Monday, July 22, 2013


I love New Adult literature. Love it. I love the raw edges, the intensity, the desperate passion of it. The characters walk a high wire--and for the first time in their lives, they don't have a net. It's electric.

One thing I've noticed as I've watched this genre come into its own, though--there is a plethora of tattooed bad boys, rock stars, bikers, boxers, wealthy playboys, etc. These are the alpha males. Physically powerful and intimidating, tending to keep emotions (with the exception of anger) close to the vest. Often ragingly possessive, often prone to jealousy. And in all these books, that possessiveness and jealousy are portrayed as romantic, because he just feels so much for the heroine. But I don't know, guys ... I really struggle with books that appear to glorify what feels to me like a borderline abusive kind of dynamic (abuse, after all, isn't just about hitting. It's about possession and control).

I would classify myself as a strong, empowered woman. And when I read books where the guy loses his shit when he thinks the girl is looking at someone else, or where he physically intimidates her, controls her, makes decisions for her ... I don't swoon. Instead, I want to knee that dude in the balls. As a writer, I don't want to write guys like that. I'm well aware they're popular, and some women LOVE them--and that's fine, because we're all different, and this is a matter of taste. Plenty of strong, empowered women like the bad boys.

But I have to believe there are other readers out there who are craving a non-jerky, non-controlling sort of romance hero.

It doesn't mean he can't be tough. Or have a tattoo. It doesn't mean he's weak. In fact, often, this kind of romance hero has more control over himself and his emotions than the dude who punches walls. This kind of hero can enjoy when a strong heroine is strong. He won't treat her like a child. Sometimes he'll be in charge, and sometimes she will. And when she is, he'll cheer her on and trust her and respect her. I want to read this kind of romance. I also write this kind of romance.

And I want to celebrate books that feature this kind of hero. A guy who's respectful. Whose first instinct isn't to be snarky or jerky or mean. Who can deal with himself when his heroine has a life and makes her own choices, and who stands strong behind her while she fights her own battles.

I'm on a mission to read and discuss books with these heroes in them. I've started a page on this blog where I'll feature them. I'd appreciate recommendations, with one stipulation--don't recommend your own book. Let someone else do that for you. Recommend one you've read where you fell in love with the hero, and tell us why!

To start, let me offer two examples from popular NA books (that I happen to ADORE):

Garrick from Losing It by Cora Carmack

Lucas from Easy by Tammara Webber

Now--tell me what I should read, and tell me whether you gravitate to these characters or not!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Welcome to the SPIRAL stop in the NAmazing Adventure!

Welcome to my stop on the NAmazing Adventure, a blog hop featuring over 60 New Adult authors, and prize packs that include ARCs, signed books, gift cards, swag, and more! If you're not sure what the NAmazing Adventure is, please click here to start from the beginning and read the complete rules on the NA Alley website. Now -- here we go!

"This is like GREY'S ANATOMY meets SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK!"~reviewer
Nessa Cavanaugh, psychology student, knows how to stay on an even keel. Despite the urging of her mother and her academic advisor to get a life and have some fun, “all work and no play” sums up her plan to survive her grueling internship year at a children's hospital. She doesn't want to end up like her father, whose constant ups and downs broke her family, and avoiding unnecessary emotional entanglements is a must.

Then she (literally) runs into Dr. Aron Lindstrom in the middle of her disastrous first day on the job. The attraction is instant—and terrifying. Nessa knows she should stay away—especially when she finds out he has a reputation for being a player—but Aron is brilliant, intense, and as sexy as they come. When he challenges her to take a chance on him, her plans to stay focused on work start to crumble.

But what begins as passion takes on a dangerous edge, becoming an emotional roller coaster that’s frighteningly familiar. As things spiral out of control, Nessa must decide whether she should hold on for the ride or run … even if it means leaving her heart behind.

Got that jotted down in your quest scroll?
Great, because you’ll need it for the quiz at the end of this quest! And remember, you must complete ALL SIX quizzes to be eligible for a prize pack.

Before you head out, here's a chance to win some additional prizes:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by. Ready to move on?

Click HERE to go to the next stop on your adventure--the fabulous Olivia Mayfield!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Always Do The Thing That Scares You Blogfest

In SPIRAL, Nessa confronts her fears about getting close to Aron by reminding herself of her father's motto: "Always do the thing that scares you." It's probably a saying all of us could use from time to time, so for this blogfest, I asked participants to post about a time that you decided to do something even though it scared you, either to get over that fear or because you knew it would be good for you.

The thing that scares me: putting myself out there as an author and taking a risk on self-publishing.

Self-publishing is kind of like the Wild West. Or maybe the California Gold Rush. Nowhere else is this more obvious than in the New Adult genre. Some books hit it BIG, some books do okay, and many books languish. There's a ton of hope and a ton of luck involved, along with a lot of disappointment.

Why the heck am I doing this again?!?

Oh, and I don't write tattooed bad boys. I don't write the charming a$$hole guy. I don't write playboys and billionaires with a fondness for handcuffs. And if you look around, that's what's selling.

But I thought, hey, I'm going to take a risk, because I love this kind of story. It's not just with SPIRAL, either--I've written two other New Adult books that will come out later this year. I'm making sure the books are thoroughly edited. I'm investing in my covers. I'm pouring a lot into these books--emotion, time, and money.

And I'm really scared.

Like Nessa, I'm hesitant to have my heart broken. I'm doing okay--I have a job I love, an amazing family, and some awesome friends. I don't need to expose myself to failure and disappointment like this. I mean--not only am I joining a crowded ebook marketplace, but I'm entering with the kind of romance hero that *might* not appeal to all readers (I hope he does, but you never know!)

I could have cheaped it out. I could have skipped the editing and rushed to post the book. If I hadn't put so much energy and time into it, I don't think it would hurt as much if it doesn't succeed. It might not be that way for everyone, but for me, if I don't invest in something, it's not as painful to see it fail.

But if I never pushed myself and committed to trying my absolute hardest, to giving readers the absolute best of me, if I didn't risk something ... I couldn't say I'd done all I could. I couldn't say I'd really put myself out there.

So here I am, putting myself out there, and we'll see. The book's only been out for a day, so it's too soon to say what's going to happen! Either way, I'll learn something. Either way, I'm going to be glad I did the thing that scared me.

What about you? Have you ever risked your heart because you knew it might be worth it? Have you ever done something that really scared you because you knew you might learn something about yourself?

And before you go, here's my giveaway to celebrate the release of SPIRAL!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nessa Cavanaugh, psychology student, knows how to stay on an even keel. Despite the urging of her mother and her academic advisor to get a life and have some fun, “all work and no play” sums up her plan to survive her grueling internship year at a children's hospital. She doesn't want to end up like her father, whose constant ups and downs broke her family, and avoiding unnecessary emotional entanglements is a must.

Then she (literally) runs into Dr. Aron Lindstrom in the middle of her disastrous first day on the job. The attraction is instant—and terrifying. Nessa knows she should stay away—especially when she finds out he has a reputation for being a player—but Aron is brilliant, intense, and as sexy as they come. When he challenges her to take a chance on him, her plans to stay focused on work start to crumble.

But what begins as passion takes on a dangerous edge, becoming an emotional roller coaster that’s frighteningly familiar. As things spiral out of control, Nessa must decide whether she should hold on for the ride or run … even if it means leaving her heart behind.

And here are the other participants in the blogfest--please go visit them!

Friday, July 5, 2013

SPIRAL: Chapter One

SPIRAL will be available in just a few days, on Tuesday, July 9th. Below is the first chapter in its entirety--I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter One

Always do the thing that scares you. That’s the way to break out of a cage of your own making. My father used to say that all the time. He died back when I was fifteen and left me with a lot of bad memories and a genetic dark cloud hanging over my head, but his mantra’s what I’ve chosen to keep for myself. It gives me a bit of courage when I need it most.

Like right now.

The automatic doors to the Pediatric Oncology unit swing wide, and I force myself not to hesitate on the threshold. I push back a stray tendril of hair that falls across my cheek again a second later. I wobble a bit on the heels I bought over the weekend in the hopes of looking professional … and just a bit taller. I smooth my skirt and make sure the nametag that hangs from the lanyard around my neck is facing outward. It’s my first week of internship—the final year of training I need to get my PhD in clinical psychology—and my first day on this rotation. My nametag is the only way I can prove I’m actually supposed to be here.

Not that Psychology Intern is all that reassuring or impressive to anyone. But when the patients’ parents get too upset to reason with, the nurses call Psychology, and it’s Friday at 5:26pm, so I’m it.

I can hear the disgruntled father snarling from here. His voice is hoarse, like he’s been at it for a while. And as I walk into the atrium, where colorful fish swim lazily around the circular aquarium at its center, I see him through the undulating plastic seaweed. He’s a big guy in a stained t-shirt, sporting a serious case of hat-hair. His face is flushed and his eyes are red.

At the main desk, a plump, middle-aged nurse in lavender scrubs looks at me and raises her eyebrows. I walk over to her. “I’m Nessa Cavenaugh,” I say. “You called for a psychology consult?”

She folds her arms across her ample chest. “And like I told you on the phone, we’ve got a parent and kid who need some help.” She nods at the dad and gives me a get a move on kind of gesture.

My cheeks grow warm as I head for the big, angry guy. I round the end of the huge aquarium as he grabs for the kid at his feet, a boy of about four or five. “You will apologize to your brother, Shawn!” he barks at the kid.

“No!” Shawn shrieks. His face is pink like his dad’s. “Won’t!”

“He’s sick, and you have to be nice!”

“I don’t care!”

The dad opens his mouth to reply, but then he sees me standing there. “What?” It comes out rough, a challenge. He looks like a bull ready to charge.

“My name’s Nessa. Can I be helpful to you guys?” I wish my voice wasn’t shaking.

The dad looks me over, and his eyes narrow as he reads my ID badge. “Psychology? They called the shrink? And not even a real one. Some high school kid!” He rolls his eyes. “Thanks a lot, Lynette!” he calls over to the nurse.

My cheeks have gone from warm to freaking five-alarm blaze. I know I look young, but I’m not that young. I stand up a little straighter, not that it helps much, seeing as I’m five-five in my shiny two-inch heels. “Maybe she thought you might want to talk? She knew you were having a hard time.”

He rocks back. “A hard time?” he whispers, his face twisting. “That’s what you call it? One kid’s got cancer, the other one’s completely outta control, and their mother is—” He clenches his teeth.

“No, I’m sorry—I was only—” Making things worse.

He waves his arm, shooing me away. “Leave me alone. If you think this is just a hard time ...” He’s shaking his head as he grabs the little boy by the arm and drags him, kicking, into Room 411. The tag next to the door says “FINN BEEMAN.” It’s printed in block letters with a blue marker, like maybe the kid wrote it himself.

I look over my shoulder, and the nurse points toward the doorway, her mouth tight as Shawn’s sobs echo down the hall. I draw in a long breath, dread curling in my stomach. I’m stuck—I already messed up with this dad, and trying to talk to him again so soon is risky at best. But the nurse is going to tell my supervisor—and worse, all the other nurses and docs on this unit—if I don’t at least attempt to fix this.

So I do the thing that scares me most and head for Finn’s room.

Lying in the bed is a little guy who doesn’t look much older than Shawn. Finn’s got a red bandana tied over his bald head, and his sallow skin is lit up by the screen he’s holding a few inches from his face. His brother is huddled in the corner, wailing, and his dad is on the plastic recliner chair, his head in his hands. And I think I get it: Shawn wanted a turn, Finn didn’t want to give up the Gameboy, and Dad feels too guilty to say ‘no’ to his sick child. As I open my mouth to speak, Mr. Beeman’s head jerks up. “I told you I didn’t want to talk to you.”

“I understand, but I hoped we could—”

“Get out!” he booms, standing up suddenly.

I take a stumbling step back, and the heel of my pump lands squarely on … someone’s toe. “Ow,” says a deep male voice.

I spin around. Lab coat over a striped button-down. Splattered with coffee. “Omigod,” I mumble, reaching out like an idiot to wipe brown droplets from the center of my victim’s chest, vaguely registering firm muscles beneath the fabric … and the fact that I am smearing hot coffee over them and (once again!) making things worse. “So sorry.” I lift my gaze to his face.


I’ve stomped on the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen up close. And made him spill his coffee. And wiped it on his neatly pressed shirt. He’s a few inches north of six feet tall, lean and broad-shouldered, with dark blond hair and seriously green eyes. A small, crescent shaped scar just above his angular jawline somehow only makes him hotter.

He’s gazing down at me like he’s expecting an explanation.

“Uh,” I say, grasping frantically for words and coming up empty. Because: his mouth. I can’t stop staring at it. “Sorry. You’re very … stealthy.”

His eyebrow arches, then he looks over the top of my head at Mr. Beeman, giving me the chance to read the nametag on his lapel: Aron Lindstrom, M.D.

Oh, crap.

“Hey, Greg,” Dr. Lindstrom says. “Got you a coffee when I was in the cafeteria. Thought you could use it.” He holds out the cup, now only three-quarters full thanks to my clumsiness, and Mr. Beeman’s footsteps clonk as he comes to retrieve it.

“I got something for Shawn, too,” Dr. Lindstrom says more quietly. “If you want to give it to him.” He holds up a small Dunkin Donuts bag. From inside the room, Shawn’s sobs fall silent.

I step to the side while Greg Beeman accepts the Munchkins from Dr. Gorgeous.

“Thanks, Doc,” Mr. Beeman says. “Tell your nurse to call off the shrinks, ‘kay?” He jerks his thumb at me. “I’m not crazy.”

The doctor doesn’t bother to look in my direction as he claps Mr. Beeman on the shoulder. “Of course not. Everything all right now?” Shawn approaches his father cautiously, a fragile, hopeful smile on his face, and Mr. Beeman chuckles and hands him the bag, like he’s relieved that he can offer this kid something—and that Shawn is no longer screaming. Dr. Lindstrom smiles at him.

“Looks like it.”

            They start to talk about Finn and his IV nutrition, and I back away slowly. The nurse who called for the consult is riveted to her computer screen, and all I want to do is shout, “Why did you call me down here if all it took was coffee and some Munchkins?”

             I clamp my mouth shut and walk quickly to the back hallway, toward the booth where I’m supposed to enter stuff into the electronic medical record. I have to document that I was here even though I did nothing but demonstrate my incompetence to one and all. Wishing to God that I’d chosen different shoes this morning, I climb awkwardly onto the high stool in front of the computer on the counter. My feet dangle several inches from the floor, and I swing my legs as I type the password and find Finn’s chart. I click the tab labeled Psychology/Psychiatry. And then I stare at the screen for who-knows-how-long, my eyes stinging. What am I supposed to write?

Intern accidentally enraged parent during emotional situation that was resolved by hot doctor with donuts.

“Can I get on when you’re done?”

I almost fall off the stool. Dr. Lindstrom is leaning against the wall of the booth with a lazy sort of grace. “Sure,” I say, then clear my throat.

“You’re new,” he comments, reading my nametag. “Ah. One of the interns. I knew there was another rotation starting.”

“Yeah.” I’m staring at his coffee-stained chest, which is making my insides feel fluttery. So I meet his gaze, which scrambles my thoughts—right when I need every IQ point I possess. “The nurse called me down. She thought Mr. Beeman needed some help. But I … then he …”

I look over at the blank screen. Intern inadvertently trivialized Mr. Beeman’s suffering, then stomped on Dr. Lindstrom’s toes and ruined his shirt. I rub my hands over my skirt and wish I was invisible.

“You’re upset because he yelled at you,” Dr. Lindstrom says coolly. “You need to get over that. These people are going through a lot. Sometimes it’s too much. You can’t take it personally, especially—”

“That’s not it at all.” Frustration burns through me as I raise my head. “I’m upset because I couldn’t help him. Or that little boy. And that’s what I was supposed to do.” But all I did was make things harder for them.

All my doubts hit me at once: I don’t belong here. This is one of the most prestigious internships in the country, and one of the hardest rotations on said internship, full of docs known for being total hard asses, and I’m already screwing it up because I can’t think on my feet. Needing to escape, I hop off the chair—and it turns out thinking on my feet is the least of my problems. My heel gets stuck in a rung of the stool and I topple over with a yelp.

My face crashes into Aron’s coffee-scented chest, and his steely arms wrap around me, keeping me from sliding to the floor.

“Now I’ve got coffee and lipstick on my shirt. What did I do to deserve this kind of treatment?” he says, but he’s obviously working hard to keep from laughing. He holds me slightly away from him and looks down at his chest. Then at my mouth.

And his gaze stays. Right. There.

My fingers grip his waist, which is ridged with muscle. Aron Lindstrom clearly works out, I think stupidly. He leans over, making sure my right foot is stable on the floor before tugging my left heel from the evil clutches of the stool. His fingers skim over my bare ankle and raise goosebumps. “I’ll bet it was a long walk from the Psychology Department in those shoes,” he comments.

“You’re not kidding.”

He chuckles as he straightens up, and as he does, his shoulder brushes my breasts, just a barely-there touch. I gasp, nearly losing my footing again as my nerves send frantic more more more messages zinging through my entire body. I cross my arms over my chest because: nipples. I’m pretty sure he could see them through my shirt if he bothered to look.

His fingers tighten over my bicep, and I glance up at him in time to see something stir in his eyes. Did he bother to look?

“Is your ankle okay?” he asks. I don’t think I’m imagining the strain in his voice.  

“Yeah.” I’m breathless. I want to press my entire body up against his, which would probably not come across as professional.

 “My name’s Aron,” he says, finally letting me go. “I’m one of the fellows.” Which explains why he only looks a few years older than I am. He’s still finishing up his training.

“I’m Nessa. And, er … you know what I am.”

His lips quirk up. “I’m not sure I do.”

He takes my place on the stool in front of the computer and types something on the Psychology/Psychiatry page. Then he clicks to the General Medical section and writes something else while I stare at the scar on the left side of his slightly stubbly jaw. I’m imagining what his skin would feel like beneath my fingertips—rough, deliciously warm—when he gets up and gestures at the stool again, offering it to me. His gaze slides from my nametag all the way to my face, and I feel it on my skin as it moves, a path of heat that makes me shiver.

Please touch me again. That is my only thought.

He flashes a devastating grin, like he knows. “Nice meeting you, Nessa. I’ll send you my dry cleaning bill.”

He walks past me before I can respond. I inhale the crisp, grassy scent of his cologne before turning my attention back to the medical record. My hands shake as I click back to the Psychology section and see:

Intern Cavenaugh assisted Dr. Lindstrom in resolution of family conflict and began an assessment of parent stressors and needs.

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I mutter, closing Finn’s record and turning in the direction of Aron’s voice. He’s in one of the rooms down the hall, talking to a patient, judging by his gentle tone. I sit for a minute and listen. He’s got a very faint, hard-to-place accent, yet another thing that renders him hotter than can really be considered fair. I clench my fists and tell myself to focus. I can’t spend my Friday evening stalking Dr. Aron Lindstrom through the pediatric cancer ward at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia like a crazed fangirl. I have other things to do, like ...

… an assessment of parent stressors and needs.

Right. Exactly. I tuck my hair behind my ear only to feel it slide across my cheek yet again as I start walking back toward Finn’s room. I’m a few doors away when Mr. Beeman comes out. I can hear Shawn laughing from here. “Sounds like you got him settled down,” I offer, bracing myself for a hostile response.

Instead, Greg Beeman runs a hand through his hair and looks sheepish. “Listen, I’m sorry. About earlier, you know.”

“You don’t have to apologize. I’m not here to add to your stress, and I’m sorry that I did. It wasn’t my intention.” I lean forward. “And I don’t think you’re crazy. I think you’re extremely strong, to be handling all of this.”

He gives me a weary smile. “Thanks. Sometimes I wonder …” He looks back into Finn’s room and sighs.

“Mr. Beeman, can we start over?” I offer my hand. “I’m Nessa Cavenaugh. I’m a doctoral psychology intern, and I’m here to help parents manage under all this stress. You don’t have to talk to me or tell me anything, but I want you to know that if you do think of a way I can help, whether it’s talking to your boys or problem-solving or whatever, I’m available, and I’d be honored.”

He blinks at me, then shakes my hand. His is rough and callused. I wonder what job he had to take a leave from so he could be here. “You can call me Greg,” he says. “And thanks. I’ll think about it.”

“I’m glad. Take care.” I head for the exit to the unit, grateful for this one tiny victory. Aron strides around the corner and stops to talk to Mr. Beeman, and I hover near the double doors, mesmerized. While they converse in low tones, Aron smiles, and it lights up his perfect face and shows off his straight, white teeth. Before I look away, he glances up and catches me staring.

His grin grows wider.

I hustle myself off the unit before I forget why I came here in the first place.

But then I practically skip down the wide hospital corridor. Considering the string of humiliations I just experienced, my first trip to the oncology unit was a little bit awesome. I started to clean up the mess I made with Mr. Beeman, and I met one of the fearsome onco docs, who miraculously didn’t seem to hate me. In fact, he seemed to like me, despite the fact that I faceplanted on his shirt. He was kind. But also really scary … in an I’ll-steal-your-heart-if-you-let-me kind of way. I can’t afford to let that happen.

I bite my lip as my dad’s mantra runs through my mind before I can suppress it.

 Always do the thing that scares you.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SPIRAL Teaser 4!

But before long, Nessa and Aron are spiraling out of control ...

He wrenches the steering wheel and makes a few tight turns. I raise my head to see that we’re on a dark stretch of road in a part of town I don’t recognize, next to a construction site. He pulls against the curb beneath a burned out street lamp and unbuckles his seatbelt with barely restrained violence.

            “Now, come here now,” he chants as he unbuckles my seatbelt, too. Before I can oblige on my own, Aron drags me across the car and lifts me over the gearshift, pulling me into his lap. My head brushes the ceiling as he kisses me, and I brace my knees on either side of his hips. This is out of control. I know it is. It’s risky and wild and crazy.

            But I want it.

I'll post the entire first chapter of SPIRAL right here on Friday, July 5th.
SPIRAL will be available for purchase on Tuesday, July 9th!
And finally, to celebrate the release of Spiral, on July 10th I'm hosting the "Always do the thing that scares you" blogfest. To participate, all you need to do is post about a time you intentionally did something that scared you, either to get over the fear or because you know it would be good for you. There's a giveaway, too, with a chance to win a $50 gift card! Sign up is right here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

SPIRAL Teaser 3!

Nessa tries to keep Aron at a distance, but he's got a plan of his own...

“Come on.” Aron pulls me over to a table with a built-in chessboard. There’s a box on the table with some old plastic chess pieces in it. “My father and my brother Max would play every Sunday afternoon, and I would sit at the table, watching them. They thought I was too young to understand, but I picked it up quickly.”

            “How old were you?”

            “Four.” As my mouth drops open, his expression turns cunning and mischievous. “I love this game. The strategies are useful in life as well.”

            “Oh, really?” A smile tugs at my lips.

            “Mmm. I’m using one right now, in fact.”

            I laugh, but it’s breathless as he looks me up and down. “Are you going to tell me what you’re up to?”

            “And yield my advantage?" He gives me an absolutely wicked grin. "Never.”

I've got one more (hot) teaser for you on Wednesday, and then on Friday I'll be posting the entire first chapter! And before you go, here the chance to enter New Leaf Literary's Addicted to New Adult giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway