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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Article: Carving Out A Home Writing Retreat

by Cynthia Morris

The phone rings. The laundry pleads to be stuffed, cycled, dried and folded. Chaos reigns in the kitchen, e-mails queue for attention. Our lives are at once mundane and undeniably seductive at the same time. When we sit down to write at home, suddenly everything that marks our existence as tedious becomes compelling. Writing at home can seem tantamount to training for the Olympics past age nineteen.

Yet carving out time to write at home is possible. You can even design a home writing retreat. This weekend, I have staved off all other obligations and have Friday and Saturday free. I look forward to delving into my novel revision with hours of uninterrupted time. How to make sure I don't veer into work mode. I've developed a strategy for an at home writing retreat. Here are the ways that you, too, can carve out space for uninterrupted writing bliss.

Look ahead a month or two in your calendar. Find a day or two that are free and X them out for your retreat. When people suggest a get together on those days, say no. They're full with something more important. It is vital to guard these days.

The week before, act as if you are going out of town. Take care of all the work and home obligations that need your attention. Think about what needs to be taken care of when you are flying the coop - pet and plant care, clothes for the trip, etc. Make sure your work is done by the day before so you can take the time guilt-free.

Devise a plan. Consider your ideal writing retreat. First, think about what you are retreating from. Make a list of the roles you play in life: mother, spouse, employee, and writer. Give yourself permission to take time off from those roles to focus on one role. This weekend, I will set aside business owner, writer and teacher to be novelist for two days.

Have a focus for your time. You may wish to work on one creative project or several, but know beforehand what this time is devoted to. This will help when you enter the writing zone to get down to work right away.

Enroll allies. Alerting your people to your plans will make it easier to keep your boundaries. If your retreat means simply that you are stowed away in your bedroom or office while the rest of the family goes about their day, make sure they know that your do not disturb sign means just that. Better yet, help plan an outing for them so they can have their own adventure while you write. Who do you need to let in on your plan so they don't inadvertently try to thwart your efforts?

Get your vittles lined up. Plan for your nibbling needs. Make sure to have healthy snacks on hand. Prepare meals in advance or plan to order out so you can eat well but not get distracted by food preparation.

Be more than a walking head. Have a plan for being embodied. You may plan walks into your retreat, simple yoga or your regular workout.

Commit to tune out. You may want to unplug the phone, commit to leave your e-mail program off for the day and silence your cell phone. What other things do you need to set aside to be on retreat?

Give yourself a break with evening recreation. You'll want a break by evening. What activities will nurture your writer? You could rent a film about a writer or artist to inspire you. You could have a juicy book waiting to read.

Consider other activities that support your writing. If you went to a retreat center devoted to writers, what would you want to see? Inspiring books about the writing life or writing craft, favorite quotes, photos of writers who are role models may all be part of your writing retreat. Background music that encourages your creativity might help.

Being on retreat doesn't mean being holed up at home. If working in a cafe or at the library supports your writing, plan for excursions out of the house. . Watch out for the errand monkey, who will try to yank you around town on a bunch of his missions!

Give yourself permission to step out of your norm. Take this time to focus and be in full creative mode. A retreat of even a few hours can be a huge boon to progress on your writing. Have fun and make it work for you.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/writing-articles/carving-out-a-home-writing-retreat-268224.html

About the Author: Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse helps writers and visionaries make their brilliant ideas a reality. Author of Create Your Writer's Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease, and Go For It! Leading Tours for Fun and Profit, Cynthia coaches from Boulder.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Author Interview: Miqui Miller

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to speak with award-winning author Micqui Miller.

Micqui has an eclectic heritage. She shared with me, “My mom was Polish. She was born in Warsaw but raised in Brazil, Massachusetts and Michigan. My dad was French Canadian, born in a small town between Montreal and Quebec.” One regret she has about her childhood is, that only English was spoken in their household, though. “My mom spoke several languages as a child, including Polish, Portuguese, German and English. My dad spoke French and English, their only common language. They were so happy and proud to become American citizens,” she explained, “we spoke only English in our household and followed only a few of the old world traditions. I wish we'd been exposed to more, especially the languages.”

Micqui has been a writer virtually all her life. Even before she could write, she had her own personal secretary. “My sister would write down my stories,” she said, “in exchange for doing some of her household chores, like dusting, clearing the table or wiping the dishes.” She and her sister had such an obviously good relationship, I had to find out if they had ever made crank phone calls. “You mean like, 'Do you have Prince Albert in a can?' or 'Is your refrigerator running?' I take the Fifth!”

Her sister obviously believed in Micqui's talent (as well as having a good eye out for being able to get out of chores), but this was not her only contribution to Micqui's success. Micqui told me her very first book came about directly because of her sister.

My sister and her busy dating life [inspired me to write my first novel]. I was twelve or thirteen at the time. My sis was dating an absolutely fabulous man named Jack, who talked to me as if I were a real person, not just someone's pesky little sister. I melted into puddles whenever he came by. While they were out on their date, I'd sit at my dad's old Underwood typewriter and write what turned out to be my first romance--a full length novel, which I titled, The Caprices of Melinda Stuart. Wish I'd kept it. I'm sure it would be a hoot to read again today. And added benefit, I could type 65 words a minute on a manual typewriter before I ever set foot in first year typing.

Micqui told me that for a long time she thought only her sister and critique partner really thought she was a writer. That changed in 1992 when she won the Golden Heart Award for her first “grown-up” novel. She had written plenty of non-fiction before this (she earned her first byline as a sports writer for a local Detroit newspaper when she was fifteen), but she'd always had a yearning to write book-length fiction. So it was very gratifying to discover that other people thought she was a real writer as well.

With Micqui, it's always her characters who come first. Then, however, “the titles pop into my head the moment I see the characters in my mind and they tell me their names. A broad-stroke plot follows right on their heels. I'm not a "pantser". I write long, detailed synopses that I later break into chapter outlines and write the book from there.”

She's currently working on a new series called Caroline Spring Mystery Series. The main characters of this series are spun off from her novel Sweet Caroline, with the first book in the series entitled A is for Avatar. This is a project she's really having fun with because “I loved Mick and Caroline, and the setting of Sweet Caroline, including the Calla Lily Inn. Mick and Caroline are married now, with two young sons, but they're as passionate and adventurous as they were in Sweet Caroline, and with the same touches of light humor. I like to think of this series as 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith meet The Thin Man'.”

I always like getting advice from successful authors and Micqui gave me some excellent advice.

Write, write, write! Write every day, even if it's just 100 words. When I worked full time, I'd snatch a few minutes here and there, but I made sure I had something written down on paper or on my screen every single day. Make a pact with yourself to do the same thing. You may struggle the first few days, but soon you'll be writing full scenes. And if you write just one scene a day, you'll be typing "The End" long before you ever dreamed you would.

The absolute worst thing you can do is to put your work away for days or weeks, sometimes months. When you go back to it, you'll discover you've lost rapport with your characters and their emotions. You'll waste countless hours trying to find your way back. Some authors never do, and wonderful stories go untold.

Micqui also told me that, while she seldom suffers from writer's block, something she does when it does hit her is to briefly change the characters' names. “Using 'search and replace' I change the names of a few of my characters. A different name creates a completely different character, including changing his or her voice. Then I re-read what I'd written, hearing it from those different voices. It's amazing how that stimulates the part of my brain that's gone to sleep or is in rebellion. After a few minutes, I change all the names back to the originals and voila, the block is gone.”

I asked Micqui to tell us a little bit about her latest book.

Morning Star, which Cerridwen Press will release on November 29, is both romantic suspense and women's fiction, and based on many actual events. Here's a bit about it.

In Morning Star, Liz O'Hara, a widow and the mother of two teens, has spent her adult life looking over her shoulder, dreading the day she would be forced to admit the truth about the lost seven months she lived on the run as the young hippie Morning Star. But in her worst nightmares Liz never dreamed her secrets would be revealed on national television, or that she would face the dilemma of Solomon--choosing one child over another while a murderer lurked in the shadows, waiting to strike when she was most vulnerable.

Josh Wilder is a disillusioned East Coast news anchor who suddenly finds his fading career back on the fast track. But in order to cash in on his new celebrity, he must risk destroying the life of the woman he's loved in his heart for twenty-seven years, the street waif he'd known only as Morning Star.

Set amid a backdrop of danger and intrigue, the tumult of the Seventies pitted against the realities of the Nineties, Morning Star is a life-affirming story of love--the love of a mother for her child, a man for a woman, and the triumph of good over evil.


Morning Star is definitely the book of my heart. These characters took on a life of their own, showing me the depth of strength and courage a woman can reach when the people she loves the most are in jeopardy. I fell in love with Josh right along with Liz. He's certainly not perfect, and it's taken him a long time to come to terms with who he is, but love can bring out the best in all of us, and certainly does in him. I hope readers will fall in love with both Liz and Josh, share their determination when the going gets tough and their joy when they overcome the considerable obstacles they face.

Please visit Micqui at her website!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Short Story: Turkey Dinner

By Alisha Paige

Anna pulled the tattered invitation out of her daily planner and stared at it. She blew out a slow breath. She really had no intention of going when her neighbor had given it to her weeks ago. What she really felt like doing was burying her head beneath her pillow while the kids ate TV turkey dinners. The ones with the sticky cranberry dessert square in the center.

Her mother sounded sad about it over the phone, but said she understood. Maybe the rest of her family wouldn't feel the need to baby her if she weren't there. Ever since Brad had left, they'd been coddling her. Everyone in the neighborhood knew about it too, but they were easier to face than her family with all their long faces and whispers.

“Katelynn? Are you and Lisa about ready?”

“Yep! I'm putting on her boots!”

“Good girl,” Anna yelled back as she shut her computer down.

Work would have to wait. Writing short stories for the hometown newspaper paid the bills, but just barely. Brad had yet to send a dime of child support and soon she'd have another mouth to feed. Very soon. Like in six weeks.

If only that phone bill had never come when Brad was working out of town. The one with all those strange calls to another state. Hours and hours of long distance calls late at night. Funny thing was, it wasn't the long calls that bothered her. It was the two minute calls. Now she wished she had never given him a second chance.

“Oh, I was calling her to tell her to put another log on the fire,” Brad had said while shaving.

“Put a log on the fire?”

He nodded as he dunked the razor into the warm sink water.

“You called her just before work to tell her to put a log on the fire?”

Brad turned to face her, half covered in shaving cream as he rolled his eyes. “Have a heart, Anna! It was 28 degrees for heaven's sake! She asked me to call and wake her in the morning to remind her to put another log on the fire.”

Anna had stared at him open mouthed. Was she hearing him correctly? Was her husband overly concerned about another woman being cold? A woman he used to share a bed with years ago?

“I told you. I won't call her again. She's pathetic. She only needed a friend to talk to. She's been going through a rough time. She can't even afford to pay her gas bill. Come on, have a heart!”

Have a heart?

Brad ran the razor beneath his chin. A wicked visual skittered across Anna's mind. Maybe if he'd just cut his jugular. She could watch him bleed to death right there on the ivory bathroom carpet. Maybe then she'd feel better.

“Ready, Mommy?”

Anna sniffed and rubbed her belly after the baby gave her a swift kick in the ribs. Back to reality.

Katelynn helped her sister shrug into her coat and they were off.

“How old are Jewel's grandkids?” Katelynn asked.

“I'm not sure, but she has nine of them, so I think you'll find someone to play with.”

“Goody!” Katelynn sang as she pulled her sister along.

“Goody!” Lisa mimicked.

Anna sighed as the girls skipped ahead. She could already see guests arriving at Jewel's house. She refastened the foil around the pumpkin pie and ran a hand through her curly blonde hair. She'd barely brushed it, but who cared, she thought.

“Anna! You came!” Jewel said as she waved from the front porch, holding the screen door open.

Anna took a deep breath as the kids ran inside. She walked up the steps, holding onto the railing. Now nearly eight months pregnant, every step up was a balancing act.

“I'll just put this in the kitchen,” Anna said as Jewel kissed her on the cheek.

The aroma of turkey and dressing filled the small living room as Anna darted past half a dozen children running amok. Jewel already had a Christmas tree. Anna didn't even want to begin to think about Christmas. She turned the corner into the kitchen and tripped over a toy train. The pie went sailing as she gripped the wall when two arms caught her from behind.

“You okay?”

Anna looked over her shoulder as the stranger kept his large hands extended over her belly.

“Hey, I felt a kick! Must of startled the baby,” he chuckled.

Anna blushed, then cleared her throat. “Thank you. I think I'm okay now.” She turned around and stuck her hand out.

“I'm Anna. I'm Jewel's neighbor.”

The man grinned, exposing two very deep dimples. Blonde, wispy bangs fell over one twinkling blue eye. He swiped them away with one hand. “I know who you are. I'm Ben, Jewel's son.”

“Daddy, Daddy! Can I play outside with Lisa? Can I pull her in the wagon?”

Ben looked over at Anna. “Is that okay? He'll be careful. He takes his cousins for rides all the time.”

“Sure. But let Kate help, okay?”

“Yes ma'am,” the little boy replied, flashing her a toothless grin before running outside.

“Such good manners!” Anna replied as she eyed the pumpkin pie upside down on the kitchen floor a few feet away.

“Yeah. He's a good kid. So, you ready for number three?”

“Hardly! Do you and your wife have any more?”

“My wife?”

Please don't tell me she's dead.

“I'm not married.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Don't be. It's been years. She wanted a career more than a family.”

Anna eyed the dead pumpkin pie again. Maybe she should clean it up, but she knew it would be a feat to scrape it off the floor in her state.

“Don't worry about that. I'll get it.”

“I'm so sorry.”

“Don't be.”

Great, we're repeating ourselves.

Anna tucked a stray curl behind her ear. This dinner was going to be longer than she thought.

“I've started taking my son to Mother's Day Out on Mondays. Mother said you take your girls too. Would you be interested in meeting for a cup of coffee or maybe lunch?”

“Oh…I don't know, Ben.”

Ben looked at the dead pumpkin pie and scratched his head. Anna palmed her belly and stared at the gurgling coffee pot.

“Look at you two!” Jewel cooed from behind.

They turned around. Anna stared at the giant sequined turkey on Jewel's apron. Ben laughed out loud. “Look at what, Mother?”

“The two of you. You're standing under the mistletoe!”

Anna's heart thumped wildly as she glanced up.

Ben's smile turned to a frown as he eyed the plastic holiday decoration hanging from a single thread.

“Well, go ahead, Benjamin. Kiss our neighbor. Lord knows she deserves a kiss.”

Anna's mouth fell open as heat rushed through her, setting her cheeks on fire. She never had a chance to close it as Ben leaned over, put his arms around her and gave her a searing two second kiss.

“You sure you won't meet me at Mother's Day Out?” he asked staring down at her as he licked his lips.

Anna blinked as liquid warmth spilled into her. She felt the baby roll over as tears welled up in her eyes.

God! Don't cry now!

Two tears slid from the corners of her eyes. Ben pulled her closer. “Anna! God! Forgive me,” he whispered, wiping her tears away with the back of his hand.

“No,” she said softly.

“I understand,” he answered. He began to release her. He grimaced and squeezed his eyes shut.

She grabbed his arms, pulling them back around her. “Oh Ben! That's not what I meant. I meant I can't forgive you. You did nothing wrong. I'd love to see you again!”

A lopsided grin curved around Ben's face as he locked his fingers behind her back. “You would?”

“Yes!”

About the author: Alisha Paige was born and raised in Texas. She’s married to an extreme alpha-male who gives her plenty of good material, in and out of the bedroom. When she’s not writing about werewolves, vampires, witches, fairies or ancient history, she’s spending time with her family, gardening, singing, reading, eating rich dark chocolate or drinking fine red wine. Visit Alisha at her website!

Article: The Desire Not To Write

by Wendy Keller

A new client made an off-handed comment today. She wondered why almost every writer gets strong urges not to write. "Suddenly, the plants need watering, the dog needs petting, the laundry needs folding at that very moment." She laughed sheepishly. "I find in the moments that fall into my lap and announce they could be used for writing, I am suddenly possessed by an irresistible urge desire to clean closets, skim the internet for some obscure fact, or finally finish reading that book I started last month. It's worse than craving chocolate, and just as narcotic!"

Writers have it tough. The very thing we most want to do, we don't do. My ex-husband, who was a journalist at the time, dragged home a snippet of a quote. "No one likes writing, but everyone likes having written." I am not sure to whom attribution belongs, but I'd wager it's a professional writer. I am disinclined to write unless there's a deadline looming. Perhaps this is why so few authors actually get published. Finishing a proposal or the first draft of a fiction work is usually a self-imposed deadline.

I used to think it was the fear of criticism or rejection that kept most writers from writing. But now having been a writer all my life, and working with thousands of them as an agent, I think that is just the tip of the, well, the tip of the pool cue, to avoid a cliché. My dad, an old pool shark legendary only in his own mind, remembers people who were nervous about taking the shot who endlessly chalked their cue stick. It's the same with us, isn't it? We fuss and distract and whine that we don't have time or the right circumstances to write. As for me, if I'm not alone in a cabin in Big Bear with a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies (or in a pinch, oatmeal raisin), in front of the fieldstone fireplace with snow falling outside, in my favorite faux leopard skin slippers, how could I possibly be expected to turn out prose of any value? Quite simply, I cannot write unless conditions are perfect. That's what I tell myself. That's what my writers tell me.

The question in my mind is always "Why don't writers just force themselves to do it?" I gave a seminar some years ago, when I was naïve. I taught a class to eight professional speakers. I charged exorbitant rates to force them through a proposal creation process in just three days. They were limp when we finished. I sent them home edited and complete, with only one sample chapter to finish. Six of them had had sample chapters coming into the event - we'd edited them on site. All they had to do was incorporate those edits! Five years later, I have yet to get a completed proposal from any of them. What's worse is that I happen to know that no other agent or publisher has seen their work either in all this time!

Upon deep introspection and a cup of peppermint tea, I have determined once and for all that the reason writers don't write is because we simply know that language cannot begin to convey accurately the words in our hearts, minds and spirits. Like the Inuit who allegedly have hundreds of words to describe snow, or the ancient Greeks who had six words for love, we are immediately restrained by our limited language skills. The first words we type will instantly disappoint us, because they cannot perfectly convey straight into the heart and mind of another the precise message we wish to send.

And this is utter failure. And complete success. It is failure in all the obvious ways, but the way it is success is valuable to consider. For in our failure to direct our message perfectly, we leave it flayed open, exposed to any reader's interpretation. Each reader sees in the work precisely what he or she needs to take from it. They get what they wanted to get, nothing more or less. The critic who dices a book gets another paycheck next month for being pithy and curt. The reader who skims only the first few chapters and carries away a wholly different message from that intended needs that skewed message to verify his or her own opinion, pro or con. If fifty people read our work, there will be fifty interpretations of the same work.

We should have learned this in college English classes, for therein is the beauty of the craft and the release from the "Writer's Procrastination" malaise. Each person sees something different in the book, even the author upon rereading it later. We are perfectly met by words, because the words mean something different to each of us. Themselves, they are merely symbols for meanings, and meanings are wholly subjective. In California, the yellow stoplight means "hurry up!" In Chicago, it means, "slow down!" The words we see come to us in their own stark beauty, they adhere to our own vision of what we want and need from the text we are consuming.

When you next set fingertips to keyboard, or quill to parchment, remember that your efforts to convey a distinct message are only and sublimely your efforts. A whole world of possible interpretations exists behind each phrase you turn, each word picture you sketch. Resolve to allow all who choose to indulge in your writing take what they prefer, like a bountiful banquet table. Then you are liberated to write what is true and has meaning for you, what is real, in the best language you are capable of using. With clarity, logic and precision, you are freed to let the words flow onto the page. Those who take them up will see your work only from their own myopia. Your job is complete when the words have been spent and they lie there, self-satisfied and heaving on the page.

(c) 2007, Keller Media, Inc.

About the Author: Wendy Keller is Senior Agent at Keller Media, Inc. She's been selling books for other writers since 1989 and meanwhile has had 29 of her own books published under 8 pseudonyms. To get her and her staff on your side, go to http://www.KellerMedia.com.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Author Interview: Marisa Chenery

The Long and the Short of It would like to welcome Marisa Chenery. Marisa lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and four children. She told me that with four children in the house, she sometimes has to use a little ingenuity to be able to concentrate. When the noise level gets to distractibility-levels, she plugs in her portable CD player, sticks on her headphones and listens to movie soundtracks. She finds listening to the scores tends to help her drown out other, more distractible sounds.

One sound that isn’t distracting to her, though, is thunder. She loves storms and shared with me, “I love to watch the lightening streak across the sky and hear the booming thunder afterwards. I was taught to never be afraid of them, but to enjoy watching it through a window.”

Marisa told me she’d always loved books, but once she read her first historical romance, she was hooked. And, of course, she soon wanted to try her own hand at writing a book. So, eleven years ago, she started writing her very first one. She started with the historicals she loved so well, but has since branched out to paranormals.

She didn’t consider herself a “writer,” though, until this year when she signed her first book contract. “I may have written three books by that time,” she said, “but until I actually had one published I could never call myself a writer.”

One of the people she credits with helping her get that first book published is MaryJanice Davidson. “I love her writing style and her story of how she started out is very similiar to mine,” Marisa said. “But coming across her ebook Escape the Slush Pile was the key to having my very first book published. It is the best tool any unpublished author romance author should pick up and read if they are trying to get their book epublished.”

She’s currently working on two books. “The first is a sci fi romance, a novella in length,” she told me. “The second is a paranormal/werewolf romance, which will be a full length novel. I have always loved werewolf romances and knew I would end up writing one of my own at some point.”

Like many romance writers, Marisa has a definite sentimental streak. She admits freely to crying during movies, although she did say, “If I'm not watching the movie alone I will fight it to the bitter end, but if I'm alone I let the tears fall.”

Marisa loves hearing from people, so drop by her website at http://www.marisachenery.com/ and drop her a line while you’re there!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Short Story: Second Thoughts

By Diane Craver


“Danielle, I’m almost ready to leave work, so I should be able to pick you up in about thirty minutes,” Jeremy said. “I have a surprise for you.”

“I need a surprise today, that’s for sure.” Danielle kicked her high heeled shoes off, thinking how the added height to her five four was helpful around the taller students. Holding her cordless phone, she sat on her flowered sofa.

“You sound tired. Were the students rebellious again?”

Danielle sighed, remembering how her high school seniors had voiced their opinions about the homework she had assigned. She loved teaching, but it was so draining when she had to justify on a daily basis why English was a necessary subject for them. “They don’t want to do the final paper I assigned weeks ago. I told them, no paper, no graduation. And of course, they think I’m bluffing. I can’t wait until this school year is over.”

“You’ll get a vacation from overbearing teenagers soon, but then you’ll have a husband to put up with.”

“Marrying you in five weeks is the only thing keeping me going right now.” She wished with her whole heart that they were already married and she was Mrs. Jeremy Hartman. “I love you, honey.”

“I love you too. And I hope you love the surprise I have for you.”

“Give me a hint.”

“It’s big.”

She thought for a moment, twisting her brown hair around her finger. Of course, he must have purchased a king-size bed. “A new bed.”

“No, it’s not a bed. We can use mine or yours.”

She was disappointed since neither one of them had anything bigger than a full-size. Jeremy gave a few more hints, but she couldn’t guess the surprise. “Well, I’ll let you finish your work so that I’ll see you soon. Bye,” she said.

* * *

An hour later Danielle and Jeremy stood outside of a rundown old house that no longer had any paint on it anywhere. Why was he showing her this dump? It was the most depressing thing she’d ever seen, she thought.

Jeremy was dressed in his business suit since he had come straight from work, but Danielle had changed from her school clothes into jeans and a T-shirt. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

“This is your surprise,” Jeremy said as he unlocked the front door.

“I can’t believe they bother locking this up,” Danielle muttered. “Who owns it?”

“Joe Greene. He’s anxious to sell. It’s been vacant for several years. He inherited the house and was going to fix it up himself, but decided not to now. I think we should buy it. We’d have something to show for our money instead of paying rent for your apartment.”

Since Jeremy lived with another accountant, they planned on living in her apartment after the wedding. She grabbed his hand, looking at his face to see if it was possible that Jeremy was actually serious about buying it and realized he was. “I don’t want to buy it. Just look at it. We’d be spending all our time trying to fix it up.”

She stared at the warped and slanted floor in the foyer before looking at the cracks in the ceiling. The walls had horrible cheap paneling. When Jeremy pulled her into the kitchen, she saw that the painted cupboard doors were off their hinges. The red and gray linoleum was either very dirty or stained.

Jeremy smiled. “Just think how much fun we’ll have working on it together.”

She shrugged. “I don’t see how it will be fun when we won’t have any time for remodeling. I’m busy grading papers in my spare time, and I already signed a contract for next school year to direct two major plays.”

“But soon you’ll be out of school, so we’ll have this summer and weekends.”

“I don’t want to spend my summer working on this house. It’ll take too much work.” She raised her eyebrows. “We already made plans to live in my apartment.”

“Sorry. I didn’t make myself clear. We can stay the remainder of the lease at your apartment while we start making the house more livable.”

Danielle crossed her arms. “I want to renew my lease.”

“You have to see the upstairs. There are so many possibilities with all the rooms.”

She hated the upstairs. Instead of paneling on the walls, she saw ugly wallpaper and water spots on the high ceilings. “This place is a dump. I don’t want to live here. I don’t understand why you would think I’d want to.”

Jeremy gave her a frustrated look. “We can buy this house for a good price, fix it up, and make a lot of money to buy another house eventually. Just think about it.”

“I don’t believe this.” Danielle paced angrily in front of a huge window. “You’re just like my dad. Always thinking about saving money. Look at our first date. We had to go to an early movie to save money.”

“But I didn’t save money, did I? You couldn’t be ready in time, so we ended up going out to eat, and then I paid more for the movie.”

“I know. Right from the beginning you didn’t want to spend money on me,” she said.

He frowned. “That’s not true. I have no problem spending money on you, but I don’t like to waste money. You told me how impressed you were that I was frugal. I guess you lied.”

She nodded. “I thought it was cute at first, but now that we’re getting married, half of our conversations involve how to save money.” She sighed. “And it takes precedence over everything, like comfort. Instead of us getting a queen or king-size bed, you insist on using one of our full-size beds so we can be thrifty.”

“Well, it’s a good thing one of us is practical,” he said, glaring at her. “You spend money like you have your own mint.”

“You don’t have to spend your precious money on me for dinner. I’m not hungry.” She paused. “In fact, I might be saving you lots of money in the future.”

Jeremy’s eyes widened. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m having second thoughts about marrying you. My parents had a lot of arguments about finances. We both need some time apart to think about our money differences.”

He stared hard at her for a long moment. “I think you’re right. I love you but I’m having second thoughts, too.”

* * *

The following day Danielle gave the wrong test to the honors class. She was relieved when the day was over except then it was upsetting to go home without any contact with Jeremy.

She didn’t regret voicing her opinion about the old house and wished buying it wasn’t important to him. As she graded papers at the kitchen table, she kept seeing his face. She liked the way he always smiled at her and made her feel that she was the most important woman in his life. Although his money pinching ways got on her nerves, there were times when she appreciated his interference. In grocery shopping he’d showed her what cheaper cuts of meat to buy without the quality of taste suffering. And he did the oil changes and other minor maintenance work on her car so that she didn’t have to pay a mechanic.

By the third day Danielle came to the conclusion that she loved him enough to compromise on how to spend their money. She also had a plan in mind to make them both happy. While driving home after school, she decided to call him that evening. When she pulled into the apartment’s parking lot, she saw that Jeremy was there and he looked happy to see her.

After she got out of her silver Honda, he handed her a dozen beautiful red roses.

“Jeremy, you didn’t need to spend all this money on roses.”

“Yes, I did.” He gave her a tender kiss. “I decided you’re right about Mr. Greene’s house. It needs too much work for us to pour hours into remodeling it. I don’t want to lose you. You’re more important to me than buying that house.”

Danielle nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, too, about buying instead of renting. It’s silly to pay out rent so in a few months when my lease expires, there’s a starter house we can buy. My grandmother’s moving in a nursing home, and she wants to sell her small house.”

“I like her house and it has a nice yard.”

She grinned. “And we’ll save realtor’s fees if we buy from her.”

“Sounds like a good deal to me.”

Danielle looked up into his eyes and realized that they were both ready to stop discussing houses. “And now we have that settled, how about a second kiss?”

About the Author: As the youngest in the family, growing up on a farm in Findlay, Ohio, Diane often acted out characters from her own stories in the backyard. In high school she was the student sitting in class with a novel hidden in front of her propped up textbook. Her passion for reading novels had to be put on hold during her college years at Ohio State University due to working part-time on campus and being a full-time student. Before embarking on her writing career, Diane was a school teacher and play director. She enjoys her life with her very supportive husband and six awesome children in southwestern Ohio. She writes contemporary romance, inspirational mainstream and chick-lit mystery. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at her website and her blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Article: How To Deal With Rejection (Letters)

By Allie Boniface

If you’re a writer, and if you dream of someday publishing a short story/novel/article/best-seller, you’ve probably received a rejection letter from an editor or agent.

And if you haven’t, you will.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to dash your hopes. But the chances of having your work contracted by the first person you query are small. And even if you’ve had the joy of hearing that first “Yes, we love it, here’s a contract,” your next work may not be as well received.

So how do you deal with rejection in the writing world, and how do you use it to make your next efforts better?

1. Don’t take the rejection personally. Except in very few cases, you will not know the person reading your query letter. Nor does that person know you. The agent/editor/first reader is not rejecting you as a person. He or she is not telling you that you will never amount to anything in the publishing world. He or she is simply saying that, for whatever reason, the work is not right. Not for them. Not now. That’s all.

2. Send out another query. Soon. This is crucial. Continue to query until you’ve exhausted your list. If you’re querying agents, www.agentquery.com is a good place to start, along with www.publishersmarketplace.com. The annually published Writer’s Market is a nearly exhaustive list of agents, publishers, and other markets for your writing. Make a list of your top targets and work your way through to the end. Then make another list.

3. Read your rejection letters carefully to see if there’s anything you can use to improve your manuscript. Most people will receive a form letter. If you manage to glean a personal comment on your work, that’s good! “I would have liked a better reason for Sally to return to her hometown” can help you take another look at your heroine‘s motivation. “I have two teenagers, and they don’t talk like that” can help you refine your dialogue. Even “Sorry, not right for us” can encourage you take a more careful look at submission guidelines.

4. Keep writing. If you must, put the work that you queried away for a while. Sometimes it’s too tough to go back through and think about revising. That’s OK. Have another project in the wings. Maybe it’s your next novel. Maybe it’s an article for that gardening e-zine you’ve had your eye on. Maybe it’s a fun short story in a different voice or genre. But keep writing.

5. Find a creative place, or way, to store your rejection letters. Stephen King used to hang his from a nail (later replaced by a spike, to hold the weight) hammered into his bedroom wall. Another author I know uses hers to make papier-mâché bowls. I’ve kept every rejection letter I’ve received. Right now, they’re just stored in a big folder, but I plan to turn them into a giant display the day I become a NY Times best-seller and do a book-signing that draws a crowd of hundreds.

6. Comfort yourself. Allow yourself the candy bar you usually don’t. Bake something delicious. Sleep in. Leave the laundry for another day. Go shopping. You are a valuable being, and in writing and submitting your work, you’re living the dream that many people talk about but never achieve.

7. Find inspiration from these famous authors, all of whom were rejected multiple times before publishing:

*Richard Bach, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (26 rejections)

*John Grisham, “A Time to Kill” (28 rejections)

*Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series (31 rejections)

*Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (121 rejections)

Rejection is tough. But it does not mean the end of the world for you as a writer. Just the opposite: it means that you have the guts to send your work out into the world for strangers to review. Think of how many people never even take the chance!

About the Author: Allie Boniface is a romance novelist and high school English teacher living with her husband in the northern New York City suburbs. She’s had a soft spot for love stories and happy endings since the time she could read, and she’s been caught scribbling story ideas on scrap paper (when she should have been paying attention to something else) too many times to count. When she’s not writing, shoveling snow, or grading papers, she’s traveling the United States and Europe in search of sunshine, back roads, and the perfect little pub. Visit Allie’s website to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Author Interview: Kally Jo Surbeck

The Long and the Short of It would like to welcome Kally Jo Surbeck. Kally Jo is a talented writer who is published in multiple genres. She writes action/adventure, fantasy, romantic comedy, and historical. Kally Jo was recently chosen Author of the Year at this year’s Colorado Romance Writers Conference. She was also a 2006 Eppie finalist for All I Want for Christmas anthology.

Kally Jo’s reason for writing romance is something I’ve shared with many other romance writers. She told me, “It boils down to an insatiable degree of hope, the belief that dreams do come true, there is happiness to be found despite the amount of horror or atrocity one might suffer.”

I asked her what she considered the most important elements of good writing. “I would have to say perseverance,” she told me. “Markets change. Booksellers change. Writing is about passion and perseverance and knowing that maybe if the book isn’t snapped up just this minute, it will be in the future. So, perseverance on the side of writing, passion in the writing itself.”

Kally Jo’s characters have always come first with her—before plot or situations. “Usually, in a little flash, I will have an idea of a character,” she said, “and then it expands. My stories tend to be very character driven. Though my stories have a lot of action/adventure in them, without the characters themselves, the action would not be as interesting.”

Most of Kally Jo’s writing is done in the evenings. She is very much a night person. In fact, the night before her interview, she was writing at midnight. Her views on the morning? “I like knowing there is a sunrise,” she told me. “ I'm sure they are beautiful. I just don't like being a part of it.”

During the day, her time is taken up with her family (they own a ranch, so there’s always something to do, she informed me) and volunteer work (she was recently named advocacy chair for the 2008 Relay For Life).

She also loves to travel. As a matter of fact, one thing she wishes scientists would invent is a teleportation device. “Though I have to admit,” she confessed to me, “I'm not sure I'm brave enough to use it. Even if I knew it was safe, I still might hesitate.”

Her office space is, in her word, “crowded.” She explained, “I tend to be a ‘less is more’ kinda gal, but not in my office. I have one bookshelf that is a keeper shelf—handy books that I reread on a regular basis. One is a resource bookshelf. The books on this tend to rotate depending on what kind of story I’m working on. The books that don’t come off it, except for use, include Stephen King’s Memoirs on the Craft, Websters, and several texts on abnormal psychology, anatomy and herbology. Then, I have another bookshelf of TBRs. I also have a filing cabinet, a writing desk, and a desk I use as my mailing center. And, of course, I have posters on the walls.”

The hardest part of writing the book for Kally Jo was, curiously enough, not the writing at all. It was her release date. “Not so much about sales,” she told me, “but turning that little brief look at something I did out to the public. I know not everyone will like me or my writing, but there is still a certain vulnerability in that initial release.”

And, a little piece of trivia about Kally Jo you might be interested in… she’s a Coke gal. “When I ask for a Coke, I want a Coke,” she said. “If there is Pespi, I go Mountain Dew or Dr Pepper.”

Kally Jo loves hearing from her readers, so be sure to visit her at her website, or myspace or you can chat with her on her message board.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Short Story: Schoolyard Love

by Allie Boniface

I socked her.

Hard, right in the arm. Hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.

It was our noontime ritual, hers and mine, to see which of us was tougher. Who’d blink first. Who’d flinch harder.

She looked me square in the eye. “Didn’t hurt.”

“Liar.”

She shrugged and turned away, ribs sticking out from that pink t-shirt she always wore.

“Didja ask her?” Dougie and Sam inched their way over from the slides. “What’d she say, huh?”

I didn’t answer. My gaze slipped across the gravel to where she’d rejoined her friends, a knot of pale faces with ponytails falling down their backs. Over her shoulder she glanced, a smile tugging at her lips, before she leaned in for the whisper that meant Girl-Gossip. Laughter erupted, and my face burned.

“She didn’t say nothin.’” I dragged the toe of my brand new sneaker in the dirt.

“Bet she turned you down.”

“I didn’t ask her yet, moron.” I stuffed one hand into my front pocket and felt the fibrous edge of the twenty Dad had given me for mowing the lawn last weekend.

Again the laughter came, and again I felt about two feet tall. But criminy, looking at Denise Reynolds on the playground that June day, watching the way her hair shone and her waist curved and her fingers drew patterns in the air, I thought I’d about die if she didn’t go to the movies with me.

Eleven years old, and I never again felt more crushed by love than in that fifth-grade moment when I looked at the girl I would someday marry and watched the sun move across the back of her neck.

I could punch harder. I could run faster.

But she had all the power, and we both knew it.

About the author: Allie Boniface is a romance novelist and high school English teacher living with her husband in the northern New York City suburbs. She’s had a soft spot for love stories and happy endings since the time she could read, and she’s been caught scribbling story ideas on scrap paper (when she should have been paying attention to something else) too many times to count. When she’s not writing, shoveling snow, or grading papers, she’s traveling the United States and Europe in search of sunshine, back roads, and the perfect little pub. Visit Allie’s website to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Article: How To Use Punctuation

by Rumki Sen

The most common mistake people tend to make while writing is in the use of Punctuation. Wrong punctuation can damage the flow of ideas and change meaning, but properly used punctuation not only helps readers understand your meaning but also makes them engrossed in your writing. The following discussion is about some of the frequently misused punctuation marks and what actually their correct application should be.

Use of Apostrophe - Use an apostrophe to show possession, but never put apostrophe in case of possessive pronouns. Always remember that when the word "it's" is used, it is actually for the contraction for the two words: "it has" or "it is". On the other hand, "its" is a possessive pronoun, and the word being already possessive should not contain an apostrophe in it.

Example:

It's the same thing happening over and over again. (Contraction of It and is: It is the same thing happening over and over again).

Wrong: That car is your's. Right: That car is yours. Note: Rewriting is sometimes the solution for an awkward possessive.

Awkward: A friend of mine's cap. Better: A friend's cap (or the cap of a friend of mine).

To show possession in the case of singular nouns, add 's, and for plural words that end in s, add only an apostrophe. Don't forget to put 's with plural words not ending in s.

Example

Singular: nurse's uniform Plural: nurses' uniforms (plural word ending in s) Plural: children's uniforms (plural word not ending in s)

Use of Comma - Use commas to separate three or more items in a list. Though journalists most of the times omit the final comma before the word "and", but retaining the final comma avoids confusion.

Example

Poor: In this web site, you can read articles about how to do business online, the woman who daily eats 45 eggs and Tom Cruise.

Better: In this web site, you can read articles about how to do business online, the woman who daily eats 45 eggs, and Tom Cruise.

Use a comma to separate two independent clauses joined by coordinating conjunctions.

Example

Wrong: I am not good in writing but I love writing.
Wrong: I am not good in writing, but, I love writing.
Right: I am not good in writing, but I love writing.

Note: If the clauses are long and already contain commas, separate them with a semicolon rather than a comma.

Wrong: If a man begins with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. - Francis Bacon

Right: If a man begins with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. - Francis Bacon

Run-on sentences - Where Run-on sentences are concerned (in case you don't know what it is, a run-on occurs when two independent clauses are not separated by punctuation or conjunction), add a period, or a semi colon, or a comma in places of separation.

Example

Wrong: A good student can score full marks in Mathematics it's his analytical ability that will help him achieve that.

Right: A good student can score full marks in Mathematics. It's his analytical ability that will help him achieve that.

Use of Quotation Marks - Use quotation marks to indicate direct quotation.

Example "That guy knows me," Mr. Wong said, "very well."

Note: Never use it for indirect quotation (a restatement of someone’s words).

According to Mr. Wong, that guy knows him very well.

Use single quotation marks to indicate a quote within a quote.

Example

Wrong: Richard wrote, "When Berkeley said, "esse est percipii", he meant that the existence of a thing consists in its being perceived."

Right: Richard wrote, "When Berkeley said, 'esse est percipii,' he meant that the existence of a thing consists in its being perceived."

Note: Always put the comma and final period inside the quotation marks, and put other punctuation marks outside unless they are part of the thing being quoted.

There are many other frequently used punctuation errors, but the above-discussed ones are those I have mostly encountered in several writings. Before putting punctuation marks in your sentences, always ask yourself what meaning you want to convey to the readers. Accordingly, put the marks. In case the sentence becomes difficult to punctuate, consider rewriting it, because when a sentence is well written, it almost punctuates itself.

Originally published at e-zine-articles.com

About the Author: Rumki Sen is the founder of Perfect Editing Solutions (www.perfectediting.com), a professional firm providing a Proofreading and Copyediting service to web sies and online documents. She corrects and edits English grammar, punctuation, spelling, links and a lot more for mainly web sies, letters, applications, CVs / resumes, advertisements, manuals, brochures, e-newsletters, articles and e-mail messages. Her company also offers resume-writing services. Whether you're a student, webmaster, or business owner, your written work will be improved immediately after you get her company's service. Contact Rumki Sen at rumki@perfectediting.com.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Author Interview: Tanya Michaels

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome award-winning Harlequin author, Tanya Michaels, to our pages.

She told me she could write “since I could spell words.” But even before that she was apparently an accomplished storyteller. She told me, “My mom said I was weaving elaborate tales (often starring my favorite stuffed animals) from about two-and-a-half on. I still have a ‘book’ in a folder that I wrote when I was nine that I read on request to my two children, who love the story and the silly illustrations.”

Tanya was never unsure of her destiny as a romance novelist. When she was just 17, she sent her first complete manuscript to Pocket. However, she never heard back from them and she said, “Considering everything I’ve learned since, it’s probably kinder that they didn’t respond.”
In 1999, she discovered Romance Writers of America and “learned not only about the craft of writing but the BUSINESS of writing.” Within a couple of years of joining RWA, she sold her first book and, to date, has sold nearly 25 of them, many of which have been translated into foreign languages.

Since she is so successful, I asked her what advice she would give to a new author just starting out.

“If you love it, STICK WITH IT,” she said. “Quick success stories are rare, but perserverance often wins out. However, if you don't truly love it, there are lots of easier ways to make a living. So, stick with it and try to find a writing organization that suits your needs (there are all kinds of groups, from romance writers to mystery writers to children's writers.) Networking with other authors teaches you a lot and can provide invaluable moral support.”

One of the things I’m always interested in with our authors is the writing process itself. Which, in their own writing, comes first—the characters or the plot. For Tanya, it is definitely and emphatically the characters. No matter who she is writing as (Tanya has an alter-ego, Tanya Michna who writes women’s fiction), she told me, “The PEOPLE are the heart of the story and always what comes to me first. That’s possibly because I write family and community oriented stories and not suspense novels full of twists and turns; then again, even when I pick up a novel to read, it’s the characters I'm most interested in. I'm a big fan of the JD Robb In Death series, but it's not because of the murder cases in each book (although they're well-written and fast-paced), it's because I love revisiting Eve, Roarke, Peabody, Mavis, etc.”

To Tanya the best part of her job is hearing from her readers. She had received some truly amazing letters from readers and she told me about a few of them. “One woman from New Orleans wrote me after Katrina that my Harlequin romantic comedy Spicing It Up was the first thing to make her laugh since the hurricane hit. Another woman read Dating the Mrs. Smiths, which is about a young widow dealing with her two kids and her mother in-law, and wrote me that her husband is in Iraq and that she's currently coping with HER two young kids and mother-in-law and that the book gave her hope and made her feel less alone. Touching someone else, even if it's just to make them smile or take their mind off a bad day at work for an hour, is why I love what I do. And I'm so grateful to the hundreds of authors who have always been there for me when times were rough and I needed a happy ending!”

Tanya and her family are currently researching non-allergenic breeds of dogs, because Tanya loves dogs and her kids really want one, but her husband is allergic. If any of you know of any breeds that are particular good for allergic people to be around, drop us a line here at lasreviews@gmail.com and we’ll be sure to forward your suggestions to Tanya. They won’t be getting one immediately because Tanya said they want to make sure the kids are old enough to help, “because Mommy’s to-do-list is already WAY too long.”

It’s not unusual for a romance writer to be emotional (remember Katherine Turner crying as she wrote the last scene of her novel in Touching the Stone?) so I asked Tanya if she ever cried at movies. “Ever seen "Return to Me" with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver?” she asked. “It's actually got some very funny moments and a happy ending, but that early scene with Duchovny in the foyer of his home trying to explain to the family dog that his wife isn't coming back reduces me to tears every time! I cry during half the movies I see. I cry during books (Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Judith McNaught, the upcoming Private Arrangements by debut novelist Sherry Thomas, the last Harry Potter book.) I cry during really good commercials. Heck, I cried once during Tim Gunn's Guide to Style makeover show. I'm a very emotional person. But the nice flipside of that is that there are a lot of things that make me laugh, too, especially my kids and many of my favorite authors.”

Some of her favorite include “Jennifer Crusie, whether writing a book by herself or collaborating with others, and for historical romances, I love Eloisa James, among others. And J.K. Rowling, in my opinion, is a goddess--not just because of how much I love her stories, but because she was able to get so many people, young and old, reading! My favorite non-living writer would probably be Shakespeare or Jane Austen. Or Margaret Mitchell.”

Don’t forget to stop by her website. Thanks for dropping by, Tanya!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Short Story: Vampires On The Loose!

by Roberta Beach Jacobson

Blake had lied to me and I had proof. My boyfriend's escapades had landed on page two of the Hinesville newspaper.

I clipped the article about the car accident and took it with me as I rushed off to work. Blake claimed to be spending the final October week touring a college campus and I'd believed him when he said he had important meetings with three different professors. It was obvious how thrilled he was when the college catalog arrived. He needed to visit the campus, he told me, have a look around.

It sounded plausible. Starting college at twenty-four is no simple decision.

According to the article, Blake and three others dressed as vampires had arrived by limousine at a fancy Halloween bash. Afterwards, they'd been in a pile-up on the slick highway. There were cuts and bumps, nothing too serious. The four were being kept overnight in the hospital for observation.

The Blake I thought I knew was a sensible guy with both feet planted firmly on the ground. We'd been a couple long enough that I just assumed we'd walk down the aisle together. There was no clue Blake might have a wild, unpredictable side.

Once seated at my reception desk at the Hinesville Vet Clinic, I unfolded the puzzling article. It identified the others as juniors from the very campus Blake hoped to attend. Was this the sort of happy-go-lucky lifestyle he planned to lead once he became a college man? It didn't take much of a sleuth to put two and two together. These upperclassmen would be Blake's campus role models. The realization brought me no comfort at all.

Though I had no idea how much a night out with a stretch limo might cost, I knew winning the lottery might help. The article mentioned no females, only the four vampires being chauffeured to and from their ghoulish fun. Were they hoping to meet up with some cute witches at the Halloween party? It seemed a likely scenario.

I only half-concentrated on my work. My mind was filled with visions of Blake dressed in Transylvanian garb.

Shortly before eleven o'clock, Parker, who ran the corner bakery, burst into our waiting room. “I brought you some treats, guaranteed baked by ghosts and goblins. Look, orange-and-black napkins to mark the special day. Happy Halloween, you two!” He saluted me as he left.

I called out my thanks, but he was long gone.

When Doc Edwards and I managed a brief coffee break to bite into our cupcakes, I showed him the newspaper article.

He scowled as he read. “I'm glad the crash wasn't serious. Lisa,” he said. “Your Blake seemed so level-headed, why would he pull off such a dumb prank?”

I fought back tears and admitted I had no explanation.

After our last appointment of the day, I stopped by the bakery to offer my thanks to Parker. I watched him in action through the front window. Grinning as ever, he was wiping counters at a frantic pace. He had the build of an athlete.

He looked up as the door jingled and called out, “Hey, Lisa, glad to see you! I'm running on empty today. Can you believe I'm covering three jobs?”

“Do you ever stop smiling?” I asked, regretting the question the moment it escaped.

“I'm smiling at you, Lisa,” was his reply. He scooted toward the kitchen, balancing an overfilled tray. Moments later, he returned with two glasses of apple cider. He looked at me through gorgeous brown eyes and suggested, “Let's toast to Halloween hilarity.”

We sat at a cafe-style table and he asked about my day. I told him about some of our four-legged patients and added my sincere thanks for the holiday sweets.

He admitted he'd decorated the cupcakes himself and mentioned his pumpkin cookies had out-sold his expectations.

Was he the only male on the planet who knew his way around a kitchen? I found it charming and told him so.

“Growing up on a farm, you gain some handy culinary skills,” he answered, his eyes twinkling. “I can cover soup to dessert,” he assured me. “All from scratch.”

After an hour of chatting, I pulled out the wrinkled article and asked him to read it and share his opinion.

He grew somber while he read. He winced and said, “I'm so sorry about this mess, Lisa, I really am. Blake lost his head. How could he leave someone as wonderful as you behind to pull off such a scatterbrained, childish stunt?”

I couldn't think of an answer. Sipping overpriced drinks with fellow monsters in a posh hotel was not the way I wanted to celebrate October 31st. Had I even celebrated the holiday? Of course! A cheerful and talented baker, wearing an unseasonal red and green apron, had seen to it I had a delicious taste of Halloween. Parker would never be so immature as to be talked into making a caped spectacle of himself in a stretch limousine.

As for Blake, he hadn't even bothered to pick up a phone to contact me. I knew deep in my heart he wasn't a suitable partner for me. Not only had I emotionally outgrown him, but I knew I could do better in the romance department. As far as I was concerned, Blake could pretend to be from Transylvania all he wanted. Without me.

Impulsively, I leaned over and kissed Parker on the cheek. It surprised him as much as me. Maybe I was under the spell of his Halloween magic, but at that moment I knew I'd found my dream guy – thanks to the best holiday of the year!

About the Author: Roberta Beach Jacobson writes for True Romance, True Love and True Confessions magazines. She's an American writer who makes her home in Greece. Visit her at her webpage.