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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Author Interview: Missy Lyons

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Missy Lyons, whose work ranges from sweet to erotic and who has several books published with multiple publishers. She also has several more projects in progress. One of those, Paris Bites, is for her Dark Secrets vampire series and is about a century old French vampire who encounters a thief on the streets of Paris. "I get to practice my rusty French in the book," she said.

Missy came from a family of storytellers, but said her father deserves the credit for her love of writing.

"As an avid reader and a writer himself," she explained, "he encouraged the love of the written word with me. Often taking me to the library and encouraging me to read beyond my reading level, pushing me to try something new and different. He writes inspirational screenplays now and I look up to him as a role model."

I asked Missy what inspired her to write her first book.

"I was just accepted to Nursing school and found the perfect part time job that would work with my schedule," she said. "I had the time and way too much energy. So I began to read and when I ran out of books to read, I began to write. It wasn’t long before I was hooked and after one year, I finished my first novel, Dragon Heat." Dragon Heat was published by Red Rose in 2008.

Before Missy starts to write a book, it already has a direction. She knows where she wants to end up when the story is finished. "There may be a few surprises in there, but I usually know what I want to write, I just need to make the time and write it down," she told me. "When I have writer’s bock, it’s not usually because I don’t know what to write. It’s because my characters might be facing something terribly traumatic and I don’t want to put them through it (or myself). The torture scene in Blood Ties was difficult for me to get past before I could really enjoy writing the story."

It's this same detail that makes for good writing. For Missy, one of the elements of good writing is seen in books that are emotionally compelling and filled with vivid details about the people and places.

"I like plots that contain unexpected twists and surprises that I can enjoy and not know how the characters might manage to escape," she said. "When I can predict what will happen next, I tend to get bored quickly."

I wondered which aspect of a book came first with Missy, the plot or the characters.

"For me, this changes with every book that I write," she told me. "Most of the time, I hear the characters in my head telling me about their story. That is when I have to begin to write it down. (Right now I have really cranky vampire slayer in my head complaining about his crappy car and wondering why the vampires get all the cool expensive cars.) Sometimes, I am trying to write for a specific line, like the heatsheets at Phaze. Within these books, I try to develop the storyline first and then decide on the characters that will make the best fit."

She tried writing on a schedule, but found that it didn't really work for her. She's a full time mommy and has found that what works best for her is carrying a notebook with her wherever she goes and writing as she's inspired.

"Then I type up the results as I have time, between making dinner and shufflign the kids off to school or other activities," she explained.

Having children around also influences the saying she uses a lot. Currently it's "Crackers!" "I'm trying to substitute simple sweet words for slang or swear words," she admitted.

On a personal note, her favorite animal is deer. "I feel they are absolutely beautiful to watch, and I am always excited to see them," she said. "Unless they are running in front of my minivan, trying to play suicide on the road. Then, I am not so happy."

Whether she is a morning person or a night person depends on how much caffeine she's had. "With the little one," she told me, "it seems I am both a night and a morning person. Since I was up to 1AM the other night and back up at 5 AM the next morning. Someday soon, I hope to sleep again."

Her favorite pizza is Hawaiian style (pepperoni and pineapple) and she can tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke. "Pepsi is much sweeter than Coke," she explained. "I didn't care which one I drank until I got married, but now I'm a Pepsi girl all the way."

"Do you like thunderstorms?" I asked.

"I love them! The beauty, the power and the sound of the rain is music for my soul. The desert rainstorms are my favorite kinds, where you only had to worry about flooding and lightning. Currently I live in Tennessee, and the tornados add a new element of danger to the storms that I am not sure I like."

She said she used to be able to multi-task, before she had kids. "Now I'm lucky to get one task done at a time," she said. "I am one of those nerdy people who always have to do lists and just keep going at it until I can check them all off. But, it works for me."
She laughed when I asked her if she could unwrap a Starburst with her tongue. "I am not that talented and just a little klutzy. I am the kind of girl that can fall just by standing up. Walks into poles, walls, and anything you stick in front of me. With or without my glasses. If I tried to do that, I would probably begin to choke and need CPR within minutes."

Finally, I asked Missy, "If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?"

"Hmm…this is difficult," she answered. "Perhaps, I should wish for my personal collection of muscle bound, shirtless slave boys who are dedicated to serve my every waking desire. Just kidding.

"Honestly, I have most everything I need or want. I would wish for a more perfect world, and my family’s health and happiness."

You can keep up with Missy on her blog, http://missylyons.blogspot.com

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Donna Dawson


He lies there, stretched out on the window sill. Staring out at me through the plexi-glass window it is as though he waits only for me. Occasionally he stops to groom himself, slapping at an unruly tuft of fur with a sandpaper tongue. But mostly he sleeps until he hears the crunch of my boots on gravel. Then he stares. A wide yawn will occasionally break that unblinking watch. I wonder about his thoughts in the long hours of his reclining. I wonder about his ability to stay so completely relaxed on such a precarious perch. I wonder if he feels anything about his purpose for being in the barn in the first place. There are a sparing number of rodents since he moved so I suppose so. And yet, there he reclines as though nothing in the world around him matters. He just bats those white lashes, drawing them with sluggish indifference over orange eyes. Blink. Blink. Yawn. Stretch. He moves then. Only because he knows I am here. I—keeper of the food bin. Jumping from the sill, he pads down the aisle and parks his furred flanks in front of the food dish. An imperial meow informs me that he has waited long enough. He inhales the food as though he has worked voraciously for hours non-stop. And then he stretches once more, front paws shoved out far in front, rump pushed toward the ceiling, tail rigid and quivering with the exercise. Tracing his steps, he pads back down the aisle, launches himself up the wall and settles back onto the sill. As I leave the barn he is where I first saw him, stretched out on the window sill. Staring and blinking.

Donna Fawcett is a creative writing instructor at a local college in Ontario, Canada and an award winning writer. She writes romance, mystery, suspense and thriller novels. She is also a freelance writer and has been published in national and international magazines. Donna speaks at conferences and shares her love of writing with elementary and high school students as she involves them in classroom writing workshops. Her books Fires of Fury (an e-book by Awe-struck books), Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance (Word Alive Press – print books) can be found at http://www.authordonnadawson.com or at your local book store.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Donna Dawson


I have not yet met a person who didn’t dream of flying. I don’t mean the kind where you buy a ticket, stand in a long line of people waiting to have their personal items sifted through and climb into a long metal tube with flaps. I mean really flying. Like one does in dreams. While the thought of that metal tube with flaps scares all common sense from me, the thought of spreading wings and lifting into the air currents is one that grips me even in waking hours. Even as I sit and stare out the window I can see it all as though it is real.

I stand at the crest of the knoll that overlooks the creek just beyond the barn there. The wind is up but not heavy—just enough to gain lift. I tip my face into it, tasting it, closing my eyes to it and feeling the caress of invisible fingers. I have feathers. Oh not everywhere. Just over the points of my shoulders and down my spine. They cover the protrusions of muscle and hollow bone. I feel the wind tug at the tucked pinions and I shiver in anticipation. With a stretch, I unfold the great lengths that are my wings and I shake them to straighten the feathers. I turn my head to the left and then the right, looking at the great canopies that are lifted in arches, cupped to allow the wind to pass. I must wait for the right moment. I crouch low, feeling the updraft of a current of warm air and in that moment, I leap into the air. My pinions reach for their full length, flattening over one another as they fan out into long kites. The wind snatches them and jerks me up into its embrace. And then I am sailing, my curved wings making minute adjustments with each change in draft. The ground speeds by below me as I spiral upward, riding the chimneys of hot air. I am sky bound. I am free.

Donna Fawcett is a creative writing instructor at a local college in Ontario, Canada and an award winning writer. She writes romance, mystery, suspense and thriller novels. She is also a freelance writer and has been published in national and international magazines. Donna speaks at conferences and shares her love of writing with elementary and high school students as she involves them in classroom writing workshops. Her books Fires of Fury (an e-book by Awe-struck books), Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance (Word Alive Press – print books) can be found at http://www.authordonnadawson.com or at your local book store.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Donna Dawson


Long even strokes with a little snap of the wrist at the end. Over and over. Repeated until every inch of the horse has been groomed. It is what has been drilled into my head from the very beginning—from my very early years when my uncle warned me that a poorly groomed horse was an angry horse. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time but I certainly was in no position to argue with him. I was just happy to be given the chance to be near a horse. I wasn’t going to jinx that opportunity with unknowledgeable back-talk. It was a lesson that stayed with me even when I had no contact with the equine industry. And it was a lesson that would come back into use when I did finally get that contact.

I was in my twenties by then and determined that I would learn to ride a horse properly. I contacted a recommended stable and dressed accordingly for my first lesson. As I stepped into the barn the words came back to me. Long even strokes with a little snap of the wrist at the end. My uncle’s voice had found me. I drew in a deep breath and with it the memories. Sweet hay. Straw mingled with dung. Leather straps and doo-dads that hung from the rafters of a tack room. I was back there if only for a brief moment. And then a new voice cut in.

“Hi, I’m Dan. I’ll be your instructor.”

He handed me a halter and I trailed him to a stall where a sober-faced gelding waited. I learned how to place myself beside the horse and slip the halter on correctly. We headed for the cross-ties and the waiting brushes. It all came back to me. Long even strokes with a little snap of the wrist at the end. The dust flew in little clouds off the back of the gelding’s hip.

“You’ve done this before.”

I nodded and brushed. Over and over. Repeated until every inch of the horse had been groomed.

Donna Fawcett is a creative writing instructor at a local college in Ontario, Canada and an award winning writer. She writes romance, mystery, suspense and thriller novels. She is also a freelance writer and has been published in national and international magazines. Donna speaks at conferences and shares her love of writing with elementary and high school students as she involves them in classroom writing workshops. Her books Fires of Fury (an e-book by Awe-struck books), Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance (Word Alive Press – print books) can be found at http://www.authordonnadawson.com or at your local book store.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Donna Dawson



The craft of writing has more to do with technique than many would wish to think. Anyone can sit at a keyboard and plop down words like so many random cow patties in a field teeming with cattle. Writing isn’t a matter of fancy thought. It isn’t the whimsical journal of an undisciplined mind. Writing is a straight and true path—a deliberate course—a race to the finish line.

It begins at the beginning with an idea. There is no meandering here. There is a starting gate that is mounted in a firm spot—directly atop that single, fascinating idea. And then the writer bursts forth from the gate and heads for the first hurdle. He keeps his eyes fixed just beyond that hurdle without losing sight of it. The first hurdle is that opening line—the hook. That juicy collection of words that will seduce the reader to bite deeper. The writer approaches the hook with clear thought and determined grit. He will conquer or die trying. He leaps at it with all his heart and clears it. Adrenaline surges through him as he tastes the rightness of each word rolling across the screen.

Off in the distance he sees a hill. It is steep and rocky. But the path runs true. He will return later to follow all the little twists and turns that veer off from the main path but for now his course is set for him. At the crest of the hill is another hurdle—the climax. It won’t be an easy task to jump this one. It is daunting. It is made of all the combinations of thought that will keep the reader from becoming bored and closing the book. The writer grunts his way along the uphill trail and pulls himself over the obstacle. He lifts his head and his spirit soars.

Stretched out before him is the down-side of the hill and the hurdle that will mark the resolution of his journey. Renewed energy drives him to straighten his shoulders, suck in a deeper breath and drive forward to the end. And then it is finished. He has completed the book. But the journey isn’t over. He must retrace his steps and follow all the side-trails he ignored. He must find ways to weave them into the story—to bring them back to the main trail. And when it is finished, he will site back and smile.

He didn’t dance through meadows filled with flowery thoughts. He didn’t meander through still pools of crystal water. He trudged forward. He stayed true to the path. He completed the work through determination. And in doing so, he wrote the book.

Donna Fawcett is a creative writing instructor at a local college in Ontario, Canada and an award winning writer. She writes romance, mystery, suspense and thriller novels. She is also a freelance writer and has been published in national and international magazines. Donna speaks at conferences and shares her love of writing with elementary and high school students as she involves them in classroom writing workshops. Her books Fires of Fury (an e-book by Awe-struck books), Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance (Word Alive Press – print books) can be found at http://www.authordonnadawson.com or at your local book store.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Donna Dawson


I sit here, staring out into the sunshine that has finally come to our northern niche. Snow lays scattered over top a blanket of dormant grass and I wonder at the persistence of the vegetation. It lies for months at a time, smothered under the heavy, cold of our winter. One would think it should die, starved of sunlight and oxygen but it merely waits. It sleeps and dreams of the spring when the weight is gone and the brightness bursts through old sullen clouds.

There are days when I am, in my mind, there amidst the grass blades. I am one of billions and feel crushed beneath the weight of life. Obscure, unnoticed and trampled down. The darkness of uncertainty blankets me, its absoluteness threatening to crush all hope from me. And then my world shifts ever so slightly. It turns me just a bit closer to the sun. And with the growing warmth of that shining satellite the heaviness of cold reality lightens. With each minuscule rotation reality thaws into possibility. The darkness fades and the brilliance of hope bursts forth again leaving me vibrant and reaching upward.

Yes, the grass is flat. It isn’t as green as it should be. Some of it is still buried beneath persistent drifts. But it is alive! And it, like me, will surge forth with abundant newness when the sun turns its full face upon it.

Donna Fawcett is a creative writing instructor at a local college in Ontario, Canada and an award winning writer. She writes romance, mystery, suspense and thriller novels. She is also a freelance writer and has been published in national and international magazines. Donna speaks at conferences and shares her love of writing with elementary and high school students as she involves them in classroom writing workshops. Her books Fires of Fury (an e-book by Awe-struck books), Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance (Word Alive Press – print books) can be found at http://www.authordonnadawson.com or at your local book store.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

She's So Shy by Carol Ayer

“Mommy, how many books can I get?” My five-year-old daughter, Leah, butted the back of my leg. She was weighed down by a dozen picture books, all in danger of toppling over onto the floor.

“Let’s start out with six, honey,” I said, taking that amount from the top of her stack and stabilizing the rest in her arms. “We can always come back next week.”

Leah launched a protest, but I didn’t really hear her. I’d hit upon a great idea. I needed a job, and I’d always loved libraries. Maybe I could work here.

After I convinced Leah to put the rest of her books back, we waited in line to register for a card. I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with my surroundings. The library looked much the same as it had twelve years ago, when I was here last. The children’s section was decorated with a mural of Alice in Wonderland, and oversized stuffed animals slumped on chairs and benches. Picture books littered the floor. Magazines were fanned out on a table in the periodicals room, and newspapers hung on turning dowels nearby.

It was in periodicals that a boy from high school had asked me out when I was seventeen, and I’d literally sprinted out the door in response. I was incredibly shy back then. I didn’t date until my last year of college, and even then I married the first guy I went out with. Bad idea. The marriage didn’t last seven years. Now I was back in my hometown, ready to make a fresh start. Luckily, Leah saw the move as a grand adventure, not to mention an opportunity to con her nearby grandparents into regularly giving her presents.

I browsed through the leaflets on the counter as Leah labored to sign her name on her new card--she’d insisted on getting her own. I was delighted to find a job announcement for the position of library clerk. I picked up an application, and we left for the car, both feeling proud of ourselves.

Within just a couple of months, I’d taken and passed a hiring test, aced an interview, and survived my training period. I was now officially a library clerk. I was still somewhat hesitant with the computer system, but my supervisor said I was doing fine.

On a late Wednesday afternoon, I was working alone at the circulation desk. Several co-workers were out sick, so I’d had to pick up the slack. I’d had a line for an hour, and it showed no signs of abating. I’d been using every aspect of my training; checking out books, taking payments for fines, and registering for library cards.

“Beth? Beth Williams?”

My newest customer looked faintly familiar. With a start I realized he was Brian Marx, the very boy--now a man--who’d asked me out twelve years ago.

I blushed furiously and nodded. “Hi, Brian. How are you?”

“I’m good. I haven’t seen you in years. Have you been living out of town?”

I nodded again and reached for his stack of books and his library card. “I went to college out of state and was living there. I moved back to Springfield about three months ago. I started working here just recently.”

“It’s great to see you. Good to have you back in town.”

“It’s nice to see you, too. So you’re still living here?”

“Yep. I teach science over at the high school. Freshmen and sophomores. It sure brings back memories. Remember the smell of formaldehyde? I swear it’s in my pores now.”

I smiled at him.

I’d been checking out his books this whole time--mostly science-related--and I was now finished and had printed his receipt. There wasn’t anything left to do. I peeked behind him at my line.

“I should let you get back to work.” Brian gathered up his books and turned away.

I watched him go with regret. He’d been cute in high school, but now he was downright handsome. And he seemed as nice as I remembered. Why hadn’t I gone out with him back then? He was probably married now, and I’d missed my chance. But I didn’t have much time to ruminate about it. My next customer wasn’t happy about the fines she owed, and I had to delicately negotiate the situation.

Exactly a week later, I was shelving books in the biographies section when Brian came in. He caught sight of me and walked over. I was so nervous that I knocked several books off my cart. They fell to the floor and made an impressive noise.

Brian helped me pick up the books. I noted the absence of a wedding ring on his left hand. My heart pounded. Was he going to ask me out?

“Thank you,” I said, feeling my face get hot. “Sometimes I’m just so clumsy.”

“At least you haven’t sprinted out the door yet.” He gave me a wicked grin.

I gulped. “You remembered.”

“How could I forget? I’d been gathering my nerve to ask you out for months. Something about the neutral location of the public library helped me finally do it.”

“I’m sorry. I was really shy back then.” I looked down at my cart to hide my flushed face.

“I’m glad to see you’ve gotten over that.” He laughed softly, and I couldn’t help but laugh, too.

“Look, Beth. If you’re available, I’d like to take you out.” He put up his hands. “Uh…please don’t run away.”

I giggled. “I won’t. I would love to go out with you.”

“Saturday night? I promise I’ll do my best to rid myself of the smell of formaldehyde.”

I nodded. “Saturday night. And I promise to leave my running shoes at home.”

Brian gave me a huge smile, and suddenly I didn’t feel the least bit shy.


About the Author: Carol Ayer's romantic short fiction has appeared in Woman's World, Spotlight on Pahrump, and The Prairie Times. "Storybook Love," a romantic novella, is coming soon from "Wild Child Publishing." Website: http://www.seaaircarol.com

Author Interview: Faith V. Smith

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Faith V. Smith, author of Kensington's Soul, which has just been released by The Wild Rose Press. Kensington's Soul is the first book in Faith's paranormal series, "Bound by Blood, The Legends." She's currently working on the second book of the series, Dunbar's Curse, which is the story of Miles Dunbar, one of Zacke's vampire friends, as well as working on a few other paranormal manuscripts. I asked her to tell us a little bit about Dunbar's Curse.

"It's the story of a vampire who rescues a child from an abduction, watches over her for years, and then realizes he is in love with her," she said. "I can't reveal a lot but will say that those who loved the ending of Kensington's Soul will, I hope, be just as enthralled with how Dunbar's Curse ends."

Faith admitted not being sure what got her into writing. She just knows that she's always wanted to write, even as a small child. She laughed when she told me, "I have always had a vivid imagination. When not reading, and believe me I would sneak a book in between my schoolbooks during class, I loved to play act. I could plan an entire television series inside my head. My way of escaping was to dream and thank the good Lord, I was blessed to be able to put my dreams into books."

And, she's literally been writing since she was a child, beginning with poems and short stories in grade school. From the time she was in high school, she started many manuscripts, finishing her first full in 2002. "I started out on a royal manual typewriter, then an electric, moving on to a word processor, and finally a series of computers," she explained.

I asked Faith if she's ever suffered from writer's block and how she handled it, if so.

"Yes, actually I have had that happen," she confessed. "With the advice of a friend who was a college teacher, he told me to turn off my monitor and write like that. That the creative side of my brain was warring with the practical side. I penned an article called, "Mind Over Matter," on that very topic."

Faith shared with me that she has many friends who has influenced her, both authors and non-writers. She told me it was their support and belief that she could do it that made the difference. "I would love to name names," she said, "but there are so many I don't want to slight anyone."

I'm always interested in where authors write, so I asked Faith to describe her writing space.

"I write in a section of my bedroom," she told me. "I know, it's not truly an office, but whenever I try to move away from that one space, I'm just not comfortable. I love to write in my gown and slippers."

And, it's obviously working for her, since Faith has written four complete novels and has several more in various stages. She told me that normally she starts out with the characters and then the plot just develops from there.

On a personal note, Faith told me that she doesn't like how she looks in pictures. "I hate having my picture made," she said. "I know we are our own worse critics but I can't help it." She laughed and added, "I also try not to look in the mirror."

A saying she uses a lot? "Snap and God Bless America. Also Turnip Greens," she said with a laugh.

She used to enjoy thunderstorms, but now they scare her. In fact, a way to keep storms from hurting people is one thing she believes scientists should invent. Oh, and also a car that folds up.

She's a night person, and she also sleeps with the light on—for a very good reason. "I broke three toes one time when the light was off and got up during the night," she explained.

"What stereotype would you label yourself as?" I asked.

"A loner," she replied. "I know a lot of people don't believe it, but I've always been content with being by myself—reading, writing, etc."

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

"I would say that you need to know the fundamentals of writing," she said. "You know, how to set up a manuscript, point of view, Rue, past perfect tense. But one of the most important things is to have the story inside you and don't give up!"

You can keep up with Faith on her blog, http://faithvsmith.blogspot.com

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

Not Your Mother’s YA

A few months ago, I was in an online discussion with a writer who insisted you couldn't have vampires in books for teens and if you did, they certainly couldn't be the love interest. (!!!)

Writer, I said, meet the sparkling resplendence that is Edward from the Twilight series.

A friend of mine recently expressed interest in writing young adult fiction, but worried that she didn’t have the normal teen experience to draw from. When she was younger, she’d moved around a lot, never did the things other young people did like join clubs, go to football games, and other aspects of high school life.

I introduced her to How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler.

Strange as it seems, even some writers have missed the phenomenon that is Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight series, and the larger phenom of the young adult genre in the twenty first century.

This is not your mother’s YA.

Sure, you can still find Sweet Valley High (updated, even), Judy Blume, and The Outsiders on the shelves, but you’re going to find a whole lot more. If you can imagine it, chances are you’ll find something like it in YA.

A look at the New York Times Bestsellers List for Children brings: A story about a ghost-seeing girl who juggles a complicated set of adolescent trials, the tale of a teen who sends audiotapes to 13 peers before committing suicide, a novel about a boy who takes up residence in a cemetery to avoid a killer. You can also find faeries, models, a 16-year-old rookie police woman, and a girl who fights for survival on live TV. There’s even an eco-mystery. And that’s just in Top Ten Hardcover books.

If there’s a subgenre or genre you enjoy reading, you’ll find it in young adult. From the gritty, edgy and literary to the soap opera romps across the page--and everything in between.

The next time you enter a book store, wander back to the teen section. The young adult book world is full of surprises these days – and full of great writing too. Enjoy!

NOTE: Leave a comment on our review of this book and earn another entry into the drawing!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance



People are usually surprised when they learn I am a newly-published author. They are even more shocked when they find out I wrote a book for teens and young adults. No one expects a woman who is about to turn 50 to start writing stories about making out or getting humiliated in front of an entire high school.

When those same people ask me about The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading I usually tell them it’s a novel about two smart, kind of geeky girls who find their way onto the varsity cheerleading squad. It’s the story of their season on the squad. But it’s also a story about falling in love for the first time, and a story about being a good friend to someone--even when they’re not being such a good friend back. It’s a story about who really matters in the world.

More than anything else though, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading is a story about expectations.

When self-confessed geek girl Bethany heard her best friend Moni whisper, “Cheerleading tryouts,” she never expected they would really go through with it. And she certainly never expected they would make the squad. She didn’t expect to be walking down the halls of her school in an insanely short skirt either, or the reactions her appearance might cause.

Though she’d dreamed about it plenty of times, she never really expected the hottest guy in school to start talking to her. Or the smartest boy in school to stop talking to her. Her parents’ stunned silence and fears that it was just a cruel joke surprised her too.

About the only consequences she was prepared for were the scathing looks and biting comments from long-ago ex-best friend and recent former cheerleader, Chantal Simmons--the Queen of Cool at their school. And even that turned darker than Bethany could have guessed.

Among the other revelations that came along with a set of pom-poms is this: Cheerleading is hard work. It takes every bit as much talent and dedication as making the honor roll, or being the feature reporter for the school newspaper. And this: Just because a kid looks like they have it all doesn’t mean there isn’t something missing in their lives. And this: Even those who do have it all still have something in common with the rest of us--they share the same doubts and insecurities, the same basic desires for friendship and love.

Sometimes it is the expectations others have of us that hold us back. Sometimes it is our expectations of ourselves that limit us. It is only when we push away those stale, pre-conceived notions that we get the chance to find out that geek girls really can be cheerleaders, that jocks and cheerleaders can be smart--and friendly too--that old ladies can still write pretty good books about making out…and that it is often the unexpected things in life that bring the greatest joy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

On Collaboration

I know her stance on coffee condiments (real cream only, please), her preferred method of passing time during the daily commute (audio books), her favorite rock band (U2) and the names of her children, her husband, her mother and her sister. I even wrote a book with her. Yet Charity Tahmaseb and I have only met in person one time.

How is that possible? A dozen years ago I would have said it wasn’t.

Our lives should have never intersected. Charity lives just outside bustling Minneapolis. I live in rural Indiana. Charity studied Russian at the University of Wisconsin. I studied euchre, boys and disco dancing at a string of local colleges. She joined the Army after school, lived abroad, jumped out of airplanes and was terrifyingly close to the front lines in Desert Storm. I worked in an unemployment office, an agency for disadvantaged children and a mental health center. Which is to say, I’ve seen a few battles too, just none that involved actual artillery. Even our writing styles are different. Charity is a plotter. Me? Go Pantsters!

We became aware of each other more than ten years ago when we each signed up for a free online writing class and then joined an internet writing community. (Hello, Writers Village University!) I admired Charity’s persistence, her ability to bring a setting and characters to life, to analyze plots and to come up with unique and interesting concepts. Charity admired my…well, I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’ve been told I have a somewhat natural writing voice, and I am pretty good at finding typos.

We became fans of each others work, then critique partners, then friends, but I don’t think either of us ever dreamed we would collaborate on a novel. And then, through a series of twists in fate, we became co-authors.

It shouldn’t have worked. Our book, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, started as Charity’s solo project. When I got involved, we were trying to move the story from a third person narrator to first person, and to set a little bit lighter, funnier tone for the novel. At first, it was easy to tell the differences between our writing. But, as each of us added, or took away, or tweaked the chapters…something magical happened. We could no longer identify who had written what. Geek Girl’s Guide stopped being ‘Charity’s story with Darcy’s parts stuck in it’. Instead, it became our characters’ story.

If you think you would like to try collaborating on a novel:

1. Choose a partner that you genuinely admire, respect…and like. You will be spending a lot of time with your co-author.
2. Stash your ego in the closet for the duration of the project. It isn’t about you and it isn’t about her (or him). It’s about the book.
3. Examine your own strengths and weaknesses and understand your role in the project. Charity was the chief engineer of our novel due to her amazing plotting abilities. I was the “sparkly eyeliner applier” due to my generally goofy nature. The book needed both of us.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t let trouble fester. If you are frustrated by some aspect of the story or the process, talk it out. Chances are, if you’re feeling uncomfortable, your partner is too—and that’s counterproductive to good writing.
5. Enjoy the process! Writing a novel together is a unique and amazing experience. Have fun with it!

--
The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading -- because high school doesn't come with an user's manual.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance


Today it’s Charity’s turn to question Darcy:

Charity: Confession time: did you ever *ahem* excuse yourself from class to watch General Hospital? Luke and Laura’s wedding? What are your feelings on Robert Scorpio?

Darcy: Dood. I didn't have to *ahem* excuse myself from class, I planned it in advance so my middays would be totally free for GH watching. I watched the entire saga, from the rape on the disco floor to the aborted assassination, through the Summer on the Run, the dissing of Luke, and the complete weirdness that was The Ice Princess storyline. Speaking of Robert Scorpio, had he not been so incredibly hot I might have bailed on LnL then, but I stuck with it through the wedding and beyond.

Charity: Building the perfect guy: take three (or so) celebrities and construct a Tiger Beat worthy heartthrob.

Darcy: Paging Dr. Frankenstein! Hugh Laurie (Dr. Gregory House) for his height. I like 'em tall and a little rangy. Still in House-mode, I like Robert Sean Leaonard's eyes and the way his whole face smiles. Brad Pitt's mouth, or wait, Johhny Depp's -- ooh, decisions, decisions. Tom Delonge from Blink 182 has amazing shoulders. And I'd pick Colin Farrell for his...um, erm, for his ability to...er... make women over-excited and the men to feel really uncomfortable. Finally, I think my husband has the sexiest legs I have ever seen.

Charity: You’re stranded on a desert island. Your special everlasting iPod can only hold three albums. Which ones do you choose?

Darcy: Oh noes! I love music but my favorites change all of the time. As soon as I say "Darkness on the Edge of Town" by Bruce Springsteen I'll find myself with Modest Mouse's "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" or any of Brand New's albums on auto play for a week. Two of my favorites though are "MixTape for My Mom <3" a mix of songs that mean something to my daughter and me, and "Lop Bop Mix" a mix from a young friend, Jared, who is the king of introducing me to awesome tunes.

Charity: Now you get to pick that desert island. Two weeks, all expenses paid trip to anywhere you want to go--the only catch is you must stay in that place (no side trips). Where do you go and what do you do when you get there?

Darcy: Bermuda and nothing.

Charity: The tattoo. Dish. What inspired you to think about getting one? Are you really going to go through with it? If so, have you settled on a design?

Darcy: I was with my daughter when she got her first and third tattoos. Both times she tried to talk me into get inked with her. Both times I promised her, "If I ever sell a book." I didn't think it would ever happen, but yes, I am going through with it. My BFF since I was 11 years old is flying in for the Geek Girl's release and we are going under the pen together the night before the book comes out. Right now, I'm leaning toward a pair of geeky glasses -- really, really tiny geeky glasses ; )

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance


The Geek Girls have been writing together as critique partners, then co-authors for more than ten years. There's not much they don't already know about each other ... or is there? Today, Darcy grills Charity. Tomorrow, the tables get turned.

Darcy: Open the yearbook in your mind. Whose picture did you circle? Cross out? Draw puffy purple hearts next to?

Charity: You know what? I never did anything like that. Yearbooks are far, far too accessible. I had my own personal slam book. I used a spiral notebook and then added (with mostly scotch tape) pictures, newspaper clippings, mementos, (oh, look, his fortune cookie fortune. I should keep that …), and so on.

Darcy: Everywhere you look these days, geeks are getting cooler and cooler. There's even a new book out called Geeky Dreamboats. (Want! Want!) Describe your geeky dreamboat.

Charity: My dreamboat has a paddlewheel and floats gently down the Mississippi. Oh, wait, you mean a guy. Okay, my geeky dreamboat does not have a paddlewheel, nor does he float down the Mississippi.

I hadn’t heard about Geeky Dreamboats, but I just found out you can interact with them on Facebook. Dude!

Sorry. I haven’t answered the question. I’m too busy interacting.


Darcy: I used to love those Was My Face Red! columns in teen magazines. Do you have a traumarama moment to share?

Charity: I internalize all my most embarrassing moments and they reappear as fiction. That is all I’m going to say.

Darcy: You recently faced a delicate social decision. Enquiring minds want to know the outcome. Did you Facebook friend the girl who threatened to beat you up in 9th grade?

Charity: I should clarify that she didn’t actually send me a friend request. Her profile pic popped up in my sidebar. With all the tenderness it can muster, Facebook is urging us to be friends.

Commence mini-flashback. A friend and I had just left a football game early (sadly, our team was never all that good). Our school sat on a hill, and we rushed down it, only to find that a group of girls rushed down after us.

They surrounded us. We were backlit by the stadium lights, so it took a few seconds to see who they were and figure out what they wanted. This girl was huge, and in ninth grade, I was teeny tiny. My infraction? I apparently ratted on her to the gym teacher for not doing laps.

Back in eighth grade.

Talk about holding a grudge.

But she did, and was she mad. She did that shoulder shove thing a couple of times, as a warm up for the main event, I guess. I had some M&Ms with me and compulsively plucked one from the bag and popped it into my mouth while I spoke. I explained that this made no sense because if I remembered correctly, I hadn’t finished my laps. Why would I rat her out for something I was guilty of?

Stymied by my brilliant logic, she let me and my friend go. We walked coolly for a few steps, but when we were clear of the stadium lights, we pretty much raced back to her house.

The next week, the girl cornered me by my locker and announced that it was her best friend who had told on her, so I was off the hook.

Wow. With friends like that …

The kicker? I’m sure she doesn’t remember me. Which, maybe, is just as well.

I still get a little freaked out when I see her picture on Facebook.


Darcy: Can you really make an apple pie in a paper bag?

Charity: Actually, it’s bacon and eggs, and yes you can. You use a small (school lunch size) paper bag. Line the bottom with bacon, then crack two eggs over the top. Roll the top and poke a stick through the bag. Then you hold it over the campfire coals.

The bacon cooks first, which in turn cooks the eggs. Don’t believe me? Watch the YouTube:


Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Home for my Heart by Catherine Chernow

“The flavor of the week is Luna Chip. Want to try it?”

I looked up to see Becky Sommers smiling at me. Becky owned the Sweet Spot restaurant in town. I went in there often to grab a bite to eat after a long day.

Lately, I went in there more.

“Sounds good, Becky. Give me two scoops.”

Becky served the best burgers in town…and the best ice cream, but I didn’t look forward to the food so much as I wanted to see her.

She was petite-- not the prettiest woman I’d ever seen, but definitely easy on the eyes. Her movements were quick and efficient; she had a nice way with the customers, especially the families with kids. She moved about, helping customers and giving instructions to the group of teens she hired to wait tables.

Her blue eyes turned stormy if she thought one of them slacked off and didn’t serve the customers properly. Then her eyes would soften…especially when one of them was having a rough time. One of the waitresses had two deaf parents. Life was tough for her at home. Becky helped the kid register for college…even went with her to get her books. One of the other servers, Colleen, was divorced with three kids. Colleen told me Becky paid for Colleen and her kids to take a week’s vacation in Disney World.

Becky’s employees loved her, because deep down inside, she really had a soft heart.

I gazed at her across the way and felt my own heart swell with happiness. It was an odd feeling, considering we were just friends.

We shared a common bond – we both left bad relationships. My ex didn’t think too much of me working with my hands all the time, thought I should be more…refined. I found myself wondering about Becky’s thoughts on that. I did that quite a lot lately.

I turned away intent on finishing my ice cream.

When I looked up again, Becky was gone.


©©©
A couple of days later, I walked into the Sweet Spot. Becky sat at one of the tables in the back. Intent on reading something, she looked up when the bell rang. Her pretty blue eyes locked with mine for just a few seconds.

I slipped into one of the booths off to the side and was just about ready to order when Becky came over to my table.

“Monkey Do,” she said to me. “It’s the newest flavor.”

“So I see,” I replied as I scanned the menu. My heart thudded in my chest. She probably thought I was rough and coarse; I was still in my work boots and overalls, but she didn’t look away.

“Would you like to try it?” she asked, smiling.

“Sure.”

My hands shook. I wished I could think of something witty to say.

Soon, she reappeared with a dish full of the ice cream and hot fudge.

She gazed at me for a few seconds. “I was visiting my cousin last week. I thought I saw you at the house across the way. There’s a lot of work being done on it.”

“You’re right,” I replied. “You did see me there.”

“You’re working on that house?” she asked, placing a dish in front of me.

“Yes, I am.”

“It’s beautiful.” Her voice sounded wistful. “I like what’s being done to it, Sam. You must be very skilled to do that kind of work.”

“It takes a lot of talent to do what you do here, too.”

I took a taste of what was possibly the most delicious ice cream I ever ate. It was chock full of chocolate pieces, nuts and bananas.

Grinning, I realizing why she called it Monkey Do.

She smiled that beautiful smile of hers. “Thank you, Sam, but what I do is just good business sense.” She blushed.

That rosy bloom on her cheeks warmed me inside, a contrast to the icy cold feel of the ice cream on my tongue.

I finished my ice cream and lingered over a cup of coffee. Hungry patrons spilled into the small waiting area and I realized Becky probably needed my table. I stood and waved to Becky as I left. She was busy seating the dinnertime crowd.

“Bye, Sam!” she called out to me.

When had she become so important? Probably since I had started working on the house. I had to get it finished before winter set in. I guess working on the house made me think about how much I was missing in life – like a wife and kids.

I found myself wondering if Becky wished for the same things, too.


©©©


“The deck is beautiful, Sam. You do nice work.”

I looked up to see Becky standing on the lawn. She had a bag in her hand.

She extended it towards me. “I haven’t seen you at the Sweet Spot lately.”

“I’ve been working.” I continued to hammer. I didn’t want to tell her that I was afraid…scared to tell her what was in my heart. She would definitely think I was crazy if I told her how much I looked forward to her smile. I wanted to see her smile all the time.

“It’s a hamburger and fries and all the trimmings. Oh! And Monkey Do ice cream. Do you have someplace to keep it cold? Maybe you have a cooler…” She glanced around the deck.

“I’ll just put it inside.”

A puzzled looked crossed her face. “You have a key to the house?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

“But the people who hired you to work here…they just let you go in when they’re not home?”

I grinned. “I would hope so, considering I own the place.”

She just stood there, her mouth agape. I thought she had the prettiest mouth – full, lush. I wanted to kiss it so badly.

“I-I didn’t know. I thought you were just a workman.”

I swallowed hard. “Would it bother you if I was?”

She shook her head. “Not at all. You take a lot of pride in what you do.”

I invited her inside. She marveled at the polished wood floors and the big kitchen. Suddenly, the big house I built didn’t seem so empty.

I wanted to speak, but stopped. Then I figured you didn’t get anywhere in life if you didn’t take a chance.

“I think you’re wonderful,” I told her.

Her blue eyes misted. “I saw you here so many times when I’d come to visit my cousin. I’d wish that…well, that I could come over here and just sit and watch you work. This house is so beautiful…and there’s something about it, a feeling of peace.” She glanced up at me. “When you would come into the Sweet Spot, I’d feel so tongue-tied.”

“Me, too,” I chuckled.

“You did?” she asked, surprised.

“I never knew what to say…I just, well, I liked looking at you, too. You made me feel good inside. I haven’t felt that way for a long time, Becky.”

I’ll never know how it happened, but there she was, nestled in my arms. Her head fit snuggly against the crook of my shoulder.

I kissed her, my lips lingering on hers.

In that moment, I knew I had found a home for my heart.


About the Author: Catherine Chernow was born in the land of the Midnight Sun, however moved to Long Island at the age of three and never left. She loves to be scared, which led to her love of incorporating the paranormal in her own writing. When she's not writing, her favorite things to do include reading, gardening, and cooking for large crowds (she loves to entertain friends and family!). Her hubby and she (he's her hero) enjoy traveling - they've been to Aruba and all over the United States and Canada (and Catherine has been to Europe... and says, "Italy is molto bello - very beautiful").

When they are not on the go, they're spending time with their two terrific children (now grown) and...their two cats. Visit Catherine:
http://www.catherinechernow.com/

Author Interview: Virginia Kantra

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Virginia Kantra, whose latest book in the Children of the Sea series, Sea Lord, was released last week by Berkley.

The Children of the Sea series is based on the haunting Orkney ballads about the selkie, who can take the form of seals in the sea and come ashore as beautiful naked men and women. Virginia used another song, a sea shanty from the 1700s to connect the stories in the series:

My father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light And he married a mermaid one fine night. Of that union there came three . . .

The father in her series is a lobsterman in contemporary Maine. And the “three” are the grown up Children of the Sea:

Caleb, the soldier, who returns from the desert to fall in love with a woman from the sea (Sea Witch, Berkley, July 2008); Dylan, the loner, who must choose between the freedom of his mother’s kind and the bonds of mortal love (Sea Fever, Berkley, August 2008), and Lucy, the dreamer, whose heart and fate are tangled with the sea king’s son (Sea Lord, Berkley, May 2009).

I asked Virginia to tell us a bit about this latest story. She said,

Poor Lucy really has issues. I mean, abandoned by her mother, raised by her alcoholic father and her ten-year-old brother... She’s finally making some kind of life for herself when she attracts the attention of Conn ap Llyr, prince of the selkie and lord of the sea. All hell breaks loose—literally. So the tension that was in the first two books between land and sea, between the exotic, sensual merfolk and the down-to-earth islanders of World’s End, is back in spades.

I asked Virginia if she starts first with a plot or characters.

"There’s a great quote from E.L. Doctorow that I keep by my computer," she told me. "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. Of course, I always feel that I should have a map.

"I start with a character and a situation—say, a soldier coming home from Iraq (Sea Witch) or a prickly single mom working in her own mother’s restaurant (Sea Fever). I do write a synopsis, which I hardly ever adhere to. I use note cards which I shuffle around, add to, and discard with sometimes scary results. I also keep this giant three-ring 'series notebook' on my desk for all the maps and place descriptions, character names and pertinent details. Only of course I forget to put things in there, so it’s pretty much useless except as a security blanket."

Virginia told me she had a very active fantasy life as a child.

"Take that any way you want," she said. "I wrote plays for the neighborhood kids to perform and stories to bribe my younger cousins to bed."

Because of that, she thought that maybe she would be an actor when she grew up.

"It's kind of like being a writer," she explained. "Obviously, I’m drawn to jobs where you spend time talking to imaginary friends and getting rejected. But it wasn’t until my youngest child started school full-time that I wrote seriously for publication."

Now, her writing day starts off with her making notes in long hand—snippets of dialogue, action that will drive the next scene—and the rest of the day fleshing out those notes on the computer.

I asked her, "Do you have any strange handwriting habits?"

"When I was a fresh-out-of-school English major working as an administrative assistant, I learned speedwriting," she replied. "So now when I’m making scene notes in a hurry, I use this odd, sloping shorthand."

She also does a bit of multitasking.

"My poor kids had to get used to me wandering around the house, folding baskets of socks and holding conversations with imaginary characters," she confessed, "but hey, they got clean socks."

Virginia shared with me that, with this new series, she's hearing from a lot of young women in their twenties and the common theme is they really want to believe in love.

"They tend to like Margred (the selkie heroine of Sea Witch who comes ashore looking for sex), because she’s 'just like a guy,' but they want to believe in more than hookup sex," she told me. "Whatever their own experience has been, they want intimacy. They want romance. They want to be valued for who and what they are. So when I was writing Lucy’s story (Lucy, the main character in Sea Lord, is twenty-four), I felt like I was writing to them and for them."

This led to the hardest part of writing her book, because she worked really hard to get the emotion on the page and to be honest. She feels that honesty in what you see, in what you feel, and in what you say is the most important element of good writing.

"If you can see your settings and your characters clearly and describe them accurately," she said, "if you care about them and about what you have to say, then the reader will care too."

As an aid to knowing the characters, Virginia uses the Enneagram personality type system in her writing, which catalogs both virtues and faults. And Virginia, herself?

"I’m a One, a Perfectionist: principled, conscientious, hardworking...oh, and pretty anal."

Virginia's heritage is Italian and Eastern European, she told me, a fact that may have helped with her overseas sales.

"Maybe because my name, Kantra, is Russian, my books do really well in places like Estonia and Russia," she shared. "The woodcut illustrations for the Russian edition of Sea Witch are absolutely gorgeous!"

And, in case you wondered? Her favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations!

She and her family lost their beloved, aging Golden to cancer a few years back. Since they've been traveling a lot, they haven't done a serious search of shelters for a new dog, but she told me, "We're finally ready to open our hearts to another dog now." They are going to have to be careful about introducing a new family member, however, because they also have two rescue cats.

Finally, I asked Virginia what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out?

"Not to accept too much advice," she said. "There's no 'right' and 'wrong' in writing fiction; there's only 'works' and 'does not work,' and each writer has to discover what works for her. I do think it helps to read widely, in and outside your genre. And to write every day."

You can keep up with Virginia on her website, http://virginiakantra.com/

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Elise Chidley


Thoughts About Little Furry Things in Cages

You can learn a lot from observation of domestic rodents, I find. Take hamsters. A caged hamster spends his entire (short) life searching for a way out into the wide world. Day and night, he scrabbles at the bars with his claws, and gnaws at the wire with his buck teeth. He lives only to escape. Sometimes he fantasizes that he has escaped, and that’s when you see him on his wheel, running like hell, the wind in his fur, a frenzied look in his pink eyes.

Guinea pigs, on the other hand, feel safest and happiest behind bars. Leave the door open for a guinea pig and he will peer cautiously over the edge, and then scurry back to a far corner of the cage, there to consult fearfully with his peers. As they huddle together, eyeballing the opening in obvious terror, you feel compelled to put them out of their misery by closing the door. Guinea pigs don’t give a hoot about the big world out there. They live for good food and good conversation. In a pinch, even bad food and the rattle of a clothes dryer will do.

If a hamster escapes, he can sometimes be found months later living a dangerous life inside somebody’s mattress, happy as Larry. But most often, he’s found days later, a stiff and malodorous corpse.

At a certain point, you ask yourself which species of rodent you most resemble—the hamster whose motto is live free or die; or the bon vivant guinea pig, content with his recycled-newspaper lot in life.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Elise Chidley

Is Your Roots Are Showing Autobiographical?

No, I’ve never sent an incriminating email to the wrong person by mistake, I didn’t suffer from post-partum depression, and I’ve never had a major marital crisis. (Rider: I’ve sent my fair share of innocent emails to the wrong person, I did suffer the usual bout of baby blues, and my husband and I regularly squabble.)

But I think that many women with young children can relate to Lizzie’s state of mind when James leaves her. It's quite common for new mothers to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and a bit resentful towards their husbands whose lives don't seem to be that affected by the baby. A loss of intimacy and romance at this stage of a relationship isn't unusual.

In many cases, women who give up their careers in order to have children feel a sense of loss, of not quite knowing how to define themselves any more, of needing to exist beyond their role as wife and mother. The interesting part of the story for me was seeing Lizzie recover her sense of self and her dignity. She does this by taking up running, losing weight, and finding a creative outlet. One on-line review called this a novel about 'girl power.'

I tried to tell the story with enough humor to make it entertaining, but I hope readers will also feel uplifted and inspired by Lizzie’s journey of self discovery. So much women’s fiction is about the Cinderella-type happy ending: the heroine marries her prince and the curtain goes down. I wanted to take a look at what happens after that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Elise Chidley


On Being a Mom (Except I call it a ‘Mum’)

As we all know, the whole mom thing is totally underestimated by innocent bystanders.

I mean, nobody who hasn’t been through it really understands what’s involved.

I still remember my own rude awakening. During my first pregnancy I felt terribly important. Everybody treated me as if I were really delicate and fragile and special. People wanted to touch my bump. They wanted to know all the details of how I felt, what I was eating, how I was sleeping.

When we checked into the hospital, the special treatment went on. People were monitoring my every heart beat—oh, hang on, maybe it was the baby’s every heart beat. But they were definitely monitoring my blood pressure, and they kept asking me to describe my ‘discomfort’, on a scale of one to ten. They were hanging on my every word. I was the center of the universe.

Then, finally, the big moment arrived and my baby made her grand entrance into the world. On cue, the door of the hospital room flew open and about half a dozen people burst in—all decked out in white coats and masks. Somebody let me hold the baby for a fraction of a second, then a person in a white coat plucked her off my breast and marched out of the room with her. And everybody followed. Every last soul. Not even my husband stayed behind to hold my hand and ask if I wanted a drink of water. Which I did, pretty badly, to be frank.

So there I lay, battered and bleeding and bent out of shape, wondering when my crowd of admirers would come flocking back to my bedside, full of admiration and congratulations.

They never did. From the moment she entered the world, it wasn’t about me anymore. It was all about the baby.

And me—I was chopped liver.

And that’s what being a mom is all about: becoming a support system for another human life. There’s no ‘me’ anymore, only ‘mom-meee’.

Of course, the real trick is not losing track of yourself while you’re doing all that supporting. The real trick is holding on to a sense of yourself as an individual, that person you were before the baby made its grand entrance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Elise Chidley

Lady Evelyn’s Cream Scones

Lady Evelyn is Lizzie’s snobbish mother-in-law in Your Roots Are Showing. She likes to entertain, so that all the right people in Laingtree village—the vicar, the ‘weekend squires’ escaping from London to their country houses, the local doctor, the man who owns the independent book store—can take the opportunity to pay homage to her. She is, after all, the daughter of a duke.

When the weather is good, she likes garden parties. For one thing, it keeps people out of the house, where they have a distressing tendency to touch things, leaving fingerprints on the silver. For another thing, her roses are spectacular and deserve a bit of homage themselves.

She likes to provide traditional tea party spreads: cucumber sandwiches, hand-picked strawberries, and fresh scones.

She makes absolutely fabulous scones, but she has a secret: the laziest scone recipe in the world! Heaven forbid the ladies of the village’s Women’s Institute should find out.

Instead of messing around with eggs and butter, she simply uses heavy whipping cream. Here’s her closely-guarded recipe:


Ingredients

1 ¾ cups flour
2 ¼ tsps baking powder
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups heavy cream


Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk. Add the cream and mix in quickly with a spoon. Keep the dough as cool as possible by not handling it too much. Flour a surface and turn the ball of dough out onto it. Shape it into a circle and cut it into wedges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at 450F for about 15 minutes, or until golden.

Add ¼ cup raisins for truly English scones.

Or add 3 tsps orange zest and ½ cup chocolate chips for a more decadent version.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Elise Chidley

On Writing Your Roots Are Showing

The original trigger for Your Roots Are Showing was a house we rented briefly while living in England. It became the inspiration for the awkward, stripped-down house Lizzie finds herself in after her husband walks out on her. I remember standing in the lobby of that house under the bare light bulb and thanking my lucky stars I didn’t have to deal with it alone. And yet there was something weirdly attractive about the place—what it lacked in ‘good bones’ it made up for in potential, if you just had a little imagination. So, rather than dealing physically with the house (which was temporary) I dealt with it at a fantasy level, making it the place where my heroine reinvents herself. A lot cheaper than window treatments!

I wrote most of the novel up in the attic of a different house—a house we were renting in a small town in Connecticut. The attic was a bleak and barren place, full of unpacked boxes and tangled bundles of Christmas tree lights. It was the sort of place where, if you didn’t get into ‘the zone’ pretty soon—and by that I mean the imaginary place where writers go when their work is flowing well—then you weren’t likely to hang around long. There were no creature comforts in that attic, no comfy couch to relax on, no TV to flick on, no coffee machine, no cookies. Even more important, there were no urgent, everyday tasks at hand—no dish-washer to unpack, no laundry to fold, no beds to make.

And if I came out of that attic, my baby son would immediately find me and latch onto me with a vengeance, refusing to go back to the baby-sitter.

I was trapped there, with my computer.

Now I sit at a desk in our living room, placed on a beautiful rug, looking out over the green back yard, just steps away from a lovely leather couch and a pile of promising books that I haven’t yet read. My kids are at school, and there’s nothing stopping me from getting up and going to the kitchen at any given moment.

I think I need my attic back!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Author Interview: Devon Ellington

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Devon Ellington. Devon publishes under many pseudonyms in fiction and non-fiction, some of which are Cerridwen Iris Shea, Christy Miller, Ava Dunne, and Jenny Storm. She also has an extensive list of clients for her freelance business. The newest book in her Jain Lazarus series, Old-Fashioned Detective Work, will be available this spring.

Devon makes her living as a writer and considers writer's block "a luxury allowed to those who can rely on someone else's income. I have no time for it," she said.

She's always working on half a dozen projects at once, since that's how she pays her bills. Readers can catch up on what she's currently working on by checking out her blog, "Ink in My Coffee."

One of her projects is the Penny Dreadfuls, a series of short retro-futuristic-comic fiction with slight touches of romance. "They're homage to the penny dreadful novels of yore," she told me, "but with a feeling of both retro and future. So far, I’ve got three sets of characters involved – The Remarkable Adventures of Cornelia True and Roman Gray, Mick Feeney’s Perilous River Tales, and The Nowhere Chronicles. You can find them at: http://pennysdreadfuls.devonellingtonwork.com."

I asked Devon, "What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?"

"To me, good writing means the author connects with the reader," she replied. "Usually, for me, it’s connecting to a strong character, but the quality and beauty of the writing is also a large factor. Good writing seduces the reader, draws the reader in, includes the reader in the experience, rather than excludes the reader. Good writing immerses the reader."

Ninety-nine per cent of the time, Devon's stories start with character and then she adds the "what if?" element. In the first drafts of her works, she trusts the characters to lead her where she needs to go. She'll get ideas for plots and may make notes, but at the first she simply trusts her characters. They often appear and start to dictate their stories.

"Then I'll start asking questions, or dropping them in various situations, and we take it from there," she said. "I restructure and worry about logic and continuity in subsequent drafts."

Devon told me that every book has its challenges. "Every book is rather like re-inventing the wheel, to a certain degree," she explained. "The hardest part of writing Hex Breaker was initially figuring out how some disparate scenes I envisioned would hold together and also when Wyatt entered the book. In the original concept, Billy Root was supposed to be Jain's foil. But then Wyatt sauntered into Chapter Two and took over. He's a much better match for Jain, and Billy’s getting his own adventures in book three, which I’m about to start (shout out to all Billy’s fans) in which he’s well-partnered, too, I wanted to kill Wyatt off at one point to clear the way for Billy and Jain, but neither Jain nor Wyatt were having it!"

Devon writes most of the time. She shared what her work schedule is like.

"I get up early, feed the cats (because nothing gets done if the cats are hungry), put on the coffee, do my yoga, write my first 1000 words of the day. Then I blog, check email, check job boards, and do whatever writing has the most pressing deadlines. I often read, research, or edit in the afternoons. If I’m not working a show or going out with friends at night, I might have another writing session at night. After the first 1K of the day, I sort of make up my day as I go along, depending upon deadlines, research needs, interviews, etc. The larger swaths of unscheduled time I have, the more I get done. I hate being on a rigid schedule. I resent it and start getting in my own way."

Devon lives with three cats, but told me she would love to have a dog. "As soon as I buy the house and get settled, I'm going to make the rounds of shelters and get more than one," she said. "I also hope to adopt a rescued, retired greyhound at some point. And there will continue to be cats. If I wind up with enough space, we may add alpaca and some rescued horses to the mix. Um, if anyone out there knows of a good New England farm for sale, contact me, okay?"

She's a member of the National Wildlife Federation and plans to convert her yard into a certified habitat as soon as she gets her house.

As a New Yorker, it would probably not surprise anyone that the most horrible experience she would like to erase from her past would be 9/11. "I knew a lot of people who died that day; a lot of the firefighters were from firehouses in the neighborhood where I'd lived up until a month prior to the attack. There were also people I knew from high school and other areas of my life who perished in the Twin Towers."

Devon, in addition to writing stories, books, and non-fiction, is also a playwright.

"I have a clause in my contracts stating that, in my work, theatre must always be spelled t-h-e-a-t-R-E. As someone who’s spent my entire professional life in the theatre, it’s not an American/English spelling; it’s the distinction between amateur and professional. I have walked away from potential publishing contracts when they were not willing to grant me that spelling."

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

"Stop making excuses," she said. "Get your butt in the chair and write. There will never 'be' time to write – you have to make it, take it, steal it, wrestle it."

You can keep up with Devon on her blog, http://devonellington.wordpress.com

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Spotlight: The Wild Rose Press

The Wild Rose Press publishes thirteen different lines on their main website and erotic romance on www.thewilderroses.com.

Climbing Roses – Young adult
American Rose – American historical
Cactus Rose – Western historical
English Tea Rose – Non-American historical
Vintage Rose – 20th Century historical
Crimson Rose – Romantic suspense
Champagne Rose – Contemporary
Yellow Rose – Western contemporary
Sweetheart Rose – Sweet contemporary
Faery Rose – Fantasy, sci-fi, futuristic, and time travel
Black Rose – Vampires, werewolves, and shifters
Scarlet Rose – Erotic romance
Last Rose of Summer – Mature contemporary

And our Christian inspirational romances are published by White Rose Publishing.

During May all Climbing Rose titles are on sale.

Also, please join our reader group for Rose Petal free reads and special offers just for you. www.groups.yahoo.com/group/thewildrosepress

White Rose Publishing also has a reader loop at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/whiterosepublishing

And readers age 18+ can join the Scarlet authors at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/thewilderroses

For all aspiring authors: The Wild Rose Press has many references to help you in your career. On the website there is access to critique groups, writing resources, numerous articles and finally there is our editors' blog at www.behindthegardengate.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: The Wild Rose Press

Sony eReader Giveaway!
Every quarter the Wild Rose Press sponsors a Sony e-Reader giveaway. Visit our website for details on how to enter without purchase.

From March 31, 2009 until June 9, 2009 - purchase any title from any of the sponsoring authors (the list can be found on the Wild Rose Press website). Enter to win a free SONY eReader from The Wild Rose Press by purchasing a book or short story from any of the participating authors*. Email your order number to sonyreader@thewildrosepress.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it. That's it. SONY will include $25 worth of free downloads from their site with every reader we give away. So enter now!

We will verify your order and enter you into the drawing. If you purchase more than one title, you can enter more than one time. For questions on this contest, please contact Rhonda Penders at rpenders@thewildrosepress.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it. Please put the words SONY eReader contest in the subject line. See our website for the “no purchase necessary” entry rules.

Winners will be announced in our Tuesday night chat in our website chat room on June 9, 2009, and on our web site the next day.

*there is a list of participating authors on the contest page of our website. If you click on the author name you will be sent to their bookstore page; if the link does not work, please refer to our bookstore and you can look up the author there.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: The Wild Rose Press

Award winning titles from the Wild Rose Press.

House of Lies won the National Readers Choice Award for Romantic Suspense from the Oklahoma Romance Writers of America.

House of Lies
Maggie Toussaint
$6.00

It's too late to win her father's love. Instead, Hannah Montgomery must deal with the remote mountain cottage she inherited. The caretaker of the property, wounded ex-CIA agent Jake Sutherland, promised his dying partner that he'd help Hannah get settled.

But Hannah is very unsettled by the hidden letters from her father, letters that put Jake and Hannah on a collision course. As secrets from her father's life are revealed, Hannah's deep-seated quest for the truth challenges Jake's loyalty and honor.

To make matters worse, the double agent who betrayed Jake and killed her father tracks them down. Caught in a web of deceit, Hannah must make a choice. Will she risk her heart—and her life—to learn the truth about her secretive father?


Thin Ice won both the 2008 EPPIE and the 2007 Golden Leaf.

Thin Ice
Liana Laverentz
$6.00

The last thing ER doctor Emily Jordan needs in her life is another man to let her down, and certainly not one who uses his fists in his work. She's seen enough of the results of violence in the world, and has no use for anyone who contributes to it.

Professional hockey player Eric Cameron has never met a woman who intrigued him so much. Emily Jordan has it all, brains and beauty, a home of her own, a career she excels at, a son who adores her, and loving friends and family to help her bring it all together in way Eric has longed to be a part of his entire life. The problem is this feisty, independent woman wants nothing to do with him and has no problem letting him know it.

The memory of Emily's healing hands despite her clear-cut opinion of him when she treats him after a post-game barroom brawl drives Eric to find the key to her wounded heart, but success would mean that Emily would have to give up all that she has and depend on a man who's life is anything but settled. Will Eric be able to win her heart despite her opposition to the only life he's ever known? Or when the season ends will he move on again--alone?

Liana also won the 2008 Golden Leaf with Jake’s Return.

Jake’s Return
Liana Laverentz
$6.00

The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake hadn’t wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he’d hit the open road.

Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy who’d been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender, loving man who’d given her their daughter, Katie.

But who is Jake now? That’s what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.

Jake’s been running from love for all of his life. Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: The Wild Rose Press

Our first published title was Promises by Jo Barrett in the Crimson Rose line.

Our Crimson Rose line features edge-of-the-seat contemporary romantic suspense. Stories driven by revenge, greed, betrayal, anger, love, desire, yearning and more. Think kidnappings, murder, blackmail, deceit, white collar crime, political intrigue and everything in between. Danger caused by menacing villains. Passion explored by dynamic heroes and heroines.

Promises
Jo Barrett
$6.00

He made a vow to protect her, but how would he protect his heart. Coming face to face with her first teenage crush, Bobbi McBride is more than just a little tongue-tied. Her dream prince is out cold and bleeding all over her cabin floor. But how did he get there, and more importantly, did he have news about her missing brother? Travis Reid, FBI agent, struggles to fulfill his promise to his friend and partner, Jason McBride. He must protect Jase's sister, Bobbi, whether she likes it or not, and give her the news of Jason's death. But he is totally unprepared for the temptingly beautiful woman who lays siege to the walls around his heart. She's no longer the little girl in pigtails and braces, but he knows all too well how deadly a distraction like love can be and refuses to make that mistake again.

Another story from our catalog is the 2009 winner of the EPPIE in the contemporary category.

Love With A Welcome Stranger
Lynnette Baughman
$6.00

She doesn't remember that the handsome Montana rancher was once a poor cowboy who loved her. He can't forget that she left him and never looked back. Mandy McCay's life as a Hollywood starlet ended with a bullet from a deranged fan. Miraculously, she recovers, learns to walk and speak, but there are gaps in her memory. Important gaps. The years her face and figure were splashed across tabloid pages are easy. But what happened the summer before she left Montana? Like everyone in Mandy's home town, Campbell West followed her medical miracle on TV. He's not prepared for her to come home more beautiful than ever, or for the sudden new attraction between them. At least, Mandy thinks it's new. Cam--God help him!-- remembers every inch of her body! When should he tell her of their passionate love, her betrayal, and his pain? Or can he risk forgetting it all--and hoping she'll never remember?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Spotlight: The Wild Rose Press


The Wild Rose Press has turned three. May is our birthday and over the past three years we’ve seen many changes in the garden. From the edition of our young adult line, Climbing Roses, to the branching off of both an erotic romance site, The Wilder Roses, and an inspirational romance publisher, White Rose Publishing.

The Wild Rose Press continues to support new authors and is always open to submissions. Each month you can find your favorite authors on sale. New short stories are released every Wednesday and electronic and print novels are released every Friday.

On The Wild Rose Press website, you can choose from an extensive list of free digital books, Rose Petals. These are available in every line we publish from dark paranormal to sweet contemporaries.

All this week, I’ll be sharing with you some of the titles published from The Wild Rose Press. From the first book published by TWRP to EPPIE winners and nationally recognized novels.

Please visit us on our websites
www.TheWildRosePress.com
www.TheWilderRoses.com
www.WhiteRosePublishing.com

Stop by the Publisher’s spotlight at Long and Short Reviews this week and enter to win a ten dollar gift certificate to the Wild Rose Press bookstore.