Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Primal Instinct's First Review -- RT Book Reviews

I mentioned last week that while I was tremendously excited to hold my book in my hand for the first time, I was a little nervous about the reviews I knew would come.

Well, I got my first one today, actually probably the biggest (in terms of volume of readers) that I will get. It came from RT Book Reviews, the trade magazine for reviews of romance (and other genres -- science fiction, mystery, young adult, etc.) in their April 2014 issue.

(RT Book Reviews used to be called Romantic Times but when they began reviewing other genres in 2002, they changed to RT)
Every Harlequin Intrigue book is reviewed each month. The paper version of the April issue will be available at bookstores in March, but the digital version became available this week.

Gulp. A couple of my author friends have been have been not-so-kindly reviewed in the last year, so I have to say I was a bit nervous.

BUT IT GOT A GREAT REVIEW!! Not only that, my book was a RT TOP PICK - one of the highest honors they can bestow. They even included a picture of Primal Instinct - great exposure. Here it is, not long but fabulous:

So did everyone read the critique part? You know I'm going to make you read it again:
"If this is Crouch's debut then readers are going to be in for a real treat when she spreads her publishing wings. It's a first class effort on every level and will leave readers feeling haunted when they're finished."

Hear that, peeps? Prepare to be haunted by my first-class effort on every level.  And <-- that "RT Top Pick" icon -- that's quite coveted. I'm honored and thrilled. It's the most I could've hoped for in the critique of my debut novel. Of any novel I write.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             As an author, you know, because words are important to me, I want to find the perfect one to describe how I feel right now: 

YIPPIE!!!! just about sums it up.

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Writing Process (Blog Tour)

I was asked to take part of the “My Writing Process” Blog Tour by Tracey Livesay. Tracey is a good friend and fellow romance writer.  We were roomies at the Romance Writers of America conference last year in Atlanta and have been on author panels together.   

Her debut novel released just this month The Tycoon's Socialite Bride – so fabulous! Find out more info about Tracey at:

So here’s the scoop on My Writing Process, based on the four questions.

What Are You Working On at the Moment?
I am currently writing Book 2 of a 4-book romantic suspense series. The series centers around Omega Sector – a covert interagency task force, made up of the most elite agents our country has to offer. The stories are about each of the Branson siblings (three brothers and a sister) who are in some way tied to Omega. 

These books will be released in January, February, May and June 2015 by Harlequin Intrigue.

How Does Your Work Differ From Others in the Genre?
The challenge with Intrigue books – because they are category books rather than longer single-title stories – is that I have to make my stories compelling and emotionally gripping in 55,000 words, rather than 90,000 words. Fortunately, that’s how I prefer it.

It requires keeping the main things the main things, and in Harlequin Intrigue books the main things are suspense and romance. My books are not filled with dozens of pages of backstory or description.  They’re not riddled with secondary characters that slow the progress of the story. The hero and heroine don’t meet half way through chapter five. 

Because of the word count constraints, the action and romance have to start almost right away.  And then it’s my job to make the characters (and the dangers!) heartfelt and real to the reader. It’s a challenge, but one I enjoy. It requires conciseness and focus – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why Do You Write What You Do?
In two words: first kisses.

I can be a pretty cynical person, so many of my friends were surprised to find that I had written a romance novel – I think they more had me pegged for straight up mystery or maybe science-fiction.
But the truth is, I love to read romance. Not sappy or bodice-ripping or any of the ridiculous stereotypical labels that often plague the romance genre.  But a compelling story where a boy meets a girl – in which one, or sometimes both of them, are wounded by their past in some way – and they find strength in themselves and completeness with each other.

Mostly, I love that moment when a character realizes: Holy crap, I’m in love with this person. And everything in their world changes. 

Of course, because I write romantic suspense, I also get to throw guns and serial killers and bombs and crime syndicate groups into the mix. I don’t want to let the love come too easily!

How Does Your Writing Process Work?
Often, sadly, not very well. Four kids, a day job, training for an Ironman… life can get in the way.

My goal is 1000-1500 words a day, which is about  5-7 pages.  The key for me, I’ve discovered, is protecting my novel-writing time. First thing in the morning, after getting the kids off to school, I sit down at my computer and write the novel I am contracted to write.  Usually while listening to the music of Cody Westheimer (fabulous mood music, for whatever mood you’re seeking).

I do not turn on Facebook.  I do not have my email open.  I do not work on my blog. I write my novel. Only after the required word count is completed do I allow myself to move on to other things.

All of the last two paragraphs would be TOTALLY AWESOME  if they were true. 

But the truth is, sometimes Facebook is blowing up my phone by the time I wake up and I’ve just got to get in on that time-wasting.  Or I have to research some random thing like who created liquid soap and why. Or I have a student who needs to be talked down from the ledge because she failed a quiz. Or I want to look at the sales figures of my current novel. Again. In case they’ve changed since yesterday.

But I’m working on protecting my novel-writing time. It helps that I have four insane deadlines in 2014 – basically one book due every 2.5 months. That doesn’t leave much time to waste. So I better leave you now and get back to that.

Hopping onto the "My Writing Process" Blog Tour next week (2/24):

1) Amy Woods is a new author for Harlequin Special Edition. Her first book will release in September, 2014. A library science grad student, research assistant, and writer, she lives in beautiful Austin, TX with her husband and a very spoiled rescue dog. Find her on her website:, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

2) Sun Chara was shocked/surprised (in a fabulous way!) with her novel Manhattan Millionaire’s Cinderella First Prize Win in the JABBIC (Judge a Book by Its Cover) - Readers Choice/contemporary series. Hooray!

3) Maria Michaels writes inspirational romance for The Pelican Book Group/White Rose. Her debut novella is Harte's Peak, part of the Redemption Peak series. Find her at:

4) Jane Hunt returns to the My Writing Process tour next week too.  Her book, The Dragon Legacy, is available now. Find her at:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Holding My Book in My Hand for the First Time!

I got a very special package today: the author copies of Primal Instinct! The box arrived via UPS. I could tell right away what it was (because I knew it would be coming around now -- six weeks before my release date); plus, the outer packaging wasn't subtle.

And there it was. The story that I wrote. In actual book form. Right there in my hands. It was magical -- everything I had ever dreamed it would be (although in my dreams my hair and make-up would be perfect for all the selfies I took).

Yeah, it was perfect right up to the point where I had to run to the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up. That was a wee bit less magical.

I'm taking it all in -- believe me, I'm taking it all in -- because if there's one thing being a mother of four has taught me, it's that you have to enjoy the firsts, because nothing is ever a first again.

Having my book in my hands for the first time. That's something I want to cherish.

The throwing up part comes from the thought that soon everyone else is going to read it, and have an opinion about it (rightfully so, of course).  Some people are going to really like it.

But some people AREN'T going to like it.

And while I appreciate my friend Stephanie's offer to beat up anybody who doesn't like my book, I have to accept that my book won't be everyone's cup of tea. I'm not everyone's cup of tea.

When you put something out there publicly, people have the right to criticize it. Comes with the territory. But it's not something I'm looking forward to. And, there's nothing I can do now to stop it -- thus the nausea.

Beyond that... the inside cover. Sigh. Most Intrigues -- because the line is powered by action and suspense -- have some sort of suspense scene as the teaser. A fall, a chase scene, the couple working together as a bomb is about to go off. Action stuff.

Not mine. Harlequin picked a saucy scene to put as the teaser on the inside cover.

That's what my dad gets for calling it a sex book. Harlequin must have heard him.

To all my friends whom I know are going to ask: no, I can't send you one of my copies, I don't have enough -- those are for reader contest giveaways and writer contest entries -- so support authors and buy your own. Here. You can even buy an autographed copy.  xoxo (PS --  Or I do have these  nifty little bookplate stickers ==> that I'll sign and send to you for free if anyone but my mom wants an autographed copy of my book.)

Today was an exciting day, to be sure. Nausea and all.  Another important first that I'll never forget.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Triathlon Tuesday: Ironman Triathlon Updates

Time for my every-once-in-a-while link to my other blog: Full-On Stupid: A Journey to Ironman. Training for Ironman Florida on November 1, 2014: 2.6-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run.

We're officially 9 months out from the race. That's a little scary. Up until now I've just been focusing on general fitness, but as of February 23 -- a little over two weeks from now -- I will officially be on a training schedule. Swims, rides, and/or runs (sometimes more than one per day) six days a week.

To quote my most recent favorite Ke$ha song: It's. About. To. Go. Down.

Here are some training highlights from the past couple of weeks on my Ironman Training Blog if you're interested:

The Post Where I Do One of the Things I Swore I Wouldn't Do (Yeah, I was also one of those people who swore I would never put my kid on a toddler leash at Disney World)

The Post With My Hardest Feat Yet (The hardest effort I put in for the Ironman yet, but it didn't involve a swim, bike or run)