Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cover Reveal: In Control by Crystal Serowka

I first met the gorgeous and talented Crystal Serowka when she reviewed Finding Lucas for The Indie Bookshelf. Obviously, I've known her for some time as the cover of Finding Lucas has since changed. Crystal also did something for me that no one has ever done before. She made a playlist for Finding Lucas!

Quite simply, Crystal is amazing. Her debut novel, In the Air, has one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen. And, of course, the cover for her second novel, to be released on October 27, 2013, is also incredible. Designed by Angie Fields of i love it Design Studio, this is a cover I can't stop staring at.

Connect with Crystal on Facebook and be sure to check out In Control when it's released on October 27th!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome, Jami Deise!

One of the best parts of being an author is the people you meet. Jami and I found each other through the lovely and wonderful Melissa Amster, one of the founders of Chick Lit Central. Her debut novel, Keeping Score, is receiving rave reviews, and even though I'm not a baseball fan, I am definitely reading it! Welcome, Jami!

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Sam!

My debut novel, “Keeping Score,” is about a divorced mom, Shannon Stevens, whose 9-year-old son Sam wants to play travel baseball for the summer. Travel baseball holds try-outs, and not every kid who tries out gets to play. The novel traces Shannon and Sam’s ups and downs for that summer… and baseball is a game with plenty of them!

My son Alex also started playing travel ball when he was 9, and he had just as many trials and tribulations as Sam did his first few years playing. When I started writing “Keeping Score,” about two-and-a-half years ago, Alex was 17 and I thought all his problems with baseball were over. He had just finished an awesome junior season and was one of the most well-known, sought-after players in our area. He was on a high-profile summer showcase team, and college coaches were calling constantly, offering scholarships. I should have known the good times in baseball are fleeting no matter how old you are. The college Alex picked turned out to be the wrong school for him, and because of stringent NCAA rules, he has to play this year for a junior college (and earn an AA degree) in order to play for another Division 1 school his junior and senior years. The good news is he had an All-Star summer in the Florida Collegiate League, and Florida four-year schools are interested in him for next year.

Baseball is one of the most superstitious sports out there – there are lots of rituals players and fans use to break a streak of bad luck and keep a good streak going: Don’t walk on the pitcher’s mound. Change your spot if the team is playing poorly. Don’t tell a pitcher if he’s got a no-hitter going. I guess I should add to that: Don’t write about your son’s former bad luck when he’s on a hot streak!

When her 9-year-old son wanted to play summer travel baseball, Shannon had no idea the toughest competition was off the field.... When her son Sam asks to try out for a travel baseball team, divorced mom Shannon Stevens thinks it'll be a fun and active way to spend the summer. Boy, is she wrong! From the very first practice, Shannon and Sam get sucked into a mad world of rigged try-outs, professional coaches, and personal hitting instructors. But it's the crazy, competitive parents who really make Shannon's life miserable. Their sons are all the second coming of Babe Ruth, and Sam isn't fit to fetch their foul balls. Even worse, Shannon's best friend Jennifer catches the baseball fever. She schemes behind the scenes to get her son Matthew on the town's best baseball team, the Saints. As for Sam? Sorry, there's no room for him! Sam winds up on the worst team in town, and every week they find new and humiliating ways to lose to the Saints. And the action off the field is just as hot. Shannon finds herself falling for the Saints' coach, Kevin. But how can she date a man who didn't think her son was good enough for his team ... especially when the whole baseball world is gossiping about them? Even Shannon's ex-husband David gets pulled into the mess when a randy baseball mom goes after him. As Sam works to make friends, win games and become a better baseball player, Shannon struggles not to become one of those crazy baseball parents herself. In this world, it's not about whether you win, lose, or how you play the game... it's all about KEEPING SCORE.

Here’s an excerpt from “Keeping Score” that’s all about bad luck: Sam’s very first time on the pitching mound in a real game, against his best friend’s team.

Compared to the Saints, Mid-County didn't seem to have their act together at all. There was no organized cheer. The kids didn't run out to the field as a group; in fact, some of them weren't running at all. We were missing an outfielder. And Sam was left standing on the pitching rubber, squeezing the ball, while Mike helped the catcher put on his gear.
Seeing my son out there all alone, I felt the worst stomach pain ever. I was used to feeling a little nauseated when it was Sam's turn at bat. But this feeling was unlike anything I'd ever felt. 

"You okay?" Ron whispered. "You got really pale all the sudden."

"He's never pitched before. I think I'm dying."
"Let's go, coach," the umpire barked.
Finally, the catcher shuffled behind home plate. Sam threw his first warm-up pitch. It was nowhere near the catcher. It hit the backstop with full force.
"You know," Ron mused, "I don't remember seeing Sam warm up at all."
"Hey, Dad," Eli yelled from second base, "we don't have a right fielder!"
Mike yelled at the kids on the bench while Sam threw a few more pitches. Finally the catcher caught the fourth ball he threw.
A kid ran pell mell from the visitor’s dug out to center field. The player currently occupying center field shoved him over to right.
"That's enough warm-ups!" the umpire yelled. "Let's play ball!"
"Blue, my pitcher gets twelve," Mike protested. "That was only five."
"You can forget your stalling tactics, Coach," the umpire snapped.
"But Blue --"
"Batter, get out here," the umpire barked at the kid who was swinging his bat outside the Saints dugout. The boy headed to home plate.
Sam leaned down and stared at the catcher, who had put a few fingers down between his legs.
"I don't know why he's doing that," I whispered. "He's only got one pitch."
"And he doesn’t want everyone to know that.”
Sam wound up and threw his first pitch. Ball one, outside. This was shortly followed by ball two, low and outside, and ball three, high. The pain in my stomach was worse than ever. It felt like someone was shoving a knife an inch above my belly button.
"Strike!" It was a beautiful pitch, right down the middle, and the batter had just stared at it.
"Why didn't he swing?" I asked. "I would have swung at that."
"You never swing on three-and-oh," Ron instructed me.
"Strike two!"
"Should he have swung at that?"
"Yeah. He's an idiot for not swinging at that."
The batter swung at the sixth pitch Sam threw. He connected weakly, sending the ball straight to Eli at second base.
The ball went right through Eli's legs. By the time the right fielder got the ball and threw it back to Sam, the batter had made it all the way to third.
"Way to go, Ryan!" a Saints parent yelled, "a triple!"
Some of the other parents snorted.
"Now that," Ron whispered, "was completely obnoxious."
Sam looked a little rattled. The next batter stepped into the batter's box. The runner on third moved several feet up the base line.
As soon as Sam went into his wind-up, Ryan started charging for home. The players behind Sam yelled, "He's going!" Sam immediately stopped his pitching motion, turned and looked.
"That's a balk!" the umpire yelled. He pointed at the runner, then at home plate. All the Saints parents cheered as the kid trotted home and stomped on the plate. 
"What the hell just happened?" I whispered. "What's a balk?"
Ron sighed. "Something Brian and I should have told him about. Something his coach should have told him about. I'm sorry."
Sam looked hurt, frustrated and bewildered. I had to fight the urge to bolt onto the field, grab my baby and get out of there. This was ridiculous. He was nine years old! What was I thinking? What was anyone thinking, putting this much pressure on little kids?
"Let's go, pitcher!" the umpire ordered. The batter stepped back into the box. Sam went into his wind-up and threw.
The ball hit the batter squarely in the back. The kid screamed in pain and collapsed on the ground, holding his back and moaning.
"That's a warning!" the umpire yelled. "If this pitcher hits another kid, he's out of the game!"

 About Jami!

A lifelong resident of Maryland, Jami Deise recently moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, along with her husband Tom, son Alex, and dog Lady. A baseball mom for over 10 years, “Keeping Score” is her first novel. Jami is an associate reviewer at www.chicklitcentral.com and a generalist reader for an NYC-based literary agency. Along with women’s fiction, she loves all things horror and watches too much TV.

Connect with Jami!

Twitter: @JamiDeise

Buy Keeping Score!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Welcome, Lydia Laceby!

I first met Lydia Laceby, founder of Novel Escapes, when she told me that the incredible author Cat Lavoie was doing a guest review of Finding Lucas on her blog. Well, I was thrilled because I love Novel Escapes and Cat. Lydia also did her own review of Finding Lucas, and I was so touched. Lydia and I began chatting, and we decided to do a beta reading exchange. Not only was I pumped to have a book blogger as a beta reader, but I was so excited to read Lydia's debut novel, Redesigning Rose. Lydia's beta read of my second novel (still in the editing stage) helped immeasurably, and I loved Redesigning Rose. I am very happy to welcome Lydia, my fellow Canadian author!

Book Blogger-Turned Author

Since I began book blogging and writing a novel simultaneously over four years ago, the two ventures have complimented each other in ways I could never have imagined. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. They’re a perfect match just like peanut butter and chocolate – my only decadent downfall with my preference for cheese over chocolate.

There are quite a few of us book bloggers-turned authors out there. Liz and Lisa from Chick Lit is not Dead, Kirsty Greenwood from Novelicious, and Samantha March from Chick Lit Plus. Then there’s me from Novel Escapes. And I know there are many more of us out there, in various forms of author-hood. Maybe we should have our own title: Blogthor’s? Boblothor’s? BBA’s?

Here’s my list of fabulous things about being a blogger turned author:

1)      Meeting other writers, authors, book bloggers, publicists, and publishers. I’m amazed at the connections I’ve made – and I haven’t even been as plugged in as I probably should have been over the last couple of years.
2)      Making new friends who love books and writing as much as I do!
3)      Among the incredible bookish folks I’ve met, I’ve uncovered some wonderful beta readers and fellow indie authors – a shout out to the Chick Lit Goddesses! How I didn’t know you existed until a couple of months ago is beyond me.
4)      Here was my biggest surprise:  Reading horrible books improved my writing dramatically. I’ve been forced to figure out exactly why I didn’t like a novel (or why I loved one) and then worked to apply this to my own writing, either adding or removing or changing as necessary.
5)      I’ve improved my time management and project management skills, both of which are critical for self-publishing.
6)      Writing reviews over the years has helped me hone my editing skills.
7)      I’ve learned how to pitch a book blogger which, as a book blogger, I cannot stress the importance of.
8)      Watching and chatting with other authors via social media has inspired and encouraged me to continue when I hit those pesky pessimistic days.
9)      I gathered a social media following and built my audience for years before I even realized what I was doing.
10)   The constant sharing of other authors with tips and links to articles and blog posts about writing were invaluable to my writing education.
11)   I’ve been provided with a plethora of books to study, including those outside my comfort zone which I may have never picked up otherwise.

It’s not all roses though and there are few areas I’ve come to loathe.

The first is reviewing a novel that didn’t sit well with me. I struggled with this, especially knowing how difficult it is to write a book. It is equally difficult to write a review for a book I didn’t enjoy. We don’t shy away from penning negative reviews at Novel Escapes, though, as some book bloggers do. We prefer to be open and honest and I try to make my negative reviews as much of a critique as possible and we never bash a book or slam an author. Not every book will appeal to every reader, and that’s just a fact. It doesn’t mean no one else will like it, though.

I also find I have difficulty reviewing books for authors I’ve become personally acquainted with. I now forward their novels onto the other Novel Escapes reviewers so as not to feel the urge to skew my opinion.

My only other grumble about the two is time. I don’t have enough of it. I need eight hours sleep. I want to spend time with family and friends. I have to make some money somehow, which means I must work. All of this means either the writing or the book blogging sometimes takes the backburner. Other times sleep or friends and family takes a hit. Sometimes it’s even gainful employment. I can’t do it all. Even though I want to.

So, other than feeling overwhelmed with all I need to accomplish on any given day, the experience of book blogging and book writing has been fan-book-tastic.

About Lydia!

Lydia Laceby is the co-founder of Novel Escapes, a chick lit and contemporary women's fiction review website. Since 2009, she has read and reviewed as much women's fiction as humanly possible while designing, organizing and expanding the website from two reviewers to five.

In her spare time, she knits cute baby hats, would pick cheese over chocolate-if she had to choose-and regularly cheats on her allergy free diet.

Lydia has always wanted to write and began her career writing a soap opera at the tender age of thirteen. It never aired. Redesigning Rose is her first novel.

Rose Parker's husband has been lying. About everything.

When a conversation with her husband triggers questions, Rose Parker uncovers alarming answers that shatter her perfect life. But it is only when she shoves her belongings in her SUV and drives off that Rose realizes just how far from perfect her life actually was. She has nowhere to turn.

While debating between distressing sleeping arrangements-her mother’s house full of questions or a hotel room with too much solitude-Rose bumps into an acquaintance from her gardening class and allows bubbly, exuberant Becky to indulge her in a wild night full of whiskey, weeping, and whispered confidences. Suddenly, Rose has a new friend, a roof over her head, and two gorgeous men moving her out of her marital home.

As Rose struggles to settle into her new life, she remains determined to comprehend her past. And with time and distance and especially wine, comes knowledge. Frank wasn’t the only one lying to her. Rose was lying to herself.

Connect with Lydia!

Buy Redesigning Rose!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cover Reveal: Blogger Girl

I am so excited to be participating in the cover reveal for Meredith Schorr's third novel, Blogger Girl. Meredith is one of my author BFFs, and outside of writing, she is a very close friend. Her warmth, humor, generosity, kindness and talent are so special, and she is definitely one of my favorite authors.

Not only do I get to reveal the pretty and perfect cover of Blogger Girl, but I got to read an ARC, and I could read it again and again. Blogger Girl is hilarious, fresh, smart and extremely well-written. Chick lit lovers will devour it, for sure, but it is also a book that everyone should read because it really shows what the life of a blogger is like and how social media has changed our world. It will be released on August 28th, and even though I've read it, I'm buying a copy!

That is such a beautiful cover! And the book is even better!

What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out.
A chick lit enthusiast since the first time she read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim, with her blog, "Pastel is the New Black," has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that "chick lit is dead" once and for all. Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm.

While Kim's day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged) associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book that's turning heads--and pages--across the land. It's also popped into Kim's inbox--for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim's coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book. And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.

About Meredith Schorr:

A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to, and was famous among her friends for writing witty birthday cards. After trying her hand writing children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing “real” chick lit for real women. When Meredith is not hard at work on her current work in progress, she spends her days as a trademark paralegal. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. Blogger Girl is her third novel.

Connect with Meredith:
Twitter: @meredithschorr

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cover Reveal! Stained by Elizabeth Marx

Elizabeth is a prolific author, but she is also an incredible supporter of her fellow writers, and it is my absolute pleasure to participate in the cover reveal for her latest novel, Stained. 

That is one stunning cover!
Instead of a lot of build-up in a huge post, Elizabeth's publicist thought that it would be best to let the front and back covers do the talking for themselves. Back Cover:
Front Cover:
All together now!
Stained is due out on August 20th. It tells the beautiful, yet heart-wrenching story of a young woman whose only defense is to run when the going gets tough; and the man who will do anything to help her face her demons, including letting her go so she can find herself. Add Stained to your GOODREADS want to read list! About the Author: Windy City writer, Elizabeth Marx, brings cosmopolitan life alive in her fiction—a blend of romance, fast-paced Chicago living, and a sprinkle of magical realism. Elizabeth resides with her husband, girls, and two cats who’ve spelled everyone into believing they’re really dogs. She grew up in the city, has traveled extensively, and still says there’s no town like Chi-Town.