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Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Savored Moment by Arvid Saunaitis

An hour before sunset, Julie and Doug arrived at the dock carrying a beach bag with a bottle of wine, two wine glasses and cheese and crackers. The boat’s crew was getting ready for departure and they sat down on the bench to wait. Without a word, Julie stood up, walked over to the dock’s railing and with her head raised high and eyes closed, stood there enjoying the ocean breeze. Doug remained on the bench and admired the way the wind made her dress press up against her nicely shaped figure. As her long silky hair flew in all directions, Doug’s eyes scanned every inch of her storing the images in his long term memory.

After a while, Doug lay back on the bench, closed his eyes and recalled the first time he saw her. He remembered the first time they made love and how quickly the intense delight was ripped away by the awful banging on the door and her horrifying words, “It’s my ex! Quick! Put your clothes on and leave!”

“Call the cops!” he remembered whispering.

“My ex is a hit man for the mob.”

“We’re on the 22nd floor; how am I supposed to get out?”

“My friend lives right below. I have long extension cords that you can use to climb down to her balcony. She’s not home and I have a set of keys.” When the loud banging on the front door changed to an attempt to break it down, Doug could hear his heart pounding in his ears and feel adrenaline flowing in his veins. He took a deep breath and was startled by Julie’s gentle touch that snapped him back to reality.

“Doug, are you all right?” she asked and kissed the nape of his neck. Doug immediately got up from the bench, pulled her to him and she slipped into his arms. After he noticed that everyone was beginning to board the boat he said, “Why don’t we go?”

The sailboat was forty feet in length and plenty big enough to provide choice seating for the small group of passengers aboard. The two-hour cruise brought them within a few feet of dolphins that were cresting in the wake near the bow of the boat and since there was no sound from the motor, they could hear their high-pitched sounds. As they watched the spectacular sunset, every worry they previously had seemed trivial. Then Julie looked into Doug’s eyes and said, “Can we go sit on the deck in front of the boat? We need to talk.”

"Sure," Doug answered, knowing exactly what this was all about. After they made themselves comfortable, she looked into his eyes and said, "Remember the conversation we had following the ugly incident at my condo? I told you that I care too much about you to let anything happen to you. I realized we can't see each other any more, but I didn't want to end our relationship with such an ugly image of what happened that night. Tonight, after we replace the ugly images with a new memory we can keep in our hearts, as soon as we step off this boat, it’s farewell, Doug. I wish there was someplace we could go to start new lives, but the truth of the matter is, he’ll find us no matter were we go.” With eyes full of tears, she placed her fingers over his lips when he tried to reply and gave him a big hug.

Doug sat quietly for a moment and than with a sad look spoke, “There has to be something we can do to change things.”

“I don’t think so, Doug. You see, I sold my soul to the devil a long time ago and now there is no way out.”

Doug stared at the fading light glowing in her hair for a moment, kissed her bare shoulder and said, “The harsh reality can wait until we’re ready to face it. Let’s just saver this precious moment for as long as it lasts.” Then he gently kissed her lips and continued, “Sunsets are so precious and beautiful, aren’t they? No two are exactly the same. We need to saver this one because it’s so perfect. We really only have a few moments to enjoy its beauty before it slips away forever, you know?”

Julie gave him a hug and with tears in her eyes said, “I wish we could die together just to come back to meet again under different circumstances.”

“Do you believe in happy endings Julie?”

“Endings are never happy. It’s only the happy moments along the way that we can truly enjoy. After we get off this boat, we have no choice but to walk away in opposite directions.”

“I know, but there’s no reason we can’t stay optimistic. As all good things come to an end, so do the bad things,” Doug countered and gazed into the distance.

By the time they got back to shore, the sun had already disappeared into the ocean and the moon had taken over the night. After they stepped off the boat and passed the bench they were sitting on earlier, Doug spotted a newspaper. The front page caught his eye. He immediately stopped, snatched the paper up and with urgency started reading:

“Armed with a search warrant, Federal agents swarmed a warehouse belonging to an organized crime group and using blowtorches took down metal doors. Inside the warehouse facility, a shootout between law enforcement officials and suspected mob figures took place resulting in the deaths of several gunmen. One of the mob figures killed in the shootout was the notorious hit man, Tony Rossi, who’s believed to be responsible for at least nine contract killings.”

Immediately, Doug became overwhelmed with joy and glanced up expecting Julie to still be there. Not seeing her, with the newspaper clutched in a death grip, he started looking for her in the crowd and then decided to run to the street where the cab dropped them off.

Out of breath, he made it to the street and spotted her hailing a cab. Before he could shout out her name, she opened the cabs door and climbed in. Without a moment to lose, he dashed toward the cab, threw himself in front of it, banged on the hood and stepped back holding the newspaper high in the air. He slowly walked by her door, opened it and showed her the front page. Then with a big smile on his face said, "Like I said before, as all good things come to an end, so do the bad things."

About the Author: About the Author: Arvid Saunaitis is the inventor of the Snap on Teeth appliance that was televised in US and abroad. He also has written and had articles published in dental journals and his letters to the editor were published in two Chicago’s top newspapers. He recently completed a 121,000 word crime fiction story that provides a literary feast of suspense, mystery and drama. Deadly Coincidence also has a twist of humor and the characters with concise and witty remarks draw the reader into the underworld of a contemporary mafia. He is looking to have the novel published.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Author Interview: Lanaia Lee

The Long and the Short of It is happy to welcome Lanaia Lee. Lanaia told me she first got interested in writing when her husband dared her to write a poem. She received some positive feedback when she posted it to some online poetry forums, which encouraged her to continue writing.

She admits most of her work is dark. She credits this partly to her grandmother, “a self-professed black witch,” according to Lanaia, who raised her from the time she was eight. “I guess being raised with the occult and supernatural explains why I have such a knack for dark poetry,” she said. She also has been greatly influenced by Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie who, she said, “should be considered as part of the elite greats.”

People have told Lanaia, she shared with me, that even though she’s only been writing five years, she’s come very far in her writing. She told me, “With writing, when you are finished you are looking at a work of art. Writing, to be good, really good, has to come from someone’s heart and soul.”

Lanaia has had no formal training in writing. However, she told me “When the only thing that clouded my mind was writing, it dawned on me my destiny was to be a writer.” She has been compared to a combination of Robert Browning and Edgar Allan Poe.

Lanaia has gone through a lot in the last twenty years. She’s a stroke survivor and suffers from erratic hypertension. Because of her experiences, she told me, “There’s only one saying I consider to be a favorite: when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

She and her husband of ten years have no living children, but they do share their lives with Jack, their Jack Russell terrier, who Lanaia calls her “baby and constant companion.” She told me, “Jack has a distinct personality of his own. If I could, I would adopt every stray out there.”

I asked her if she could have anything she wanted what it would be. “If I could have anything I wanted,” she said, “it would be a successful career in writing. I have writing on the brain.”

You can keep up with Lanaia Lee on her website.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Balloons and Baboons by Judy Thomas

“Mommy, I want to see the monkeys!” My four-year-old, Gloria, tugged at my hand as I stopped to put my wallet back in my purse.

“Let me just tie this balloon on your wrist,” I said, stooping down beside her. “That way it won’t get lost and I’ll also be able to see you better. There...how do you like that?”

Gloria looked up at the bright blue orb bobbing above her. The laughter shining in her eyes lightened my heart. Even though money was tight, this outing was something we both needed.
She turned her attention from the balloon and, with the single-mindedness of a preschooler, said, “Monkeys now?”

Laughing, I relented. “Okay. Monkeys first, but then it will be my turn to pick.”

I glanced at the map I’d picked up at the ticket office and turned down the path indicated. The monkey exhibit, on the right, had drawn a large group of spectators. A baboon lumbered closer to the fence and stopped in front of a man and little girl.

“Mommy, it’s Jill. Can I go see her?”

Gloria pointed at a child I recognized from her preschool class, however I’d never seen the man holding her hand. But then, I normally picked Gloria up early, so it wasn’t strange I’d not met Jill’s father.

As we stepped up beside them, the baboon in front of Jill and her dad made a silly face. Jill laughed and the noise made the baboon growl. Without warning, it pursed its lips and spat. A glob of spittle landed right on the man’s face.

Jill and Gloria both yelled, “Ewww” and backed away from the fence. I dug in my purse for the tissues and hand sanitizer I always carried, biting my lip to hold back the giggles welling up. I did not even know this man. No way was I going to laugh at him!

Without a word, I held the tissue out and he took it. Once our gaze met, however, all my good intentions flew right out the window and I couldn’t hold back the laughter one minute more. His lips twitched as he wiped his face and I couldn’t help but notice the dimple at the corner of his mouth. Both Jill and Gloria looked up at us, joining in the laughter.

“That was pretty...um...” I paused, searching for the right word.

“Icky?” he suggested, as he threw the tissue in a nearby trashcan and accepted the hand sanitizer I held out.

“Yeah....icky is a pretty accurate description.” I held out my hand when he was finished. “I’m Jenny, Gloria’s mother. I think our daughters are in preschool together over at Miss Daisy’s Darlings.”

“I’m Stone.” He shook my hand and smiled down at me. “I’ve heard Jill talk about Gloria. It’s good to finally meet you. My mom—she normally picks up Jill—had told me we needed to try to arrange a playdate between them sometime.”

I noticed he didn’t release my hand, and I let him keep it. His touch sent little tingles of awareness from my fingertips to my toes. “They’re apparently all but inseparable at school, so I’m certain Gloria would love that. Have your w-wife,” I stuttered over the word, realizing I had been flirting with a married man and tugged my hand away and cleared my throat to start over. “Have your wife call me and we’ll set up a time one Saturday.”

His face clouded over. “Jill doesn’t have a mom...well, at least not one around here. She left when Jill was a baby.”

“I’m sorry.” I knew the inadequacy of the words, but what else could I say? I couldn’t understand how a woman could leave her child. But then, how did that old adage go about walking in someone else’s shoes? Anyway, at least I didn’t have to feel guilt over the attraction I was feeling.

He forced a smile that didn’t quite reach his blue eyes. “Thanks, but it was a long time ago and my mom does a good job taking care of us. So,” he said in an obvious attempt to change the subject, “have you two been here long?”

“Actually, no. Gloria insisted the monkeys be our first stop.” I glanced over at our daughters, a fair head and a dark one pushed close together. They giggled and pointed at the monkeys’ antics. I couldn’t help but smile at their obvious joy.

“Ours too. Would you...” His voice trailed off.

“What?” My heart had sped up with his words.

“I was just going to ask if you wanted to walk around the zoo together. I think the girls would like it. That is, if you think your...husband wouldn’t mind.”

I smiled. Was there the slightest lifting of his voice on the word ‘husband’?

“I’m a single mom and, let me ask Gloria. After all, I told her this was her day.”

I stooped down beside the girls and asked, “Gloria, Mr. Stone, Jill’s daddy, wants to know if we would like to see the zoo with them. What do you think?”

The smiles that wreathed both girls’ faces answered the question.

I looked back up at Stone. “I guess the answer is yes,” I said.

The afternoon rushed by. Stone treated us all to ice cream and the tissues and hand sanitizer again came to the rescue when the girls got more ice cream on their faces than in their mouths.

As evening drew near and the girls grew tired, we found a bench to rest on.

“This has been fun,” I told him. “I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.”

“I’ve really enjoyed it too.” He paused. “I know this might be kind of sudden, but... do you think we could see each other again some time?”

My heart leaped to my throat, and I had to struggle to speak over the thrill I felt at his suggestion. “Sure.” I glanced down at both small heads resting on my lap. “I know the girls would love it. Gloria’s had such a good time today.”

“Well... I was kind of thinking maybe they could watch a movie at my mom’s one night. And, then, you can I could have an adult meal together. I’ve been wanting to try that new Italian place that just opened up.”

I brushed the hair back from his daughter’s face and then my own.

“I think I would like that very much,” I said.

About the Author: Judy Thomas is a writer, editor, co-owner of a website, wife, mom, and amateur photographer. She and her husband also own a tree and stump removal company. In her spare time, she thinks about cleaning the house. You can hang out with her at her blog: http://jhthomas.blogspot.com .

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Author Interview: Naomi Chapman

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Naomi Chapman. Naomi is a single mom living in her home town of Fostoria, Ohio, with a three year old. She’s a college student, works at a local hotel, and still finds time to have three books published. Her books, Wallet of Death, The Digby Lake Killer, and Secret Past are all thrillers and she’s currently working on another one, County Road 13.

Naomi told me she can’t remember a time she wasn’t interested in writing. “I just remember sitting in church writing short stories,” she said, “and sitting at school writing. It’s just something I have always loved to do and kept doing.”

“I'm always working on something,” she told me. “I'm always writing. I was sitting in the parking lot at work when I got off one morning waiting for my truck to warm up and I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down some notes about some lady walking to her car at night in a deserted parking lot.” One day, those notes might become part of one of her next stories.

By the time Naomi had graduated high school, she had written about 70 stories. Unfortunately, after her mom’s death, she threw them away and didn’t begin writing again until just before her son was born. “I probably have 20 written now,” she said.

Her mom’s death was one of the hardest things she’s had to go through and if she could erase any experience from her past, that would be it. “The worse thing in the world,” she shared with me, “was watching my mom die of cancer and not being able to do anything to take the pain away.”

Naomi is very involved in her local writers group, ANN, Authors of Novels and Narratives and is also a member of the International Writer’s Association. She told me, “In October 2007 I worked with some local authors to organize the Autumn Book Festival in Fostoria. I will again be working to organize the 2008 Autumn Book Festival which we are hoping will be bigger and better than the first.”

Although she admits she will probably live the rest of her life in her hometown of Fostoria, she told me that one of her dreams was to live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Oh, and to get a hippo for Christmas, since that’s her favorite animal.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lock on Her Heart  by Judy Thomas

“Darn it!” Tori jiggled her key in the lock for the fourteenth time and nothing. She was still on the outside of the door and the ringing phone was on the inside. She took a deep breath and let it out while counting to ten. Even slow breathing didn’t help. Tears pricked her eyes as this straw fell on her camel's back. All day long, anything that could go wrong... did go wrong. And, the fact she was going to have to break down and call a locksmith... a locksmith she couldn’t afford... at eight o’clock at night was nearly too much to handle.

She looked up and down the hall wondering which of her neighbors might be home. Since she’d moved into the condo her grandmother had left her, she’d been too busy to meet any of them. She barely saw them enough to nod to in the elevator. Why hadn’t she given in when her best friend told her she really needed to buy a cell phone—even just one of those prepaid kinds? She wouldn’t be in this predicament now. She could just call Sandye and have her come to get her.

Figuring she might as well get started, she turned her back on the hateful door and its hateful lock and rapped on the door across the hall. Dead silence. Not even a scurry of anyone on the other side looking through the security peep hole. With a sigh, she went to the next door down and knocked.

After several long moments, the door cracked open, its security chain in place. A watery blue eye peered out at Tori.

“Yes?” A soft, wavering voice nearly breathed out the words.

“Hi. I’m so sorry to be bothering you so late, but I live in 2-C...”

The chain slipped out of its socket and the door swung open. “You must be young Tori. Come in, come in.” A small, white-haired woman stepped back from the door. “I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you right away. Your grandmother was one of my dearest friends. I really should have come over before now to introduce myself.”

The flow of words washed over Tori like a flood. Well, she wanted to borrow a phone and surely there was one somewhere here. Her gaze swept the living room to see pictures, and cats, on nearly every surface.

“Don’t mind the cats, dearie,” the woman said, almost as if she were reading Tori’s mind. “Just sit anywhere. Push them off if they won’t move. Stubborn creatures.”

“I was just wondering if I could borrow your phone to call a locksmith, Mrs....” Tori’s voice trailed off as she realized she didn’t know the woman’s name.

“Oh, just call me Mattie. Everyone does.” She bustled around, brushing cats off chairs, then turned back to Tori. “So, Florence never got that lock worked on. I told her she should let my Marvin take care of it for her, but she was as stubborn as these cats. Never wanted help.”

Marvin? Tori bit her lip to stop from smiling at the old-fashioned name. “Is...Marvin a locksmith?”

Mattie looked at her, surprise on her face. “Why, of course not, dear. Marvin is my grandson.”

Tori blinked. Was she so tired and stressed that she wasn’t following the conversation or was Mattie just not making sense?

“Let me call him and then I’ll get us a nice cup of tea while we’re waiting. He’s a good boy. He works on clocks, you know.”

While Mattie dialed and spoke softly on the phone, Tori put her hand to her forehead and tried to think of a way to extricate herself from this mess. She should just borrow the phone, call Sandye and worry about the locksmith tomorrow.

Mattie turned back from the phone and said, “It’s settled. He will be right here. Isn’t it nice that he lives in our building?” She bustled into the kitchen and continued to talk over the bar as she put water on to boil. “I really think my daughter... you know, Marvin’s mother, put him up to moving here after I fell. Just in case. They think I can’t take care of myself you know. After all, what single man would want to live in the same building with his grandmother otherwise?”

Tori was beginning to think Mattie’s family was right. “I hate to bother your grandson. I can just call my friend and worry about the locksmith tomorrow.”

“Oh, no worries. Like I said, he’s here in the building and there’s no use in you spending money when Marvin can take care of things. Why, Marvin is just a marvel...”

A knock at the door broke into her reveries, thankfully before Tori could laugh at the image of a marvelous Marvin. Why, Mattie made him sound like a superhero.

To Tori’s amazement, the man who came through the door when Mattie opened it could have passed as a superhero. Tall, dark-haired, with blue eyes he must have gotten from his grandmother...except his weren’t watered by age, but were clear and direct. In his hand, he held a box with a new lock and knob set.

He smiled and followed her gaze down to his hand. “Grandma had me pick this up ages ago, when Mrs. Huddleston first started having lock problems. She knew it was only a matter of time. You must be the Tori I’ve heard so much about.” He held out his free hand.

Tori blushed at the openly admiring look he gave her as his larger hand enveloped Tori’s. The warmth of his hand filtered to her chest. Okay, so he was good-looking. But...

“And you must be...”

“Please don’t say it. Only my grandmother uses my first name. Please, call me Stephen.”

“Stephen,” she agreed. “And...you work with clocks?” She wondered how much more of what Mattie had said was, in fact, factual.

He shot his grandmother a fond look. “I played around with them when I was in college. I don’t have time now. I’m a lawyer. But, why don’t I get this new lock put in?” Tori followed him down the hall and watched as he jiggled the key with as much success as she had had.

“Yep,” he said, handing her back her key. “I think you are past due for a new lock. The problem is...we have to get you inside somehow.”

“Well, why can’t you just take this one out?”

“Locks are designed to only be removed from the inside. It’s kind of a safety thing.”

She looked at his grin and then said, “Oh.” Well, that made sense.

“I thought this might be a problem... Grandma wasn’t very clear... so I brought some graphite just in case. We can probably get you in, but this lock definitely needs to be changed out tonight.”
With a sigh, she said, “Let’s do it.”

True to his word, within a few minutes after spraying the graphite into the keyhole, he was able to get the door open. Replacing the lock took a bit longer. After about half an hour of laughing, looking for the right size screwdrivers, and—much to Tori’s delight —a lot of flirting, Stephen finally handed her the new keys with a flourish.

“I don’t know how I can ever repay you,” Tori said.

“I do.” He grinned. “I don’t know about you, but I’m famished. Let me take you out for a sandwich, and we’ll call it even.”

About the Author: Judy Thomas is a writer, editor, co-owner of a website, wife, mom, and amateur photographer. She and her husband also own a tree and stump removal company. In her spare time, she thinks about cleaning the house. You can hang out with her at her blog: http://jhthomas.blogspot.com .

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Author Interview: Suzanne Francis

The Long and the Short of It is excited to welcome Suzanne Francis with us this week. Suzanne, who describes herself as “an aging hippie,” is the author of Heart of Hythea and Ketha’s Daughter, the first two books in The Song of the Arkafina series, available now. The third book, Dawnmaid, should be available soon. Suzanne and her family live in New Zealand, where she is putting the finishing touches on the fourth book of the series, Beyond the Gyre. If you’ve read Heart of Hythea, she promises that this final book wraps up most of the storylines she began in it. She told me, “I plan to carry a few of the characters forward into the next series, which might be called The Sons of the Mariner.”

I asked Suzanne what were some of the most important elements of good writing. “I think the craft of writing,” she said, “is mostly just putting in time and effort. If you read something that has been hastily written it will certainly show through inadequately developed characters, incomplete settings, and poor sentence structure. There is just no substitute for careful writing and even more careful editing.”

Most of Suzanne’s plot development takes place, she told me, when she’s on a walk or in bed. “I just keep chewing at things in my mind until I have something I am happy with. Then I go and write it all down.”

She admitted to me, though, that some of the things she writes also make her cry, even if they are best for the book. “I recently had to say goodbye to one guy who had been with me for three books,” she confessed. “It made me cry big time. It can be very upsetting when bad things happen to the characters I love.”

Her books, though, aren’t the only time she cries. “Disney movies get me every time,” she told me. “You can’t imagine how embarrassing it is to be the only adult blubbering at a movie like ‘Brother Bear.’”

Suzanne told me that she’s learned to write with the television in the background, because she likes being in the main living space of the house. Being so close to the rest of the family helps her feel less isolated when she is working. She told me, “I have a HUGE desk in the corner of the living room. It is covered in meaningful bits and pieces of mine: a scrimshawed whale tooth, a statue of Ganesh, a wooden Puffin, plants, candles and candle holders, incense, books, notebooks, and a picture of my grandmother, Edith.”

She writes on a laptop so if she goes out of town she can take her work with her. In fact, she said, “I could have never been a novelist before word processing was invented.” Why? “People say my handwriting is shockingly bad,” she said. “I mix cursive and printed letters together—sometimes using both forms of a letter in the same word. It’s supposed to mean I’m indecisive, which isn’t actually true.”

When she first started writing, she set herself a goal of five thousand words a day. “When I read some of the early stuff I wrote, I cringe. I had quantity, but certainly not quality. Now I feel good if I do a thousand, but I have to do much less revision down the line.”

And, for fun, I asked Suzanne what the strangest thing she’d ever eaten was. “Chili-Chocolate Ice Cream,” she said. “It was spicy hot and delicious.”

You can keep up with Suzanne on her blog: http://suzannefrancis.wordpress.com/ .

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Author Interview: Cindy Green

The Long and the Short of It is excited to welcome Cindy Green, multi-published author of the just released Meeting Mr. Right On-line, from By Grace Publishing. Although Cindy is a California native, she now lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young sons. She’s a former junior high teacher, but now homeschools her two boys. She told me she that, coming from California, thunderstorms are a new experience for her. “We just don’t get real thunder and lightning storms in California,” she said. “In 2005, we moved to North Carolina and I have had to get used to the terrific storms we have here. I really do enjoy them, as odd as it sounds. The house begins to shake, the crackle of lightning sounds outside the window. It’s great!!”

Cindy keeps herself busy, not only with homeschooling and writing, but she also loves reading, photography, Period Drama, scrapbooking, and spending time with family. And her writing is just as varied as her life is! She writes contemporary, suspense, inspirational, and historical – from sweet to sensual. She told me that even though she doesn’t cry at movies often, there are some period dramas that make her tear up. “Becoming Jane, Persuasion (2007), North and South (2004). Great films,” she said.

Cindy’s undergraduate degree is in history, so writing historical novels shouldn’t surprise anyone. She has yet to publish one, although she has several started. “I finally decided to remedy that,” she told me. “I began writing a historical short story about 12,000 words called a Lady’s Dilemma. It takes place post-Civil War—about six months after the end of the war, August 1865. Here is a bit of a blurb:

Cassandra Huddleston has a dilemma. Her heart still resides with her sweetheart, Frederick Adair, recently killed in action at the close of the Civil War. Now she has a new suitor, Mr. Emerson Bryce. Powerful, attractive, and dominant, he usually gets what he wants. Cassandra must decide if she can forget the man of her heart and learn to love the man offering her a future.

But what if Frederick’s death has been greatly exaggerated and Emerson isn’t ready to let Cassandra go?

“This is a story that definitely evolved as I wrote it,” she continued. “I began thinking this was going to be a simple, one scene, 2,000 word story and it became something much more. It is emotional and even melancholy at times which I believe really sets the tone for this time period. My critique partner on this story suggested I write a sequel with the antagonist as the hero. The idea set the wheels spinning in my head and I am working on this one now.”

You can see evidence of her history background even in her contemporary works. For example, in her full-length inspirational, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Your Wedding, her main character is Kari Montgomery, a history professor. “Kari is a hurting soul,” Cindy said, “In the last year, she has lost her mother and had her engagement broken off. Now her closest friend and relative has gotten married and moved away. She feels very alone and she has a lot of issues to work through. Instead of giving it to God, she tries to just take it all on her own. In steps Randy Steele. Kari is taken with Randy from the beginning – he makes her forget all her worries, but instead of embracing the friendship she pushes him away.

“Randy Steele has a fun-loving personality and a sensitive spirit. He comes from an affluent family. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer but Randy felt called into the ministry. After finishing his pre-law degree, he went against his father and attended seminary instead of law school, cutting himself off from him parents as a result. But Randy doesn’t let that get him down. He maintains a good relationship with his younger sister who is nine years his junior. Now, he is a youth pastor at a small church and he loves it…but there is that issue of reaching his parents. He is enamored of Kari from the beginning. The more time he spends with her, the more he is convinced she is the woman God has sent to spend the rest of his life with. Unfortunately just as they begin to get close, Kari begins to push him away. But through events beyond their control, maybe they will end up happy after all.”

As you might gather from what Cindy has already told us, she confessed to me that she is quite character driven. But still “I do start with a plot idea first,” she said. “I decide on my genre, come up with a basic plot idea and then I begin creating characters that will bring that plot idea to life. But then once the writing begins, the characters really do take over from the plot. It is their story after all.”

Her favorite author, Jane Austen, was also character driven. Cindy told me, “Jane Austen created characters we can laugh at, despise, and fall in love with. As a writer, I appreciate all she accomplished in her books and they continue to inspire me to this very day. If I need a pick me up, I just open one of her novels and I am refreshed to continue on with whatever I am working on. I think it is a sad thing Jane died so young (41). I often wonder what gems of brilliance and inspiration she never had a chance to pen.”

Cindy’s love of Jane Austen’s works started at an early age, since she was in the eighth grade when she read her Austen, Pride and Prejudice. I wouldn’t want to challenge Cindy is an Austin trivia contest, as she confessed to having not only several copies of Austin’s six novels on her bookshelf, but she also has them all in e-book format on her Palm Pilot, “so they are with me wherever I go.” She also has Austin’s Juvenilia and Sandition, her unfinished novel. And then there are the spin off novels, such as Darcy’s Story by Janet Alymer, which Cindy mentioned she was reading. And, lest you think she limits her Austin to the written word, she also has all the film adaptations as well.

Her Palm Pilot also comes in handy, not only to read her favorite books anytime she wants, but also as a writing tool. She told me that even in bed, she uses it to work on story ideas sometimes in the dark while her husband sleeps.

And, finally, for a fun thing... I asked Cindy if she could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. “Most definitely!!” she said. “I am a Coke addict. And no diet drinks for me, thank you very much! This addiction began in my adult life after I began teaching. I shared a two room building with another middle school teacher who absolutely loved Coke and I started drinking it too. Six years later, I can’t get enough of it.”

If you want to read more about Cindy and her books, visit her at her website.