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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Author Interview: Yvonne Eve Walus

The Long and the Short of It is very happy to welcome Yvonne Eve Walus who has written over twenty books. She runs the gamut in her writing from soft scifi, to mysteries, to women’s fiction and poetry. She said, though, that her favorite is always the one she’s busy with at the moment. “Of the already published ones,” she told me, “Murder @ Work is the closest to what I enjoy reading.” Murder @ Work is a cozy mystery. When we did the interview, she was reading another cosy mystery Too Late for Angels, by Mignon F. Ballard. As an interesting sidenote: it was a book chosen for her by her three-year-old son at the library.

I asked Yvonne how she came up with the titles to her books. “I’m a great admirer of Philip K. Dick’s titles,” she said. “I mean, who can resist a book called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep or We’ll Remember it for You Wholesale? So, I am for something as memorable as that.” She added, “Then the publisher says it won’t fit on the spine so I end up with Murder @ Work.”

Yvonne has a prequel to Murder @ Work coming out toward the end of this year from Echelon Press entitled Murder @ Play. It’s also a cozy mystery. “We have an anonymous letter, a dinner party organized to mend old rifts, and a body,” she said. “Among the suspects are: a Tarot reader, an actress, a lawyer, a computer geek, and an ex-member of Battalion 32.” This book, with its colorful cast of characters is set in South Africa of the 1990s, during its journey to democracy. Yvonne told me “it’s a slice of an era past, as gone with the wind as though it happened a century ago.”

Yvonne told me her favorite author is Terry Pratchett, who writes the Discworld series. “If anybody ever says that there are no original ideas in books,” she said, “they should read that series. I also admire his quirky sense of humor.”

On a more personal note, Yvonne shared with me a strange handwriting habit she has. “I’m right-handed, but I write my small a clockwise, which makes an extra semi-circle and is really inefficient.”

With a smile, she described her heritage as “inter-continental” explaining, “I was born and raised in Poland. When I was twelve, my family and I emigrated to South Africa. Your teenage years are usually your formative years, so it’s no surprise I consider South Africa my second homeland. For the past ten years, I’ve lived in New Zealand, and people ‘back home’ tell me I’ve become a real Kiwi.”

She’s also done just a bit of traveling, as evidenced by her answer to my question about the strangest thing she’s ever eaten. “A durian fruit that smells like moldy socks and tastes of strawberries in Singapore? A bird nest soup in Malaysia? Cow’s stomach in Poland? Tea with butter and salt in a Tibetan restaurant? You tell me.”

Finally, I asked Yvonne, “If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?”

“That’s easy, and I’ve always wondered why people in fairy tales never thought of it,” she told me. “I want all my wishes to come true. A caveat having watched that horror movie with a monkey’s foot: provided they come true in the spirit, not in the letter, and do not hurt anybody.” Then she added, “But, okay, I’ll settle for my books being on the New York Times top ten.”

You can keep up with Yvonne on her website, http://yewalus.kiwiwebhost.net.nz

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Author Interview: Pauline Baird Jones

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Pauline Baird Jones, whose latest book The Key was an Independent Publisher Book Awards Bronze Medal Winner for 2008. She actually got the idea for it watching Stargate Atlantis. She told me she never intended it to be a story. She also never intended to write science fiction. She told me, “My science teacher in high school would be appalled and surprised, most likely horrified. I got this idea for a character and story and to get it out of my head, just typed it down. I liked the character so much, I started to wonder if I could find a world I could write about. I tried about five different approaches until I hit on the one that finally became The Key. Sara was so fun to write. She surprised me over and over again while writing this book. And don't get me started on Fynn. Sigh.”

Pauline has always been, as she says, “a passionate, avid, addicted reader” and the only time she got in trouble in school was for reading novels behind her textbooks. Once she read all the books in her library, she needed more, so she started creating her own books. “I started with crappy ‘fan fiction’,” she told me, “but really didn’t kick it up until my husband encouraged me to write to sell.” She grinned and added, “He didn’t know much about the business and thought he could become a ‘kept’ man. Instead he’s had to be a ‘patron of the arts’.”

She started out writing stage plays and even had one produced by a university theater group. “It was a comedy about a woman whose family doesn’t appreciate her and she fades into invisibility. When I realized I’d have to write plays for the ‘glory,’ I decided to try my hand at writing for children (by then I had a couple) and made my first two money sales writing for children.” Undeterred by the pitiful return, she eventually moved into short fiction for women and then long fiction. “I submitted a story to Playgirl Magazine once because I was curious what their rejection letter looked like,” she said. “Sadly, it was nothing special, which seemed wrong for some reason.”

Pauline told me she’s been writing to publish since the last century (around 1992 or thereabouts), but added, “I’ve been dabbling in it since the early 8o’s. Of course, if you want to get really technical, I wrote for my high school paper...on stone tablets, according to my kids.”

She’s not what you might call a traditional plotter. In fact, she confessed, “I’m an ‘into the mist’ write ‘by the seat of my pants’ plotter, so I basically commit random acts of writing. Sometimes a story starts with the mayhem, sometimes with the character. My ideas start kind of niggling and small and scared and I have to ignore them and pretend I don't care until the ideas get annoyed enough to come out and demand my attention. Then I, well, to paraphrase from my daughter, Elizabeth, I pull it out of tush. And yes, it can be painful.”

Finding it difficult to pick just one favorite author, Pauline gave me several. “I love Mary Stewart because she got me interested in romantic suspense. I love Elizabeth Cadell because she taught me books could be funny and I love Georgette Heyer because she taught me about writing great characters. And I can't leave out Alastair Maclean who taught me about kick butt suspense.”

On a personal note, I asked Pauline if she hated how she looks in pictures. She answered with an emphatic, “YES! I hate how I sound on recordings, too. I have an image of how I look and sound and I hate having that messed with. PLUS, the camera adds five pounds. Everyone knows that. So that's not really how I look, right?”

When Pauline goes home to visit, she and her dad go riding on one of his three horses, weather permitting. “My dad knows the mountains around Lovell like the back of his hand,” she said, “and it is an amazing experience to get right away from civilization and just be alone in a beautiful place.”

And, finally, Pauline told me she is very much a night person. “My spirit doesn’t enter my body until well after ten in the morning,” she told me.

We are so glad that Pauline came through Hurricane Ike unscathed and was able to be with us.

You can keep up with Pauline on her blog, http://paulinebjones.livejournal.com

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Romance By the Books by Georgie Lee

I arranged the books on the shelf, listening with pride as the bell over the front door continued to ring. Business on most days was brisk, but today business boomed thanks to foot traffic from the street fair.

"Well done, Sarah," my sister Lisa offered, handing me another book from the box. Anticipating an increase in business, I'd asked her to help today.

"Do you think Mom would be proud if she could see what I've done to the store?" I asked, noticing the growing line at the cash register. Looking around at the people milling about the new and used book, a handsome man in the technology section caught my attention. He'd been reading the same book for a long time and as I watched him, he glanced up, his eyes holding mine for a moment before I turned away. However, something about him drew my attention and I glanced back only to find him smiling at me. I offered him a quick smile then returned to shelving books.

"She'd be very proud," Lisa replied, looking between me and the man. "But I think she'd have a thing or two to say about your personal life."

"What's wrong with my personal life?"

"You haven't had one since Ray left you."

"Why do you have to bring up such a bad topic on such a good day?"

"Because you're thirty-one, attractive and you should be living life, not hiding from it." She took the last book from the box and held it out to me.

I snatched it up and shoved it roughly into place on the shelf. "I'm hardly hiding."
"Aren't you?" she challenged.

"No," I lied, unwilling to admit that since the divorce I'd been hiding in work, trying to forget my loneliness, afraid to take another chance on love.

"Prove it," Lisa insisted.

"I don't need to prove anything." I walked behind the front desk, happy to see my part-time cashiers ringing up sales. Lisa was quick to follow, determinedly dogging my heels.

"Yes, you do because I know you're lying," she whispered and I whirled to face her.

"What could I do to make you believe me?"

Her face lit up as if she'd spent the whole morning thinking of just the thing. A little shiver of fear went through me. I knew that look from childhood. It was always followed by a double dare and I didn't know if I was ready to deal with a double dare.

"I double dare you to talk to a man today," she replied. "Not any man but a single man of my choosing."

"You're crazy."

"Coward."

Now I had to accept the dare, if only wipe the smug smile off her face. "Fine. Who should I talk to?"

"Let's see," she scanned the room, her lips curling into a smile as she spotted the object of her dare. "Talk to him."

She motioned towards the man standing in the technology section and my heart gave a little flutter of excitement tinged with fear. "I can't talk to him."

"Why not?"

"He's probably married."

"He isn't wearing a ring."

He ran his left hand through his brown hair, revealing his ringless finger as he continued to read. My fear increased as I tried to think of a graceful way out of the dare but Lisa was persistent.

"Go talk to him."

"I will," I insisted, trying to sound more confident than I felt.

"Then go." She gave me a little push.

I slowly made my way through the crowd, reaching the technology section much faster than I would have liked. A few feet from him I stopped, my courage deserting me. I was about to walk away when he looked up from his book.

"Hi, you must be Sarah. I'm Tom. Pleased to meet you." He smiled, holding out his hand. I was almost too surprised to take it but I quickly recovered, grasping his hand and enjoying his firm grip.

"How did you know my name?" I asked, feeling my nervousness disappear as I took in the warmth of his deep brown eyes.

"I'm the new IT guy in Lisa's office. She's told me a lot about you."

"Really?" Suddenly I understood Lisa's double dare. Leave it to her to be so subtle about trying to set me up. "What did she tell you?"

"All about your book store. It's amazing and your selection is impressive."

"Thanks. I'm quite a book lover."

"Me too, especially old books on early computer programming. I collect them." He held up his selection, a 1940s book about IBM punch card computers. "Where did you find this?"

"I have a knack for finding rare books. I love rummage sales and thrift stores. It's amazing the treasures people give away."

"Some people don't recognize a treasure when they have one. I guess that's good for us, isn't it?" he asked with a chuckle and I nodded.

The conversation eventually turned from the thrill of finding rare books to sharing our stories of divorce. We both knew what it was like to start over, personally and professionally. Our conversation continued for quite some time until I could no longer ignore the business of running a very busy store. With regret, I told him I had to get back to work and disappointment flashed across his handsome face.
"Do you have your catalogue on-line?" he asked.

"Not yet. I haven't had time."

"I can help you build a website, if you'd like?"

"That would be great. I love helping people find what they're looking for."

"This is certainly the place to find something special." He smiled, a genuine smile to make a girl go weak in the knees. "I'm glad I took Lisa's suggestion to come by today."

"Me too," I replied, knowing I'd see a lot more of Tom and happy I'd accepted Lisa's double dare.

About the Author: My first traditional Regency romance, Lady's Wager is now available from Cerridwen Press. I am a member of Romance Writers of America and the Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter. I hold an MA in Screenwriting from California State University, Northridge and a Certificate in Screenwriting from the UCLA Writer's Program. Before moving to Los Angeles, I wrote marketing videos, public service announcements and promotional spots for a cable television station in San Diego. georgie.lee@yahoo.com www.georgie-lee.com http://georgielee.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Author Interview: Carter Tachikawa

The Long and the Short of It is excited to welcome Carter Tachikawa, author of Lithium Whole, a book of poetry. This is Carter’s first book, but she told me she has a series that she is currently working on.

Carter told me she’s Indian-American, but added “Indian being from India, not Native American. I was born here, but my roots go back over there. Unfortunately, I’m not that certain of my genealogy as no one has been able to give me much information about it. I do know the majority of me is Indian, though there could be something else mixed from far back.”

When I asked Carter our standard “writers block” question, she told me she wouldn’t call it writer’s block in her case. “I have moments of laziness where I don’t want to write,” she confessed. “I have enough to write, but I don’t feel like writing. But being blocked, no.”

One way she avoids writers block is by trying to write every day, whether she feels like it or not. “Even if it’s just one line or paragraph,” she said, “it’s enough for me. It’s what keeps my creative juices flowing. From that one line or paragraph, the rest slowly comes together.”

I also asked Carter what the most important elements of good writing were, in her opinion. She stated, “Three things every writer must know: know your setting, know your characters, know your dialogue.”

She went on to say that it’s important to know the time period you’re writing about and to do research if you aren’t sure of something. “If you don’t have a place set,” she told me, “then you just have people floating around talking.”

She continued, “Second, you should know your characters. Who are they? What do they do? Is there something that the reader should know about them? Give them layers. Treat them like they are people you know. Make them your friends. You don't have to be in love with them but you have to know them. Good or bad, get to know them.”

She concluded by saying that, in her opinion, dialogue can either make or break a story and can make an action speak louder.

Her own writing has been influenced by diverse writers from Stephen King to JK Rowling and includes the several short story writers and poets, including Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, Toni Cade Bambara, Joyce Carol Oates, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sylvia Plath.

Carter told me that the hardest part of writing Lithium Whole was deciding what to put in it. “How did I want this book to be?” she asked herself. “Was it supposed to be more autobiographical or did I need to tell someone else's story? That was the part that gave me the most difficulty when writing it.”

I also asked her what advice she would give to a writer just starting out. “First and foremost, know if this is what you want to do,” she warned. “Be confident and comfortable with your writing. If you're not sure of it, do something and make yourself sure of it. Learn to love your story. Handle it with care. No matter what you feel about it, make sure you feel something for it. Words don't appear on a paper just like that; there's meaning behind those words. Find out what it is and share it with the world.”

On a personal note, I asked Carter to share with us her strangest habit. “I cannot eat vanilla ice cream without something in it,” she confessed. “I need my vanilla ice cream have some kind of topping on it.” Also, when she’s eating her meal, she eats all the side dishes first, leaving the main dish for last.

She also admits that, while she likes both Coke and Pepsi she prefers Pepsi products. “It has a sweeter taste to me,” she told me.

I asked her what she wanted to know about the future. “I want to know if I’ll be happy and satisfied,” she said. “I want to have fame, but if I can’t have that, then at least give me my happiness. I want the world to be stable.” Then she added, “And I also want to know if gas prices will ever go down!”

Her wish, though, is much more basic. “I would like one really good friend,” she told me. “I have friends and people who I love but I don't have that special person. This is the kind of person that I can share my secrets and life with. In a crowded room, I still feel lonely and wish I could get that person with me there. I want someone who isn't quick to speak or judge but listen and analyze. I know these people are out there. I have yet to find one.”

You can keep up with Carter on her website, http://freewebs.com/ctachikawa

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Last Day Revelations by Kimber Chin 

"Jones." Her last name was murmured into her ear, making the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand up and cheer.

"Peterson." There was no need for Eda to look up. She knew that deep voice. It haunted her dreams every night for two years. "Come to say good-bye?" Today had been her last day at the consulting firm. As of tomorrow, she was a freelancer, her own boss.

"No." His leg brushed hers as he climbed up on the barstool. "What are you drinking?" He motioned to the bartender.

"Long Island Ice Tea." A girly drink take-no-prisoners Peterson would surely scoff at.

"Another Long Island for the lady and a gin and tonic for me." No scoffing, only a hint of humor.

Eda lifted a blonde eyebrow with all the coolness she could muster, pushing away the reality of the moment. She couldn't think about how Sam Peterson, the firm's most dynamic partner, was buying her a drink. Her. Eda Jones.
"You don't usually drink with the staff." One of the rules, partners didn't mingle socially with the consultants.

"I'm not, am I?"

Eda thought about that for a moment. "I guess not." It was late. Her co-workers had already left. Only she remained, lingering. For what, for whom, she didn't know. She looked up into his warm brown eyes, and swallowed. "I left the files on your desk." Business, they had to talk business. Business was safe.

"I don't want to talk about the files, Eda. I don't want to talk about work." He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. She shivered. "You're no longer an employee. After two willpower testing years, you finally resigned. It took you long enough."

It took her long enough? "You wanted me to leave?" Eda straightened her shoulders to better bear the hurt, tugging her blazer protectively closer.

"Mercy, yes." A short bark of a laugh. "I prayed for it. Every night. Since that first day you walked into my office, all smart mouth and sass, legs and brains."

He prayed for it. For her to leave. "You disliked me that much?" She frowned down at the drink in her hands.

A big hand cupped her chin, tilting it upwards. "I liked you that much." She swallowed. Hard. "You took my breath away."

She took Sam Peterson's breath away. No. Eda shook her head, trying to clear it. It couldn't be. Must be the alcohol. "You growled at me."

"It was expected." He shrugged those wide shoulders. "I growl at everyone, and I couldn't do what I really wanted to do. Not without getting fired."

"What was that?" Did she want to know?

"To find out where that run in your stockings ended." He leaned closer to her. Eda could smell the musk and the man. Sam Peterson's scent. "Where did it end, Eda?"

"Peterson." She placed trembling fingers on her knee.

"Sam," he corrected. A warm palm covered her hand and moved it. "Ah, I see I have another run to wonder about." Her pale skin peeking through the black silk. "How far up does this one go?"

All the way. Their eyes caught and held. He slowly smiled as though he read her mind. He was always doing that, reading her mind. "I see." He tossed his drink back, and threw some bills on the bar top. "Let me drive you home."

"Sam." She slid to her feet, tugging down her pencil line skirt. "I know what you're thinking, what you're expecting, but I'm not that kind of girl." Though she wanted to be, very much. Especially now, as he put his arm around her waist, the warmth from his body reaching out to ensnare her.

"I wouldn't have waited two years for that type of girl, Eda." He twirled his car keys around a finger. "You should know me better than that."

"I thought I did." She wobbled a bit on her heels, the floor spinning. His grip on her tightened. "I didn't know, I mean, you..."

"You did, Eda. You did." He held the door open for her, the night breeze cool on her skin. "The holiday party."

The holiday party. She stopped in the parking lot, looking up at the star filled sky. The holiday party. She closed her eyes for a moment, remembering. The slow dance that never should have happened. Him and her in the dark, surrounded by hundreds of curious coworkers. She almost threw caution to the wind then. Almost.

"Sam."

"Eda." He kissed her, his lips firm and possessive, demanding and gentle, his car keys pressed against her back. She slipped her hands under his navy blue suit to better feel that proud, unbending backbone.

He broke away, too soon for Eda's preference, his semi-smile rueful. "Oh, my Eda." His playful tap on the end of her nose made her blink. "I didn't wait two years to rush things now." He captured her small hand in his, entwining their fingers. "Let me drive you home."


About the Author: Kimber Chin writes contemporary romances set in the world of business. Her first novel, Breach Of Trust, features a dynamic venture capitalist and a strong willed business plan coach. Kimber offers readers a free story every Wednesday at http://businessromance.com/

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Author Interview: Heather Beck

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Heather Beck. Not only is Heather a published author, she’s also a student at the University of Toronto. Heather’s first book, The Paradise Chronicles, was published when she was only nineteen, and she’s had several more published since then. She’s also passionate about the outdoors and is an award-winning fisherwoman and hikes on a regular basis.

I asked Heather what advice she would give a new writer who was just starting out. She told me it would depend on what their motivation for writing was. “If it’s for money,” she said, “I would be quick in showing them my royalty checks. Of course, different types of writing jobs (such as, freelance, novelist, screenwriter, full-time with a company, etc.) yield vastly different paychecks.” She decided to focus her advice to the aspiring novelist. “If the writer is truly in love with the essence of writing,” she told me, “I’d recommend taking writing courses to hone their craft and understand the fundamentals of fiction writing, such as structure, plot, character development, etc.” She also feels that people should start writing their first manuscript, even if they don’t think they are really ready. She continued, “While writing and taking inspiration from whatever they can, research into the publishing company and how it works must be conducted. This includes understanding key terms, how to format a manuscript, and how to approach an agent or publisher.” The most important thing, however, in Heather’s opinion goes back to her first peace advice: to begin writing. “The informed writer must have a manuscript they believe in are willing to fight for in an extremely tough business.”

Heather told me she’s never suffered from writer’s block. Instead, she has the opposite problem: too many ideas and not enough time to write them all in. “I have a screenplay which is half done,” she shared with me, “another screenplay with is a quarter of the way done and yet another which I’ve just started and have an outline for. I have a half-completed novel and two anthologies waiting to be finished. Furthermore, I have two features and three television shows that are in the pitching, or development, stage so I’m always on the standby for revisions. The insane thing is—I don’t consider these ventures as work. Writing, even if it yields very little monetary gain, is one of my greatest loves. I can’t imagine myself not having something to write about.”

I asked Heather if she would describe her writing space for us. “I love this question,” she said, “because my writing space varies vastly from season to season. I summer I can be found writing beside a pool, on the beach, or in some nature retreat. During the winter most of my writing takes place by the moonlight’s reflection upon the snow. As for the fall and spring, I guess it depends on the weather. I prefer writing in my backyard, but my bedroom will also suffice.”

As much as she loves writing, she despises editing, and for multiple reasons. “Besides being time-consuming and tedious, I dislike rewriting because it censors what I felt and the time of writing,” she said. “And...no matter how many times I read and reread my works I always miss something.” She told me that her editing skills have gotten better over the years, but that there were still improvements that needed to be made. She does have one thing going for her though. “Thankfully, I have some awesome people who help check for spelling and grammatical errors.”

One question I like asking our authors is, “You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?” Heather told me, “Every person has had experiences which they would rather erase than remember. However, I personally refuse to forget because in doing so I would be losing a part of who I am today. From the past I do gather some regrets. Mostly, it’s about missed opportunities. I’d rather deal than dwell though, so I’m adamant about making amends via present action.”

Her favorite animal is the wolf because of their beauty and loyalty. “I also love the myths of magical realism with they are associated with,” she said.

If she could know the future (she called that question fun but scary) she would like to know the winning lottery numbers a week in advance. She added, “I would also like to know where to be at the right time and, vice verse, where not to be at the wrong time.”

Heather told me that she thinks generalizations of any kind are dangerous. “The fact is,” she said, “we are all multifaceted beings with react differently according to situation, time and feeling.” Therefore, when asked what stereotype she would label herself, she said, “I would stereotype myself as someone who rebels against stereotypes... I can only hope to be ‘labelled’ as someone who constantly acts in a compassionate manner.”

And, finally, in keeping with her thoughts on compassion, Heather told me, when asked what she would with for, “If I could wish for anything I’d wish for a universal understanding and application of the concept of compassion. This, in essence, is world peace since the ideology of compassion encompasses sympathy (if not empathy), benevolence, and the ability of altruistic foresight. If I were to dwell in conspicuous consumption however, I’d wish for a Hummer (2007 H2 SUT with lots of heavy chrome and a Hemi).”

You can keep up with Heather on her website, http://heatherbeck.tripod.com

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Marriage on the Menu by Lynda Lukow 

Liz James’ life had all the flavor of unseasoned white sauce. Twenty-five years before, she had set her culinary science degree on the backburner to work bland jobs. Then as her husband lumbered up the architectural ladder, she raised their three children.

Now that the kids lived on their own---and Liz’s libido boiled over---she craved the days when she and Scott couldn’t pass each other without a hug, kiss, and caress. And the lovemaking! Sometimes fast and demanding, sometimes slow and easy. Anytime, anywhere, satisfaction guaranteed.

So far, her efforts to move romance from an often-skipped dessert to the main course had failed, but tonight she planned to stir things up. She scooped pepper steak over a bed of rice for Scott, chicken and broccoli for her. Then she placed the plates on the coffee table and lit tapers. A remix of 1983’s love songs floated from the stereo. Their first date replicated, she dressed for seduction.

When his car pulled into the driveway, she dashed to the couch and arranged her red satin wrap to reveal the black lace, cleavage-baring teddy.

Scott entered, gawked, and exited.

What the hell! He didn’t give her time to wink, much less invite him to join her.

He eased open the door, then slipped in. “What’s up?”

“Apparently nothing.” She blew out the candles, turned off the music, and carried their plates into the kitchen. “Supper’s on the table.”

As she stormed toward the stairs, he caught her elbow. “Evan’s waiting on the porch.”

Her stomach twisted. “Why is your lawyer here?”

“We’ll talk about it later. Can you get dressed, then scrounge up something for him to eat?”

“Give him mine.” She lost her appetite anyway. In the bedroom, she threw on a blouse and jeans. They had written their wills years ago. They didn’t intend to buy any property. Why would Scott consult his lawyer?

A chill coursed through her. She took the magazine from her nightstand and found the article about infidelity. Several times Scott had abruptly ended phone conversations when she entered the room. He recently added casual clothes to his wardrobe. Had she lost him to another woman?

Determined to find out what he and the lawyer discussed, she crept down to the den. She couldn’t understand a word through the door, so she pasted on a smile and entered without knocking. “Hello, Evan.”

He averted her gaze as he shoved papers under his briefcase. “Mrs. James.”

“Can I get you anything?”

“Privacy.” Scott’s curtness seared her heart.

“Don’t worry. I’m going out.” She leaned over to kiss him, but he pulled away to shield more papers.

Unwilling to give up without a fight, she drove to a travel agency. Their silver anniversary deserved better than their weekend honeymoon at the Jersey shore. Maybe a Caribbean cruise. She could throw his cell phone and laptop overboard and, if she needed, tie him to the bed, drink champagne from his navel, and lick chocolate sauce from every inch of his body. If that didn’t remind him that she was more than the mother of his children, nothing would.

When she arrived home, she slid travel brochures into an envelope. On the front, she wrote Crème Brûlée, the nickname he had given her and she once signed to love notes she packed in his lunches. She left the packet on the table and crawled into bed.

The next morning, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee, not Scott’s goodbye kiss, woke her. While she sipped her first cup, she checked her email. He asked how she knew he needed to plan a meeting with his most important colleague and informed her that he made reservations for the following week at a golf resort and spa in Miami.

If she could reach through cyberspace, she’d choke him.

* * *

“Hi, Mom!”

Liz shut off the vacuum and then hugged her oldest daughter. “Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“Dad forgot his golf clubs. Why don’t you come along and see him off?”

When Liz begged to accompany him, Scott claimed he had meetings all week. Afraid she’d shove his lying ass off the boarding ramp, Liz declined.

“C’mon. I’ll buy you lunch.”

After a ten-minute debate, Ashley dragged her mom out to the car. Liz stewed all the way to the airport. She found her husband near the check-in counter and thrust his golf bag into his hands. “Have a nice trip.”

“Thanks.” He kissed her cheek, then pulled an envelope from his breast pocket. “This is for you.”

Fearing a divorce petition, she couldn’t reach out. “What’s that?”

“Your ticket.”

“To freedom?”

“You could call it that.”

Her shoulders sagged. “I know I got lost in the kids’ lives and you got wound up in work, but don’t you think this is a little extreme?”

“Hell no. We more than deserve it.”

If that’s the way he wanted to play, she’d get the best divorce lawyer around. She tore open the envelope and found a first class ticket, destination Miami International Airport.

“Surprise!” Their three children mobbed her.

Tears sprang to her eyes. After Liz hugged them all, Scott patted her butt. “Get going or we’ll miss our flight.”

“What about your meetings with your most important colleague?”

He pulled her into his arms. “No one matters more than you.”

“Then why did you meet with your attorney?”

“I’m investigating semi-retirement.” He kissed her long and hard. “What did you think we discussed?”

She shrugged. “You haven’t been too attentive lately.”

“You know I share all my secrets. I was afraid I’d spoil the surprise.”

The new clothes, the secretive calls suddenly made sense. “But you didn’t tell me to pack.”

“You’re overdue for a new wardrobe, too.” He nibbled her ear. “Each night, I plan to tear off your new lingerie. I hope you’re up to it.”

“Oh, I’m ready to sizzle,” she pressed her hips to his, “and I’ll make sure you are, too.”


About the Author: Lynda is a married mother of six who maintains her sanity by escaping into written words. Visit Lynda’s blog: http://lyndalukow.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Author Interview: Valerie Patterson

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Valerie J. Patterson. Valerie, as you may remember, was our grand prize winner of our first annual short story contest. You can read her story here. Valerie, along with her best friend and husband Steven, makes her home is southwestern Pennsylvania. Valerie stays very busy because she’s an adjunct lecturer for a local college and works part time for a law firm. She also teaches the pre-teen Sunday school class at her church where she’s also the drama director. And, she still finds time to write. She’s had a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “Green and Red Trappings” published in Mad for a Mystery Publications; written “Tag You’re It” which won the Donard Publishing writing competition; and had “A Sharp Dressed Man” published in a compilation book, The Writings on the Wall by Writers Wall Publications. She has also has two novels currently released: The Lincoln Room and Montana Reins, both from Asylett Press.

Valerie told me she went through more than a year, after her father died unexpectedly, when she completely lost her desire to write. “He wasn’t here any longer to read my work or share in my success,” she said. “I went over a year without writing a single sentence. A friend of mine—a fellow writer—actually helped me through that extended period of writer’s block. She just kept after me to sit down and write. It really didn’t matter what I wrote--just that I wrote. I started with a piece about my dad, and that helped me both creatively and emotionally. Sometimes we're aware of the problem--of what's causing the writer's block. Other times, we're not. Either way, the best thing to do is to sit down and write something--anything. It could be pure crap, but at least you've written something. That--to me--is what matters most. That I've written something. Once I get over that hurdle, the next time I sit down to the computer, it's easier and more productive.”

In talking about the elements of good writing, Valerie says she concentrates the heaviest on the characters first. She told me that she wanted her characters to feel like real people. “I’m always impressed with a writer whose work I can read,” she told me, “and come away from the experience thinking I would want the main character as a friend. That's what I try to do with my characters. For instance, Alexaundra Jerdan--in The Lincoln Room is someone who's very down to earth, I think. She's intelligent, successful, and creative. However, she's not perfect. She's quick to draw conclusions that are not always correct. She has a temper that could get in the way. I think readers can relate to all aspects of Alex and hopefully come away thinking she'd be someone they'd like to know.”

Valerie also believes a writer needs to know her subject in order to write realistically. “If I'm reading a book about the FBI, I expect the writer to have knowledge of the FBI,” she said. “It can't all be speculation. I want some facts in there so that I can come away from the read thinking what I read--fiction--could have happened. That's also what I strive for in my own work. The Lincoln Room deals with ghosts and murders that have occurred for nearly a hundred years. Not only do I want my readers to feel the eeriness of the setting, but I want them to wonder if this sort of thing could have happened. Plot, setting, imagery, natural flowing dialog, these all go hand-in-hand to make a book whole. Without one, the readers will know something is lacking in the telling of the story.”

Even though she concentrates more on the characters, she told me that for her, plot and characters occur at the same time. “An idea will strike,” she said, “and at the same time I have in mind the main character. I usually develop the character first, the plot more in depth second. I like to think my books are character driven, meaning I tap into the thoughts and actions of my characters and allow 'them' to drive the story. I usually develop the main character and her counterpart first. Getting down features, characteristics of personality, motivations, quirks, etc. Then I can get a feel for how they'll react to certain elements of the plot, to secondary characters, to information as it's revealed throughout the story. Whenever I teach a creative writing class or help a novice writer with a piece, the advice I usually give first is that the writer listen to the characters. If you're in tune with your characters, the rest just seems to fall into place.”

Valerie told me that The Lincoln Room was easy for her to write. She had been kicking around the idea for a few years. She had the setting, the plot, the two main characters, and the ending. “I just needed to finish a couple other projects and get down to some serious writing,” she said. “When I was finally able to do that, the words just poured forth.”

Her other novel, Montana Reins, however, was a different story. She first wrote it in 2002, but then put it aside for a year. In 2004, she shared it with a group of writers who gave their honest opinions of the story. This time, she set it asked for more than two years. “In 2006, I opened it, read the entire thing again, read the notes I had from my critique group and sliced and diced it until I was satisfied with it.” She told me that much of Montana Reins were left on the editing room floor, but also added scenes that sealed the story together. Valerie said, “I submitted it to one publisher--Asylett Press--and the rest is history. Montana Reins is a contemporary western romance, which is not something I usually write. I think stepping outside my chosen genre of mystery-suspense is the reason I had such a hard time with this book. However, I never would have been satisfied writing it and never doing anything with it. It's taught me that sometimes it's best to just walk away and come back to it fresh. Everyone thinks romance is the easy genre to write. It's just as difficult as any other genre. No matter what, the plot has to be fresh, the characters realistic, the dialog natural, and the setting so rich you can become a part of it. That's my job as a writer--regardless of the genre.”

One thing Valerie does to insure her dialog is natural is she reads her work aloud. Not just the dialog, but everything. “When I'm done with a chapter and I'm going through the editing process--which I do with every chapter at its completion--I read it aloud,” she told me. “I have found that I catch more mistakes that way than sitting at my desk and reading it silently. When you read aloud, you stumble more on poor word choice, typos, etc. When you read silently, the brain seems to miss misspellings because we're trained to recognize words not on their correct spelling but on their core letters. But it seems to be different when you're reading aloud. For me it is. Do I catch every single mistake? Not usually, but I'd say I catch at least 90 percent of them. That's how I bulletproof my manuscripts before I submit them anywhere.”

Not only does Valerie live in Pennsylvania, but she’s originally from a small town just outside Pittsburgh. She told me about a wonderful restaurant called Vincent’s Pizza Place. “I teethed on this pizza as a baby!” she said. “It was my dad's favorite and it's mine and my sisters' as well. In fact, on the one-year anniversary of his death, we all met there for dinner and tributes to Dad. I think he would have been happy with that. There's no other pizza like a Vinnie's pie. It's huge! Their small is probably everyone else's large. So you can imagine how huge their large is! It's dripping with cheese. The sauce is the perfect blend of spiciness. Huge chunks of Italian sausage or thick slices of pepperoni. Man, that's the best pizza on the planet. I think when we're done here, I'm going for a long drive for some excellent pizza!” I wish she had taken me with her!

Valerie told me she’s a morning person. “I love the morning. It's quiet--not just peaceful, but quiet. I can walk through the house and hear my footfalls on the carpet. I can see the mist of fog rise off the mountains across the way and imagine it's actually mist off a lake even though I know there's no lake. I can hear nature coming awake.” She’s likes the nighttime as well, though. Even though she was always “early to bed” while growing up, she’s discovering changes since she’s been writing. “The more I write,” Valerie said, “the more I notice my writing can keep me from a good sleep any day of the week. I've been known to get up in the middle of the night and write a chapter simply because sleep freed my mind of the worries I was carrying, and creativity broke through, waking me up. If an idea wakes me, I never just table it until morning. It will not be the same if I do. I will have lost something--some element that makes the idea work--by going back to sleep.” She doesn’t even allow travelling or driving to interfere with the muse. She told me that if an idea strikes while she’s on the road “I pull over, get out the notebook, and write it down. I have to. It’s discipline. Great ideas strike only once. If you wait, it dwindles to a good idea or an idea that would have been better had I obeyed my muse and written it down when she gave it to me.”

On a personal note, Valerie shared with me that she’s never had a desire for a dog. “When I was ten years old, I was mauled by a dog. A dog I knew and was friendly with. Didn't seem to matter that nearly every day for several years I'd seen this dog. One night, he attacked me and that ended my interest in dogs.” She realized while she answered my question, “Do you really want a dog?” that none of her characters have dogs either. “I find that interesting,” she told me. “Obviously, a writer influences their characters, but I never fully realized until now that none--not a single one--of my characters are dog lovers. Gee, I hope that won't prevent the dog loving population from reading my books.”

I also asked Valerie if she liked thunderstorms. She has had some bad experiences with storms as well as dogs. “When I was in the third grade, I was walking home from school when suddenly the heavens unleashed a horrific storm that not only caught me by surprise, but made me certain I was not going to survive it without being struck by lightning. Of course, I survived, but I also came away with a healthy respect for storms. When it's raining outside, I find it's easier to get stuck into writing. There's something about the sound of rain on the roof and the driveway that creatively charges me. Rain can also be a setting for romance. My husband touches my heart tenderly when he dances with me outside in the rain.”

The strangest thing Valerie has ever eaten, she told me, is rattlesnake. Her family had a summer place in the mountains when she was growing up. The area was known for black snakes, rattlesnakes, bears, deer, and various other animals. The clubhouse there hosted dinners and barbecues. “The first time I ate rattlesnake,” she said, “I was probably twelve. They seemed far less dangerous on a plate slathered in sauce than coiled up beside the road ready to strike.”

You can keep up with Valerie on her website, http://www.valeriejpatterson.com