Hello Hero

What you get when you Google image search "hockey hero"

Q: Well Mel, yesterday’s post was kinda whiny. So today, let’s talk about something more exciting—sex! Tell us about the hero of Hockey Is My Boyfriend, Part One, Phil Davidson.

A: If you like guys who are tall, dark and good-looking with great bodies, you might find Phil attractive. Also, he has a soft side: he’s into music and likes to play guitar. And he's definitely vulnerable when it comes to anything around our lovely heroine, so awwww. Phil is packing heat, if that matters to you. But most importantly for Kelly, he’s athletic and good at hockey. They do all kinds of outdoor things together: hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and swimming. 
It’s a match made in Vancouver. Really, around here all anyone wants to know on Monday is whether you went to Whistler in the winter or the beach in the summer.

Hockey Is My Boyfriend, Part One is about first love. Phil and Kelly have known each other since they were ten years old and they’ve always been good friends. As Phil has, er, matured, he’s become interested in Kelly in a whole new way. Apparently that’s a whole romance genre: the friends-into-lovers thing. But really, it makes a lot of sense, a person that you know and feel comfortable with is a good candidate for a relationship. Or maybe they set the bar for what your ideal may be.

I’ll let Phil explain it himself. When Phil was sixteen, he started looking at Kelly differently. Here’s an excerpt from the book, from Phil’s POV:

I could also pinpoint the day I started liking Kelly for real. 
It was a few months ago. For a while, I’d been noticing that she was developing physically, and I was changing too. 
One day, we went for a long kayak ride. It started raining on the way back, and we were getting chilled. After we put the kayak away, we ran up to the deck, and jumped in our hot tub to warm up. She didn’t have her bathing suit, so she stripped down to her sports tank and borrowed a pair of running shorts from me. 
“Holy doodle, this feels great.” Kelly sunk down into the water. “Really, it’s like everything good at once, we’re getting warm and the jets are massaging us.” 
She fully immersed herself for a moment. Then she brought her head up and made this noise, almost a moan, and I got a hard-on. 
Her eyes were closed, and I really looked at her.Lots of half-Asian girls are cute, but Kelly was all bright and energetic. When she talked, her whole face lit up. But now, when she was completely relaxed, she looked beautiful. Her face was kind of heart-shaped, with tanned skin, a few freckles, long eyelashes, and really full lips. And her body was hot, too. Kelly was strong; she went to the gym a lot, so she had great definition in her arms and legs. But she also had a tiny waist and this incredible ass. 
She opened her eyes and smiled at me. Luckily she had no clue what I was thinking, which was mainly how I’d like to jump her, right there and then. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post. And remember, Hockey Is My Boyfriend, Part One will be available for download on July 21st.

Party Girl

If nobody comes to my party, I'll eat these all by myself.
Today our Q & A is less breathless. There’s only one question: What kind of expectations do you have for Hockey Is My Boyfriend?

A: Augh. Such a tough question.

Each time you write a book, it’s like throwing a party. You do all the preparation: cleaning your place, buying drinks and food, cooking, decorating, etc. Then there’s this one moment before the party starts that you think, “Is anybody going to come?” Right now is that moment.

I feel pretty blessed with the sales of my first long novel, How The Cookie Crumbles. I knew very little about book marketing or promotion, so basically I put the book out there and crossed my fingers. Lots of great people found the book and let me know how much they enjoyed it. I took it for granted that many indie authors had good sales, but since then I’ve learnt that many sell less than a dozen books to non-family member.

As I’ve written before, I think my success is partly due to the fact that romance readers are avid readers who are able to size up books from the sample and don’t need a ton of hype. In addition, lots of readers—me included—just like hockey books.

Having said that, I don’t think that my books are typical. They are usually longer than most novels, and mix up humour, drama, and sex in a way that makes them a little harder to classify.

Hockey Is My Boyfriend is different in a few ways. In the first chapter, the heroine is only fifteen years old! I’m pretty sure that will turn off some readers right there. But it’s about first love, so I wanted to start at the beginning. Don’t worry, nothing statutory happens, and I fast-forward two years soon afterwards. 

The other way that HIMB is different is that it’s divided into three parts. Part One takes place in high school. Part Two takes place during Kelly’s third year at university. Part Three is when she graduates and starts working. So it’s a long story—surprise, surprise, I know.

So, while I’m extremely excited about the book (after all the rewriting and editing I’ve done, I should be!) I’m still getting the pre-party jitters. I worry that people sampling the beginning will write it off as some lame young adult novel. And I’m worried that people who think it’s a YA novels are going to freak out when they get to the sex scenes. 

But why worry? This book is for smart readers who are interested in relationships. And hockey. And I’m sure those people will find it.

A Week of Awesome

Only one week to the July 21st launch of Hockey Is My Boyfriend, Part One! So, leading up to the big day, I will post daily questions about my latest masterpiece. And then I will answer them! A circle of self-indulgence, really. But hopefully the Q & A will tantalize you enough to want to read the book.

Q: So Mel, what’s the new book about?
A: Well Mel, the new book is about Kelly Tanaka. Our heroine is a little hockey-obsessed, she plays hockey and loves to watch hockey and discuss hockey.

Q: Hmmm, a hockey-obsessed woman? This is sounding a little familiar….
A: I can’t skate. So, not that similar at all.

Q: Are there any attractive guys in the book?
A: Yes. At least two. And so romance as well as hockey. Therefore, a hockey romance!

Q: Why is it called Part One? Is this like Star Wars, where there are all those stupid prequels and sequels? That irritating Jar Jar Binks isn’t involved is he?
A: No irritating characters here, except maybe Ada in Chapters 37 & 38. Hockey Is My Boyfriend is a trilogy. The completed adventures of Kelly Tanaka currently sit at 300K words—so rather than creating the proofreading job from H-E-double hockey sticks, I divided the narrative into three parts. Parts One and Two are both the size of a normal novel at 70,000 words—well, actually 69K *snicker snicker*—and Part Three is 160K. And I haven’t yet edited Parts Two and Three. When I edit, sometimes things get longer…

Q: Is there a happy ending?
A: Well, you know, it depends what you mean by a happy ending. Some people might consider the personal growth and independence of the heroine as a happy ending. Others might see the evolution and hardiness of the human spirit as a good note to end upon.

Q: So, no.
A: No. Not until Part Three.

Q: Is there a cat?
A: Of course, there’s always a cat. This one is named Gino. Yes, after that Gino.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's awesome questions and so-so answers!
A: I think you've got that reversed.

Happy Days!

Today is Canada Day and the perfect day to announce that my very Canadian heroine, Kelly Tanaka, will have her book launched this month. Maybe her name doesn't sound Canadian, but she is. She loves hockey! She's multicultural! She's sexually backward. These are all proud Canadian traditions.

The book is written, edited and finalized. Formatting is in progress, and I have a new cover. I did keep the results of the cover vote in mind, but I also went back to my original design brief of quirky minimalism and tweaked a whole bunch of stuff. And when I say "design brief," I mean that I brief myself and then tell myself how I've done. A weird process, but then I also pay myself $10,000 for the great cover. Don't tell the tax department.

Without further fanfare, here's all the news: Hockey Is My Boyfriend, Part One, will launch on July 21st, which is coincidentally Kelly Tanaka's birthday. Yay, cake all around!

When Hockey Dreams Meet Reality

With the NHL Draft coming up tomorrow, there’s a ton of focus on the top picks. Teams and fans are salivating over the prospect of adding defenceman Aaron Ekblad, or centres Sam Bennet and Sam Reinhart to their roster. The sports radio station in Vancouver has been hypothesizing all the ways that the Canucks can trade to get the first pick. But I suspect that sports pundits in every NHL city but Miami are hypothesizing the same thing.

Lots of crazed fans even watch the draft—not me of course(cough, cough). Most only pay attention to the first round. What about the later rounds?

I recently flew to Montréal and one of my entertainment options was a National Film Board feature on junior hockey. Naturally, I chose that. As an aside, what could be more Canadian than flying Air Canada and watching an NFB film on hockey? Oh, it was bilingual too. The film is called Junior and it follows a Quebec junior team called Drakkar Baie Comeau for one season. The focus is mainly on a couple of players who are in their draft year and working hard to get noticed. It begins at with the first win of the season and concludes at the draft where only one of the players is selected—in the last round. If you’d like to watch this movie, which is mainly en français, you can see it online here.

While watching, I thought it was a fictional movie where they combine real footage with filmed segments—in part because there was so much emotion and the central player was quite good-looking. But it turned out to be a documentary, and all the emotion was completely real. The players, who range in age from 16 to 20, have the bodies of men, but the minds of young boys. There was a lot of crying, not only about losing games, but about getting traded, not playing enough, or even being lonely. The players are all under a ton of  pressure, and they are far from home and without family support. They have to perform for the team, their agents, and for the NHL scouts. Sometimes those goals are in conflict. But the main goal is always the same: getting drafted.

Superfans  analyze past drafts and moan about the players their team shoulda, coulda, woulda taken. But in reality not everyone in the first round even makes the NHL, and if you’re drafted in the later rounds, it’s a complete crapshoot.

This movie allowed me to see the pain of being an extremely talented player who was used to being the best, made tons of sacrifices and then had his dreams shattered in one day. If you’ve always believed youd play pro hockey, what happens when that dream is exploded? Its this human drama that always inspires me, both to watch sports and to write about sports.
Of course, you can keep hoping. As the hero of my upcoming book says, And there was one guy who went to our school, he got taken in the last round of the draft and he still made it to the NHL. You couldn’t ever give up.” He is referring to the real-life David Jones of North Vancouver, who was the last pick of the Colorado Avalanche and still made it to the NHL. He is currently playing for the Calgary Flames. But he never played Major Junior, he stayed at home and played Junior A, went on to an Ivy League college, and then made the NHL. He obviously didn't count on playing in the NHL. 

Maybe the better message is to keep those dreams, but have a backup plan. If you watch the draft, spare a thought for those lower round guys out sweating it out in the stands. 

Introducing Melanie Ting, Book Reviewer

Like most writers, I love to read as well. My reading habits are pretty diverse, but when I first got my Kindle I made the mistake of getting a bunch of free romances. That was a trip to the intersection of Credulity Crescent and Predictability Place. I understand that some readers like to escape the real world, but I think you can escape without completely breaking the gravitational pull of common sense. However I may be wrong, which happened once in 2010.

So when it comes to romance, I stick to ones about hockey. At least if it’s bad, I still get to read about hockey. Sadly though, certain hockey romances seem to have been written by people who don’t know anything about hockey. This is something that mystifies me. Why on earth would you write about something you didn’t have a real enthusiasm for?

Anyway, I’m the world’s pickiest reader when it comes to hockey romances. And I can’t even vent, since reviewing hockey romances would be a conflict of interest for me. Not to mention the possible retaliation. “Oh, so Melanie Ting hated my realistic novel about an orphan from Africa who made his way up to the top line in the NHL and won the love of a beauty queen/sports reporter/trial lawyer/animal rights activist? Well, let me trash her stupid book about…cookies? What the heck?”

Meanwhile, Ali Crean offered to review my book for her fabulous book blog, All the Things Inbetween. And by offered, I mean she put a call out for indie books to review and I applied. She scheduled a review of my book for April, but then she got so sick that she completely stopped posting and reviewing. Desperate, she sent out a message asking if anyone would like to help her out by providing blog content. 

SuperMel to the rescue. I offered to write a couple of book reviews and author interviews. But because I’m lazy busy, I reviewed two books I had already loved and interviewed two authors I already knew. I figured I could kill a whole flock of birds with one stone (with that analogy, I’m clearly not an animal rights activist heroine) by helping out Ali, promoting two authors I admire, and also getting my name out there. And now maybe when Ali finally reads my book, she’ll think, “Well, that Cookie book’s okay, but Mel did me a solid by doing those reviews, so 5 stars!” I know, Machiavelli has nothing on my twisted mind.

My interviews and reviews have already started running. This week I interviewed Kate Willoughby and reviewed her book, On the Surface, is today. Next week, I interview Jaymee Jacobs, and review Play the Man. And do check out the rest of Ali's book blog. Her review style is like a literary cat on crack. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Having no experience at all in book reviewing, I went for the humour, and both Kate and Jaymee were totally hilarious in their interviews. Check them out and see for yourself.

Interview with Kate Willoughby where we play Marry, Date or Dump with members of the Los Angeles Kings. Woot!

Review of Kate Willoughby's hockey romance, On The Surface.

Review of Jaymee Jacob's hockey romance, Play The Man.

Interview with Jaymee Jacobs, where she explains how to tell if you're talking to a puck bunny or a hockey fan. In case you didn't know. Also you can play the Love Triangle Game, invented by me!

Behind The Covers

Love triangles can only end badly.

Last post, I unveiled my new covers. But more importantly, what lies behind those flowery covers? Flowery prose?

Nope. Hockey Is My Boyfriend presents one fantastical question. What if, when you were ready to settle down, you got to choose between the only two guys in your life you had loved?

As a reader, I hated those books that had two guys fighting for the heart of a heroine, but one was all rich and smarmy while the other was all handsome and virtuous. Because then it’s not really a choice is it? Every reader is yelling at the heroine to pick the good guy, and then she does. It’s not really a choice and its kind of boring.

So, when I wrote this story, I created two characters that were equally good matches for our spirited heroine. I’m not going to say anything about these guys right now, you can discover them for yourself and make your own choice. All in good time, my little pumpkins.

I am clearly someone who writes long. How the Cookie Crumbles was 147K words, to the delight of some readers and the consternation of others. And right now, Hockey Is My Boyfriend is weighing in at a scale-tipping 290K words! Phew.

So faced with the option of editing out half the book or dividing it up, I choose division. Hockey Is My Boyfriend is the story of Kelly Tanaka. She’s a regular person, but she does love hockey. She plays hockey, watches hockey, and fantasizes about hockey. (She fantasizes about playing high level hockey, not whatever you might have been thinking!) Not surprisingly, she ends up dating hockey players. Even though romance has never been her priority, she seems to end up with some pretty interesting guys. And theyre hot, if that sort of thing matters to you.

And it’s a long story because it spans a long period of time, from her first kiss to her last. Well, not her last kiss in that she dies or anything, just when she decides that this is the guy she’d like to kiss for the rest of her life. The series is divided into three individual stories, each of which has an ending, but not necessarily a happy one. Part One is the story of Kelly and her first love, Phil Davidson. Part Two is the story of Kelly and her second love, James Friesen. Part Three is about Kelly and her career. Oh, and also that little choice I mentioned.

I have finished my seventh millionth rewrite of Part One, and it’s now in the hands of my editor. After that, polishing, formatting, and publishing will follow in short order.

By the way, only the lovely Myan commented on those covers in the last post. So after taking her comments into consideration, I have redone the first cover. See how much power commenters have around here? You could have suggested I add sparkly rainbow unicorns and I would have redone the covers! Anyhoo, you can choose your favourite in the poll. (Apologies to everyone who tried to vote before, the Blogger polls are apparently not working right now. I added a new poll now.)

I still kinda like the new one, but the new "old" one looks good too. I could be swayed by a majority of readers. Or Myan voting multiple times for her choice. Like EA Sports and the cover of NHL15, whatever the results I maintain the final say. But, I'm listening to you. Really I am.

Option A
Option B

My massive cover reveal proves once more that I know nothing about hype

I seem to have been editing and re-editing my latest book for a lifetime. But in keeping with the tech idea that she who ships, wins—I’m going to stop striving for perfection and just get the book done. After all, it’s a trilogy, and I thought that the first book would be the easiest. But judging from my process so far, they’re all going to be hard, and the third one will be brutal.

But, I am getting stuff done. Today, I did the covers. If you couldn’t tell already, I do all my own covers. Yeah, I knew you could tell. But my zero-cost cover budgets work for me. I never have to stress out about sales, because one sale and I’m already making money. As long as you don’t count all the hours I spend on my books. Then I’m probably making less than the babysitter of a sweatshop worker.

At first, I did my covers to Kindle specifications, but then I noticed that my covers were all long and thin. As much as it may be my dream to be tall and thin, I think shorter, fatter book covers look better. Oh sorry, that should be height-challenged covers with a healthy BMI. Anyway, I changed the size this time out.

I am very interested in what makes good cover art. In my post on self-publishing, I think I mentioned this monthly e-book cover awards contest. While I would never have the guts to enter my covers in the contest, I learn a ton by reading the comments and using my own judgement.

One area I identified as a weakness was my fonts. I have a big ole crush on Georgia, and I use it all the time when I blog. So when it came time to for a title fonts, I turned to Georgia. It looks contemporary and fresh to me. But I've since learnt that you should not use any of the normal fonts on your computer for book titles. So, I searched around for a font I liked (free of course, since you know my zero budget) and I found a couple of great ones on FontSquirrel. The main title is in a sans serif that looks contemporary and it’s a lot fatter—I mean healthy-weighted—than Georgia, so more legible to readers when in a tiny thumbnail. Then for the subtitle, I chose a font that’s fun and light, which is what my books are. The font's name is Lobster! I love that.

For this project, I had to make three covers at once, so I needed a common theme for the visuals. I decided on flowers, for a few reasons. First off, I’ve seen some really nice flower book covers lately; they look intriguing and compelling to me. Secondly, flowers figure into my trilogy. My heroine, Kelly Tanaka, has a father who is a florist, she gets flowers at various points from various suitors, and someone even compares her to a flower. (Unless I edit that part out in my relentless process.) And thirdly, I love colour and flowers are tops in that department.

So, I started searching for flower images. I had a few ideas in mind, but what is available in my price range and what my imagination wants never match up. Eventually I found a few suitable images and starting applying my Photoshop skills to make them useable for my cover design. I like to maintain a look for my books, and that includes a hockey stick background, colourful titles, and an image suitable to the book. Again, the main intention is communication. I view my books as a little romance, a little chick lit, and a little hockey. Hopefully, that is what the covers communicate. Also, I wanted to point out that my cover backgrounds are white, but when I put them on Blogger, they turn grey. Not fifty shades, though. 

I experimented a lot with the covers. One great thing is that I can fool around with title names, since I'm the writer and the cover designer. I determined that a shorter title looked better with this font, so I tried some alternate titles and settled on this one. Photoshop is an unending source of frustration for me, but I’m improving all the time. I had someone helping me for a while, but he got fed up and pointed out that he was Googling the answers to all my dumb questions. So that’s what I do now. And I feel like I’m gaining a useful skill. (Photoshop, not Googling.) The real test will be when I can do something like Lift Cat.

Anyway I ended up with four covers. The first three are the ones I picked and the alternate one is the cake.  You can decide if you like the alternate better. Or you can tell me that I’m an idiot and my covers looked better before. But I don’t think so, if I were judging the e-book cover contest, I’d choose me. I may be a little biased though. And I do realize that I'm supposed to tease and reveal my covers when the books are launching, but I was so excited, I wanted to share them right away!

Coming up next, I’ll discuss what’s behind those covers.

Should romance readers rule the world?

Are romance readers the nicest people in the world? Or the smartest?

Lately the subject of book reviews has come up a lot in writing world. The online writing board I visit has writers agonizing over getting more reviews. They buy ads, beg family, offer trades, whine, and cajole. One blog has writers complaining about bad reviews, while another has readers complaining about writers complaining about bad reviews. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is.

On the other hand, a writer friend is worrying about her lack of reviews, but her sales are sky high. She wonders how she can tell if people are enjoying the book or not. I wonder how I get sales like hers.

So what is going on? Are reviews important or not?

I have a theory. (I always have a theory, because I have an out-of-control imagination.) When I used to work in advertising, we had focus groups of consumers to try out product marketing ideas. There were certain consumers who were called heavy users. For example, the beer focus group was shown a new beer, and the guys (yes, they were always guys) said, “I’d try a case of that.” A case meant 24 beers, which they were going to drink over a weekend. By themselves. I leave it to your own out-of-control imagination to visualize what these guys looked like.

Romance is a huge category. In fact, many romance readers may not even consider themselves that since the genre is sometimes belittled. So most readers have subcategory preferences, ones that fit their interests, like suspense, historical, chick lit, vampires, young adult, on and on. I read a lot of hockey romances, because I’m interested in hockey and relationships. And I can usually tell from the sample if I’m going to like it or not. If the sample is not enough, I might look at the reviews, but I usually look at the bad ones first. To paraphrase Tolstoy: all good reviews are alike, but bad reviews are interesting in their own ways. In fact, a bad review may tip me off to something I may like in a book. Like reviews that complain about bad language or an unhappy ending, which are not things that bother me at all. Therefore, the good reviews are not necessary for me to make a purchase.

But let’s get back to those heavy users, but not beer drinkers—romance readers. (Although they may well be doing both at the same time. Personally, I visualize reading a romance with wine and chocolate.) If you’re reading three or more books a week, you are already an expert. You can probably scan a sample in two minutes and decide yay or nay. You have a list of authors whose books you like, and you pick a new one up automatically. You may even download books based on the cover, the subject only (like a hockey romance, pretty please) or because a friend recommended it. Reviews may not be important to those readers.

Really, it’s like anything. If you know about wines, you can pick out a good, low-priced wine by tasting it or even from the label. Similarly, heavy-user romance readers know what they enjoy and can pick out books accordingly. If the books are good, they’ll pick up all the author’s other books as well. They are smart that way, they don’t need reviews, good or bad, because they have self-knowledge.

In addition, romance readers seem to be a lot more tolerant than normal people. I’ve read reviews where readers complained a lot about the book, but then turned around and said they’d read the sequel. It’s the equivalent of having bad service at a restaurant, but being willing to give the place another try, something that nice people do. (Or people who live in a place where there aren’t a lot of restaurants.) And nice readers are also willing to give new/indie authors a chance. They don’t know the writer, but the synopsis looks intriguing enough, so one-click and the book is bought.

So why are all these writers worrying about reviews? I suspect that they write books in other categories where the readers are not so smart or so nice.

A Crisis of Confidence

Who hasn’t had a collapse of confidence? Just at that moment that you need your flirty, witty self, she disappears and leaves you a stuttering, sweating blob. Or maybe you lose your confidence when it comes to taking risks: like applying for a dream job or going on that blind date. Why are we never as spectacular in public as we are in private?

Although I have never had sex with an NHL player, I do have a lot in common with the heroines of my books. We all enjoy hockey, own cats and live in beautiful Vancouver. And we all have confidence in many areas, but not all. Like Frankie Taylor, who feels confident at school, in the kitchen, and when fully-dressed in a swishy fifties frock. But getting naked in a brightly-lit room worries her. Or like Kelly Tanaka, from my upcoming book, who feels completely confident in any athletic situation, but not when navigating relationships.

I have no self-confidence when it comes to sports and I have to be dragged to big parties. However, I feel confident at work, in any mall anywhere (because I am an Olympic shopper) and in normal social situations. And I feel pretty confident about my writing—except lately.

I try to welcome criticism. Of course—like any writer—it’s painful, but I have my own way to handle things. I generally step back for 24 hours to make sure I’m not being all stupidly emotional, and try to react positively. I understand that my books are not for everyone, and I think I can learn from negative feedback.

However three negative critiques from three unrelated sources in the past three weeks left me reeling. I completely lost confidence and started to wonder if I should even bother writing anymore. I decided to take a short break from writing, and do some exciting things I had neglected—like housework and laundry. After a week, with the floors clean and everything ironed while watching NHL Revealed, I decided it was time to go back to writing. I opened my laptop, and … nothing. I was too discouraged to write, feeling like there was no point in writing because nobody liked my writing anyway. Yeah, I knew it was a pity party, but that didn’t make it any less real. And I also realized that although I had tons of positive feedback in the past, now I could only see the negatives. Confidence crises have a way of spiralling.

Writing seemed like a monumental task that gloomy me just didn’t have the energy for. I had a whole book completed, but I didn’t want to bother implementing any of the edits I had planned and I didn’t want to start something new. So I closed the laptop and started watching episodes of True Detective. (Don’t tell me the ending because I’m not done yet.)

Then after a hockey-related conversation on twitter about our respective losing teams, I was asked how my writing was going. Boom! Something clicked in my head. Myan likes my writing! She wants to read the next book! And then she tweeted she would be the first one to read the new book when it came out! Wow, magically I was motivated again, I opened up the laptop and started editing. It’s slow going right now, but like any sport (or so I assume since I’ve never excelled at one) it’s tough when you begin after a setback and gets easier as you go along.

So all I can say is, thank you, Myan! You inspired me. I’m off to write some reviews myself, to say thanks to writers whose work I’ve enjoyed. And I encourage everyone to electronically hug your favourite writer today, whether it be with a good review, a recommendation to a friend, or a cheerful tweet. Because physically stalking and hugging that writer would be too creepy, and I have the restraining order to prove it. Kidding. 

What’s Revealed

After PVR’ing every episode of NHL Revealed so far, I finally started watching it during the little hiatus after Olympic hockey (farewell to watching hockey at 4:00 AM in the morning, thank God!) and before the regular season started again.

I’ve only watched two episodes so far—the Olympic ones, but I have to say that I love it. It’s so interesting and the cameramen seem to have a ton of access. You get to see the personal and personable side of many different hockey players. Frankly, everyone seems to act exactly how I’d expect them to: intense or goofy, boyish or mature, intelligent or clueless.

The show is not as intense or thematic as 24/7, but it’s a lot more fun. This season’s 24/7 was kind of disappointing, for a couple of reasons. First off, I dont think that theres a real, exciting rivalry between Detroit and Toronto. But more importantly, everyone seems to be savvy to the issues resulting from previous shows, and they were being extra careful not to reveal anything negative about themselves. Other than someone’s huge, perfectly organized closet, which was a negative for me. But then, I’m kind of a slob.

It makes me feel a little sorry for players though. People want to know so much about them, and the truth may not be as exciting as we think. To be good at something—like playing hockey—doesn’t necessarily translate into being an intriguing or inspiring person. But it’s all a part of being a celebrity, and I’m sure that being in the limelight is better than being ignored.

Anyone else watching this show? What do you think?

The To Do List

I’m getting so excited that my next book, How To Date a Hockey Player, is almost done. Of course, “done” has so many meanings. At this point, I'm almost done writing the final draft of the book, which means everything that happens from now on will be fine-tuning.

Here are the stages of finished that this book will go through.
- Rough draft (done)
- Final draft (almost done!)
- Editor changes (25% done, and editors are standing by. One anyway.)
- Beta reading (not done, but I don't have to do this)
- Re-editing after beta feedback (minor, I hope)
- Final read-through (ack)
- Formatting (cue pulling of hair and tantrums)
- Cover (already started)
- Proofing on different platforms (double ack)
- Corrections and links (triple ack)
- Publish (hooray! champagne for everyone)

But I’m a shirker compared to some, I recently read about an author who does 15 separate edits. Whew. In any case, you may not be interested in all the blood, sweat, and tears that goes on behind the scenes. What about the book, Mel? When’s the book coming out? I would say late March, but I’ll warn you that I have a tendency to be too optimistic.

Meanwhile, an excerpt from the first book of the trilogy. Yup, it’s a trilogy which takes our heroine from high school to university to a real job. And there are tons of hockey players, including our heroine herself, Kelly Tanaka. She’s half-Japanese, half-Irish, and all hockey.

To set this excerpt up, Kelly is seventeen, but she’s always been more interested in hockey than boys. I guess you could describe her as a bit of a tomboy. However, she’s just started dating for the first time, and her best friend, April Lachance, is very keen to meet the lucky guy.

April had been bugging me about getting to meet Nicklas. She had heard he was cute and she was extremely curious about someone she referred to as “the guy who turned Kelly Tanaka into a woman.” The problem was that Nicklas and I ran in two different social circles, which never seemed to overlap. When April began threatening to stalk us, I finally figured out a night when he had a game at Ice Sports, and I had a game after him. April could come to the rink with me and meet him in the half hour overlap between those two events.

April pulled up in my driveway, and I was all ready. I ran out and stuck my hockey bag and sticks in the back of her mom’s VW Golf, and then I hopped into the passenger seat.

“Okay, let’s go!” I said, cheerily.

April turned off the ignition.
“What, in the name of all that is ugly, are you wearing?”

I looked down. “Oh, this? This is my team tracksuit. It’s not too attractive is it? But we have to wear it to every game, you know, because we’re a team.”

“Team Totally Hideous! And are you wearing a sports bra again?”

“Duh! I’m playing hockey, which is a sport, therefore the sports bra.”

“Okay, but aren’t we meeting your boyfriend first? A boyfriend who is allegedly one of the cutest guys on the North Shore?”

“Yeah, but he knows why I have to dress like this. Besides, who can look sexy in a track suit?”

“Have you never seen Victoria Beckham? For starters, you could get a suit that fits a bit tighter. Okay, let’s go to your room,” she said as she opened the car door.

“What? April, this is not a makeover situation! Everyone else on the team is wearing their tracksuits; I have to wear mine too.”

“Oh Kelly, and if all the other girls were jumping off the bridge, would you too? Do you know how eight-years-old you sound? Don’t worry; I won’t make you change completely, only a bit.” She saw I was hesitating, “Quick now, it will go faster if you just obey me. Have I ever steered you wrong?”

“Yes, what about the time when we drank Hard Lemonade at the grade seven grad?”

“Okay, that was a mistake, but that was not a fashion decision. I am never wrong about fashion.”

Ten minutes later we were back in the car. I looked ridiculous, in my opinion. April had safety-pinned the tracksuit in some weird way, so that was now tighter at the waist and bust. I was wearing a push-up bra and a low cut tank top underneath a strategically unzipped jacket that I wasn’t allowed to zip up any higher. Luckily she hadn’t made me change from my running shoes into hooker heels, because then I could not have lugged my hockey gear into the arena.

Olympic Winners ... And How You Can Be One Too!

I met these guys! Photo source: Wikipedia

The dawning of the 2014 Winter Olympics is sending me down memory lane. Cue harp music. Since I live in Vancouver, I was lucky enough to partake in the amazingness that was the 2010 Olympic Games. It was like a big two week party and everybody in the city was invited. There was music, public partying, cultural exhibitions, and of course, sports. 

I did get to go to some hockey games. The women’s games were great, the smaller university arena was full and it had the atmosphere of an intense amateur game with many fervent fans and parents in the stands. Team U.S.A. demolished Team Russia, and I discovered what it was like to sit in front of an oblivious father and his hyperactive four-year-old—with a cowbell! We left early. 

The men’s game was more exciting, as I got to see Team Canada and Team Switzerland. The game was way closer than we had expected and quite exciting. I went with Mr. Xm and we were sitting next to three people from Washington State. The woman sitting next to Mr. X kept asking him questions about hockey. I don’t think she was actually flirting, but I do think she thought he would enjoy explaining the game to an attractive woman. Wrong! Mr. X insisted on changing seats with me at the end of the first period. “She’s driving me crazy! I just want to watch the game,” he declared. So, ladies, may I say that understanding the game of hockey is very attractive to men. Especially ones who have paid hundreds of dollars for tickets.

I have to admit that when the Olympic Games ended, I was so sad that this wonderful event was over. Then a friend told me that if the facilities at Sochi were not ready in time, the Olympics would have to be here again! I’ve been sticking pins into my Putin voodoo doll every since, but obviously I failed in my mission. I hope this year’s games are safe and fair. I’ll always have my memories of 2010. 
Well, Olympians are not the only ones winning. In celebration of the Olympics, I am taking part in a sports romance blog hop. Just leave your email address in the comment section below or send me an email. Everyone will be added to my mailing list, where you get access to previews and deleted scenes. And one lucky person will win an ebook copy of any one of my books, including the upcoming one, How To Date A Hockey Player. To find out more about my books, check out my new book page.
Be sure to check out the links below, and explore all the sports romance writers in the Olympic hop. The blog hop ends on February 5th. Everyone is offering prizes, so good luck!

3. N Kuhn
18. Megan Linden

Woot! We have a winner. Congratulations to Amy Bowens! I will email you to find out which book you would like to receive.

A Short History of How I Became a Self-Published Hockey Romance Writer

This is Part Two of my mini-guide to self-publishing. Part One is here.

Okay, where were we? Well, I had written stories and people liked them. In fact, a few readers suggested I begin publishing my stories, but that meant hard copies, which were way too expensive. Enter the e-book tidal wave. Eleanor, another author friend, started checking out Amazon, and clued me into the fact that there were a few hockey romances there. “Check this book out, Mel. Its terrible! We should publish because our stories are better!” As a side note, she hasn’t published yet, so she’s like the friend who says “Let’s do this crazy thing!” And then lets you get into trouble first.

So I started “looking inside” a lot of book samples and later, reading quite a few books. I decided to take the plunge into self-publishing. I looked on the internet for advice and found a ton from writing blogs. One thing that authors like to do more than writing is write about writing. And if you can understand that last sentence youre already a better writer than me. Just search writing on Google and get ready to be struck by a tsunami of information.

How To Publish 
Here are my steps to self-publishing. I’m taking it for granted that you have written an excellent novel, proofed, and edited it yourself, and you think it’s ready.

1. Beta readers
You should get a few people to read your novel and give you honest feedback. Are there continuity issues? Are your characters likeable enough for the reader to root for them? Is anything missing or needed? Have you accidentally switched the name of a character mid-story? (It's happened, okay.)
When you get negative feedback, take a deep breath, say thank you, and sleep on it. Then go back and address the point that was raised. Yes, do it. Otherwise, why have a beta reader?

Cost: usually free. Your friends, significant other, or fellow writers are all prime candidates for this job. I was lucky enough to have a built-in audience from my previous serial stories.

2. Editors
Now your masterpiece is done. Or so you think. Time to get a professional on the job, the editor will be your dominatrix on the road to publishing pleasure. From what I’ve read there seem to be a zillion types of editors, but I would say they fall into two main categories: story editors and copy editors. A story editor will look at the large-scale aspects of your book: structure, character, pacing. A copy editor will examine the details by proofreading your book and correcting the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and stylistic elements. IMHO, editing is vital. I use the lovely and talented Amy Duli, who does copy editing for me. Punctuation is my Achilles heel, as well as overuse of the word, “just.” I just finished taking out that word 74 times from my latest book. Noooo, I just used it again ... oh, dang it!
Naturally, you should clean up your manuscript as much as possible before submitting it to an editor. I recently discovered this helpful blog, where two lovely Canadian (yay!) editors give advice on editing and formatting.

Cost: well, obviously depends on the editor’s experience and the length & state of your book. $200 - $1000 would be a rough range for an average book. 

3. Formatting
Okay, with your polished novel in your hot little hands, now what? Since so many gazillions of books have been published on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc., it must be easy, right? Nope, uploading your manuscript is a tricky process, as all readers of ebooks know. Who hasn’t experienced odd gaps and spacing in an ebook, or an un-navigable Table of Contents? Or perhaps even a book that won’t open. All these problems have to do with formatting. Formatting is the process of converting the text of your book to a MOBI or EPUB format so it can be read by ereaders. Now, I only have experience with Amazon so far, and while the process is improving it’s still tricky.
You have two choices: do it on your own or get an expert. It is very doable to do this yourself, especially if you have a little familiarity with HTML, but more complicated than I can explain here. I did both of my books myself and I would recommend the sites and blogs below for more detailed instructions.

It takes a lot of time though, not just to proof your book but to try it out on as many platforms as possible (Kindle Previewer, Nook, Kobo, iPad) to make sure it’s readable since nobody will ever tell you if it’s broken. They’ll just return your book, and returns are the sad-making nadir of an author’s day. Just asked someone who sold 6 books in Germany and had 5 returned. Meine Güte!

Your second choice is to have it done, but then you have two further choices. One, you can use an expert. I recommend Jaye Manus, who has been helping me with my more recent books and gives tons of advice in her blog on how to do it yourself. If you want to do it yourself, read her blog for help first. Again, the cost will depend on the length of your book and its complexity (illustrations, graphs, etc.) She will send you back a perfectly formatted book which you then upload and list on Amazon, Kobo, etc. 

Or you can use a service called Draft2Digital, they will format and upload your book for a commission of 10% - 15%. Obviously, you have to make a guess on how much money you’re going to make. The more sales you think you’ll make, the less you’ll want to give away 10% in perpetuity. Hint: your first book is probably not going to make that many sales.
The good side to paying a formatter is that you can spend more time writing and less time tearing your hair out over formatting issues.
Cost: Free to several hundred.

4. Cover
Your book’s cover can be done at any time in the process. You want it to communicate what the book is about to prospective readers Despite the old proverb, readers do judge a book by its cover. Again, you can choose to hire an expert or do it yourself.

If you want to hire a cover designer, there are tons out there so you want to make sure you get one who understands ebooks. For example the Amazon image is pretty small so tiny type won’t fly.  This blog post lists ten recommended cover sites. If I had a ton of money, I’d just hire the #1 site listed: Damonza. It’s $400 but his covers look great. I’ll warn you though, if you do check out his site, you’ll get his ads for months afterwards whenever you surf the net. If you want to buy a good cover, but not pay too much money, you could checking out fivver (covers for $5! Can this be real? I’ve never used it, but it seems worth a look.) Or check out premade covers, the ones on #7 from the blog post, ebookinidecovers, look pretty good to me and cost only about $50. Another similarly-priced source is Go On Write.

If you want to do it yourself, and you don’t have any experience in design, you shouldn’t. Just kidding, but at the minimum you should study some good designs first and get a qualified friend to look over your finished product. Here’s one fun way to see what’s good in covers, Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer does ebook cover awards every month. After you’ve looked at his comments, you get a good sense of what is right and wrong with covers. I find the bad covers pretty amusing. But then, I stop and look at accident scenes too.

I did my covers myself, and maybe you can tell. It’s my theory that if I went to the traditional bare-chested man and woman embracing, I would probably sell more books. Two problems though. First off, a realistic portrayal of Jake’s Gumby torso is not selling books. And second, I like my covers. I like their fresh look because it communicates all the information I want: not a typical romance, hockey, a little chick-lit, and contemporary. Still, after seeing the ebook Cover Awards, I may still bump up the font.
Cost: Free to $400

5. Promotion
Well, I’m probably not the best person to ask about promotion. I don’t do a ton, because I need to prioritize my time and I think that writing the next amazing book is the best way to succeed. But it certainly helps to have your book reviewed on popular blogs and promoted on social media. Having a facebook page, a blog, twitter, etc. are all ways to promote yourself as an author. You can also get an author’s page on Goodreads once your book is published, and join in the discussions there. You can do book launches, online parties etc. Knowing other authors in your genre is a good idea, you can do blog hops, cross-promote, and support each other. There are many book promoters out there who would love to help you, for a fee of course. 
That’s all I’ve got, but these ladies have more for you.
Cost: Free to sky's-the-limit

And finally, a couple of general self-publishing resources: 
I do check out the sub-Reddit on Self Publishing . I have to confess that Reddit is a bit scary for me, I had my comment history stalked by some loser, so I removed my profile permanently and now I merely creep the page for information. This sub-Reddit is quite practical and helpful. 

Lots of writers recommend the KDP/Kindle Author boards for information, but I find them too thin on actual facts and too heavy on self-promotion.

My final word of advice: ask for help and take all you can get. Don’t be sensitive or defensive about your work, use the suggestions you get, and you’ll keep improving.

A Short History of How I Became A Hockey Romance Writer

Recently, I had an email asking for advice on becoming a published author, so I thought I’d lay out my writing history here. There are two parts: todays post is about writing and part two is about self-publishing.

In the beginning there was hockey.

It all started around the time of the 2010 Olympic selection for Team Canada. In fact, I can remember the exact moment I got inspired. I was sitting on the couch with my friend, Daisy, and we looked up at the TV and said, “Who’s that?”  That turned out to be Jonathan Toews, who has both the boyish good looks and on-ice determination that are so appealing to hockey fans. Well, to Daisy and me anyway. And then he turned out to be from Winnipeg, which is where Mr. X, the man in my life, is also from. This gave me the excuse while watching games to point him out, “Hey sweetie, that guy’s from Winnipeg too!” As long as you don’t drool while speaking, this method will effectively deflect all attention away from your hockey crush. Sadly, I do drool.

I love hockey and I love reading, and I wondered why those pastimes could not be combined. So I went in search of hockey romances. I read a few paperbacks from the library, but to be honest I found them to be fairly lame. Either the writer had no clue about hockey (they’re hockey pants, not hockey shorts!) or the stories themselves were too predictable. But then one day, I was reading a hockey blog for women, and I clicked on the profile of one of the commenters who looked slightly familiar. She followed a number of other blogs, which all seemed to be about hockey, so I clicked on one.

Whoosh, talk about falling down a rabbit hole! Suddenly I was whisked into a world where there were serial stories about hockey players. I had certain preconceptions about fanfic, and all of them were negative. But although many of the stories turned out to be lame and occasionally laughable, (it’s not possible to have intercourse for five hours, especially if you’re Dave Bolland) a number of them were pretty darn good. However, most of them were about Sidney Crosby, who doesn’t really do anything for me. I wondered why nobody was writing about the player I wanted to read about, and I figured I’d have to do it myself. At the time, before the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup, there was only one about young Captain Serious. Now there are zillions.

Creative writing was already something I enjoyed. As an oversensitive teenager, I journaled my every boring thought and emotion. Then, as an English major at university, I was used to reading and critiquing three books a week. However, after that, most of my writing was restricted to (yawn) business writing. But now I had the writing bug and some new inspiration. I got encouragement and advice from one very kind author, and I started my own serial. She told me that optimally I should post an update every day, which I did. Looking back, I think I must have been insane, but my chapters were pretty short at the beginning. And after 170 posts, I wrapped up my first story. Yup, even from the beginning, I wrote long books.

At first, nobody, except my mentor and my friend, were reading. I begged Daisy to leave comments so I’d look legit. But slowly the blog readership grew, and by the end, I was getting about 200 hits a day and a ton of enthusiastic feedback. You know your blog is popular when it gets ripped off by content scrapers. I wrote two more long serials, and two short stories. All the time my readers were so encouraging, telling me how much they liked my writing and getting emotionally involved with my stories. My big highlight was when someone told me the post made her cry. In my stories, I like to have a bit of everything: laughter, sexual tension, dramatic tension, and tears. Just the way life is.

I have to say that serial writing was the best apprenticeship that I could have had for becoming an author. I had to produce chapters to a deadline and I had to plan everything out ahead of time. 99% of the comments were positive, because c’mon, who is going to criticize something that’s free? But I could still see if readers didn’t like a post, because I would get fewer comments. And comments for blogger are like crack for Rob Ford: completely addictive. I’m always encouraging authors who are starting out to try serial writing, and now it’s even easier with Wattpad. You get to see what appeals to readers, and you get to work on a deadline, even if it’s self-imposed. But the more frequently you post, the more readers you get. In addition, while fanfic does get a bad rap, it has the advantage of having a built-in audience. I did debate whether to “come out” as a fanfic author, but I’ve since found out that a lot of hockey romance novels began as fanfic. So, why not be upfront about it?

Okay, there I was, sitting with a ton of finished books. What to do? Well, I think you know already. Tune in for my next post on how I began e-publishing. 

What's New, Pussycat

get this stupid hat off me

Happy New Year, everyone! Hopefully your hockey teams are starting 2014 well, unlike mine, which began with losses and injuries. And speaking of bad news, I have bad news and good news, which would you like first?

The bad news is that Valley of Gold, the novella I said would be published for Christmas, is obviously not done. Well, actually it is done, but I’ve decided to add another novella to it before publishing. So, now I have to write the extra novella.

The good news is that I am editing my next long book right now, and it’s even longer than How The Cookie Crumbles. So long in fact, that it’s divided into two books. Don’t worry, the first book will have a proper ending. I hate those cliff-hanger books, they seem like a cash grab to me. Anyway, it’s already done, but I have to do some severe editing before it's ready to publish. Sigh. Editing always takes longer than I think. So I’m not even going to make a promised publication date, because I’m way too optimistic. Examples of my magical thinking: “Why yes, I can have that 50 page report done by tomorrow morning.” “Why yes, the Canucks are going to win the Stanley Cup!” “Why yes, I’m going to have my next book done by the end of January.”

The new books, which have no titles yet, are about Kelly Tanaka, a girl who plays hockey. Yup a girl, because we follow her from high school to university to the working world. It’s a sprawling epic that crosses generations, continents, and world wars. Naw, just kidding, it’s another hockey romance.

I’m excited because the first seven chapters in the first book have already been edited and finalized. So only 70 to go. Really. But in the meantime, here’s an excerpt for you. Let me set this up. Kelly is obsessed with hockey, she plays hockey and trains hard. In fact, she’s so focused on hockey, that she hasn’t had any interest in doing what normal 17 year-old girls do. Important things like shopping for clothes and dating. But a dare from Laura, the captain of her new hockey team, leads Kelly into a whole new world: guys.

In this excerpt, Kelly is going on a “fake date” with Nicklas Ericcson, a good-looking winger from the local rep hockey team. It’s not a real date, because in order to win her bet, Kelly had to beg and bribe Nicklas. One of his conditions was that the tomboyish Kelly get dressed up, since he has a reputation to maintain. So, in the previous chapter, April, Kelly’s best friend, orchestrated the obligatory chick-lit makeover scene, and voilá: a whole new Kelly. Just in time for the fake date.

After fixing me up, April even dropped me off at the movie theatre. She wanted to stay and have a look at Nicklas, but she had a date of her own. While I was waiting in the lobby, I saw two girls from my hockey team there. I figured they were spying on me, so I went over to chat.
“Sorry, Kelly. Laura did not believe you 100%, so she made us come. We were seeing the new Katie Holmes movie anyway. Don’t worry, we won’t follow you into the theatre or anything,” said one of them, a d-man named Hilary.
“You look really nice,” said the other girl, called Sara M. to distinguish her from the two other Saras on the team. “I like your top.”
I don’t think anyone had ever liked my top before, so April certainly knew what she was doing. The second sign that I looked different came when Nicklas walked right by me without noticing. To be exact, he checked me out but never got as high as my face so he didn’t recognize me.
“Hey Nicklas.”
“Kelly? Kelly! You clean up nicely.” He seemed surprised, and smiled.
“Nicklas, this is Sara and Hilary. They’re on my hockey team.”
“Hello,” both girls said at the same time. They had these goofy expressions on their faces. Nicklas seemed to have this weird effect on women.
“Ladies,” Nicklas nodded at them. Then he turned his megawatt smile on me. “Shall we get the tickets?”
I held them up. “Way ahead of you,” I replied. I kept looking at his lips. Seriously, I just wanted to kiss him again. What was wrong with me? This was charity on his part, and I had to be cool.
“Excuse us then,” he said to the girls, who were apparently stunned silent. He put his hand on the small of my back. Electricity again! I took a huge breath in, which caused him to focus on the V of my top.
“You sure look different, Kelly. You look—hot.”
“Um, thanks,” I replied with automatic politeness. Another first, no guy had ever called me hot before, unless I was actively sweating.
We sat down in the theatre. Nicklas started telling me about how his team was doing and who the best teams in his division were. As he was talking, he kept leaning towards me and getting really close. Once, he played with the fringe on my jacket, and his knuckles brushed my breast. I was torn between punching him and jumping him, so I pretended not to notice. Finally he paused and gave me this intense look.
“You know all the time we played hockey, I never knew you had a body like this underneath the equipment.”
“Well, I probably didn’t. I mean I was only 13 or 14 when we last played together.” Wow, could I have sounded any dumber if I tried?
He laughed. The movie was starting, so I was spared making any more stupid comments. As the previews began, he put his arm over the back of the seat. 
“What are you doing?” I asked. Really, I couldn’t stop my inner eleven-year-old from hijacking the date.
“I figure if your teammates are watching, we need to make things look good.”
“I don’t think they’re here. They were going to another movie.”
“You never know, Kelly.” And he pulled me in a little closer to him.
The movie was actually pretty good, in a cartoony way. There was a strong female star, so it wasn’t like a formulaic action flick. The only downer was that it was going to be continued, so the ending wasn’t very good. But honestly, I had been distracted by Nicklas the whole time. He was so close, his arm was touching me, and I could smell his masculine smell that was a combination of cologne, soap, and sweat. He seemed to be able to generate the whole electrical thing without even kissing me. I was feeling a little dazed when we finally got up to leave. It was a good thing that this date was almost over, ’cause I needed time to gather my wits.

Q & A with author Jaymee Jacobs

Can you be close friends with someone you’ve never met? I think so! Jaymee Jacobs is my good friend and writing buddy. Even though we’ve never met in person, we’ve shared our problems, our triumphs, and most of all, our love of hockey and hockey stories. My novella, Fresh Air, resulted from a bet I had with Jaymee – as well as the inability of the Canucks to defeat the Penguins.

I initially met Jay on Blogger, where she was the reigning queen of a serialized fiction group. Her stories were exciting, realistic, steamy and most of all, literate. I started reading her stories, and one day I emailed her about some issue on her blog and as Humphrey Bogart said, it was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Because we believe our hockey books would appeal to the same readers, we decided to do a little cross-promotion, and interview each other. Besides, it’s fun to turn the tables and talk about someone else's writing.

Jaymee’s first book, Play The Man, is the story of Jenna, who is torn between two men. Both are extremely hot NHL superstars, so it’s not the worst dilemma a girl ever had to face. The book explores the emotional dynamics of a love triangle in a very believable way. If you havent read it yet, do check it out.

And now, Jaymee has a new book out: Shots on Net. Although I got to read the first version during the editing process, I’m currently reading the book again and I have to say, it’s really different. It’s a romance, yet the characters are completely believable. They are normal people with dreams and aspirations, who have to struggle to achieve their goals. Kevin is an attractive and intelligent hockey player, striving to make his dream of reaching the NHL even when the odds are stacked against him. Shannon is a character many of us could identify with, she’s a romantic idealist who is happiest when she’s reading a good book. Shots on Net explores both the romance and realities of being in your twenties and trying to create a fully-realized life. So without further ado, here's our Q & A session:

Q: Your new book, Shots on Net, is about the AHL. Have you been to a lot of AHL games, and how do they differ from NHL games? And how are AHL players different?

A: Believe it or not, but I've never had the pleasure of going to an AHL game. I can't seem to find anyone to take the road trip with me to see the farm teams. But I've always been curious about the AHL and the development of hockey players. There's something special about a player who grinds it out and works their way up to the NHL. It takes a lot of dedication, ambition, and practice to make the leap from juniors/college/the minors, whereas players with pure talent seem to transition straight into the NHL.

Q: I agree 100% with you on that, players who had a tough road to the NHL seem to appreciate everything more and work hard every single shift. Shots on Net is also about unfulfilled dreams. Which would you say is more important: a fulfilling career or a relationship with Mr. Right?

A: Definitely a more fulfilling career. You see, I don't think it's possible to feel "fulfilled" by a person. A significant other can make you feel loved, special, and important, but he/she can't make you feel purposeful. That only comes from pursing your own interests and dreams. I've learned from personal experience that, while the emotions another person can give you or make you feel are wonderful, those emotions don't last. The feeling of accomplishment, however, sticks with you.

Q: Another important part of the book is the fact that Shannon is a keen reader, and loves to read romances. Who are your favourite writers? What genres of books do you like to read?

A: Oh man. To answer this question succinctly is impossible. Basically, I enjoy most genres. My favorite stories involve ones with memorable characters who grow and learn to adapt, and whether that's classic literature, young adult, or chick lit, then I'll read it. Pride and Prejudice. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Good in Bed. Oh, I love Jennifer Weiner. And Jane Austen. And Dennis Lehane, who does mysteries/psychological thrillers. I'm just a sucker for a great story. 

Q: There seem to be a lot of books about hockey players lately. Why do you think that readers like hockey players as heroes?

A: Hockey players make perfect heroes. Compared to other high-paid athletes, they are humble and down-to-earth. I think it all starts with the early morning skates. They learn from a young age to work hard, and when that's a lesson learned young, it stays with them as they become adults. That attitude's so attractive!
Plus, they're professional athletes. They're hot. Masculine. Strong. What's not to like?!

Q: Jay, I know you’re a Penguins fan, but so far your books have been set in Chicago and Connecticut. Do you think you’ll write a book set in Pittsburgh?

A: I don't know! I'd love to, for obvious reasons. I'm familiar with the city, so I can give lots of details and specifics. The stories that I had written were already set in other cities. The next one that I start from scratch, though, I think will be set here in Pittsburgh. 

Q: What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a book right now?

A: I am! Readers of my blog will know that I'm working on my third title, Game On, which features Audrey Hunt and Nathan Fox. Audrey's a tenacious, smart woman who's ready to take on the world when she accepts her first post-graduation job as a reporter covering the Columbus Blue Jackets. That's all I'll say about that for now!

If youre not already familiar with Jay's writing, you have a real treat in store. Check her books out here:
Play the Man
And heres her blog, where these days she's discussing how a book comes together.  

Quiz: Finding Your Favourite NHL Team

It has come to the attention of this blog that some lovely readers like hockey and hockey players, but have not yet committed their affections to a single hockey team. In the interests of turning them into crazed fanatics like the rest of us, this simple Cosmo-type quiz will help you to find the right team to support.

1. Looking down at yourself, which of these options best describes what you’re wearing.
a)    Nike dri-fit everything
b)   Woolly sweater, Indian cotton skirt, and tights.
c)    Top and skirt in a very on-trend plum shade with a hammered silver necklace
d)   Jeans, a t-shirt that the baby spit up on, and the birthday earrings your hubby gave you
e)    A stylish dress that you hunted down in a consignment store
f)     A black thong, ripped lace stockings, and handcuffs

2. Your favourite evening pastime would be:
a)    A pick-up game of soccer
b)   Hearing a speaker on saving whales
c)    Shopping at Nordstrom’s
d)   Volunteering at the homeless shelter
e)    Craft night with the girls
f)     Sex & drugs & rock ’n roll

3. Your favourite meal is:
a)    Power bars and Gatorade as you rush to the gym
b)   Organically sourced and locally grown
c)    A ten course omakase of tiny Japanese delicacies, beautifully plated
d)   Roast beef dinner at your Mom’s place, and you bring the pie
e)    At a nice bistro with your 50% off Groupon discount
f)     Eaten off a naked man

4. When it comes to men, you like:
a)    Guys who can bench 250
b)   Sensitive, new-age men
c)    Men who know a Windsor from a four-in-hand
d)   A good sense of humour and a career goals
e)    Personality, since you can fix his clothes and hair
f)     Variety

Now count up your answers, and find the letter you checked most.

If you had mainly A answers, you are a Jock
Nobody needs to sit beside you and explain the game. You play for keeps and you need a team that competes as hard as you do. While no team can win the Stanley Cup each season, these ones will be in the playoffs year after year. 

Detroit Red Wings
Apparently Detroit is a native word meaning stable hockey management. With a great GM, possibly the best coach in the league, and a legendary scouting staff, the Red Wings are consistently great.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Their hunky captain is the best player in the entire league, and Crosby can deliver the goals. On 24/7, they were the good guys, and they’re perennial Cup favourites.

Chicago Blackhawks
This team is hot. And with two Stanley Cups in four years, the hockey playing is pretty good as well. No one will question your fandom of this team, especially when Sharpie takes off his helmet for the rousing anthem.

San Jose Sharks
Although a perennial bridesmaid who has never made it to the finals, the Sharks are another stable team who consistently make the playoffs and compete hard. Every season, some hockey pundit decrees that it’s the Shark’s year to win it all, and this year is no exception. And what’s not to love about a team who skates out through a shark’s jaws?

If you had mainly B answers, you are an Earth Mother
At the organic, gluten-free, vegan pet shelter, you chose the one-eyed, three-legged rabbit for your new pet. The panhandling guys cheer when they see you coming down the sidewalk. You radiate kindness and generosity. Why not support these teams? They’re not expected to do well, but their fans love them anyway. When they do win, victory will be all that much sweeter.

Florida Panthers
They had a preseason game with fewer fans attending than players. Their dressing rooms are famous for rats! They are one of the lowest spending teams in the league. They need your love.

Calgary Flames
Last season, they had a legendary captain and legendary goalie, both of whom are now gone. Their arena was flooded in the summer, and they lost files, memorabilia, and the head of their doggy mascot. Their trades and drafts have been meh, but now they’ve got a two-headed General Manager to help. They need your love!

Buffalo Sabres
Hopes were high after a new big-spending owner arrived. Lots of recent changes, including big trades and the firing of the longstanding coach. But so far, no results except for one of the ugliest new jerseys on the planet. They need your love!

New Jersey Devils
Their best player took his puck and went home to Russia, but the Devils are still paying the bill for him in the form of a first round draft pick. The Devils didn’t even complain, since with their debt load they were going to have trouble paying his salary anyway. They need your love.

Phoenix Coyotes
Like the unwelcome dinner guest who keeps having one more for the road, the Coyotes have been threatening to leave Arizona for years, but now they’re staying put (for now.) Is it any wonder that they have to give away tickets with beer purchases at Fry’s? And yet, this team is perennially over-performs. Still, they need your love!

If you had mainly C answers, you are an Aesthete
You follow the trends, and enjoy looking good with your good-looking friends in hip surroundings. Perhaps hockey is not your first choice as an aesthetically-pleasing sports, but it has a certain alternative charm. When it comes to hockey, you want your team to play well, but look good as they do it.

Montréal Canadians
With a classic uniform that hasn’t changed in close to 100 years, the Habs are a team with tradition and style. The crowds at their games are the most stylish and well-dressed in the league, as well as the most attractive. And for a final touch that will please any designer, they are the first team to add accents to their name bars. Go Umlaut, Go!

New York Rangers
Another original six team with an old-style jersey, the Rangers also have tradition on their side. But more importantly, they have the best-looking player in the entire league, the suave Henrik Lundqvist. Thank heavens he’s a goalie, so that face won’t be hit by errant sticks and pucks.

New York Islanders
Those uniforms, all clashing orange and blue, are not the prettiest. But next year they’re moving to Brooklyn, and there are rumours of black jerseys. And Brooklyn, the planetary headquarters of all that’s trendy and hipster. We predict the cool kids will soon be following the exploits of Tavares and company.

If you had mainly D answers, you are a Nice Girl
You obey the rules and cross only on the green lights. As a nice girl, you like to avoid conflict, so we recommend cheering for your local team. If there’s no local team, cheer for the closest team. Not only will this make it easier to follow the team since any hockey coverage will focus on them, but you’ll meet other fans this way. Of course, since we don’t know where you live, we can only recommend these teams with great regional support.

Winnipeg Jets
When the NHL threatened to relocate the Jets back in the 90’s, sad-eyed kids lined up to offer their allowance to ensure they’d stay. The league cold-heartedly ripped the team away anyway and sent them to Phoenix. (How’s that working out for you, Gary?) But when the city got a new team in 2011, a celebration began that resulted in huge sellouts and one of the best atmospheres in the league. What’s not to love about a team that chooses the best player on the opposing team and boos him whenever he touches the puck?

Minnesota Wild
Why the NHL would rip hockey out of the State of Hockey and put it into Texas is beyond reason, but that’s what happened here in the 90’s. Luckily hockey is back now, and with an owner who’s ready to spend big $$$ on players like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, hopes are high here. And Snoopy wears a Wild jersey, so feel free to go (pea) nuts for this team.

Nashville Predators
With a fun arena atmosphere, stable management, and a great city, it seems like the Preds have everything going for them. Sadly, their defence-first system is not always the most fun to watch, but their handsome captain is one of the top defenders in the league. And Carrie Underwood is married to centre, Mike Fisher, making them the top celeb couple in the NHL.

If you had mainly E answers, you are a Thriftster
You amaze everyone with your bargain finds and creativity. That aged sideboard was picked up from the dump, then a little elbow grease, wood glue, and milk paint made it good as new! A few alterations and that dress from Value Village looks like it’s haute couture. Since you’re so good at seeing potential, choose one of these up and coming teams. By the time they make it big you can say you were there first. 

Edmonton Oilers
Three first overall picks in the draft in three consecutive years? Wow, but too bad none of them were goalies. The Oil are young and full of potential. Unfortunately their fans have been hearing that for years, but it’s got to come true someday.

St. Louis Blues
Their coach is an expert in military history, and he gets his young team ready to battle every night. EA Sports NHL 14 simulation picked the Blues to defeat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup final. Of course, last year the gamers picked the Rangers to defeat the Blackhawks, so they were only half-right.

Tampa Bay Lightning
They have a superstar sniper, an ageless captain, and a decent goalie, but since they’re in Florida they fly under the media radar. Still the Lightning have a ton of potential.

Colorado Avalanche
Another young team with tons of potential, including some first class forwards. Still there are some question marks around this team, including a coach/GM with a competitive drive that’s literally insane and possibly actionable.

If you had mainly F answers, you are a Bad Girl.
You don’t give a damn what other people say, and you haven’t ever since that “incident” in the boys washroom back in Grade 8. Black leather moto, tight jeans, and shit-kicking boots, and that’s your work wardrobe! You believe a hard man is good to find, so here are some hard teams for you:

Boston Bruins
Other teams and their fans hate the Bruins, and they probably have a good case. Everyone, from the towering captain, Chara, to power forward, Lucic, to super-rat, Marchand, has been involved in some pretty questionable hits, plays, and injuries. But their wily coach has pushed this team to a Cup win, Game Seven heroics, and excellent playoff runs. Get ready to embrace the hate when you don a B’s jersey.

Philadelphia Flyers
While their heyday as the Broadstreet Bullies is long gone, they still manage to stir up controversy, either on the ice or in the backroom. Right now, they’re dysfunctional as all get out, yet they still command fear in opponent’s rinks. As I’m writing this, they’re having a line brawl. Some things never change.

Toronto Maple Leafs
A recent history of futility, and yet there’s always a battle to get game tickets. This irrational fandom means that those in Toronto adore the team and those outside the self-proclaimed centre of the universe despise them. Wear the blue and white in Canada and get ready for some love… or hate.

Los Angeles Kings
How many teams have a captain who is known for fighting… and diving? The Kings battled their way to a Stanley Cup championship, leaving opponents bruised, beaten, and concussed. And they can’t get no respect, L.A. sports reporters are constantly messing up the player’s names and even the team logo when forced to cover hockey stories.

Vancouver Canucks
They have a reputation as divers and whiners – and that’s just the fans, so the Canucks decided to improve their image by hiring the most despised coach in the league. It’s a match made in H-E-double hockey sticks. Still, the Canucks have the longest sell-out streak in the NHL, so misery clearly loves company.

Well, have you got a team to cheer for now? Does your personality match the team you already cheer for? If I missed your favourite team, where do they belong? Or do you just think I'm crazy? Let me know in the comments!

Talking About Me, Me, Me!

Today, I'm the featured author on Diane's Book Blog! I've never been interviewed before and it was a big thrill for me. In fact, it was alarmingly enjoyable for someone who thinks of herself as on the quiet side. I guess there's a diva in all of us.

Diane Subsits Lynch reviews many different kinds of books, but has a special place in her heart for hockey romances. Like many of you, she's a Chicago Blackhawks fan. Check out her blog here and see find some new books you may enjoy!

Winner, winner!

Somehow, this seems posed to me.

For me, the contest was a lot of  fun. I enjoyed all your comments and it was great to see so much enthusiasm about hockey and hockey romances! So many different teams and players were mentioned, obviously hockey fandom is everywhere. And for the two ladies who don’t yet have a favourite player, I came up with the idea for a Cosmo-type quiz on how to find a hockey team to cheer for. It’s taking a little research, but so far it's quite funny and I'll post it on the blog next week. 

Like any author, I write about the things I like, I write about hockey, romance – and cats. So, I decided to get one of my cats to help with the prize draw. Cats will not do anything unless there are treats involved, so I put everyone’s name on a piece of folded paper, put a treat inside the paper, and then put my tabby in the middle. Whichever names he chose first would be the three winners. You’d think this would work like a dream, but then you don’t know my cats. They’re not joining Cat Mensa anytime soon. He kept leaving the circle and coming over to get tummy rubs. Finally he smelled something, then was unable to find the treat in the folded paper. A draw that I thought would take two minutes, took 15 minutes!

But finally, here are the winners of copy of How The Cookie Crumbles:
-  Diane Subsits Lynch
 Jennifer Duffey

Congratulations! I will contact everyone to find out what format they would like their ebook in. 

Thanks for entering and enjoy the hockey season and your hockey reading!