Beginning January 1, 2013

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Here Comes The... Groundhog!

by Roberta Beach Jacobson

How could Travis and I pull off our wedding and reception when we had so little money? It was a daunting task to plan such a romantic event on a small budget, so I asked my department manager, a newlywed herself, if she had any suggestions to make our Groundhog's Day celebration a success.
Did she ever. Nan and I brainstormed and came up with cost-cutting ideas, starting with my borrowing a gown. Next she shocked me by suggesting we hold both the wedding ceremony and reception outdoors.

“Can we do that in February?” I asked, well aware how chilly Georgia could turn in the dead of winter. There was even a chance of frost.

Nan told me not to worry. Hopefully we'd be rewarded with mild temperatures graced with sunny skies. We made an efficient planning team - coming up with all sorts of thrifty possibilities as we sat together in the employee cafeteria comparing lists, our sandwiches long forgotten.

Travis wanted our ceremony to be elegantly simple and I wanted our reception to be one guests would carry around in their memories for years. I kept him updated on what Nan and I had come up with and he warmed to most of our ideas. He winced when I mentioned the outdoor setting, but I explained we'd called everywhere and the cheapest reception hall ran three-hundred

dollars, plus cleaning costs.

“What if it rains?” he asked.

“Then we'll make the best of it and skip through the puddles,” I answered.

The well manicured parks around town were large enough to accommodate our guest list, but the general public would be milling around, invading our space. Both Travis and I longed for a secluded, private, setting. It was Travis who came up with the ideal location. His Uncle Oliver, a retired army

sergeant major with a farm near Vidalia, was more than willing to let us host our special day there. He even claimed to have groundhogs burrowed under his onion fields.

On a cold January morning, I mailed out a stack of wedding invitations –colorful note cards and each envelope sealed with a comical groundhog sticker. Best I knew, Nan and I had covered every wedding day detail and there were no loose ends.

She picked up her sister's ivory wedding gown from the dry cleaners for me. I traced the glass beads with my fingers and told her the creation seemed too delicate to try on.

I couldn't help it, I stared at myself in the mirror. Maybe all brides react the same way, but I felt magically transformed. The sole alternation needed was that it be shortened several inches for me. Nan assured me she'd find somebody to take care of it.

Nan made some floral suggestions and I discussed the matter at length with Mom. Travis gave input from a man's point of view. We trimmed our wish list a few times due to costs.

The weather cooperated on our big day and I think the sun peeped out from behind the clouds just to acknowledge our ceremony. I was too nervous to wonder if local groundhogs could see their shadows.

Travis was a shaky groom. I could tell the way he squeezed my hand. Tripping and landing on my nose was my number-one fear, though not being able to repeat the vows ran a close second. Not a single unscheduled thing happened and I was relieved to hear the instruction for us to kiss.

Afterwards, our guests gathered on wooden benches set up around a pit where a huge bonfire roared. It was perfect to ward off the February chill. We sipped sparkling wine Travis's parents had provided and sampled spicy snacks Nan had brought. Later we nibbled on tea-sized chicken-and-crab sandwiches my mom had dreamed up.

Several guests told me about groundhog sightings, but when I looked exactly where they'd pointed, I never saw a thing. Anyway, I was much too absorbed in my role as hostess to go searching for any Southern relatives of Groundhog Phil.

Despite our careful planning, there was one detail we'd neglected. Guests who brought wedding presents had no place to stack them. There wasn't a spare folding table to be found. Travis' Uncle Oliver came to the rescue by opening up the back of his pick-up truck. Soon boxes sporting gold and silver bows elegantly filled the bed of his trusty truck.

Travis and I walked hand-in-hand to the fire. We stood with our backs to the flames and I tossed my bouquet of yellow tea roses high into the afternoon sky. In it went and the fire reacted with a sparkling shower of light. We hugged. We laughed. Travis and I congratulated each other with a kiss.

People told us they couldn't recall any wedding celebration quite like ours. A fire has a way of making you stare at it and that‘s what we did. We were mesmerized as the red and yellow sparks shot into the air. Who needed to spend money on a band? The fire was the best entertainment we could have arranged.

As my groom and I posed for pictures, everybody complimented us on our simple refreshments and the serene setting. Uncle Oliver regularly fed the fire with hickory wood. As we watched the logs go up in smoke, our noses were treated to a smoky sweetness and it added another dimension to our special day.

Mom and Dad, so concerned about the money issue initially, told me they were proud of the way things things turned out. No matter that many miles separate us from the groundhog capital up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, I can't imagine a better Groundhog's Day wedding anywhere!

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Article: Finding Your Balance, Pt. 1

by Liana Laverentz

About a month ago, after several conversations with friends whose lives were going haywire, I decided to turn my emails of support to them into an article on balance. In the month that has passed since, I haven’t been procrastinating, I’ve been observing. I’ve been watching my own life, to see if I do indeed practice what I preach about keeping a balance between my writing and non-writing life.

The good news is yes, I do, but while my methods work for me, I also lead a unique kind of life, and so it’s quite possible those same methods won’t work for you.

That little disclaimer said, the best advice I can offer you is to take what you need from this article, and leave the rest behind.

And do it guilt-free.

Several years ago I realized my life was out of control, and basically not my own anymore. I was allowing myself to be pulled in a dozen different directions, and was getting nowhere on doing what I wanted to be doing, what I needed to be doing, for me. Self-sacrifice for others is all well and good, but if you don’t take time for you, to replenish your well, one of these days it will simply run dry, and when that happens, it isn’t pretty. Been there, done that. A couple of times. I seemed to be a slow learner.

Or maybe it was just that I cared too much about the people in my life and not enough about myself.

So I took a hard look at myself, and my life, and sorted out my priorities. I whittled them down to seven, and decided I would do nothing, say yes to nothing, that wasn’t on the list of seven.

I like seven. It’s a very spiritual number, I’m a very spiritual person. You can pick five, you can pick ten. You can figure out what your priorities are, and let that list be your guide, whatever the number. But I wouldn't go higher than ten.

But I chose seven, in order of their priority in my life: my son, my significant other, work (I’d rather have left that one off the list, but we like to eat), writing, karate, the house and kitties, and friendships.

So whenever something came up that needed to be done or attended, I evaluated it in the light of where it was on The List. If a friend called to invite me to do something on a Tuesday or Friday night, unless it had something to do with 1) my son, 2) my significant other, 3) my job or 4) my writing, I said no, thank you, and went to my karate class.

The good news is that eventually, people stopped asking. (Or maybe the bad news, considering my friendships got totally neglected during this time period as well—more on this, later.)

There’s always that guilt factor when you say no, but I’ve learned to deal with that, too. I’ve had to, to save my own sanity. Dispensing with guilt in my life was one of the most freeing things I ever did. And, guess what? It didn’t turn me into a self-centered b*tch or completely amoral person, either. It just saved me from being guilted into doing things I didn’t really want to do.

Now I just smile and say, “No, thank you, not today,” or “I won’t be able to make that,” and leave it at that. No explanation, no excuses, no openings for argument.

But I do it nicely and, more importantly, I do it without guilt.

My boss says I could give a workshop on how to say no—and she is an expert at recruiting volunteers. But she doesn’t want me to do that. We work in a Catholic church, so we know all about guilt, on both sides of the sword.

But I digress. Balance. Well, that first effort was a good one, but didn’t work very well. I never seemed to get past the fourth item on the list—the reality was that karate ended up taking precedence over writing, mainly because karate was scheduled at a certain time two nights a week and my writing wasn’t.

So while I said writing was a priority, it wasn’t actually happening.

And I was getting frustrated.

I re-evaluated the situation and came up with a different plan. On my refrigerator, I have four magnets that say, Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul. I stared at that for a while one day, then made a list of some things to go under each category.

Mind – reading, writing, learning new things, helping my son with his homework, meeting challenges at home and at work

Body – exercise, karate, stretching, Tai Chi, housework (yes, housework)

Heart – my relationships with my son and significant other, being a friend, community service, making soup

Soul – practicing my spirituality, my writing, listening to music, engaging in intelligent conversation, cleaning and organizing things

I’m not trying to put anyone down with that intelligent conversation category. Thomas Moore calls conversation “sex for the soul” and I believe it. There’s nothing that makes me feel more alive than an in-depth conversation about just about anything. I am a writer. I am curious about all things. When I come out of my cave, I want to know all about what’s going on around me. In as much detail as possible.

But I don’t have time for idle chit-chat or small talk, because I need to get back to the cave.

I also have ADD tendencies, and so I need my lists and such to stay focused and on track.

In fact, why don’t we take a break right now, so that you can make up your own lists? You have a week to do them, your list of priorities, in order of importance, and then your mind, body, heart and soul lists, with at least five activities listed under each.

No one will see this list but you, so be honest with it. Don’t write down what you think you should say. Write what you really feel.

Then meet me back here next week, for what you need to do with it.

About The Author: Liana Laverentz is the author of Thin Ice and Jake’s Return, available now from the Wild Rose Press, Amazon, and through special order from your favorite bookstore. For more information, go to www.lianalaverentz.com.

Thin Ice (NJRW Golden Leaf Winner and EPPIE Finalist) ISBN 1-60154-016-7

Jake's Return ISBN 1-60154-124-4


Ashton's Secret (coming in 2008)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Interview: M. Jean Pike

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have M. Jean Pike, author of Heatherfield, a paranormal romance that has already garnered some great reviews, even though it hadn't been released yet.
Jean told me she's had an ongoing love affair with words since she could remember, but she knows exactly the moment she got serious about her writing. "I was in the third grade," she said, grinning. "A teacher assigned a short story project, and when I saw that 'A' at the top of the page I was hooked." She was an early pioneer in the self-published arena, she told me. "[I published] a series of mysteries centered around "Mack the Mysterious Mutt,' a large, pink Labrador retriever who bore a striking resemblance to Clifford the Big Red Dog, except that he had magical powers (go figure). I put the stories together with yarn and construction paper covers and created my own cover art with magic markers. The series was a huge hit, garnering five-star reviews from my mother and grandmother."

Even with the early great reviews, it wasn't until Jean got paid for her work that she considered herself a 'real' writer. "When my first essay appeared in a small, local journal and I saw my byline at the top of the page," she said, "I actually cried. Days later I received a clipping of the article and a check for ten dollars, which I framed."

She shared with me that since then she's published over 200 short stories and articles and some of those have paid as much as $1000. "No check," she assured me, "was ever, or ever will be, as thrilling as my first."

Jean has a fascination for abandoned houses and, if she comes across one that truly intrigues her, she always tries to take a photograph of it. She told me about one special abandoned house. "On a Sunday drive, years ago, I came across a fabulous old house falling to ruins on a deserted country road. When I got the photo developed," she said, "there seemed to be a shadow in an upstairs window. I couldn't quite get away from that photo. I kept asking myself who was in the window? Why that particular window? What else was in the room? From those questions grew the story of Mary, a young girl who died in childbirth in the 1950's and haunted her baby's nursery for the next decade." This story became Jean's first novel, The Winds of Autumn.

Jean currently has three published novels: The Winds of Autumn, Waiting for the Rain, and Heatherfield. She also has one in progress. I asked her which was her favorite. She told me, "Like any proud mother, I love my 'children' equally."

I did manage to get her to tell us more about her latest one, though. Here's what she has to say about the newest one out, Heatherfield.

We all have our favorite books -- stories we return to again and again. Stories where we feel so in tune with the setting that we are utterly drawn in, where we fall so in love with the hero that we long to step between the pages and become a part of his world. But what if you really did get pulled into a novel, and then discovered you couldn’t get out? What if, fearing institutionalization, you pretended you couldn’t remember who you were, and then discovered you really couldn’t? What if you fell so desperately in love with the hero that when the way out was revealed you discovered you didn’t want to leave? That’s what Heatherfield is about.

I asked Jean if she were a morning or night person... when was she most productive? She told me, "Actually I am neither a night or morning person. I feel most energetic and creative in the early afternoon hours, between noon and three o’clock."

Another fun question I like to ask is the author's favorite pizza and Jean's sounds so yummy, I'm going to have to try it! Her favorite is "deep dish, extra cheese, loaded with black olives." I'm salivating as I think about it!

A little known fact from Jean's childhood:

Once, when I was in junior high school, a friend and I thought it would be fun to call someone and pose as a radio dj from one of the local stations, telling the person they’d won a fabulous prize. We chose a number at random, stupidly using our own town’s three-digit prefix, and ended up calling our math teacher. This was in the days before caller ID, but despite our very cleverly disguised voices, she knew who was calling. How embarrassed were we when she made an announcement in class the following day about the ‘fabulous prize’ she’d won!

I'm willing to bet that cured them.

Make sure you stop by Jean's website.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Overdue Love

by Judy Thomas

Geri froze as she picked up the copy of Catcher in the Rye from the box she was unpacking. Surely this couldn’t be the same copy she vaguely remembered checking out of the library so many years earlier. A quick glance at the due date stamped verified her fears.

Her stomach tightened as she pictured the tall, thin librarian she remembered from her childhood… hair skinned back into a tight bun, glasses perched on the end of her nose, a scowl on her face as she lectured about late books and dog-eared pages. Try as she might, Geri couldn’t replace that with the image of the same woman who had helped her locate Gone with the Wind, years before her school librarian would let her check out “real” books. She was helpful in a lot of cases, but in the case of overdue books Miss Sarah’s bark and bite were one and the same.

I wonder if the library police will come for me. Maybe I could drop the book in the overnight drop and just send the library a check for $100.

She couldn’t remember now why she’d gotten the book from her hometown library instead of the college library. She must have been home for some reason and remembered the paper was due on the date she was to return to college. She did remember getting a A on that paper and the comments by her teacher. It was his comments that led her into changing her major to English and to a writing career. She smiled as she remembered the crush she’d had on him. He was just a graduate student and only four years older, however there were still prohibitions about faculty-student interaction. Ever since then, though, she’d been attracted to men with beards.

But, back to the problem at hand. Her immediate concern was getting the book back to its rightful place. She still couldn’t believe she’d forgotten to return it.

There was nothing to do but do it, as her mentor would say. It had worked while she was slaving away on her rough draft for Only Three Sisters and it was good advice to follow now.

After a quick shower and change of clothes, Geri was ready to face the tongue-lashing she expected from old Miss Sarah. Mentally preparing her excuses, she drove to the small library in the center of town. What a way to come back home.

The library seemed smaller than she remembered as she walked up the worn steps, but the smell of books as she walked through the door transported her back to her childhood. Many hours had been spent curled up on the window seat on the second floor as the words she read transported her to far-away lands. She could still remember the first romance book she’d read and falling in love with heroines who lived all kinds of romantic adventures. Life was different in the small town she grew up in where everyone knew not only what went on in the next door neighbor’s house, but knew family kinships back two and even three generations. No surprises here. It was one reason she had dreaded coming back to live after her mom’s death, but the idea of having a rent-free home to live in as she pursued her dream of supporting herself by her writing was too enticing to pass up. She would just have to find romance vicariously, through her heroines.

She braced herself and looked to the long desk in the center of the room, sure that Miss Sarah would be able to see through the tote bag and know instantly that there was a six- year overdue book inside. To her surprise, however, she found herself gazing into a pair of brown, twinkling eyes.

“Hi and welcome,” he said. “How may I help you?”

“I’ve been away for a while and have just moved back to town. Where’s Miss Sarah? Don’t tell me she’s retired.”

He laughed. “No, I don’t know that she’ll ever retire. She had a fall a few weeks back and broke her hip. Since I had the summer off from my job, my mom volunteered me to help out here… Miss Sarah’s an old friend of the family.” He stuck out his hand. “My name’s Jake.”

“Geri,” she replied, shifting the tote bag to her other arm and shaking his hand. “I’m sorry to hear about Miss Sarah, but to tell the truth her not being here makes this a little easier. I’m afraid I have an overdue book to return.”

Jake pursed his lips in a silent whistle. “I understand why it would be easier. She can really make you feel about ten inches tall if you return a book late or damaged. How late is it?”

Geri could feel her face heat up. “Uh… about six years, give or take a week or two. It somehow got packed up with some books in the attic and I’m just now in the process of going through all that stuff.” She didn’t look at him as she pulled the book out and handed it to him.

“Catcher in the Rye,” he read from the cover. “That’s one of my favorite books. I assign it every year I teach freshman English.”

She looked up to find his gaze on her, a smile playing around his lips. She narrowed her eyes, trying to picture him with a beard. “Mr. Traymont?” There was a tightness around her chest and she stole a glance at his bare ring finger.

“Yes. And you’re Geraldine Hawthorne, aren’t you? I read your book. It was good.”

“Thank you. Now, how much do I owe you for that book?”

“What about I take you out to dinner tonight and we’ll call it even?”

As Geri smiled and nodded her head, she thought that maybe there was romance in the old town after all.

About the Author: Judy Thomas: wife, mom, writer, editor, co-owner of a review site, co-owner of a tree and stump removal company. Member of First Coast Romance Writers. And in her spare time she tries to keep her house clean enough the health department doesn't shut her down. She blogs about this, that and the other here. Feel free to stop by for some southern hospitality.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Author Interview: Jude Atkins

The Long and the Short of It is excited to welcome Jude Atkins, author of Anna’s Secret and Betraying Mikki, from Cerridwen Press. Jude currently lives in Calgary, Alberta, with her partner, John. She was born in Calgary, but is a self-proclaimed “inveterate gypsy.” During her teens, she lived in California and Washington, but settled in Texas with her four daughters while they were growing up. It was while she lived there she began work on her Texas series. She’s of Irish descent on her father’s side and she told me that on her mom’s family name was Shipton. “Our ancestor, from 15th Century lore,” she said, “is Mother Shipton, a witch reputed to have been burned at the stake for prophesying about the future. Here’s one, written in about 1550, that always fascinated me:

The states will lock in fiercest strife, and seek to take each other's life. When north shall thus divide the south an eagle build in lion's mouth then tax and blood and cruel war shall come to every humble door.”

Jude told me one of her earliest memories is what her mom would always say when calling her to do a chore: “Judith, get your nose out of that book.” I think all readers can identify with that! Jude grew up on an isolated farm and reading gave her a way to escape the isolation. She told me, “I used to promise myself that one day I, too, would write stories that would transport readers [to wonderful, magic places].”

She’s been writing since grade school and received pay for her first published piece…a story called “Egg on His Face.” “It was about the time (during WWII) when my Canadian soldier uncle was invited to dinner at the home of a lady who he later married,” she said. “Uncle Bill, coming from an Alberta farm where food was abundant, did not understand British rationing, and when his hostess’ mother place a plate of eggs in front of him on the table, Bill ate all six eggs -- the entire family’s weekly ration of eggs. The story was published by the Western Producer and one of their Veteran’s Day features. They paid me $100, and that was the best check I ever received.”

Just like her first published story, the characters come first in any of the books she writes. In Anna’s Secret, she got the idea when she was walking through a flea market in Fort Worth, Texas. She spotted an old, partially blind woman selling matches and pencils from a box tied around her neck. Around the same time there’d been a lot in the news about an heiress who had been adopted at birth and who had just found her birth mother. “Being a writer,” she explained, “my mind toyed with this, and before you know it, I had a thesis: what if the Houston heiress went looking for her birth mother, and just when she’d found out she was a penniless, half-blind pencil seller working out of a Fort Worth flea market, her birth mother was murdered?” And so, Anna’s Secret was born. To find out what happened, you can either win a copy of it in our weekly contest, buy a copy from Cerridwen Press, or, for those who don’t read electronically, wait until it’s released in print in April.

The next book in the series, Betraying Mikki, is out this month and Jude is currently working on the last book in the series, Deadly Paradise.

When she’s not working on Deadly Paradise, Jude still indulges in her love of reading and she has just finished reading Micqui Miller’s Morning Star and had this message for our readers, “Readers, I cannot recommend this book enough. I loved it. Micqui is a fellow Cerridwen Press author, and after reading Morning Star, I wrote to her an email to thank her for the wonderful read. Morning Star, in my opinion, has all the elements of a Nora Roberts novel, and once I started reading it I literally did not stop until I had finished the entire book. If you’re looking for a great romantic suspense read, you won’t want to pass up Morning Star.” This is high praise indeed, because Jude had already shared with me that Nora Roberts is her very favorite author.

One question I ask our interviewees is “if there is one horrible experience in your life you could erase, what would it be?” Jude shared with me that in 2004 she lost her oldest daughter to an overdose of prescription drugs. She would, of course, like to go back and completely erase that day. I cannot imagine anything more horrible and we at The Long and the Short of It would like to offer Jude and the rest of her family our sincere condolences. It’s not surprising that when asked what she would like to know about the future she said, “First I’d like to know if my remaining three daughters will outlive me as they should, and second I’d like to know if all of you reading this interview will be intrigued enough to buy my books and when you do if you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.” Maybe some of her ancestor’s talent will let her know this future.

One way she could know if part of this future will come true is if the following would come true. Jude told me, “If I could wish for anything, I’d wish that each and every person who reads this interview would click on over to www.cerridwenpress.com and buy a copy of Anna’s Secret and Betraying Mikki. And to those who do, thank you so very much. I really, really hope you enjoy the journey.”

Be sure and visit Jude at http://www.judeatkins.com/.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Article: Promotional Tools for the Faint of Heart (And Light of Budget)

By Allie Boniface

It's the dirty little secret no one tells you: once you become a published author, you will need to be your own biggest promoter. Unless you are one of the lucky few who signs with a big-name agent and a big-name publishing house, it's likely that your publisher won't spend a lot of time or money promoting your book. That means it's up to YOU to spread the word. But in the huge world of published authors, how can you make yourself and your work stand out? How can you find readers outside your immediate friends and family?

Well, you can spend a lot of money buying ads in major publications, or printing bookmarks and flyers to send to every writers' conference in the country. You can mail press releases to a host of radio stations and newspapers, on the off-chance they'll want to do a story on you, or you can try to convince a local bookstore or library to pay you to speak to a group of interested fans. But what if you aren't the kind of person who likes to speak in front of crowds? What if you cringe at the very thought of making a public appearance? Most of all, what if you don't have thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars to spend marketing your work?

The best advice I ever received from a fellow author has little to do with dollars and more to do with getting your name “out there,” in as many creative ways as you can. Thanks to the Internet, here are 10 that are virtually free of charge and won't require you to show your face anywhere in public:

** Create a signature line for yourself. This is called “branding” and involves coming up with a slick catch phrase that describes you and your work. Visit some different authors' websites and see which have signature lines, or brands, and which really stick out. Two I can think of off the top of my head are “Because a little spice is nice” (www.katedavies.com) and “Writing with Cattitude” (www.catjohnson.com).

**Get that signature line on anything you can: Amazon reviews, yahoo groups, chats, blog comments, etc. Every time you send an email, post a comment, or write an online review, make sure your signature line/brand and your contact information is right below it. People will start associating your name with that brand, and they'll remember it.

**Get yourself a blog, website, MySpace, Facebook, or Bebo page (or all of the above!) We exist in an electronic age, so if you aren't taking advantage of the opportunity to let potential readers find you on the Internet, you're missing out. Blogs are free to set up, if you can't afford a website. So are MySpace and Facebook pages.

**Participate in chats, contests, interviews, and blog chains. There are so many ways in which you can interact with people online that will maintain your privacy. Sign up for chats with your publisher. Find fellow bloggers who will interview you. Do the same for them. Again, the more people see your name, the more they will remember you.

**Join online writers' groups. There are many out there, in different genres, and you can join them (usually) free of charge. Again, no one has to see your face when they're critiquing your work (or vice versa).

**Submit short stories or articles (see what I'm doing right now?). Even if you're a novelist, writing short pieces can boost your reputation. Write a “how to” article for a website. Write a letter to the editor of a local paper. Enter short story contests. Submit vignettes of your experiences to niche sites. Again, the more places your name appears, the more people will become familiar with it.

**Give something away. If you're an author, give away a free copy of your book in a contest. If you aren't yet published, hold a contest anyway and give away a basket of lotions and soaps. Or a gift certificate to Amazon. Or a pair of handmade earrings. Collect “falling in love” stories from your readers, choose the best 3, and post the winners on your blog, along with the prize. People love to win things, and if they associate your name with a contest or potential freebie, they'll remember you.

**Judge a contest, or become a reviewer. This might not get your name in front of a lot of people, but you never know. Many review sites have backlogs of novels that publishers have sent over, and they are desperate for new reviewers! Plus, your review clip might appear on a book cover or publisher's website…thus increasing your cross-promotion and getting your name in front of new and different readers.
Enter a contest. The chance of winning a final read by a well-known agent, an advertising spot, or a similar prize ups your chance of getting your name in front of people who make book-buying decisions.

**Make a trailer or mini-video for your work. Book trailers are HOT right now - visit www.youtube.com or www.previewthebook.com to see how many authors are using this marketing strategy. This is the only suggestion that might cost you some money, though, especially if you pay someone else to make one for you. However, you can make a trailer yourself using Windows Movie Maker or Power Point and downloading free photos from www.sxc.hu and free music from www.musopen.com.

Bottom line: explore every possibility, and be ready and willing to roll up your sleeves and participate in your own promotional efforts. No advertising opportunity is too small, in my opinion. Good Luck!

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

Visit Allie’s website at www.allieboniface.com to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog, www.allieboniface.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Article: Writing A Juvenile Fiction Series

by Bruce Hale


Harry Potter has "disapparated," A Series of Unfortunate Events has come to its tragic ending. So what's the next great children's book series? And more importantly, could you be the one to write it?

It seems every other writer wants to pen "the next Harry Potter." But before plunging headlong into the world of juvenile series fiction, there are a few things to consider.

Why write a series?

The benefits of writing series fiction for kids boil down to three essentials:

1. Hone your craft. I learned the craft of mystery writing by selling the Chet Gecko Mysteries series and having to write the books on deadline. Series teach you about plotting, character, motivation, maintaining consistency, and how to sit down and write when your Muse is on vacation and you'd rather be off surfing.

2. Hook readers. Series are "training wheel books." The familiarity of the characters and world make it easier for the reader to enter with each succeeding tale. This builds literacy skills and creates new readers who will want to read whatever you come up with.

3. Get a steadier paycheck. Let's face it: those of us who are serious about making our living as fiction writers lack the steady paycheck of the nine-to-fiver. Selling and writing a series gives you predictable advances on royalties -- as long as you keep up with your deadlines.

Convinced? Consider one more thing before taking the plunge.

Avoid this big mistake many writers make-

I know, I know. You've got a whole world mapped out, including spin-off books, histories for all the characters, toy designs, and casting suggestions for the movie. But reign in that enthusiasm for a minute.

The biggest mistake most writers make is trying to plan the whole series before taking care of the basics: writing the best possible first book.

Before even thinking about selling your series (to say nothing of the merchandising rights), start by writing an amazingly good first book of the series. Make sure your tale has these essentials:

* A strong voice,
* A sympathetic lead character,
* Colorful, lively writing, and
* A well-constructed plot.

Most editors don't want to see all 12 manuscripts and your 20-page marketing plan. They want to see one wonderful story and hear why you think your series is unique.

And if you can manage that, you're one step closer to creating the next Harry Potter. Good luck with that.

About The Author: Bruce Hale is the author and illustrator of more than 20 books for kids, including the bestselling Chet Gecko Mysteries and Underwhere. Find out more about how to write and publish children's books from his popular free e-newsletter at http://www.brucetalks.com .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Author Interview: Liana Laverentz

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Liana Laverentz, winner of the 2007 Golden Leaf Award, as well as a finalist in the EPPIE Awards and in our own LASR Best Romance of 2007 award.

Liana is German-born and moved to the United States when she was five months old. As a matter of fact, she told me her mother recently downsized and moved to a smaller home, gifting Liana with several thousands of pounds of of heavy, European furniture. “It is gorgeous and enormous,” she told me. “She also sent me many paintings that have been in the family for years and years, like the one that my grandfather gave to my grandmother on their honeymoon. When you walk into my house, you see paintings of mountains and lakes and evergreens and thatched huts and half-timbered houses. Between that and the furniture, it has a distinct Heidi-ish feel to it, and I’m surprised someone hasn’t walked in and burst out yodeling.” If they do yodel, it would probably be in celebration of Liana’s accomplishments with Thin Ice.

I had the pleasure of reviewing this book (review is here) for review site back in October, so I was not surprised when it started winning awards. I asked Liana how winning the award made her feel.

“Validated,” she said. “I always knew Thin Ice was a good book. I just couldn't get anybody to publish it for the longest time. But I'd poured my heart and soul into that book and it shows. So it was with a quiet sense of self-satisfaction and a deep sense of gratitude that I went on stage to accept the award. When I was up there, I thanked God, from whom all blessings flow, Rhonda and RJ, for creating The Wild Rose Press, and my best friend Louis, for being my inspiration for Eric. Without any of them, Thin Ice would never have been published. It had been relegated to hanging out with the dust bunnies under my bed until Louis asked to read it, then pushed me into sending it out again. Right around that time, Rhonda and RJ had opened the doors to The Wild Rose Press. I sent Thin Ice to Rhonda, who read it in the hospital while she was recovering from pneumonia, and the rest is history.”

Liana has had three books published. Ashton’s Secret, a murder mystery romance, is now out-of-print. The book of her heart, Thin Ice, and Jake’s Return (our review of this book is here), another contemporary romance with an element of suspense, is available from The Wild Rose Press.

The Wild Rose Press is also re-releasing Ashton’s Secret this year and Liana’s been busy working on rewriting it. I asked her if winning had changed her writing and she told me, “If anything, the pressure is on to make the re-write of Ashton’s Secret and my other manuscripts just as good, if not better. I have a quote around here that says something to the effect of ‘the trouble with success is that you have to keep repeating it.’ That’s true and with each success you have less time to do it, because more and more of your time is drawn away to things other than writing.”

Some of these things are more emails to answer, interviews to do, and articles to write. Liana said, “My level of responsibility to myself and to my readers increases. I am more in demand as a speaker as well, and I think it's important to thank everyone who congratulates me personally. They took the time to write me, it's only right that I acknowledge them in return.”

I asked Liana if she was bothered with writer’s block and she said, “My biggest problem is finding the time to put all the stories I have in my head and heart onto paper. My daily life is so fragmented, between being a single parent and working three part-time jobs in order to be home when my son is home, that there is no predetermined schedule for me to fit my writing into. The best time for me to write is first thing in the morning, before my son wakes up and my ‘mom’ day begins. Then he goes off to school, and my ‘day job’ day begins. I live my life in layers.”

For writers who do have a problem with writer’s block, though, she offers this advice:

Writers write. It’s what we do. We write because we can’t not write. But every word doesn’t have to be written for publication. So just start writing, even if it’s just stream of consciousness, and it may take a while, but once you get started, you won’t want to stop. And even if the first thing you write doesn’t have anything to do with what you are currently working on, just opening yourself up to the flow of creativity in your brain and enjoying the moment will eventually bring you to where you want to be. Trust me on this. Something you write will undoubtedly spark an idea that you can tie back in to your original goal, or whatever has you stumped in your current WIP. It happens every time.

Liana has great titles. I particular notice titles because that’s one of my weaknesses in my own writing. I put off picking a title until the brutal end, so I asked her how she managed to come up with such great ones.

“The title usually evolves from the story somehow,” she explained. “For Thin Ice, I took the title from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. ‘In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.’ That told me that the romance between Eric and Emily had to be approached with caution and needed to move slowly to be successful. Since Eric is a hockey player, it also had a double meaning. In courting Emily, Eric seems to always be on thin ice, and while he would have loved for things to move more quickly, he understood that Emily needed him to woo her gently.

Jake’s Return is about a man’s return to the small town from which he left in disgrace, and all the changes that brings to the lives of pretty much the whole town. If he hadn’t returned, a predator would have continued to roam the streets at night, and the love of Jake’s life, Rebecca, might have kept her own life on hold (not that she realized that was what she was doing), indefinitely.

Ashton’s Secret is about uncovering the secrets in a small town where Meghan’s sister died under mysterious circumstances. The only person who can answer her questions is Nicholas Hawkinson, and he’s not telling. Justice is a Lady is about Samantha Dallas, a woman Assistant District Attorney on a mission to bring as many gang members to justice as possible after the death of her husband at the hands of a street gang. The hero is an undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated the gang, and the two of them end up on the run together when she’s accused of a murder committed by a gang member whose initial target was Samantha.”

Her characters are very different. Liana is not one of the authors who keep writing the same story over and over. She told me that, as she’s been writing, she has discovered you have to write in an entirely different way when the characters have known each other previously, like Jake and Rebecca in Jake’s Return, than when they are strangers meeting, like Eric and Emily in Thin Ice. Each scenario explores different aspects of falling in love. Liana said, about her characters, “In Thin Ice, Emily’s trust has to be earned, and that is no small feat, considering what she’s endured. In Jake’s Return, Rebecca’s trust in Jake’s basic goodness is right there at the beginning, and never wavers. The problem is, Jake doesn’t have that same trust in himself. Whereas Eric, in Thin Ice, has no such baggage. He knows he’s a good guy and can’t understand why Emily wants nothing to do with him. In Thin Ice, Eric is paying for the sins of those who came before. In Jake’s Return, Jake is dealing with his own personal demons.”

One of the “fun questions” I ask our authors is, “have you ever eaten a crayon?” Liana surprised me with her answer.

“No,” she said, “but I have three cats, and as any pet owner knows, every now and then you have to bring ‘samples’ in for the vet to examine. ‘How am I supposed to do this with three cats that use the same litter box?’ I asked, short of following each one around until she provides a sample. Simple, the vet tech said. ‘You put shavings from three different colored crayons in their food, and remember what color you fed which cat.’ It worked like a charm.” And, there you have it at no extra charge. Advice for you cat-lovers out there from The Long and the Short of It and Liana Laverentz.

Liana told me about the only time she cries is while watching a movie or reading a good book. “My life is too blessed,” she said, “for me to have anything in it to cry about. My best friend, Louis, is serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit. Whenever I start to get caught up in my own daily drama, I remember that, and it does wonders to help me keep things in perspective.”

Movies that especially make her cry are movies where it looks like the family pet is going to die. “Think Homeward Bound, or My Dog Skip,” she explained. “I cried and cried, well after the movie was over. To this day my son doesn’t want me to watch any movies with animals that might get hurt in them. I tear up without fail whenever it’s a romance and the one character is laying their heart on the line after they have betrayed the other character somehow, and is just standing there, waiting to be rejected. Think Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, when he reveals it’s he who has been emailing Meg Ryan all this time. Or Will Farrell in Stranger Than Fiction, when he’s standing there holding a flat of different kinds of baking flour, and telling Maggie Gyllenhall, ‘I want you.’ Obviously, I’ve lost a pet or two in my time, and been on the receiving end of rejection, so I can relate.”

She went on to say, “When you cry at a movie, it’s because you can relate, somehow. And that’s a good thing.”

I asked Liana what was one thing she could with for, if she could wish for anything. She said, “I wish that my friend Louis--whose unwavering support and encouragement and downright pushing me into finishing and submitting Thin Ice and Jake’s Return has made it possible for me to see my dreams of publication come true--will get the chance to see his own dream come true. His dream of freedom.”

We at The Long and the Short of It join you in that wish, Liana, and thank you so much for your openness and for being with us. Go visit Liana as she unveils her brand new website today!. And, Liana will be with us tomorrow (Wednesday, January 16th) at our Yahoo group for a Question & Answer session. Stop in, say hello, and ask Liana your burning questions. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What's In A Name?

by Michele Oberlander


Virginia Beacham rolled her eyes in amused exasperation at her mom’s excited monologue about their new neighbor’s virtues and the fact that through it all, her mom still refused to call her Ginger; her name of choice since moving away from home. Ginger didn’t miss her mom’s emphasis in mentioning the Delacorte’s son, Euclid. Once again, Ginger had to think of a way to get around one of her mother's thinly disguised attempts at matchmaking; as subtle as dropping a brick on eggs. This time, just the name of the intended victim had her wanting to run away.

Who would name their son Euclid anyway?

Ginger shook her head. She didn’t want to know. Her own moniker had caused a few raised eyebrows. And if she showed any interest at all, no matter how innocent, her mom would push the emotional guilt buttons. Her advice always included the line “try him on for size”. Ginger usually chuckled at that. Her mom’s choice of phraseology was a part of her charm. Still, the name, ugh. Euclid.

Look who’s talking, Ginger. What’s in a name anyway?

She picked up her jacket and purse and managed to take two steps towards the door before her mom's voice stopped her.


"Virginia! I’ve just remembered something. Would you pick up the two pies I ordered from Mrs. Lane's bakery? I’ve already called her and she said they’re ready. We're having our new neighbors, the Delacortes, over for dinner. Isn’t it exciting that Euclid is home visiting from college? Do you think two pies are enough? You know how boys like to eat. You can never have too much pie."

Her mom thought food was the answer to everything. Feeling blue? Have some cookies and milk. Had a bad day? A hunk of icing covered cake cured all ills. Boy troubles? Anything chocolate would do. Mom would offer her not-so-secret stash of Godiva and listen to Ginger’s tale of woe. Sometimes, just sharing the mutual joy of food was all the conversation needed.

"I got it covered, Mom. Two apple pies from Mrs. Lane's."

“And?”

"I'll bring the ice cream?" Ginger hazarded a guess.

"And ...?"

Ginger grinned. "I'll dress for the occasion. I promise."

She blew her mom a kiss and headed out the door. She stopped on the top step of the porch to wave at the papergirl delivering the afternoon news to familiar folk on the street. Ginger inhaled a deep breath of the sweet and pungent-scented humid air. There was no where else she knew of where every house enjoyed the profuse scents of flowers. Here, they spilled over every trellis, garden and rock wall. The neighborhood pitched in to make sure Floral Lane was exactly that. She loved small town life with its simple pleasures. You never had to lock your door or your car and trust between neighbors was alive and well. It was why she had found work and an apartment in town after college.

The summer sun and moisture-laden air wrapped heated arms around her the moment she stepped off of the porch. Her sundress molded itself to her ample curves, sticky from the sweat beading on her skin. Ginger fanned her skirt with fluttering motions in a useless attempt to cool her skin. She couldn't wait to turn on her car's A/C.

Her steps were brisk as she left the porch and followed the walkway that led to her car. She opened her car door to a furnace blast of heat. Ginger tried to avoid burning herself on the hot steering wheel by bracing her knee on the edge of a tiny shaded edge of the seat. She leaned in at an angle, intending to turn the key which she'd left in the ignition.

It wasn't there.

She knew without a doubt that she'd left the key in. Her chipper mood began to fray as she resigned herself to cooking the dimples off of her knees. She brought up her other leg to fully kneel on the hot leather hoping to quickly find the keychain in the shadows under the driver's seat. Leaning down while trying to avoid the steering wheel was tricky and sweat collected in earnest, beading and rolling between her breasts and down her back. Ginger began to feel short of breath from the heat and gave up her futile search in disgust. The skirt of her sundress rode up her thighs as she tried to back out of the car. The sound of a throat clearing startled Ginger. Scrambling off the hot leather seat, her sundress twisted upwards enough for her to realize her hot pink lace panties must be showing. She felt the scalding heat of a blush sweep her face as she spun around.

She didn’t know whether to scream or curse as she straightened the clinging fabric. She lifted her gaze, fingers freezing in place at the sight before her. Her unvoiced anger faded as her gaze feasted on the man standing a few feet from her. A sensual heat flared and burned inside her body, volcanic even compared to the heat of her car.

A stranger leaned against the stucco covered corner of her parent's home. He said nothing, but his eyes danced with dark amusement. Well-muscled arms crossed his chest, making his white muscle T-shirt ride up just enough for a tantalizing view of his taut stomach. She was hypnotized by the line of dark hair that traveled down to a black leather belt. Hard ridged thighs covered by painted-on blue jeans made her palms itch to touch. He remained silent, but his eyes never left her face, watching her watch him. Ginger dared to look her fill, noticing the definition of his chest, his biceps and down and across towards his hands...what the—?

Her gaze flew up to his, a demand on the tip of her tongue. The man pushed himself off of the wall and took a step towards her. He slowly uncrossed his arms from his chest and opened one hand. Her key chain lay nestled on his palm.

"Hey!" Ginger shouted. "What are you doing with my keys? I knew I left them in there." His eyes crinkled in the corners as he smiled. She found it hard not to drown in his Godiva chocolate gaze. His voice was smooth, but held a tone of admonishment.

"Just being a good neighbor. You shouldn’t leave keys in the ignition of a car. You never know who’ll walk by. A beautiful woman can’t be too careful these days, even in a small town.”

Ginger didn’t know whether she should strangle him or be flattered he thought she was beautiful. She decided anger was safer.

"It’s not neighborly to take my keys. I know all of my parent's neighbors around here. You, sir, are a stranger!"

His lips quirked and he gave a short jerk of his head in acknowledgement.

"I can fix that.” He grinned, “Hello, I'm Euclid Delacorte."

Ginger was stunned. This was Euclid Delacorte home from school? He was "the boy" with the odd name?

“I’m studying for my Masters but when I can, I drop by to see my parents. I’m glad I chose today, for obvious reasons.”

Euclid stepped closer to hand her the key ring. As her fingers touched the metal he enclosed his tanned hand over both her hand and the keys. His grasp was warm and strong but gentle. The volcanic heat inside her body jumped to eruptive proportions.

"I know your last name is Beacham, but not your first. Care to share? Seems only fair as you know mine.”

"Virginia." Her voice came out as a breathless whisper.

“Virginia Beacham?” A grin burst across his face, showing even, white teeth.

Ginger blinked once, then again. It took a moment for his words to register in her lust- scrambled brain.

"What?"

Euclid chuckled. "Interesting name they stuck you with, Virginia."

The irony of his statement didn’t escape her and she lost her ability to restrain the twitch of a smile.

"My friends call me Ginger.”

"Well, Virginia Beacham, since our parents are neighbors, don‘t you think we should be friends too?"

She felt a physical thrill with Euclid's words. “You can call me ‘Ginger’. In the sunlight, his brown eyes sparkled in approval as they gazed into hers. She thought it adorable how he cocked his head to the side in contemplation but couldn’t have anticipated his next words.

"Virginia Beacham and Euclid, what a pair we'll make."

Her eyes widened in surprise, her heart thumped in excitement. Oh my, a pair? Letting go of her hand and key chain, he laughed. "What's in a name anyway?"

Her sudden smile was wide and generous. Once again her mom was right. Ginger intended to try him out for size because she had a shivery suspicion that Euclid Delacorte was going to be a perfect fit.


About the Author: Michele is a wife, a mother, a part time office manager in a legal office, and an aspiring author. She became hooked on blogging two years ago when she contacted a favorite romance author. Inspired into creating her own blog, she has never looked back. She's a voracious reader of romances and that passion led her to become a reviewer for LASR. Many stories and heroes swirl in her head but finds learning the writing craft as adventurous as any daring-do experienced by her characters. Writing is akin to taking risks: the roller coaster ups and downs, the eureka moments when something works, and the need for chocolate when things go bump; all in the pursuit of a dream. And through it all, she feels it's worth it. For what is writing if not having fun with your dreams and sharing it with others? "What's In A Name" is Michele's first published story. Find out more about Michele at her blog.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Article: How Long Is Too Long To Market A Book? 

by: Penny Sansevieri


So how long is too long to market a book? According to some studies (both formal and informal) marketing (and seeing the results in the form of book sales) can take anywhere from six months to two years, it all depends on what you want to get out of it.

Ideally though, you should plan to market your book ongoing -- if, that is, being an author is a career choice and not a hobby. If it's a hobby then don't put any more time into it than you have to, or you might not choose to market it at all. For some, having the finished book is sufficient. But generally authors don't write and publish a book just to see it "done;" they publish it to further dreams of seeing their careers flourish. If that's the case then your marketing plan should last as long as your career does and hopefully, that's a really long time.

But how long should you stick to marketing one book before moving onto the next? The answer depends on a lot of things. Topic, for one, will often drive the wheels of a campaign and it's often said that the best way to market your first book is with your second and third and forth and well, you get the idea. But now comes the most challenging question: if you're extending a marketing campaign beyond what you originally had on your marketing outline, what on earth will you do to promote it?

If your book is new and your promotional wheels are just hitting full steam the answer to how you might promote your book should be easy. But if it's a year down the road and you feel you've done everything you can do to market your book you might be asking yourself: what's next? This is a great time to assess what you've done, what's worked and what hasn't. It's often in our nature to stare at a closed door begging for it to open, but if the doors you're knocking on still aren't opening, then perhaps it's time to move on to marketing items better suited to your book.

By this I mean that when you go through and evaluate all you've done, it might be easy to say, "You know, I spent a lot of time on this and it's still not doing anything for me, I'll think I'll invest more time on it and see what happens." This might seem like a good idea. Certainly the folks at Oprah might not want to hear from you the first 20 times you pitched but on 21, you could strike gold. The likelihood is, however, that you're just barking up the wrong tree and need to move onto greener pastures.

For example, let's say you've done some speaking engagements in the past year and every time you do them you get tons of new sign-ups for your newsletter, you sell lots of books and best of all, you get asked back! So why don't you do more of them? Well, probably because the rest of your book marketing is taking up so much time that you're unable to devote as much time to this as you can. Now you're in a perfect position. Why? Because you can dump the stuff that's not working so well and focus on the things that are working well, like your speaking engagements. The same is true for media, if you get a lot of it when you're pitching it, then why not pitch more?

For many of us, deciding what to do and when to do it can be confusing, but after you've spent months doing everything you've ever read or heard about, the obvious successes start to clarify themselves and then, what you need to do becomes crystal clear.

If you've only got one book to promote, here are a few tips that might help extend the life of a campaign and give you more ways to market:

* Creating spin-off products: special reports, eBooks and audio product are a all a great way to get some additional mileage out of your book. Creating products that lead to a product line can help leverage more sales. Often when consumers buy one product in a line, they'll buy all of them.

* Speaking events: speaking on your book's topic can really lengthen a campaign. By setting up speaking engagements you're getting the message out there on your book, selling books to the audience and keeping the wheels on your campaign turning.

* Gather your evergreens: an "evergreen" is a topic that's consistently viable from year to year. This means that if you have a news peg on the topic of Labor Day, you can trot this pitch out year after year and the media will love it. Understanding and building these evergreens into your campaign will greatly help extend your marketing campaign.

* Updating your book: with the exception of fiction, most books could stand a refresher every so often. For some books it's yearly, while others can wait a bit longer. The updated version is a great way to capture additional promotion. I update my books yearly and provided that I've added new content (and not just changed a few URL's) I will re-promote each of these as they come out -- just like I would a new title.

About The Author: Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a book marketing and media relations expert whose company has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Visit http://www.amarketingexpert.com

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Author Interview: Deborah Piccurelli

The Long and the Short of It would like to welcome Deborah Piccurelli. She is the author of In the Midst of Deceit. She is currently working on a new novel which combines two of her passions: writing and moral/political issues. It focuses on a newspaper reporting couple working to expose a doctor who performs heinous medical procedures.

Unlike a lot of authors who have appeared here, Deborah never set out to be a writer. As a child, her goal was to grow up and become a secretary. She told me, “I never thought back then that I wanted to be a novelist. Although, because I loved to read so much, I remember a couple times I was compelled to start writing one of my own. The first was handwritten; the second was typed out on the manual typewriter I had gotten for Christmas so I could play secretary. I never completed either of them, nor did I receive any encouragement, so they were put somewhere and forgotten.”

Since Deborah is a relatively new writer herself, I asked her what advice she would give to someone just starting out.

“Develop a thick skin,” she said. “Once you start submitting, don’t let a few rejections discourage you. Even the biggest names in the business have had tons of them, so keep sending out those queries…An editor may tear your story apart, suggesting a million changes…Unless you’re John Grisham or Nora Roberts, it’s a given. Don’t take it personally.”

She also suggests studying the craft thoroughly. “If you study everything you can about writing, join critique groups, attend conferences and workshops, and read voraciously, your prose will shine. Agents and editors will take notice.”

Since most authors are voracious readers, I asked her about some of her favorite authors. “I have so many favorite authors I couldn’t possibly include them all,” she said, “but I’ll list some. I love Catherine Cookson. The first book of hers that I read was so completely different than anything I’d ever read before. It just blew me away. I became an instant follower. Tess Gerritsen – her choice of subjects is always this eerie, dark stuff. Always satisfying. Harlan Coben – he’s a master. I constantly get lost in his stories. Victoria Holt – her books are classics. They entertain the dark side of humanity, too, but in a different way. Sally John – A Christian writer whose characterization is superb. They immediately draw you in. You can’t put her books down! I’ll stop here, or we’ll run out of room.”

Deborah is a second-generation Italian (“Both sets of my grandparents,” she told me, “came over on the boat”). Family and emotion are important elements in Italian homes. Another of Deborah’s passions is her family… her husband and two boys, with whom she shares her New Jersey home. And…emotion? When I asked her if she had ever cried in a movie, she said, “Oh, please, I’ve cried during the Brady Bunch!”

Visit Deborah at her website, http://www.deborahmpiccurelli.com/index.php, and let her hear from you. I asked her if she enjoys hearing from her fans and she said, “Yes, I’ve heard from many with cards, notes and e-mails telling me how much they loved my book. Some ask if there will be a sequel, or to let them know when another of my books is released.” So… visit her and tell her how much you enjoyed this interview with her. Don’t forget to visit our contest page for a chance to win a copy of In the Midst of Deceit.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Best Friends

by Diane Craver

Elizabeth Fields loved swimming in the pool on the rooftop of her apartment building, but tonight was lonely. Where was everyone? she wondered. The elevator opened, and a silver-haired security guard stepped out. Quickly she swam the length of the pool to the end nearest the elevator.

“Hi, Mr. Payton.” She rested her arm on the edge of the pool. “Why don’t you get your trunks on and swim with me? We’ve never raced. It’ll be fun.”

He chuckled. “You must be desperate if you want me to swim against you. You need someone your age. Where’s that Charlie Brewster? You two have fun racing each other.”
She sighed. “He has a date.”

“Be careful. I’ll be back in half an hour to check on you. Have to make my rounds.”

“Okay.”

With no one around to race or talk to, she was bored. It was her fault she was alone on a Friday night. Her old boyfriend, Bruce, had wanted to get married before he took a job in another state, but she had shocked herself and him when she refused. She didn’t even take time to consider marrying Bruce and moving. She’d told Charlie she didn’t understand how she could’ve dated Bruce for a year and not been upset when he left.

“I can,” Charlie had said. “He wasn’t right for you and deep down you knew it.”

She swam with smooth strokes and when turning to finish her lap, she didn’t hear the elevator open. She screamed when a hand touched her shoulder.

“Elizabeth, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

She climbed out of the pool and grabbed her towel. Her heart raced at the sight of Charlie. He looked handsome in his khakis and green shirt. “I thought you had a date with Savannah.”

“She stood me up.” He ran his hands through his black hair and his dark eyes were intense with anger. “She told me to go ahead and order for both of us. And there I was sitting with platters of Savannah’s favorite Italian food when she called me and told me to enjoy dinner by myself.”

“Why did she cancel?”

“Get this. An old college boyfriend’s in town and he wanted to see her tonight.”

Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “I told you she was spoiled.”

“I’m taking her to court to teach her a lesson.”

She sat down on a lawn chair and dug in her oversized bag for a comb. “That’ll be time-consuming. You should know that since you’re a lawyer.”

“I’m just going to take her to small claims court for the anxiety she caused me. I waited for over an hour before she called.”

While combing through her long auburn hair, she asked, “Did you bring Savannah’s dinner home with you?”

He grinned. “Yes. I figured we could eat together.”

While Charlie went to get the food, she took a quick shower. After she dressed in jean capri pants and a white T-shirt, she got restless. She walked out of her apartment and stood in the hallway, waiting for the elevator.

Her neighbor, Miss O’Leary, opened her door. “Did Charlie find you, dear?”

“He did.”

“I told him you were swimming.”

Elizabeth smiled at the older woman. Charlie complained that she was too nosy, but she knew Miss O’Leary was just lonely. “Thanks. We’re going to eat dinner together.”

“Wait,” Miss O’Leary said. “I’ll go get some cookies I just baked.”

A few minutes later, Charlie and Elizabeth sat at a small table, eating crispy bread topped with sesame seeds.

“Well, at least Savannah has good taste in food.” She took a bite of garlic potatoes. “The chicken in tomato sauce on top of potatoes is delicious.”

He smiled at her. “If you ever stop swimming, you’ll get fat.”

“That’s what I love about you. You’re so good with words.” She leaned over the table and wiped his chin with her napkin. “You had some sauce on you.”

“I’m glad you didn’t marry Bruce.”

“I couldn’t marry him. He doesn’t swim.”

“Should I put the move on you then? I’m your only real competition in the water.”

She rolled her blue eyes. “I don’t know. I think I might be the better swimmer.”

Charlie gave her a serious look. “Maybe we should date.”

“You said before that we should stay best friends.”

“When I moved in here, you were dating Bruce, and I was seeing Savannah. Things are different now. The whole time I was waiting for Savannah, I kept seeing your face.”
He paused for a moment. “I thought about how much fun we have together.”

“Don’t get a big head, but I missed you tonight.”

He extended his arm across the table and took her hand in his. “Let’s go to a movie tonight. It’ll be our first date.”

“Only if you promise to race me tomorrow in the pool. I can’t get fat now that we’re dating.”

They held hands during the movie, and he gave her a tender kiss before they left the theatre. When they got back to their high rise apartment building, they decided to eat Miss O’Leary’s cookies on Elizabeth’s balcony.

“I’m glad Savannah stood me up tonight.”

“Me too. I have some news. My job’s finally getting better. My boss told me today they want me to write the brochures for all the state parks.”

“Hey, that’s great. I bet you’re glad you didn’t quit now.”

She took another bite of cookie and remembered she had more news to share. “Bruce called tonight.”

“What did he want?”

“He wanted to know if I changed my mind about marrying him, and I told him it was over between us. He asked if we were dating. He accused me of leading him on when I was interested in you. He said that we did a lot together.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I said best friends enjoy doing stuff together,” she said.

“During the movie, I realized how much I love you.”

“I love you too. I can’t imagine life without you. That’s why I couldn’t marry Bruce.”

“When we make our wedding plans, I know the first person we should invite.”

It had to be the person who’d introduced them a year ago when Charlie moved in. “Miss O’Leary, the matchmaker?”

At his nod, she was glad that they thought alike, and swimming wasn’t the only thing they had in common.

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

Author Interview: Christine Clemetson

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Christine Clemetson, whose debut novel A Daughter’s Promise is available from The Wild Rose Press and which is soon to be available in print.

Christine told me that her dream of writing stories began to emerge when she was a child and would spend hours reading the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Their stories swept me away,” she said. “I wanted to write the kind of story that leaves the reader not wanting to put out the light at night.” She told me that she wrote her first story on lined paper when she was in the second grade. “Then I asked my Mom to staple the pages together in a booklet,” she recalled. “I read it out loud to my friends in a ‘stage’ setting. I knew then how happy it made me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!”

As an adult reader, she discovered authors like LuAnne Rice, Nora Roberts, and Mariah Stewart. “Their stories are rich in emotion,” she shared. “I’ve learned from reading these authors, that in order to evoke real emotion from the reader, you must feel that same emotion as you’re writing it.”

As a matter of fact, she’s recently read a book by LuAnne Rice called What Matters Most. “I started the book on a vacation,” she said. “The story grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go throughout the whole week. I won’t give away the plot, but I will say that if you want a story that tests the limits of love and devotion, this will do it. Rice’s style is so comfortable—the stories make you feel as if you were right in the room with the characters, experiencing what they do.”

Characters in books can be very powerful and one thing Christine has discovered through her own writing is how the characters can take charge and begin to tell you the stories. “Recently, I was writing a short story,” she told me, “and my heroine, Helen, stepped into my head and said, ‘Excuse me. I want to...’ And that was that. She became her own person. When that happens, it feels like you truly know the characters.

Christine shared with me, though, that one thing the characters don’t tell her is the title to their stories. So, she has to ask her family or friends to help her come up with a name. “My current book, A Daughter’s Promise, didn’t have a name until I was ready to submit it to a publisher for the first time,” she confessed.

Another confession from Christine is that she has a unique way of dealing with the problem of finding the exact word for a sentence. If she can’t find the exact one she needs, it’s simple. She just makes a word up. “I’ll turn a noun into a verb, or an adjective into an adverb, whatever fits the sentence or scene,” she told me. “I usually go by the sound. My critique partner had a good laugh over this. When I’m working on my final draft, I’ll see if these words fit. Usually, they don’t, so I have to re-think passages.”

On a personal note, I asked Christine if she’d ever eaten a crayon. Her answer was very appropriate, given the holiday season. “I’ve never eaten a crayon myself, although the beautiful colors in a new Crayola box are tempting!,” she said. “They resemble the colors of those twinkly lights you put on your Christmas tree—one of which my brother ate one when we were kids. Time stood frozen when he asked my father, ‘Hey Dad, what would happen if you ate a lightbulb from the Christmas tree?’ After a trip to the emergency room, we had a nice Christmas after all.”

She also admits to tearing up during movies. In fact, during her first date with her husband, he took her to see Rocky IV, where Apollo Creed is killed in the fight with Drago. “Since it was my first date,” she explained, “I didn’t want to cry, and even thought I tried to hide it, I couldn’t help myself. Nineteen years later, and we still laugh about that one!”

Christine definitely considers herself a night person, claiming “David Letterman and I have become great pals.” She also told me that Saturday Night Live is her favorite late night show.

She does have an interesting way of drinking soft drinks. She can tell the difference—prides herself on being able to distinguish between them, in fact—and prefers Coke hands-down. However, she told me, “It has to be warm. No refrigeration or ice before drinking.”

On a final note, I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer. “Keep writing and come up with a writing schedule,” she said, “even if you only get to jot down a few things in a day, or think about a scene or plot point. If you prioritize writing, it becomes a part of your routine, improves your craft, and moves you closer to your dream.”

You can keep up with Christine Clemetson on her website.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Article: You Don't Need To Be Perfect, But Your Writing Does 

by Dana Blozis

How to Proofread, Edit and Fact-Check Your Own Work  
 
Having written since I was a kid, I've met many authors, writers and journalists along the way. While we don't all fit the stereotype of the robed, sleepless, alcoholic writer hunched over a typewriter in the attic, we do have much in common. In addition to being the winners of spelling bees and hoarders of dictionaries and other books, we love words. We love to read them, hear them, speak them and write them. We love them to a fault.  
 
We must have the right words in the right place at the right time. And, perhaps more importantly, they must be written flawlessly. We won't accept typos, spelling errors or grammatical snafus, because mistakes interrupt the flow and the meaning of our words. As a result, we expect perfection and we don't tolerate errors from ourselves or others. This philosophy makes it difficult to be a writer at times, but we can't help ourselves. We are obsessed with perfection.  
 
Living this way can make it difficult to meet deadlines, however, as we await the ideal word, headline or introductory paragraph. Sometimes we must settle for less. Sometimes we even have to settle for pretty good. It's a harsh reality, but at some point, we have to complete our latest assignment or project and turn it in so we can get paid. We have to let go of the perfection we covet, because it isn't going to bless us with its presence today.  
 
Our editors, however, see it differently. They will expect perfection, not because they are masochists but because it makes their jobs easier. If our work is flawless, they have less to do. They can focus on another writer's work or planning their next issue or project. To endear ourselves to them (and to get more work), we must dutifully comply. The issue is trying to balance our desire to be perfect with the reality that we will never be. We can come close though by carefully proofreading, editing and fact-checking our work prior to submission. Here's how.  
 
Proofreading—checking for spelling, punctuation, grammatical and formatting errors—can be a tedious, cumbersome task, particularly when attempting to proof your own work, but it can be done. I usually proofread on my computer screen first, making edits as I go. When done, I print off a hard copy and go through line by line, reading out loud as I go. I find that I notice errors in print that I don't see on screen, and reading out loud helps me to find words that I've missed or used incorrectly (e.g., there instead of their). For really important assignments, I'll ask someone else to proof it as well. In fact, I have an editing buddy with whom I trade proofreading help. I have also tried reviewing the copy backwards and reviewing for a different item during each pass through the text. For example, the first time I read through it, I might focus on spelling, the next time on grammar, etc. Make sure you have your dictionary and grammar guide handy too during this stage.  
 
Editing. In addition to proofreading, I also copyedit my work, meaning I check for misplaced modifiers, review style, check for flow, etc. This process is more intense than proofreading and can take awhile. It is also difficult to do immediately after finishing an assignment, so I will set it aside until morning when I can look at it with "fresh eyes." Often major errors will jump off the page, begging to be corrected. During this phase, you'll need to have your handy stylebook out (AP, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.) to be sure that you've followed the appropriate guidelines for things like capitalization, numbers (figures versus text) and references.  
 
Fact-checking. Many publications, particularly magazines, will fact-check your work. In other words, they'll verify the spelling of proper names, check dates, key facts, website addresses, phone numbers and more. While publications often hire someone to do this task, by doing it yourself first, you can save the publication time and money, again making it easier to work with you. When I fact-check my writing, I first double-check the spelling of all names and places. I look at reference materials (brochures, bios, business cards, etc.) that I've been given, and I search online. If I am unsure, I'll phone the original source to confirm a spelling. I do the same thing with dates. For key facts, I do an Internet search, marking my source to either provide to the fact-checker up front or for my own reference should I be questioned later. This was particularly helpful when I wrote an article about a coal mine explosion in the early 1900s. My editor wanted to confirm that a particular mining town was second in size only to Seattle. Before she was willing to allow me to make that statement, she wanted verification.  
 
In spite of these techniques, we are human and it is still possible that an error will occasionally slip through the cracks. However, if you are diligent in your attempt to submit well-written, well-documented work without obvious errors, your editors and publishers will be more likely to turn to you rather than the other guy - you know who I mean - the writer who thinks he's brilliant but who can't spell his way out of a paper bag. Make sure you are the one they turn to for stellar, (nearly) flawless work.  
 
Happy Writing!  
  
Copyright (c) 2007 Dana Blozis

About The Author: Dana Blozis of Virtually Yourz is a freelance writer, editor and marketing based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publication, she writes, edits and markets for small businesses and nonprofits. To learn more about her services, visit http://www.virtuallyyourz.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Author Interview: Babe King

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The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Babe King. Babe lives in Tasmania, a tiny island beneath mainland Australia. She told me, “…locals reportedly have two heads—which are better than one, but can get expensive in hats.” One of her heads, in the persona of Babe, writes romantic comedy and suspense. Her other head, Lyndell King, writes inspirational stories where, she says, “my halo is superglued on.”

It’s obvious from just talking to her why Babe is known for her quirky sense of humor.

She shares home with a sometimes-there husband, two precocious boys, and a variety of creatures both domesticated and wild --though she claims no are as wild as her boys. As a matter of fact, one of the random questions I like to ask is “have you ever eaten a crayon?” Her response to this? “Not deliberately. I have two children. Boys. Stuff happens.”

One of Babe’s favorite authors is Janet Evanovitch. “For starters,” she said, “what a great name!!! Like giving your tongue bongo lessons. And what’s not to like about her most famous character, Stephanie Plum? Well, aside from the fact she can eat what she likes and not get fat, has the world’s two sexiest men vying to get into her bed despite forever having some goo in her hair and, let’s face it, she dances on the edge of slutdom with the way she handles the two of them. But hey. She loves hamsters and is constantly surrounded with wackjobs. Sheer inspired nuttiness.”
Babe’s own characters, Marian (from The Marian Kind) and Jane (Theft of the Golden Hooha, Babe’s current WIP) both have elements of “klutziness.” Babe told me, “I’ve always loved klutzy heroines. Probably because it’s a skill that comes naturally to me and which I practice on a pretty much daily basis.”

As a matter of fact, it’s characters like these two which drive Babe to write. When asked which came first, characters or plot, she was very definite. “For me, it’s always the characters,” she said. “And they won’t shut up! Honestly, it’s like living with the mother-in-law for weeks with her following you everywhere – even into the loo.”

I asked her to tell me a little bit about Theft of the Golden Hooha. “Think Stephanie Plum meets Charlie’s Angels,” she said, “with a fork and spoon fight thrown in for good measure. Not to mention an Alabama hog farm and a semi-bondage scene with the owner of a top NYC hotel. Woohoo!”

She also told me she first considered herself a writer “When I started to write.” Then she added, “Is this a trick question? And no, I haven’t heard one hand clapping or trees falling in the forest. I need more coffee to solve profound conundrums such as these.”

One of the “fun” questions I ask in these interviews is “Do you really really want a dog?” Babe gave a completely new spin on the question. “So, do I want to be a dog….
Hmm, a tough one. If you believe my husband, I have the breath for it some mornings. And I do love a good tummy rub. Definitely a dinner dish always full kind of dog, though. And not a poodle, either. I mean really! Those pompom doos are soooo seventies. Don’t even get me started on shaving your butt…”

I reminded her of the original question. “Oh, WANT a dog? Sheesh! I thought it was WANT TO BE A DOG? I own a pound-puppy Rottweiler. She is featured in my short story, Bloodlines and Heartstrings, which was chosen to lead the Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers anthology that came out in August.”

When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
Yikes! Quickly followed by, “Boy, did YOU have a rough night!”

What were you doing at midnight last night?

I have kids and I’m a writer – ‘nuff said. I was writing until about 2 am, then slobbering sweet nothings into my pillow and mussing my hair. I do remember going out past midnight. B.C. –before children. Sadly, my back goes out more than I do these days.

If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?

World peace. I’ve wanted to say that ever since Gracie-Lou Freebush, though harsher gun laws would be good, too.

My website is still under construction because my web designer, Jodici ( who does a FANTASTIC job!!!) is battling with my indecisive nature – well, aside from the flying pigs which were a natural fit. BUT you can catch me at my blog several times a week. I’d love to see you there. I have a couple of reader competitions going on there, too.

In closing, I asked Babe if she had any words of advice for us. “Bite off more than you can chew, then chew like mad! Great way to freak yourself out and to meet dentists.”

Be sure and check out Babe's Website.

Her latest book, The Marian Kind” is now available from Freya’s Bower.

Read Excerpt or Buy Here!

"Set yourself up for a fun ride! ...... excellent one-liners that made me laugh out loud. A breath of fresh air, The Marian Kind is a must read for all romantic comedy readers." Cocktail Reviews
“…had me wheezing for breath I was laughing so hard.” Coffee Time Romance

"Clever descriptions offer a bit of a giggle in between fast action scenes (the love interest is compared to an array of fresh-from-the bakery delights) and the romance sizzles all the way through. The Marian Kind by Babe King is a quick read because it simply won't allow the reader to step away." Read the entire review of "The Marion Kind" at The Long and the Short of It!