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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Kerrelyn Sparks


HEROES AND VILLAINS

I’m continuing today with our adventures in the Big Apple. Can you tell that I don’t get out much? As a writer, I work day after day in my solitary office, so getting away from it all is a real treat. And thankfully, it gives me something to talk about!

We saw a few Broadway musicals in New York. The first one was The Little Mermaid, and it was simply magical. The sets and costumes made you really believe you were under the sea. The storyline was a little different from the movie, and a few extra songs and dances were added. For instance, Scuttle and his gang of seagulls did a really cute tap dance. As wonderful as Ariel, Sebastian, and Prince Eric were, I have to say the show was stolen by the villainess Ursula. Her naughty songs and lines were the best. Her costume with all the giant squid tentacles was the most outrageous.

Another night, we saw Shrek the Musical. Once again, the story was altered a bit and new songs and dances were added. Backstory for the major characters was included, so we would know what Princess Fiona was doing in the tower for twenty years. We learned how Shrek ended up in the swamp, and why he’s so determined never to be close to anyone. And we found out why Lord Farquaad hates the fairytale creatures.

And once again, the villain stole the show! Remember how short Lord Farquaad is? He was short in the musical, too! The actor playing him actually walked and danced on his knees which were hidden by his costume. He had fake short legs with knobby knees that moved with him. It was hilarious to watch!

Have you ever seen a movie or play where you enjoyed watching the villain more than the hero?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Kerrelyn Sparks


SPRING BREAK!

I’m writing this first essay in New York City where I’ve been attending a writers’ conference, sponsored by the published authors’ chapter of Romance Writers of America. Since it’s spring break, I invited my husband and high-school-aged daughter to come with me. While I was listening to presentations during the day, they were going places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or riding the Staten Island ferry. Then at night, we would have supper and go to a Broadway play. It was lots of fun, but chilly for spring break. Thursday morning, it was snowing!
That might not be a big deal for some of you, but we’re from Houston, Texas, so we’re not accustomed to cold weather or snow. We nearly froze, standing in line for an hour and a half outside the TKTS booth in Time Square in order to get discount tickets for the Broadway shows, but it was worth it! The shows were fantastic!

At the writer’s conference, we heard from publishing professionals like editors and literary agents, and invariably someone would ask how they felt about the future of publishing in these difficult economic times. Their answers were all similar. Sales for books overall may go down, but the Romance genre will remain strong. The tougher times get, the more people want to escape, and Romance provides escape at a price that compares favorably to the cost of other entertainment venues. Romance readers are not about to give up their books! They’re usually very loyal to their favorite authors. It does appear that hardcover books may suffer, but the mass market paperback will continue to thrive.

What do you think? Has the weak economy made you change your book buying habits?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Author Interview: Eliza Knight

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Eliza Knight, author of Her Captain Returns, the first in her Men of the Sea Series, which she calls "sizzling Regency romances with a little bit of mystery." The second novella in the series, Her Captain Surrenders should be out later this season and she's currently working on the third story. Love Will Bloom, also a Regency-era romance, will be released in July.

Eliza agreed to share a blurb from Her Captain Returns with us.


How could anything considered sinful feel so good?

That is what Miss Corinne Claymore asked herself as she gave into the titillating suggestions of Captain Ryder Montgomery. Corinne never knew what she was getting into with her innocent flirtations with Ryder. Scandal ensues as they are discovered in an amorous embrace in the gardens at Lady Covington's ball. Corinne finds herself not only married to Ryder, but abandoned. A short letter tells her he will be gone for several years.

Eight years pass while Ryder is on a secret mission for the Prince Regent. He only returns at hearing the news of his brother's death, making him the new Earl of Stafford. His love and passion for Corinne have not waned. In fact, remembering their nights of pleasure has been the only thing that's kept him sane on his dangerous journey. But she has changed much, filled now with bitterness and the fear of being deserted again. Ryder must woo her back to him and soothe her fears, all while discovering how his brother died and who may be at fault.

It will be a treacherous adventure, but one consumed with building trust and love while enjoying carnal pleasures.

Eliza told me she's been writing since she could hold a pencil. "My favorite thing to do in school during free period was write stories and draw pictures of princesses," she said. "So I guess you could say since then I've had an obsession with romantic notions."

With her books, her characters come first and she sees characterization as one of the most important elements of good writing. "If the characters are boring no one will want to read about them," she explained. "Once you've gotten to know them, your plot will follow." She qualified that, however, by telling me, "Sometimes though characters and plot come in one, like a 'what if' question."

Eliza has a wide range in her list of favorite authors. "Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is my absolute favorite book" she told me. "Then comes Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. The first romance novel I ever read was Julie Garwood's The Bride, which made me a historical romance fan immediately!"

Ken Follett is another favorite of hers. "He has such a wonderful grasp of history," Eliza said, "and his story telling is phenomenal." Pillars of the Earth and world Without End are two of his novels Eliza particularly enjoys.

Eliza reads a lot of books when she's not writing. She also watches movies, chats with friends, plays with her kids, relaxes with her husband, does research, and, she said with a smile, "Generally have a good time. I love wine, so I do wine tastings, and I also like to cook."

She normally writes at a desk in her kitchen. She told me, "I'm surrounded by books, noteboosk, magazines, note cards, pens, my children, my dog and occasionally my hubby. Although, I do occasionally take my laptop into the living room to lounge on the loveseat with my feet up on the ottoman."

If you count her novellas, she's written about fifteen books, but said she honestly doesn't have a favorite. "I love all of them," she said. "Each of the characters and their stories are dear to my heart."

She grew up wanting to be a writer, but not just a writer. She also wanted to model and be an actress; she's done all three. "When I went to college," she told me, "I went into journalism and then changed my mind. For a brief period of time I wanted to be a sex therapist. I got my BS, but never went on for my master's degree. Writing romance seems to cover my enthusiasm for writing and couple's relationships."

On a personal note, I asked Eliza to share her strangest habit with us.

She laughed and asked, "Should I really disclose this? Well, a lot of people seem to think it's strange that I absolutely will not leave my room in the morning without brushing my teeth. I can't function without doing it, and I might hyperventilate if someone made me leave without doing it."

The strangest thing she's ever eaten is escargot. "The first time it was delicious," she said, "but the second time horrible, so I won't eat it again. Now granted the first time was in Paris, so they probably just knew how to make it better."

And, she can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi—she prefers Diet Coke ("out of the can and not out of the fountain," she specified.)

You can keep up with Eliza on her website, http://elizaknight.com

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend


Happily Ever After

I am one of several authors who together contribute to a blog called HAPPILY EVER AFTER (http://happilyeverafterauthors2.blogspot.com/). We came together as romance and relationship writers to celebrate the male-female in romance and that all-important HEA ending!

HEA is a very new blog begun by the erotic romance author Bekki Lynn and is about two months old. There are 12 of us and we cover almost every aspect of the romance genre: historical romance, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, dark paranormal romance, inter-racial romance, contemporary romance, fantasy romance. We write at different levels of heat - sweet, sensual, erotic, and one of us posts a new blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, on various topics within the romance world, or our own lives.

The subjects we cover are wide and various, as you can see by some of the blog entry titles:

"Perfect Romance" * "The Bulls Would Be Furious.." * "My Unforgotten Valentine" * "Forever I do: A Loving Dedication" * "Romance Novels in Poetry" * "Music, A Romance Author's Best Bud!" * "Daffodils and Pink Roses" * "Where's the Love?" * "A Happily Ever After From Colonial Yorktown" * "The year of the Romantic Heart - Be Kiss-Ready" * "Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches and Ruffled Shirts" * "Romantic Roman Flowers" * "Surprise, Surprise: A Black Cat Romance"

As we grow, we are hoping to invite other romance writers to guest blog.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend


Ten things I expect of the hero in my historical romances:

1. To protect those weaker than himself.
2. To respect the heroine, if not from their first meeting, then quickly.
3. To be able to share his feelings. If men in the caves 35,000 years ago could paint wonderful, emotionally charged pictures, any subsequent male should be able to express himself emotionally and be emotionally available.
4. To be an excellent kisser - or a fast learner!
5. To have a past where he has made mistakes, regretted them and grown, without being a pouter.
6. To ride well and look good on a horse.
7. To care for others as well as the heroine.
8. To withhold from spitting on the floor, picking his nose, scratching himself or looking for fleas.
9. To make love with tenderness and consideration.
10. To be thinking of a future where he and the heroine are happily together in old age.

Looks, the way he dresses, the way he styles his hair, are not important. The odd bath now and then is useful. A few practical skills other than wielding a sword or axe are also handy. He should be generous and a thoughtful gift-giver. Why not? Again, if Neanderthals buried their dead with flowers, cared for their elderly and infirm and played music, which they did, I think my heroes should be able to do the same.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend


Romantic Tension - Showing a Couple Falling in Love.

Here are my 'stages' of romantic tension. (Once my given couple notice each other, stages 4 to 9 can be endlessly intertwined.) These stages are in no set order and I use them in whatever order I feel is right for my characters:

1. Spotting each other - First Encounter.
2. Talking/ Getting to know each other.
3. Noticing - what’s special about that person, above all others.
4. Looking. Pleasure of looking.
5. More getting to know.
6. Desire. To touch. To taste. To feel.
7. Semi-erotic encounters as the couple move in on each other. These encounters can be charged with the fear of rejection, the fear of their own desire showing or breaking through.
8. First kiss/embrace/clinch/lovemaking.
9. More.

I have my own personal favorite high points, and I love writing the first kiss moment. Here's part of one, taken from A Knight's Vow:

"Only a few moments had passed since Guillelm had saved her from the odious Thierry and claimed his reward of a kiss. In the final instant, Alyson feared to allow him anything more than the most chaste of embraces, afraid of revealing too much of her own feelings, but now his mouth came down on hers and she was lost. As his lips
brushed hers, she felt a shock of feeling tingle down her body in an astonishing wave of heat. She felt his arms clamp around her slender middle, gathering her closer, lifting her to him..."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend


I've had heroines who can leap a charging bull and live (Sarmatia in Bronze Lightning.) I've had a heroine as a healer (Alyson in A Knight's Vow.) Sunniva, in A Knight's Captive, is skilled with a needle and she can also juggle with knives. Bride in Bronze Lightning is a warrior and a metal-smith. Ahhotpe in Blue Gold is an Egyptian princess who can do magic and plot like a Grand Vizier, while Hathor is a courtesan, faced with stark choices but still a survivor. Flavia in Flavia's Secret is a female scribe who constantly confounds her Roman master.

Some of my heroines, like Tiyi and Sunniva, yearn for children. Some, like Bride and Ahhotpe, aim for glory. All use their wits. Each one desires to be loved by a worthy man and all insist on being treated well by the men they become involved with.

Why do I give my womenfolk this variety of skills? So they can be active in my stories. So they can rescue others, including the heroes. So they can initiate vital events.

Modern women juggle motherhood, family, careers, relationships, friendships and must somehow scramble for time for themselves. I try to show something similar in my historical fiction, for the role of women has always been complex. In the Middle Ages, for instance, depending on her class, a woman could be expected to take over her husband's craft if she was widowed, or defend a castle against a siege if her lord was away.

Shrinking violets? Never!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend


A Spirit of Place:How I draw up my settings

No story can take place in a void, and this is what I try to keep in mind as I write a scene and place it in a setting.

1. What can my character see on the skyline? What’s in the distance? What are the distant sounds? Is there any wind? Do sounds or smells float on the wind? Are there trees along the line of a hill, bending to the breeze? Is there a sail on the horizon?

2. What time of day is it? If night, is there a moon? Are there stars? What kind of weather is it? What season of the year? Are there any seasonal animals or flowers or any seasonal activities on show?

3. What can my character detect from the middle distance? Are there sounds? Sights?
.
4. I try then to add close-ups to my settings, particularly color and movement but also taste and scent. Blaring sounds - or soft but thrilling sounds. Cold. Rain. Wind. Scorching sun. Frost. Can my characters hear themselves speak for the enthusiastic playing of musicians or smell onions frying in the kitchen next door?

When I'm describing a setting, I try to thread it through the story, odd touches and gleams here and there, like a carving in a wood panel. I try usually to have my people DOING SOMETHING within that setting, something pertinent and interesting. I think we are all are charmed by ‘insider’ knowledge and by skill, so if my character can weave or work metal or line-dance or flower arrange or stargaze or gut fish or carve or shovel or knead and plait bread - any task that’s a bit different - I try to show them at it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Last Martini at the Bubble Lounge by Margaret P. Cunningham

The whole thing started when my neighbor’s son told me he had gotten a summer job at the Bubble Lounge.

"What on earth is that?" I asked.

"The new martini bar. You haven't been yet?"

"No, I don't believe I have. It's called the Bubble Lounge? Cute name. The last martini at the Bubble Lounge,” I said dreamily. “That would be a good title for a short story.”

"Uh, yeah. Well, I guess I'd better get going," he said, not certain where the conversation was headed, but certain he didn't want to tag along.

Writing a story to fit a title would horrify Rita, our creative writing instructor at the Community College's Department of Continuing Education.

"Build your story around strong characters," she said over and over, "And everything else will follow."

But I couldn't get that title out of my mind. So one evening I drove by the Bubble Lounge. It was the latest addition to the upscale shopping village that had established itself in the heart of our historically significant and recently “discovered” neighborhood. I pictured my neighbors, those endlessly energetic, creative, fixer-upper professionals, behind the bar's frosted glass, sipping elegant concoctions. They would be swapping the latest parenting tidbits, I supposed, or sharing landscaping tips and names of decorators before dashing off to the corner bistro or the gourmet take-out for their dinner.

I imagined it all as I opened a package of pork chops and put potatoes on to boil. It kept coming back to me. “The Last Martini at the Bubble Lounge.” Why the last martini? A story about the closing of a bar? Set in prohibition times? Let it go. But I couldn't.

Rita says to start with character. O.K. A tortured soul's final toot before heading off to A.A. It didn't work. Maybe it was more symbolic and personal. In the Bubble Lounge of life, I was, after all, close to the last round.

I thought about it one whole afternoon as I strolled with my grandchild through the shops, passing the dark lounge that would come alive like a handsome, seductive vampire when dusk settled on the neighborhood. Plots and characters danced through my head as I chatted with some of the nannies in the park near my house. I knew I was getting obsessive when I couldn't remember the bid at my bridge group that evening. My mind was not on cards. It was at the Bubble Lounge! I had to write the story and be done with it.

The next day I called my husband, Tom, at his office.

"I thought you might want to meet me for a drink after work," I suggested.

"What's wrong with the back porch?" he said.

"What's wrong with a little change? It would do us good. We can grab dinner somewhere."

But the basketball game was on T.V. He was tired. Another night, maybe.

Two weeks later, "another night" had not materialized. After dinner, I told Tom about my desire to visit the Bubble Lounge.

"I don't know what you're talking about. You don't even like martinis," he said and disappeared into his new laptop.

I loaded the dishwasher, put on some lipstick and my new black slacks.

"Tom, I'll be back in a little while. I'm going to the Bubble Lounge."

"By yourself?"

"I won't be long."
***

"Oh, yes, we have drinks other than martinis," said the personable, young bartender who also happened to be my neighbor’s son.

I sat at a tiny corner table by the window, sipping a cosmopolitan (vodka and cranberry juice, in case there’s anyone left who doesn’t know). Cranberry juice for the bladder and vodka for the soul, I told myself. Soft jazz played, candles flickered, and repartee sparkled at the neighboring tables. It was cozy but cool, everything black and glass and retro or deco or something. What a treat to spend an hour or so in an environment completely alien from one's own. And only a few blocks from home. Home. I thought of Tom, happily lost in the world of the wide web. We had once cherished an evening in a place like this, away from mountains of responsibility and interrupting children, where we could just be together and talk. Our mountains were all relative molehills now. We finally had the time to go whenever and pretty much wherever we wanted. A ballgame on T.V., a good book, a drink with friends on the porch - it was fine, very good, in fact. But no matter how nice the ride, take the same route every day, and the scenery becomes boring, taken for granted.

"Excuse me." I didn't realize the waiter was standing by me. "A gentleman at the bar would like to know if he might join you."

"Oh, good Lord," I thought and looked toward the bar. Tom lifted his cosmopolitan in salute, pointed to himself and then to me, his eyebrows raised questioningly.

When I stopped laughing, I motioned him over. My neighbor’s son stood behind the bar, cleaning a glass and wearing a quizzical smile as he looked from my husband to me.

"I like this place," said Tom. "Can't believe it's taken us so long to try it out."

He told me about his boss's flaky secretary. It might have been the drinks, but we laughed and laughed. I told him about Rita getting her book published. We made vacation plans and talked about doing some much needed landscaping.

"Last call, folks. Do you want anything else?" said the waiter.

I looked around, and the place was almost empty. Hours had slipped by.

“When was the last time you had a martini?" Tom asked me. Before I could answer, he told the waiter, "Bring the lady a martini."

I watched the young man fill up his tray and serve the other tables. He put the drink in front of me. I took a sip, winked at my husband, and said, “The last martini at the Bubble Lounge."


About the Author: Margaret P. Cunningham lives with her husband, Tom on Alabama’s beautiful gulf coast. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including six Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her first novel, Lily in Bloom, a quirky, southern romance set in famous garden was published in May, 2008 by Black Lyon Publishing.

Author Interview: Karen Harper

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Karen Harper, author of the recently released Mistress Shakespeare. The subject of this book is one Karen is very familiar with, as she taught English and literature at the college and high school levels before becoming a full-time author.

Due to this, she has a lot of opinions on what makes good writing. "For fiction, the most important, I think, is being able to pull your readers into the story," she said. "Of course, that means characterization, dialogue, even setting must be detailed and real."

These elements go hand in glove with Karen as she develops her plots and characters by first getting the setting right. "If the setting speak to me, my plot and characters grow out of that," she said. "This is 'the minority' way to write: most authors start with plot or character."

This is true for Karen whether she's writing contemporary suspense or historical novels. "Once I fall in love with the setting," she told me, "as in my latest contemporary The Hiding Place-- the Rocky Mountains of Colorado—then ideas for the plot and characters come to me. When I write historical novels, they are usually set in Elizabethan England, which I know well from on-site visits and research. Hampton Court Palace, the Tower of London—just being in these places inspires me to create my characters. However, in novels based on real people, the plot and characters are also dictated by the period of history I choose."

Karen's just completed a contemporary romantic suspense novel, Deep Down, set in Appalachia, another setting that really talks to her. "Most Americans don't realize that ginseng, a mountain herb now used in teas and power drinks, is highly valued by the Chinese," she explained. "So here we have an endangered plant which grows in hidden places in the forests and mountains of Appalachia which various groups—the Chinese, power drink companies, and the big US medical pharms want to get their hands on. The heroine’s mother, a ginseng counter (if the count goes too low, the US govt. stops the harvesting of the endangered ‘sang’) goes missing. Her daughter and the small town sheriff, with whom the heroine has quite a past, go looking for the missing woman and find they are soon endangered too."

Deep Down is due to be released in June 2009.

Karen told me that titles are very important to her and she likes to come up with a title that works well before she writes so she can subtly work the title in during the creation of the story. She's written forty-four books and, knowing how her agents and editors like to work, usually runs several possible titles past them before she starts her book.

"My current historical novel, Mistress Shakespeare, started out as Will's Other Wife but went through a real committee talking over possibilities," she said. "The word mistress here can have two meanings: the word had the meaning to the Elizabethans that Mrs. does for us today, but, of course, it has a modern meaning which implies a kept woman. Both concepts work for this book about William Shakespeare really in love."

Karen has seen a lot of changes since she started writing almost twenty-eight years ago. She was first published in April 1982 and wrote on an electric typewriter. "There were no PCs or internet for research or publicity," she remembered. "Also, I knew no published authors and belonged to no writers groups. Things are a lot easier now—though it's still hard to sell that first book."

Her working space has also changed over the years as she's become more established. "It 'only' took me about twenty books to finally make the USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller lists," she shared, "not exactly an overnight success!"

She started out on the kitchen table, then moved to an extra bedroom. "About fifteen years ago, my husband designed and we had built an office for me out the back out our house," she said. "It's great—lots of windows, lovely view of flowers and veggie garden. Plenty of shelf space, a huge desk, and framed covers of my bestsellers on the walls."

Karen shared with me that the hardest part of writing her books is the middle—"which I call 'the muddle of the book,'" she said. "I seem to control my beginnings well, hopefully with a grabber hook for the book to really get things going. I usually have a good idea of how the book will end. But when I am juggling multiple characters and subplots in the middle, I have to work hard to be sure things do not fall apart or bog down. This can mean adding a big event—a marriage? a murder?—or putting in some sort of plot twist to propel the book forward."

When Karen's not writing, she loves to travel both at home and abroad. Her heritage is English, Scottish, and German; and she's done the most looking into and reveling in her Scottish heritage. She did Scottish Highland dancing for years until it got a bit hard on her knees and her husband plays the bagpipes.

"In writing, I guess I’ve done the most with my English heritage," she said, "since I’ve written many books set in ‘merrie olde England’ and taken at least a dozen trips there for both research and pleasure."

She's also lately gotten really involved with Labrador retrievers. She's written about them in quite a few books, including The Hiding Place and The Stories of Change Anthology, because she was very impressed with the working labs she met from the Puppies Behind Bars program. In Deep Down, she used another kind of tracker dog, Plott Hounds. Her favorite animal is the cat, though, from felix domesticus to the many wild breeds. "I guess I can say a cat lover has now gone to the dogs," she said. "It's such a tragedy that so many of the tigers, leopards, etc., have been hunted for their beautiful coats. When we take our grandson to the zoo, we let him decide what he wants to see, but if I chose, we'd head straight to the big cats."

On a personal note, she admits to crying in movies...and even at some commercials. "I guess my two all-time favorite commercials for that were the old ads for film or for cameras about how quickly time goes by and kids and families change: 'Turn around and she’s four—turn around and she’s twenty' or whatever," she told me. "My other faves are the Budweiser ads they show near Christmas with those beautiful Clydesdales pulling the wagon up to a lighted farmhouse in the snow. Something about that really gets to me, reminds me of the old days, of passing small town America, I guess."

Karen and her husband live in Florida part of the year, and Karen told me she loves thunderstorms—any dramatic weather, whether it's actually happening or something she writes about. "Our area has been through several hurricanes," she explained. "So I couldn’t resist writing a book called Hurricane, which has a romantic and family drama playing out against the background of an approaching storm. I have to watch I don’t overdo the Gothic overtones when I write a frightening scene for a novel."

Finally, Karen shared with me she does multitask, but she needs a lot of patience to do so. "Researching one project, writing another, publicizing another—everything will eventually get done, but not right away," she said. "I tend to think of making progress in time spans of weeks or months rather than days, or I can get frustrated. I have some author friends who have offices outside their homes or they get distracted, but I seem to be able to work at home and juggle other things."

You can keep up with Karen on her website, http://karenharperauthor.com .

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Jenny Gilliam


What’s going on in the writing world of Jenny Gilliam?

Hmm. Well, I’m currently in the process of reinventing myself. All four of the novels I released last year were written under my maiden name, Jenny Gilliam. My father, who passed when I was sixteen, was a writer, so I wanted it to be a tribute of sorts to him. But my reasons for using my real name weren’t entirely altruistic.

When I was in high school, I wasn’t what you might call a “model student.” I grew up in the heyday of the grunge era. Let’s say I was a little (okay, a lot) weird to begin with. Then, suddenly it was “cool” to be different, strange. I shopped only at thrift stores, wore funky clothes, went to raves, skipped classes, and indulged in an embarrassing amount of drugs.

Suffice it to say, my grades suffered. :-)

I always imagined that, had I purchased one, inside my senior yearbook, next to my picture would read: “Most likely to end up in rehab.” And while that happened, so did something extraordinary.

I changed my life.

After I graduated (which I didn’t technically do, but I walked with the class anyway), I kicked the drug habit, got a full-time job, and met my husband (not necessarily in that order). I realized that I wanted to live a healthy life. I wanted to keep seeing my husband, but he’s not a big believer in self-medicating (Hmm. Weird.)

It was an extremely rough year, but I managed to keep my man and my job—in fact, I still work there after twelve years—and realized that life was much better lived without the pot, the meth, the ecstasy.

Hold on, there is a method to my madness; I’m just one of those gals who takes the long way ‘round. So, three years ago, when I decided to pursue publication, I thought, I’ll write under my maiden name. Not just for Daddy, but for me. To show all those people from high school that I made it. That I didn’t turn out to be a loser.

Yet, when my first novel was published in March of 2008, I felt no vindication, no “Ha! Take that!” moment. Then I began to wonder about my future. I’m certain I’ll make a name for myself in romance publishing. Jenny Gilliam already has. But what if I want privacy? Because I’m an intensely private person.

And thus, Piper Foxx was born. How did I come up with the name? Nothing terribly fascinating, I’m afraid. I simply wrote down some of my favorite given and surnames, then matched them up until I came up with Piper Foxx. So everything I write from now on will be under that name. It’s a scary leap, but I’m early enough in my career that I don’t think it will create that much of an impact.

Let’s hope so anyway.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Jenny Gilliam


Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I’ve warred in a two-year-long battle with myself over writing. I call it a “hiatus.” Others (those connected to reality), call it writer’s block. Or being just plain scared and lazy.

I’m an “all or nothing” kind of gal. I wrote my four novels in the span of a year, had them all published in the span of another year, and spent the following year kicking my own butt because I was terrified of the computer. Every time I walked by my desk, I imagined large, ferocious teeth snapping at me, or a little voice making chicken noises from the speakers. (Yes, I’m well aware of the fact I may be insane.)

So, what have I done about it? Well, a good way to start is to accept an offer from your publisher, agreeing to write a 25K novella for an anthology. Now I have a deadline. (I really hope my editor isn’t reading this right now.) Never fear, however, it’s half-written. And I’m back on the writing bandwagon. Some other things I did:

*Went to the Romance Writer’s of America’s annual National Conference (which helped)

*Attended various seminars and workshops

*Purchased a large portion of the “Writer’s Reference” stock at my local bookstore

*Actually wrote

Eventually, it was my yearning to be an author that brought me back around. I made goals (I didn’t meet any of them, but I made them), I agreed (scarily) to write in that anthology (which comes out this summer, by the way), and I’m just plain going to start writing again. Screw that little voice that says I can’t. And that’s that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Jenny Gilliam



How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?


I’ve written a total of 4 novels so far. I’d like to think each one gets better, but who knows? What I do know is that of all four, my first finished novel is still my favorite. It’s called Letting Luce You can buy the e-copy here and the print copy here. (a little shameless self-promotion).

It’s actually my second published novel. I love the characters (probably because the heroine reminds me so much of myself—wait—does that make me conceited???), the premise or plot of the book, and the HEA. I especially love the hero, probably since he was my first. (Now, I know that sounds bad). Here’s a little taste:

When Lucy Hollister tried to drop-kick her personal computer out her second-story window, she had no idea it would eventually lead to the seduction of her very hot, very yummy best friend, Rory Carlisle. After all, she’s the queen of passivity, and he’s the reining king of the non-committed relationship. When a sexy online flirtation leads the couple into some steamy situations, Rory realizes that his cute best friend is letting loose—in the best possible way. Can this couple get past old hurts and guarded hearts to embrace the passionate love that awaits?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Jenny Gilliam


Have you ever made a crank phone call?

I’m going to be honest here; I’m a career crank-phone caller. For example, before we had children to set an example for, my husband and I would spend a Saturday evening calling our friends and family (yes, I said friends and family) leaving dirty messages.

There’s a funny little software program called S&^t Talker 3000. It employs computerized voices and you can program it to say whatever you want. Suffice it to say, we’re an immature couple. But, hey, we have lots of fun.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m a full-time mother with a full-time job, so finding time (other than prank-calling) for hobbies is a challenge. But I enjoy spending time with my husband and kids, reading, knitting, sewing. We have ATVs that we take to the sand dunes here in Western Oregon. A large four-wheel-drive park lies just a few miles beyond our front door (which is, consequently, where my hubby and I had our first date). I like to hike, camp, and spend time in coffee shops writing (had to add it). Of course, then there’s always shopping. Oooooohhhhh. Shopping.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Jenny Gilliam


Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, a novella called "Getting Even" is part of an anthology to be released by Amira Press this summer. Socialite Paige St. John goes to the island of Cozumel, Mexico at the behest of her fiancé, only to receive two of the biggest shocks of her life. The first occurs when she catches her fiancé cheating; the second when she realizes the resort manager is none other than her former husband, Nick Russo. Neither has gotten over the other and circumstances throw the couple together—literally—into some very steamy situations.

This is my first erotic romance. It’s also the “coming out,” so to speak, of my new alter-ego, Piper Foxx. I’ve written four novels under the name Jenny Gilliam, and now I’ve decided to change that name. I’m a little apprehensive, as I don’t know that my fan base (my very small fan base) will follow. My novels have always been on the steamy side; this time I’m pushing the envelope just a touch farther.
While somewhat nervous, I’m also quite excited to start this new chapter in my writing career.

Can you tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke? If so, which do you prefer?

I believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: Coke people and Pepsi people (the other percentage, the ones who don’t care, are just plain crazy). Coke has a longer shelf-life once you open in. It’s also a little less sweet than its Pepsi counterpart. Obviously, I’ve spent too much time thinking about this. But my opinion really doesn’t matter since I love Mountain Dew and it’s a Pepsi product (gasp!).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Summer Heat by April Hollands

Amy looked around the beach as she stood up. She thought that the hottest part of the day would have passed by now, but not even the light sea breeze and the shade of a beach umbrella could cool her down. Since her arrival just hours earlier, her frozen bottle of water had turned tepid. She contemplated another splash in the cool seawater, but the heat had tired her out and she was thirsty.

The ice cream parlour was only a few minutes' walk away. She slipped her sundress over her bikini and headed that way, happy that her thirst would be quenched with both water and ice cream. The parlour was famous in Torquay: tourists made pilgrimages to try the latest home-made flavours even when the summer months had passed and the chill in the air was as cold as the ice cream. Through the window, Amy was surprised to see it so uncrowded on such a hot day.

A wall of cold air hit her as she opened the door to the parlour. She looked forward to cooling right down in here before heading back to the heat outside.

"Amy!"

She turned to see who had said her name.

"Daniel," she said, "Wow, it's been a few years."

"Our final school dance."

"Really?"

"I think so," he said. "I've only been back in Australia for a year. I left right after school with my backpack and not much else."

Daniel smiled at Amy and shook his head.

"What?" she said, smiling.

"You. You haven't changed a bit. I can't believe it. It's like we're still at school."

"Well, we're in an ice cream shop. I do feel a bit like a kid in here."

"What flavours are you going to try? Look, my scoops of lemon cheesecake and caramel are coming."

The woman behind the counter handed Daniel his ice cream-filled cone and Amy quickly ordered a scoop of passionfruit ice cream and a scoop of chocolate.

Daniel paid for the ice creams while Amy found some stools at the parlour bar.

"Who are you here with, Amy?" he asked.

"My friend Jess. She's gone to visit some friends not far from here, but I didn't want to sit in a hot car on a day like today so I stayed here instead."

"Do you want to have dinner on the beach with me tonight?" asked Daniel. "I've always wanted to have dinner on a quiet beach and a warm night."

"It does sound like a good idea…"

"Excellent," Daniel said, before Amy had time to decline. "Having you there will make it ten times better. We can stop in at the supermarket and grab a few things, but I'll need to go back to my place to get my picnic rug."

Amy felt herself smiling and staring into Daniel's eyes as he spoke. She had kissed him at a school disco years earlier, but she was too embarrassed to talk to him at school the next week. Neither of them had mentioned it since. She had often wondered whether he had been too embarrassed as well.

An hour passed quickly in the ice cream parlour, with Daniel telling Amy about his overseas adventures while Amy listened, twirling her curly brown hair around her fingertips and keeping her gaze fixed on Daniel's blue eyes.

Daniel's eyes moved from Amy to the clock on the wall.

"The shops are closing soon. We'd better go or we'll be fishing for our dinner," he joked.

Amy grinned. "I'm terrible at fishing."

"So am I," he smiled. "Look, how about I go to the shops while you go home to get whatever you need in case it gets cold later on."

"That's a good idea. I've left my beach umbrella and towel on the beach too. Oops."

"Okay, I'll meet you outside the ice cream shop in an hour. Is that long enough?"

"An hour and a half would be better."

"It's a deal," Daniel said. "I'll see you back here soon."

Amy couldn't help but notice how much more confident Daniel had become since his school days. His blond hair was as much of a mop as ever and she still found herself attracted to him. She went back to her apartment to find the perfect outfit. The flimsy jacket was unlikely to keep her very warm, but it looked so good that she had to wear it. The heat of the day had continued longer than usual, so perhaps a flimsy jacket would do anyway.

Daniel's hair was flopping in the cool evening breeze when she walked towards him outside ice cream parlour. He had a basket of goodies on one hand and a picnic rug draped over his other shoulder.

"Hi, are you ready?" he asked.

"Yes, can I carry anything?"

"You can carry these," he said, revealing his other hand from under the rug. He was holding a bunch of flowers. "They're only from my garden, but the white ones reminded me of you."

They walked to the beach and Amy chose a spot to lay the rug. By the time the food was laid, the last few kids and parents had packed up and gone, leaving Amy and Daniel to enjoy dinner with just the soft sound of the breaking waves. They ate lobster, salad, bread and cheese. The air was getting cool when they moved onto with home-made tiramisu from the ice cream parlour.

Amy shivered.

"You're cold," said Daniel.

"Just a bit."

Daniel cleared the picnic rug and wrapped it around Amy, standing behind her while she watched the waves.

"Thanks."

He put his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek.

"Thank you, too. You've made my beach dinner perfect."

She turned her head and smiled at him, and he met her lips with a kiss.

"Will you make my beach sunrise perfect too?" he asked between kisses.

"Yes."


About the Author: April was born in Australia, where she began her career writing technical manuals. Itchy feet took her to England, then France, where she continued to write for a living, moving into journalism and using her spare time to write fiction. She is a chocolate-lover, who has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Linguistics, as well as a keen interest in observing cultures and human nature. Blog address: http://www.lefrancophoney.com

Author Interview: Diane Craver

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Diane Craver, author of Never the Same from Samhain Publishing.

Diane has always loved to write and is happiest when she is writing. She told me, "Even when a pesky character and parts of the storyline give me a rough time, I still enjoy creating a new book. Also a writing career gives me the flexibility I need in meeting my family's needs."

This also entailed a lot of multitasking because she has a large family. She and her husband have six children, although they only have two at home now. "With raising a large family, I had to multitask," she explained. "We were also blessed with two daughters with Down syndrome and hearing losses so multitasking was all in a day’s work!"

Diane has six published books, but told me her favorite is her "creative nonfiction book," The Christmas of 1957. "It's about how a little girl helps her father in overcoming his illiteracy. It’s based on a true event from my childhood," she said.

She didn't grow up wanting to be an author, though. "I wanted to become a nurse," she told me. "I was a Candy Striper during high school and loved volunteering on the different floors in the hospital. The guidance counselor at my high school told me that I wasn’t strong enough in science to pursue a nursing career, so I decided to become a teacher. A part of me has always regretted not trying to see if I could’ve made it as a nurse."

When she's not writing, she enjoys reading and going to the movies. In the summer, though, she prefers being outside and hanging out with her kids. "We have a pool and I love to go swimming. Our four typical kids visit a lot and we have fun being together whether it’s playing games, going to a movie or swimming." But, she did confess to hating the way she looks in a bathing suit when there's a camera around!

Diane has just finished an inspirational romance by Lenora Worth, but told me she doesn't have a favorite author, because she reads a range of genres. "I like mysteries written by Mary Higgins Clark and I like the Regan Reilly series by Carol Higgins Clark," she told me. "Other authors I enjoy are: Sophia Kinsella, LaVyrle Spencer, Debbie Macomber, Sandra Brown, Jayne Ann Krentz, and several new authors published by small presses."

She doesn't only read in a range of genres, she also writes in different genres. She has written contemporary romance, inspirational mainstream, and chick-lit mystery. This week she started writing a romantic comedy. "I've always enjoyed writing humor in my books," she said, "but I’ve never written a romantic comedy. I’m looking forward to writing it."

Since she just started writing a new book, I wondered how she developed her plots and characters—which came first: plot or characters?

"I think of the character first with an interesting conflict," she answered. "For a few days dialogue, scenes, setting and characters parade across my mind before I write anything down. When I start writing, I put the big scenes down before even starting the first few pages. My characters tend to take over so I don’t make a detailed outline. "

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

"Follow your heart and believe in yourself!" she said. "You have to be persistent and develop a thick skin when it comes to rejections. Remember this is a subjective business so don’t get discouraged."

Then she added, "I suggest finishing your book before querying publishers and agents. I had half of a novel done when I queried an agent and expected her to ask for a partial first which would give me plenty of time to finish it. Instead, I heard immediately from her and she requested the whole manuscript. It was very stressful trying to finish it and get it to her as quickly as possible. When you are established as a published author, you may be able to submit a partial manuscript to your agent or editor before completing it."

You can keep up with Diane on her blog, http://www.dianecraver.com/blog/index.php

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Caridad Pineiro


  1. With two jobs, you can imagine that Friday is a special day for me! I get to go home, spend more time with my family, get some rest and get lots of writing done! Fridays are always fun and I thought that today I would so something fun with you to get to know you better. So today I am sharing with you 25 things you may not know about me! I hope you’ll take a moment to share something about yourself that others may not know or that you want others to know.


    Here goes:


    1. I grew up in Levittown, Long Island.
    2. I used to play the bassoon.
    3. My favorite baseball team is the Mets.
    4. I like the Jonas Brothers (I know I‘m crazy!)
    5. I read mostly paranormals and romantic suspense.
    6. My first book was Now and Always.
    7. I speak Spanish, Italian and some French.
    8. I can read Portuguese.
    9. I’ve traveled to over a dozen countries for work.
    10. My favorite city overseas is Rome.
    11. My second favorite is London.
    12. I was born in Havana, Cuba.
    13. I didn’t speak English when I went to kindergarten.
    14. My favorite city in the U.S. is Manhattan.
    15. My second favorite city in the U.S. is Philadelphia.
    16. I love the beach and ocean.
    17. I was a science major in college.
    18. My daughter is a fashion major.
    19. I’m happily married.
    20. I have 8 nieces and nephews.
    21. I live in New Jersey.
    22. I love to cook and travel.
    23. My favorite kind of food is Mexican.
    24. I’m a founding member of the Liberty States Fiction Writers.
    25. Writing is my passion.


Note: For a chance to win one of three prizes from Caridad: an autographed copy of Soldier's Secret Child, autographed copy of Moon Fever, or a Sins of the Flesh T-shirt, CLICK HERE and answer the question on her spotlight.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Caridad Pineiro


I’m often asked by fans and fellow writers how I manage to write so many books since I have a full time job, namely being an attorney in Manhattan. My area of practice is Intellectual Property (patents, copyrights and trademarks) which dovetails nicely at times with my passion – writing. Being an attorney is a job that often requires longer hours, but I’ve managed to handle that by going into work early so I can be home every night for dinner and family time. Family is the most important thing in my life.

So where does the writing fit in? Writing is my passion. I started writing in the fifth grade when a teacher assigned a project – to write a twenty page (typed) book to be placed in a class lending library. The idea so intrigued me that I went home and started writing. Near the end of the year, my poor mom had to type 120 pages of my novel!

I knew then I had the writing bug and kept on writing through high school, college and law school, but it wasn’t until my daughter was born that I knew I had to commit to something – getting a book published. I wanted my daughter to know that anything was possible if you worked hard for it. It was a lesson my mom had taught me and I wanted to pass it on to her.

So late at night after my baby daughter was asleep, I’d get to work on my novel. A short while later, I was lucky enough to take an adult education class with Fern Michaels who liked what I was writing. That wonderful woman sent the chapters I had written to her publisher and a discussion ensued. They wanted something contemporary and my work didn’t fit into any of the historical categories being published. So I went back to work and four years later, I sold them my first book!

Ten years later, I’m working on my twenty-fifth book which will be out sometime in 2010. 25! It’s more than I could have imagined and I am thankful every day for the opportunity to be able to fulfill my passion for writing.

How do I do it with a family and full time job, you’re probably wondering again. Well, I take the train to work every day which gives me about 1.5 hours of writing time for the round trip. I also write for about 3 or 4 hours on every Saturday and Sunday. If I’m under deadline, or if a story is really calling to me, I’ll also write at night after dinner, although this is tiring after a full day of work.

With that schedule, I generally can finish two to three books a year and also develop a few proposals for future books. That’s a key thing – to always have work ready to be submitted. It’s important to have regular product on the shelves so that readers will be able to get their fix – I have a fan who joked she was a Caridaddict! LOL!

I guess what I finish with today is what my mom instilled in me and that I’ve hopefully instilled in my daughter – anything is possible if you work hard for it.

Note: For a chance to win one of three prizes from Caridad: an autographed copy of Soldier's Secret Child, autographed copy of Moon Fever, or a Sins of the Flesh T-shirt, CLICK HERE and answer the question on her spotlight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Caridad Pineiro


Those of you who visit my blog (www.caridad.com\blog) know that Wednesdays are very special! They are Wicked Wednesdays because I share excerpts with my fans of either upcoming or past releases, but I also share with them some deleted scenes or special online stories for my fans. One of those online stories is a book of my heart that I haven’t been able to place with a publisher – Undead Uprising.

I don’t know about you, but I just love kick butt heroines and the heroine in this book is definitely that. Catalina is a werewolf who is different – stronger as a human and uncontrollable when the wolf emerges. A problem, but especially for Catalina who is the eldest daughter of the pack leader and therefore next in line to rule the pack. Add to the mix the fact that she’s a woman and in love with a human – I so love this kind of angst.

I hope you will as well! Here’s your first taste of Undead Uprising(and if you’d like to read more, there’s another 18 or so chapters up at the blog!)

***For Mature Audiences Only — Language, Violence and Some Sexual Content***

Chapter 1
New York City, June 2007

A good kill no longer brought satisfaction, only despair.

Pain lanced through Catalina de Villalobos’s side as she neared her latest victory. She raised her arm and glanced down at the four angry claw marks raked deep into her ribs. The vampire she had confronted that night had been a Wolverine wannabe, sporting a glove with razor sharp claws. Claws with which the vampire had successfully slashed through the protection of the leather jerkin she wore for battle.

Catalina ran a hand over the wound. It came away wet with blood.

Shit. Too much blood.

She nudged the body of her undead foe with the point of her polished black boot. Bent beside him to examine the claws. Picking up the vampire’s gloved hand, the gleam of silver shone bright in the moonlight along with the shock of blood along finely honed talons.

It explained why her wounds weren’t closing yet. The silver was messing with her body’s ability to heal.

She couldn’t delay. Weakness slowly crept into her extremities from the loss of blood. She couldn’t afford that. The vamps would be out in force on a night like tonight, thinking they could have a vamp’s version of Mardi Gras before others like her emerged during the three days that were the height of the lunar cycle. When the werewolves came out to hunt, the smarter vampires retreated into their lairs for safety.

Ño, she said, cursing her stupidity at allowing the demon to get close enough to wound her. With that thought came a wave of wooziness, reminding her she couldn’t linger.

Hurrying, she removed the silver throwing knives from the vamp’s heart, wiped them clean on his shirt and then tucked them back into the leather vambrace along her left forearm.

She stood and glanced at the body. The moonlight illuminated the young vampire’s pale face. Barely out of his twenties human-age wise, but also fairly fresh to the undead life. She had sensed his power was not as strong as that of an older bloodsucker. That could explain the clawed glove he had added for protection. Newly turned, he had somehow become aware of the fact that he lacked the strength to defend himself against anything other than a human.

Guilt blossomed within her as she wondered whether the young man had chosen his undead life or been sired against his will. The latter made her hesitate until the vampire’s hand gave a sudden twitch, reminding her she had a job to finish. No matter how he had been turned, the end result was the same — a thirsty bloodsucker. She had stopped this one from draining an NYU coed he had dragged to the rooftop from the street below. The coed had fled, screaming, as soon as Catalina had arrived on the scene.

Funny, but she didn’t know if the coed had been more afraid of her in her human state and battle gear, or the vamp.

Easing her blade from the scabbard where she had sheathed it earlier, Catalina raised the Crusader’s sword high in the air, uttered a small prayer for the young man’s soul and hers, and then brought the blade rushing downward, cleaving the vampire’s head from his shoulders.

The body jumped one final time, confirming that the smaller silver knives had only slowed the demon. Her sword had finished the job. The morning sun would quickly dispose of any evidence of the kill.

She wiped down the sword on the vamp’s shirt. The silver-plated blade was as toxic to vamps as it was to those of her kind. A weakness the vamps had passed on to the werewolves they had inadvertently created.

Once back in its scabbard, she laid her hand on the leather wrapped hilt of the sword and the cross deeply engraved into the silver pommel glittered in the moonlight.

Somehow apropos, she thought. Her father had chosen a Crusader’s sword for her and Catalina formed part of the front lines of such a campaign. The cross a symbol of the righteous battling against immoral demons who no longer recognized any kind of god.

Once more despair rose up strongly within her. This would be the rest of her life, until one of the undead got luckier than the callow youth she had dispatched tonight.

Werewolf versus vampire. Catalina and her brethren against the unholy bloodsuckers.

Life was truly a bitch.

But it was her life, as much as she hated the fighting. Hated the lack of control that arose when the wolf took over her body.

Unlike the others of her kind, she was useless during the full moon which forced her to do her fighting the rest of the month. Every day of the rest of the month.

A wave of dizziness swept over her again, reminding her she would be useless for the remainder of the night. She needed to return home and heal.

She would never make it on foot. Too weak, she thought.

Hurrying down the fire escape, she slipped into an alleyway and rooted through the garbage cans, looking for something she could wrap herself in.

This might be New York City where anything went, but her weapons and the blood dripping down her side might raise an eyebrow on the subway. Finally, deep at the back of the alley, she encountered a homeless man beside a shopping cart brimming with possibilities.

In the dark of the alley, the whites of his eyes glowed with fright as he noted the weapons and the blood. He probably imagined that she had come for him.

“I won’t hurt you, old man,” she said in gentle tones, reached into a small pocket in her jerkin and tossed some money in his lap. “I just need a blanket.”

The man grabbed the money with gnarled fingers and motioned to the cart. “In there.”

Catalina rooted through the filth and debris of his life until she encountered a thin, dark grey blanket.

One large enough to hide beneath. It smelled ripe — a good thing. The odor would mask the scent of her blood.

Wrapping the blanket around her, she strode from the alley and continued until she reached her goal — a loose grate above the subway stop. Easily shifting the grate even in her weakened state, she listened and tried to sense any physical signs of the subway. No clang of the tracks. No tremble of the ground beneath. She jumped down, landed at the edge of the tunnel and peered out.

A few humans, lingering as they waited for the train. She slipped unnoticed onto the platform. Huddled into the blanket and mumbling to herself, she walked toward the first pedestrian. As expected, the sharply dressed man’s face screwed up with disgust and he moved away so she could pass.

Good. Her act was working, especially when she wobbled like a drunk from the blood loss. She pressed onward, needing to be at the front of the train. In the tunnel beneath her clan’s building, the entrance to their lair lay beyond the head of the train. At that subway stop, smack in midtown Manhattan in a highly traveled area, she couldn’t risk drawing attention.

Especially when she might not be all that stable.

Weaker by the moment, she thought, as her vision wobbled out of focus. She struggled onward. Thanked whatever god there was when the subway pulled in moments later and she limped onto the train, plopped down at the first seat by the door.

The impact with the hard plastic brought pain. She moaned, covered it by mumbling a little louder, driving yet another few passengers from her side. That and the pungent smell from the blanket.

Each jostle of the train brought renewed pain. The claws must have dug deeper than she realized. The warmth of her blood bathed her side. Her nose twitched involuntarily as that smell began to overwhelm her wolfen senses.

She risked a glance to see if anyone else had noticed, but they were all busy ignoring her. Another typical day in New York City, she thought.

Multiple stops passed until with what seemed like a bone-jarring thud, the subway reached her destination. She rose, stumbled off onto the platform. There were more people here, but luckily, they were all headed in the opposite direction toward the exits that would put them closer to Rockefeller Center and Radio City.

The Villalobos building was directly above, an impressive fifty story building on New York’s Sixth Avenue. The first forty stories housed the vast complex of businesses that made up Villalobos Industries. The top ten floors housed rooms for the clan business and the home of Rafael de Villalobos, her father, and all his children and wives.

She snuck quickly into a tunnel, leaned on the wall heavily as she labored to reach what everyone supposed was a service shaft for the subway.

Only it wasn’t.

It had been put there by her father nearly twenty years earlier as an emergency entrance. At the rusty and banged up metal door, she placed her hand over what looked like a plain old square stone, but was actually a biometric reading device. Bright laser light read her palm and a second later, the decrepit-looking door slid open with a smooth whoosh.

She stumbled in and dropped the blanket, unable to bear its stench for a moment longer.

The clan’s physician, Ramon Santander, waited for her. “The guards told me you were on your way.”

As he finally noticed her condition, he rushed to her side to offer support. “You’re hurt.” He gently raised her left arm to triage her injuries.

Weaker by the second, Catalina laid a hand on his shoulder to steady herself. “It’s not healing. Silver.”

With a nod, he picked her up into his arms and strode with her to the elevator. She nestled her head on Ramon’s chest, snuggling into his warmth since a chill had settled into her body. His strength and calm washed over and she finally relaxed her guard. Being strong all the time wore her down. Only with Ramon could she allow herself some weakness.

The alpha wolves of the clan would try to take advantage of that weakness. Attempt to assume control over her. Ramon would not do the same. First, because he was human. Second, because he cared for her. Or at least, she suspected he cared for her.

Once inside the special infirmary for her family, Ramon laid her on the examining table. Quickly and almost impersonally, he removed her leather jerkin to reveal the four ugly and deep slices along her ribs. Almost to the bone, she realized.

Ramon probed at the wounds gently with his fingers, but she still winced from the pressure. With the danger of the battle over, she could finally allow the pain to bring the unwanted sexual desire that seemed to be part of her unusual legacy.

“Perdoname,” he said in apology and stepped away from the table to assemble the needed tools and medications on a smaller rolling cart.

“No need to apologize,” Catalina said as she shifted to her side, one arm draped across her breasts, suddenly modest despite her growing sexual need. Ramon had seen her naked when he guarded her during the full moon. Touched her, only they weren’t lovers, despite her wishing for that more times than was wise.

Ramon must have sensed her interest since he became distant. As a human saved by the pack from a vamp attack, he had sworn to keep their secrets and heal their wounds in exchange for his life. Due to his position at the bottom of the Villalobos hierarchy, the other wolves would never tolerate him as the mate of their future leader.

But she would risk the censure of the pack. She wanted him that badly. She needed to imagine a normal life was possible for her. That hope was all that kept her going at times.

When Ramon returned to the table, he said, “I’d give you something for the pain, only — ”

“We never know what it’ll do,” she finished for him. A familiar statement when it came to her unique metabolism. Within their number, she was an oddity — a wolf who couldn’t control her altered state; one who couldn’t handle human medicines while in her normal state. Despite that, she could tolerate a greater amount of pain and had incredible strength while in human form, unlike the other werewolves who had to wait until the full moon to be at their strongest.

“It’s okay. I can deal,” she said and shifted her arm to allow him access to the injury.

Ramon cleansed the wound to remove any traces of the silver and then worked on closing up the deeper portions of the gashes. She sucked in a deep breath and focused on driving away any sensation of pain. As he tended to her, Ramon spoke to her in softly, which helped her keep her distress — and passion — in check.

“How did this happen?”

“Young vamp had claws.” She winced at one pull of the needle as he stitched.

“An armed vampire? They seem to be growing bolder.”

She shrugged and he admonished her to stay still. Glancing downward, she could see him working, feel the pinch and tug as he closed her wounds. “They must be tired of being attacked, both during the cycle and off.”

“Rumor has it they’re banding together. Warning the newly turned about you,” he said and reached for something on the table.

His comment made her rise and face him, the stitches in her side pulling with the movement. “Where did you hear that?”

“Hemmerich. He was with your father today in his chambers. He, too, had been hunting earlier. Only he wasn’t as lucky as you,” Ramon replied and returned to working on her side, his gaze uneasy as it darted to her breasts, and then back up to her face.

At least he had noticed her, she thought, sitting before him, her arms at her sides to expose herself.

Let him look, she thought. And touch. With her wounds tended, her strength slowly returned to normal and she finally released the passion that came from a battle well fought and the pain of her injuries.

It occurred to her that maybe some fickle god, knowing that pain would rule her life, had decided that in exchange pleasure should come with it. That the torment of becoming the wolf would bring fulfillment in those final moments before she lost control.

She cared for neither.

“Hemmerich is a fool. He’s not as strong as I am in his human state.”

Ramon tried to avoid looking at her, but it proved impossible to ignore perfection. Especially when it sat before him, inviting his touch. He reined in his desire and calmly said, “You’re right. The vampire who got Hemmerich earlier tonight had a friend with him. They managed to slice up Hemmerich before he dispatched one of them.”

“Only one?” She arched one finely waxed brow arched to emphasize the question.

He nodded, eased her arm away from her side again and finished dressing the gashes although some parts of them were already healed. “The second vampire fled when he realized he would have to fight Hemmerich alone.”

When he finished, he tenderly smoothed his hand over the gauze and tape, angry that she had been hurt. Worried at the discussion he had overheard in her father’s chambers earlier that night. He couldn’t fool her since she must have sensed his disquiet.

“What else is there? I can tell from your face that’s not the only bad news for the night.”

With a tired sigh, he laid his hands on either side of her on the examination table. Raising his face, he met her almost defiant gaze. “Your twenty-fifth birthday is in a few months.”

“And?” she replied with a regal tilt to her auburn-haired head. An appropriate posture considering that as the eldest child of the alpha wolf, she would be the next in line to rule the Villalobos clan unless someone challenged her position. Only no one would be stupid enough to do that. Even in her human state, Catalina was stronger and smarter than the best of the alpha males in the pack. She was the only choice to lead them once her father was gone, which would not be for quite some time. Rafael de Villalobos was only in his early fifties, and amazingly hale and hearty. But that didn’t mean that the rites of ascendancy shouldn’t begin.

“You’re father is talking about holding the Gauntlet to choose your mate.” Although he tried to hide the despair in his voice, he failed miserably, which only served to bring a tender smile to Catalina’s mouth.

She cupped his cheek and ran her thumb across his lips. “You know that there is only one mate I would choose.”

With a harsh sigh, he said, “I am forbidden to you.”

His words tugged painfully at Catalina’s heart since as much as she wished to deny it, he was right. As a mortal, he could not be the consort for someone who would one day head the pack. The rules of the clan made it clear that only the strongest alpha could be her life partner.

But that didn’t stop her need or the attraction she felt for him. Lowering her hand to his shoulder, she urged him closer until the tips of her breasts brushed his chest. They hardened immediately, accompanied by a surge in the passion that had been simmering within from her injuries. He would have pulled away, but she exerted pressure on his shoulder.

“I want you.”

“This can bring nothing but pain,” he urged and once again made a motion to leave her, but she increased the strength of her hold.

“I want to make love with you,” she beseeched, but his face was harsh as he answered.

“Is that a command or can I refuse?” he said, raising the differences in their ranks as a last resort. They both knew he couldn’t refuse her if it was a command since he had sworn his obedience in exchange for his life. Normally she wasn’t one to take advantage of that vow, but if a command was what it would take for him to make love with her tonight, Catalina wouldn’t be honorable.

She moved closer and nuzzled his face with hers, trailing her lips along the straight line of his jaw. “Can you refuse me?” she asked as she hovered near the edge of his lips until he turned his face that fraction of an inch to meet her gaze.

“What do you think?” Ramon said, but knew that no answer was needed as he met her lips with his and gripped the back of her head.

She might be forbidden and get furry a few nights each month, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from wanting her like he had never wanted any other woman. Catalina knew it and took advantage of his weakness.

And he didn’t care, he thought as he slipped his arms around her body and pressed her close.

The power of her rippled beneath his hands, her lithe muscles strong. The heat of her animal side warmed his palms as her passion rose and his own, almost puny human desire answered.

Over and over he kissed her lips. Slipped his tongue into her mouth and tasted the sweetness of her breath. The smoothness of her perfect teeth which soon would become fangs sharp enough to tear him to bits. Again it came to him that this was insanity.

Destiny demanded that she be the next pack leader and giving into this would only cause problems for her. Hurt her.

He cared for her too much to be the source of such anguish and gently eased her away.

A knock came at the door.

Catalina made a face of annoyance. “Ignore it. Maybe they’ll go away,” she said, wishing to continue with their encounter.

“Catalina, this can’t — ”

The knock came again, more insistent this time and followed by her mother’s hushed, but concerned voice.

“Mi’ja. You’re father has requested that you come to his study.”

Catalina was tempted to defy her father, only she had no doubt that he wanted to talk about the Gauntlet and Hemmerich’s failure that night, both topics she eagerly wanted to learn more about.

“I have to go.”

She dropped a quick kiss on his lips and wrapping the sheet from the examining table around her, she hurried to the door and opened it. Her mother waited there, anxiously wringing her hands together at Catalina’s delay.

“Mami.” She acknowledged her mother’s presence with a bow of her head.

Her mother didn’t look her in the eye as she lowered her head. Even between mother and child, rank in the pack still demanded certain actions. “Mi’ja. Your father is waiting for you.”

“Let him wait, mami. I need to dress.”

Her mother’s gaze darted uneasily to Ramon and maternal instinct overrode the pack’s rules about challenging a superior wolf. “This,” her mother began, finally raising her head and motioning with her hand in Ramon’s direction, “is unwise, mi’ja.”

“I should go,” Ramon said and started to walk away.

“Don’t,” she commanded and he obeyed, inclining his head in acknowledgement. His body posture confirming her authority over him.

She stood before her mother, who looked back down and almost cowered. She hated seeing her mother this way. Even more, she hated her role in causing her mother’s fall from her alpha position.

“Mami,” she said and laid a gentle hand on her mother’s shoulder. Her mother didn’t pick up her head, but shot her a shrouded half glance.

“You are my mother. My equal. I appreciate your concern for me, but Ramon . . .”

She glanced back at the man she wished to be her lover as he stood waiting. A grim smile marred his face, for he knew that many of the pack’s rules troubled her. “I care for him.”

“Your father is calling — ”

“For the Gauntlet. I know,” she jumped in and at her words, her mother’s head shot up in surprise.

“Let’s go see papi,” she said and strode from the infirmary to her bedroom, just a few doors down.

“He will not change his mind about the human,” her mother warned as she chased after her.

Her father occasionally indulged her in different ways, but she knew, much as her mother cautioned, that he would not be dissuaded. But then again, neither would she.

She had already given her heart to Ramon. Nothing her father said or did would change what she felt.

Note: For a chance to win one of three prizes from Caridad: an autographed copy of Soldier's Secret Child, autographed copy of Moon Fever, or a Sins of the Flesh T-shirt, CLICK HERE and answer the question on her spotlight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Caridad Pineiro


Not all of my novels are about vampires and dark things. In fact, I decided to write the first South Beach Chicas story because I needed a change from the supernatural and wanted to explore the issues that many modern women face, namely, a friend’s marriage, an unexpected romance and of course, the relationships with our mothers.

When I started writing "Wild at Heart" from Friday Night Chicas, a story about four friends on a fun 30th birthday cruise, I also made the decision to move the story from my beloved Manhattan to another city that I’ve always enjoyed – Miami. Two very different cities with equally unique flavors. Manhattan is a melting pot of hundreds of cultures and millions of people. Cold, dark and anonymous at times like my vampires. Miami is sunshine and warmth, peppered with a variety of Latino cultures which embue the city with its very tropical vibe. Just the place for four sexy and modern women to pursue their careers and love as they do in Sex and the South Beach Chicas and South Beach Chicas Catch Their Man.

If you’ve read any of the Chicas stories, you know that any of the four women would order up a mojito while spending some time together or out on a date. Mojitos are a tasty Cuban cocktail – grown up limeade and perfect for those sultry Miami nights. I thought I’d share with you a simple recipe for the cocktail in case you wanted to have your own South Beach moment. I’m also sharing a photo with you from a recent research trip there! Is there another Chicas book coming up? Actually, the research trip is for Ardor Calls, another vampire book in THE CALLING series. I decided that there was one very special and very unique vampire – Stacia – who needed to get away from Manhattan and check out the fun in Miami. Ardor Calls will be out in 2010.


But without further ado, here’s that mojito recipe! Salud!

Mojito
(pronounce it ‘mo-hee-toe,’ and savor the flavor of a night in South Beach!)

An easy mojito recipe to share with your friends:

1.5 oz white Rum
12 fresh spearmint leaves
1/2 lime
7 oz club soda
2 tbsp. simple sugar syrup
(or 4 tsp. sugar)

Gently crush (muddle) the mint leaves in the bottom of a tall glass.

Lightly squeeze lime into the glass.

Pour sweet syrup to cover the mint leaves and lime.

Fill glass with ice. Add Rum, club soda, and stir your mojito.

Garnish with a lime wedge and a few sprigs of mint.

If you don’t have simple sugar syrup, place granulated sugar, lime juice, rum and mint in cocktail shaker and shake until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the club soda and garnish.

For flavor variants, try spiced and mango rums! I prefer the original though because the taste is refreshing and light.

Note: For a chance to win one of three prizes from Caridad: an autographed copy of Soldier's Secret Child, autographed copy of Moon Fever, or a Sins of the Flesh T-shirt, CLICK HERE and answer the question on her spotlight.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Caridad Pineiro


First I’d like to thank LASR for giving me an opportunity to chat with you! I’m Caridad Pineiro, a USA Today and NY Times Bestseller who has written of over twenty novels of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, paranormals and romantic suspense. My current releases are Honor Calls and Fury Calls from the popular THE CALLING Vampire series from Silhouette Nocturne. In November 2009 I will have my first paranormal romantic suspense single title release – Sins of the Flesh – from Grand Central Publishing.

You’ll notice I said “has written” in that bio because in the process of writing all those different types of books, I’ve learned that what I love to do the most is paranormals and romantic suspense, or a blend of those two. I totally enjoy the action/adventure part of romantic suspense and the paranormal elements have always appealed to me.

People often ask me what made me decide to delve into the world of vampires and I guess you could say that I was going through a dark phase in my life and writing something which matched that mood appealed to me. Plus, when I was younger, my family would regularly watch horror movies together and the vampires were always the scariest to me, but also the most interesting.

Going dark by writing stories about vampires gave me the opportunity to get behind the façade of eternal life and explore whether or not that life is as grand as it seems. It also provided me with the ability to establish who the person was before they became a vampire. Who the character was in their human life has always been especially important to me because the power granted by becoming a vampire pushes all those human traits to the extreme.

By digging that deep into the character’s life and motivations, you can craft characters with whom readers identify on various levels. Plus, such interesting characters require an equally compelling plot in order for the characters to confront their inner conflicts and hopefully have their eternally happy-ever-after.

In Fury Calls, the vampire hero is a reluctant one. He’s had too much misery in his human life and just wants to coast through life eternal. Enter the heroine and a very loathsome villain. In order for a happily-ever-after, the hero has to confront his past in order to save not only the heroine, but a number of his friends in the vampire underworld. I love that he’s a hero who has to find himself in both humorous and very emotionally touching ways.

In Honor Calls, my e-novella from Nocturne Bites, the hero is calm and reserved. As an FBI Assistant Director in Charge, he has always functioned by following the letter of the law. He has been honorably discharging his duties until the day he runs into a vampire slayer who’s now challenging what he knows to be the right thing to do.

I truly love exploring the complexities of the characters’ inner demons which are oftentimes much more interesting and much scarier than the vampires they have become or which they encounter lurking in their human worlds.

I hope you will drop by to visit me at caridad.com or thecallingvampirenovels.com and check out some of the free reads and other goodies that I have on the site for you!

Thanks again to LASR for allowing me to share some time with you this week.

Note: For a chance to win one of three prizes from Caridad: an autographed copy of Soldier's Secret Child, autographed copy of Moon Fever, or a Sins of the Flesh T-shirt, CLICK HERE and answer the question on her spotlight.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Author Interview: Linore Rose Burkard

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Linore Rose Burkard who writes "inspirational fiction for the Jane Austen soul." If you love the Regency period, Linore is one author you don't want to miss.

Her debut novel, Before the Season Ends, was released last year and, next month, her readers get another chance to enjoy the spirited heroine in the sequel The House in Grosvenor Square.

Linore has loved books since she got her very first library card and book. At the age of nine, she wrote her own version of "My Side of the Mountain." She told me, "It was wonderful escapism, and it showed me that I could actually use my imagination to create a 'world' I wanted to live in. I didn't always remember to rein in my imagination for writing, unfortunately, but once I got it—that a powerful imagination in a blessing, not a curse!—I've wanted to keep using it that way, for fiction. I see it as a gift from God and, like many things we're given, it's only as good as the purposes you use it for. Exercising that gift by using it to entertain, delight, and inspire are the ways I hone what I've been given."

Linore fell in love with Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and wanted to read a Regency that included more of an inspirational or spiritual emphasis. She searched and waited for years, always thinking about what was missing in the books she was reading; always hoping someone would write the book she wanted to read. "One day it hit me that it was going to be my job!" she said. "So, I wrote that book, Before the Season Ends, and found that readers were eating it up. They loved it as much as I did. Harvest House Publishers has just released a brand new edition of the book, with an extra chapter and some newly researched 'language of faith.' It's fun, adventure, romance, and faith--all set during the fabulous Regency, early 19th century England."

I asked Linore what advice she'd give to new writers. She believes that all writing counts—letters to the editor, church newsletters, school essays. All are starting places and good arenas to practice. "Write with whatever opportunities come before you, and actively look for new ones," she said. "It may mean getting bold enough to ask for them, even if you do it for no money in the beginning. Also, go ahead and start that book of your hear—where your passion is, your best writing will follow. And never stop learning."

Linore told me she has two methods for dealing with writer's block. One, she forces herself to THINK through it. "Generally, if I get into a block, it means I'm confused about what should happen next. It's usually plot-related. If I can't think of a solution to the current dilemma, I will either work on a portion of the plot I'm more certain abut, or brainstorm an entirely new scene for the purpose of introducing or strengthening a different character, or scene description, or bring in research results."

She sees her books sort of like canvases. "You might paint in a good portion of one section of canvas, and then get stuck. So, I look for another portion of the same painting that isn't done yet, and go there."

On the rare occasions she can't really think of a piece to work on, her second method is to turn to the physical. If the season is right, she'll go swimming. She'll walk either outside or on the treadmill or do some vigorous house cleaning. "Sitting down a lot is one of the banes of being a writer, and getting yourself moving literally gets that blood flowing, and your brain can think better. I get lots of my 'great' ideas while exercising or cleaning," she shared with a grin.

In addition to seeing her books as paintings, she also sees them as movies. She'll write scenes the way a movie camera sees it. "That means sometimes it's in the point of view of only one character, but sometimes it's showing multiple characters and you can see what they're all thinking in that same scene," she said. "This is routinely called 'head hopping' by authors, editors, and agents. Most writers avoid it like the plague. For me, it just comes with the territory. I like to let my readers know what's going on with more than one character in a scene, and as long as I do it carefully (I've grown in this respect and still am), it works well. It can really 'up' the fun element of a situation in a book. I could name a slew of authors who also do this, but the important thing is that it has to be done without jarring the reader. If it goes smoothly, seamlessly, and adds to the story, then in my humble opinion it's worth doing!"

Linore loves to hear from her readers. She told me that it made her day. "One of my best letters just came recently when a reader said the time she'd spent in my book was 'bliss, just bliss.' I often hear that people love how they feet transported, like they've stepped into the past; or they loved the atmosphere of being in the Regency, and loved the hero, or the heroine, or the ending. (I love a good denouement in a book, and so I had to put that into my own, of course.) The words that often come to mind is that when readers pick up my book not really being sure of what to expect, they get a surprise mini-vacation! In fact, they had such a great time they plan on going back. (Reading it again, getting the sequel or other books I write.) One of the most gratifying things about writing is hearing such great responses from readers."

On a personal note, I asked Linore about her strangest habit.

"This is so easy it's pathetic," she said. "I think I have a few, but my 'favorite' strange habit would have to be eating totally natural (nothin' but peanuts and salt) peanut butter out of the jar with an equal amount of dark chocolate fudge sauce (the kind you're supposed to heat up, except I don't heat it up.) You take the peanut butter on the butter knife edge or spoon, then scoop up an equal amount of the refrigerated fudge sauce and eat them together. Both straight from the jar." She added, "You might want to hide this habit from your family, however, because if they see you do this once, they won't touch either jar again, because, you know, they're convinced you've got the ebola virus."

Finally, I asked Linore if she could multitask.

"Is there a woman on the planet who can't?," she responded. "I'm married and I have five children (homeschooled for years) and I write books, and I'm active in church, and I love my gal pals and shopping and baking and decorating and swimming and watching lovely period flicks or fun spoofs like An Ideal Husband. I think I qualify."

You can keep up with Linore on her website, http://www.linoreburkard.com