Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Curveball by Jen Estes (Author Interview / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Jen Estes, author of Curveball!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Jen! 

Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I am a sci-fi-watchin', baseball-obsessin', candy-eatin', tree-huggin', animal-lovin' mystery writer living in the Midwest with my husband and three cats.

How long have you been a writer?

Most of my life, of course the first half mostly consisted of Saved by the Bell fanfic and love poems to Luke Perry. I finished my first full-length novel four years ago and it was published in 2011. 

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

While writing my first book, I worked as a court reporter but now I'm fortunate to call myself a full-time writer/crazy cat lady.

What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer. 

I didn’t really set out to become a professional writer. Actually, I wrote my first book Big Leagues as a pastime for a dull winter. It was the offseason -- once again brought on entirely too quickly by my hapless Cubs team -- and I was looking for a way to fill the void. The idea came to me and I just started writing. It wasn't the first time that I'd written stories for myself, but it was the first one that was over 80,000 words. I finished and thought, "This could be a book." 

Please give a brief description/storyline about Curveball.

Baseball reporter Cat McDaniel specializes in exposés. Now that very talent has left her unemployed. Desperate to get off the bench, she hops at the opportunity to cover the Buffalo Soldiers' Caribbean training camp, even if it does mean doubling as a chaperone for the general manager's Major League Brat. After the body of an aspiring ballplayer washes up on the shore, her assignment in the Caribbean is no longer a day at the beach. 

What was the inspiration for this story and the series?

The series is a result of my overactive imagination and a love of baseball. The spark behind Curveball came from the real-life exploitation facing aspiring ballplayers, particularly those in Latin America. 

How did it feel to have your first book published?

It was kind of a nerve-racking, really. Don’t get me wrong, I felt so fortunate and proud, but I'm a very private person. Before Big Leagues was published, I'd only written for myself. So to have my work out there for everyone to read was a bit overwhelming. I felt like I'd just given the world box seats in my brain.

Do you write books for a specific genre?  

I write mysteries; Big Leagues and Curveball are the first two installments in the Cat McDaniel Mystery Series

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I love to read everything -- mysteries, fantasies, thrillers, horror, sci-fi and oodles of nonfiction too. Growing up, my family made fun of me because I would read the phone book. (But guess who they'd come running to when they wanted to know how to make a three-way call?) My favorite books are the ones I can read over and over, which right now happens to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. (A diversion while I anxiously await the next season of Game of Thrones.) 

Do you have a special spot/area where you like to do your writing?

My comfy chair, which I usually have to share with my rotund tabby, Wrigley.

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books? 

Straight from the headlines of the sports pages. Scandals in baseball are nothing new -- it's been over a century of throwing games, bribing players, gambling on games and doping dugouts.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes? 

Inspiration usually strikes in the weirdest places - say, in the shower -- so I'll streak through the house looking for a pen and write the idea down on the closest piece of paper. Then, during my morning writing time, I'll try to make something out of those chicken scratches. 

What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?

Dialogue between characters comes easiest to me. (I suppose I have a lot of practice carrying on conversations with myself.) I struggle with setting the scene -- I like to get right to the action.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing? 

Reading and writing are great, but very sedentary so when I'm not doing one or the other, I try to stay active. I enjoy running, yoga and playing with my cats. 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

"Write every day." It sounds simple, but it's easy to come up with excuses not to write. I have to look at it as non-negotiable. Some things can't be skipped and no matter how busy or tired I am, I've still got to take my vitamins, clean the litterbox and write 1,500 words. 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

It doesn’t matter if they come from a seasoned critic or a first time reader, hearing someone enjoyed your book is better than pie. 

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

I always respond to emails, but I really love interacting with my readers on Twitter -- be it about books or a fun hashtag. Follow me TWITTER.

Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

I wish that I had made up the exploitation of young aspiring athletes, but the truth is that many baseball prospects are routinely taken advantage of in pursuit of their dreams. 

What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?

I truly love baseball, so much like John Grisham with law, Sara Gruen with animals and Jeff Stone with kung fu, I combined my passion with my imagination. 

What is your definition of success as a writer?

When you're a writer, success evolves with your career beginning with finishing your first book to getting published, to your first royalty check and so on -- there really isn’t a finish line where you can say, "Boom. Success." As long as I'm moving toward a goal, I consider that achievement. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

Right now I'm working on the third book in the Cat McDaniel Mystery series, where Cat will be returning to Buffalo as the beat reporter for the Soldiers. Just as she thinks her lineup is perfect, life throws her an offspeed pitch: a screwball clad in a leather jacket and biker boots. Her half brother/full leech shows up on her doorstep looking to shake up her world with his boozing and betting lifestyle. It's scheduled for a release date of April 2013.

Thank you Jen for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews, and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us! 

About The Author

Born and raised in Illinois, Jen Estes started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007 and expanded to freelance sports writing in 2009. She is an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers and the National Writers Union (NWU). Curveball is the second in a series featuring sassy sports writer Cat McDaniel. When Jen isn’t writing, she enjoys running, yoga, traveling and watching baseball with her husband and cat.

Jen Estes' Curveball Virtual Book Tour Page On Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

Win An eBook Copy of Curveball

Contest Dates: Nov 5-11, 2012

Win an eBook copy of Curveball by entering the contest using the Rafflecopter entry form below. Don't forget to leave your name and email address in the comment section at the end of the post. The winner will be selected randomly by Rafflecopter, and will be notified via email by a representative of the virtual book tour promoter, Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. 

Curveball Book Trailer

Book Review

Curveball by Jen Estes
Publisher: Camel Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Format: Paperback - 312 pages / Kindle - 2516 KB / Nook - 997 KB
ISBN: 1603818952
Genre: Cozy Mystery / Sports Mystery

BUY THE BOOK: Curveball

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and   participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. 

Book Description:

"It takes balls to survive spring training."


Baseball reporter Cat McDaniel specializes in exposes. Now that very talent has left her unemployed. Desperate to get off the bench and back into the lineup, she is thrilled to land an interview with the Buffalo Soldiers' General Manager Roger "Rakin'" Aiken--Baseball legend, eight-time All Star... and oblivious father to a Major League bratty co-ed named Paige.


Aiken offers Cat the team writer position for the following spring, but the opportunity is tempered by a curveball of a caveat: she must first spend the winter as a blogger reporting on the Latin American training facility. She is also supposed to look out for Paige, nominally the team's newest scouting assistant. Being a glorified babysitter and chaperone still beats being an out-of-work sportswriter. Cat reluctantly leaves behind her gorgeous boyfriend Benji and accompanies the party girl to sunny Santo Domingo to balance baselines and conga lines.


Paige falls for Chance Hayward, an agent who plays hardball--the figurative kind. Joining them on the field is Paige's ex, Junior DeLeon, one of the coaches who'd really like to score with Cat. When an aspiring player turns up dead, it is up to Cat and Junior to devise a game-changing strategy. Will Cat's snooping work in her favor this time, or will she strike out ... losing her job, her boyfriend and her life?

Curveball follows Big Leagues as Book 2 of the Cat McDaniel Mysteries series, also known as the Foul Ball series.

Book Excerpt:

As they walked out of the restaurant, Cat caught the eye of a busy Cristian and waved goodbye. She tapped Chance on the shoulder. “That reminds me, we want to talk to you about your client.”

“Oh, that’ll cost you and Paige.” 

Cat gave him a wary look. “Cost us what?”

“A walk on the beach.” He extended both arms. “One for each of you.”

Paige eagerly locked her right arm with his, but Cat pressed his left arm down to his side. She kicked off her sandals and let them dangle from her fingers before begrudgingly following the duo onto the damp sand.

A few fisherman could be seen on the jetty a hundred yards away, but otherwise they had the beach to themselves. Her steps broke the moist clumps and the powdery sand spilled out over her toes. The sand massaged her soles as they moved closer to the breaking waves. Living in downstate Illinois most of her life, Cat didn’t take the relaxing sound of the oceanic thunder for granted. The soft wind whipped her skirt around her thighs. As they approached the shoreline, the restaurant odors of garlic and grease were replaced with a salty tinge of sea air. The half moon smiled down upon them. It was a perfect moment, until Chance spoke.

“Not bad, huh?”

He said it as though he was taking credit for the beautiful evening. Cat sneered in his direction but it was too dark for the message to be received.

Paige looked around the vacant beach. “There’s nobody here. Is it always like this at night?”

“Almost. We’re just about at the end of our rainy season so the beaches will be busier. But on weeknights, most of the action is in town.”

Their stroll was nearing the rocks that bordered the end of the beach and led out to the jetty. Cat pointed up at the fisherman. “What are they trying to catch?”

Chance shrugged. “Hell if I know. I only eat it; I don’t hunt it.”

Paige watched them thoughtfully. “My dad loves fishing. Says it’s the only true way to get away from the field.”

“Let’s sit for a minute.” He placed his jacket on the sand.

Cat shook her head. “I’m good with standing. I was hoping we could talk about Cristian.”

Chance sat on the sand with his knees in front of him. “We will.” He patted the jacket. “Paige?”

Paige tucked her dress beneath her thighs as she sat on it, facing the ocean.

He scooted closer to her. “What do you think?”

Paige’s eyes didn’t leave the water. “Of the ocean, dinner, or you?”

He chuckled. “All of the above.”

Cat held in a groan as she waited for his predictable moves, expecting the yawn and reach any minute now.

He didn’t yawn, but sure enough, his tan arm slivered around Paige’s bare shoulders.

“Hmm …” Paige tapped her chin thoughtfully. “The ocean is beautiful. Dinner was delicious. And you, well you kind of pale in comparison. Perhaps you should’ve grouped yourself with the fisherman and that weird pile of seaweed over there.”

With his phony chuckles, Chance was beginning to sound like the laugh track from an eighties sitcom. Cat tapped her foot on the sand, but neither of them seemed to notice.

Paige tossed him a playful smile, but then was distracted by the aforementioned pile of seaweed near the jetty. She cocked her head. “What is that?”

In tandem, Cat and Chance turned around. “What?”

Paige stood up, dusted her dress off and pointed. “Over there, in the rocks.” 

Chance squinted. “Probably just some litter.”

Cat shook her head. “That doesn’t look like litter.” She took off toward it. 

Chance bounced to his feet and caught up to her. The waves smacked the rocks with loud slaps. Cat took slow, deliberate steps, as though trying to sneak up on the mound of seaweed. Another foamy wave crashed onto the shore, this time taking the pile of seaweed back into the ocean with it. Before she could take another step, Chance reached his arm out to stop her. “Cat, don’t go any closer.”

Cat gasped, choking on the breath wedged in her throat. It was too late.

She’d seen the body.

My Book Review:

Unemployed baseball reporter Cat McDaniel lands a job as the team writer for the Buffalo Soldiers, but the job comes with strings: she has to travel to Santo Domingo to cover the team's Latin American winter training facility; and play glorified babysitter for General Manager Roger "Rakin" Aiken's spoiled brat daughter, Paige. Where Cat goes trouble soon follows ... while chaperoning Paige's growing attraction for agent Chance Hayward, they find the dead body of an aspiring baseball player prospect in the surf and all hell breaks loose. Will Cat and Paige's sleuthing reveal the murderer, or will it send them on a goose chase that could affect Cat's career, long distance relationship with boyfriend Benji, and her life?

Curveball is a sassy cozy mystery that will keep you engaged and guessing what will happen next. This is the second book in the Cat McDaniel Mystery series, and once again author Jen Estes weaves an intriguing tale of mystery and intrigue written in the third person narrative, that follows sassy baseball reporter and pseudo sleuth Cat McDaniel on her latest adventure. What could be better than a good mystery story intertwined with the sport of baseball and a touch of romance added into the mix? With a murder and expose of the unscrupulous treatment of the local baseball prospects by Worldwide Baseball Talent Management Agency; drama, hilarious antics, and even romantic entanglements follow the dynamic duo of Cat and Paige in the tropical Latin American city in the Dominican Republic.

This fast-paced entertaining story features a spit-fire sassy protagonist in Cat McDaniel, who is a woman not to be messed with, and who is determined to solve the latest case that comes her way. With an interesting cast of characters; sassy dialogue and interactions; a tropical setting and baseball mystery themed storyline mixed with humor and romance; Curveball is a great story with enough twists and turns that will keep the readers engaged and on their toes.

Cozy mystery fans and baseball fans will enjoy reading Curveball, and while it is the second book of a series, this book can stand alone, but I would suggest reading the series, it will be well worth your time.



  1. Another extraordinary and professional review and post. Kudos!!! Thank you!

    1. Hi Cheryl! Thank you for your kind comments, and for the opportunity to read, review and host Jen's virtual book tour event.

  2. Thank you again for having me to your blog, Kathleen -- love it! I'm so happy you enjoyed Curveball and good luck to everyone who enters to win a copy!

    1. Hi Jen! I love your books! I'm a huge baseball fan, proud Yankees fan! :)

  3. I enjoyed this book :)

    1. Hi Teena! Thanks for stopping by today. I enjoyed the book too. Enjoyed reading your review. :)