotional complexities of the main character as the major plot line, though. I thought I might have a difficult time writing this type of story, but the words flowed relatively easily. In fact, I wrote this three time faster than anything else I've written. I'm not sure, but think I might have found my niche :)



JL: Thanks for visiting the blog, SM, and best of luck on your writing career!
SKThanks so much for having me!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Charity Anthology: Rise Up Volume Two


Help out a book blogger by purchasing this anthology!



“We all know how fragile life is, especially when faced with a life threatening illness.” ~Nic, Flirty and Dirty Book Blog.

Fiction introduced us. Reality binds us together.

Stephanie Thomas — co-founder of The Indie Bookshelf — has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Stephanie isn’t only a blogger; she’s a loving wife, and mother to three young boys.

In the independent author community, we have an extraordinary network of fellow authors, and readers. A special group of people who bridge this gap—helping authors connect with readers—is book bloggers. These men and women dedicate hours upon hours to reading and reviewing our works, and spreading the word to help us reach new readers.

Now, one of these women needs our help.

100% of the proceeds of the Rise Up anthology (volumes one and two) will go directly to Stephanie and her family to help them on this unexpected leg of their journey together.

Inside the pages of this collection, you’ll find amazing works of fiction. But please remember the reality, and help support Stephanie and her family.


Included in Volume Two of this collection are the following novels:

* 1. Always There - Carol Ann Albright-Eastman

* 2. Republic - Charles Sheehan-Miles

* 3. Seeds of Hate - Melissa Perea

* 4. In The Fields - Willow Aster

* 5. Bar Crawl - Andrea Randall

* 6. Totaled - Stacey Grice

* 7. Running from Forever - Ashley Wilcox

* 8. Crossing Paths - Melanie Stinnet

* 9. Going Home - Rhonda Dennis

* 10. Never Goodbye - Kerri Williams

* 11. Without Boundaries - CJ Azevedo

* 12. Binds - Rebecca Espinoza

* 13. The Forgotten Ones - Laura Howard


Add Rise Up to Goodreads

Buy Rise Up on Amazon and Kobo

Thank you!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Three Intriguing Aspects of Sports Romance


Sports Romance! What do I love about it? I'm at Willow Star's blog today discussing my three favorite aspects of sporty love:

1. Learn something about different sports.

2. Sporty love scenes. Underwater kisses, anyone?


3. We shall overcome! Taking characters battling conflict to a whole new level. 

What do YOU love about sports romance?

In addition to my swimming romance Streamline, my college volleyball romance Blocked will launch 10-21-14.

First will be Blocked's cover reveal tour on 8-25-14, hosted by A Tale of Many Reviews Tours.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review and Interview: Ex Factor by Elisa Dane


Today I welcome awesome author Elisa Dane to the blog! First I'll review her Young Adult romance Ex Factor, then I'll interview her. Stick around for the giveaway at the end.

Ex-Factor (Diamond Girls, #1)Ex-Factor by Elisa Dane
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truth and Consequences

Teenager Nev is a former gymnast whose life has undergone startling transitions. She gets uprooted to live with her aunt and cousin in northern California when her father dies and her mother succumbs to a debilitating illness. Not only is she disoriented in this new place, but she's also overwhelmed by guilt. Just what secrets hide behind that guilt?

Nev's cousin Livvie is on a competitive cheer team, X Factor, and Nev's tumbling expertise makes her a shoo-in for the team. At first Nev balks at joining the Diamond Girls squad because tumbling in a gym sparks painful memories of her mother. But by flying through the air again, she slowly finds her footing, and her recovery is a beautiful thing.

It's cool to catch a glimpse into the world of competitive cheer -- a world the author clearly knows. The cheer coaches are so demanding and vulgar that I thought they were football coaches:

"Flyers! Pretend you've got a dollar bill stuck between your butt cheeks, and squeeze it 'til it screams!"

"I don't care if you rip your pee pees, I want those toe touches up past your ears!"


Ew. LOL. Luckily the coaches have a soft side, and Nev forms some close friendships with her teammates.

Nev's first encounter with a boy is charming playah Eli. Although Eli is supposedly dating Nev's new friend Erin, Eli hits on Nev non-stop. Nev doesn't want to hurt Erin's feelings by telling her, but is also uncomfortable keeping his skeezeball behavior quiet.

Another boy, Bodie, is cold and rude to her. Too bad she tingles with good feels every time he's around. But Bodie also has a checkered past, and maybe he is more attracted to her than he seems. I love how they share pieces of themselves, gradually unfurling their truths as they both face the consequences of their actions. They both feel damaged beyond repair.

For a minute, I was just a regular girl, he was just a regular boy, and we were both enjoying the moment.

Nev has a biting sense of humor:

I was pretty darn sure he had a thing for my hair, and there was a good part of me that wanted to pull a Marcia Brady and never wash the stuff again because he'd touched it.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Nev's attempt to heal, supported by Bodie, also packs an emotional punch, and I found myself tearing up in parts.

The story has a solid message about the dangers of drunk driving. My one complaint was Bodie's term of endearment for Nev: Doll Face. It got a little repetitive for me.

Ex-Factor is book one in the Diamond Girl series, and thankfully book two: Unbreakable is also available. Roundoff-back handspring-double full!

View all my reviews
 
Jennifer Lane (JL): Ms. Lane welcomes Ms. Dane to the blog! I loved Ex Factor and look forward to Unbreakable. What inspired the series?

Elisa Dane (ED): Thanks for having me! I'm so glad you enjoyed Nev and Bodie's story. I've wanted to write a contemporary YA involving cheerleaders for quite some time. All three of my girls have grown up in their cheer gym, and their dedication and passion for their sport inspires me daily. After attending the Every 15 Minutes mock crash and assembly during my oldest daughter's senior year, I knew I had a story to tell and the series took off from there.

JL: What made you take Ex Factor in an emotional, dramatic direction?

ED: I was moved to tears by what I witnessed during the Every 15 Minutes assembly at my daughter's school. The program that year was especially moving as the class lost one of their own to drinking and driving. Listening to a big, tough man weep over the senseless loss of his son marked me, and I knew if I felt as deeply about the subject, others would too. Drinking and driving is a HUGE problem, as is the invincibility complex most teens seem to struggle with. It's always been my hope that Nev and Bodie's story would make an impact on the reader and maybe keep them from making a fatal mistake.

JL: What are the biggest misunderstandings about competitive cheer?

ED: Oh, Lordy! There are quite a few. I think the biggest burn comes from those who say that All Star cheer isn't a sport. I mean…c'mon! The  International Olympic Committee recognizes the game of chess as a sport. Chess! Competitive cheer involves two and a half minute routine filled with running tumbling, standing tumbling, jumping, dance, and a mixture of daredevil stunts. The athletes train for countless hours conditioning and perfecting each of the required skills. My middle daughter made an all-girl level-5 team this season. That's the highest level you can compete at before moving into the college cheer category. She trains five to six days a week for a minimum of four hours. Some days she's at the gym in the morning, and then goes back for another practice in the afternoon. Competitive cheerleaders are athletic BEASTS and should be recognized as such. Well, in my opinion, anyway!

JL: How did your daughters get involved in cheerleading?

ED: This is our tenth year with our gym. Honestly, we've been there for so long, I'm not sure how we started! I'm pretty sure a mom from one of my daughter's play groups told me about the gym, and things rolled from there. Our cheer gym has become a permanent part of our lives :)

JL: I’m one of three daughters. (Youngest children RULE!) What have been the joys and challenges of parenting three girls?

ED: Ha! My youngest daughter would agree with you! Raising three girls can be a challenge for sure. Especially when two of them cycle together. Eeeep! Despite the squabbling that sometimes occurs over misplaced articles of clothing and the like, I find raising three girls to be extremely rewarding. I love watching them mature and make good decisions. I love watching them succeed and school and at cheer. My girls are my biggest accomplishment.

JL: You are quite tech-savvy (thanks for your help with Instagram!) What helps you stay current with technology?

ED: Thank you! I'm always happy to help! Oh goodness… Desperation, maybe? Just kidding! I'm always on the hunt for ways to connect with my readers. I'm on pretty much every social media platform out there, however some I enjoy more than others. I LOVE Instagram and Youtube. The reach is huge and I feel like I  really connect with people on those venues.

JL: Thank you for visiting the blog, Elisa! What’s next for you?

ED: Thanks for having me! Book #3 in the Diamond Girls series is currently with my editor at Swoon Romance. I can't wait for you all to meet the hero, Ryker Vaughn! He's a broken
fighter, and the perfect match for sassy Claire. Readers will need a box of tissues for this story as well :)

READERS: Enter the giveaway for an ebook of Ex Factor by leaving a comment with your email address.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#IWSG Editing, Blurbs, Cover Design


Happy July to all writers! Join us at Alex Cavanaugh's blog for the monthly support group.


My favorite season is summer, especially swimming outside. Swimming a couple of miles is much more fun in the sunshine.

Americans, what are you doing July 4th? Attending a cookout like me? I'll attempt these patriotic red velvet brownies (*points right*)

Check out the recipe HERE.

My editor and I are thick into edits for my fifth novel, Blocked.

We came up with a blurb (that was tough!) and posted it on Goodreads.

And now I'm getting quotes from cover designers. What do you think is a reasonable cost for a cover artist? I'll likely pony up and pay a bit more than I'd planned in order to get the designer I want.

One thing I've noticed in editing is my typical writer mistakes. (Thank God for editors!) In the past, I've had shifty POV, but I think I've cleared that up. But I continue to struggle with the timeline. My editor has to ask "When is this happening?" or "Is this before or after Beergate?" I wrote out a timeline, chapter by chapter, so hopefully that will help. 

A new problem with this manuscript seems to be my use of commas. Apparently, I use, commas, too much, at times. And at other times I don't use commas enough. ;-)

What writer mistakes haunt you?

I'm giving away a $10 gift card for the Freedom to Read Giveaway...feel free to enter below. Hope you have a wonderful July!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop

Thanks to Mary and Kathy for hosting this hop!


I love America. One thing that makes America great is FREEDOM. Not only freedom to read, but freedom to voice dissenting views on politics and religion.

Americans' fierce political divide inspired my fifth novel Blocked. It's a college volleyball romance between two individuals with polar opposite philosophies about the way the world should work:


College freshman Lucia Ramirez has a secret crush on Dane Monroe. He’s a tall drink of water — blond, brash, and one hell of a volleyball player. Hijole. Lucia hopes her volleyball scholarship to his school will make him notice her.

Too bad what’s noticeable is Dane’s obvious hatred for Lucia. Her family’s politics contradict everything he stands for. And politics are front and center in both their families. Dane’s mother is about to face Lucia’s father in the race for US President.

When Secret Service throws them together, Dane can’t deny his frustrating attraction to Lucia’s athletic curves and sweet faith in the world. Amid the intense pressure of college athletics and presidential politics, can opposites not just attract, but overcome overwhelming odds to be together? Or do their differences block their match from the start?




Blocked will launch before the midterm elections in November of 2014! Add it to your shelf now to catch the upcoming cover reveal.

To enter, complete the Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And visit these blogs to win some booty!

 


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