Beginning January 1, 2013

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday Spotlight: Cindy Davis

Marriage…and Life Distractions

My day job is fiction editor. I often meet authors in later stages of life; kids grown, careers developed, financially settled. It’s then they wonder what they’ll do with their time. That’s what happened with me. My kids were grown. I was into my second marriage. (My first left me alone and broke. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for twenty-odd years.)

My new husband was encouraging. “If something happens to me, I want you to have something to fall back on. Pick something you want to do. Go back to school if you want.”

“I always wanted to be a writer,” I said and enrolled in a journalism course. I graduated and got a job with a local magazine. After eight years, I decided fiction was the place to be. Again my oh-so-supportive husband sent me back to school, a novel writing class. First novel, 35,000 words, Submitted. Rejected. Surprise! I honed my craft and produced 92,000 words. Accepted. Published and total shock. Stores didn’t want it…no distributor. First royalty check $17.00—for two years work.

Another novel published. New publisher, better distribution. But these books weren’t ‘returnable.’ Another year down the tubes.

What did I learn? Writing is tremendous fun. It’s emotionally rewarding. It gets great attention and accolades from friends and neighbors.

The moral? If you’re looking for a life-career, pick one that makes money.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Spotlight: Cindy Davis

People Watching

I love watching people: young lovers at the mall, people arguing, children playing. I am fascinated with the way they walk, laugh, talk with their hands. The way they shop: the one who touches every item, the one who calculates each price per ounce, the one who recites brands into a cell phone.

Yesterday I was watching "The First 48" on television. (For those not familiar, it’s a show that counts down the first forty-eight hours after a crime and details the process of following clues.) The detective had family members (6 people) in a room and was announcing that he’d closed the case. “I brought you all here to tell you,” long pause, “we have arrested someone for,” another pause, “killing your father.” Six completely different reactions. All etched in my brain for future use.

My latest book, Final Masquerade, is a result of people watching. There’s a woman, about fifty, lives alone, in a car, on a piece of wooded land a few miles from town. She bikes through road slush with groceries strapped to the back. I’ve always wondered what circumstances caused her to live this way. I assume it’s by choice because she owns the land.

I attended a workshop where a detective outlined how our characters could evade people looking for them—by changing everything about themself. If they drove a Mercedes, drive an Escort. If they ate hamburger, switch to escargot. I imagined the woman from above—how she might’ve changed her life to end up living the way she did. The result is my character, Paige Carmichael. Age twenty, born to shop. She witnesses a murder and runs from the killer. She changes everything about herself. She doesn’t end up in such drastic straits but…

Well, someday I should stop the woman on the bike and tell her what a profound effect she’s had on me, and my character.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Spotlight: Cindy Davis

Write What You Know

I started my first novel when I was nine (won’t mention the year, smile). The title was Murder in Egypt. It took place at an archaeological dig in the desert. It had a great cast of characters, twisty plot. I never finished the story though it captivated me for months.

In 1999, at a writer’s workshop I first heard “write what you know.” What the heck did that mean? I was a wife and mother; I knew plenty. But apparently not enough. Rejection after rejection came in. I blamed the publishers/editors for their lack of vision.

It was about this time another thought hit—okay, exploded—into my head. Could I have stumbled upon the reason for the unfinished Egypt manuscript? Could the fact that I’d never been out of Massachusetts have anything to do with not finishing a novel set thousands of miles away?

Throughout high school, the mention of reports and term papers brought sweat from every pore. I was bored silly by research. What got turned in was unemotional rote.

I got hired by a local magazine in 1998 and received my first assignment, to research a long-abandoned town at the end of a road that got more overgrown every year. “Damn, more research,” I groused. The librarian pointed me to, rather than the research section, a man who’d lived during that era. From that moment, the word research took on a whole new meaning. Everything in the world is there, you just have to look and learn, so you can…write what you know.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kate’s Christmas Miracle

by Allison Knight


Kate hated Christmas. Three long years ago, a week before Christmas, she’d wished her fiancĂ© Godspeed and sent him off to war. Last year, a few days before the holiday, her father had taken ill and joined her mother who had died before Kate had reached her second birthday.

Nor had she heard from Philip. Almost two years had passed since she’d received a letter. She had no choice but to move into Aunt Sophia’s house. Now that the War Between the States was over, everyone seemed happier.

However, it mattered not how she felt or why. Today she had too much to do. Aunt Sophia made that clear only this morning when she announced the house had to be immaculate for her soiree. Kate wondered if Aunt Sophia even knew what a soiree was, because no one in Albany, New York, held soirees.

She gazed at the pile of split logs nestled in the snow. They had to be stacked beside the fireplaces or the women would freeze to death in their ball gowns. She grabbed the hem of her long skirt and huddled into her woolen cloak. The sooner she got the wood inside the faster she’d get warm.

As she toted wood into the house, she grimaced. Aunt Sophia had declared she could attend this evening’s entertainment, but Kate had nothing to wear.

Sophia’s youngest daughter had offered one of her own gowns, but the two women were too different in size for the gown to fit properly. No, Kate wouldn’t be attending this party.

After lunch, she grabbed her scrub brush and pail of water. The foyer floor needed a good cleaning then she could retreat to the kitchen to help cook.

Long before the guests arrived, she’d prepare some warm soup, escape to her room and read one of her penny novels.

With part of the floor cleaned, she leaned back to rest. She threw the brush into the pail and rubbed the perspiration from her forehead. Much to her disgust, some hair from her bun had loosened. She twisted the strand back into the knot at the back of her head.

It reminded her of the times Philip had run his hands through her long curls. Now there was no time to fix her hair into curls. Nor was there any need, for she had no place to go.

She sighed and her heart felt heavy. This war had robbed so many women of their men. Of course, she and Philip never had the chance to marry. Perhaps if they had, her life would be different now.

With no effort at all, she could still imagine his smiling face, hear his deep laugh, picture his twinkling eyes as he described the escapades of the young soldiers under his command. She wondered if he’d known of her father’s death or if, because she was alone, she’d had to move to Aunt Sophia’s house.

“Oh, Philip, I miss you so,” she whispered and whisked the moisture from her eyes with her apron.

This won’t do, she told herself and grabbed for the scrub brush. Mooning over what might have been accomplished nothing.

She had almost finished when the front door knocker sounded. With nothing but a dirt path to the porch, whoever sought entrance would track mud and slush across the floor she’d just cleaned. Some unladylike words came to mind.

She looked a sight, certainly in no condition to admit her aunt’s caller. With escape her only option, she wiped at her damp hands, grabbed her pail, and ran for the kitchen. Polly was close at hand and could answer the door.

“I’ve nearly finished, but there’s a visitor at the door,” she said, when Cook glanced up from a pot of cinnamon apples with a questioning look. “I’ll have to finish later. Now, what can I do to help you?” Kate asked, putting away the brush and pail she’d emptied off the back porch.

“You don’t have time to help anyone,” Polly announced from the door to the kitchen. “The visitor wants to see you.”

A swell of fear clogged Kate’s throat. She knew it had to be someone coming to tell her where and how Philip had died. She’d rather the message go to another in the family. Of course, she was being cowardly, but with her afternoon memories still so fresh in her mind, hearing about Philip now would hurt all the more.

“Can you ask the visitor to leave a message?” Kate asked.

“No I can’t. He is demanding to speak to you. I told him to wait in the parlor. But you’d best tidy up a bit.” Polly giggled. “You look like a scullery maid.” She trotted away before Kate could object.

“Go on, child.” Cook nodded toward the back stairs.

Kate took an inordinate amount of time to repair her appearance. She didn’t want to do this, but when her aunt’s voice echoed through the stairwell, Kate knew she could delay no longer.

When she reached the main floor her aunt was waiting.

“In the parlor.” Aunt Sophia looked unhappy.

With her heart in her mouth, her steps dragging, she made her way to the parlor, now adorned in all its Christmas finery.

A tall man stood at the window, his face hidden in the afternoon shadows.

“I couldn’t find you. Why are you here?” he asked.

“Oh, Philip, is it really you?” She hurried forward and reached up to touch his face. “I thought you had died. I didn’t hear from you forever and then Father passed on. I had no other place to go.”

“I thought you had married someone else.”

“Only you,” she whispered.

“Then how does a Christmas wedding sound?” he asked as he pulled her into his arms.

“Like a miracle,” Kate said and laid her head against his shoulder. “A Christmas miracle.”


About the Author: Allison read a book she didn’t like. Despite occasional digs from her children, she wrote a romance. A retired teacher, she and her husband moved to the Deep South and when she isn’t watching for hurricanes, she creates heroes and heroines, then finds ways to make their lives miserable. http://www.allisonknight.com/

Author Interview: Lyn Mangold

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have Lyn Mangold with us. Lyn’s first book, Warrior Woman, was released in print this year. She shared with me that it actually came about because of a dream. “It was just one of those dreams that stick with you long after you wake up,” she said. “Initially, I was just going to record it in my journal, but after I started writing it, I realized it might make a good novel. Of course, it changed quite a bit from the original dream, but that is basically how Warrior Woman came to be. It’s a fantasy about a woman struggling not only to find herself, but also falling in love for the first time.”

She knew she wanted to be a writer one day when her seventh grade English teacher required the class to write in journals weekly. Lyn discovered that she really enjoyed writing. While at college, her creative writing professor encouraged her to submit her works to Progeny, the college literary magazine. She had a couple of satires, a short story, and a poem published in it and, eventually, became an associate editor.

Lyn is a woman after my own heart—she told me she would describe her writing desk as “comfortably cluttered” and she likes to have her favorite CDs on hand so she can listen to music as she works.

“It’s not a standard form of organization,” she admitted, “but it works for me. Most of the clutter comes from little scraps of paper with notes and plot points scribbled on them. Whenever I get an idea for the story that I’m working on, I grab a pen and jot it down before I forget it. I like to leave the notes on my desk so that I can see them and, consequently, think about them while I work.”

It’s no surprise Lyn’s first book was a fantasy, because she told me that’s one of her favorite genres to read. “Books about vampires are my favorites,” she told me. “I’ve just finished reading Undead and Uneasy by Mary Janice Davidson and Just One Bite by Kimberly Raye.”

At the time of our interview, however, she was reading in a far different genre: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

Lyn confessed to me that she’s very much a morning person. “I like sitting with a cup of coffee watching the news (or cartoons) as the sun rises,” she said. “That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy sleeping in occasionally, but I prefer not to sleep in too late. Otherwise I feel as if I’ve missed a huge part of the day.”

One question I enjoy asking authors, since they spend so much of their time typing, is if they have any strange handwriting habits.

“I tend to go back and forth between cursive and print when I’m writing,” Lyn shared. “I first noticed this when I was in college and taking notes all the time. Even within the same word I’ll switch. I might start writing in print, but I always end up in cursive. I suppose it’s because cursive writing has been ingrained in my brain ever since it was mandatory in the 2nd grade. Also, there are some capital letters that I just don’t like the way they look in cursive, such as T, G, Q, F, and X. I always write those capital letters in print, even if the rest of the sentence is in cursive.”

In person, Lyn is very quiet and shy. She told me, “In my experience, a lot of people tend to lump being shy and being a snob in the same category, which is not fair. I really just don’t talk much. I’m more of a watcher, though if I have something to say, I will. I just like to think about what I’m going to say before I say it.”

Lyn has two dogs that keep her busy and she told me a bit about them.

“Jelly Bean is a six year old Rat Terrier with way too much energy,” she said. “Snickers is the latest addition to the family. She is a one year old pug, and she’s still that curious puppy stage. Fortunately I have lots of bones and other toys to keep her occupied.”

On a more personal note, Lyn shared with me that movies have made her cry since she was a kid, and she doesn’t reserve her crying in movies for times when she’s home and alone. “When I was in high school,” she confessed, “I went and saw ‘The Patriot’ (the one with Mel Gibson). I was practically sobbing when Heath Ledger’s character lost his wife and then died himself. I guess I’m just one of those people who get emotionally involved with whatever they are watching/reading.” She also told me that no matter times how many times she’s seen it, “Braveheart” always makes her cry at the end.

When Lyn’s not writing, she can be found reading, baking, gardening, and playing the piano (as well as the occasional computer game).

You can keep up with Lyn on her MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/lynmangold.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beyond Elodie’s Dream

by April Hollands


Elodie chopped some carrots opposite Thomas, who patiently listened to her talking about her plans for the future.

“I’ve found a place to live in the Alps, Thomas,” she said, smiling warmly at Thomas.

“But why would you want to move there when there is so much on offer in Paris?” he asked.

Thomas wanted Elodie to stay, but he knew she had to follow her dreams.

“I love the snow,” she said, “and I love the way the sun burns off the morning mist to reveal the green valleys below. I’ve enjoyed my apprenticeship here, but in a month’s time when I’m qualified, I want more than Paris has to offer. I want a restaurant in a pretty village, and it must be made of wood.”

Thomas shrugged his shoulders and said, “You've told me this a hundred times, but what about the things that Paris offers that you can’t get in the Alps?"

"Thomas, you don't understand. Have you seen snow falling and sparkling in the trees? Have you felt the tranquility of the mountains?"

Thomas frowned. "I've never been to the Alps."

He thought they would make the perfect couple, but he loved the fast pace of Paris, and he knew that the mountains could never satisfy him. Besides, he didn’t know if she thought of him in any other way than the sous chef she worked with.

"Will you come to visit me in the Alps?" she asked.

"Of course. You can teach me how to ski." Thomas smiled, imagining his arms around Elodie's waist as they skied down in tandem. Elodie smiled back.

The month passed quickly for Thomas, who struggled not to tell Elodie how he felt. Elodie and her workmates celebrated her last day with champagne in a bar after work. Within a few hours, the other chefs had left, and Thomas and Elodie were alone. They flirted and laughed between glasses of champagne. Eventually, Elodie reluctantly announced that she had to go: she had a long drive ahead of her the next day. Slowly, they put their jackets on and ambled towards the door.

"Can we share a taxi?" Thomas asked.

"No, I live just a few blocks away," she said.

"Well let me walk you home."

Elodie smiled and thanked Thomas, and they walked arm in arm to her house. When they reached the door, he took an envelope out of his pocket.

"This is for you," he said. "Don't open it until the morning."

He kissed her on both cheeks, finding it hard to resist her lips, then gave her a hug goodbye.

The next morning, she opened the envelope. In it was a hand-written letter that said:

Elodie,

I've wanted to talk to you for so long, but the moment never felt right. I'm writing this letter with no plans of giving it to you, but I will take it with me tonight when I see you and maybe I'll take a chance and hand it to you.

I've loved you from the day I met you. My feelings have grown since then, and I will be lonely at work without you. I'm always lonely at home without you. I couldn't burden you with my love while I've been working with you because I know you have to follow your dreams. I would never want to stop you from opening your own restaurant in the Alps, and I hope I can still come and visit you. Just to be with you again would feel amazing, and I think you would like that too.

Take care of yourself and no matter what happens, you'll always be in my heart.

All my love,

Thomas


Elodie didn't know whether to be relieved that she hadn't imagined the feelings between them, or angry that he hadn't told her sooner. She packed the letter safely into her car with her other belongings and hit the road. On her way to the Alps, she thought about the letter and wondered if she should have stayed. She imagined them as a couple, then remembered her plans for a restaurant. If only he could share her dream!

Five months later, Elodie had settled into a small village with pretty views. She was excited that Thomas had agreed to visit her for a week. They had spoken about the letter over the phone, and they both wanted to see each other again. In fact, they had spent hours talking on the phone, and Elodie felt as if she had already started a relationship with him even though they had never kissed. She counted down the days until he was due to arrive.

A car engine stopped outside Elodie's house and she checked if it was Thomas. From her window, she saw him open his car door. She skipped to meet him and he gave her a long hug.

"Elodie, this place is beautiful," he said, "and so are you."

Elodie smiled at him and held his hands in hers.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

"I'm starving."

After dinner, Thomas put his arms around Elodie's waist and said, "Elodie, I've waited so long to kiss you…"

She turned to him and he kissed her – the first of many that week.

At the end of the week, Thomas took Elodie in his arms.

"Elodie, I can see why you love it here. I love it here too. I love the mountains and the crisp air and the snow. And I love you."

"Don't go then," Elodie whispered.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Six months later, Elodie looked out the window of a restaurant kitchen, then turned to Thomas. "It's everything I dreamed," she said.

Thomas kissed her softly. "Let's make it ours."

About the author: April was born in Australia, where she began her career writing technical manuals. Itchy feet took her to England, then France, where she continued to write for a living, moving into journalism and using her spare time to write fiction. She is a chocolate-lover, who has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Linguistics, as well as a keen interest in observing cultures and human nature. www.lefrancophoney.com

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Author Interview: Sarita Leone

The Long and the Short of It is very happy to interview Sarita Leone, whose newest work Sandswept is available from Whiskey Creek Press. Sandswept is the second installment in Sarita’s Chincoteague Island Mystery series. “I’ve got to admit,” she said, “it’s much darker than anything I’ve had published before.”

I asked her to share a little about the book with us.

Sarita said, “Sandswept is the story of a woman who believes she will never find happiness, love, contentment, peace—all the things we hold dear—again. Kelley has been through a horrific ordeal and, years later, still carries around the burden of her experience. She doesn’t feel she deserves any pleasure from life but although she would rather just lie down and die, she can’t. Wishing herself dead doesn’t make it so. With little else to do, Kelley goes on with her life as best she can. When she meets a handsome stranger on a windy, barren beach her life begins to look up—but only in small measure. I guess everyone knows that happiness can’t come from the external world, but must be cultivated internally. That’s a fact that Kelley will have to learn for herself—the hard way.”

Sarita told me that she wanted to be two things when she grew up. She wanted to be happily married and she wanted to be an author. She said, “Not just a writer, because when I was a child I wrote in notebooks constantly so I considered myself a writer even then. But I wanted to be an ‘author’ because, in my child’s mind, having a book in a cover and available for others to enjoy was the sign that my scribblings were worthy of being read. I’m blessed to be able to say I accomplished both of my childhood ambitions.”

She writes every day so most of her days follow a pattern. “I’m a very early riser,” she told me, “so before the sun even peeks over the hills I’ve answered emails, posted on readers’ loops, and caught up on the day’s pressing business. Then, I write for three or four hours. When my husband wakes up, I walk away from my desk. I may get another couple of hours writing time in a few afternoons a week, but basically I’m done by breakfast.”

She also makes time for reading. Right now, she’s reading John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas, “for the umpteenth time,” she told me. “It’s a redemption story and I love those. It’s good to see a character come to realize what’s really important about the holidays.”

Normally, she reads mostly holiday-themed books in December. In February, Valentine’s Day stories. And October? “That’s the time for Dracula,” she said. “I guess I just really like it when someone can scare the pants of me!”

Which leads us to her favorite author of all time—Stephen King. “I love the way he pulls me into a story,” she shared, “usually right from the first page. When I begin one of his novels, I am almost single-minded; all I want to do is sit down, open the book, and dive in. Every time he has a new release, I’m useless for the first few days.”

On more of a personal note, Sarita’s favorite pizza is cheese pizza smothered with fried peppers and onions with extra cheese and sauce made fresh from the garden. “My husband makes the most amazing pizza,” she told me. “I think he’s spoiled me for any besides his. He makes incredible calzones, as well.”

She’s a vegetarian—she said, “I don’t eat anything that had a face before it landed on a plate.” Then continued, “I’m actually very discerning (my husband would say fussy!) when it comes to food. If something looks weird, even though there’s no meat of fish in it? Count me out! Like I said, I’m very particular about what I put in my mouth. What I shove in my brother’s mouth? Now that’s another story.”

Of course, I wanted to know more. “I have never eaten a crayon,” Sarita confessed. “But, and please don’t tell anyone else this, I have fed them to my brother. Not in a long time, but I did feed him a crayon. Or two. Or six or seven. My brother is younger than I am and I guess I just wanted to see if he’d eat them. He did. Boy, was my mother shocked when she changed his diaper! So, no crayons for me. I’m saving them for my little brother.”

I also asked Sarita if she can unwrap a Starburst with her tongue. “I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I can’t,” she said. “I never put paper in my mouth. See? The whole picky eater thing again. But I can do some pretty amazing things with my toes. Does that count for anything?”

Finally, I asked Sarita how she felt about thunderstorms.

“I’m crazy about them!” she exclaimed. “I love the noise and the power of a good storm. Thunderstorms are a great reminder that even when we’re feeling our most empowered, we’re fairly inconsequential in the scheme of things.”

You can keep up with Sarita on her blog, http://saritaleone.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Author Interview: Patricia Bates

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Patricia Bates, whose novella Christmas for the Cowboy is being released this month.

Patricia told me she started reading her older sister’s Red, Green, Blue Readers when she was about four and, by the time she was in grade two she had advanced to reading Louis L’Amour and Nora Roberts. “Not only was I reading their work,” she confided, “I was beginning to copy it. I wrote my first full-length poem in Grade 3 and never looked back.”

Patricia’s debut novel is being released from Champagne books in March, and I asked her if she was working on anything at the present. “I’m working on three projects,” she told me. “Two historical westerns set during the late 19th century. As well I’m working on a submission to an Invitation only series through Blade called the Handyman series. It’s set during the mid 19th century in Spain and has given me a few challenges, but it’s a great deal of fun to write. I have another project in the planning stages, a prequel, if you will, to my debut novel Master’s Mistress.”

I asked Patricia how she developed her plots and characters. “Inspirations for my novels come from a lot of different sources,” she said. “Once I have it, I do a detailed outline—more like a point form synopsis of the first draft. The outline is done once and, more often than not, changes by the fourth or fifth chapter because I let the story flow—I don’t harness it in any fashion.”

For her characters, she knows them well through the use of detailed character profiles, because, as she said, “a flat character does no one any good.” So, her character sketches go from the basics to very detailed, in-depth topics. “I explore every aspect including their likes, stereotypes, sexual values to help me get in touch with the characters,” she told me. These profiles can include information such as religion, politics, favorite foods, colors, etc.

She shared with me that she’s been amazed time and again how her characters take over the book. “The old saying ‘the first hundred pages are the hardest’ is true,” she said. “I’ve found that with each book, each bit of learning I’ve done, the characters are starting to make their voices heard more and more clearly and sooner. I’ve got one project that’s been back benched because the characters won’t talk to me, and while this may seem a bit strange – I found that if I force myself to write when I hit a wall with something it comes out forced and flat – and not worth the read.”

When she reaches a point like that, or suffers from writers block, she tends to do a few simple things. “I try working on another project I have,” she told me. “Another story, research, or another creative project of some sort. If that doesn’t work I treat myself to an ‘author’s date’. I find somewhere that I can get in touch with my creative self again and take the time to wallow in that connection. It helps me to get back in touch with my creativity, and recharges my batteries for the rest of my life.”

Patricia laughed when I asked her if she were a multi-tasker. “Even when doing nothing I’m still doing something,” she said. “I’m usually writing, doing housework, and taking care of my son—all at the same time.”

On a more personal note:

Patricia’s favorite animal is the horse. “I’ve always loved their majesty and beauty,” she told me. “I miss owning my own a great deal.”

She admits to often crying during movies. “Whether tears of joy of sadness,” she shared with me, “I appreciate a movie that can bring me to tears. It shows the emotional connection that is so rarely made these days.”

When it comes to thunderstorms—she loves them. She told me, “The rumble and bang of the thunder, the streaks of light from the lightning—truly amazing and a beautiful reminder of what Mother Nature is capable of.”

And, finally, the strangest thing she’s ever eaten is chicken’s feet. “I must admit it’s an acquired taste,” she said. “I didn’t care for them at all, but in some cultures they’re considered a delicacy.”

You can keep up with Patricia on her website, http://www.patriciabates.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Author Interview: Kathleen Grieve

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Kathleen Grieve, author of “fun and sexy medical romance.” Kathleen’s debut novel, The Doctor’s Deception is available from The Wild Rose Press. She’s been an avid romance reader of all genres since she was thirteen and, in the summer of 2006, decided to turn her hand to writing her first novel. Taking the old adage to “write what you know” to heart, Kathleen’s books are in a medical profession setting—she has a good background for writing medical romance, because she works in a busy ICU as an RN.

I asked her to tell us a bit about The Doctor’s Deception. “It’s about a completely type-A heart surgeon who tells a little white lie to get the aid of a nurse to change his image,” Kathleen said. “My heroine is a quirky surgical intensive care nurse who worships chocolate. She wonders what it would take to ‘loosen’ the good doc up and has a great time finding out the answer!”

She is currently working on a new book, Dating 911, between a fireman and an ER nurse. She also has a sequel planned, called Dating Impossible.

Kathleen told me that in her writing, the characters definitely come first. “A scene will bug me over and over,” she explained, “with these two people in it until I write it down. Then I go over the details to get the scene right. After that, I think about the goals, motivations, and conflicts that will arise during the book. The sequel I have planned—I had to get that ‘scene’ out of my head before going back to 911.”

Her “day job” as a nurse plays into her answer for what invention she thinks scientists should invent. “Oh, I have lots of ideas about this one,” she said, laughing. “Mostly, they are all related to making my job as a nurse so much easier! So, to describe the inventions probably wouldn't make much sense to someone unless they were in the medical field. But top of my list is a portable device a nurse could dictate all her cares/notes into as she worked. Then she could place it in the downloader and VOILA! All her charting would be done! No more staying after work to chart after a busy night.”

Kathleen shared with me that she’s easily distracted by things going on around her. Consequently, she feels her most interesting writing quirk is that she has to have her I-pod belting out her favorite rock and roll music as she writes.

On a more personal note, I asked Kathleen what she thought when she looked in the mirror first thing in the morning. Her answer, “Another bad hair day! I have naturally curly hair and it is a mess!” When asked if she ever cried during a movie, she said, “Oh, my God! Yes! I’m very sappy that way.” And, an expression she uses a lot is “bummer!”

Finally, I asked Kathleen what advice she would share with a new writer who was just starting out. She told me, “Join a critique group and write as much as you can every week. It’s the only way to learn how to write well.”

You can keep up with Kathleen on her blog, http://kathleengrieve.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Cyber Lover by Yvonne Eve Walus

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It’s totally crazy to be in love with somebody I’ve never met.

It’s even more crazy to be wheelchair-bound and in love with somebody I’ve never met. But then, I don’t get out much.

I’m in love with Andy1980. Cyber-love has its merits: you get to know the other person. I mean, what do you know about your boyfriend’s first puppy? Andy’s first and only dog was called Tigger and he saved Andy’s life.

I feel for Tigger. When I saved somebody’s life, I received this wheelchair in exchange, but at least I got to live. You might say it’s not much of a life, but I like it the way it is.

Which brings me to the dilemma at hand: Andy wants us to get married.

The first time he proposed, we were in bed (metaphorically speaking) doing the horizontal (cyber) tango.

“Wow,” he typed at one point. “I really fancy your fingerwork. Very, um, fast ;-) .... Will you marry me?”

“LOL,” I typed back, laughing out loud, laughing it off.

We got back to business. When your cyber lover is as good at cyber sex as Andy1980, you don’t waste time on talking marriage.

Andy was perfect. But then many guys seem perfect online. It’s easy to dazzle in cyberspace. You have all the time in the world to think up the best lines and you don’t have to worry whether your breath smells of garlic as you deliver them.

I’m not sure when I fell in love. One moment I was only playing around, confident that I could keep it fun and light, cyber and sex and no strings. I mean, Andy’s on another continent and not in a wheelchair. How practical would it be?

No. I was a twenty-first century girl who didn’t want a relationship. I kept my emotions to myself.

The second time Andy popped the question was a double-barrel effort. We were in a private chat room, and Andy was pretending that he was my soul mate and that he could ‘feel’ me across the oceans.

“You’re drinking red wine,” he typed.

I was. “So? You know I always drink red wine on a Friday night.”

“And you’re wearing something black.”

“Andy, come on. Half of the lingerie I own is black.”

“You are rolling your eyes now, aren’t you? And before you can roll them some more, answer that phone of yours. It’s ringing.”

Now that was a little spooky. My mobile had just played the first notes of “Moonlight Sonata”. I was so surprised I didn’t check the caller ID.

“Gillian Moore speaking.”

“Will you marry me?” said the voice in my mobile phone, just as the chat room exploded in pixels of fireworks surrounding the typed words “will you marry me”.

“You know I’m only in it for the fabulous sex, right?” I asked. “I’m commitment-shy.”

“That’s ok. I’m not.”

That was all Andy had to say on the topic.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If, and it was a very hypothetical if, if I said yes... well, what would happen then? Would he come to New Zealand? Would I emigrate to the States? Big wedding, small wedding, no wedding? Would I take his last name? What was his last name, anyway?

I kept inventing small obstacles where there was one big one, with wheels and a built-in engine to save my arms from growing biceps.

So, the third proposal. Well, the third proposal arrived this morning.

After the long warm foamy bath (and the long process to climb out), tea at the ready, I opened my subscription magazine that arrived in the post earlier in the week. I’d been saving it especially for that first Sunday morning cup. I always do.

This morning, however, the magazine’s editor leapt out of the page and punched me in the stomach. Well, that’s what it felt like anyway.

If your name is Gillian Moore, the editorial said, please turn to page 16 now.

I did. Well, wouldn’t you?

And there it was. Page 16 and 17, actually. A photo spread of Andy, down on one knee in the style of those 19th century gentlemen. A bouquet of orchids (my favourite flowers) in his one hand. A velvet box with a sapphire engagement ring (my favourite colour is blue and I don’t like diamonds) in the other.

And next to him - the most gorgeous little dachshund puppy.

A speech bubble, a regular comic-book speech bubble, hovered over the dog’s snout: “You may not want Andy (who, incidentally, is fully house-trained), but how can you say no to me?”

This time I was the one who called. My hands were shaking. It was time to end another cyber fairytale.

“Andy, hi. I’d like to speak to Bubbles, please.”

“He’s listening on the other extension.”

“Bubbles, there is one thing I have to tell you. About me, I mean.”

“It’s ok,” Andy interrupted. “Bubbles knows about the wheelchair. He’s cool with that.”

“How on earth -”

“I told him, Gillian. I pieced it together ages ago, from all the things you said. And didn’t say.”

My mouth was salty with tears. “In that case, my answer is yes, Bubbles.”

“He’s wagging his tail,” Andy said, “but he’d like to know more details. Are you coming here? Are we moving there? Big wedding, small wedding?”

“I’ll move there. New Zealand has these stupid quarantine laws for animals. Also, a small wedding. Dogs prefer small weddings.”

It’s amazing how easy decision-making became once there was Bubbles to consider.

We talked for ages. I talked, anyway. Bubbles panted.

“See you soon, Bubbles.” I whispered when it was time to hang up. “I love you.”

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It’s totally crazy to be in love with somebody I’ve never met.

About the Author: Yvonne Eve Walus has lived on three continents and her books reflect the wealth of her cultural background. Published in USA and in Britain, her crime fiction includes “Murder @ Work” and “Murder @ Play”, both set in the tumultuously exotic South Africa (amazon.com, fictionwise.com). http://yewalus.kiwiwebhost.net

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Author Interview: June Phyllis Baker

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome June Phyllis Baker, whose first novel No Regrets is available from Amazon.com. She’s currently working on a second book in the series, Nobody’s Cowboy.

She begins her stories by first getting an idea for a character. She then decides what she wants to see happen to that character. From there, the plot develops.

I asked her to tell us a little bit about No Regrets. June told me, “Just a regular day in Sunny Hills. Should she mind her own business? The gossip columnist doesn’t think so. The Sheriff things she should. And what exactly is that pesky Major up to? Reporter Arlene Sinclair is afraid of nothing or nobody. A staunch advocator of the truth, she'll stop at nothing to get her facts. Of course Sheriff Lance Carter doesn't see it that way; especially when she interferes in police business and takes something from a crime scene she's sure means nothing. In spite of this he is in love with her. Arlene is determined to write the story that will make her a household name. When a man with a grudge and a gun holds her hostage, Arlene becomes her own big story.”

Her current WIP (work in progress), Nobody’s Cowboy, is set in the same sleepy little fictitious town of Sunny Hills, Georgia in the 1950s, just like No Regrets. “Dusty, my hero, developed a love for flying while serving in Korea,” June explained. “He's also a deputy with the Sunny Hills Sheriff’s office. He wants to start his own crop-dusting business, but his girlfriend Katie doesn’t see it that way. She thinks he should keep both feet on the ground. His brother-in-law, who is also the sheriff, wants him to stay on the force. Dusty's friend Mike would like nothing better than to steal Katie away from Dusty.”

June has always been a voracious reader. In fact, in her town’s summer reading program, she always placed among the top readers. When she was twelve, she saw an advertisement for a writing contest on the inside of a matchbook cover and entered. “I didn’t win,” she said, “but it planted the seed to write.” She told me, “The first time I saw my story in a magazine, being a writer became even more real to me.”

I asked June what inspired her to write that first book. “After 9-11, I wanted to make people laugh, help them escape from the sadness,” she said. Then she added, with a laugh, “Little did I know it would take me five years to write it.”

June shared with me that the hardest part of writing her book was dealing with her dyslexia. “It presented a real challenge,” she said, “especially since I’d mix up words, transpose letters. Sometimes my thoughts get mixed up and I have to slow down. I have to check and recheck everything.” It also surprised her that she had the patience to work on the book for as long as she did, as well as actually being able to write a novel-length book. She was aiming for sixty thousand and ended up writing seventy-two thousand.

She rarely suffers from writer’s block, she told me, because she’s always got one idea or another running through her head. “The times it does happen,” she said, “I either have my characters write me a letter and tell me what they want me to do with them, or go back and read what I’ve already written.”

June also follows a schedule for her writing. “I write every day,” she told me, “either in the morning or the afternoon for a hour. Then check my mail and then try to do some reading.” Her computer is set up in the corner of her bedroom. “On the left corner of my desk I have the ARC copy of my book. I keep it there to inspire me to keep writing and to realize what I have accomplished,” she told me. “Next to it I have Merriam Webster’s Handbook For Writers.”

One reason she writes books with such a humorous twist is that she enjoys reading books that make her laugh. She told me that Janet Evanovitch is one of her favorite authors. “Her books never fail to make me laugh,” she shared. “She has a wonderful sense of humor.”

I asked June what she was currently reading. “A friend told me that my writing reminded her of of Ann. B. Ross, author of the Miss Julia series,” she said. “Hearing that, I decides to read a couple of her books. Right now I’m reading Miss Julia Strikes Back.”

On a personal note, she hates how she looks in pictures and has very few of herself in the house. “My excuse is that I didn't get the photogenic gene,” she told me. Also, she’s never eaten a crayon, but if they tasted like chocolate, she’d be willing to give it a shot. And, she’s never made a crank phone call because she’s sure she would giggle and ruin it.

I also wanted to know what one experience from her past she would erase if she had the chance. “When I was in the second grade, the teacher tied me to a chair in front of the class,” she said, “because, I would get up and walk around the classroom. It was humiliating.”

Finally, I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out. “There are a lot of good online writing chats that are very helpful to newbie writers,” she told me. “Take an online course. Read as many books as you can in the genre you want to write in. There are also some pretty good self help for writer’s books. Two that I would recommend are Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.”

You can keep up with June on her website, http://junephyllisbaker.com

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Accidental Meeting by Diane Craver

The blue van skidded across the wet pavement to the wrong side of the road over the screams of two little girls. Frightened, Rebecca Bradley saw a car swerve to avoid hitting them. With the force of the van dipping into the ditch, her left arm smacked hard against the door handle. Miraculously, the vehicle bounced back onto the road.

Her legs trembled as she turned to look at her girls. "Are you okay?"

Although stunned, they seemed all right. She saw the other driver walking toward them. He's probably upset that he burned rubber to avoid a collision. Her arm throbbed as she opened the door to talk to him.

The man, built like a linebacker, asked, "Is anyone hurt?"

Rebecca stared at him. Where did this good-looking man come from? He wasn't from her neighborhood. "We seem to be all right. Just shaken. I'm so sorry.”

"I want my daddy," three-year-old Caitlyn Bradley wailed.

He gave a kind look at Rebecca. "I can call your husband for you."

Jenna, eyeing the stranger, said, "You look like our daddy. He has reddish brown hair, too."

"Mommy, my head hurts."

"Caitlyn, honey, let me see," Rebecca said, sliding open their door.

Jenna said, "Caitlyn’s bleeding. She needs to go to the hospital."

Rebecca's blue eyes widened at the sight of a cut on Caitlyn's forehead. She crawled inside the van and smelled urine. Without feeling Caitlyn's seat, she knew that the accident had shocked her daughter into wetting her panties. She saw a clean napkin on the floor from their recent fast food stop, and with an unsteady hand pressed it on the cut. Suddenly it was all too much, and she sobbed, "I can't believe this happened. They have been through so much."

He stuck his head in the van. "My name's David Hennessey. I'm a doctor."

"I'll move so you can look at it." When Rebecca attempted to give him some space, Caitlyn grabbed her hand. Rebecca gave him a sympathetic look since she was pressed against him.

He smiled at her. "It's okay. I've been in tight spaces before."

Rebecca's foot bumped into Caitlyn's dollhouse as she watched him examine the cut. "Is it very bad?"

"She does need stitches, but my office isn't far from here." He looked at Jenna and Caitlyn. "I have some neat toys."

"Caitlyn pees her panties all the time," Jenna said. "Can you fix that, too?"

* * * At Dr. Hennessey's family practice office, Rebecca held Caitlyn while he put the last stitch in.

"Caitlyn, I have a basket of treats for good patients. Since you were so brave, you get to choose two things." With a smile still on his face, he turned to Jenna. "I bet you're a mommy's helper, aren't you?"

Jenna nodded. "I help with Caitlyn."

"Well then, you get to pick something out, too." He looked at his nurse. "Lisa, please show the girls where the basket is."

After they left, Rebecca put a lock of blonde hair behind her ear. "It's my fault that Caitlyn got hurt. I let her take the dollhouse. She had it on her lap. I bet that's what she got cut on."

"But you had her in a car seat, so she wasn't seriously injured. I'm glad I didn't hit you."

"I go on that back road all the time and I wasn't going fast."

"There was probably still oil on the surface with the first rain we've had in a long time." He grinned. "That was something how you got the van to bounce back onto the pavement."

"It surprised me but I'm not going to try and figure it out. I'm thankful we didn't collide. I better go so you can see your patients." Bending to pick up her purse, she winced.

"What happened to your arm?"

"When the van dipped, my arm hit the door hard."

He moved closer. "I better examine it to see if you need X-rays."

While he gently probed her arm to see the extent of the injury, she studied his concerned face. I wonder if he has a wife. If he does, she’s a lucky woman.

Jenna entered the room. "Why is Dr. Hennessey holding your arm?"

"I hurt it a little when we had our accident."

"Mommy, look what we got." Caitlyn showed off her jewelry. "And Jenna got a purse."

"Nothing seems to be broken." His eyes met hers. "But it's badly bruised. Let your husband do the cooking for the next few days."

"Daddy's in heaven," Jenna said. "Mommy cries all the time and Caitlyn pees her panties now. And I'm going to start kindergarten."

* * * A few days later, David called Rebecca about her arm and Caitlyn’s forehead. After Rebecca told him that they were fine, he asked, “How about I take all of you to Chuck E. Cheese for pizza and games to celebrate?"

"That's kind of you, but I have a website I need to finish for a client."

“You have to eat, so I'll be saving you time in the kitchen."

"Okay, but we can't stay too long."

Within a short time, David arrived to take them to the children’s pizza place. While waiting for their food, the girls tried out some of the rides.

As Rebecca watched Caitlyn ring the bell on a fire truck, David asked, "How long has your husband been dead?"

"Adam died eight months ago in a boating accident. I stayed home with the girls because they were sick.”

"I'm so sorry."

The waitress brought an order of breadsticks to their booth. Rebecca said, "Come on, girls. Let's eat."

Jenna and Caitlyn sat together, so Rebecca slid in on the other side. David grinned at Rebecca as he sat next to her.

Jenna asked David, "Do you have a girlfriend?"

"Shush, Jenna," Rebecca said.

"It's okay. I was supposed to get married, but my bride decided to run off with the best man."

Even though she missed her husband, Rebecca enjoyed being with David. She gave him a shy look. "I guess we've both had losses."

“I’m glad your van almost collided with my car so that I met you and the girls.” He grinned. “I hope we’ll be eating a lot of pizza together.”

About the Author: Diane enjoys her life with her husband and six children in southwestern Ohio. Her husband of thirty-three years is very supportive, as well as her awesome children. She writes contemporary romance, inspirational romance and chick-lit mystery. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at www.dianecraver.com or read her blog at www.dianecraver.com/blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Author Interview: Angie Fox

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Angie Fox, author of the New York Bestseller The Accidental Demon Slayer. And, stay tuned, because in April the sequel is being released.

Angie told me that The Accident Demon Slayer started off with, as she said, “a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight-laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a bad boy demon? Ohhhhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?”

She started writing and let the story evolve based on the character and one central issue: what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. She told me, “I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.”

For Angie, the question “what comes first: plot or character” is best answered by a resounding, “Both.” She explains, “When I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when she’d learned she was a demon slayer and all hell was after her, she took comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’ Simple. I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where my heroine can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard.)

“It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, my heroine can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell terrier. I had fun with it. In fact, I suspect Pirate the dog is my editor’s favorite character. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Pirate helped talk my editor into buying The Accidental Demon Slayer.”

So, in that case, Angie admits that possibly plot influenced character, but there were also times that Pirate the dog did his own share of influencing the plot as the story evolved. “Bottom line?” Angie said. “I think the most important thing when you sit down to the keyboard is to be willing to follow your story in new directions, because if you’re enjoying the surprise, chances are your readers will too.”

Angie told me she thinks her most interesting writing quirk is one that also drives her critique partner crazy. “I’m always trying to outdo myself,” she confessed, “especially at the end of a book. Typical feedback will come like this: ‘What are you doing? Don’t get me wrong. I like it when you come up with quirky new hideouts for the Red Skull biker witches. But we’re heading into the climax of the book. Why do we need a new one?’”

Angie’s response was “‘I did it because it amused me.’ But, really, if I’m amusing myself as a writer, won’t my readers have more fun too? At least that’s my excuse. In the case of the new hideout, it worked out. The Red Skulls end up on this abandoned riverboat that they’d enchanted years earlier (while drunk on dandelion wine). Now they not only need a safe place, but they need to catch the Choking spells, Lose Your Keys spells, not to mention the Frozen Underwear spells ready to attack from around corners and behind the old jukebox.”

The most surprising thing she learned in writing her books is that her characters had to take bigger chances, had to have more to risk and lose. It was a very vulnerable place to be, she told me. “I knew my story was big enough to sell when instead of ending my writing sessions thinking, ‘I hope that’s good enough to impress an editor,’ I ended them with ‘No. I didn’t just write that. I did not just make my character defend herself with a toilet brush and a can of Purple Prairie Clover air freshener.’”

On a personal note, I asked Angie what a saying is that she uses a lot. “Don’t you even think about standing on that counter,” she said promptly. “Seriously. I have a two-year-old who loves to climb. He waits for me to leave the room and then uses my kitchen drawer knobs as a ladder. The boy has no fear.”

She not only cries during movies, but she told me she also cries during those Chevy “this is my country” ads. Her favorite pizza can only be obtained in Columbia, Missouri. “It’s called Shakespeare’s,” she told me, “and it is to die for.” And, the one thing scientists should invent is, in Angie’s opinion, “A truth serum for children. Grape flavored. Then maybe another formulation for my single girlfriends to use on a first date, something to swipe on over lip gloss to see if that first kiss was worth it.”

You can keep up with Angie on her blog, http://angiefox.wordpress.com

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ladies Love Outlaws by Belinda McBride

He didn’t know he was walking to his death that morning.

Jessup Devereux strolled down the boardwalk, thinking only of a shot of courage at the saloon, not realizing what fate had in store.

It wasn’t the gunslinger sitting with his back to the wall, nor was it the drunken miner, but rather a seventeen-year-old maverick with a hankering to build his reputation by killing a notorious gunman. Being a gunman, and still alive at the far side of thirty made Jess Devereux that man.

But today, fate was diverted by blue eyes.

His spurs jingled on the wooden planks of the boardwalk. He could feel the heat of the day waking, sending tendrils to caress his skin.

“Mister?”

Jess paused, turning to meet a pair of eyes that were blue as the sky after rain. Her hair was pale gold. His heart contracted just a little.

“My dolly…I broke it, you see.”

Jess squatted, taking the doll in one hand, the dislocated arm in the other. He glanced around, hoping to see the child’s mother. He didn’t.

“What’s your name, gal?”

“Fiona. Mama told me to wait outside while she talks to the strangers.” Her sincere eyes met his. “I’m not to talk to strangers, but she is.”

“I’m a stranger, and you’re talkin’ to me.” He slipped the doll’s arm back into place and handed the child her toy.

“I see you all the time and Mama likes to watch you.”

That little comment brought a slow smile to Jess’s face.

“Fiona, let’s go check on your mama.”

“Gentlemen, I’ve already sent Father my refusal. It was at his insistence that I left England; my daughter and I have a good life here. We shall not return with you.”

The Honorable Miss Nancy Austin carefully stood her ground, wearing her regal posture like armor, looking down her delicate nose at the men the Earl had hired to return her to England. Inside she was quailing like a rabbit, half her mind on the men, half on her unsupervised daughter.

Movement at the doorway of the general store caught her eye, and as the tall gunman entered with Fiona in his arms, she very nearly lost her composure. To her relief, he set the child down and she disappeared behind the long counter.

The gunman casually lifted down a glass jar full of sugar sticks and fished one out, handing it to the child with a wink.

He was handsome in a lean, hard-edged fashion; a black frock coat covered a pair of Colts that she’d glimpsed on occasion. His snug trousers were tucked into tall boots, and he bore himself with the military grace and precision of an officer and a gentleman. Under his hat, the gunman’s dark brown hair was neatly cut; his goatee and mustache were trimmed and precise.

As always, her heart beat faster at the sight of him; her fair skin heated and she nervously smoothed her neat blonde hair. When his sharp blue eyes met hers, they held gentle humor, as well as reassurance.

He was here to help.

When he spoke, his Southern drawl stirred her to the core. She’d often watched as he went about his business, his eyes occasionally catching hers, but their paths had never before crossed. She’d never heard him speak.

He was a gun for hire, a bounty hunter, and tracker. A dangerous man, one she should avoid. Most of the time he worked within the law, but she’d heard there were times when he didn’t. However, Nancy had watched him, peeking through frilly white curtains, tracking his progress through town.

“Jessup Devereux, ma’am.” He tipped his hat and nodded.

“Nancy Austin. You’ve met my daughter Fiona.”

When he smiled, sharp dimples etched his cheeks, and she couldn’t resist returning that smile.

“Ma’am, are these fellows bothering you?” His casual posture was deceiving, Jessup Devereux was all power and speed, coiled and ready to strike. But still, his smiling eyes held hers.

“These…men were just leaving. Weren’t you?”

The two men shuffled their dusty feet, anger sparking their eyes.

“Let me see y’all to the door, gentlemen.”

Firmly, but insistently, Jess pushed them along, a strong hand at the base of their necks.

“And if I was you, I’d head out quick. This region might not be good for your health.”

She caught her breath as one of the men made a move, and as quick as thought, the gleaming barrel of a Colt was pressed to his belly.

“I’d say this region might be downright hazardous, boys.”

In moments, they were mounted and on their way, a third horse trailing behind. The horse they had brought for Nancy Austin.

He turned and faced the lady and her daughter, giving his best smile. He tipped his hat.

“Ma’am, you have a real nice day.”

She stood there, sunny as the spring and sweet as sugar, and for a moment, Jessup Devereux froze, his heart in his throat. She was magnolias and mint juleps and ballrooms; all the things that spoke of home and times long forgotten. He then remembered why he’d come all the way into town in the first place; why he’d needed the courage of a drink at the saloon. Jessup recalled the words he’d rehearsed, and suddenly, none of them sounded right.

“Miss Austin, I was wondering…” He felt a flush of embarrassment stain his cheeks, further interrupting the flow of his words. “I was wondering if maybe I could come to call sometime.”

She stood still, and Jess could see a delicate blush on her cheeks. That broke through his awkwardness, and he grinned, bending to pick up the little girl. Gradually, the Honorable Miss Nancy Austin regained her composure.

“I was wondering when you would ever get around to asking, Mr. Devereux. Perhaps you’d care to have dinner with us tonight?”

When she returned his smile, Jessup Devereux knew that his lonely days had just come to an end.

About the Author: Belinda lives in the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains and at night, she runs naked with a pack of wolves.... Uhh...

Belinda lives near the Siskiyou Mountains and shares her home with a pack of Siberian Huskies who like to pretend they are wolves. And she usually keeps her clothing on when she goes outside.

Belinda loves to travel, collect rare gemstones, make soap and spend precious time with her daughters. Her degree is in History with a Cultural Anthropology minor. On weekends, you will often find Belinda ringside at a dog show, comb and spray bottle in hand. Please come visit my website at www.belindamcbride.com , or drop me a line at belinda@belindamcbride.com .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Author Interview: Marin Thomas

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Marin Thomas with us this week. As well as being a prolific author, she is also an accomplished basketball player, attending the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship, and was inducted in May 2005 into the Janesville, Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame. She has a brand new book being released from Harlequin this month, The Cowboy and the Angel, and I asked her to tell us a bit about it.

“The Cowboy and the Angel is about a Detroit social worker who doesn't always do things by the book in order to help the children under her care,” Marin told me. “The hero is a corporate cowboy relocating his company from Tulsa to Detroit and unwillingly ends up involved in the heroine's mission. When my editors asked me to do a Christmas-themed book I wanted to pick a location few readers would consider Christmas-y. I wanted to show that Christmas is more than gifts--it's about a time of year people can and should touch the lives of others in need--especially children. Detroit gets a bum rap sometimes because of its economic troubles, political turmoil and crime….but often the true spirit of Christmas is strongest and more heartfelt in the trenches of our larger cities, which are mostly made up of smaller, tight knit communities.”

Marin didn’t start out to be a writer, though, despite all her accolades and numerous books she’s published. When she was younger, she wanted to be a high school history teacher. While she was in college, she declared her major to be broadcast journalism and half-way through her college career, she thought about changing her major to teaching. “I’d have had to take another year of classes after my athletic scholarship ran out,” she said, “and I didn’t want to take out any government loans. Later when I worked for AT&T, I went back to college to earn my certification in high school history but my husband’s job was transferred to California and I was unable to complete the program.”

She told me she always loved learning about the past and researching things, and she’s put this talent to good use in her writing. She told me, “My ‘Hearts of Appalachia’ series is to date the most-researched series I've written.”

Her husband, who is also her college sweetheart (and they got married in a five minute ceremony in Las Vegas), bought Marin’s desk for her after she sold her first novel. “It’s a Texas Ranger desk,” she said. “Extra long and wide with rusted Texas Stars on it.”

The desk fits well into her favorite room in the house, her office. She told me she painted the wall about the chair rail life vest orange by Ralph Lauren. Below the chair rail, she did a faux leather technique. She tore paper grocery bags to pieces and then glued them to the wall with Elmer’s glue and water. Once it dried thoroughly, she painted a Ralph Lauren “tobacco” stain over the paper to give it an aged look.

Her office is decorated with many souvenirs from trips and from her family: a western coat rack with an antique sombrero and fake gun belt with six shooter hanging on it; a real buffalo skull on the wall; a large painting her father created of a blacksmith which is framed in dark barn wood is on another wall; an Indian rug on the floor; and an Indian spear and rain stick lean in the corner. She also said, “Several western framed photographs of my family plus an antique collection of old books that belonged to my mother sits on a hutch in front of the windows.”

However, she does keep her desk fairly clean when she writes or, as she told me, “I become easily distracted. Keyboard, monitor, desk-size calendar, a rolodex, Kleenex box, pencil jar, and folders for my current writing projects--that's it. “

On a more personal note: Marin’s favorite pizza is extra-cheese, plain. “I’m a cheese head from Wisconsin,” she explained. “What did you expect?” And, with the pizza, Pepsi...not Coke.

You can keep up with Marin on her website, http://www.marinthomas.com

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Coming Home by Ellen Dye

Allison sat bolt upright, her eyes transfixed on the large brown eyes of the little boy standing in front of her desk. There could be no mistaking the paternity of her newest kindergarten student. She’d have known, even if she hadn’t seen Kevin tenderly kiss the boy’s cheek before sending him through the school doors this morning.

“Can I ask a question, Miss Sutton?” the smaller carbon copy of her first, and only, true love asked.

“Of course, Mark.”

“Did you really know my daddy when you two were my age?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Were you really best friends, like the forever kind?”

Allison swallowed hard. “Is that what he told you?”

Brown curls bobbed affirmation.

“Well, I think you should believe your father,” Allison returned, hoping he’d ask no further.

“Okay.” The boy beamed a smile so like Kevin’s that Allison’s heart nearly stopped beating.

“You’d better hurry. Everyone else is gone,” she suggested. “You wouldn’t want to keep your father waiting.”

With a sigh of relief Allison watched Mark carefully pack his family portrait featuring two dark-haired stick figures---today’s art project---into his book bag and slip the straps over both shoulders. He gave a wave and ducked out of the classroom, almost at a run.

Only then did Allison take her first unguarded breath of the day. Kevin Bailey, a single father now, had come home. Finally.

She couldn’t resist making her way to the picture window holding the perfect view of the school steps. Just one more glance, she promised. One tiny look and she’d return to the life she’d so carefully built.

He was even more handsome now, she thought. Allison watched the tall, well-dressed man whisk Mark into his arms. Kevin had been transformed from the shy boy who wore second-hand clothes to a very confident, and apparently very successful, man.

She felt a pang of envy as she watched the happy pair stroll away, Mark’s hand engulfed in Kevin’s larger one. Many were the times she’d wished for just such a hand to rest in hers. But she was happy for Kevin; it couldn’t have been easy for him.

Allison had been fortunate. Her family, while not rich, had the funds to see her properly fed, dressed and educated. But such good fortune hadn’t favored the Bailey clan.

They’d been a large family crowded into a small clapboard house on the outskirts of town, the place upstanding citizens did not visit.

“Dreamers and lay-abouts,” Allison’s mother had proclaimed.

But Allison hadn’t believed her.

And at the same time, Allison hadn’t believed in Kevin strongly enough.

Allison turned from the window, a slow ache started in her chest—--in her heart---as she realized Kevin must have found someone who did believe. Mark was certainly proof of that.

Half an hour later Allison strolled into the corner video store, beginning her standard Friday night ritual of DVD’s and Chinese takeout. She turned her attention toward the shelf marked New Arrivals.

Seconds later she felt a tug on her skirt and found herself, once again, looking into a pair of achingly familiar eyes.

“Hi! Are you getting movies, too?” Mark asked.

Allison’s heart began to beat double time, knowing Kevin would be close by. “Yes.”

“Hello, Allison.” Kevin extended his hand, just as Mark dashed away. “It’s been a long time.”

The electrical jolt that shot through her body as their hands clasped took Allison’s breath away. She stood, counting the beats of her heart, her hand in Kevin’s.

“I was wrong,” she blurted.

Kevin merely smiled and the years fell away. “Things happen. The past is over, Allison.”

“And the future?” she ventured.

Kevin looked at her left hand. “I don’t see a ring.”

Allison blushed. “I’m not married.”

“Now that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”

Allison flushed with pleasure, but was prevented from commenting by Mark’s excited arrival.

“Can we get this one?” He held up a box decorated with cartoon dinosaurs.

Kevin nodded.

“Can Miss Sutton watch with us? And eat pizza, too?”

“If she’d like.” Kevin watched her closely.

“I usually have Chinese on Fridays,” Allison babbled, embarrassed.

A wounded look streaked across Kevin’s eyes.

“But I think it’s time for me to try something new,” she quickly added.

Mark hooted with joy, dashing back to the DVD shelf.

“And what about trying something old?” Kevin asked, taking Allison’s hand.

“Yes. I’d like that,” Allison returned, linking her fingers with his.

About the Author: At the age of nine, Ellen decided she was going to be a writer after she found her Aunt Nettie's trunk of True Confession magazines and spent untold hours reading the lot, a bag of Munchos potato chips and a frosty RC Cola at her side. She was lucky enough to have turned that dream into reality. Her first novel, Three’s The Charm is available digitally now at www.thewildrosepress.com and will be available in paperback November 28, 2008. You can check out her website at www.ellendye.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Author Interview: Malena Lott

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Malena Lott, whose newest book, Dating da Vinci, is released this week. Along with being an author, she also edits a book review website for women and is a popular speaker and consultant on creativity and branding.

I asked her to tell us a little bit about Dating da Vinci. “A young widow searches for ‘la dolce vita,’ the sweet life, with the help of a handsome Italian immigrant named Leonardo da Vinci,” she said. “During her Renaissance, Ramona looks for answers to whether or not her late husband cheated on her before he died to finally put her suspicions to rest and move on. She finally dusts off her dissertation on the Language of Love to get her Ph.D. Her journey is made more difficult by her ‘they-mean-well’ family and friends, including her young sons, her Evangamoms, her thrice divorced best friend, her Energizer Bunny celeb fitness sister, and her sister's new beau, who she thinks is just being nice to her because he feels sorry for her.”

Malena told me that normally she gets an idea and a theme—then the characters come along afterward. “For Dating da Vinci, I knew I wanted to write about a woman’s awakening—a journey to joy—and Leonardo da Vinci,” she told me. “So the plot stemmed out of one man’s insatiable curiosity about the world and a woman who had really given up on the idea of love or joy ready to explore that again.”

In addition to her writing, Malena is also a reader and is always reading at least one non-fiction and one fiction book at a time. She can normally read one of each a week. She enjoys sharing reviews of what she reads at Athena’s Bookshelf each week. And, there’s no telling what you might find there as she primarily reviews women’s fiction (nearly all genres), mainstream and eclectic non-fiction.

Another reason she’s such a voracious reader is that she enjoys finding new authors and loves to learn new things. It not only helps keep her mind fresh and entertained, it also might show her something new to try in her own writing.

For example, before she read Bridget Jones’ Diary, she’d never written in first person point of view. She told me, “I love getting that personal with the reader.”

Everything she’s ever read has shaped her in some way, she told me, no matter whether it was literary or pop fiction. “Reading,” she said, “always makes you a better writer.”

When she reads a book and doesn’t want it to be over, she knows she’s run into good writing. And, that’s what she tries to do with her own writing. She admits that each writer has their own voice and style, but said, “At the end of the day, it’s ‘did the reader feel a part of the story?’” When she has made the reader care about the story, when she makes the reader laugh, love, cry or feel whatever emotion she wants them to feel, she’s done her job.

It’s easy sometimes to get very swept up into things, but when Malena’s not writing she told me, “I am usually trying to practice staying in the present moment.” She smiled and continued, “I love Oprah’s Soul Series on XM-Radio, traveling, and spending time with my family.”

And, speaking of her family, she told me that her toddler has picked up on one saying she uses a lot, ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’ She added, “I think that’s where he also picked up ‘freakin’.” She and her husband, Rod, and their three boys make their home in Oklahoma.

On a personal note, she shared with me that she does indeed cry in movies. In fact, she said, “I usually don't believe a movie was good unless I've cried a few times. Even in the happy ones!” I also asked her what one thing she thought scientists should invent and, I have to say, I agree totally with her answer. She told me that she thinks they should invent “an inexpensive robot that will clean your entire house.”

You can keep up with Malena on her website, http://www.malenalott.com

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Call it Pumpkin Love by Marianne Arkins

Petunia swiveled the huge pumpkin head that balanced precariously upon her slim shoulders until she could see through the grin of its mouth. She fastened the coveralls of her scarecrow costume and pulled on the gloves. Everything was in order, except her state of mind.

She forced a bounce into her step and headed out to the candy hunt. She groused to herself about doing this favor for her sick brother, Rod. She'd tried to pawn it off onto her sister, Dahlia, but Petunia was closest in height to Rod and fit best in the costume. She only had to hitch up the waist a little bit, and the top was only slightly snug around her chest, a fact that demoralized her self-esteem.

Why did Rod have to get sick this week? Why did her entire family expect her to give up one of her precious weekend days to help him out? So what if his budding career as a holiday entertainer rested on his ability to follow through at this hunt—the biggest job he'd had yet? So what if it paid enough to cover his rent until the spring season of outdoor birthdays began. She didn't want to be a pumpkin-headed scarecrow. She wanted to be a marine biologist.

Still, family was family.

The good news was that her darling brother, Goldenrod, would owe her big and she'd most certainly spend the day deciding how to collect.

Now, it was only five minutes before things got hopping and there must've been two hundred kids waiting for their little plastic pumpkin baskets. She took her place at the table for children aged two through four and looked to see how many little ones were in line. She froze when her eyes met the warm brown ones of the father of the boy in front. Wowza. Was it her imagination, or was did she know him? His face looked vaguely familiar.

He was tall enough Petunia had to tip her head back, carefully so as not to lose her head, in order to look him in the eye. He had a patient smile on his face and his left hand on the boy's shoulder, a hand noticeably devoid of a wedding band.

Just her luck, she finally found the man of her dreams and she was wearing a Halloween costume. Unbelievable! Worse, it was a male Farmer Joe scarecrow costume to boot.

Nine o'clock finally arrived. She handed out baskets, pointing toward the roped area where miniature pumpkins full of candy were hidden. The excited children were allowed to collect five each and she tapped the rules with a gloved finger each time she handed out a basket. Rod warned her not to speak since she wasn't a man and it would give the game away, but being mute was altogether frustrating.

Once all the kids were out hunting, she strolled into the field to help. She made her way over to the little boy and his handsome father, giving the boy an exaggerated pat on the head, when the man leaned and punched her on the arm.

"Doing a great job, Rod," he murmured. "Phillip is sure having a great time. Thanks for the suggestion to bring him."

Oh. No. Should she break cover and correct his erroneous assumption? Before she could weigh the pros and cons, Phillip ran over and held up a tiny pumpkin as if it were a gold nugget. "Uncle Nash, look! It's perfect."

Uncle. Oooh…very nice. But Nash? Where had she heard that name? Her eyes rolled up as if searching in the file cabinet of her brain. Oh yeah. Nashville Wright was her brother’s college roommate. A few years back, he'd come home with Rod for Thanksgiving. Even then, all three girls had fought over who got to sit next to him at the table. Dahlia had won that round, but Petunia ended up across from him, which was almost as good. He didn't live in town, did he?

Nash squatted down on eye level with his nephew. "It is perfect."

"If I hold it high enough do you think Mommy and Daddy could see it, too?"

Petunia saw Nash's lips tighten at Phillip's words. He nodded and said, "You bet. I'll help you get up there."

Nash handed the basket to Petunia and lifted Phillip high over his head. The boy held up his prize to the clear autumn sky and smiled. After a moment, Nash dropped the boy down in a rush, catching him at the last moment. Phillip giggled and took the basket to go look for more booty.

"Thanks, Rod," Nash murmured. "He really misses them, but you already knew that."

Petunia felt like a fraud, listening in on a private conversation, but couldn't say anything. She didn't want to get her brother in trouble and she didn't want Nash to feel awkward. Instead, she patted his shoulder and walked away.

The hour passed quickly, and she actually enjoyed the last part, posing atop of straw bales for photos with the kids. She'd forgotten what being a kid was all about and understood a little better why Rod had chosen this particular calling as his profession.

When the chaos was over, she waved at the event organizer, pretending she didn't see the woman gesture for her to come over. Rod said he'd send out a bill later instead of settling up at the event like he usually would, and she should get out of there the moment things were finished. Exhausted, Petunia dragged herself in the direction of Rod's van. When she turned down the aisle where she'd parked, she saw Nash leaning against the bumper.

"I didn't think you'd ever get here." Nash thumped her on the shoulder and nearly knocked her off her feet. "Tired, huh? You up for a burger?"

She shook her head and looked around for Phillip.

Reading her mind, Nash shrugged and said, "I sent him home with my sister, Cheyenne, for a sleepover."

Petunia nodded and wondered how she could get into the van without Nash knowing she wasn't Rod. The guy would be mortified to know he'd been talking to a stranger all day and, since he seemed nice, she didn't want to do that.

"Rod, I know you're probably beat, but did you get a chance to check with your sister about going out sometime?"

What in the blue blazes was the man talking about? Which sister and why would Rod agree to do that? He should know better than to try and set any of the girls up on a blind date. Although, she had to admit, this would have been one doozy of a blind date.

She shook her head in reply, pulled out the key ring and stuck the van key into the lock.

Nash put a hand on her shoulder, turned her. "You said you'd put in a good word for me."

When she didn't respond, he continued, "We've talked about how tired we both are playing the field. Losing my brother really showed me that we have to live for now, not the future."

Her heart broke a little at the pain in his voice. If he was as close to his siblings as she was to hers, he must be devastated. She started to reach out a hand in comfort, but realized that a guy wouldn't do that to another guy. Should she slug him instead?

She wondered which sister he wanted. Petunia, Dahlia or Lily?

She gave into the urge to touch him and thumped him on the shoulder once before climbing into the van. After she closed the door and strapped in, he tapped on the window. She rolled it down and he leaned through the window.

"Can you at least tell Pet I said hello?"

Her heart leapt at his words. Pet. He wanted her. That did it. She pulled off the pumpkin head and laughed at the look on his face.

"Why don't you tell me yourself?"

"It was you all along? Where's Rod?" He looked confused.

"Home, sick." She grinned. "Is the offer for a burger still open?"

His smile grew, along with the joy in his gaze. "You bet it is. Wide open."

About the Author: Marianne was born in California, met her husband in Colorado, got a puppy and got pregnant, then moved with the group of them to the frozen north of New Hampshire where her thin blood keeps her indoors six months of the year. It's the perfect scenario for writing! She has a novel, "One Love For Liv" available in print on December 29th, and a novella "Kitchen Matches" available from Samhain Publishing, and eight published stories with The Wild Rose Press. Check out her website or blog for more information or to see what's going on inside her brain. If you dare.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Author Interview: Michele Hart

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Michele Hart, a multi-genre author who loves shape shifters, aliens, hideous monsters and universal catastrophes, among other things. Her genres include sci-fi, fantasy, romantic suspense, and erotic romance and probably has a few more genres tucked away for our viewing pleasure.

Michele told me that Halloween is her favorite time of the year and a lot of it has to do with the cool things you can find. “I have several magical hats that help me write,” she confessed. “My princess tiara, my sorcerer’s apprentice hat with mouse ears, a unicorn horn, a propeller beanie hat.” She smiled and added, “All the standard stuff.”

She also has a “writing uniform,” of sorts. She told me when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she saw herself wearing “my usual uniform for writing, pajamas. Pajama bottoms covered with moons and stars, and my tank top that features a cool quote from Poe, and I thought, Dang, Michele. You’re one snazzy dresser. Don’t be out-dressing everyone else, you fashion plate. NOT!

She also shared with me that her small office contains about twenty times the amount of toys she owned in her childhood, all sci-fi and fantasy based. It’s no wonder her books center mostly around those genres.

When we talked about giving advice to new writers, Michele told me she wished someone had clued her in when she was a new writer about the business of writing. Her advice for a new writer is “dig your nails into the guard rail. It’s a bumpy ride. Be brave.”

She also said a writer should study their target office and the intricacies of their genre.

“Most know the difference between a historical, paranormal and contemporary,” she said. “Setting and time period, right? But those subgenres have specific requirements for a good story. “Historicals focus on the research of the time, getting the clothes, speech, and attitudes accurate. In paranormals, you don't have history as a guide for the time you're writing but you do have technology to face in sci-fi romance and magic to contend with in fantasy romance.

“Dig deep to find those specific elements and learn how to craft your story around them.”

Michele told me that her writing process is evolving. “Usually a skeleton of a crisis will pop into my head,” she said, “then I ask myself who’s involved. The plot evolves for me in the writing process. Which is cool. I like surprises.”

When she has a story that has to come out, she rises before the sun comes up. “I put butt-in-seat and work until midnight, often only catching six hours of sleep and a few walks around the house. I write in a frenzy, excluding the entire world.”

One of the things that she considers “a pivotal player” for characterization, point-of-view, and plot development is a saying she uses a lot, “You never see everything.” She told me it’s part of her life lesson to understand that saying thoroughly.

On a personal note, she loves lightning storms, a good thing since she lives in Tampa, Florida, which is known as the lightning capital of North America. “There are few things more exciting than a lightning storm,” she said. “I put one in Looks are Deceiving, made for a great setting for a love scene.”

Finally, I asked Michele about some of the people she enjoys reading. “Oh, I love funny books, so I love Katie MacAllister, Jennifer Estep, Stephanie Rowe,” she told me. “I love authors who made me forget I'm reading. Angela Knight, Vickie Taylor, Virginia Henley, Sherrilyn Kenyon. That's what good fiction should do, take the reader to a new place.”

You can keep up with Michele on her blog, http://michelehart.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hope and Glory by Katriena Knights

The town had barely changed, Glory thought, but it was the kind of town that didn’t. Nestled high in the Colorado mountains, its most prominent features were peace and nostalgia. Just what Glory was looking for.

Glory had grown up here in the shadow of the mountains. But the city had beckoned with bright colors and promises, and she had answered. It had been a good life, but it was over now. Time to start again, to move forward by going back.

As she parked her car in front of the tiny convenience store, Glory looked toward the mountains. The blunt, white-tipped peaks of the Continental Divide jutted up as a backdrop to the quaint buildings butted up against the mountains’ flanks. It looked the same as the pencil sketches she’d made fifteen years ago. Glory smiled.

Those sketches that had shown her, finally, where she needed to be. She’d clung too long to memories. When she’d finally found the courage to pack up Addison’s things and take that first step toward letting him go, she’d found the drawings in the back of the closet where he’d kept his sculpting tools. It was as if he’d put them there on purpose, as a message. “Go back,” they’d said. “Let him go, go back, and see what you find.”

So here she was.

She closed her car door, the sound shattering the pristine stillness. There were other cars, there were houses and stores and big satellite dishes, but still the sound of a car door slamming seemed like the intrusion of a strange and unwelcome technology. The place would have seemed more natural if horses had walked the roads.

Glory squinted, picturing it. Her next sketch would show just that.

She went into the store. She’d need a few things before she went to the tiny bed and breakfast. Finding what she needed, she piled it into a shopping basket.

It wasn’t until she approached the counter that she noticed the man behind it. He sat reading a well-worn paperback, and the craggy lines of his face made her wish she had her pencils. Some things just ached to be drawn, like the mountains, a grazing elk, this man’s complicated face.

She knew him.

It didn’t register with her immediately--it had been fifteen years--and even then she wasn’t sure. She set her basket on the counter.

He looked up and smiled, no recognition on his face. Glory smiled back, trying to hide her disappointment. Maybe it wasn’t him after all--but how many people had eyes like that, the clear, dark blue of a mountain stream, with a ring of silver-gray around the pupil?

“Passing through?” he asked as he began to ring up her order. No fancy UPC scanners here--he had to enter each item a digit at a time into the antique cash register.

“No,” Glory answered. “I’m staying at the B&B until I can find a house. I’m moving here.”

He eyed her with some interest, and a flicker in his eyes made Glory think he might finally have recognized her. But he turned back to his work.

“Not many people in the market for a house up here,” he said.

“It’s beautiful country. Perfect for painting.”

“You’re a painter, then?”

“I hope to be.” He totaled her order, and she wrote out a check, her hands trembling. He’d see her name, she thought, and he’d remember.

But he didn’t have to see her name. He caught the check between two fingers without looking at it, then he squinted and smiled.

“Glory. Glory Buchanan. It’s you, isn’t it?”

“Baker,” she answered, pointing tentatively at the check, “but, yes.”

“I’ll be.” He seemed content just to look at her for a moment. “You remember me, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, Michael.”

She said nothing else, but there was so much more inside her, memories and emotions, things she’d tried not to think about for a very long time.

She’d known Michael since kindergarten, when they’d told their parents they’d get married someday. And for a long time it had seemed likely, as they grew older together and changed from playmates to adolescent companions, and finally to steady girl- and boyfriend. But in the end she’d left for college while he’d stayed to run the family business, and apparently still did.

Glory’s study of art had never brought her fame, but it had brought her a husband--Addison, who’d been her instructor and had become her life.

But through all the changes she’d remembered one perfect day, Michael’s mouth on hers and his arms around her, the smell of him and the spread of blue sky above, and what it had been like to believe that love never changed, and that it lasted forever.

“So,” Michael said. “Did you bring your husband with you?”

Glory couldn’t quite read his expression. “No,” she said gently. “He died a few years ago.”

Michael’s face became even more inscrutable. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Glory shook her head a little. “It was cancer. Unexpected, but we had five good years together. What about you? Did you ever get married?”

“No,” he said, and looked at her with those deep, beautiful blue eyes. “I’ve just been here, minding my store and waiting for you to come back.”

It wasn’t the whole truth, and she knew it from the twinkle in his eyes, but behind that roguish twinkle was something else--hope, and the flicker of his own memories.

“Well, here I am,” she said, “and here I’ll stay.”

He handed her the receipt, and as she took it he caught her hand, his fingers long and strong against hers, just as she remembered.

“Good,” he said, and for the first time in a long time, Glory’s future seemed bright and whole.

It was going to be a wonderful summer.

About the Author: I am the author of several contemporary and paranormal romance novels, most recently with Samhain Press. I currently live in the mountains of Colorado with my two children. http://katrienaknights.kabeka.com http://katrienaknights.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Author Interview: Jo Webnar

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have Jo Webnar, author of Saving Tampa, the story of a psychic forced to work with the FBI to uncover a terrorist plot so they can save the city of Tampa. It was released in May of this year. I asked her to tell us a little bit about Saving Tampa. “For as long as she could remember, Rachel Cunningham feared and hated her psychic ability. When a strange man accidentally touches her, she sees the death of thousands. Rachel knows the FBI won’t believe her, but she has to try. Lives are at stake.

“Special Agent Hawk Arrons dismisses her information as a publicity stunt, yet his conscience nags him. When Rachel identifies an Al Qaida cell leader, Arrons puts his career at risk and issues an alert.

“Together they race against time to prevent an attack. Will the terrorists’ threat succeed, or will Rachel and Hawk save Tampa?”

Jo likes having a little bit of a “quirk” in regards to her characters. In Saving Tampa, the macho FBI agent loves to cook and is thinking about quitting the Bureau to open a restaurant. In the book she’s currently working on which is set in the Florida Keys, Hidden Death, the main character is an eccentric deputy who swears when she’s upset, but who also sings in the church choir. She told me she’s having so much fun with the setting and the characters of this latest one, she hates to see it finish it.

Jo told me that in school, she had a habit of daydreaming and started writing down those dreams. About twelve years ago, though, a woman who taught a motivational and communication class at IBM told her she should stop thinking about writing and just do it. And...she did. Her first book, Twilight, can be found at Amazon.com.

Jo also probably has the most interesting writing space of anyone I’ve interviewed. When I asked her to describe it, she responded, “Oh boy! Have you ever seen a vee berth on a small boat? We made it into my office. If it is cold, I write there. Most of the time I write on the sundeck of my trawler. (HINT: it only gets cold a few days out of the year in the keys!)” She also tries to begin writing before noon and writes until her husband gets home at six. “Once he’s home you can kiss creativity goodbye,” she told me. Why before noon? Because she shared with me she’s very much a night person. “I can’t function until I have a pot of coffee and at least 3 hours to open my eyes,” she said. “When I was an International Project Manager, I had a really hard time responding coherently at all hours of the day and night.”

Normally, Jo told me, her plot comes first and the characters evolve through her writing. “Usually I think about a plot,” she said, “and then just start writing by the seat of my pants. I do keep a spread sheet on my characters so that I can remember everything about them. Old age sets in sometimes. My characters just sort of evolve, and I keep adding to the spreadsheets.”

I also asked her if she ever suffered from writer’s block and, if so, how she solved it? “To cure writer’s block, I read a few of the latest chapters,” she told me. “Before I know it, I’m editing the chapters and writing new ones.”

Jo told me one of her favorite authors was LaVryle Spencer. “She could write a simple romance that you just couldn’t put down,” she said. “When she retired I felt as if I lost my best friend. Now I have so many favorites I can’t name them all.” She’s currently reading Blood on the Tartan by Chris Holmes.

In her opinion, imagination is one of the most important elements of good writing, which is why she also suggests making your characters a little quirky. “Without imagination,” she said, “your story will be flat and so will your characters.”

When Jo’s not writing, she told me she likes to “READ—READ—and read again.” She also enjoys swimming, walking on the beach, riding her bicycle, and cooking. She and her husband share their trawler with two Portuguese Water dogs that think they are babies. She said, “Please don’t break their hearts and tell them they’re not!” And, the fact she lives on a 36 foot boat gives my regular question “do you like thunderstorms” a brand new level. “I do when I am safe in my slip and tied to land. If I’m on anchor or cruising, it is really scary and nerve racking.”

I asked Jo what horrible experience she would erase from her past. “Hanging upside down and naked out of the seventh floor window in my college dorm,” she confessed, but added, “It wasn’t my fault! The bathrobe slipped over my head!” I certainly hope this makes it into one of her books sometime. I would love to find out the rest of this story!

Jo told me that thirty years ago, she sponsored five young Vietnamese women. Now, they are all married and have kids of their own, so they are all like one huge family now. They always celebrate Chinese New Year’s by seven days of feasting. “I have to tell you,” she said, “I LOVE ALL ORIENTAL food…except sea slugs. They are like huge purple worms. ICK!”

Her favorite animal would be a toss up between elephants, horses, and dogs. “Of course,” she added, “I’m not counting my husband as an animal.” Her favorite pizza? Vegetarian (without the broccoli).

Finally, I asked Jo what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out. “Develop a thick skin because you are going to need it,” she said. “If you get a bad rejection, tear it into small pieces and then stomp on it.”

You can keep up with Jo on her website, http://www.jowebnar.com