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Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Cyber Lover by Yvonne Eve Walus

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It’s totally crazy to be in love with somebody I’ve never met.

It’s even more crazy to be wheelchair-bound and in love with somebody I’ve never met. But then, I don’t get out much.

I’m in love with Andy1980. Cyber-love has its merits: you get to know the other person. I mean, what do you know about your boyfriend’s first puppy? Andy’s first and only dog was called Tigger and he saved Andy’s life.

I feel for Tigger. When I saved somebody’s life, I received this wheelchair in exchange, but at least I got to live. You might say it’s not much of a life, but I like it the way it is.

Which brings me to the dilemma at hand: Andy wants us to get married.

The first time he proposed, we were in bed (metaphorically speaking) doing the horizontal (cyber) tango.

“Wow,” he typed at one point. “I really fancy your fingerwork. Very, um, fast ;-) .... Will you marry me?”

“LOL,” I typed back, laughing out loud, laughing it off.

We got back to business. When your cyber lover is as good at cyber sex as Andy1980, you don’t waste time on talking marriage.

Andy was perfect. But then many guys seem perfect online. It’s easy to dazzle in cyberspace. You have all the time in the world to think up the best lines and you don’t have to worry whether your breath smells of garlic as you deliver them.

I’m not sure when I fell in love. One moment I was only playing around, confident that I could keep it fun and light, cyber and sex and no strings. I mean, Andy’s on another continent and not in a wheelchair. How practical would it be?

No. I was a twenty-first century girl who didn’t want a relationship. I kept my emotions to myself.

The second time Andy popped the question was a double-barrel effort. We were in a private chat room, and Andy was pretending that he was my soul mate and that he could ‘feel’ me across the oceans.

“You’re drinking red wine,” he typed.

I was. “So? You know I always drink red wine on a Friday night.”

“And you’re wearing something black.”

“Andy, come on. Half of the lingerie I own is black.”

“You are rolling your eyes now, aren’t you? And before you can roll them some more, answer that phone of yours. It’s ringing.”

Now that was a little spooky. My mobile had just played the first notes of “Moonlight Sonata”. I was so surprised I didn’t check the caller ID.

“Gillian Moore speaking.”

“Will you marry me?” said the voice in my mobile phone, just as the chat room exploded in pixels of fireworks surrounding the typed words “will you marry me”.

“You know I’m only in it for the fabulous sex, right?” I asked. “I’m commitment-shy.”

“That’s ok. I’m not.”

That was all Andy had to say on the topic.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If, and it was a very hypothetical if, if I said yes... well, what would happen then? Would he come to New Zealand? Would I emigrate to the States? Big wedding, small wedding, no wedding? Would I take his last name? What was his last name, anyway?

I kept inventing small obstacles where there was one big one, with wheels and a built-in engine to save my arms from growing biceps.

So, the third proposal. Well, the third proposal arrived this morning.

After the long warm foamy bath (and the long process to climb out), tea at the ready, I opened my subscription magazine that arrived in the post earlier in the week. I’d been saving it especially for that first Sunday morning cup. I always do.

This morning, however, the magazine’s editor leapt out of the page and punched me in the stomach. Well, that’s what it felt like anyway.

If your name is Gillian Moore, the editorial said, please turn to page 16 now.

I did. Well, wouldn’t you?

And there it was. Page 16 and 17, actually. A photo spread of Andy, down on one knee in the style of those 19th century gentlemen. A bouquet of orchids (my favourite flowers) in his one hand. A velvet box with a sapphire engagement ring (my favourite colour is blue and I don’t like diamonds) in the other.

And next to him - the most gorgeous little dachshund puppy.

A speech bubble, a regular comic-book speech bubble, hovered over the dog’s snout: “You may not want Andy (who, incidentally, is fully house-trained), but how can you say no to me?”

This time I was the one who called. My hands were shaking. It was time to end another cyber fairytale.

“Andy, hi. I’d like to speak to Bubbles, please.”

“He’s listening on the other extension.”

“Bubbles, there is one thing I have to tell you. About me, I mean.”

“It’s ok,” Andy interrupted. “Bubbles knows about the wheelchair. He’s cool with that.”

“How on earth -”

“I told him, Gillian. I pieced it together ages ago, from all the things you said. And didn’t say.”

My mouth was salty with tears. “In that case, my answer is yes, Bubbles.”

“He’s wagging his tail,” Andy said, “but he’d like to know more details. Are you coming here? Are we moving there? Big wedding, small wedding?”

“I’ll move there. New Zealand has these stupid quarantine laws for animals. Also, a small wedding. Dogs prefer small weddings.”

It’s amazing how easy decision-making became once there was Bubbles to consider.

We talked for ages. I talked, anyway. Bubbles panted.

“See you soon, Bubbles.” I whispered when it was time to hang up. “I love you.”

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It’s totally crazy to be in love with somebody I’ve never met.

About the Author: Yvonne Eve Walus has lived on three continents and her books reflect the wealth of her cultural background. Published in USA and in Britain, her crime fiction includes “Murder @ Work” and “Murder @ Play”, both set in the tumultuously exotic South Africa (amazon.com, fictionwise.com). http://yewalus.kiwiwebhost.net

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Author Interview: June Phyllis Baker

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome June Phyllis Baker, whose first novel No Regrets is available from Amazon.com. She’s currently working on a second book in the series, Nobody’s Cowboy.

She begins her stories by first getting an idea for a character. She then decides what she wants to see happen to that character. From there, the plot develops.

I asked her to tell us a little bit about No Regrets. June told me, “Just a regular day in Sunny Hills. Should she mind her own business? The gossip columnist doesn’t think so. The Sheriff things she should. And what exactly is that pesky Major up to? Reporter Arlene Sinclair is afraid of nothing or nobody. A staunch advocator of the truth, she'll stop at nothing to get her facts. Of course Sheriff Lance Carter doesn't see it that way; especially when she interferes in police business and takes something from a crime scene she's sure means nothing. In spite of this he is in love with her. Arlene is determined to write the story that will make her a household name. When a man with a grudge and a gun holds her hostage, Arlene becomes her own big story.”

Her current WIP (work in progress), Nobody’s Cowboy, is set in the same sleepy little fictitious town of Sunny Hills, Georgia in the 1950s, just like No Regrets. “Dusty, my hero, developed a love for flying while serving in Korea,” June explained. “He's also a deputy with the Sunny Hills Sheriff’s office. He wants to start his own crop-dusting business, but his girlfriend Katie doesn’t see it that way. She thinks he should keep both feet on the ground. His brother-in-law, who is also the sheriff, wants him to stay on the force. Dusty's friend Mike would like nothing better than to steal Katie away from Dusty.”

June has always been a voracious reader. In fact, in her town’s summer reading program, she always placed among the top readers. When she was twelve, she saw an advertisement for a writing contest on the inside of a matchbook cover and entered. “I didn’t win,” she said, “but it planted the seed to write.” She told me, “The first time I saw my story in a magazine, being a writer became even more real to me.”

I asked June what inspired her to write that first book. “After 9-11, I wanted to make people laugh, help them escape from the sadness,” she said. Then she added, with a laugh, “Little did I know it would take me five years to write it.”

June shared with me that the hardest part of writing her book was dealing with her dyslexia. “It presented a real challenge,” she said, “especially since I’d mix up words, transpose letters. Sometimes my thoughts get mixed up and I have to slow down. I have to check and recheck everything.” It also surprised her that she had the patience to work on the book for as long as she did, as well as actually being able to write a novel-length book. She was aiming for sixty thousand and ended up writing seventy-two thousand.

She rarely suffers from writer’s block, she told me, because she’s always got one idea or another running through her head. “The times it does happen,” she said, “I either have my characters write me a letter and tell me what they want me to do with them, or go back and read what I’ve already written.”

June also follows a schedule for her writing. “I write every day,” she told me, “either in the morning or the afternoon for a hour. Then check my mail and then try to do some reading.” Her computer is set up in the corner of her bedroom. “On the left corner of my desk I have the ARC copy of my book. I keep it there to inspire me to keep writing and to realize what I have accomplished,” she told me. “Next to it I have Merriam Webster’s Handbook For Writers.”

One reason she writes books with such a humorous twist is that she enjoys reading books that make her laugh. She told me that Janet Evanovitch is one of her favorite authors. “Her books never fail to make me laugh,” she shared. “She has a wonderful sense of humor.”

I asked June what she was currently reading. “A friend told me that my writing reminded her of of Ann. B. Ross, author of the Miss Julia series,” she said. “Hearing that, I decides to read a couple of her books. Right now I’m reading Miss Julia Strikes Back.”

On a personal note, she hates how she looks in pictures and has very few of herself in the house. “My excuse is that I didn't get the photogenic gene,” she told me. Also, she’s never eaten a crayon, but if they tasted like chocolate, she’d be willing to give it a shot. And, she’s never made a crank phone call because she’s sure she would giggle and ruin it.

I also wanted to know what one experience from her past she would erase if she had the chance. “When I was in the second grade, the teacher tied me to a chair in front of the class,” she said, “because, I would get up and walk around the classroom. It was humiliating.”

Finally, I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out. “There are a lot of good online writing chats that are very helpful to newbie writers,” she told me. “Take an online course. Read as many books as you can in the genre you want to write in. There are also some pretty good self help for writer’s books. Two that I would recommend are Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.”

You can keep up with June on her website, http://junephyllisbaker.com

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Accidental Meeting by Diane Craver

The blue van skidded across the wet pavement to the wrong side of the road over the screams of two little girls. Frightened, Rebecca Bradley saw a car swerve to avoid hitting them. With the force of the van dipping into the ditch, her left arm smacked hard against the door handle. Miraculously, the vehicle bounced back onto the road.

Her legs trembled as she turned to look at her girls. "Are you okay?"

Although stunned, they seemed all right. She saw the other driver walking toward them. He's probably upset that he burned rubber to avoid a collision. Her arm throbbed as she opened the door to talk to him.

The man, built like a linebacker, asked, "Is anyone hurt?"

Rebecca stared at him. Where did this good-looking man come from? He wasn't from her neighborhood. "We seem to be all right. Just shaken. I'm so sorry.”

"I want my daddy," three-year-old Caitlyn Bradley wailed.

He gave a kind look at Rebecca. "I can call your husband for you."

Jenna, eyeing the stranger, said, "You look like our daddy. He has reddish brown hair, too."

"Mommy, my head hurts."

"Caitlyn, honey, let me see," Rebecca said, sliding open their door.

Jenna said, "Caitlyn’s bleeding. She needs to go to the hospital."

Rebecca's blue eyes widened at the sight of a cut on Caitlyn's forehead. She crawled inside the van and smelled urine. Without feeling Caitlyn's seat, she knew that the accident had shocked her daughter into wetting her panties. She saw a clean napkin on the floor from their recent fast food stop, and with an unsteady hand pressed it on the cut. Suddenly it was all too much, and she sobbed, "I can't believe this happened. They have been through so much."

He stuck his head in the van. "My name's David Hennessey. I'm a doctor."

"I'll move so you can look at it." When Rebecca attempted to give him some space, Caitlyn grabbed her hand. Rebecca gave him a sympathetic look since she was pressed against him.

He smiled at her. "It's okay. I've been in tight spaces before."

Rebecca's foot bumped into Caitlyn's dollhouse as she watched him examine the cut. "Is it very bad?"

"She does need stitches, but my office isn't far from here." He looked at Jenna and Caitlyn. "I have some neat toys."

"Caitlyn pees her panties all the time," Jenna said. "Can you fix that, too?"

* * * At Dr. Hennessey's family practice office, Rebecca held Caitlyn while he put the last stitch in.

"Caitlyn, I have a basket of treats for good patients. Since you were so brave, you get to choose two things." With a smile still on his face, he turned to Jenna. "I bet you're a mommy's helper, aren't you?"

Jenna nodded. "I help with Caitlyn."

"Well then, you get to pick something out, too." He looked at his nurse. "Lisa, please show the girls where the basket is."

After they left, Rebecca put a lock of blonde hair behind her ear. "It's my fault that Caitlyn got hurt. I let her take the dollhouse. She had it on her lap. I bet that's what she got cut on."

"But you had her in a car seat, so she wasn't seriously injured. I'm glad I didn't hit you."

"I go on that back road all the time and I wasn't going fast."

"There was probably still oil on the surface with the first rain we've had in a long time." He grinned. "That was something how you got the van to bounce back onto the pavement."

"It surprised me but I'm not going to try and figure it out. I'm thankful we didn't collide. I better go so you can see your patients." Bending to pick up her purse, she winced.

"What happened to your arm?"

"When the van dipped, my arm hit the door hard."

He moved closer. "I better examine it to see if you need X-rays."

While he gently probed her arm to see the extent of the injury, she studied his concerned face. I wonder if he has a wife. If he does, she’s a lucky woman.

Jenna entered the room. "Why is Dr. Hennessey holding your arm?"

"I hurt it a little when we had our accident."

"Mommy, look what we got." Caitlyn showed off her jewelry. "And Jenna got a purse."

"Nothing seems to be broken." His eyes met hers. "But it's badly bruised. Let your husband do the cooking for the next few days."

"Daddy's in heaven," Jenna said. "Mommy cries all the time and Caitlyn pees her panties now. And I'm going to start kindergarten."

* * * A few days later, David called Rebecca about her arm and Caitlyn’s forehead. After Rebecca told him that they were fine, he asked, “How about I take all of you to Chuck E. Cheese for pizza and games to celebrate?"

"That's kind of you, but I have a website I need to finish for a client."

“You have to eat, so I'll be saving you time in the kitchen."

"Okay, but we can't stay too long."

Within a short time, David arrived to take them to the children’s pizza place. While waiting for their food, the girls tried out some of the rides.

As Rebecca watched Caitlyn ring the bell on a fire truck, David asked, "How long has your husband been dead?"

"Adam died eight months ago in a boating accident. I stayed home with the girls because they were sick.”

"I'm so sorry."

The waitress brought an order of breadsticks to their booth. Rebecca said, "Come on, girls. Let's eat."

Jenna and Caitlyn sat together, so Rebecca slid in on the other side. David grinned at Rebecca as he sat next to her.

Jenna asked David, "Do you have a girlfriend?"

"Shush, Jenna," Rebecca said.

"It's okay. I was supposed to get married, but my bride decided to run off with the best man."

Even though she missed her husband, Rebecca enjoyed being with David. She gave him a shy look. "I guess we've both had losses."

“I’m glad your van almost collided with my car so that I met you and the girls.” He grinned. “I hope we’ll be eating a lot of pizza together.”

About the Author: Diane enjoys her life with her husband and six children in southwestern Ohio. Her husband of thirty-three years is very supportive, as well as her awesome children. She writes contemporary romance, inspirational romance and chick-lit mystery. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at www.dianecraver.com or read her blog at www.dianecraver.com/blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Author Interview: Angie Fox

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Angie Fox, author of the New York Bestseller The Accidental Demon Slayer. And, stay tuned, because in April the sequel is being released.

Angie told me that The Accident Demon Slayer started off with, as she said, “a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight-laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a bad boy demon? Ohhhhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?”

She started writing and let the story evolve based on the character and one central issue: what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. She told me, “I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.”

For Angie, the question “what comes first: plot or character” is best answered by a resounding, “Both.” She explains, “When I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when she’d learned she was a demon slayer and all hell was after her, she took comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’ Simple. I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where my heroine can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard.)

“It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, my heroine can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell terrier. I had fun with it. In fact, I suspect Pirate the dog is my editor’s favorite character. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Pirate helped talk my editor into buying The Accidental Demon Slayer.”

So, in that case, Angie admits that possibly plot influenced character, but there were also times that Pirate the dog did his own share of influencing the plot as the story evolved. “Bottom line?” Angie said. “I think the most important thing when you sit down to the keyboard is to be willing to follow your story in new directions, because if you’re enjoying the surprise, chances are your readers will too.”

Angie told me she thinks her most interesting writing quirk is one that also drives her critique partner crazy. “I’m always trying to outdo myself,” she confessed, “especially at the end of a book. Typical feedback will come like this: ‘What are you doing? Don’t get me wrong. I like it when you come up with quirky new hideouts for the Red Skull biker witches. But we’re heading into the climax of the book. Why do we need a new one?’”

Angie’s response was “‘I did it because it amused me.’ But, really, if I’m amusing myself as a writer, won’t my readers have more fun too? At least that’s my excuse. In the case of the new hideout, it worked out. The Red Skulls end up on this abandoned riverboat that they’d enchanted years earlier (while drunk on dandelion wine). Now they not only need a safe place, but they need to catch the Choking spells, Lose Your Keys spells, not to mention the Frozen Underwear spells ready to attack from around corners and behind the old jukebox.”

The most surprising thing she learned in writing her books is that her characters had to take bigger chances, had to have more to risk and lose. It was a very vulnerable place to be, she told me. “I knew my story was big enough to sell when instead of ending my writing sessions thinking, ‘I hope that’s good enough to impress an editor,’ I ended them with ‘No. I didn’t just write that. I did not just make my character defend herself with a toilet brush and a can of Purple Prairie Clover air freshener.’”

On a personal note, I asked Angie what a saying is that she uses a lot. “Don’t you even think about standing on that counter,” she said promptly. “Seriously. I have a two-year-old who loves to climb. He waits for me to leave the room and then uses my kitchen drawer knobs as a ladder. The boy has no fear.”

She not only cries during movies, but she told me she also cries during those Chevy “this is my country” ads. Her favorite pizza can only be obtained in Columbia, Missouri. “It’s called Shakespeare’s,” she told me, “and it is to die for.” And, the one thing scientists should invent is, in Angie’s opinion, “A truth serum for children. Grape flavored. Then maybe another formulation for my single girlfriends to use on a first date, something to swipe on over lip gloss to see if that first kiss was worth it.”

You can keep up with Angie on her blog, http://angiefox.wordpress.com

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ladies Love Outlaws by Belinda McBride

He didn’t know he was walking to his death that morning.

Jessup Devereux strolled down the boardwalk, thinking only of a shot of courage at the saloon, not realizing what fate had in store.

It wasn’t the gunslinger sitting with his back to the wall, nor was it the drunken miner, but rather a seventeen-year-old maverick with a hankering to build his reputation by killing a notorious gunman. Being a gunman, and still alive at the far side of thirty made Jess Devereux that man.

But today, fate was diverted by blue eyes.

His spurs jingled on the wooden planks of the boardwalk. He could feel the heat of the day waking, sending tendrils to caress his skin.

“Mister?”

Jess paused, turning to meet a pair of eyes that were blue as the sky after rain. Her hair was pale gold. His heart contracted just a little.

“My dolly…I broke it, you see.”

Jess squatted, taking the doll in one hand, the dislocated arm in the other. He glanced around, hoping to see the child’s mother. He didn’t.

“What’s your name, gal?”

“Fiona. Mama told me to wait outside while she talks to the strangers.” Her sincere eyes met his. “I’m not to talk to strangers, but she is.”

“I’m a stranger, and you’re talkin’ to me.” He slipped the doll’s arm back into place and handed the child her toy.

“I see you all the time and Mama likes to watch you.”

That little comment brought a slow smile to Jess’s face.

“Fiona, let’s go check on your mama.”

“Gentlemen, I’ve already sent Father my refusal. It was at his insistence that I left England; my daughter and I have a good life here. We shall not return with you.”

The Honorable Miss Nancy Austin carefully stood her ground, wearing her regal posture like armor, looking down her delicate nose at the men the Earl had hired to return her to England. Inside she was quailing like a rabbit, half her mind on the men, half on her unsupervised daughter.

Movement at the doorway of the general store caught her eye, and as the tall gunman entered with Fiona in his arms, she very nearly lost her composure. To her relief, he set the child down and she disappeared behind the long counter.

The gunman casually lifted down a glass jar full of sugar sticks and fished one out, handing it to the child with a wink.

He was handsome in a lean, hard-edged fashion; a black frock coat covered a pair of Colts that she’d glimpsed on occasion. His snug trousers were tucked into tall boots, and he bore himself with the military grace and precision of an officer and a gentleman. Under his hat, the gunman’s dark brown hair was neatly cut; his goatee and mustache were trimmed and precise.

As always, her heart beat faster at the sight of him; her fair skin heated and she nervously smoothed her neat blonde hair. When his sharp blue eyes met hers, they held gentle humor, as well as reassurance.

He was here to help.

When he spoke, his Southern drawl stirred her to the core. She’d often watched as he went about his business, his eyes occasionally catching hers, but their paths had never before crossed. She’d never heard him speak.

He was a gun for hire, a bounty hunter, and tracker. A dangerous man, one she should avoid. Most of the time he worked within the law, but she’d heard there were times when he didn’t. However, Nancy had watched him, peeking through frilly white curtains, tracking his progress through town.

“Jessup Devereux, ma’am.” He tipped his hat and nodded.

“Nancy Austin. You’ve met my daughter Fiona.”

When he smiled, sharp dimples etched his cheeks, and she couldn’t resist returning that smile.

“Ma’am, are these fellows bothering you?” His casual posture was deceiving, Jessup Devereux was all power and speed, coiled and ready to strike. But still, his smiling eyes held hers.

“These…men were just leaving. Weren’t you?”

The two men shuffled their dusty feet, anger sparking their eyes.

“Let me see y’all to the door, gentlemen.”

Firmly, but insistently, Jess pushed them along, a strong hand at the base of their necks.

“And if I was you, I’d head out quick. This region might not be good for your health.”

She caught her breath as one of the men made a move, and as quick as thought, the gleaming barrel of a Colt was pressed to his belly.

“I’d say this region might be downright hazardous, boys.”

In moments, they were mounted and on their way, a third horse trailing behind. The horse they had brought for Nancy Austin.

He turned and faced the lady and her daughter, giving his best smile. He tipped his hat.

“Ma’am, you have a real nice day.”

She stood there, sunny as the spring and sweet as sugar, and for a moment, Jessup Devereux froze, his heart in his throat. She was magnolias and mint juleps and ballrooms; all the things that spoke of home and times long forgotten. He then remembered why he’d come all the way into town in the first place; why he’d needed the courage of a drink at the saloon. Jessup recalled the words he’d rehearsed, and suddenly, none of them sounded right.

“Miss Austin, I was wondering…” He felt a flush of embarrassment stain his cheeks, further interrupting the flow of his words. “I was wondering if maybe I could come to call sometime.”

She stood still, and Jess could see a delicate blush on her cheeks. That broke through his awkwardness, and he grinned, bending to pick up the little girl. Gradually, the Honorable Miss Nancy Austin regained her composure.

“I was wondering when you would ever get around to asking, Mr. Devereux. Perhaps you’d care to have dinner with us tonight?”

When she returned his smile, Jessup Devereux knew that his lonely days had just come to an end.

About the Author: Belinda lives in the wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains and at night, she runs naked with a pack of wolves.... Uhh...

Belinda lives near the Siskiyou Mountains and shares her home with a pack of Siberian Huskies who like to pretend they are wolves. And she usually keeps her clothing on when she goes outside.

Belinda loves to travel, collect rare gemstones, make soap and spend precious time with her daughters. Her degree is in History with a Cultural Anthropology minor. On weekends, you will often find Belinda ringside at a dog show, comb and spray bottle in hand. Please come visit my website at www.belindamcbride.com , or drop me a line at belinda@belindamcbride.com .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Author Interview: Marin Thomas

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Marin Thomas with us this week. As well as being a prolific author, she is also an accomplished basketball player, attending the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship, and was inducted in May 2005 into the Janesville, Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame. She has a brand new book being released from Harlequin this month, The Cowboy and the Angel, and I asked her to tell us a bit about it.

“The Cowboy and the Angel is about a Detroit social worker who doesn't always do things by the book in order to help the children under her care,” Marin told me. “The hero is a corporate cowboy relocating his company from Tulsa to Detroit and unwillingly ends up involved in the heroine's mission. When my editors asked me to do a Christmas-themed book I wanted to pick a location few readers would consider Christmas-y. I wanted to show that Christmas is more than gifts--it's about a time of year people can and should touch the lives of others in need--especially children. Detroit gets a bum rap sometimes because of its economic troubles, political turmoil and crime….but often the true spirit of Christmas is strongest and more heartfelt in the trenches of our larger cities, which are mostly made up of smaller, tight knit communities.”

Marin didn’t start out to be a writer, though, despite all her accolades and numerous books she’s published. When she was younger, she wanted to be a high school history teacher. While she was in college, she declared her major to be broadcast journalism and half-way through her college career, she thought about changing her major to teaching. “I’d have had to take another year of classes after my athletic scholarship ran out,” she said, “and I didn’t want to take out any government loans. Later when I worked for AT&T, I went back to college to earn my certification in high school history but my husband’s job was transferred to California and I was unable to complete the program.”

She told me she always loved learning about the past and researching things, and she’s put this talent to good use in her writing. She told me, “My ‘Hearts of Appalachia’ series is to date the most-researched series I've written.”

Her husband, who is also her college sweetheart (and they got married in a five minute ceremony in Las Vegas), bought Marin’s desk for her after she sold her first novel. “It’s a Texas Ranger desk,” she said. “Extra long and wide with rusted Texas Stars on it.”

The desk fits well into her favorite room in the house, her office. She told me she painted the wall about the chair rail life vest orange by Ralph Lauren. Below the chair rail, she did a faux leather technique. She tore paper grocery bags to pieces and then glued them to the wall with Elmer’s glue and water. Once it dried thoroughly, she painted a Ralph Lauren “tobacco” stain over the paper to give it an aged look.

Her office is decorated with many souvenirs from trips and from her family: a western coat rack with an antique sombrero and fake gun belt with six shooter hanging on it; a real buffalo skull on the wall; a large painting her father created of a blacksmith which is framed in dark barn wood is on another wall; an Indian rug on the floor; and an Indian spear and rain stick lean in the corner. She also said, “Several western framed photographs of my family plus an antique collection of old books that belonged to my mother sits on a hutch in front of the windows.”

However, she does keep her desk fairly clean when she writes or, as she told me, “I become easily distracted. Keyboard, monitor, desk-size calendar, a rolodex, Kleenex box, pencil jar, and folders for my current writing projects--that's it. “

On a more personal note: Marin’s favorite pizza is extra-cheese, plain. “I’m a cheese head from Wisconsin,” she explained. “What did you expect?” And, with the pizza, Pepsi...not Coke.

You can keep up with Marin on her website, http://www.marinthomas.com

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Coming Home by Ellen Dye

Allison sat bolt upright, her eyes transfixed on the large brown eyes of the little boy standing in front of her desk. There could be no mistaking the paternity of her newest kindergarten student. She’d have known, even if she hadn’t seen Kevin tenderly kiss the boy’s cheek before sending him through the school doors this morning.

“Can I ask a question, Miss Sutton?” the smaller carbon copy of her first, and only, true love asked.

“Of course, Mark.”

“Did you really know my daddy when you two were my age?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Were you really best friends, like the forever kind?”

Allison swallowed hard. “Is that what he told you?”

Brown curls bobbed affirmation.

“Well, I think you should believe your father,” Allison returned, hoping he’d ask no further.

“Okay.” The boy beamed a smile so like Kevin’s that Allison’s heart nearly stopped beating.

“You’d better hurry. Everyone else is gone,” she suggested. “You wouldn’t want to keep your father waiting.”

With a sigh of relief Allison watched Mark carefully pack his family portrait featuring two dark-haired stick figures---today’s art project---into his book bag and slip the straps over both shoulders. He gave a wave and ducked out of the classroom, almost at a run.

Only then did Allison take her first unguarded breath of the day. Kevin Bailey, a single father now, had come home. Finally.

She couldn’t resist making her way to the picture window holding the perfect view of the school steps. Just one more glance, she promised. One tiny look and she’d return to the life she’d so carefully built.

He was even more handsome now, she thought. Allison watched the tall, well-dressed man whisk Mark into his arms. Kevin had been transformed from the shy boy who wore second-hand clothes to a very confident, and apparently very successful, man.

She felt a pang of envy as she watched the happy pair stroll away, Mark’s hand engulfed in Kevin’s larger one. Many were the times she’d wished for just such a hand to rest in hers. But she was happy for Kevin; it couldn’t have been easy for him.

Allison had been fortunate. Her family, while not rich, had the funds to see her properly fed, dressed and educated. But such good fortune hadn’t favored the Bailey clan.

They’d been a large family crowded into a small clapboard house on the outskirts of town, the place upstanding citizens did not visit.

“Dreamers and lay-abouts,” Allison’s mother had proclaimed.

But Allison hadn’t believed her.

And at the same time, Allison hadn’t believed in Kevin strongly enough.

Allison turned from the window, a slow ache started in her chest—--in her heart---as she realized Kevin must have found someone who did believe. Mark was certainly proof of that.

Half an hour later Allison strolled into the corner video store, beginning her standard Friday night ritual of DVD’s and Chinese takeout. She turned her attention toward the shelf marked New Arrivals.

Seconds later she felt a tug on her skirt and found herself, once again, looking into a pair of achingly familiar eyes.

“Hi! Are you getting movies, too?” Mark asked.

Allison’s heart began to beat double time, knowing Kevin would be close by. “Yes.”

“Hello, Allison.” Kevin extended his hand, just as Mark dashed away. “It’s been a long time.”

The electrical jolt that shot through her body as their hands clasped took Allison’s breath away. She stood, counting the beats of her heart, her hand in Kevin’s.

“I was wrong,” she blurted.

Kevin merely smiled and the years fell away. “Things happen. The past is over, Allison.”

“And the future?” she ventured.

Kevin looked at her left hand. “I don’t see a ring.”

Allison blushed. “I’m not married.”

“Now that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”

Allison flushed with pleasure, but was prevented from commenting by Mark’s excited arrival.

“Can we get this one?” He held up a box decorated with cartoon dinosaurs.

Kevin nodded.

“Can Miss Sutton watch with us? And eat pizza, too?”

“If she’d like.” Kevin watched her closely.

“I usually have Chinese on Fridays,” Allison babbled, embarrassed.

A wounded look streaked across Kevin’s eyes.

“But I think it’s time for me to try something new,” she quickly added.

Mark hooted with joy, dashing back to the DVD shelf.

“And what about trying something old?” Kevin asked, taking Allison’s hand.

“Yes. I’d like that,” Allison returned, linking her fingers with his.

About the Author: At the age of nine, Ellen decided she was going to be a writer after she found her Aunt Nettie's trunk of True Confession magazines and spent untold hours reading the lot, a bag of Munchos potato chips and a frosty RC Cola at her side. She was lucky enough to have turned that dream into reality. Her first novel, Three’s The Charm is available digitally now at www.thewildrosepress.com and will be available in paperback November 28, 2008. You can check out her website at www.ellendye.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Author Interview: Malena Lott

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Malena Lott, whose newest book, Dating da Vinci, is released this week. Along with being an author, she also edits a book review website for women and is a popular speaker and consultant on creativity and branding.

I asked her to tell us a little bit about Dating da Vinci. “A young widow searches for ‘la dolce vita,’ the sweet life, with the help of a handsome Italian immigrant named Leonardo da Vinci,” she said. “During her Renaissance, Ramona looks for answers to whether or not her late husband cheated on her before he died to finally put her suspicions to rest and move on. She finally dusts off her dissertation on the Language of Love to get her Ph.D. Her journey is made more difficult by her ‘they-mean-well’ family and friends, including her young sons, her Evangamoms, her thrice divorced best friend, her Energizer Bunny celeb fitness sister, and her sister's new beau, who she thinks is just being nice to her because he feels sorry for her.”

Malena told me that normally she gets an idea and a theme—then the characters come along afterward. “For Dating da Vinci, I knew I wanted to write about a woman’s awakening—a journey to joy—and Leonardo da Vinci,” she told me. “So the plot stemmed out of one man’s insatiable curiosity about the world and a woman who had really given up on the idea of love or joy ready to explore that again.”

In addition to her writing, Malena is also a reader and is always reading at least one non-fiction and one fiction book at a time. She can normally read one of each a week. She enjoys sharing reviews of what she reads at Athena’s Bookshelf each week. And, there’s no telling what you might find there as she primarily reviews women’s fiction (nearly all genres), mainstream and eclectic non-fiction.

Another reason she’s such a voracious reader is that she enjoys finding new authors and loves to learn new things. It not only helps keep her mind fresh and entertained, it also might show her something new to try in her own writing.

For example, before she read Bridget Jones’ Diary, she’d never written in first person point of view. She told me, “I love getting that personal with the reader.”

Everything she’s ever read has shaped her in some way, she told me, no matter whether it was literary or pop fiction. “Reading,” she said, “always makes you a better writer.”

When she reads a book and doesn’t want it to be over, she knows she’s run into good writing. And, that’s what she tries to do with her own writing. She admits that each writer has their own voice and style, but said, “At the end of the day, it’s ‘did the reader feel a part of the story?’” When she has made the reader care about the story, when she makes the reader laugh, love, cry or feel whatever emotion she wants them to feel, she’s done her job.

It’s easy sometimes to get very swept up into things, but when Malena’s not writing she told me, “I am usually trying to practice staying in the present moment.” She smiled and continued, “I love Oprah’s Soul Series on XM-Radio, traveling, and spending time with my family.”

And, speaking of her family, she told me that her toddler has picked up on one saying she uses a lot, ‘that doesn’t make any sense.’ She added, “I think that’s where he also picked up ‘freakin’.” She and her husband, Rod, and their three boys make their home in Oklahoma.

On a personal note, she shared with me that she does indeed cry in movies. In fact, she said, “I usually don't believe a movie was good unless I've cried a few times. Even in the happy ones!” I also asked her what one thing she thought scientists should invent and, I have to say, I agree totally with her answer. She told me that she thinks they should invent “an inexpensive robot that will clean your entire house.”

You can keep up with Malena on her website, http://www.malenalott.com