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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ageless Love by Sabine Naus 

Brianna pushed the tissue against her mouth to stifle the sobs bubbling in her throat. Tears still glistened at the corners of her red-rimmed eyes. She was curled up on the couch, feet tucked under her and the cordless phone still gripped in one hand. A shudder coursed through her and she gulped against the lump in her throat.

Never in a million years had she ever expected to fall so deeply in love with Evan Douglas. And love him she did – with absolutely every fiber of her being. He was so much a part of her that she felt certain she would die without him.

Taking a deep breath, she stood up, her legs slightly wobbly. Pain was slowly splintering her heart into tiny fragments and it hurt very much.

“This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” She whispered the words into the air before sinking back down onto the sofa, letting go of the phone. Her mind was telling her to get cleaned up before Reese came home from school and found her wallowing in her own pool of misery.

Half an hour later, Brianna had once again gathered herself together and was in the kitchen when she heard the apartment door open.

“Hey, Ma!” called Reese, dropping her knapsack on the floor and shedding her sneakers before joining her mother. The fiftee-year-old casually draped an arm around Brianna’s shoulders and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

Pasting on a smile, Brianna turned to face her. “Hey yourself! How was school?”

“Never mind school. What’s up with you?” demanded Reese with a frown. “Have you been crying? What happened?”

The questions were fired like rapid missiles and Brianna put up her hands as if to stop the onslaught. There was no fooling her daughter. They were so close they could always sense one another’s moods. Even the makeup she’d put on had obviously not hidden the signs of her trauma.

“Mom?” Reese took her mother’s hands and led her to the sofa where both sat down. “Tell me.”

“I broke it off with Evan.” Brianna pressed her lips together to stop them from trembling. Fresh spears of pain stabbed at her.

“How could you?” Reese shook her head uncomprehendingly. “You guys love each other to death. Did he do something?” Her soft blue eyes hardened at the thought. “Did he hurt you?”

“He didn’t do anything.” She patted Reese’s shoulder and sank back against the comfortable weight of the cushions. “It’s me. I phoned him and broke it off.”

“But why? Mom, that makes no sense!” Reese jumped up and began to pace. “I don’t get you. Finally you’re happy and then you break it off?”

“I’m too old for him.” One lone hot tear splashed down onto her cheek and lazily traced its way to her chin.

“Is that what Evan said?”

“No. He’s never said anything about our ten year age difference.” Sweet, lovable Evan. She’d met him nearly two years before at her college night class and straight away there had been a connection. Both of them had been surprised at learning one another’s ages but the numbers had never given either of them grief. Until now. Last week on her thirty-fifth birthday, Evan had started talking about marriage. It was something she hadn’t yet revealed to Reese.

“Then why are you hung up on it?” Reese shrugged off her hoodie and tossed it onto the chair. “Mom, I don’t get you. I thought you were serious about Evan.”

“That’s the problem.” Brianna’s voice choked. “Evan’s thinking of marriage.”

“That’s wonderful! I really – “ Reese’s reaction was interrupted by a loud, continuous knocking on the door. “I’ll get it.” She scowled at the rapping. “I’m coming,” she shouted. “Lay off with the knocking.”

Taking a quick look through the peep hole, she suddenly put the chain on before opening the door.

“Yes?” she asked cautiously.

“Reese, let me in please.”

“Evan?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Let me in. I need to talk to your mother. Please,” he added softly.

“Sure.”

“Reese, who’s at the door?” Brianna wondered at the strange behavior as she watched Reese slide the chain off.

“Brianna!” An unrecognizable man sailed into the room, arms outstretched, a wicked grin on his face.

The gray hair, droopy moustache and tufted eyebrows combined with the tweed jacket and plaid pants had transformed Evan into a stranger. Only his voice was familiar.

“Evan?” A baffled Brianna could feel laughter threatening to spill from her mouth. “What is going on?” She cried out as he swept her into his embrace and recognized the scent of his cologne. “What are you doing?”

Reese had propped herself by the door and was watching in amusement.

“I am sweeping the love of my life off her feet”

“But what’s with the silly disguise?”

“It’s not a disguise. I’ve made myself 10 years older than you.” The humor in Evan’s eyes succeeded in making Brianna blush.

“You’re not taking this seriously,” she tried to tell him as a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

“I am! I am!” intoned Evan dramatically, a hand on his heart. “I love you, Brianna Collins, and I will do anything to make you see that.”

He planted a huge kiss on her lips.

“I do see that,” she murmured, her voice a bit shaky.

“I already knew that,” piped up her cocky daughter with a very broad grin.

“All in favor, say aye!” Evan chuckled at the enthusiastic response.

“Now take off that moustache,” ordered Brianna, unable to stop her giggling. “It tickles.”

“Only if you’ll marry me.”

“Okay, okay,” she echoed as he leaned in to kiss her again.

“Finally,” groaned Reese happily.

Yes, finally Brianna could see how love was ageless.

About the Author: My interest in writing began in public school when we were assigned to write a scary story for Halloween in Grade 3. After that, I realized I enjoyed creating fiction. I then joined the newspaper clubs both in public and high school. From there, I began entering contests and at the same time continued to assist in company newsletters. While I currently work in administration, I would eventually like to have writing be my full-time salaried position

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Author Interview: Mallary Mitchell

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Mallary Mitchell, author of Virginia Creeper, released this month from Wings e-Press.

When I asked Mallary what got her interested in writing, she said, “I really don’t know. It was just something I had to do.” She began writing songs, then moved to stories. “I began reading romance when my family moved when I was ten,” she told me. “My grandmother loved Harlequin romances. She and I would get those and spend an afternoon reading together. She was a wonderful person and later in life was bedridden. She got so much joy from those sweet romances; it made me want to write them.”

An injury in 2001 gave her the down time she needed to get serious about her writing.

Mallary has several works published with Wings e-Press and The Wild Rose Press, plus several in progress. She told me that normally the plot comes to her first. She might go by a house or pick up a brocher and will get a spark of a plot. One of the books she’s currently working on came about just that way. “I have a book entitled The Widow’s Ransom,” she said. “In writing this title, I accidentally spelled it The Window’s Ransom. That sparked the plot for my current project with the working title: The Lady in the Window. A young man falls in love with a stained glass image of a beautiful woman who comes alive in his dreams.

Once Mallary has that spark, she hashes out what’s going to happen in a rough synopsis. “When they’re ready,” she said, “the characters just appear.”

One thing interesting about Mallary’s characters. She doesn’t want anyone in her books to have the same name as someone she knows. “Maybe it’s not a bad thing,” she told me. “It really makes me dig for names.”

In her opinion, strong characters and a strong plot are the most important elements in a good book. “A story with perfect punctuation,” she explained, “can still be flat and unengaging to a reader. Grammar is very integral, but I would just encourage people to write from the heart, then go back and make corrections.”

When she gets frustrated from writing or she’s having trouble plotting a scene, she takes a break and heads to her sewing machine. “Seeing a finished garment (and yes, I am brave, I sew clothes) or a quilt gives a wonderful sense of completion,” she said. “I love to sew.”

However, ironing isn’t top on her list of fun things to do. When I asked her what scientists should invent she told me, “Chocolate bars with no calories. That’s a definite need. Clothes that don’t wrinkle would be nice too.”

Strange, little known facts about Mallary:

-She has the habit of writing both cursive and print...in the same document.

-When she was three, she ate her sister’s pom-poms. “Well,” she amends, “part of them. My mother caught me. I just remember they were tasty.” She laughed. “I must have had some kind of mineral deficiency.”

-She has pets that aren’t the norm. Her favorite animal is the Red Bearded Dragon. “They are lizards native to Australia,” she explained, “and are the sweetest little things. I can’t have anything with fur—too allergic, but last year my son brought his Beardie over. It crawled up in my lap, snuggled down and went to sleep. I was hooked. I have two adorable Beardies now, Morrison and Smeagol.”

You can keep up with Mallary on her website, http://www.mallarymitchell.us

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Biggest Loser by Elizabeth Matis 

Can a twenty-five dollar wager change your life? You bet it can.

I've been struggling with my weight ever since I took a desk job five years ago. I was just about to give up when my co-worker Brenda, a reality show junkie, suggested doing our own version of the Biggest Loser.

Weigh in would be every Friday for two months and whoever scored the three highest percentages of weight loss would win and split the twenty-five dollar buy-in. Twelve people took the challenge. Actual weights were kept confidential by Teri, who was pregnant and couldn't participate. We swore her to secrecy with an curse she would never lose her pregnancy weight if she talked.

Before the contest officially started I had already mentally spent my winnings on a new handbag I've had my eye on. My other eye was on Ben, a recent hire in accounting, who'd joined the friendly competition. Ben's soulful green eyes and curly brown hair captured my interest immediately. He had a little baggage around the middle, but hey, so did I. Around the middle, around the thighs, and well, you get the picture.

Day one arrived and all communal office candy, cakes, and chips were banished making sticking to the diet during the workday a breeze. At home, all alone, it's a different story. The twenty-four hour corner store calls to me. I turn up the television.

The first weigh-in left me discouraged. A lousy half a pound. It seemed I wasn't alone in my disappointment when Brenda suggested walking on our lunch breaks. The first few times were tough. There's a large hill by our office and I would have to stop on the way up to catch my breath. Ben patiently waited for me while the others zipped ahead.

"You can go on," I said.

"No, I need a breather, too."

"That's too bad. I was kind of hoping you'd bring your car around and drive me back."

Ben laughed. His smile filled me with the energy I needed to go on. That and his encouraging words. "Come on, you can do it."

By the end of the following week I could climb up the hill without stopping and lost a total of six pounds. Ben began to stop at my cubicle to share a recipe or a diet tip.

"Weekends are the hardest," I admitted.

"I walk at the park on Saturdays. Want to join me?"

Surprised, I hesitated. Could he possibly want something more? Was an office romance a good idea?

"Like weekend walking buddies," he added.

"Buddies?" Just great. I had plenty of male 'buddies', but none of them liked to walk. "Sounds great."

On Saturday I drove to the park looking forward to some new scenery and to see Ben. He was waiting for me by the fountain. Next to him sat a German shepherd.

"I hope you don't mind me bringing Shep."

"No, not at all," I said.

"Give Marcy your paw and say hello."

I reached out for Shep's paw and shook. "He's very well behaved."

Ben leaned in and whispered, "So am I."

"Are you housebroken too?"

Rewarded with his deep laughter, I felt like a puppy who'd just performed a new trick.

The walk around the lake clocked in at three miles, but I barely even noticed as Ben was full of questions about me. He brought us two waters from a vendor and we sat down at a bench by the fountain to continue the conversation. This time I was full of questions, which distracted me from the whiff of hot dogs drifting through the wind. A grilled chicken salad waited for me at home, but I was in no rush to get there. My heart warmed as Ben cupped his hand and poured some water in it for Shep to lap up.

"That's so sweet," I blurted.

"Me or the dog?"

"The dog," I lied.

We made plans to hike the following Saturday, but when it rained we walked the mall instead. The food court smells almost did me in, but then we strolled past the store where my purse awaited me. I stepped up the pace a little more.

The last weigh in arrived. Another two pounds! However, I wasn't in the top three. But I was twenty pounds lighter, dropped a dress size, and could walk up a flight of stairs without keeling over. I decided to buy that handbag after all.

With the contest over and Ben reaching his goal weight, I wondered if we would still walk on the weekends and at lunch. I would miss our talks, which made the miles go by, like I wasn't even exercising.

After work Ben ran up to me before I could get in my car. "Hey, I've got a hundred bucks burning a hole in my pocket." Ben had placed third in the competition.

"What did you have in mind?"

"Dinner and a movie."

"That sounds like a date," I said hopefully.

"What good is it dropping off this weight if I can't have a hot babe on my arm?"

Hot babe? Well, if he says so. "Dinner out means an extra walking workout," I said.
"Slave driver."

So what if I wasn't the biggest loser in the battle of the bulge? I gained so much more.

About the Author: Liz likes to describe herself as a mild manner accountant by day and romance writer by night. She is 23 years married and is a VPM (very proud mom) of one son, who at the age of 22 has graduated from college and is working as a news producer. She got the idea for this story from her own failed attempt at a Biggest Loser competition her day job held. She missed third place by a lousy half-a- pound, but lost a total of 12 pounds. Check out her new blog http://taoofliz.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Author Interview: Jeanne Savery

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have Jeanne Savery with us this week. Jeanne told me her motto is “have laptop; will travel” and it’s a good thing. Her husband, she shared with me, has itchy feet and because of that they’ve lived in east, west, and central United States, England, India, and Australia; where they haven’t lived they might have visited! Now, she said, “I’ve two kids, three grandsons, seven cats and a house too big to care for—but it’s lovely when company comes. Grew up a farm girl and still love open spaces—or alternatively, I want city center and lots of people—not suburbia. Never again! My hubby has retired but I haven’t. I doubt I’ll ever stop writing.”

Jeanne told me she’s been writing for a long time, but she wasn’t one of those kids who knew from kindergarten they wanted to write (her daughter, now, knew all her life she wanted to be an artist). Instead, she told me, “I was a professional student for too many years to count—until I ran into physics which put an abrupt end to that. Too many years straight on the Pill complicated things: I suffered a major vitamin deficiency that laid me flat. While getting over that I began telling myself stories in my head. As I got more energy, I wrote one down. (Believe me, it was terrible!) I joined an on-going adult education class in creative writing followed by an on-going workshop. I’ll never forget the night our professor read from my WIP, looked up, and said, ‘You were hungry when you wrote this, weren’t you?’ I must have been. It was pages in which my hero and heroine did nothing but eat...and not each other.”

Jeanne continued to write, however, and she was a volunteer editor on a ‘little’ literary magazine. “I learned a great deal about what not to do,” she said, “and made a lifelong friend from one of those who submitted.”

And she kept on writing. And started submitting and getting rejected. “Each time one of those letters came (including the occasional encouraging non-form letter),” she told me, “I swore I’d show them and wrote some more. I suppose everyone has a point where rejection finally gets to them no matter how stubborn they are. Mine finally gave and I sat down with a Georgette Heyer regency from my keeper shelf. Usually one will pull me out of the blues (you know, all that subtle humor and amazing characterizations, to say nothing of settings that are addictive...). This time it didn’t work. I read my whole shelf and wanted more. So, I sat down and wrote one.”

When her critique group read it, they told her she had been writing the wrong thing all along. Jeanne said, “They must have been right. My next attempt was a Golden Heart finalist and sold. I’ve been selling Regency romances ever since.” She added, “That’s not quite true. I tried writing something else when Zebra closed their Regency line—tried to re-invent myself—but it didn’t work. I’m back to writing what I love and selling to the Cotillion Regency line, a Cerridwen Press e-line.”

I asked Jeanne how she develops her plots and characters. “In my case, characters always come first and almost always they are involved, from that first moment, in a problem or situation or scene that brings them to life. The two things go together,” she said. “It may be one character to start with or both the hero and heroine together. For instance, the opening scene in A Lady Prospers came to me all in a flash with the characters right there, alive and already involved in their private conflicts. The lady was, in that moment, worrying about an external conflict which had resulted in the internal. The gentleman’s conflicts weren’t yet clear although I had that conversation en toto. I continued writing. His problems and the fact he could see no honorable solution clarified. Once I have internal and external conflicts, once I have that initial scene, once I know as much as I can (at that stage) about my characters, they begin keeping me awake at night. Once that happens, I know it’s time to start writing or they will give me no peace. You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about plot. I don’t plot. Once I’ve enough conflict to see a book through to the length my publisher wants, I let the characters tell their own story. If I try to plot out the story in any detail—more than knowing that my main characters will fall deeply in love and live happily ever after and maybe a very few other details—I know too much. In fact I might as well stop right there. I no longer care. If I plot, I know how they will get from the first page to the last so why bother writing it all down which is my way of discovering all that. Another way of saying it is that a book loses all spontaneity if I plot too much. It dies.”

She did make it very clear, though, that she does not believe the way she does it is the only way to do things. “Every writer has to find their own modus operandi when it comes to this,” she told me. “No one works in exactly the same way and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. I know authors who not only plot the book, but then plot the chapters, and then the scenes in the chapters and only then do they start writing. They write good books, too. I suspect authors fall everywhere along a line from my no-plot to full-plot. Every writer has to find out what works for them. And that means sitting down and writing.”

Right now, Jeanne is working on two series set in Regency England. The first two ebooks of each series can be bought from the Cotillion line at Cerridwen Press. The first series is a four-book ghost series. The ghost wrote a will which has led to problems for his heirs, and he’s sticking around to undo the damage the will has done and to see each happily married as well. The second series... I’ll let Jeanne describe it. “It’s not a mystery series. It’s not a traditional romance. It isn’t women’s fiction—blest if I know what it is, but the continuing characters are a pair of spinster sisters, beloved by all despite (or perhaps because of?) their habit of sticking their noses in wherever and whenever they can help. In the first book, Runaway Scandal, our hero (their hell-born babe of a nephew) has followed the family tradition of falling deeply in love, wedding quickly, reforming, and living happily ever after. Unfortunately, he’s wed so quickly that scandal is brewing. When the sisters, Elf and Ally, discover the name of the bride, daughter of a scandalous mother, they expect things to go completely awry. Worse yet, our young couple are undergoing a series of worsening accidents that are quickly recognized as something other than accidents.”

Counting both the Zebra prints and her first two Cotillion ebooks, Jeanne has published thirty-one full length novels and fifteen novellas. When I asked her which book she considered her favorite, she told me the number of books she’d published and continued, “That’s a big ‘family.’ So which is my favorite? You tell me how you determine which of your ‘children’ you most favor! Oh, well. I’ll admit there are some I like maybe a smidgeon better than some others. A Lady’s Deception is set in Bath. The heroine’s twin brother died in the Peninsula. She’s never been able to grieve, having promised him she’d not cry if he dies. Now it’s time to find a husband for her very lovely sister so the two, along with their blind aunt as chaperon, go to Bath. Thing is, a beautiful girl needs a man to protect her. Our heroine cuts her hair, dresses in the male clothes her brother taught her to prefer, and watches over her sister. The beautiful girls gets her true love, obviously; the aunt, surprisingly; and against all reason, our heroine as well once her true sex is discovered by her brother’s commanding officer. He is suspicious from the beginning, but every time he is certain ‘he’ is a ‘she’ he/she does something that makes the colonel think he must be wrong. Then there is A Lady’s Proposal and several of the six books in my White Tiger series and....no, I can’t begin to stop listing titles. Of course, my latest book is always my current favorite, so that would be Runaway Scandal from Cotillion.”

When I asked Jeanne what she’d wanted to be when she grew up, instead of “writer” Jeanne told me she wanted to be the first woman on the moon. “I’ve about given up on that,” she said. “Later I grew fascinated with biology. It was the era when cell biology was exploding in all directions. Fascinating. I meant to go into research and never took a biology course I didn’t love. Chemistry was all right, but then came physics—a must for what I wanted to do—and that did me in. Still later I actually dedicated a book to Newton—without whom I’d never have become a writer. For the most part I’m glad there was a Newton, but now and then...ah well. The road not taken and all that.”

Jeanne is Scots-English and told me, “I always say it was my Scottish stubbornness plus my English pig-headedness that finally got me published—which did NOT happen overnight. Perhaps my heritage (plus six months in England just as Georgette Heyer’s work was being re-released) explains my choice of genre. I’ve had some tell me I must have lived a past-life during the Regency to make my books sound so real. I tell them that if I did, then very likely it was as a scullery maid—or at best, a lady’s maid who would have had more opportunity to observe the quirks of tonnish men and women.”

Jeanne is also a morning person. Her husband, on the other hand, is a night person. She told me that there was one time in their married life when this was an advantage. “We were both students,” she said, “he in grad school and me halfway through my senior year. Our first daughter was born in February before I graduated in June. We planned that term carefully so one of us could be home at all times. I’d take care of her evening feeding and go to bed. He’d prop her on his chest, a book on her diaper, and stay up studying until time for her night feeding. Then I’d get up for her early morning bottle. We took care of our precious child, but we sure didn’t see much of each other! The plan was both good and bad: She got one devil of a lot of cuddling, which was good—but what I know now about breast feeding and how important it is for the babe’s development, I wish I’d done things differently.”

Finally, she thinks scientists should invent a bomb that spreads peace and contentment rather than chaos and pain and, “to quote the lovely young things in Miss Congeniality, [if I could wish for anything it would be for] world peace, but since I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, then a slightly more manageable wish: that my family be happy and healthy and suffer only enough adversity to keep them on their toes and working at life rather than letting it pass them by.”

You can check out Jeanne’s work on her publisher’s page, http://cerridwenpress.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Author Interview: Victoria Pitts-Caine

The Long and the Short of It is happy to welcome Victoria Pitts Caine whose first novel, Alvarado Gold was released by The Wild Rose Press and is soon to be released in print. She is now hard at work on the sequel, tentatively entitled “Cairo.”

When her oldest child left for college, Victoria told she started doing genealogy because “a little empty nesting set in.... It was something I always wanted to do but never found the time or the resources until the internet came along. She told me one thing she learned was that her heritage was varied. In fact, she called it “Heinz-57. I'm mostly English from both sides but a mixture of a lot of other things including American Indian. I found out so much doing genealogy - everything from monarchy to horse thieves!” In addition to her heritage, though, she also discovered the basis for her first book as the story of the buried treasurer in Alvarado Gold is based on her own family history.

Alvarado Gold is, as Victoria puts it, “an Inspirational novel with a mixture of adventure, intrigue and romance.” I asked her to tell us a little about the book. “The heroine, Addie Brown, reconnects with her cousins at her grandfather's funeral, but there's one cousin missing, Donnie,” she said. “Is it by choice or does he have some other motive? As she's researching family documents, one of which refers to gold buried near the small Texas town of Alvarado, she meets Gary Wright, who touches her empty heart. Gary insists on helping Addie and her cousins with their quest, but then strange occurrences and threatening notes lead her to believe Gary is working with Donnie. Addie tries to unravel the family secrets, be the first to reach the gold and deal with her own indecision. Should she trust Gary? If she does, she'll need to tell him the secret she's kept hidden in her heart.”

In the book she’s working on now, “Cairo,” Addie and Gary find themselves in Egypt, because Addie is a restorer of ancient documents. “Gary is kidnapped and Addie sets out to find him,” Victoria told me. “She enlists the help of several strangers and calls her cousin, Donnie who is also in the first novel, to come from the home to help her. During their quest they find themselves searching the ruins of old churches in Egypt with the help of a graduate student named Priscilla. She and Donnie immediately are at odds but as the story progresses with earthquakes, eclipses of the sun and the group being chased by a militant faction, Donnie and Priscilla find themselves falling in love.”

The first thing Victoria ever had published was an article in an adoptive parent magazine. However, she told me that her “super-mom gene took over” and she spent time enjoying her daughters’ lives: school, sports, music, dance, and cheer, putting writing on the backburner until her oldest went off to school.

I asked her about the strangest thing she had ever eaten. “A sea urchin,” she replied. “My daughters are adopted from Korea and it is a delicacy there. My advice is - don't - it tastes like it smells underneath a pier.” One thing she doesn’t find strange to eat, though, is pizza. And, serve her a combination pizza, please, but hold the anchovies.

Victoria works in the environmental sector and, when she isn’t writing, “I’m an avid reader and exotic gem collector,” she said. “Throw in a little gardening, a husband, another daughter still at home two dogs and twenty fish and that's my life.”

She doesn’t own an elephant, however, even though it is her favorite animal. “I was smitten with Tarzan movies as a kid,” she told me. “I used to beg my parents for a baby elephant. Also, the local zoo bought its first elephant when I was in grammar school and the kids used to collect money to pay for her.”

You can keep up with Victoria on her website, http://vcaine.homestead.com/

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Author Interview: Ryshia Kennie

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Ryshia Kennie. Ryshia’s always been an avid reader and even created stories as a child, dreaming of one day being a writer. She trained as a nurse, studied administration, traveled the world, but never stopped writing.

She told me if she were just starting out in life, as well as writing, she would study English, journalism or creative writing. “Something that would help me technically as a writer. And then I would strike out on my own,” she said. “However, I took administration because an office job was the sure way to stability and success—but that’s a whole ’nother topic.”

I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out. “Don’t follow the crowd,” she said. “That’s one of the blessings and banes of romance. There are so many writers out there willing to stop and help beginning writers that you can lose your voice in the noise of all those helpful voices. Sometimes you’ve just got to shut the door, be you and write without interference from anyone, no matter how helpful. Because in the end it’s just you, that blank screen, that empty room, and those voices in your head.”

Ryshia’s “empty room” is a downstairs former bedroom. “It’s incredibly inspiring,” she said, “despite an urgent need for new carpet and paint. It is the last holdout for renovations. My fault. I refuse to relinquish my space for even a day, but despite that it is a book-lined haven. On the walls I have bulletin boards with all the cards and congratulations I received on my first publication From the Dust, pictures and posters that motivate me, a file cabinet full of the business of writing, a laptop and mementos that are special to me.”

Her space is inspiring because it is totally about writing. And, it’s all hers. She told me that it seems even others feel that very personal vibe because family and friends don’t stay long when they venture into her office. “And, no,” she assured me, “it has nothing to do with the Stay Out sign on the door—kidding! They are all welcome, when I’m not on a writing jag, of course.”

Ryshia believes that the most important elements of good writing can’t be taught. She called it “the heart and soul of writing.” Or what Simon Cowell calls the “it factor.” “When a reader puts down the story and has been touched by it, engaged by it, when it’s a keeper on a shelf—then you have good writing.” She told me there are a lot of good books out there, but very few of them have the “it factor” and it’s something no outline, character development or storyboard can give you. “Don’t get me wrong,” she said, “the mechanics are definitely necessary, but the ‘it factor’—that’s the difference between good and great. For me, I’m happy if someone says [my work] is good, but I still ache for great.”

A self-confessed “pantser,” Ryshia tells me her titles happen the same way as her stories. “They just pop into my head,” she said. “As the characters emerge, so do other details including the title. As I get a feel for the story, the title becomes apparent and often is key to the direction of the story. When I know the title--that is the moment when the plot and characters have become real and a tentative route has been mapped.”

Ryshia loves hearing from her readers. She told me it was “the most inspiring and surprising things about publishing a book.” She’s had discussions with readers from the character traits of the secondary characters to what inspired her to write the story to the identity of the person the heroine is modeled after. She even had one discussion with a ninety-year-old man (her uncle) who was perturbed she didn’t detail the aftermath of the sex scene. “Each reader seems to pull a different aspect out of the story and focus on that,” she said. “It’s been a joy hearing from them all. You can’t imagine the thrill I get when I open an email and see that familiar subject line and the name of yet another new reader.”

I asked Ryshia if she really, really wanted a dog. Her response was, “I really, really have a dog or maybe the dog has me. Rourke’s an Irish Terrier with Attitude.” She’s pretty much had a dog all her adult life and at one period of her life she had a dog and a ferret. “Of course,” she added, “I was single at the time. Hmmm—was there a connection between those two events—is there a story there?” If there is, she’s not talking yet. Maybe she will share it in tomorrow’s Q&A at the Yahoo group!

She also shared with me that when she was a child, her teacher never thought she would develop her own handwriting style. “I was forever copying a new handwriting, kind of flavor of the week,” she admitted. “Now I have my own style and for some reason my capital f’s are always written backwards. I think it is a throwback to my grade school days and maybe the kid behind or beside me had what I considered great handwriting and did backwards f’s – who knows. Or maybe I’m just handwriting challenged – but the f’s are backwards.”

But, that wasn’t her strangest habit. And...her strangest one also goes back to her childhood. “When I was a kid on the Canadian prairies, I would challenge my brother in the winter to an outside foot race across huge banks of snow in - 30 Celsius (-22 Farenheit) weather. Basically the idea was who could run outside barefoot the longest distance without finally succumbing and going inside won. Of course, I being the oldest, always won. Now, I will still go outside to the barbeque or to hang up a rug or whatever in my bare feet and won’t be in a rush to dash inside. Go figure. But then people walk over hot coals and I don’t get that either.”

Ryshia is definitely a morning person, especially on the weekends. “I’m able to shower, have breakfast and brew coffee. Then I can curl up with a blanket for that first cup of brew and my laptop before venturing outside for a walk with Rourke. There’s a time limit on the laze time and Rourke makes sure of it because what follows is his time. Every weekend morning we go for a walk through the neighborhood where anything can happen. We’ve been interviewed by police after rescuing lost children, rescued the neighborhood recluse from sleeping on her front porch because she was afraid to ask for help to unlock her door, chased down run away puppies and on our more sedate walks, just soaked up the smells and sounds of the neighborhood. And yes I live in a perfectly safe, calm suburb of my city it’s just when you’re at ground level every day you see what others driving by just miss. Every walk is an adventure.”

Finally, I asked Ryshia about her favorite pizza. “Feta and spinach, hands down,” she said promptly. “A cold Alexander Keith in the local Irish pub, O’Hanlon’s. Oh I can taste it now, the feta warm and savory as it caresses my tongue, sending waves of … I’m sorry enough of that question. I think I’ve just been inspired to finish that troublesome love scene in Last Man Standing."

You can keep up with Ryshia on her website, http://www.ryshiakennie.com