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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Match Maker by Aithne Jarretta 

Fiona gripped the edges of the antique portrait, heart racing with painful intensity. Owner of Precious Mementos, a sea-side antique shop, she had seen many odd and interesting objects in her line of work. “Who are you?” she asked the young woman looking at her with a face similar to her own.

“Great-grandma Margie,” a masculine voice answered.

She fumbled the portrait and turned. Jeez! This guy is hotter than Brad Pitt! She couldn’t breathe.

He stood on the other side of her counter. “Actually, she’s the reason I’m here. Her portrait wasn’t supposed to be included—” He stopped speaking and stared.

Fiona gulped.

“I was hoping I could get her back? Aunt Nancy put her into the ‘sell’ group because of an old family grudge.”

“You’re Mr. Vaughn?”

“Yes. Alexander Vaughn. Is it too late?” He glanced at the counter where great-grandma rested. “You haven’t sold her yet, have you?”

“No. In fact, she hasn’t been processed though my system. I was just…umm…”

“Is there something wrong?”

“You don’t see it?” Fiona asked and pushed aside the idea she was totally invisible to this sexy hunk.

Brows puckered into a frown, he shook his head.

“Humph!” She raised her hands, pulled long curls up and gave them a twist. Annoyance peaking, Fiona tilted her chin, turned to the light and pointed to her face. “What about now?”

He studied her closely. “Well isn’t that interesting? Are you a long lost cousin?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Do you believe in reincarnation?”

“Never did before. I have to admit; now I’m curious.”

Alexander stepped closer. “So does this mean you’ve become attached to my great-grandma and I’ll have to buy her back from you? For a profit, of course.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Fiona answered, gaze dropping to the portrait. She didn’t know why, but her heartstrings tugged when she met deep-set blue eyes. “It is your portrait. I haven’t given the estate a check yet because everything hasn’t been appraised and catalogued.”

“Wonderful.” He looked relieved and reached for the gold hilt frame.

She pulled the portrait toward her. “Tell me why.” The look on his face made her laugh. Slightly embarrassed by her sudden amusement at his surprise, she changed tactics. “Is there a hidden treasure map behind her?” she asked, caressing the broad antique frame. “Or maybe the frame is hollow and holds a fortune in loose diamonds?”

Realization dawned across handsome features. “Diamonds?” he asked, teasing. “Fascinating idea. Perhaps I’ll have her x-rayed when I get her home.”

“X-rayed? You’re avoiding my question, Mister Vaughn.”

“The one about a treasure map?”

The bell jangled over the door. “Fiona—”

Fiona suddenly realized there had been no tinkling warning when he arrived.

“Oh my, who do we have here?” Star, her best friend, eyed him and moved closer with slinky sexiness. “Hey doll, can I buy you?”

“I’m sorry, Mister Vaughn. Star’s recently divorced and thinks all men are toys.”

“Well, aren’t they?”

“That’s quite all right, been there before and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. In fact, if you’re really interested, I’m one of the bachelors in an auction on Friday the thirteenth. Proceeds go to breast cancer research.”

“An angel and delectable,” Star said.

“Star!” Being in the same room with her friend often made her feel horribly invisible. “Please wait in the backroom. We have much to do. Open house is Sunday and we’re swamped with this new estate acquisition.”

Star pouted, but moved toward the door behind the counter. “Later, doll. I’ll try to make the auction.”

Fiona waved her away. “Please forgive her, Mister Vaughn. Ever since her divorce I swear she’s a bit insane.”

“Alex. And you’re wrong, you know.”

“Excuse me?” she asked, looking him in the eye.

“Please call me Alex.”

Heat rushed up her neck and across her cheeks. “All right,” she answered, picking up the portrait. “Alex, are you going to answer my question?”

“Only when you admit you’re wrong.”

“About what?”

He nodded toward the door. “You don’t disappear when your friend Star walks into the room. In fact, she doesn’t hold a candle to you.”

She clutched the portrait to her chest, wishing she could hide behind it. Denial when faced with this new acquaintance mounted. “That’s absurd.”

“So we’re at an impasse. You won’t admit you’re beautiful and sexy and I won’t divulge the portrait’s secret. What’s next? A romantic dinner for two? Saturday night? Seven-thirty?” He placed his hands on the glass countertop and leaned forward, holding her gaze in a tight embrace.

“You think I’m beautiful?”

“Yes.”

“Asking me for a date isn’t a joke?”

“No. Are we on?”

The portrait, still clutched to her chest, warmed under her touch. The heat spread into her heart. Fiona was positive she stood above the floor on cloud nine. “What’s the secret?”

“Is it a date?”

“Yes.”

“Are you invisible?”

Could she hold the portrait any tighter? Moments of silent anticipation spread between them. “No,” she said, allowing the small word to escape her lips on a soft breath. “Will you tell me the secret?”

He leaned in, nearly close enough for a quick kiss. “Great-grandma Margie was a gifted clairvoyant. She lived to be one hundred. Before she died, she told me that her portrait would show me my heart. I was six—thought she was just telling me a story.”

Fiona lessoned her hold on the portrait and placed it on the counter. “Oh… that explains the strange connection I feel, but—”

“We should at least give it a chance.”

“I agree.”

“So Saturday? I’ll pick you up at seven-thirty.”

“I’ll be here,” she said handing him great-grandma Margie.

“See you then.” He turned, strode to the door where he paused, and looked back. “I can hardly wait.”

Fiona stared, speechless.

Great-grandma Margie, held under Alex’s arm, gave her an ear wide smile—one that had not been there before.


“Fiona?”

Heart racing, she answered, “Me, either.”


About the Author: Aithne Jarretta, born in Akron, Ohio now lives in Florida under sunny skies surrounded by tropical beauty and gentle gulf breezes. She is a mother of two grown sons and a graduate of Walsh University, North Canton, Ohio. You can visit Aithne at her website, http://www.aithnejarretta.com

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Author Interview: Marsha Hubbard-Norton

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to have Marsha Hubbard-Norton with us this week. Marsha was born in a small town in Oklahoma and has been writing since she was twelve. Her twenty-one year old aunt used to read the old Harlequins, and Marsha would write the same sort of love stories. She received degrees in journalism, marketing and management, and counseling. She worked for the state of Oklahoma for five years before she left to pursue her dream of writing. The mother of two and grandmother of three, she currently lives in Del City, Oklahoma with her significant other.

She told me she works on several things at one time, because “I am a writer who seems to have so much flowing through her brain.” The latest things she is working on is a paranormal romance and a non-fiction about the city she lives in. “The most important thing is starting my own publishing company where I will publish under my own ISBN and company name.”

She and her grandson were talking late one night. She had just come back to Oklahoma after travelling fifty-two hours and he was a sleepless five-year-old. “I saw a picture of some flowers and a little monkey came to my mind and so I told him the story of a little monkey who could fit in his hand. The next week I wrote it up and published it.” And so Marsha’s first book was born.

Marsha’s life, especially since opening her publishing company, Twin Sisters Publishing, really revolves around writing. And when I asked her what she likes to do when she’s not writing, she told me, “I do research my for next book and surf the net a lot. And when I am not working on my books I am reading and editing others’ works.”

We wish her all the luck in the world with her new publishing endeavor. She’s had a couple of horrible experiences in her life she would erase if she could. “The first one, which seemed to hurt the most, was seeing my seventeen-year-old son go to prison for five years. It was something that tore at my heart as I wondered what I did wrong. The second was losing my identical twin sister to cancer. She was a part of me and knew me like no other. She was too young to go.”

If she could know the future, she would love to know what happens with her children. “Even though they are grown,” she said, “they seem to be in one mess after another. I also want to know my grandchildren grow up happy, safe, and secure.”

I asked Marsha which of her six books she considers her favorite. “I would like to say them all,” she confessed, “but if I had to pick I would say Love Is For All Ages, a book I dreamed. It takes place in Maine, where I lived for five years. I miss it.”

I also asked her what stereotype she would label herself as. “This is a pet peeve of mine,” she said, “as I would like to think I am not stereotypical, nor do I stereotype, but I guess you could say a liberal thinking radical.”

If Marsha could wish for anything, she told me she would like a genie to give her three wishes. “Safety , happiness, and health for my grandchildren, children, and sisters. For my writing to become more popular and my business to flourish. And many years with the man I met on an internet dating site.”

You can keep up with Marsha on one of her websites, http://twinsisterspublishing.homestead.com or http://oklahomawriter.tripod.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ultimatum by Anne Carrole 

“Is this some sort of ultimatum?” Cole couldn’t wrap his mind around what she was saying. He wiped his sweaty hands on his chaps and then pulled the brim of his Stetson down, hoping to hide the surprise that was surely on his face. His stomach felt like a vise gripped it.

Lila Parks shifted her stance and jutted her pretty little chin. Dressed in a black suit with a short skirt, high heels and a wisp of lace peeking from that fancy jacket, she looked sexy as hell and totally out of place on the Flying H, but it was because of her there even was a Flying H.

“Take it as you will, Cole. But I need your answer by the end of the week.” She brushed back a strand of brown hair. Cole liked her hair long and free, cascading around her face and past her shoulders in those soft waves he was fond of fingering.

“Why now, Lila? I thought we’ve been going along just fine.”

Never in a million years had he expected this showdown. Hell, they’d made love only two days ago—slow, sweet, bone melting love. The kind of love-making that brought him to his knees, made him start to think about the future. With her. But that was it—he’d just started thinking in those terms and she was already asking him to agree to them.

She bit on her lower lip as if she was nervous. Those gorgeous brown eyes of hers reminded him of a lost puppy’s. “They’ve offered me a spot in the Austin branch. I have to let them know by Friday.”

Austin? He took a hard swallow past the lump forming in his throat. Austin was almost four hundred miles away, more than a six hour drive. Of course they’d want her. She was a damn fine lawyer. She’d won his case against powerful interests who wanted to condemn his land for a shady deal in the name of “public good.” No one had given him a chance, especially when he’d hired a newly minted lawyer—the best he could afford—from a prestigious law firm. She’d proven newly-minted didn’t mean naive.

Hours of depositions, days of proceedings, months of maneuvering, they’d fallen into bed together, fallen into each other lives, but had they fallen in love?

“It’s a great opportunity for you.”

“Yes. It is. Which is why I can’t turn it down without a good reason.”

She was looking to him for a reason, but did he have a good one? She’d believed in him when no one else had. Smart and so achingly beautiful, at first he’d felt both attracted to and intimidated by her. Over time, he’d admired her competence and been proud of her abilities. She’d become a part of his life, helping him renovate the ranch house kitchen, selecting the colors, the appliances, everything, until he felt like she’d been woven into his life.

How could he ask her to give up all she’d been working for to join him on a rundown cutting horse ranch? She was bright, successful and full of the drive and ambition necessary to make it at the top of the rung. He was just a Texas cowboy, who liked things slow and steady and had no need to do more than get by—and keep the ranch that had been in his family for four generations.

Lila stared at the man she loved. She’d evidently misread the signals. And now she’d trapped him, pinned him against a wall and his clenched jaw said he didn’t like it. The crack in her heart was going to hurt like the dickens.

He took a deep breath. “I don’t need until next Friday. You should take that position. It’s what you’ve worked for, it’s what you want. You’ll have a wonderful future.”

Tears sprang to her eyes. Her lip quivered but she held his gaze. “Have a nice life, cowboy.” She turned from him. Damn if she’d let him see her cry. She’d been so certain what they had was real—for her it was. Always would be.

She walked uncertainly over the loose gravel of the trail. Why hadn’t she’d waited. Driving out to the ranch dressed for the city only made it clearer to him how different they were. But they weren’t different. Not in what they valued. Land, history, each other—or so she thought.

She’d gone about a hundred feet before she stopped. She was walking away from him and the ranch they’d fought so hard for—the land she’d come to love along with the man. The ache in her chest tightened and she could barely breathe.

“Lila.” His gravelly voice floated over the light breeze.

She turned to face him. Tall, proud, strong, stubborn, and all cowboy, he stood right where she’d left him.

“Don’t go.”

“Why?”

“I can’t…I can’t let you go without…”

Her heart skittered.

“Without letting you know that I love you, honey. I just can’t ask you to give up your dreams for mine.”

She stood frozen; wondering if she could believe her ears, could believe him. The misery etching his face said this was hard for him.

“Ask me,” she said, knowing she was pushing and unable to stop.

He swallowed hard but his gaze didn’t leave her. “Marry me.”

Like a gun had fired, she began running, her heart pumping, her feet slipping in the damn pointy heels. He took off, met her half way. Not until he wrapped those muscled arms around her and she felt the hard plane of his chest and the warmth of his body did she relax.

“You scared the hell of me, Cole Hutton.”

He gave her a lop-sided smile, like the time he’d caught her naked in his shower. “Scared the hell out of myself.”

His firm lips claimed her in a searing kiss; tongue on tongue and breath on breath.

About the Author: Anne Carrole writes contemporary and western historical romances—always with strong-willed heroes and stronger-willed heroines. Married to her own urban cowboy, she’s also the proud mother of a teenage cowgirl. An ardent western history buff and unabashed romantic, she is the co-founder of Love Western Romances, a website where lovers of western romance can find the latest releases in their favorite genre, read reviews and interviews with authors like Linda Lael Miller, Leigh Greenwood and Bobbi Smith among others. Her short story, For Love of A Cowboy, is featured there.

Author Interview: Jenny Gilliam

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to have Jenny Gilliam with us this week. Jenny is a self-confessed “slightly deranged, definitely neurotic soccer mom author.” With Jenny having two small kids at home, that sounds like it might be an accurate description.

She’s currently working on the stand-alone sequel to her third novel, The Truth about Roxy which is being released in November. She said, “It’s a continuation of the characters in the town (of Thorton, Georgia), spotlighting a woman who has just discovered she’s adopted, and the road she travels as she finds her way home, in the metaphorical sense.” Along with that, she’s “binge-editing” her fourth novel and seeking a publisher.

Jenny also told me she’s currently in the throes of writer’s block. “I’d love to say that I just push through it all the time,” she told me, “but that would be a lie. I let the story I’m working on percolate at the back of my brain while I do other things—taking care of the kids, working, etc. Eventually, the drive comes back. I do try and write every day, even if I only eek out a paragraph or two. I’m hoping the RWA National Conference I’m attending soon will help amp me up for writing.”

I asked Jenny about her writing space. Her family just moved this past winter into a brand new house in Oregon, “where it rains eight months out of the year.” Because of this, they painted the formal living room, which they converted into her home office, a bright orange. It has, she told me, “pictures of fairies and other mythical creatures gracing the walls.” Her mother-in-law printed copies of Jenny’s novel covers, which are in picture frames on her bookshelf.

She told me the hardest part of writing her book, when she’s in the zone, is not writing it. “I have two small children at home who require all my attention, so finding time to write was something of a difficult enterprise. However, I managed to grab time—if the four novels I wrote in a little over a year are any indication.”

Because of the kids, her writing schedule consists of “when I can... it’s not easy, but I’ll sacrifice a little sleep to get my writing done. I’ll stay up late and write and get up early in the morning. Any time I can get a moment and I feel like writing, I do it.”

One thing she doesn’t do though, is pick up pennies that are tails-up. “Even if they are in my house on the floor,” she confessed. “I’ll make my kids pick ’em before I will. I think it will bring me bad luck. Which, of course, begs the comment: I’m willing to let my kids take on the bad luck? Bad Mommy.”

She also confessed that, not only does she cry during movies, she cries during commercials and previews. “I’m a fairly (understatement of my life) emotional person,” she said. “Even though I know it’s not real, it doesn’t stop the waterworks.”

And, along with the rest of the true confessions, she admitted that yes, she has made a crank phone call before. Then she told me, “What’s really sad is that I still make them. My husband and I used to get bored at night and prank call my parents. Relatively immature, but there it is. ’Course with Caller ID, it’s a lot harder these days. Bummer.” Then she added, with a laugh, “Can I have your number?” Ah... no.

And, finally, the most important question of all...the one everyone has been holding their collective breath waiting for the answer of: can Jenny tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. “To my way of thinking,” she said, “there are two kinds of people in this world: Pepsi people and Coke people. I’m definitely a Coke girl. Pepsi is sweeter and goes flat faster, whereas Coke has more fizz and a bit more kick. I drink so much of it, I could be the spokesgal for Diet Coke.”

You can keep up with Jenny on her website: http://www.jennygilliam.com

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Author Interview: Margaret Tanner

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Margaret Tanner with us. Margaret joins us from Australia, where she works as a medical typist in addition to writing. She shared she’s recently reduced those hours in order to spend more time on her writing.

Margaret told me she’s always been interested in writing. “I think I must have been born with a pen in one hand and a dictionary in the other,” she said. So, there wasn’t anything in particular that got her interested in writing in general. But, writing romance... that was a different story. “Over a cup of tea with a neighbor,” she told me, “we complained to each other about the awful stories, even though we still kept devouring them, and decided we would write our own. She gave up after a couple of chapters; I persevered.”

Margaret shared with me that she can’t remember when she wasn’t writing something. “Even if my handwriting was bad,” she said, “and it was—my stories were good. I used to write these sad little poems when I was about eight, hide myself away and cry over every word.”

She won several writing competitions when she was young, including some with very interesting prizes. “One competition I won,” Margaret revealed, “the prize was $50 worth of men’s clothing. My father and brother loved it, but all I got out of it was a pullover/jumper. It was a boy’s, but had some pink in it, so it was possible for a girl to wear it. Another time I won a heap of underclothing. That was a killer. I couldn’t even show people my prize—not if I was wearing it.”

Having a great imagination is critical to good writing, according to Margaret. “Without it,” she said, “I don’t think you could write a story at all. I know people whose grammar, punctuation, etc. is perfect, yet their stories are virtually unreadable because they haven’t used their imagination. You have to be able to become your heroine, feel for her, cry, scream, whatever it takes to become her.” She added, “Just don’t let anyone hear you, or they will think you are crazy.”

She told me that’s why she can’t write if there is noise around her. She told me, “I always write best if I am n my own away from everyone, even if it is just in the back yard. If I was in a restaurant, for example, I couldn’t write a word to save my life.”

I asked Margaret what the hardest part of writing her first book was. “Doing the research,” she said. “I love history, but there was no internet then. I had to go to the library and trawl through old tomes. I had to read 200 pages to get a few lines of information. My favorite historical period is World War I, so I interviewed a couple of elderly relatives—not easy when they are 90 years old and almost stone deaf. Hard to believe that these old wizened-up men were once fine young soldiers, who sailed over 12,000 miles across the sea to fight for the mother country (England). One old auntie kept the letters her then-fiancĂ© wrote from the trenches of France and generously loaned them to me, which was wonderful. I wrote Devil’s Ridge and Shattered Dreams years ago and they lay in a cupboard for years. A couple of years ago I got them out, dusted them off, and sent them off to publishers. Devil’s Ridge was accepted by Whiskey Creek Press and is out now. Shattered Dreams has been accepted by The Wild Rose Press and will be released this year. Before I sent these books off, I had the privilege to tour the battlefields of France and Belgium, and Gallipoli in Turkey. It was a truly poignant experience, but one which I found invaluable. It gave me a real feel for what these old men had been through in their youth.”

Margaret said that, because of her job as medical secretary, she has to go to bed at a reasonable hour. She added, “Also, going to bed a bit earlier lets me mull things over in my head. Most of my best ideas for writing occur in bed and, no, I don’t write erotica.”

Since Margaret is Australian, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that her favorite animal is one that is unique to Australia—the kangaroo. It’s also on the Australian coat of arms. It always seems tame when you see it in pictures, but Margaret told me that in the wild, they certainly are not tame. “The largest kangaroos can be taller than a man,” she said. “They have very strong back legs, to propel themselves along, often at very great speeds, and have been known to kill or seriously injure people.”

I asked her if she’d ever cried at movies. “Man, have I ever,” she told me. “I have wept bucket loads at some movies and I like to watch ‘golden oldies,’ often in black and white. Mrs. Minerva, Waterloo Bridge , I just about sobbed all the way through them. My husband thinks I’m an idiot. I truly think I would rather cry at a movie than laugh. Little Woman, I loved that. Cried heaps when Beth died. What can I say?”

She told me she can’t recall ever making a crank phone call, especially because she’s not very good at disguising her voice. Her son, however, she said, “can make you believe black was white and white was black. He can look you in the eye and tell you the most outlandish stories, and you know you shouldn’t—but somehow you believe him because he is so plausible. He certainly doesn’t get this talent from his mother. Some recessive gene, maybe?”

Finally I asked her what her favorite food is. “Now you are talking,” she exclaimed. “I love food and pizza is one of my favorites—after chocolate, that is. I think I’m a chocoholic. The waistline certainly says so. I love the tropical pizza best. That’s the one that has pineapple and ham on it.”

You can keep up with Margaret on her website, http://www.margarettanner.com/

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Send In The Clowns by Valerie Patterson

Celia bent over to tie her shoelace then stood up and took her niece’s hand again. “Come on, Ashton, we have a lot more to see.”

The petite child of four, her blond curls bouncing in the breeze aided by her half jumping- half walking gait, clapped her hands. “I wanna go to the jungle.”

Celia turned with a grin and asked, “You want to go to the jungle, do you?”

Ashton nodded her head and giggled. “Daddy takes me there and gits me losted in the balls.”

“He does, does he? Let's see if we can find it.”

Her brother and his wife were at a retreat and asked Celia to take care of the toddler for the weekend. Never one to turn down a chance to spend time with Ashton, she immediately cleared her calendar—which was pretty easy since she was single without any prospects—and made plans to come to the park. It was easy to get caught up in her niece's infectious laugh. Ashton experienced everything with zeal and excitement. There was nothing quite like spending an afternoon with her.

She lifted her off her sneakered feet, hoisting her over her head and onto her shoulders. “Can you see the jungle?”

Giggles erupted above her and she couldn’t help but laugh herself. “What are you laughing at?”

“Dat funny clown ober there.”

Celia looked around until she finally spotted a circle of clowns Ashton was captivated with. “Well,
let’s go see the funny clown.”

They walked across the commons to where three clowns stood performing tricks while what seemed to be their leader stood off to the side making balloon animals and giving them to the kids.

“Which funny clown do you like?” Celia asked.

“Dat one.”

Celia followed the direction of the baby index finger and walked to where the lead clown was standing. Carefully removing Ashton from her shoulders, they both watched as he took three balloons from his oversized pocket and stretched them out before blowing them up. Carefully, he twisted and tugged and spun them together to form a flower, which he handed to Celia.

“For me?”

He nodded.

“Me too,” Ashton squealed.

The clown pretended to be thinking then reached into his pocket, removing two orange balloons. He went through the motions again of tugging, twisting, blowing, and stretching until he finally fashioned a hat, which he set on Ashton’s head. The toddler giggled with delight and clapped her hands. The clown reached out and tickled her tummy as another burst of giggles parted the air.

“Do dat to Aunt CeeCee.”

Before Celia could object, the clown’s fingers were tickling her tummy and Ashton was laughing hysterically. Playfully, Celia swatted his hands away and took a few steps backwards. Ashton took that opportunity to lean forward toward the clown, throwing Celia off balance.

Two strong arms circled her and Ashton, steadying them. Celia looked up into the deepest blue eyes she ever saw, and her breath caught in her throat. When she was on sure ground again, she said, “Thank you for your quick actions.”

He took Ashton from her then held out a white-gloved hand. “I’m Ridge Rayburn. Happy to help.”

Celia placed her hand inside his and nearly jumped at the bolt of electricity that charged between them. She smiled as she drew her other hand across her abdomen. “I’m Celia Thornton and this is my niece Ashton. I guess we’d better let you get back to work. It was nice meeting you.”

They walked away and headed toward the jungle. As they fought their way through a sea of brightly colored balls Celia found her thoughts returning to the clown over and over again. His blue eyes were like lakes of mountain water. His grasp on her hand was strong and yet gentle. She’d never felt such a surge of electricity from such common contact before. She couldn’t help but smile each time she thought of him tickling her stomach because Ashton had asked him to tickle her. She figured he would have a carefree and natural way with children. Ashton giggled and tossed some balls at her, scattering her thoughts.

Several hours later, Celia carried a very tuckered out toddler away from the park. She waited by the entrance as a tram pulled to a stop directly in front of her. As she headed for the tram, a group of rowdy teens clamored aboard, filling up all the seats but one. Celia looked around and spied an elderly couple eying the tram as well. She smiled at them and said, “Please, go ahead.”

The woman smiled back at Celia. “You go ahead. You’ve got a sleeping wee one in your arms. We’ll wait.”

From behind them came a deep authoritative voice. “You kids double up on those seats or get off. These people need the ride to the lot more than you do.”

The teens grumbled but showed no disrespect. Some got off the tram while others sat two to a seat, as they should have done when they got on. Celia turned and saw a tall, dark-haired man towering over them. Had it not been for the pools of blue that were his eyes she never would have recognized him.

“Thank you, Ridge.”

He grinned. “I was afraid you wouldn’t recognize me.”

Celia smiled. “I’d know you anywhere.”

He took the sleeping toddler from her and waited while she boarded the tram before handing Ashton back to her. “I’d sure like to take you and the little one here for a bite to eat.”

Ashton chose that moment in time to sit up and yawn and declare, “Uhm hungry Aunt CeeCee.”

Celia nodded in agreement. “Me too.” She looked at Ridge who was grinning bigger than the painted on clown smile he wore earlier. As he got in beside her, she thought to herself that she really would have to thank her brother when he came back from his retreat.

About the Author: Valerie Patterson resides in Southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband, Steven, who also designs all her book covers. Currently, Valerie has two books released by Asylett Press: Montana Reins, which was reviewed by LASR, and The Lincoln Room. Her third book, Gee-Whiz Meets SHAFT—a creative blend of comedy and mystery with romance—will be released the week of Thanksgiving 2008. Visit the author at her website.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Author Interview: Linda Francis Lee

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome Linda Francis Lee, author of The Ex-Debutante.

I asked Linda what advice she would give a new writer just starting out. “While it’s a cliche,” she said, “writing what you know truly helps a story come alive, allows you to write from a place of passion or feeling rather simply from a place of intellect.”

She shared with me that the hardest part of writing not only The Ex-Debutante , but any book, is “filling the initial blank pages.” She continued, “Once they start filling up, my brain opens up and creates more easily.”

At the time of the interview, Linda and her family were in temporary space, so she told me she wrote on a laptop wherever she could find a space. “The key is,” she told me, “to write no matter what the surroundings are like.” She writes a quota of pages every day, Monday through Friday. However, she said, “Once I’m in the editing phase, I work practically without stop until it’s done. I love the editing. Love working with the words and sentences, making meaning come alive.”

I asked Linda to tell us about The Ex-Debutante, which we are giving away this week. “The Ex-Debutante is about Carlisle Cushing who leaves Texas in search of herself, only to be dragged back to her home town in order to deal with her mother’s latest divorce and to save the 100th Annual Debutante Ball. And it just so happens that opposing counsel on the opposite side of divorce court appears to be going after Carlisle as much as he is going after her mother. Could it be that maybe, just maybe, she left him as well when she hightailed it out of Texas three years earlier?”

For some things you might not know about Linda-- interestingly enough, a saying she uses a lot is “interestingly enough.” And when I asked her if she’d ever eaten a crayon, she responded, “You ask this like it's not normal to eat crayons. Doesn't everyone eat crayons? If not, then I don't eat them either. Really.” I also asked her, “Can you unwrap a Starburst with your tongue?”, she said, “Can’t everyone?” And, finally, I asked her if she could multitask. She said, “I am unwrapping a Starburst with my tongue as I type. Does that count?”

You can keep up with Linda Lee Francis on her website, http://www.lindaleefrancis.com .

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Uncharted Territory by Charity Tahmaseb

"How far do you think we have to go?"

Lillian's question came at what Gordon guessed was the five mile mark. Although in the dark, on an unfamiliar road, in the middle of August, he really couldn't judge. Another five miles? Or perhaps fifty.

"Until what?" Every stone, every pebble bit through the thin soles of his Italian loafers. "We drop dead from exhaustion?"

"Maybe we should check the map," Lillian said.

Gravel stopped crunching behind him. Gordon turned. Lillian's white T-shirt shimmered like a ghost above the dirt road, her black hair and dark jeans fading into the night. The sky held only a sliver of moon. Thick, humid air felt like film clouding his eyes.

Check the map. A reasonable suggestion, assuming there was light, which there wasn't. "With what?" he asked.

"My key chain."

Yes, of course. "That makes perfect sense."

She didn't respond to his words or their sarcastic tone. Lillian's knapsack-style purse thumped on the ground. A moment later, a penlight sliced through the dark.

"See?" she said, rattling the keys. The thin beam of light flickered and bounced.

"Clever, sweetheart. Now where's the map?"

"You have it."

Silence bloomed between them. For the first time since they started their trek, Gordon noticed the noises of the night. Tall cornstalks lined the road, and something rustled in the inky void they created. Mosquitoes nattered in his ears.

"Gordon?" Her voice cracked, just slightly. "Don't you have the map?"

"I thought you had it."

"I told you to take it," she said.

"Why would I when you carry around everything in that damn knapsack of yours."

Silence again. A thrashing came from the cornfield. Gordon jumped and backed toward the center of the road. "What the hell was that?"

"Just some animal in the cornfield."

"I know that." He gave an audible sigh. "I was wondering what it is."

"Afraid it might eat you, city boy?"

"Considering the options at this point--" He broke off to slap the mosquito that was probing its way toward his jugular. "Let's go. Maybe we can find the main road from here."

Lillian fell in behind him, her Chuck Taylor All Stars pounding out a cadence against the gravel. He'd complained about the sneakers and her T-shirt before they left for the evening. The jeans he tolerated--they showcased enticing snatches of her skin through the many holes. When she saw his outfit, Lillian rolled her eyes.

"You said we were going to a boat party." He brushed imaginary lint from the sleeve of his navy blazer and ignored her derisive snort.

"This isn't Long Island. It's not that kind of party."

They arrived to the aroma of bratwursts sizzling and popping on the grill. Jet-skis roared through the bay and children chased each other along the shore. Lillian's bikini-clad best friend felt the need to hug him, imprinting an oil slick on his blazer. He still wore the sweet odor of coconuts--no doubt attracting every mosquito within a five-mile radius. Leaving early had been Lillian's idea, the inadvertent wrong turn, his.

The footsteps behind him halted. Gordon glanced over his shoulder. Lillian's T-shirt wavered.

"What are we doing?" she asked.

"Trying to find the main road."

"I mean … you ... me ... us."

He knew what she meant. At first he'd found the contrast exhilarating. He was NYC, summers in the Hamptons, a vintage Jag that spent most of its time in the shop. And Lillian was--he slapped another mosquito--corn-feeds in the YMCA parking lot, the county fair, a Girl Scout.

Last month, he slipped her into Manolos and Prada and showed her off to his friends. The other night, her brother had scrunched a John Deere cap on Gordon's head and pushed him toward left field. An innovative game where, upon reaching home base, players received a cup of foaming, lukewarm beer. Not surprisingly, Gordon stayed sober.

When had their summer fling changed? What had it changed into? She shuffled across the road, away from him. He neglected to shoo the mosquitoes until one sneaked inside his shirt and added a sting just above his heart.

"I just don't know what we're doing anymore," she said from across the road.

"Neither do I."

She stomped her feet, a frustrated sound that left a fine layer of grit on his skin. The silence settled around them again, punctuated by Lillian's hitched breathing.

"Sweetheart," he said. "Are you crying?"

"No," came the muffled reply.

"Did somebody say something? One of your friends?" He ran his hands through his hair. "Christ, it was my mother, wasn't it? What did she say to you?"

"Actually, she was very nice."

"She did mention my taste in women has improved dramatically."

A hiccup or a giggle? He couldn't tell. "Your mother seemed to like me," he ventured.

"Are you kidding? She brought out the good sherry. She adores you."

"So what do you think?" Gordon shrugged although he knew Lillian couldn't see him. "Would they get along?"

"The only thing they have in common is the same color nail polish."

"Really?" He hadn't noticed. "Kindred spirits then." Gordon paused and let the mosquitoes fill the quiet for a moment. "Think there's a chance for their offspring?"

"Oh, Gordon."

How did she do it? How did she say his name with so much sweetness and just a hint of admiration? Or was it love? He didn't know. He hated nicknames in general, and Gordo in particular. Because of that, he'd never called her by one, not Lil, nor Lilly--unless he called her sweetheart.

"So." He glanced around--again, not that she could see him, not that he could see much of anything but Lillian's white Tee. "You grew up around here?"

"About twenty miles south. It's not like we had a cornfield in our backyard." She kicked at the ground and pebbles scattered. "Well, there was one down the road from us."

"A guy could get used to cornfields."

"What are you saying?"

"I don't know." He didn't, so why not admit it? "I do know that I've never called anyone sweetheart before. And I know if I have to be lost, I'm glad it's with you."

"So you ran out of gas on purpose?"

He laughed. "Believe me, I haven't intentionally run out of gas since I was seventeen."

Now that was a giggle. The cornstalks rustled. A slight breeze chilled his sweat-soaked skin and chased the mosquitoes away. "So. You ... me ... the cornfield. What next?"

The white T-shirt shrugged. "I've never been stranded in a cornfield with a guy before."

"I don't believe it." He took a step toward her side of the road and was rewarded with the sound of her footfall. "That makes me your first."

"I guess, in a way, you are."

They met in the center of the dusty county road. He traced his fingertips over the contours of Lillian's face. Her skin was slick from clammy air, sweat, and tears. Her hands worked their way through his hair and around to the back of his neck. He was about to pull her in for a sultry kiss when Lillian yelped.

"What?" He spun around, expecting to confront the beast from the cornfield. "What is it?"

She caught him and ran her fingers over the welts on his neck, a move that tantalized and satisfied all at once. "You have a million mosquito bites!"

"I'm sure it's not that many," he said, his tone dry.

"I think I have some ointment in my backpack."

Gordon let her fuss, let her dab the bites with sticky cream that would ruin his linen shirt. The ointment wouldn't help, but he didn't care. He wanted to remember the feel of her touch and how she smelled after walking for miles on a hot August night.

When she crouched to tuck the ointment back in the knapsack, he said, "Damn, you really do have everything in there." Only this time, he said it with admiration. A guy could get used to that, too.

"Well, almost." She sighed. "We still don't have a map."

"That's okay, sweetheart." He clasped Lillian's hands and tugged her to her feet. "We'll find our way without one."

About the Author: Charity Tahmaseb traded BDUs and combat boots for power suits and high heels, then traded those for the dissolute life of a technical writer. She splits her free time between her junior football player and his sister, the aspiring mermaid. On most days she's reminded that you can take the girl out of the Army, but you can't always take the Army out of the girl. Visit Charity at her website: http://writingwrongs.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Author Interview: Christy Tillery French

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Christy Tillery French, the award-winning, internationally published author of Chasing Horses, Wayne’s Dead, Chasing Demons, The Bodyguard, The Bodyguard and the Show Dog, and The Bodyguard and the Rock Star.

You would think from her published work that Christy might be one of those rare writers who doesn’t suffer from writer’s block, but you would be wrong. In fact, when I asked her if she ever had to deal with it, her response was “Oh, do I ever!” She has unique ways of handling it though. “When that wall goes up,” she told me, “I curse at my computer, pull out my hair, scrub toilets and floors and clean house. And let me tell you, sometimes my house sparkles! When that doesn’t work, I make myself sit at the computer until I am so bored, I have to write something. It may be garbage, but I’m producing. At least that’s what I tell myself.”

Christy’s working on final edits for Chasing Secrets, a romantic suspense that’s slated for publication in October. She’s also working on the fourth book in her Bodyguard series, entitled The Bodyguard and the Snitch. She also has a couple of other books she works on when she’s in the mood for something dark: an apocalyptic romance and a psychological suspense, “both of which I need to finish,” she said, “but can’t seem to.”

Christy is not just a novelist, though. She has had poetry published in America and England, plus all of her books have been placed with the McClung Historical Collection of the East Tennessee Historical Center as part of the local and genealogical history of East Tennessee.

I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer. “Learn as much as you can about the craft of writing,” she said, “and read other writers in your genre to study what works. If possible, join a balanced critique group, one that fits you. Make sure your manuscript is as near-perfect as possible before submitting. Research agents and publishers before signing contracts.” There is one other piece of advice, though, that she considers more important than any other. “Persevere,” she told me. “Keep moving forward. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you. It’s a hard road but it can be so much fun. And rewarding.”

And, it’s important you write the way you write. Some authors write linear... from the first action to the last. Not Christy though. “I write the last chapter first,” she shared with me, “and never write sequential chapters. My final step before editing it to put the chapters in order.”

When Christy’s not busy writing, she is an active volunteer with a local Weimaraner rescue group. The hardest part about working with that group is “I fall in love with these dogs constantly and want to take each one home.”

“If I looked like my gorgeous daughter,” she said, “I’d have my picture plastered all over my books and website. Wait a minute. What if I used her picture instead of mine...Nah, that would never work. No way she could pass for a menopausal woman. Dangit!”

That was a good idea, though. Too bad there was a fatal flaw. She had another idea that I personally thing is great. She told me she thought scientists should invent a bra that doesn’t feel like a bra! “You know,” she said, “one you can wear for hours and never notice you even have it on. I swear, if anyone wants to torture a woman, all they need to do is put an ill-fitting bra on her and make her wear it for a few hours. She’d be willing to do or say anything just to get out of that darn bra. I know I would!”

You can keep up with Christy Tillery French on her website, www.christytilleryfrench.com