Monday, 17 February 2014

Why I'm Rooting for Eddy the Jet in Sochi

I fell in love with short track speed skating in 2002. Four years later, while watching the Torino Olympics, I decided I wanted to write a book about teenage Olympic hopefuls. That book turned out to be Picking up the Pieces, a story about a snowboarder, a skier, an ice dancer, a hockey player, and a short track speed skater. I self-published it right after I graduated high school.

That same year, the short track speed skating national championships were held in St. Louis, just 6 hours from where I live. My mom and I made the drive. While there, I got to meet some of my favorite speed skaters, including Apolo Ohno, Kimberly Derrick, JR Celski, Alison Baver, Ryan Bedford, Jessica Smith, and Katherine Reutter. They were all incredibly friendly and kind. I even gave Katherine a copy of my book. I was so nervous to even talk to her, but she was amazing.

So where does Eddy come in? I never met him. I wish I had (and had gotten his autograph.) Actually, I met his parents--and briefly at that--but I'll never forget it for many reasons.

My mom and I sat in front of Eddy's parents during one of the days of the competition. Eddy's parents saw that I had a brought a few copies of my book and were both excited and impressed that a teen wrote a novel, let alone one with a speed skater as a main character. They bought a copy. I had intended to just give them away to some of the skaters, but his parents insisted on giving me something for it. It was a pretty cool moment. They were as nice as could be.

We continued to talk, and they told me about Eddy, how he liked to play baseball, but also wanted to make the Olympic team someday. My mom's response was "I'm sure he will." Six years later, my mom was right. Eddy was a rock star at the Olympic trials, and though US speed skating has had some tough luck in Sochi thus far, Eddy still has a chance to bring home some Olympic hardware.

Since 2008, Picking up the Pieces has changed immensely. Even though I self-published the book, I dreamed of more. I knew it could be better. During the five years that followed, the book underwent some much needed serious revisions. (The more I learned about creative writing, the more I realized that the book I wrote as a team was a well-intentioned hot mess!)

The book is now called Podium Finish. The 5 main characters were cut down to 2--Harper, the hockey player and Alex the figure skater--but I couldn't cut short track out completely, so Rye, Harper's boyfriend and Olympic short track hopeful is still in the book. It was published in November 2013, and since then, has remained on 3 Amazon top 100 lists. Not bad!

As an athlete myself, I know what it's like to put hours of training in, all the while hoping for your big break. Writers face the same uphill battle. Querying is a daunting process. I had an agent for Podium Finish at one point. I even had publishers who liked the book's premise, but couldn't take it on because it was too similar to a book they'd already signed. Then my agent decided to leave agenting side of the buisness to become an editor, her true passion. I was gutted. I felt like I'd come so close, but hadn't landed a publisher. There was nothing more I could do but revise and keep trying to find an outlet for my novel. There were moments when I had my doubts, when I thought I wasn't a good enough writer, and wondered if it anyone would even like my book.

In these moments, I thought about what inspired the novel in the first place. The Olympics. I thought about how athletes make years of sacrifice for just a few minutes on the world stage, and how I had to keep trying, because after all, that's what the book was about. I thought about short track and how even though my sports, shot put and martial arts, are so different than racing around an ice rink at 35 mph, those athlete were the ones I looked up to. And lastly, I thought about Eddy's parents. It sounds corny, I know, but sometimes a chance meeting can have a big impact. We don't always know the impact our kindness has on other people, and for a shy 18-year-old self-published author, that kindness is a memory I won't forget.

I'm glad I didn't give up on the manuscript. It's success in the past three months has made all the revision worth it. But I don't know that I would have felt it was all worth it if I hadn't met people who were interested in the book's premise in it's earlier form. Before the agents and publishers, before the 5 star reviews and classification of being an Amazon best seller, there was a couple from Florida who thought it was pretty cool I wrote a book, and now their son is representing USA in Sochi.

So, of course I'm cheering for all of Team USA, especially our short track speed skaters, but most of all, I'm rooting for Eddy and want to wish him the best of luck. He deserves it. I just wish I could be sitting there in front of his parents this time around, but alas, I'll be cheering from my couch in Arkansas.

Good luck Eddy!!!!! I hope you have a podium finish of your own!

**In celebration of the Olympics, PODIUM FINISH is on sale for just 99 cents on kindle. You won't find a better deal so get your copy today! (If you don't have a kindle, there are kindle for iPhone and kindle for PC apps that work great.)

***UPDATE: The men's relay won silver! Congrats Eddy, Jordan, JR and Chris! Nice podium choreography by the way :)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

YA/NA I Heart Swag Giveaway Blog Hop

Hi everyone! Today's post is in honor of the YA/NA I Heart Swag Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by Ketch's Book Nook. Scroll down to see the list of the other wonderful authors participating in this blog hop, plus enter to win some PODIUM FINISH swag! The raffle will run from Feb. 10-17. Also, in celebration of the Olympics, PODIUM FINISH is on sale for 99 cents on Kindle!

With six months until the Olympic Games, seventeen-year-old Harper's life is pretty much perfect. She's fighting for the starting spot on Team USA Women's Hockey, and for the first time ever, she has a crush on a guy who likes her back. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she runs a risky play at practice and breaks her knee, thereby sentencing herself to six weeks in a cast and possibly ending her Olympic dream before it even starts.

For seventeen-year-old Alex, being anything less than the best is unacceptable. That's why, after a miserable debut season at the senior level, the former junior national singles champion switches to ice dance. Her skating partner, Ace, is an "all skating all the time" type of guy, which would be fine, if he'd stop keeping secrets about the real reason he and his former partner broke up. Now is not the time for second thoughts, but how can Alex skate her best if she can’t trust her partner…or herself?

As the pressure to make the Olympic team builds, the girls must rely on each other, because if there’s one thing they both know, it's that the only thing harder than skating to the top is staying there.



Prize Pack 1 (US only)
(includes a Podium Finish bookmark, a red, white and blue bookmark, Beth Pond promotional pencils, and a Team USA notebook)


Prize Pack 2 (US only)
(includes a Podium Finish bookmark, a red, white, and blue bookmark, Beth Pond promotional pencils, and Team USA stickers)

Prizes 3 and 4: An e-book copy of Podium Finish (delivered to winner through Amazon give as gift option)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize Pack 1- Olivia H
Prize Pack 2- Julia C
E-book 1- Natalie T
E-book 2- bn100

Thanks to all who entered!

Blog Hop Participants

Kelsey Ketch
Jennifer Lane
Kate Evangelista
Susan Kaye Quinn
Cheri Colyer
Kristi Helvig
Kelly Hashway/ Ashelyn Drake
Julia Crane
Mary Ting/M. Clarke
Nikki Godwin
Fabio Bueno
Juliana Haygert
Lea Nolan
Nicki Elson
Charlotte Abel
Stacey Marie Brown
A.J. Bennett
Kristina Renee
Jen McConnel
Stephanie Thomas
C. Marie Mosley
Rachel Harris
Kym Brunner

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

An Interview with Jennifer Comeaux

Today, I'm thrilled to post an interview with fellow Astraea Press author Jennifer Comeaux. Jennifer's Edge series is actually what inspired me to pitch PODIUM FINISH to AP. Plus, in celebration of the Olympics, her series is now on sale on Amazon, so check them out!
Please briefly tell us about your series.
Life on the Edge (Edge, #1)The EDGE series follows Emily, a figure skater, and her friends as they pursue their Olympic dreams. There’s lots of heart-pounding romance and heart-stopping action on the ice over the course of the three books!

What drew you to write about skating?
I’m a huge fan of the sport and have always been intrigued by all the backstage drama. There aren’t a lot of movies and fiction books about skating that present the sport realistically, and I wanted to write a story that had fictional elements but also stayed true to the sport.

Did you do any research before writing your first draft? I used a lot of what I’ve learned about the sport from attending competitions over the years, and if I needed to research something specific I addressed it as I was writing. I usually dive right in and then research as I go.
Which character is your favorite to write about and why?
Edge of the Past (Edge, #2)Chris, Emily’s skating partner, has been my favorite because of his sense of humor and his easy-going personality. He’s such a good friend and partner to Emily, and he has a sweet, romantic side that we get to see in the final book of the series. I developed a major crush on him while writing that book!

What is your writing process like?
It needs to be much more structured! I have a day job as a tax accountant, so I can only write at night or on weekends. I can visualize scenes in my head, but I’m a very slow writer and words don’t come to me quickly. I usually sit and stare at the page a lot.

What is your favorite part of the writing/revising process?
My favorite part is editing the completed manuscript. I like working with material that’s already there, adding little details and emotions that really make the story come alive.
Fighting for the Edge (Edge, #3) 
Least favorite part?
Plotting. I’m horrible at thinking up climactic incidents and turning points. I usually somewhat plot the first half of the novel and then just start writing to see where the story takes me.

Can you tell us anything about the companion novel you are working on?
The main character will be Courtney, a young pair skater we met in the EDGE series. She’s twenty-one now and will have her share of romantic drama as she works toward her dream of making the Olympic team. Lots of familiar faces from the EDGE series will be around as supporting characters.

What’s one publishing lesson you’ve learned along that way that you wish you’d learned sooner?
I can’t really think of anything. I’ve had a good experience with my publisher Astraea Press and am so glad I discovered them for my series.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Set little goals for yourself and just keep writing. Once you complete that first book, it will give you such a mental boost. Try to write just a little every day if you can. It all adds up!

Now let’s talk figure skating!

Do you have a favorite skater?
Michelle Kwan is my favorite singles skater of all time, and Meryl Davis/Charlie White are my favorite ice dancers. 

An all-time favorite routine?
 That’s a tough one! There have been so many programs that have touched my heart. Michelle Kwan’s “Fields of Gold” program ranks up there, especially when she performed it at the 2002 Olympic gala with tears streaming down her face. It was one of the most emotional programs I’ve ever seen.

Any podium predictions for Sochi? Which skaters do you have your eye on?
My dream is to see Meryl and Charlie at the top of the ice dance podium. I’d also love to see Mao Asada win gold and Ashley Wagner get a medal. In the men’s, Daisuke Takahashi is my dream gold medalist, but I think Patrick Chan is going to take it. In pairs, I’m rooting for Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy to win gold, but I think Tatiana Volosozhar and Max Trankov will prevail.

For more about Jennifer, follow her on Twitter (@LadyWave4) or check out her books on Amazon.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Book Spotlight: Love and Other Games

The Olympics are just around the corner and to celebrate I caught up with Kara Leigh Miller, one of the authors of the Love and Other Games (A Very Sexy Short Story Collection). Want to know what it is like to co-author a collection or what the best part of writing a sultry Olympic read is? Scroll down to find out!

BP: Could you briefly tell us about your story?

KLM: Love and Other Games is a collection of four short, sexy novellas written by me (Kara Leigh Miller), Ana Blaze, Melinda Dozier, and Aria Kane. My story specifically, Ice Gold, is about a US Olympic hockey player (Colton “Cole” Campbell) and the photographer (Brenna Jessup) who won’t give him the time of day. There are a lot high jinks, pranks, laughs, and a ton of sexy stuff, too. It was a blast to write.   

BP: What inspired you to write this? Why did you choose to write about the Olympics?

KLM: Credit for this idea goes to Aria Kane. She’d read an article about the ridiculous amount of condoms used during the last Olympic games, and the wheels starting spinning in her mind. She contacted the rest of us and presented the idea. After hundreds of emails back and forth, we pinned down the idea of each of us writing a short novella that would be tied together by a few common threads: the winter games, Switzerland, and the superstition of a lucky torch. Then we all started calling dibs on which sport we wanted to write about. Lol. I knew from earlier on I wanted to write a hockey player.

BP: Ha! Aria and I must have read the same article then, because one of my characters in PODIUM FINISH makes a joke about the massive number of condoms used at the previous Olympics.

BP: Did you have to do any research? If yes, how did you approach it?

KLM: Yes, we did do quite a bit of research about the Olympics in general and each of our sports in particular. We created a Google doc that we all had access to and in that we would share links to helpful articles including pictures of hot athletes. Hey, we all needed a bit of inspiration ;) I did some basic research online about hockey, but then went to a reliable source. Jen Talty, a member of my local RWA group is a hockey mom, so she was really great about answering all of my questions no matter how ridiculous they may have seemed to her. And I also contacted my close friend, Chris, of Christina Wallace Photography to help with all my technical camera questions. 

BP: Which scene was your favorite to write?

KLM: The airplane scene! It’s the first time Cole and Brenna meet face to face, and he’s such a jackass to her, but he’s also very loveable. Here it is:

"It's Cole, ma'am," he said with a slight incline of his head.
Was that a southern accent she heard? It was faint, but unmistakable. Ma'am, a subtle nod … yup, Colton Campbell was a southern boy. Huh, who knew? "Right, Cole." She cleared her throat. She was so totally screwed. There was only one type of man on this earth that made Brenna weak in the knees—a southern man.
"So, you've heard of me, huh?" Cole said with a smirk. "Wish I could say the same about you." His gaze lingered on hers for a moment before lowering.
Brenna rolled her eyes. "Well, you do have quite the reputation." She stood.
"Going somewhere?"
"Yes, I'd like to go use the restroom. Now, if you'll please excuse me."
"Don't let me stop you." Cole remained seated, his long legs bent at the knees, touching the seat in front of him, making it impossible for Brenna to get by him—unless she were to climb over him, and she refused to do that.
Brenna crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. "Do you mind?"
"No, not at all." He laced his fingers together and rested them on his stomach, settling deeper into his seat. "I'm used to women staring at me. Go ahead, get your fill."
"Uh!" she huffed. Brenna knew Cole had a playboy reputation, rivaled only by his arrogance, but for the love of God, was he serious right now? One look at his handsome features and she knew he was teasing her. Well, she'd be damned if she let him get the better of her. "For your information, Mr. Campbell, I'm staring at you because I can't wrap my mind around your complete lack of manners." Brenna cautiously stepped over him.
"A complete lack of manners would be doing this." Cole lifted his knee and bumped her ass, causing her to lose her balance and fall forward.
It happened so fast all she could do was put her hands out and grip the back of Cole's seat. Her hands were on either side of his head, her legs straddling his, and their faces were inches apart. Christ, did he have to smell so good? She started to push herself away, but Cole shifted his legs just enough so she couldn't move. Damn him and those tantalizing lips—they were so close, she could almost taste them.
"I don't find this amusing," she said.
The corners of his mouth twitched, and he cocked a brow. "Arousing?"
Cole leaned forward and put his mouth to her ear. "Five minutes says I can change your mind."

BP: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

KLM: All of the authors can be found on their websites and on Twitter:


Thank you so much, Kara, for sharing an excerpt and telling up about the writing process! Be sure to add Love and Other Games on goodreads and check it out on kindle! And check back later this week for another Winter Olympics author interview with Jennifer Comeaux, author of the Edge series.