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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Worried for Nothing by Beth Caudill

Jane clicked through the TV channels in a fruitless quest to find something to watch. Another boring Wednesday night.

"So what do you want to watch, Pepper?" she asked her dozing black and white Jack Russell terrier.

He barked as she flipped by Animal Planet showing a large snake swallowing a rat. Ugh, it seemed every male, even those of the canine variety, liked reptiles. Picking up her book, she left the show on for background noise. With nothing else on, at least one of them should enjoy the boob-tube.

Involved in a battle between elves and dwarves, she jumped as Pepper started barking. The energetic dog ran to the door and bounced up and down wildly yapping. Now that she had been pulled from the story, Jane heard the knocking at her door. Unsure who would be at her door, she crossed the room with butterflies in her stomach. All her friends had other plans and her boyfriend was working overtime. Again.

"Easy, Pepper," she murmured before checking the peep-hole. Taking a step back, she grabbed Pepper and pulled the door open. "Shawn! What are you doing here?" Jane shivered as a gust of cold November air blew through the entranceway.

"What you're not happy to see me?" Shawn quipped, closing the door behind him and then setting down the brown paper bag he carried.

"Of course, I am," she exclaimed before releasing Pepper and giving Shawn a hug.

Pulling away, she smiled as the dog hopped, almost like a dance, around Shawn's feet waiting for him to pay attention. She headed back to her usual spot on the sofa. Buried under a blanket, she watched as Shawn took off his coat and then, without a glance her way, kneeled on the floor to play with Pepper.

While happy to see Shawn, something seemed off. He didn't smile even though he seemed to be having fun. Time passed and neither one spoke.

"Okay, sport, enough," Shawn told Pepper with a final pat on the animal's head. He sat next to her on the sofa but left a space between them.

Pepper woofed. When neither reacted, he picked a ball up in his mouth and carried it to his doggie bed under the end table where he curled up.

Unable to stand the silence anymore, Jane asked, "What's wrong?"

Shawn took her left hand into his and rubbed across the knuckles with his index finger sending little electric sparks up her arm. "Nothing's wrong." He turned his head to watch the TV, which showed a large, murky river and a tiny brown snake swimming in it. He neither asked for the remote nor commented on what she watched.

"Oh, God," she thought, "He's going to break up with me."

Gazing at her again, he held tightly to her hands and said, "You know, Jane, we've been seeing each other for a long time now."

"Unh-huh," she mumbled steeling herself for the painful words to come.

"We enjoy each other's company, and you are my best friend."

She nodded, feeling the same way. Tears threatened to fall at the thought of losing him.

"I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"

Jane stared at the ring he'd slipped on her finger, not really believing what was happening.

"Are you going to answer my question?" he entreated, a hopeful note in his voice.

Her blood flowed faster as relief spread through her body. "Of course I'll marry you!" She jumped on him, wrapped her arms around his neck and engaged him in a long kiss.

As they pulled apart, he wiped at the tears falling from her eyes. "What's wrong, honey?"

"Nothing." She gulped. "I'm just so happy. I love you so much, and I thought you were breaking up with me."

"Not on your life. You're stuck with me now." He squeezed her hand. "Almost forgot, I bought stuff to celebrate with."

While he took the nondescript brown bag to the kitchen, she couldn't stop herself from watching the light reflect off the facets of the diamond. An oval-cut, very clear stone set in platinum. Exactly what she wanted—simple but elegant.

Shawn walked back to the couch carrying a silver tray with two plastic glasses filled with something bubbly and a bowl of strawberries. After setting the tray on the floor, he handed her a glass, picked up his own, and then clinked their glasses together. "To us."

"To us," she repeated before taking a sip of champagne. He touched a strawberry against her lips and she took a bite of the sweet fruit. Snuggled against him, she realized she'd worried for nothing.

About the Author: Beth grew up in West Virginia but now resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Reading has been her favorite activity for as long as she can remember and her home has more books than shelves to store them. While being a fulltime parent, she is pursuing a writing career. website: http://www.bethcaudill.net/ blog: http://bethcaudill.blogspot.com/

Author Interview: Hywela Lyn

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Hywela Lyn, author of Starquest and its soon-to-be-released sequel, Children of the Mist. She told me that she's loved writing all her books, even those unpublished or those needing to be completely revised, but Starquest is definitely her favorite. "I started off with a dark, brooding hero and produced a feisty, but sweet natured heroine for him. Then I found a second hero, blond-haired and gentle but brave and determined, who refused to stick to the supporting role I'd given him and became far more important than I'd originally intended." She added, "As you can see, I became very fond of my characters; they are still with me and Starquest will always be my favorite."

Hywela has made up stories in her head since she was a small child and would act them out in bed before going to sleep. "I loved reading," she said, "and would re-write stories if they didn't end as I wanted them to, or I grew so fond of the characters I wanted to have more adventures with them."

She has had several short stories published in magazines and book anthologies, but has found her true love is writing novels. "I wrote a novel when I was about nineteen," she told me, "but it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized novels were really what I enjoyed writing most and made a serious attempt to get published. I love the freedom to expand characterization and plot which a novel gives the author. I think it's much harder to write a short story."

When Hywela isn't writing, she loves to be outside. "I have a rescued dog and two horses, although unfortunately the horses live rather a long way away from me," she said. "I like to take long walks with my dog and, of course, ride. I lived in Wales most of my life and took part in endurance riding events in the mountains, which gave me the inspiration for a lot of the settings of my books. I don't ride as much as I used to, since an accident which resulted in my having to undergo a hip operation."

Even though she now lives in the English countryside and doesn't find it as wild and mysterious as Wales, she still loves being with her horses and caring for them. She usually includes an animal of some sort in her stories, because she thinks people can learn a lot from animals. She's always owned dogs and hate the thought of being without one. She admits that they are a big responsibility and would never take one on if she couldn't devote the time and money needed. "After my last dog died at the age of fourteen and a half," she said, "I waited for two years, until I recovered from my hip operation and was able to give one the exercise necessary to keep it fit and happy. Then I went to an animal sanctuary in Wales called Ty Agored, which means 'Open House.' I've known them for a long time and my sister has had several cats from there. I've adopted a little Jack Russell called 'Bouncer.' He was badly treated before he was rescued and had a broken hip and pelvis which had been allowed to heal without veterinary attention, so his little back legs are a bit crooked and he's on permanent medication. You'd never know there was anything wrong with him to see him play and run around though. He's the sweetest nattered little dog you could wish for and I never fail to marvel how forgiving animals are after being abused or neglected by their previous owners."

As much as she enjoys her dogs, however, she has to confess that her favorite animal is the horse. "I love all animals, and dogs are my second favorite animal, but I've loved horses since I was a small child, although my family wasn't particularly horsey," she said. "I worked at the local stables during school holidays to earn rides and saved up for five years after I left school to buy my first horse. I now have a paint mare called Flying T'pau and a jet black Welsh Cob called 'Harry' - his show name is Pentrepiod Sovereign. I ride 'Western' style because I feel it is much kinder and more relaxed than the English style which I learnt when I was a child. Horses are strong, beautiful and intelligent creatures, and for me, there is nothing to compare with the feeling of galloping flat out with the wind in my face, feeling the strong muscles of the horse beneath me and seeming to be one with the animal. They demand a lot of time, but they're worth it."

I asked Hywela what one of the things was she had learned in creating her books.

"I am constantly surprised," she admitted, "at how the characters can take over and send my stories in directions I'd never intended. Usually they know best, although sometimes I have to be a bit firm and tell them to stick to the plot. Most of the time it's good to let them lead the way. Sometimes they can reveal things about themselves that I would have never guessed when I started out, and occasionally a minor character ends up playing a much more important role."

On a personal note, I asked Hywela if she'd ever cried during a movie. "Often," she admitted. "Everything from Gone With the Wind to Bambi. If there's a sad ending-- or sometimes a happy ending after a tragedy-- if an animal gets hurt or killed, or the heroine loses her feller, that's enough to make me cry like a baby, much to my husband's amusement. He looks at me and gives an exaggerated sniff. 'That was a lovely film; I did enjoy it,' he says before I can get the words out!"

She's also a night person, by nature, because she admits to not being at her best until after noon. Because her husband is the opposite, however, and has to get up at 5:20 in the morning, she's trying to change the habit of a life time. "My body clock is gradually adjusting," she told me. "I still stay up until the early hours if he's away, though!"

Finally, I asked Hywela what advice she would give a new writer just starting out.

"Read as much as you can," she said. "Try and write every day, and try to make sure that your spelling, punctuation and grammar is as correct as possible to create a good impression for an editor. Above all, never give up and don't be discouraged if you don't succeed at first - even the most famous authors have collected rejection slips, so keep trying. If you're really keen to be published, persistence and determination will pay off in the end."

You can keep up with Hywela on her blog, http://hywelalyn.blogspot.com/

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Play to Remember

by Diane Craver

From my seat in the auditorium, I saw how much work needed to be done on the set before dress rehearsal in two weeks. Why did I agree to direct a play this year? I mean, really, I have enough to do with teaching my first year in high school. I thought junior high students were rough last year, but dealing with seniors is a different kind of challenge. The ones in my English classes seem to all have senioritis and don’t want to do their schoolwork. But yet they find time to try to hook me up with Mr. Colin Mathews, the assistant principal. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their efforts, but I don’t want to look desperate. He has to be aware of their matchmaking efforts because Julie, a student of mine, gave him movie passes for us. When we went to the theatre, Julie gave us a big grin and said, “You two make a cute couple.”

No more spoken lines were coming from the stage and with a glance at my playbook, I saw why. The actors were waiting for Tyler to enter and speak his lines. “Tyler, you need to make your entrance,” I yelled.

From the center of the stage, petite Julie looked up at me. “Hey, Miss Bennett, are you daydreaming about Mr. Mathews?”

I shook my head and my auburn hair swung forward. “Of course not. And I’m not the one missing my cue.”

Tyler stuck his head out from behind the curtain. “Miss Bennett, I’m waiting for the doorbell.”

I cleared my throat and in a loud voice said, “Ding dong.” While Tyler made his entrance, I heard a small chuckle and turned to see Colin staring at me.

“Now there’s nothing wrong with you doing a doorbell sound,” Colin said, “but I can tape the sound effects for your play.”

“Thanks but you don’t need to do that. I just haven’t had time to record the sounds.” I didn’t want him to think I was incompetent.

“Actually you’ll be doing me a favor. At my last school, I enjoyed doing the sound effects on their play.”

I grinned. “In that case, you’re hired to be the sound effect technician.”

“If you have time this evening, we can get something to eat after practice and go over what’s needed for the play.”

A couple of hours later, Colin and I were at a Mexican restaurant. With an enchilada in my hand, I said, “This is great that you love Mexican food, too.”

“I like to eat period.” Colin slid his fork under the rice on his plate. “But not alone.”

I took a sip of water. “With you taking over the sound effects, I can focus on costumes and get on the two boys who are supposed to have the set done this week.”

Colin raised his eyebrows. “Actually that was why I was at your practice. I meant to talk to you about the set, but then I heard your unique doorbell.”

“That was thoughtful of you.”

He shrugged. “I can’t take all the credit. The students asked me to help with building the set.”

Now I was crushed. I’d hoped his offer was an excuse so he could spend time with me. But once again, the students had intervened on my behalf to throw us together. All Colin wanted was to help a teacher in need. I didn’t want him to see the disappointment I was sure had to be in my eyes, so I stopped looking at him. It wasn’t easy since I’ve always had a weakness for guys with dimples.

After we finished eating, I suggested going to my apartment since it was the closest. Sitting on my sofa, I used a yellow highlighter to mark every spot in a playbook where sound effects were needed.

He noticed the charm bracelet on my wrist, and reached for my hand. “Amy, this is loaded.”

I stopped breathing when his warm fingers touched my hand. I managed a little nod. “Friends and relatives enjoy buying me charms.” After I told him what each one represented, I stood. “I’ll get some cookies for us that were left over from the Student Council bake sale.”

He grinned. “So I get what didn’t sell.”

“Hey, I baked them. They’re all good.”

He loved the cookies so I promised to bake chocolate chip cookies for him after the play was done. Colin told me that he would do the recording over the weekend. With the play set in 1920, I took the girls on Saturday to a costume shop to try on flapper dresses. When I got home, I checked my answering machine to see if Colin had called. I sighed when I saw no messages. He didn’t drop the taped effects off like I had hoped, but instead came to practice on Monday and gave it to me. He couldn’t stay because of a parent conference.

I wanted to invite Colin over for dinner before play night, but with picking up costumes, replacing a few missing props, and inviting the elementary grades to watch the play, I couldn’t fit a romantic dinner in my schedule with Colin.

The day of the dress rehearsal, I went looking for Colin and found him in a corridor checking a student’s hall pass. I was relieved that he looked happy to see me. “Why don’t you come to dress rehearsal tonight?” I asked.

He pushed a lock of dark blond hair off his forehead. “I can’t but I’ll be at the play tomorrow night.”

It was the big night and the audience laughed at the right spots. I wore a flattering long black skirt and top reproduced in a vintage style with a boat neckline and copper beading. After the actors took their bows, Julie said, “Miss Bennett, come here.”

She handed me red roses and a small box. I flipped it open and saw a director’s chair charm.

Julie whispered, “Mr. Mathews got it for us.”

After the curtain came down, Colin joined me. “Now that the play is over, I want to spend some time with the director.”

“I’d like that.”

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. Her three books, NO GREATER LOSS, A FIERY SECRET, and NEVER THE SAME are published by Samhain Publishing. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at www.dianecraver.com or read her blog at www.dianecraver.com/blog .

Author Interview: Charlotte Hughes

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Charlotte Hughes, whose latest book in her CRAZY series, Nutcase will be hitting the bookstores next week. You can check out our review of it here. This series is about a female psychologist and all her crazy family, friends, and patients. The books stand alone, with What Looks Like Crazy being the kick-off book. Currently, Charlotte is working on the third book in the series, Hanging by a Thread.

I asked Charlotte what got her interested in writing.

"Most writers, including myself," she said, "were heavy-duty readers before they tried their hand at writing. I thought I could write better books than those I was reading. Shows what an idiot I was. Unless you actually write a book you don't know how hard it is. Also, if you find a book is easy to read, the odds are the author busted her butt writing it. It just looks easy."

Charlotte published her first book in 1987. "And, no, it doesn't get any easier," she said.

As a matter of fact, she says there are times during the writing of every book she becomes convinced she's not going to be able to pull it off. "Once or twice I decided there must be an easier way to make a living so I began checking the classifieds. The only problem is you can't wear your pajamas to work."

She also told me she'd have to check, but she thinks she's written about forty books. Her favorites were the dark mysteries she wrote for Avon Books. She told me, "I like watching ghost hunter reality shows because they scare me to death. I can be weird like that. Sometimes I get so scared I have to sleep with all the lights on." Her dark mysteries were like that, as well. "Just like the ghost stories on TV," she shared, "I scared myself silly writing them."

Charlotte refuses to believe in writer's block. "If I did, I would never get another thing written," she explained. "Having said that, 'stuff' happens in our lives, a death or illness or whatever, and it can steal your focus for a while. That's normal. But as with any job, you eventually have to get back to business. A good way to do this is to force yourself to sit in front of the computer for fifteen minutes at a time. Use a timer. It will be difficult at first, but sooner or later your creative juices will start flowing again. If not, get on Zoloft."

When Charlotte first began writing, she put together a lengthy questionnaire for her main characters and a smaller one for those who didn't play a large role. That way, by the time she started her book, she knew the history of the characters, their likes, dislikes, dreams, and goals. "I don't go to all that trouble now," she told me, "because the people in my head are as real as those in real life—which is pretty scary when you think about it. I think I must be schizophrenic."

I asked her what comes first with her—plot or characters?

"It's hard to say," she said. "I've never truly figured out the creative process, although I know the more creative you are the more deranged you tend to be. I start getting pictures in my head, and I just play with them. Sort of like having imaginary friends. Are you guys sure you want to go into this line of work?"

Charlotte's favorite writer is Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. "Not only did her characters step off the pages for me, she wrote an important book about racial injustice. I would love to write such a book—one with a strong message that will make me a gazillianaire."

Indeed, characterization is, to Charlotte, the most important element of good writing. "If readers don't care about your characters," she said, "they aren't going to care about your book. Hell, I won't even care about the book."

She shared with me that co-writing the FULL HOUSE series with her friend, Janet Evanovitch, taught her what she needed to know about writing her own series.

I asked Charlotte what her writing space was like.

"It's a cluttered office," she told me. "I have to do a lot of research so I have papers and books strewn all over the place. I could hide weapons of mass destruction in here and nobody would be able to find them."

She also has to work every day. "I am so easily distracted and I waste a lot of writing time," she said. "I couldn't follow a schedule if my life depended on it. ADHD, I think. If I get up from my computer I just wander all over the house. I've learned that the more you use your creative side of the brain the less you can count on your analytical side. It sort of shrivels up and dies. I have to force myself to stay on top of things like keeping up with bills and doctor's appointments. So I usually pay a bill the day it comes in because Lord only knows where it will end up, maybe in the trash."

On a personal note, I asked Charlotte if she really wanted a dog. "I have three dogs," she told me, "so I guess the answer to that is yes. What you need to ask me is if I want FOUR dogs. The answer to that is hell no." Two of the dogs she has are dachshunds, a breed she is particularly fond of. They are a brother and sister who are getting up in age.

She considers her strangest habit to be trying to hide chocolate from herself. "It just can't be done," she confessed.

I asked, "What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?"

"I've put many strange things in my mouth," she replied, "so I'd rather not share."

She also confessed that she has made crank phone calls. "But that was before we had Caller ID," she explained. "Now I have to go to a pay phone to make them."

Finally, I asked Charlotte what advice she would give to a new writer.

"It's easy to become overwhelmed when you think in terms of writing AN ENTIRE BOOK, especially if you have children and/or a full time job, as I did when I started my first book. Even now, after having published about forty books, I still have to simplify the project by breaking it down into pages or chapters. Set small writing goals. You can write one page per day or maybe three pages per day. Also, I highly recommend taking psychiatric medication."

You can keep up with Charlotte on her website, http://www.readcharlottehughes.com

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Patti Ann Colt

The Daddy Spell, Book One of my Echo Falls series, took me ten years to write from start to finish – twelve chapters, 210 pages, 60,000 words and dozens of rewrites on its journey to publication. I had months where it wasn’t worked on as life went on around me. I was much less committed to my writing career then. After several rejections, it spent months in the bottom drawer before Kelly beat me with a stick to resurrect it – and it sold.

I started Book Two of Echo Falls, The Sweetheart Dance, on November 1, 2007 for National Novel Writing Month. The final draft was submitted to my editor on June 11, 2008—seven months, 273 pages, 14 chapters, 71,355 words, and 5 drafts. Its production was compromised by promotion for The Daddy Spell, the holidays, winter illness, and other sundry excuses. Still, seven months vs. 120 months —five thousandths of the time to create as The Daddy Spell!

Kiss Me Goodnight, Book Three of Echo Falls and Tom Applegate’s story, is in its first draft with three chapters, 13,230 words completed.
In the meantime, there are other Echo Falls stories available for free on my website – Christmas Magic and A Winter Romance. In the coming year, more Echo Falls short stories will be posted to keep everyone entertained until Tom’s story is released. Be sure to check in frequently at www.pattianncolt.com. There are plenty of extras there as well —a map of Echo Falls, community recipes, and video trailers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Patti Ann Colt


I am Owner of the Online Romance Writers Circle, a critique group of sixteen wonderful writers and authors. Without this group, I have no doubts I would still be a naïve, bumbling unpublished writer. The ORWCircle holds two writing challenges a year – a Summer and a Christmas Hot Kiss contest. My best friend and critique partner, Kelly McCrady, uses the Hot Kiss Contest to pen short stories that she has become quite successful at selling to one of the few markets for romantic short stories. Her latest is called "Martial Hearts" and is available from www.TheWildRosePress.com.

In this story, Austin Li, Kenpo Karate instructor and first-degree black belt, is everybody's favorite. Gregarious and talented, he’s as popular with adult students as with the kids he teaches. After a hot day at the karate school’s annual picnic, shy nurse April Martin is anxious to get him alone. If she risks rejection and wrestles Austin to the mat, will she be defeated by disappointment or stand victorious in love?

Kelly’s short stories are some of my favorites. If you need a quick read to brighten your day, check her out. She’s also my wannabe-resident expert on all Echo Falls trivia – she remembers things even I have forgotten! Check out her blog at KellyMcCrady.blogspot.com for an interview I did with her last Friday that contains a ton of interesting tidbits about life in Echo Falls.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Patti Ann Colt

I’m a positive person. I like to look at the glass as half full, greet the new day with a smile, avoid drama and chaos, and explore my creativity to the fullest. There’s never a moment when I lack for something to do. One of my favorite things is to motivate people to try, especially writers. Today is my first day as a monthly blogger on Jeannie Ruesch’s Happy Endings blog and I’d love it if you’d all come over and leave me a comment…Happy Endings. I’m talking about procrastination this month – that dreaded habit that leaves every writer frustrated and guilt-ridden. Hopefully, you’ll find a few answers in my post or at least remind yourself that you aren’t the only person with this problem.

You can also find me at Worth A Damn Recipes. I love to cook, but I am definitely not a gourmet. I’m more about finding recipes that are every day good food that don’t require a lot of preparation time or a lot of obscure ingredients that make me run to the store. The blog was started to share those every day recipes with you. Our Sunday family dinners test each and every recipe. All the family gets a say in whether the recipe is worth a damn before it’s posted. If you need some new ideas, meet me there and I’ll pass on some great food. Watch for the cookbook in Fall 2009 and a companion seven day meal planner.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Patti Ann Colt

Thrilled with the release of The Daddy Spell, I was happy to visit Echo Falls again and begin a second Applegate family story. This one revolves around Meg Applegate and police officer Bret Cara. Also, loving Echo Falls like I do, I wanted this book to reveal the close-knit community of Echo Falls, to introduce some of its town members and problems. I hope I succeeded in making Echo Falls seem real.

In The Sweetheart Dance, Echo Falls high school teacher Meg Applegate aches to belong to police officer Bret Cara body and soul, but he maintains a hands-off policy. She is wife material and violates his no relationship philosophy based on years with combative parents. When a practical joker spikes Meg’s drinks at the Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Dance, Bret comes to her rescue – and inhibitions down she astounds him with a hot, sensual kiss.

Assisting the police department in tracking teen felons, Meg takes the opportunity to snag the handsome cop’s attention and they launch an affair based on Bret’s ‘no strings’ rules. But each searing encounter conflicts with her beliefs and dreams. She cannot maintain their bargain forever, but despite making love he seems no closer to giving her what she needs. Desperate to keep her word, Meg walks away, forcing Bret to confront his past and a future without her. Will Bret walk away or deliver his heart?

The Wild Rose Press released The Sweetheart Dance, Book 2 of my Echo Falls series, on Friday, February 13th.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Patti Ann Colt

I grew up in a small community in Northern Idaho and I am an avid reader of romance novels. When I quit working to stay home with my kids and took up writing, out poured homespun romances filled with fun characters, adventure, and lots of tear-jerking love. My first published book is by far one of my favorites. The seed for the story started when I chaperoned my son’s second grade class field trip to a pumpkin farm. Thus began the tale of the Applegate family and the small Texas community of Echo Falls. The Wild Rose Press published this sweet story in November of 2007.

In The Daddy Spell, five-year-old sisters Boo and Lindy Harmon want a daddy and they devise a secret spell to get them one. On a country road, Chad Applegate appears out of nowhere to help the girls and their mother rescue an injured dog. Robin Harmon's stubborn independence and breathtaking curves mesmerize the handsome pumpkin farmer. The twins are fascinated by his tales of pumpkin magic and are sure he’s the one intended to be their daddy. Though attracted to Chad, Robin cannot believe in his happily-ever-after promises. Abandoned by family and the girls’ father, her experience has proven those kinds of dreams never come true. Read this exciting story and see how family, love, and a potent pumpkin spell help Robin take a chance on forever.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Author Interview: Cindy Davis

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Cindy Davis, who has two books coming out this month: the print edition of A Page from the Past and the first book of the Desert Magic Trilogy, Healing Magic, co-written with John Richters.

She is a busy lady, because she also has a book coming out in March--In a Little Murder. In this particular book the plot came to her first, she told me. "A man on a tour boat is killed--only six other people there, and none has blood on them," she said. "Your typical closed-room murder."

That isn't the case for all her books, however. When she wrote Voice from the Ashes and Final Masquerade, it was characters she wanted to explore further. On the other hand, she said, "In Lethal Dose of Love (not yet published) it was a town. As we drove into it, I was struck by an aura."

She shared that she's currently reading Away by Amy Bloom, but that her reading tastes are very eclectic, so she doesn't have one favorite author. "I like Lee Child, Sandra Brown, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, and a host of 'unknowns' and 'classics'," she told me. "Since I'm an editor, I get to see many who never even end up published. The book I return to more than any other is Gone with the Wind. It's rich with details, plot and multi-faceted characters."

Cindy is currently working on a project that has been a long time in the works. "First, Cold as Ice was a mystery. And, it just didn't work," she said. "I put it away for four years, took it out and tried to rewrite it with a stronger plot. Still nothing. Then, a year later, I realized I'd been focused on the wrong character. Rather than telling Devon's story, I needed to go back fifty years and tell his mother's story—as straight fiction. Sometimes if you get stuck on a story—try refocusing."

Cindy writes in a cozy small office on the first floor with, she says, "a nice view of a field that sometimes has deer, moose, or bear. There are plants on shelves across the windows and a huge aviary in one corner. The room is full of twittering and chirping. The treadmill gathers dust, but looks good when people come."

Cindy is generally at her desk by 5:00 in the morning and is still there frequently until 8 or 9 PM, six days a week. "I work on my won stuff first," she told me, "because it's when I'm most productive. When I run out of steam, usually between 10 and noon, I get dressed (heaven help the person who comes to the door before that—bedhead attack!) Then I do errands. After lunch, I'm back to work on editing."

When I asked her if she was a morning or night person, she answered, "Both. I am up by 4:30 most mornings, and don't go to sleep until around midnight. I am productive writing-wise in the morning, and love the Red Sox and/or Celtics at night."

On a personal note, Cindy shared with me that if she could erase any horrible experience from her past it would be the day she discovered her first husband was cheating on her. She was three months pregnant at the time.

And, she loves thunderstorms. "I love the yellow cast the air gets as a storm's moving in," she said. "I love the sky's hundred shades of grey during the storm. I love to watch the jagged bolts of lightning and feel the rumble of thunder inside my chest."

She can also tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. "I don't like Pepsi," she told me. "It's too sweet and goes flat too fast."

And, if she could have anything she wished for, it would be for her book to be on the best sellers list.

Finally, I asked Cindy what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out. "Write as often as you can," she said, "and be prepared to rewrite—very little is good enough the first time around. Join a writer group; try to find writers more experienced than you are. And, listen to what they say."

You can keep up with Cindy on her website, http://cdavisn.com .

My Valentine

by Linda Rettstatt


I felt the slight flutter and put a hand over my left breast, waiting for my heart to regulate. The arrhythmia had been happening more often, but it always settled down. This time, it didn’t. Instead, an invisible hand held my chest in a vise-like grip. I clutched the edge of my desk, gasping for air.

Just then, my secretary entered my office. “Jessica, are you all right?”

I shook my head and sank into a chair. “I…can’t…breathe.”

“Omigod.” She snatched up the phone and dialed 911. I vaguely recall hearing, “emergency…can’t breathe…heart attack.”

I woke to a flurry of activity all around me. A mask covered my nose and mouth, forcing oxygen into my lungs. An IV tube ran from my right arm up to a bottle hanging above my head.

A nurse in blue scrubs loomed over me. “Miss Harper, you’re in the emergency room. You’ve suffered another heart attack. We’re going to take good care of you.”

The irony struck me--a heart attack--on Valentine’s Day. I nodded and closed my eyes, wondering if my secretary thought to call Alex or my sister, Gail. I heard bits of the discussion--major damage--surgery--transplant. I’d been on the transplant list for some time, but lately everything seemed to be under control. Sure, I’d been tired and got out of breath, but a short rest and medications seemed to take care of it.

What is that ringing sound? Where’s Alex? I need to see Alex. We have dinner plans.

“Miss Harper? Can you open your eyes for me?”

I struggled to lift my eyelids and peered into the face of a nurse still wearing an operating room cap.

“Don’t try to talk. You’ve had surgery. You’re very lucky that we got a heart. I’ll let your sister know you’re awake.”

Gail rushed to the side of my bed, her hand searching for a part of me that didn’t have a tube or sensor attached. Her fingers felt warm on my arm. “Hey. You sure scared me this time.” Tears rolled down her face.

I wanted to ask about Alex, but the ventilator tube prevented me from speaking. Where is he? I looked beyond Gail, through the glass window and into the hall. Alex’s brother and his parents were there. He must be here, too.

Gail’s eyes followed my gaze. She walked to the window and closed the blinds. “You need to rest.” She choked back a sob as she turned to leave the room.

I lost all sense of time as the edges of day and night blurred into one another. Alex, where are you?

As soon as the vent tube was removed and I could speak, I croaked to the nurse, “Is anyone waiting to see me?”

“Your sister. I’ll have her come in.”

I saw Gail wipe her eyes and blow her nose before entering the room. “Jess, how are you feeling?”

“Alex?” I rasped.

Her face paled and she squeezed my hand. “Honey, there was an accident.”

My new heart sped up. “Where is he?”

Her chin quivered, and she bit her lip. Placing her hand gently over my heart, she whispered, “He’s right here.”

About the Author: I am a published author of three novels of women's fiction with romantic elements. My short stories have garnered awards from Writer's Digest and Pennwriters, Inc. My books are published by Wings ePress, Inc. Excerpts and reviews of my work can be found on my web site: http://www.geocities.com/lindarettstatt

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

In my fairy world featured in The Magic Knot fantasy romance series, each fairy embodies the qualities of one of the elements. The leprechauns and Cornish piskies are Earth elementals, the noble old blood Tuatha Dé Danaan are either Fire, Air, or Water. This gives them their powers, strengths, and weaknesses.
Earth is the mother, the element of birth and renewal. Earth elementals are steady, grounded, and generous, with their feet firmly on the ground. Confident and steadfast, Earth elementals have an instinct for survival, which makes them excellent protectors.

Air elementals are intelligent with great imagination and can be very persuasive. They are good at conceiving new ideas and seeing changes coming. They have an affinity to music. They may ‘have their heads in the clouds’ and be difficult to pin down. Their spiritual beauty is reflected in the intricate formation of snowflakes.

Water elementals are the nurturers, the calm center that supports loved ones to help them conquer problems. Sensual, graceful, and often very beautiful, Water elementals have strong emotions and love deeply.

Fire elementals embody passion, enthusiasm, and desire. They are quick and bright, but often emotionally volatile. Forceful and highly opinionated, Fire elementals think they know best. They are considered to be ‘hot blooded’.

To find out which element you are, go to my website www.helenscotttaylor.com and take my elements quiz. To read a two-chapter excerpt of The Magic Knot, follow the link on my website.

The Magic Knot is a great read and I recommend it to all romance and fantasy lovers.”
—Romance Junkies

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

There are two significant secondary characters in The Magic Knot. The first is the hero’s twin brother. Michael O’Connor is physically identical to Niall, but a very different character. Whereas Niall is the strong, silent, protective type, Michael is a fun-loving reprobate who tells tall tales, charms the ladies, and teases Niall mercilessly. He has strong fairy powers including glamour and charms his way out of trouble. He is able to entrance humans and fairies alike with his beauty. Michael gets his chance to be hero in the second book in my romantic fantasy series. His story, The Phoenix Charm, will be available in December 09.

The other important secondary character is a vampiric, winged fairy called Nightshade. When I discovered mythical tales about vampiric fairies during my research, I took the concept and created Nightshade from my imagination. He is black, hunky, and full of attitude. Rose and Niall are never sure if they can trust him, as they don’t know if he is ally or spy. Unlike traditional vampires, Nightshade is alive. For him sucking blood is a pleasure akin to sex and not a necessity to stay alive. He lusts after various characters’ blood and during the story, he gets to indulge his desires more than once. He has a big part in Michael’s story, The Phoenix Charm, the second book in the series, and the third book will be his story.

The Magic Knot is a really wonderful story of magic, suspense, love, and mystery. What a refreshing new take on this idea of other worldly beings.”
—Coffee Time Romance

To read a two-chapter excerpt of The Magic Knot, go to www.helenscotttaylor.com and follow the link.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

Everyone loves an Irish hero with a soft Irish brogue and sexy blue eyes. Ireland is a country overflowing with mysticism and tales of fairies and leprechauns. As Ireland is a short hop across the Irish Sea from my home in England, it was the perfect place to use as the second setting for my story in The Magic Knot.

The Irish Tuatha Dè Danaan are a beautiful race of human sized fairies descended from Greek gods who arrived on the Emerald Isle millennia ago. They are trooping fairies, which means they live together in groups. As soon as I read about this mysterious race, I knew I’d discovered my hero’s identity. But to make things a little more interesting, Niall O’Connor, the hero of The Magic Knot, is not purebred Tuatha Dè Danaan. He is half leprechaun. And yes, in my world leprechauns are little people. Luckily, Niall and his identical twin brother Michael take after their father in looks and stature. But Niall is rather touchy about his leprechaun blood.

Despite Niall’s sensitivity about his bloodline, he is dedicated to his half sister who is purebred leprechaun. At the start of the story, he is living in exile in Cornwall, hiding his sister from the Irish fairy queen who has threatened to harm her. He depends on Rose’s druid father to cast spells to hide his sister, so he becomes embroiled in Rose’s adventure when she arrives in Cornwall. Tomorrow I’ll talk about other characters from The Magic Knot.

The Magic Knot is a quick-moving romance filled with action, intrigue and memorable characters. This is a book that will have readers hoping it's the start of a series!”
—Fresh Fiction

To read a two-chapter excerpt of The Magic Knot, go to www.helenscotttaylor.com and follow the link.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

I live near Plymouth in Devon in the English West Country. Over the years, my family has often travelled across the River Tamar into Cornwall for vacations. With its rocky coast battered by the Atlantic, its bleak moors, quaint stone cottages and verdant little valleys full of wildflowers, this mystical rural county provides a wonderful setting for a fantasy world. The history of the county is full of folk tales of witches and fairies. When I researched the different fairy races said to inhabit Cornwall, the Cornish piskies jumped out at me as the obvious choice. Piskies are known as pixies in other parts of England and are usually thought of as small mischievous beings. For the purposes of my story, the Cornish piskies are human sized.

When her mother dies, the heroine of The Magic Knot, Rosenwyn Tremain returns to Cornwall searching for her father. She believes she is human, but as she delves into her past, she discovers her mother was a Cornish pisky princess. On her mother’s death, Rose inherited the pisky throne. Poor Rose has to wise up fast to save her people from her evil druid father. I had a lot of fun with Rose as she discovers her heritage. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the hero’s bloodline.

“If this is Helen Scott Taylor's debut novel, I just can't wait to see what she writes next. Definitely a new auto-buy author for me. I highly recommend this story to all lovers of magic.”
—ParaNormal Romance

If you would like to read a two-chapter excerpt of The Magic Knot, please go to www.helenscotttaylor.com and follow the link.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Helen Scott Thomas

I have always love fantasy and romance, so when I started writing, I soon discovered the genre of fantasy/paranormal romance appealed to me. The second book I wrote was about a parallel world inhabited by a race of demons. This book proved successful winning many writing contests, but when I considered the next paranormal story I would write, I looked for something different.

After researching folk law and mythology, I realized the ideal setting for a story is the fairy world. The world of fairy provides scope for almost anything to happen. Fairies and fairy creatures exist in the folk law and mythology of every country. Within the fairy world, there are all types of beings, from vampires to shape shifters, hideous monsters to the preternaturally beautiful god-like race of the Irish Tuatha Dè Danaan. Many fairy creatures and races possess magical abilities and the range of gifts and skills is limitless. For any writer wanting to flex the imagination and create a new and exciting fantasy world, the fairy world provides a wonderful starting point.

When I create my own fantasy world, I select some existing mythology and then develop and twist it to form my own version. Over the next few days, I’ll discuss the different types of creatures and beings I’ve used in my MAGIC KNOT fantasy romance series.

“THE MAGIC KNOT is a wonderful story filled with many twists that I couldn’t put down… I highly recommend this story for anyone looking for a fun, fascinating, and magical read.”
—Long and Short Reviews

If you would like to read a two-chapter excerpt of THE MAGIC KNOT, please go to www.helenscotttaylor.com and follow the link.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cupid's Corner by Donna L. Bolk

Most of the women I work with are usually level headed no nonsense professionals, but today, they all wore silly grins. Those who didn't have a box of chocolates on their desks had flowers.

"Jane Martin?"

"Yes." I swung around in my chair, and found myself face to face with a bouquet of wildflowers, being held by one of the most attractive men I'd ever seen. "What's this?"

"Flowers," he said.

This had to be someone's idea of a joke. I reached into my pocket, snatched a bill, and held it out to him.

"Tip's been taken care of." He offered a two-fingered salute, and left.

I ripped open the envelope attached to the bouquet. The message was short: Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Cupid.

That's it! Love, Cupid. I don't think so. I read the address on the card. I'd get the name of the practical joker; I wasn't sure what I would do to the culprit, but it wouldn't be pretty!

#

Cupid's Corner was a bit of a surprise. There were no traditional Valentine's Day window displays. The windows were filled with wildflowers, an explosion of color, which interrupted my anger, and brought a smile to my face. Just because I don't buy into this Valentine's Day thing doesn't mean I don't have feelings. But I'd also don't like being the target of a practical joke. And that was the only logical explanation available for the flowers.

Frown and attitude back in place, I marched into the flower shop.

"Hello, Jane." There stood the delivery man. "I've been expecting you."

I plopped my hands on my hips. "Look, I'll cut to the chase here. I want to know who ordered the flowers."

"You did."

"Run that by me again."
<> "They are your favorites, aren't they?"

"How did you know that?"

"There's very little I don't know about you, love."

"The name's Jane, buster!" I narrowed my eyes. This guy was good. "I know this whole thing is nothing but a joke. Who the hell are you?"

"My name is Ryan Eros."

"Eros? The God of Love?" The fertilizer was getting deep. "You expect me to believe you're Cupid?"

"No, he expects nothing of the sort." An old man dressed in white robes appeared before me. Slung over his shoulder was a golden bow. "I claim that honor."

Maybe I'd fallen asleep at my desk , and this whole mess was a dream.

The old man smiled. "You're not dreaming, Jane. I am real and so is Ryan," he said, as if he could read my mind.

"Is he a god?"

"He's as mortal as you are." Cupid snapped his fingers and an hourglass appeared. "It's getting late. I have work to do." He pulled an arrow, and armed his bow.

"Stop." Ryan stepped in front of me. "We have an agreement."

"Oh, that." Cupid waved his hand in the air. "Now that you've met Jane, how could you not love her?"

"I don't want a woman who has to be spelled into loving me. Jane has to love me of her own will."

"She does love you; she just doesn't know it yet," Cupid argued. "Need I remind you there is a time factor at play here? If she doesn't--"

"I'm well aware of what's at stake."

Cupid faded, and I was alone with Ryan. This had to be more than a dream, more than a little bump on the head. I was probably in a coma.

"How long have you been hanging with Cupid?"

"We met today. Jane, he was telling the truth; this isn't a dream. What will it take to convince you?"

He sounded so sincere that I couldn't muster a flippant response and honesty came out instead. "I'm sorry there's nothing you can do or say that's going to sway me. You're too perfect." He was my fantasy man. The one I'd dreamed about all my life.

The lights dimmed. A table with wine and food appeared in the center of the room. Ryan looked skyward. "I thought you left?"

"It's Valentine's Day; consider this my gift to you and Jane."

The hours passed and before I knew it, it was almost midnight.

"How did you hook up with Cupid?" I asked.

"He woke me from a sound sleep. I was dreaming of you. I've been dreaming about you my entire life."

We stood and he met me halfway around the table. He took me in his arms, and it felt like I had always belonged there. It had to be the wine going to my head. When he kissed me I felt the room tilt. A million different emotions swirled in my heart and in my head. I couldn't sort them out -- lust, longing, anything and everything -- but love; I refused to believe that I was falling in love with my fantasy man.

"I've loved you my entire life," he said.

Life was cruel. Had I found this perfect love only to wake and discover that it was all a dream?

Suddenly the room filled with light.

"It's midnight," Ryan whispered. "Valentine's Day is over. I had until midnight to make you love me."

"So this is a dream," I said.

"If you had loved me, we would have spent the rest of our lives together."

"Don't leave me."

"I don't have a choice. According to Cupid, tonight was our one chance to make it happen."

"I won't give you up," I shouted.

"You don’t have to, Jane." Cupid stood before us. "Do you really think I would go to all this trouble just to let you two go your separate ways?"

“It's after midnight," Ryan said.

Cupid flashed a mischievous grin at us. “I'm a god. Don't you think I have the power to move the hands on a clock?”

Ryan took me in his arms. As our lips met, Cupid's farewell echoed in my heart, "Happy Valentine's Day."

About the Author: Donna L. Bolk is the author of Saving Cinderella (ISBN 1-60154-285-2), a paranormal romance from The Wild Rose Press.

Author Interview: Helen Scott Taylor

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Helen Scott Taylor. Helen’s debut novel The Magic Knot has just been released to rave reviews. It also was the winner in the American Title IV contest and was voted “Best Book of the Week” by our very own readers.

I asked her to tell us a bit about The Magic Knot.

The Magic Knot is a paranormal romance about Cornish piskies and Irish Tuatha dè Danaan. The heroine visits Cornwall looking for her father. She discovers she is the Cornish piskie queen and her father is a dark druid who has imprisoned her people in portraits. The race is then on to discover the fairy lore needed to release her people before her father destroys them forever.

I initially conceived the idea for The Magic Knot to be a contemporary story of identical twin Irish brothers running a pub in Cornwall. Somewhere during the thought process, the brothers became fairies, and I threw in a dark druid, a vampiric winged fairy, and a fire-wielding Irish fairy queen. I had a lot of fun visiting Ireland for research.

Helen told me she’s always loved reading and would make up stories when she was young. Life interfered, however, and she concentrated on her career, then building her business and her family. “It was only when I turned forty,” she said, “and started looking for something I felt was missing from my life that I rediscovered my love of storytelling.”

She started writing in 2003, taking many writing classes and reading a lot of writing craft books. She discovered the Internet was a wonderful way to have access to online writing classes run by RWA chapters. She sent her first book, a short contemporary, to Mills & Boon. “My characters were too unconventional for contemporary romance,” she shared, “so I tried my hand at paranormal and discovered a wonderful outlet for my imagination.”

I asked Helen if she’d ever suffered from writer’s block.

“I’m lucky that I never have,” she told me. “My problem is holding my ideas in check. I have so many story ideas turning over in my mind it’s amazing I manage to get anything done in the ‘normal’ world. When I write, I make up the stories as I go along. I make sure I know my characters before I start writing, then I just write their story as they live it. If I am ever confused about what happens next, I go for a walk and the next scene plays out in my head.

She tried outlining, but felt it boxed her in. “My creativity works best when I get to know my characters, then let them create the story as I write,” she said. “This way the characters always behave ‘in character’ rather than doing things to fit a preplanned plot.”

That leads to her pet peeve when reading a book—“characters that do things that are out of character because they need to for the plot to work.”

Currently, she’s working on a sequel to The Magic Knot called The Phoenix Charm, featuring Niall O’Connor’s brother, Michael. She told me, “This story is set in my fairy world, taking place in Cornwall and Wales. Michael has to go to visit the Welsh fairy king who is king of the Underworld.”

Helen likes to read different genres from what she writes, so her ideas aren’t influenced by other authors’ ideas. Right now, she’s reading Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon. Her friend, Mary Buckham, recommended it to her. “I’ve learned from experience that her advice is gold plated,” she said. “Mr. Hanlon’s ideas on branding are fascinating, but I’m not sure how I’ll apply them to myself.”

The last novel she read of Desperately Seeking a Duke by Celeste Bradley. “My favorite comfort food is Regency romance,” she shared. “One day, I would like to write a Regency myself. Living in England, I’m in the perfect place to do the research.”

Helen has written five books, six when she finishes revising The Phoenix Charm. Her favorite is the first paranormal she wrote called Passion Beyond Reason and its hero, Francois, is still her favorite character. “It’s about a woman who inherits a cosmetics company and discovers the secret ingredient in the anti-aging face cream is demon’s blood,” she told me. “Francois is the demon trapped in our world. He’s a dark, mysterious, tortured hero and I adore him. The story won a number of contests, but I haven’t submitted it yet. I must dust if off, revise it, and send it out.”

Helen didn’t always want to be a writer. She told me that, when she was growing up, “I longed to be a veterinarian, as I loved animals. I used to spend summer school vacations helping in the local veterinary center. I nearly made it into veterinary school, but didn’t quite make the exam grades required. At the time, I could have gone to medical school to become a doctor as the academic qualifications for entry were lower, but I decided not to. I studied biology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry instead.” She added, “I’m glad I didn’t get into veterinary college, as I’d never have met my husband.”

Her husband is a morning person, but because she needs to for her writing promotion, she tends to keep American time. With the UK being five hours ahead of the East Coast, she often rises late and stays up late. This suits her, though, because she prefers to write late at night when the family is asleep. “The house is so peaceful then I can concentrate,” she said. “Unfortunately, with my husband being a morning person, when I go to be late and he gets up early, we are only together in bed for a couple of hours!”

She told me she would describe herself as the stereotypical eccentric. “I’m the strange absent-minded woman who lives in an English country cottage full of cats and dogs, who forgets to brush her hair (because my mind is usually on a story plot) and wears clothes coated in cat hair,” she said.

The dogs would be her two Shih Tzus. “The little rascals get everywhere and eat anything and everything they can lay paws on,” she said. The cat—a chocolate-shaded-silver-burmilla she used to show. “She’s my baby,” she admitted, “and follows me around the house like a dog.”

Cats are her favorite animals. “If I could be reincarnated as an animal,” she told me, “it would be as a cat. If I could meet a shape shifter, I’d choose a man who shifted into a black panther. I adore the mystery of cats.”

You can keep up with Helen on her website, http://www.helenscotttaylor.com .

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Marianne Arkins

“Kitchen Matches” started as a writing prompt (remember how I mentioned my love for prompts?) I found on Lynn Viehl’s blog - Paperback Writer . She suggested looking around wherever you were sitting and write down all the words you saw. Then brainstorm a tagline for each. Amongst the things in my basement office at the time was a box of... you guessed it: Kitchen Matches.

As always, I wanted to take an idea and turn it onto its head. So I needed two opposite people—a tow truck driver and a chef; then made the tow truck driver a petite woman, and the chef a wealthy, tall skinny man who is “slumming” it as a cooking teacher. So he is the “priss” and she is the “tough guy”. She also comes with a set of "macho man" brothers who are massively intrusive in her love life.

This story was actually rejected twice by two different publishers, which frustrated me to no end. Both times I was given editing suggestions, and they were so right! Especially due to my wonderful editor at Samhain Publishing, “Kitchen Matches” became a strong enough story to make it through Mrs. Giggles without too much scarring (and you other authors out there know how scary a Mrs. Giggles review can be).

The most fun I had, though? Creating the “warning” that accompanies the blurb on the Samhain website:

Warning: This story contains flying poultry, annoying older brothers, the occasional quote from Shakespeare, and enough sexual tension to overheat ovens—and engines.

For a blurb, excerpt, book trailer and more for “Kitchen Matches”, please visit here: http://www.mariannearkins.com/KitchenMatches.htm

Thanks for a great week!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Marianne Arkins

“The Christmas Curse” was done as a response to a call for holiday stories from The Wild Rose Press. By the time I saw this call-out, I had very little time to respond, so this story was quickly thought and even more quickly written. It, along with “Pregnancy Cravings”, was written in first person initially. I find that I am funnier in first person, and this story was meant to be along the lines of a tragicomedy.

My poor heroine has spent her life having horrible things happen to her during the Christmas season and I had a blast thinking of what those things could be. Sadly, one of her misfortunes—a training bra in her Christmas stocking when she was in sixth grade, observed by all the males in her family—actually happened to me. I still remember (even after more years then I care to talk about) pulling out the gaily wrapped package from my stocking, tearing into it and ... seeing this unmentionable! My brother and step-father were RIGHT THERE. The only thing that might have been worse would be if it had been sanitary supplies.

And, so because I’m told I should “write what I know”, the same thing happened to her. As well as so much more. And, for her hero I gave her the man who was the cause of all her misfortune in this particular holiday season. What could be better?

For an excerpt, blurb, book trailer and more for “The Christmas Curse”, visit here: http://www.mariannearkins.com/TheChristmasCurse.htm

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Marianne Arkins

“Now That We’ve Found You” was the first story I had published, and it holds a special place in my heart. Without sounding conceited, I really think this story is well-written, which may be surprising when you consider its roots.

Several years ago, I was part of an amazing group of writers—talented women who were aggressively seeking publication and none of whom, besides me, wrote in the romance genre. I learned so much from them and am thrilled that many of them are now published in their respective genres.

One of the things that we did was post and respond to a weekly writing prompt—one of my favorite things to do. And, one week the person responsible for the prompt posted a long list of words that had to do with astronomy. We were supposed to use five in our prompt response, but never being one to do things halfway, I decided I would use at least half. Thus “Now That We’ve Found You” was born. Though the original beginning—which included most of the astronomy terms like “meteor” and “asteroid”—was edited out, the idea of a dinosaur-crazy little girl remained. I wrote by the seat of my pants, and the ending was as much a surprise to me as I hope it is to you.

For a blurb, excerpt and reviews on this story, go to http://www.mariannearkins.com/NowThatWeve.htm

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Marianne Arkins

A Change of Heart started out as a joke and a challenge. In the romance community, we tend to laugh about the standard category romances that include things like secret babies and cowboys. So, of course I had to take the challenge to write a secret-baby-cowboy story, but I didn’t want to be predictable. So I turned it on its ear. I didn’t want a boring “Hero returns home to find he’s a father, and ends up back together with the woman he shared a one night stand with” story.

How dull.

So what could I do to make this stand out from all the other secret baby stories? The biggest thing? My hero is no longer attracted to the mother of his secret baby. Instead, he finds himself desiring forbidden fruit: the sister of said secret-baby-mama.

I admit to being concerned how this would be received—would readers think he was irresponsible or a playboy? I needed to find a reasonable answer to why this outcome would be okay, and it seems as though I did based on the reviews and feedback I’ve gotten. What have they said?

With realistic characters she allows the players to emit love, jealously, betrayal, and a turn of the heart to make all things flow at their own pace. The reactions and justifications of each of them are brought out in a way that threw the reader into the scenes, making one feel a part of it. Heartwarming and wonderfully spun, this story packs a wallop of an exciting tale. -- Linda - Fallen Angel Reviews -- Rated: 5 Angels

To read more reviews, the blurb or watch the book trailer, go here: http://www.mariannearkins.com/AChangeOfHeart.htm

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Marianne Arkins

This week, I’m going to discuss where I came up with some of the stories I’ve had published. We’ll start with my novel, One Love for Liv.

I came up with the idea for One Love for Liv while I was writing another (still unpublished) novel. Originally, my heroine, Olivia Leigh, was the stalking, psycho ex-fiancée of that novel’s hero. But, as I wrote about her I really fell for her and didn’t want her to be a crazy person anymore.

So, I wrote her out of that story and gave her one of her own. I still made her a stalker, of sorts, but not crazy. Instead, she comes to believe her “perfect” fiancé is cheating on her, so goes undercover to prove it, one way or the other.

I also opted to do something very different with her. I discovered, as I looked over what I’d written up to that point, that I tended to write tomboy heroines... tough, competent, jean-wearing girls who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. I decided Liv had to be the exact opposite. Liv is spoiled, pampered, and wealthy. She has a maid. She can’t cook. She runs a health and beauty spa. She wouldn’t dream of gardening or making a meatloaf from scratch.

Of course, I then had to toss her into a place where she’d be forced to do many of the things she would never have dreamed of doing. Otherwise, what fun would it be?

For the blurb, excerpt, book trailer, and even a deleted scene on this book, go here: www.mariannearkins.com/OneLoveForLiv.htm