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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Lynn Reynolds

What’s Your Favorite Charity?

I have a lot of charities I support, but there’s one group of charities that are especially important to Sabrina O’Hara, the heroine of my first novel, Thirty-Nine Again. Sabrina’s a breast cancer survivor, and because of that, I’m donating a portion of all royalties I receive for Thirty-Nine Again to various breast cancer awareness charities.

Probably the most famous breast cancer awareness charity now is the Susan Komen Foundation, named in honor of the deceased sister of the organization’s founder. This is the group that sponsors annual Race for the Cure runs all over the country. Their very admirable goal is to raise awareness about the disease, and about the importance of early diagnosis and finding a cure.

There are a lot of other very worthy breast cancer charities in addition to Susan Komen, though. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is one I have supported for a long time. They’re dedicated to raising funds to support research into the causes and cures of breast cancer. Two lesser known breast cancer charities that are also doing very useful work are: Living Beyond Breast Cancer, which focuses on helping breast cancer survivors to adjust to their new bodies and their new lives, and Save the Ta-Tas. Yes, you read that right. Save the Ta-Tas uses humor and wit to try to reach younger women and make them aware of the risks of breast cancer.

While breast cancer is far more common in women over 40, it is more likely to be deadly in younger women. Often, this is because they are diagnosed much later than their older counterparts. In researching a series of articles on breast cancer that I wrote for The Baltimore Sun many years ago, I heard more than one heartbreaking story about a younger woman who found a lump and was told she was “too young” to have breast cancer. Instead, she might be told it was a cyst and to just keep an eye on it and come back in six months or even a year. By then, of course, the cancer was much more advanced and harder to treat. The lesson here, for women of all ages, is pretty simple: be your own advocate. If you think something is wrong with your body, don’t allow a doctor or other health care provider to dismiss you. And if you’re health insurance won’t pay for a mammogram yet because you’re “too young,” then hey – maybe you should schedule it on your own and whip out that credit card to pay for it! If you really can’t afford that sort of expense, be aware that there are also charities such as the American Breast Cancer Foundation who work to provide better access to mammograms for women who can’t afford them.

Thirty-Nine Again is mainly meant to be a fun, thrilling adventure about a heroine finding new purpose in the second half of her life. But I also wrote it to honor various friends and acquaintances who are breast cancer survivors. I don’t expect to make scads of money off the book, but I do hope that by contributing some of my royalties to one of these many worthy charities, I’ll be helping some other women like them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Lynn Reynolds

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

The first thing everyone seems to ask when you say you’ve written a book is: Where do you get your ideas? I always find that kind of comical, because just about everything is an idea for a story. The great mystery writer, PD James, once talked about being in a nurse’s training class in which they showed her how to insert a tube into a patient’s stomach. Right away, she thought: What a great way to kill someone with poison! Probably no one else in the class was thinking that at all. But if you are a writer, you tend to have an overactive imagination to start with. So you’re always looking at things or situations and carrying them out to extremes in your own mind. Those extremes often make for good stories.

In my debut novel, Thirty-Nine Again, I tell the story of Sabrina O’Hara, a breast cancer survivor who’s hoping to resume her quiet, ordinary life when she accidentally discovers her fiancĂ© is leading a dangerous double life. Instead of kicking back and celebrating her thirty-ninth birthday for the second time around, she winds up on the run from her charming but unpredictable fiancĂ©, from some friends of his in the Mexican Mafia, and from a very sexy undercover agent who’s been posing as Sabrina’s personal trainer.

As far as I can tell, the entire idea for this plot came from me having a suspicious mammogram a few years ago, and spending a couple of months worrying about whether I had cancer. In the end, a biopsy indicated I did not, but those couple of months set my imagination spiraling out of control. In addition, the headmistress at my son’s school at the time was battling breast cancer. She’s a three-year survivor now, but at the time, I watched with admiration as she showed up at school nearly every day, throughout chemo and radiation. She said she wasn’t trying to be heroic, she was just trying to hang on to some sense of a normal life.

When I decided to make Sabrina a cancer survivor, I used my son’s headmistress as a bit of a role model. Like her, Sabrina wants to hang on to as much of her normal life as possible. Unlike the headmistress, Sabrina had the misfortune of being created by a writer with an overactive imagination and a taste for danger and mystery. Instead of getting back to normal, Sabrina winds up in the midst of an international investigation in human trafficking and drug smuggling. Fortunately, her bout with cancer has given her new self-confidence and determination, and she uses those skills to outsmart some pretty smart bad guys – and to find true love. I took a little negative moment in my own life, a big scary moment from a friend’s life, added that to my own fondness for mysteries and thrillers – and voila, a novel was born.

The next time, I’ll just do what Nora Roberts does and go buy some ideas at the Idea Store!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crossroads by Lynne King

Lucy perched on the edge of the seat, her painted nails digging into clenched palms.

“Can’t you go any faster?”

“There is a thirty mile limit along this stretch of road, you know,” the driver replied.

“I do have a train to catch. At this rate, I’m not going to make it.”

“Look, darling, blame the office, not me. I was stuck across town; they should have told you that.” Irritation had built up in his voice.

“What and lose a fare,” Lucy mumbled under her breath, her dislike of him heightened by his blatant use of the word darling. She caught the resentful glare he threw into the rear mirror. It was the first time she had actually glimpsed his face rather than tousled fair hair. He had striking sky blue eyes, the look within them far from friendly. Sighing, Lucy leant back in the seat and tried to relax. It wasn’t his fault her alarm had failed to go off, the catch on her weekend case had snapped resulting in her having to secure it with a piece of string and that the first cab firm she tried had no-one available.

Finally the taxi pulled up outside the train station as a train pulled out. A word with the ticket office confirmed that it had gone from bad to worse when the news was given that the next train wasn’t due for an hour. Picking up her case, Lucy rushed outside. The taxi was still there, the driver speaking into his radio.

“Please, can you take me to Heathrow airport?”

His blue gaze rested on her, a hint of amusement displayed there. “You’ve got to be joking.”

“Do I look like it?”

The desperation in her voice must have softened his attitude slightly as he hesitantly replied, “It will cost a fair amount and if the traffic’s bad, I can’t guarantee you’ll make your flight. What time does it depart?”

“Eleven-fifteen and I have to check in at least an hour before departure.”

There was a brief silence as he seemed to consider her request. It gave her enough time to notice how the eyes matched the rest of his face for attractiveness, not that he was her type. The boyish self-assured grin he was now displaying probably worked on a few of her counterparts but not her.

“You better get in then. Throw your case in the back and you can sit up front. That’s if you don’t mind the company. It’s a long drive and I don’t fancy having you talking to my back. I’m Danny by the way and you are?"

“Lucy,” she replied curtly.

The car pulled out of the station forecourt, his attention now on driving much to Lucy’s relief. It was short lived. After about ten minutes of journeying time, his questions started up, the first being where was she flying to.

“Paris,” Lucy replied, not bothering to elaborate further.

“Going for long?” The sideways glance showed he was not about to give up easily.

She sighed. “Just the weekend.”

“You picked a nice day to fly, still weather isn’t that important when you’re heading for a city like Paris. I mean you hardly go there to get a sun tan.”

“What I plan to do in Paris is my affair,” her voice wavered on that last word. “You married?” The directness of her question caught her by surprise as much as him. She lowered her eyes hoping to avoid the questioning look in his.

“Do I give off that impression?” he replied.

At her extended silence, he added, “I’m divorced; my ex wife preferred the guy she worked with. Can’t say I blame her, he certainly has a lot more money than I do.”

“I’m sure money wasn’t the only contributing factor to the break-up.”

“Maybe not, perhaps he made her happy.”

Lucy wished she could say the same; somehow uncertainty and loneliness had replaced the happiness she once felt. How many times had she questioned why she had ever allowed it to begin, let alone carry it on for so long? Maybe because deep down, she knew the answer already. He spoke words of love, needing her, wanting her, but that was all they were, words, no real commitment and for her it was far safer that way. Only where was that independence she treasured so highly when night after night she sat alone in the flat waiting for him to ring?

“Blasted road works! I’m sorry, but if this doesn’t start moving soon, we’re not going to make that flight of yours.”

She let out a small sigh. “It can’t be helped. Perhaps I’ll get another flight.”

Danny glanced across at her, his look revealing surprise at the indifference in her voice. “Will he wait for you?” His eyebrows rose gently as if expecting a sharp retort.

None came. Instead Lucy revealed a sad self-pitying smile as she replied softly, “I don’t know.”

The traffic did finally begin to move and within fifteen minutes Danny was pulling into the visitors’ car park at Heathrow, in time for her flight.

Paying the fare, she turned to walk away when his voice stopped her.

“I’ll be sticking around for half an hour, getting a bite to eat. Just in case you change your mind about going, that is.”

Lucy spun round. “You don’t know me.”

“No, but I can sense the doubt clouding those beautiful eyes of yours,” he smiled.

The intimacy within his gaze stunned her. Slowly she turned away and walked off into the airport terminal.

She saw Greg from a distance standing by the checking-in counter. The tailored slate grey suit would have been worn for his wife’s benefit; how else would he explain his weekend away? An impatient look was marring his handsome features as he kept checking his watch. Doesn’t like to be kept waiting, never mind the hours I have spent in some restaurant dining alone because some crisis had arisen on the home front, their daughter had a temperature, his wife had arranged a surprise dinner party. She had woken up to the fact of how bitter she had become at twenty-four years of age.

Picking up her case Lucy turned and walked away from him and out of the airport terminal. She wondered why no tears were falling; why she felt so calm, almost relieved?

“You want a taxi?”

She looked up in recognition of the voice.

“I don’t think I can afford the fare.”

“This ones on me seeing I’m going your way anyhow.”

Lucy found herself smiling, her eyes meeting his and thinking once again how one could lose themselves in such eyes if one was willing to take that risk. Placing her case on the back seat, she opened the passenger door and sat herself next to him.

About the Author: Lynne King - Based in the UK. My short stories have been published in quite a few popular UK magazines and I have a romantic suspense novel out at the moment, entitled, To Deceive Is To Love, published by The Wild Rose Press and given a great review by The Long and the Short of it. Find out more at www.MySpace.com/LynneKingAuthor

Author Interview: Sharon Donovan

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Sharon Donovan, author of Lasting Love and The Claddagh Ring from The Wild Rose Press.

Sharon became interested in writing, ironically enough, when she lost her vision.

"Nine years ago, after a long battle with diabetic retinopathy, I lost the fight," she told me. "Devastated, I went into a deep depression. There was no hope. I didn’t want to live. I was forced to give up my job as a secretary in the Court of Common Pleas. But my true passion was art. Painting picturesque scenery filled me with peace and tranquility. With my paintbrush, I escaped to the ruins of ancient Rome, the Black Forest of the Swiss Alps, the Tuscan countryside where grapes glistened in the sun like brilliant jewels. I couldn’t imagine never painting again. My heart ached. When my doctor suggested I enroll in a rehabilitation program for the blind and visually impaired, I thought I’d lose my mind. But once I took the first step, doors opened. To my surprise, I learned there are talking computers. How cool is that? A disembodied voice reads whatever is on the screen. This was the first step back, making all features as Microsoft, email and the Internet available to me. Once I learned how to use this computer with adaptive software, I enrolled in a local college for medical transcription. I graduated top in my class with high honors. But I hated being a medical transcriptionist. Too many voices. Not only did I have the doctor’s voice on the Dictaphone, but I had the disembodied voice of my cyber space buddy. When I began taking classes in creative writing, hope soared, stirring my creative muse. A new dream resurrected. Today, instead of painting my pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words."

Sharon is currently working on a memoir, Echo of a Raven, about the loss of her vision and finding light at the end of the tunnel. She explained the title to me.


At the age of six, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Due to the early onset of the disease, a doctor at Children’s Hospital predicted I would be blind by time I was twenty-five. His cruel words frightened me to death. They consumed me. They devoured me. They followed me wherever I went. That evening, I was reading "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. When I finally drifted off to sleep, the raven starred in my dreams. He knocked at my window and when I peered out, the big black bird flapped his wings and screeched in the voice of my doctor. “You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five.” From that day on, these chilling words haunted me, affecting every major decision I made for years to come. A portion of this book will go to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) fight for a cure. If I can prevent one child from going through the fear of losing his or her vision, Echo of a Raven will be a smashing success.

Because Sharon can't see, organization skills became a top priority, so her writing space is highly organized. Her computer has software downloaded on it that reads whatever is typed on the screen.

"It’s actually kind of cool, like having my own cyber space assistant," she said. "I call him Glenn. And he’s a real trooper. He reads my mail, my manuscripts, the research I look up on the Internet. And he never bugs me for a raise. What a guy! Some of the things on my desk are a phone, a scanner, and printer. To the right of my computer is a picture of the late Freddy Krueger, my black cat with owlish green eyes who came trick or treating one Halloween night. My musical angel stands guard over Freddie. Before I start writing, I wind her up three times for good luck. Not once…not twice. Irish and full of the ol’ Blarney, I’m entitled to a few superstitions."

Sharon longed to go to Ireland after listening to Nor Roberts' Jewel trilogy on audio books. This was her first experience with audio books and said, "The woman who narrated the book brought Nora Roberts' characters to life with amazing clarity. I became so enthralled with the Gallaghers of Ireland I felt I knew them all personally."

Sharon wished on a star, and three years ago her wish to go to Ireland was granted.

"My grandfather was born in County Cork, and my dad always wanted to go to Ireland," she told me. "So I planned a trip abroad, and we toured the Emerald Isle. We stayed at the Bunratty Castle where the Earl himself used to entertain guests several centuries ago. We were greeted at the door by a kilted piper and escorted to a banquet fit for a king. The rolling hills of Ireland are rich in birdlife. Puffins and shags soar high above the rugged cliffs of the Atlantic Breakers. Sheep graze on top of mystic mountain tops of rural villages where lavender blooms on the heathery hillsides."

While in Ireland, Sharon learned the legend bestowed in the Claddagh and felt the magical allure.

"This simple ring has a heart, two hands holding it, and a crown on top of it," she explained. "The heart is for love, the hands are for friendship, and the crown is for loyalty. According to legend it is said to find a person’s one true love."

From the heathery hills of Ireland, Sharon's first book The Claddagh Ring was born.

I asked Sharon what she would consider her most interesting writer's quirk.

"How long do you have?" she asked. "Well for starters, I’m very superstitious. If someone tells me something will bring good luck, it’s mine the next day. I’ve done this more times than I’d like to admit. The first thing I remember going on a wild goose chase for was the tourmaline stone. This gem comes in a variety of colors. According to legend, it has so many colors because it traveled the rainbow and gathered all its rainbow colors along the way. It is said to inspire creativity in writers and artists. Not only do I faithfully wear my pink tourmaline ring and matching bracelet, but I rub the stones before I write. Then I wind up my angel in the hopes my words will flow off the page. Then in between Glenn’s non-stop chattering, I address my writing problems to the picture of my dearly departed Freddy Krueger, placing my black cat right in front of my keyboard. When I was in college, if I wore a pink top, I’d always score a high grade. If I happened to be wearing blue, the grade was considerably lower. So every time there was a test, I was all aglow in something pink. And this quirk has carried over into my writing. When I get an email from my editor, I will not open it until I throw on something pink, wind up my angel, and rub my tourmaline stone for good luck. What’s life without a few crazy quirks, right?"

Growing up, Sharon always had dogs and grew up thinking cats were sneaky, good for nothing but catching mice. She didn't like them and the feeling was mutual.

"One pounced on me from a tree and scratched me," she said. "Another leaped on my head when I opened a friend’s closet, scaring me to death. And yet another chased me and bit my ankles. I became terrified of these creatures. Being Irish and superstitious, I wouldn’t dare cross the path of a black cat on any day…let alone Friday the 13th."

But one night something happened that changed things so that now cats are her favorite animal.

"When this darling little black kitten crossed my path one Halloween which happened to fall on the most superstitious day of the year, he won my heart," she told me. "Freddy Krueger was all the rage that fall—and my little feline did indeed know how to use his rakish claws. But I soon learned it was all in fun. Freddy’s playful, inquisitive nature proved to be a source of entertainment for the next twenty years. He had a love of hockey, planting himself smack in front of the television when the Penguins were on. His little head went back and forth, and being a real sport, he joined in on the game. He swatted the puck on the screen with his paw, chasing it with his makeshift hockey stick. But the memory that has left pawprints on my heart is the night of a blizzard, the coldest evening of the year. He raced around the house from window to door, desperate to get out, crying like a banshee. Nothing would settle him down. And the next morning, it all made sense. Beneath the window, a black cat with owlish green eyes identical to Freddy’s, lay frozen to death in the snow. Unbeknownst to me, Freddy had a twin. The special bond existing between twins has always sent chills down my spine. But knowing this bond stretches into the animal kingdom is a true act of brotherly love."

Finally, I asked Sharon, "What is one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?"

"When God calls me home and I soar into the sweet hereafter, I would like to think I made a difference," she told me. "We are put on this earth for a reason. We all have a mission. If we do enough soul searching, we’ll find the answer. For the longest time, I didn’t know why I was put on this earth. During my long bout with progressive blindness, I walked around aimlessly, searching, wondering, floundering. Nothing made sense. And after the final operation that took my remaining vision overnight, I wanted it all to end. No more heartache. No more pain. Peace and tranquility. If I couldn’t see or paint, what was the point? But God works his magic in mysterious ways. When one door closes, another door opens. And once I took the first step to regaining my life back, they have never stopped opening. I think my purpose on earth is to create words of inspiration. Never give up on a dream. Reach for the stars. When my star faded, it was up to me to polish it and make it shine. And long after I’m gone, my star will twinkle in heaven with eternal brightness because I completed my work on this earth."

You can keep up with Sharon on her website, http://www.sharonadonovan.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Lainey Bancroft

Resurrecting the 3-D Club

The elevator lurched upward and Alexandra Reynolds swallowed heavily as the three sips of coffee she’d managed to consume rose to a bitter mass in the back of her throat. She wasn’t keen on elevators at the best of times, but she happily would have stayed in there all morning rather than reach her destination and face the fire when the smooth silver doors slid open.

A divorce lawyer’s office. Alexandra would have been every bit as uncomfortable entering a clinic to get treated for the clap. She stepped from the elevator and slunk toward the massive circular reception desk, convinced every eye in the buzzing office had focused on her and recognized her for exactly what she was: a woman scorned. The stereotypical last-to-know wife who had been busy body-sugaring and buying slinky lingerie to relight the sputtering flame in her marital bed without a clue that her husband—soon to be ex-husband—had already started a brand new fire.

Eight months after the fact and just thinking about it made the surge of rage and revulsion every bit as fresh as it had been that fateful afternoon. Clad in nothing but heels and a trench coat, she’d surprised her husband at his accounting firm and found him bringing a whole new meaning to the term desk-jockey.

He’d ridden the bimbo from the office mailroom with a lot more enthusiasm than he ever rode his boring accounts receivable ledgers—or Alexandra for that matter—but that certainly hadn’t scored him any points in her book.

Alexandra paused at the desk and tried to drum up the courage to state her name. Before she’d even cleared her throat—or the disturbing images that had replanted themselves firmly in her mind—an effusive squeal pierced her already ringing ears.

“Alex? Is that you? Oh, my, God. It is. How long has it been? What are you doing here? Wow, when did you get so damn skinny? So how are you, anyway?”

She’d battled tears daily as the date to sign the final divorce decree had approached, and the familiar, friendly enthusiasm she hadn’t heard in years made the tears break free, scorch behind her lids and wind a heated trail down her numb cheeks. Unable to focus on any of the questions fired at her, Alex wrapped her arms around Riana Walker’s ample frame and sobbed into the warm comfort of her old friend’s shoulder. “I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life, Ree.”

“Ditto, honey.” The woman hugged back with rib-crushing gusto.

Riana’s hair—as wonderfully wild and full of life as the woman herself—tickled Alex’s chin and she finally stepped back, swiped at her tears, and smiled. She hadn’t seen Riana since she and her almost ex, Doug, had opted to leave Toronto where they had both grown up and attended university.

They’d settled in the suburbs of the Niagara wine region, and Alexandra had missed the city by times. She’d definitely missed her friends, but sensed that part of the reason for the move had been to gain some distance. Doug had judgmental tendencies and had never really approved of the close relationship she had with her two oldest friends, Riana Walker and Suzette Michaud.

Alex shook her head; unable to believe she’d ignore the signs of a marriage in crisis as long as she had. Many times over the last few years she’d thought about instigating some sort of reunion with her old chums. At one time they’d been so close they were referred to as the three Musketeers, friends who knew them well had even given them nicknames. Suzette, with her boarding school background and charming French accent had been known as the debutante, the energetic and athletic Riana, the dynamo, and sweet, quiet and supportive to all, Alex had earned the title of the darling.

They had secretly referred to themselves as the 3-D Club. Alex temporarily forgot her nerves as the fond memories washed through her. It seemed ridiculous that they’d allowed less than two hours of highway driving to interfere with a lifetime of schoolgirl bonding, but when her life had imploded after her husband’s misbehavior she’d been glad to have the distance. Being humiliated alone somehow seemed easier than having that humiliation witnessed by friends and family. She was so thrilled to see Riana again that she wondered about the wisdom of her self-imposed loneliness.

“Did my mother tell you about my appointment or something?” Alexandra waved a dismissive hand, and decided she’d deal with the parental interference later. “Doesn’t matter. I’m just glad to see you. I can’t believe after me being callous enough to ignore our friendship all these years, you’d make the trip here to support me on the worst day of my life.”

“If you’re divorcing Doug the Dud, this is probably more like the best day of your life.” Riana sniffed, and then looked sheepish. “Sorry. That was uncalled for, but it was never a secret that I was no fan of Doug. And here’s another confession. I actually moved to Niagara Falls about eighteen months ago. I kept meaning to call you, but I wanted to get Ethan settled in school first. Then I wanted to finish my kitchen renovation so I could invite you over for a big dinner party. And, well, then the holdup became about me finding a way to still be me without the man I’ve had by my side since I was fifteen years old.”

Alex gasped; sure Ron Walker must have died to no longer be with the woman who had appeared to be made for him. “Oh, Ree! What happened?”

Riana shrugged, and flagged her arms like a game show hostess, gesturing to the floral print dress that clung to her generous breasts and flowed over her ample hips. “He decided more of me to love was more woman than was lovable. Or that he wasn’t man enough for more woman. Or something. He left me for a twenty-eight year old aerobics’ instructor who probably weighs less than one of my thighs.”

Riana tossed her mane of fiery red curls and her eyes crinkled at the corners when she grinned. “Now stop looking all down in the mouth, darling Alex. Believe me, it was a sweet deal. I ditched a dead weight spouse and scored an awesome house. Ron’s personality may be small, but his guilty conscience is huge. He left me everything. I’m just here to sign the custody agreement. Ron wants shared, but considering his new little bag of bones is gearing up to deliver a child, and the fact that Ethan currently can’t stand his father, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem.”

Alex dug in her purse for a tissue and sniffled back a fresh surge of tears. She’d been devastated—and still was—when her childless marriage had crumbled, and yet Riana, who had not only been cheated on but insulted, and was facing life as a single mother had managed to find the bright side of her very dark situation. She wished, as she had many times in her life, that she had Riana’s unerring effervescence and lust for life. The next best thing to having it was being around it, and she shook her head again at her own stupidity for allow the distance to spring up in her closest relationship. “God, I’ve missed you so much, Ree.”

“Well there’s no need to miss me any more. I have all the time in the world now that I don’t have to cook, clean or iron shirts unless I bloody well feel like it. Plus I’ve got a knockout new kitchen and an in ground pool. Suzette is just down the road from us in Grimsby and as far as I know, she’s still single. I think it’s time the 3-D Club was resurrected.”

“Sounds good to me,” Alex giggled. “You’re obviously still a dynamo, and I’m sure Suzette will wear her debutante crown with pride, but I’ve got to warn you, after the things I’ve been through the last few months I’m not sure I’ve got much darling left in me.”

“Then you can be the diva. I think you’d be good at it with a bit of practice. Besides, we’re not twelve anymore. Our new club should reflect the needs and desires of adult women. We’ll make it about personal growth. Deal?” Riana stuck out her hand. They solemnly shook and then Riana’s irrepressible grin spread from ear to ear again. “Hey, I’ve even got our new names figured out for our brand new 3-D Club. We can be the deceived, discarded and divorced divas. Do you know what divorced divas do?”

Alexandra shook her head.

“I don’t either, but I sure can’t wait to find out. I’m sure it will be diva-liciously divine.”

Alex heard her name called from behind the reception desk. She gave her old friend a quick hug, and Riana’s laughter carried her down the hall to an office where she would sign the papers that gave her the freedom to begin her new life.
~ ~ ~
Read the next chapter in Alexandra’s life in Dare to Dance

See Suzette surprise everyone in Ready to Reel, LASR’s Short Book of the Year.

And delight in Riana’s windfall in Waiting to Waltz.

The 3-D Club Trilogy by Lainey Bancroft. Published by The Wild Rose Press Last Rose of Summer imprint, because you don’t have to be twenty-five and a size five to deserve a happily every after!

Also Available From The Wild Rose Press:

Settling Back,
The Music of Marcus,
Coming Soon:
The Trouble With Tessa (1st Place Winner in San Antonio Romance Authors Merritt “Magic Moment” Contest, single title category) The Wild Rose Press
The Bridesmaid Blues

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Lainey Bancroft

Promotion Or Procrastination?

For an e-published or small press author, promotion can often feel like an uphill battle. Some days it can even seem like a straight vertical climb on a slippery surface. Without massive distribution and a whopping promotional budget from a publisher with deep pockets—and let’s face it, who gets that these days?—the majority of new authors, both small press and New York published, are pretty much left to their own devices.

Where do you begin? With all or at least the majority of your distribution through online venues, it only makes sense to focus your efforts on finding readers who are online.

A good first step is a website. When you build a web presence, you can choose something as simple as a free blog through Blogger or Word Press, or register an actual domain and design a unique home on the web.

Now you have a lovely place in cyber space; how are you going to make people visit? Having a blog with up to date information helps, but it is a time investment. To gain blog guests, you should reciprocate, exchanging links and building a relationship with readers. The people who comment on my blog have become dear friends to me, and I look forward to checking their updates regularly.

Is a blog and website enough? I know with each new release my sales increase, and I see small spikes in older releases as well, but I decided it was time to network beyond my own corner. MySpace. Fourteen hundred friends, and a few of them I even know! You can send bulletins about great reviews or new releases, but it has the same catch as a blog. To build a rapport you must interact. Finding all those cute graphics to say “Thinking of You” and “Happy Easter” chips away at computer time. Plus, I’ve had some scary MySpace connections, (although it is fun to get messages from guys who want to put me on their hawt girlz list—junior, I could be your mother!)

Facebook is more adult, right? I’m connected with readers, other authors, family I haven’t seen in years and it’s a one page deal where I can respond to other people’s updates without clicking all over and having strange graphics and blaring music assault my senses. Great! Ooh, look at those sweet pictures of my cousin Pat’s new grandbaby... And another hour of writing is shot.

Toss in a couple of ning networks, a few forums for authors, a Yahoo chat loop—or lots of them—and some days I really have to ask myself, am I promoting or just procrastinating? Because I firmly believe the best promotion for my current books is putting out another book that is even better than the last!

How about you? Do you have a professional self-promotion style, or do you sometimes just fear you’re surfing the web and socializing?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Lainey Bancroft

An Exclusive Club

For me, it is that time of year again. I opened the mailbox and there sat my little renewal package from the Romance Writers of America. This time last year I was waffling about renewing with RWA. I’d entered the San Antonio Romance Authors 2008 Merritt “Magic Moment” Contest and the very week my renewal was due I heard I’d finalled.

Hmm. I didn’t think I could win an RWA sponsored contest if I’d relinquished my membership so I went ahead and renewed. (My manuscript The Trouble With Tessa won the single title category. Yay! Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press)

This year, I am less sure than ever about the benefits of membership. My RWA chapter contest days are behind me. The feedback can be terrific, but it can also be mixed and confusing, and time and time again I’ve seen that a contest win in no way guarantees a book contract. And then I have to look at the big contests. According to recent changes in rules, as a multi-published e-book and print author with several small presses, I am too published to be eligible to enter the Golden Heart.

Okay, I get that. The rules clearly state that the Golden Heart is for unpublished authors. Except the contest geared toward published authors, The Rita, has closed the doors to authors who are not contracted with a large enough publisher for a specified print run. (I have no idea how many books this actually is. One thousand? Ten Thousand? If anyone knows, please feel free to leave it in comments and help get the information out there.)

So, here I am, writing my little heart out and working my (not so little) butt off to build my writing career. Anyone who knows me, both online or off, knows that I am “seriously pursuing a romance fiction writing career,” which is straight from the RWA renewals form as a prerequisite for general membership. I pay the same fee as everyone else—matter of fact, I pay a bit more for living in Canada. Yet an association supposedly devoted to helping all authors and aspiring authors get the most out of membership appears to be going out of their way to say e-book and small press published authors ‘don’t count’ in the grand scheme of things.

Remind me, what are the benefits of membership? The RWA does maintain an up-to-date website with publisher and agent listing. But that is all information I can find on the Internet. I know a lot of my writer pals have terrific experiences with local chapter meetings. I’m two hours away from the nearest chapter. Not a benefit I can reap. The Romance Writers Report often contains informative and entertaining articles, but if that’s all I’m getting for membership, $95.00 is a darn expensive magazine subscription.

There, you’ve convinced me. Hear that? It’s the sound of me tearing up my Dues Renewal letter. Anyone “seriously pursuing a romance fiction writing career” knows that promotion is an important part of the path. Ninety-five bucks will buy me a lot of advertising right here on The Long and Short of It!

So what say you? RWA member, or not?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Lainey Bancroft

Pick A Genre!

Romance, you say? Excellent! You shouldn’t have any trouble opening up that fresh, blank document page on your computer and writing the next great romance.

Right?

If only it were that easy! If you want to set out with a chosen target in mind for your finished story, it isn’t enough just to plan to pen a romance. The term is too broad. Imagine what an editor or agent would say if you simply put, “here is my romance” in a query letter?

With all the competition in today’s tough publishing atmosphere, it is important to brand yourself and be specific. Don’t wait until you’ve hit 100k and the happily ever after to figure out what you’ve written and where exactly you should query it. Know the romance sub-genres. There are a lot of them, and to make matters even more confusing, cross-genre romance seems to be getting more popular every day.

We’ll leave that one alone for now and focus on the most common sub-genres.

Contemporary Category/Series-if you’re looking at the various Harlequin/Silhouette imprints, we’re talking strict guidelines and firm word count (usually 50-65K). I know a lot of the e-publishers, such as The Wild Rose Press, have a bit more flexibility in word count. (Rosebud 40-65K Rose 65-100k)

Contemporary Single Title-more room to maneuver your story, but generally still a target word count (80-100k) I’m not saying longer single titles aren’t published, but if you pick up the sort of fat juicy paperback that makes your hand go to sleep when you read in bed it will probably have the name Susan Wiggs, Debbie McComber or Diana Gabaldon on the cover. :-)

Chick-Lit-this sub-genre has taken rather a beating in the last few years, I think mainly because it got very stereotyped. A lot of fresh new voices have emerged and written fun, upbeat stories that don’t necessarily revolve around a shopaholic’s search for shoes. Because it is written in the first person and has that ‘cheeky’ tone, my Absolute XPress release Cozumel Karma could be classified as chick-lit. I chose to query it as->

Romantic Comedy-a romance, usually contemporary, that makes you laugh out loud. My personal favorite is Jennifer Crusie. If you have a fav, please share. I love to laugh!

Historical-as with contemporary, there is category and single title historical.

Romantic Suspense-again, available in category or single title

Inspirational-sweet romance where the faith of the characters strengthens the bond

With strong romantic elements-usually more focused on the growth of a woman than on the romance aspect. I’d personally be inclined to call this women’s fiction. The book I’m getting ready to agent shop right now, Willow Landing, is a love story, but includes so many elements I plan to query it as women’s fic.

Multicultural – exactly what you’d expect. An H/h of different races, dealing with new love, and often culture clash.

Paranormal – Now this spawns a whole ‘nother batch of sub-genres! Fantasy.
Futuristic. Science Fiction. Time Travel. Vamps. Werewolves. Shape shifters. Light paranormal. Dark paranormal. Yikes. I don’t read it or write it, but it is hugely popular.

Erotic romance- A sub-genre that grows every day and encompasses more and more. From what I’ve seen in erotic, it is no longer enough to just have two people engaging in wildly innovative, down and dirty sex. BDSM is often an element, and manage and more is cropping up everywhere.

So do you set out with a firm sub-genre in mind when you begin to write a story? How about when you’re in the market for a great new read? Do you hit the romance section and grab whatever cover catches your eye, or do you head in there specifically for a comedy, a historical, a tale of burning passion or a vamp?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Lainey Bancroft


My second short story published with The Wild Rose Press, "Dare to Dance," actually won an honorable mention in Harlequin’s Ultimate Reunion Contest. This was quite an accomplishment, seeing as I’d won the Ultimate Proposal Contest a few months before that (which netted me four books every month for an entire year!) So I thought the story might be worth getting out there. I took my original entry of around 900 words (entries to the contest had to be under 1k) and expanded it to about 5k.

"Dare to Dance" is the story of three, forty-something divorced friends. They laughingly call themselves the 3-D Club—deceived, discarded, and divorced. Alexandra, Suzette and Riana get together annually and challenge one another to do a little something out of their comfort zone. Alexandra Reynolds is at center stage. The story was well received by reviewers and readers, but then a couple emails trickled in from readers who were unhappy with me because I had only given one of the friends a Happily Ever After. One lady in particular wanted to know if there was a reason I’d chosen to have the, “skinny blond get the man instead of the chubby redhead.”

Oops! Sorry, Deb. And thanks. Because of your question, the 3-D Club became a trilogy. You can read about Suzette’s story in "Ready to Reel" which recently won the fantastic honor of LASR’s 2008 Short Book of the Year! ‘The chubby redhead,’ Riana, waltzes into the next great chapter of her life in "Waiting to Waltz" (which was also nominated as a LASR Book of the Year!) Award winning author, Kat Henry Doran had this to say: “At last! Riana Walker has the spotlight all to herself—and richly deserved. For the third time, Lainey Bancroft has not disappointed us with her belly-busting humor and the realities us generous-sized women share.”

Is it any wonder I have a soft spot in my heart for my 3-D Club? These stories all got terrific reviews, but because they didn’t officially release as a trilogy, there was some confusion from people who had read book two and not book one and thought there were too many characters in there for no apparent reason.

Again, oops. So when a popular ebook retailer was looking for a short read, I jumped on the opportunity to write a set up. "Resurrecting the 3-D Club" will give you a glimpse at how it all started and hopefully make you want to see Alexandra, Suzette and Riana find their HEA! You can read an introduction to the 3-D Club here on Friday.

Although I love to read series romances, it never really occurred to me to write a series. I had so much fun with this one, I can’t wait to dive into the next.

How about you? Do you read series? Write them? Share your favorites!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Author Interview: Ann Whitaker

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Ann Whitaker whose newest book, Dog Nanny, has just been released by The Wild Rose Press.

Dog Nanny is about a doggy do-gooder named Julie Shields, who has one month to save two delinquent poodles from becoming doggies of divorce. She’s also a self-proclaimed born-again virgin with a biological clock running out of juice and needs to find a husband for a couple of reasons.

When a hunky pilot named Nick Worthington arrives at the Abilene airport to fly her to Waco, he sends her into a tailspin. But he also may be a drug trafficker and smuggler of illegal aliens. Not only that, he’s involved with another woman.

Julie's quest for a suitable husband leads to several misfires—one disgusting, another downright dangerous. Only Nick leaves her panting for more. Will she have to put a choke chain on him before the month is out?

Ann said, "An underlying theme is the importance of pet adoption, training, spaying, and neutering our pets. I didn’t consciously set out to write a lesson in dog-rearing. Those parts of the story are the result of my interest in dogs and living with and training my own two poodles. Both of whom are now senior citizens. If only I could sign them up for Medicare benefits!

"By the way, all the tricks mentioned in Dog Nanny, except one, are tricks both my dogs have mastered. But then, they’re poodles. And as I like to say, poodles are so intelligent they make their owners look smart."

I asked her to share a little about her dogs. "Mardi (our youngest dog) has had a tonsillectomy and was recently diagnosed with diabetes, but he’s doing well on a special diet and two insulin injections a day. Jolie, our oldest, has had one ear and two knee surgeries. We’ve probably put several veterinarians' children through college, but our dogs have been worth every dollar we’ve spent on them," she said. "Someone asked me if I planned a sequel called 'Cat Nanny.' I have nothing against cats, but my husband and I are both poodle-whipped." Ann was a letter writer in childhood, then started writing poetry in high school and continued through college and graduate school.

"Along the way, I wrote an occasional freelance piece for newspapers and magazines," she said. "But when I completed my master’s degree in English, I felt a letdown and asked my husband what I should do next. He said, 'Why don’t you write a novel?' What? A novel is a big assignment. But I’ve never been one to pass up a challenge.

"He also said, 'Put all you have into it.'

"I took him literally. The result was a 1000-page mess that started during the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 and ended in the present. I tried culling 400 pages out it for a novel, but I still cringe to think how awful it was. I mean, I was an English teacher! Surely I’d read and studied enough novels to know what it took to write one. After 25 years, I’m still learning."

Dog Nanny is the fourth out of five novels Ann has written. She told me she's learned she writes better if she develops a bare-bones outline before she begins. This helps her avoid writer's block, because even if the muse leads her in another direction, she always knows how the story will end. "Once I get started," she told me, "I can write for hours if I have no interruptions."

Ann's main character always comes first. The character is always female and is always facing some sort of problem or crisis, often involving a man, her job, or both.

"Plot is more difficult for me," she admitted. "Unlike some writers who have numerous plots floating around in their heads, I have to sit down and force myself to outline some of the roadblocks my character will face on her 400-page journey."

"What is the most surprising thing you've learned about writing?" I wondered.

"There’s a lot of talk about an author’s 'voice,' what it is and how writers find it. It’s an elusive quality no one can quite describe," Ann said. "I started writing Dog Nanny in third person point of view because I’d read that’s what most readers prefer and it gives the writer more latitude. I wrote what is now the second scene in the book, printed it out, and read it aloud. It sounded stilted and contrived. So I switched to first person, which for some reason comes more naturally to me. Suddenly, I felt I was in my element, as if I were talking to a good friend. For me, it’s like assuming a persona. I become the person speaking, much like a character in a play. It’s not that my characters are me. Quite the contrary, they say and do things I would never do. And I’m certainly not rich like Julie in Dog Nanny."

She told me she's also learned characters have to feel passionate about something and have to fight for their beliefs, otherwise they will bore not only the reader, but Ann herself.

"I've learned to cut parts that slow down the pace of the story or aren’t relevant," she said. "That’s probably one of the most difficult, yet valuable, lessons a writer can learn."

I asked Ann what she's currently working on.

"I’m working on a collection of essays called 'Born To Be Fried.' The title comes from a comment my mother once made about chickens. She said, 'Don’t you think some things were just born to be fried?' I call it chicken-fried Nora Ephron.

"I’ve also written the first draft of romantic comedy (working title: Desire Daily) that was a result of a Book-in-a-Week workshop. I call it my book-in-a-week-that-took-twenty-two days. It’s about Mahogany Marsh, a nightside editor for the Desire (Texas) Daily Democrat. When she loses a promotion to a good-looking Yankee with Kennedy hair, she thinks she’s getting even by reducing him to hero-fodder for her romance novel-in-progress. But who will get the last word?"

Titles have always been the easiest part for Ann. She told me they usually come to her before she starts writing. In the case of Desire Daily, she changed the title after she'd written the first chapter, because she's also changed the name of the newspaper and the town.

"My titles are almost always from a line in the book and not a generalization, like 'Sullen Surrender' or 'Dark Denial,'" she said, adding, "I had to check Amazon.com to make sure those weren’t actual titles."

I wondered what Ann's strangest habit is.

"Some of my friends would say it’s my love of solitude," she confessed. "I’ve been driving on the same tank of gas for over a month. I do play mah jongg once a week, play guitar and sing with another group of friends every few months, and volunteer at the local Animal Birth Control clinic. So it’s not as if I’m a total recluse. I also have a husband I enjoy spending time with. And now that I’m retired I sometimes (gasp!) watch TV and read for pleasure."

I asked her about her heritage.

"Before they headed off for California in The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family lived next door to my grandparents," she said. "Seriously, I come from hardscrabble Oklahoma and Arkansas roots now firmly planted in Texas."

She's never eaten a crayon, but admits she used to run her finger across the windowsill and eat the dirt. And, she also at newspaper at one time. "My husband insists I not eat his column," she told me.

And, she not sure if she could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. "But I can tell the difference between corked and boxed," she said. "I do have my standards."

She also has a rare talent.... or did while she was growing up. I have to admit, I've never met anyone else who would admit to being able to do this. When I asked her if she could unwrap a Starburst with her tongue, she told me, "I never tried, but in sixth grade I was the only kid in the neighborhood who could blow up a bicycle tube by depressing the stem with an incisor. Since we lived in Big Spring, where there were lots of goatheads to puncture our tires, my services were in great demand."

Finally, I asked Ann, "What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?"

"Q: What’s one thing about you most people don’t know? A: I once ran a six-mile race dressed as a lobster. I’m not boasting when I say that for an hour or so, I was really hot."

You can keep up with Ann on her website, http://annwhitaker.com

Growing Season by LK Hunsaker

“We’re going to be late.”

Cheryl heard her friend’s chiding but she had to change. The dirty spot on her blouse from rubbing against the dorm’s hallway stood out horribly. She’d spent too long trying to get her hair just right and her outfit, a soft blue, kind of denimy look, put together just so. And now she had to start again.

Flinging the shirt in the hamper, she sighed and stood at her closet. If she wore a different color, she would have to change her barrette and it took forever to get it right. It had to be something that buttoned so as not to have to pull the garment over her hair. Sifting through, she paused at a blouse she rarely wore. Lower cut than she normally preferred, it was at least the right color. She was twenty-one today. There was no reason she couldn’t flaunt just a little.

“I’m coming!” She yelled out the window at another chide, annoyed at needing to yell because yelling was so … noisy. It was her party. If they were late, she should be forgiven. They wouldn’t be, though. Cheryl was never late, unless you counted being less than a half hour early late. Even she knew it was crazy to have to always be so early, but it couldn’t be helped. She was thrown off and disconcerted unless she had that extra time.

Spending her big twenty-first at the park wasn’t her idea of exciting. She didn’t want a bunch of people drifting in and out of her dorm room, though, and leaving a mess for her to clean. They talked about meeting at a bar but many of her friends weren’t legal age yet and she didn’t want them left out. Patty suggested the park, renting a pavilion with a grill and coaxing a couple of their male friends to cook hamburgers and hot dogs. Patty could convince any male to do nearly anything. It was scary.

Buttoning the last button, she grabbed her handbag and rushed outside to where Patty waited, shaking the keys.

“About time.” Her eyes noticed the different blouse. “Hoping to get lucky?”

“Stop it.” Cheryl felt her face redden. She sometimes wondered if she was the only girl in her dorm who hadn’t, and they teased her relentlessly. Patty gave her a smile. Along with the teasing, Patty often told her to hold her ground and that not as many had been “lucky” as claimed they had. They were only too chicken to admit they hadn’t.

After a death-defying ride through Peoria’s streets that led from Bradley University to Glen Oak Park, Cheryl nearly jumped out of the car. “One more of Patty’s car trips survived.”

“Hey, I got us here, didn’t I? And we’re not even late, no thanks to you.”

She threw Patty a rolled eyes disapproval and turned to … smack right into a moving body … a large moving body.

“I’m so sorry. I thought you were going the other direction.” A large hand caught her when she stumbled backwards.

A large dirty hand … attached to a large dirty man. She looked down at her outfit. The smudge from the hallway was nothing compared to … dirt … smelly dirt, speckled all over her blouse.

“Are you all right?”

She brushed at it, ignoring him.

“Don’t do it that way. Wait.”

Her fingers pressed the dirt into the material. She looked like she’d fallen into a hole … a large smelly hole. Patty was yelling at him, calling him names Cheryl wouldn’t begin to say.

“I am sorry.” His voice echoed his words. He was looking at her, paying no attention to the insults.

“You should be, you big oaf. What are you doing walking around like that in public, anyway? Don’t you have any pride?”

“Patty, stop. It was an accident.”

“An accident? That’ll never come out. And now we will be late.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Cheryl finally looked up, past the dirt. His face, unlike the rest of him, was perfectly clean other than droplets of sweat rolling down in front of his ears. His hair was neat and trimmed. His eyes … beautiful brown.

“Honestly, I’d be glad to pay for the cleaning or…”

“You always look like this?” She hoped he knew she was teasing.

“Whenever I’m working. Hazard of the trade.”

“Oh?” She hushed Patty when her friend told the man – the well-built, friendly-looking man -- he’d done enough and they had to go fix her for her party. “What is your trade?”

“Panhandling, from the looks of it.” Patty threw a sneer.

“Landscaping.” He glanced down at a bag by his feet. Compost. “I’m working my way through school so I can climb high enough to be in the business without always looking like this.”

“You help make the park look this pretty.”

He grinned. “Among other things. I didn’t do much for you, though. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

“Yes.”

“Name it.”

“I’m twenty-one today. How about bringing a friend and meeting us for drinks later? Or do you have a girlfriend?”

He scrunched his lips a moment, considering. “No girlfriend. She married someone else.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. What time and where?”

With Patty staring, her mouth open, Cheryl suggested nine o’clock, late enough to be sociable at the park and then go clean up for … “I’m Cheryl Richards, by the way.”

“Alan Taylor. It’s nice to meet you, and I’d shake your hand but I’ve done enough damage already.”

With a smile, she held out her hand. “Compost helps things grow, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s a sign.”

“Maybe it is.” He accepted, holding her eyes until Patty pulled at her.

Cheryl refused to go back and change. She was already later than her half hour early schedule. As much as Alan Taylor had just thrown her, though, she decided feeling off wasn’t such a bad thing.

About the Author: LK Hunsaker writes mainstream romance with an artsy twist and plenty of nature. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids and is working on her fourth novel. Growing Season introduces two characters from her first novel, Finishing Touches.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Black Lyon Publishing

Kerry A. Jones, publisher of Black Lyon Publishing, says, "Hello, romance fans! I’m so excited that The Long & Short of It has invited Black Lyon Publishing to be in their spotlight. I have five great books and authors to tell you about … and to show our appreciation for visiting here, Black Lyon is giving away one ebook (any one of your choice from the five featured this week) to each of three different winners."

There’s Gotta Be Something More by Maggie Grey

Like cowboys? Then this is the book for you! Author Maggie Grey is a certified therapeutic riding instructor who started thinking about “where she was in life and all the things she wanted to do.” From that thought was born a heroine who’s been through hard times, finally gets a break, and meets an absolutely to-die-for cowboy in the mountains of Montana. I have to say, the heroine’s thought process is funny and feisty even when she’s facing the struggles of raising a child alone, which is a combination that really makes a reader root for her to get that happy ending!

#####

The words kept running through her head:
There’s gotta be something more.
With Zach Baker, there just might be.


Divorce. Dead-end career. Disaster. Then fate steps in and changes Jesse’s life in an instant. With her dreams now close enough to touch, she moves to the mountain splendor of Montana with her young daughter. Far from city life, her plans to start her own riding school start to take shape—with the help of a certain cowboy down the road.

A girl with money and a passing interest in horses sure isn’t enough to turn Zach Baker’s head. With the ice wall around his heart firmly in place, he isn’t about to let Jesse chip away at it. It’ll take more than just the heat of attraction to melt that ice, and attraction is all he feels for Jesse, isn’t it? But then, he has been wrong before.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Black Lyon Publishing

Kerry A. Jones, publisher of Black Lyon Publishing, says, "Hello, romance fans! I’m so excited that The Long & Short of It has invited Black Lyon Publishing to be in their spotlight. I have five great books and authors to tell you about … and to show our appreciation for visiting here, Black Lyon is giving away one ebook (any one of your choice from the five featured this week) to each of three different winners."


Mirror Blue by Thomma Lyn Grindstaff

Mirror Blue was a labor of love for Thomma, I think. She worked and reworked this manuscript over the years until it was polished to a shine before submitting it, and her efforts most definitely paid off; she’s written a truly moving love story. In this book, we have an older man and a younger woman each with a very realistic amount of emotional baggage and “life stuff” to overcome. Thomma was inspired by a Tennyson poem to write about a heroine who had “felt like a shadow all her life and must learn to become more of a risk-taker in life and love.” The hero is a Vietnam War veteran and acclaimed author – just a big, tough bear of a man who’s pretty hard not to fall for. (By the way, cat lovers and anyone who’s had to deal with an obnoxious ex-wife need to read this book! You’ll see what I mean…)

#####


He’s her first chance at love.
She’s his last.


Free spirit Aphra Porter never thought Isaac Lightfoot would remember the letter she wrote to him years before. But by some miracle, he does. Now a successful Web site designer in her thirties, Aphra meets the man whose writing talents she’s always idolized—an encounter that leaves her spinning. No longer is Isaac a distant image, but a flesh and blood man who looks at her like no one has looked at her before.

A critically acclaimed author and Vietnam war hero, Isaac is one tough bear of a man. Faced with the physical and emotional scars of war, a relationship with a daunting age difference, and an ex-wife bent on tearing Aphra from his life, he’s about to learn that leaving the past behind and building a new life can be the toughest battle of all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Black Lyon Publishing

Kerry A. Jones, publisher of Black Lyon Publishing, says, "Hello, romance fans! I’m so excited that The Long & Short of It has invited Black Lyon Publishing to be in their spotlight. I have five great books and authors to tell you about … and to show our appreciation for visiting here, Black Lyon is giving away one ebook (any one of your choice from the five featured this week) to each of three different winners."

Remembering Erin by John Foley

“The heart remembers what the mind forgets.” That sentence from the back of the book sums up the core of Remembering Erin. John says he set out to write a story about regret, loss and redemption – and wow did he ever! At the start of Remembering Erin, his hero has just awoken from a coma with only the name Erin on his lips. As his memories unfold, so does a story of a once-in-a-lifetime love. The “black moments” in this story are real tearjerkers, but I think that’s what helps make the ending of the book so powerful. This love story is also unusual in that it comes primarily from the hero’s point of view – and it makes you believe that some loves are just meant to be.

#####


The heart remembers
what the mind forgets.


After surviving a vicious bear attack, Sean Mulaney awakens in an Anchorage, Alaska hospital with a veil over his memories. Erin is the name he whispers in his sleep. Baffling to those around him is the identity of the woman who clings to the edges of his mind and the reason she’s not at his bedside.

As the veil lifts, Sean pieces together stories of passionate love, plans made, and a dream ripped apart. In the midst of his recovery, the greatest survival story of all might be that of a love lost seventeen years earlier—a love destined to be again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Black Lyon Publishing

Kerry A. Jones, publisher of Black Lyon Publishing, says, "Hello, romance fans! I’m so excited that The Long & Short of It has invited Black Lyon Publishing to be in their spotlight. I have five great books and authors to tell you about … and to show our appreciation for visiting here, Black Lyon is giving away one ebook (any one of your choice from the five featured this week) to each of three different winners."


Reckless Liaisons by Kayleigh Jamison

We weren’t too actively looking for regency romances, but this book is regency at its best and there was no way we could pass it up! Kayleigh has written a story about a handsome yet tortured duke, a ravishing beauty, London society, intrigue, betrayal, and a passionate love affair. Kayleigh says, “It started with a single idea: how would a proper gentleman react to finding an unconscious, beautiful girl in a rosebush?” She says Reckless Liaisons has “Beauty and the Beast undertones” with the damaged hero and headstrong heroine, and I think those undertones help set this sexy tale apart from other historicals.

#####


Was she a second chance at love—
or his golden opportunity for revenge?


Sebastian Cade, reclusive Duke of Rutland, has gone to great lengths to withdraw from the London society he’s come to despise. Still reeling from betrayal and tragedy, he finds himself powerfully attracted to his
lovely new raven-haired ward—so much so that he begins to question the last five years of his life.

When Julia Deveraux awakens in the Duke’s rose garden, the memories flood back. A betrothal she detests. The great black horse stolen from her father. Her near escape … Now under Sebastian’s care, she sees the rumors of his disfigurement are far from true. But will her secret connection to his sworn enemy tear them apart before love brings them together?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Black Lyon Publishing

Kerry A. Jones, publisher of Black Lyon Publishing, says, "Hello, romance fans! I’m so excited that The Long & Short of It has invited Black Lyon Publishing to be in their spotlight. I have five great books and authors to tell you about … and to show our appreciation for visiting here, Black Lyon is giving away one ebook (any one of your choice from the five featured this week) to each of three different winners."


Shadow Lake by M. Jean Pike

This is the third Black Lyon release by M. Jean Pike, one of the most amazing authors I’ve come across in years. Her characters are simply… “real.” Shadow Lake is a contemporary romance without a lot of the steam you see in many romances these days, and that formula proves heartwarming and poignant. (I’ve yet to see an M. Jean Pike book that doesn’t make me cry at least twice!) Jean has a fascinating list of personal interests, ranging from psychology/mental health to antiques to the supernatural. Those interests translate to an innate ability to capture a sense of fate in her romance novels. It’s spooky how well she makes a reader believe in destiny with her characters! Shadow Lakeis also the first book in her planned “Love on the Lake” series. I can’t wait to see the rest.
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They weren’t looking for love.
So love found them.


Sexy campground owner Shane Lucy needs summer help. Divorced and raising a teenage son alone, the idea of finding love is the last thing on his mind. Yet there’s something sincere and kind about lovely Emma, something genuine unlike anything he’s encountered before.

Emma Beckman is trying to pick up the threads of her unraveled life. Recently widowed, she ventures into Shadow Lake for the prospect of tranquility and a new summer job. Her new boss is a prospect all his own—a magical, beautiful prospect … of love on the lake.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Author Interview: Samantha Rhodes

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Samantha Rhodes, whose book Passon's Professor was published by Midnight Showcase Fiction. She also has a poetry chapbook, To-wit To-woo, published under her real name, Peggy Landsman. "I didn't think Peggy Landsman sounded very romantic," she said as she explained her choice of using a pen name for Passion's Professor.

Samantha's journey to publication was not a short one. She began writing stories and poems as a child and still has copies of her first works. "Leetin and Corseo," a short story she wrote and illustrated with crayon drawings when she was about five, was a romance about a girl who is kidnapped by the King of China and imprisoned in a tower when she refuses to marry him. She is, of course, rescued by her true love.

A few years later, she wrote her own mystery story after reading dozens of Nancy Drew books. It was called "Rusty Renson and the Secret of the Ruby-Eyed Statues." Rusty had eleven sisters and a mother, whose names all began with "R."

Samantha said that her characters always come first when she's writing and the plot grows out of them. "They are what they do," she told me. "They have to exist before they can do anything." I asked Samantha to tell us about Passion's Professor.

"I was inspired to write Passion's Professor by an editor from Simon & Schuster. I saw her on a talk show one afternoon," she replied. "She was asking for romance manuscripts for the popular Silhouette Romance line. (This was back in 1984.) So I read a half-dozen Silhouette romances and then wrote mine. I loved the challenge. I had no idea when I started that I would be able to complete it. It was a wonderful experience to fill 250 blank pages. I wrote the first draft in longhand in a three-ring notebook.

"I got a literary agent in New York City in 1985. She loved the book, said it was like 'eating a box of chocolates.' But she was unable to sell it because at that time the romance market had slowed way down. In 2006 I revised the manuscript and sent it out to a few online publishers. The rest is history."

Readers of Passion's Professor have told Samantha they'd like to see it as a movie.

"Some have commented that they love my love scenes," she told me. "Others have said that reading it made them want to visit Berkeley, California. Some have told me that they love the ending, find it beautiful."

Samantha told me that she's mostly experienced two types of writer's block.

"The first happens when I'm busy, distracted, maybe depressed, or just in need of a break from writing. I call these my 'fallow' periods. I've experienced several prolonged fallow periods over the past several years, but at the end of them, my writing seemed to have improved.

"The second kind happens when I've been working on the same piece very intensely and need to distance myself from it for a while. Then I simply start working on a different project," she explained. "I like to have several projects going at the same time. That way there's always something I can do."

When Samantha's not reading, she has several other interests that keep her busy.

"In no particular order," she stipulated, "I like to read; swim—especially in the ocean, but a pool will do; go for walks; spend time with my husband; listen to music—especially classical, but my taste is very eclectic. My husband and I read out loud to each other before going to sleep at night. This is something I always look forward to. We've been reading the Lanny Budd series by Upton Sinclair, but now we're taking a break from that and reading Robert B. Parker's early Spenser books. We like watching movies together after work. We do not have a television. We borrow DVDs from the library and watch them on our computer monitor. I used to paint, especially in oils, but I haven't done that for a while. One of these days I have to get back to drawing and painting."

Samantha lived in Japan for a year, and shared with me she ate lots of raw seafood, including raw octopus and squid. "Once, I also tried some raw beef liver," she said. "I did not try raw horse meat—or any other kind of horse meat. I told my enthusiastic hosts that I had an allergy to it."

"What do you want to know about the future," I asked.

"Even if it were possible, I don't think I would want to know about the future," she told me. "I like the feeling that life is an adventure, that the unexpected happens. But I do admit that I wouldn't mind knowing the numbers of the next winning lottery ticket! I would have no problem having my life be an adventure without money worries. Then I could spend more time writing and my husband could spend more time writing music. And we could spend more time together."

Samantha is a second-generation American on her father's side.

"My father's parents came here in the early 20th century from Russia," she said. "I have a copy of my paternal grandfather's conscription notice. He was supposed to show up to enter the czar's army sometime in 1917! He emigrated before then.

"I don't know where my mother's father was born, but her mother was born in New York City in 1901. On her birth certificate, she was listed as a 'black Jew.' That was a derogatory comment—on an official document! My mother's grandparents were from Romania, so I guess that makes me a third-generation American on my mother's side (or a two-and-a half generation if my grandfather was born in Romania)."

She loves thunderstorms, as long as she's safe inside. "Thunder and lightning are so exciting," she said. "And if I am outside just before the storm breaks, I love the feel and smell of the air. I've also had wonderful experiences being in the ocean when great big drops of rain were falling on the water, but the lightning was far away."

She admitted to me that she cries during movies all the time.

"Sometimes I cry along with everybody else when there is an obvious reason to cry. Off the top of my head, I remember crying during Little Big Man when the Hoffman character's young Indian wife gets shot. I've seen the movie more than once. The last time I saw it, I remember thinking to myself that I wouldn't cry again, but I did. I also remember crying during Apollo 13. When they've succeeded in returning to Earth and are finally walking down the tarmac, it's very moving.

"Sometimes I cry at things that nobody else cries at. Right now I can't think of an example in a movie, but I do remember (in 1969) crying at a song—the Beatles' "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" My friends all thought I was nuts. To this day, I'm not really sure why I cried. Must have been some existential thing."

Unfortunately, she can no longer eat pizza. "I can no longer eat garlic, tomatoes, spicy things..." she shared with me, but when she could her favorite was Zachary's (in Berkeley, California) artichoke and pineapple.

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

"Read more than you write. Read everything," she said. "Find the best works in every genre, even genres you don't think you are particularly interested in. And remember what Somerset Maugham said: 'There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.'"

You can keep up with Samantha on her website, http://home.att.net/~palandsman/samantha.htm

The Sweetest Boyfriend by Phoebe Matthews

I am sitting on the back steps of my porch trying to catch my breath while my heart pounds and my feet ache and sweat runs into my eyes. And here’s why.

My boyfriend, Tarvik, can’t swim. He’s new to Seattle, and all you have to do is look at a map to know that Seattle offers all sorts of opportunities to swim or sink.

Tarvik is cute and blond and good natured and the sweetest boyfriend I’ve ever had so of course I don’t want him falling off a dock and drowning.

That’s why I enlisted the help of my cousin Jimmy. We packed a picnic and drove to the nearby Cascades, up through winding forest roads to a mountain lake that has a beach and boats to rent.

Tarvik agreed that the lake was beautiful and it might be fun to go boating. We explained that we were going swimming.

“You want me to walk into the water? How deep is it?”

“Deep enough for swimming,” Jimmy said.

“I can’t swim,” Tarvik said.

“You can do anything,” I said and gave him my sweetest smile.

He never actually consented, but he stopped arguing. Jimmy took one of Tarvik’s elbows and I grabbed the other and we kicked off our sandals. We were wearing cutoffs and tee shirts.

Out we went, shivering and gasping, until we were waist deep. Our tee shirts clung to our backs, hot and sweaty in the sun. From the waist down, we ached with cold.

“All right, now you lie down in the water,” I said.

His blond eyebrows shot up almost to his hairline. “You want me to put my face in the water?”

“Yes,” I said because everyone knows that’s the first lesson.

Sometimes my cousin Jimmy is kinder than I am. He said, “You can lie on your back. We’ll hold you up and you will float.”

“I am not a leaf,” Tarvik said. “I do not float on water.”

“Or you can try it face down,” I said.

He glared at me but he let us lower him until he was stretched out on his back, his nose and toes pointed up toward the sunny sky, his eyes scrunched shut. Jimmy and I kept our hands under the heavier parts.

“There, how’s that?” Jimmy asked.

“Like my worst winter memories,” Tarvik muttered.

“Relax,” Jimmy said. I had my hands under Tarvik’s body and I didn’t feel any relaxing so I tickled him which made him squirm, relaxing him a very slight bit. His jaw clenched so tightly that the muscles bulged.

Jimmy said, “Now, we are going to take our hands away. Stay still and you’ll float.”

When Jimmy nodded at me, I pulled my hands away. Tarvik neatly folded up and sank, butt first, with his feet and the top of his head disappearing last beneath the water. Before we could reach for him, he got his feet under himself and shot up through the surface, sputtering, spitting, rubbing at his eyes.

“You have to keep your back straight,” Jimmy said.

“You told me to relax!”

“Maybe not that much.”

Over his groans and protests we tried again and again and endlessly on and every time he sank.

At some point Jimmy decided that Tarvik had swallowed enough of the lake. While Tarvik stood between us trying to rub his face dry and cough out water, Jimmy started slowly poking with the tips of his fingers at Tarvik’s arms, shoulders, chest, back.

Between coughs, Tarvik mumbled, “What are you doing?”

Jimmy looked at me and said, “He’s hard as a rock. You and me, we’re wood, cuz, but he’s rock. I’ve never seen a rock float.”

“I need to try again,” Tarvik said.

I left the two of them in the lake and waded out to the grassy edge to sit in the sun.

By the time Jimmy and Tarvik gave up and joined me on the shore, they were both shivering, their mouths blue with cold.

After we finished off our picnic, I figured Tarvik would stretch out on the grass in the sunshine and fall asleep. And he did, for maybe twenty minutes. Then he got up and waded back out into the lake.

“Maybe I should teach him to tread water,” Jimmy said. “That way he can at least keep from sinking until somebody pulls him out.”

Tarvik disappeared under the surface, then shot straight up and stood, spitting out water and gasping loudly for air.

I grinned at Jimmy. “Let him try a little longer. He is having so much fun.”

“Can’t think why he loves you,” Jimmy said.

Tarvik stood waist deep in the lake, his back to us, shaking water out of his yellow hair, the sun gleaming on his muscular body.

I said, “He’ll quit when he’s bored.”

Nice theory. For the rest of the summer, we went to a variety of swimming beaches, some at lakes, some on the edge of Puget Sound, and Tarvik waded in and tried again and again.

By then I felt really guilty. “Listen, maybe what you need to do is get a good life jacket. You need one, anyway, for boating.”

He nodded and went right back out in the water.

To cut this short, yes, he did learn to swim. I don’t think he enjoys it, but he does it. It’s that dedication and determination, added to a very sweet disposition, that makes him such a great guy.

Or at least, that’s what I thought.

Until the day he hugged me and said, “I learned to swim for you. Now it’s time for you to learn to jog with me.”

“What’s one got to do with the other?” I asked. “Swimming is a life-saving skill.”

“I learned to swim so that I can have a long lifetime of loving you. If you go jogging with me, we’ll have that much more time together.”

Walked right into that one, didn’t I? So here I sit, sweaty, exhausted, and with sore feet.

And here he comes. He kneels down in front of me and carefully washes off my face with a cold, wet cloth. Good. He washes my feet. Wonderful. He sits next to me and massages my shoulders. Heaven.

And then he kisses me and whispers, “Thank you for jogging with me. There’s no one in the whole world that I’d rather have for company.”

“Jogging with you is fun,” I say. What I don't say is the best part is when we stop.

About the Author: Phoebe Matthews writes the urban fantasy Mudflat series for BookStrand featuring astrologer Claire Carmody who lives in a neighborhood where old magic hides out. Phoebe wrote articles for astrology magazines for several years. Combining that background with her love of urban fantasy, she put the two together in the Mudflat series and located the stories in Seattle, Phoebe's hometown and favorite place to be. The first book, Tarbaby Trouble, won the 2009 Eppie for Best Fantasy. The second book was an Eppie finalist. Her other published works include Deja Vu Lover for TheWildRosePress. "The Sweetest Boyfriend" features Mudflat's Claire and Tarvik and Jimmy in a new story

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Francesca Prescott


A Moonlight Ride on Horseback

The moon will be full tonight, and it’s our last evening together, so we’re going on an adventure. My friend Michelle is taking us horse riding by the light of the moon in the spectacular Ibizenco countryside

Michelle’s riding stables are located in a quiet, unspoiled area of the island, between the villages of San Matteo and Santa Gertrudis. Open all year round as a riding school and livery stables, during the summer months, Michelle also holds weekly riding camps for children. When my daughter was younger, she spent many an idyllic week at Michelle’s camps with her friends. The children slept in teepees, which was an adventure in itself! They learnt how to look after horses, had riding lessons, and went for long, picnic rides in the hills. If it was too hot to ride, Michelle took them to the beach, or to the swimming pool. They loved it!

Over the years, I’ve often gone riding with Michelle, either early in the morning, or late in the afternoon to avoid the searing heat. But my most memorable rides have taken place after sunset, under the full moon.

Tonight, mounted on sure-footed, comfortable, well-trained Spanish horses, we’ll set out with Michelle at dusk. Under an aquamarine sky, we’ll amble quietly along country lanes edged with olive and almond orchards. We’ll pluck juicy, ripe figs from trees, gobbling them greedily along the way. We’ll head into the pine forest along meandering trails, ducking low branches, letting our horses pick their way across the stony terrain. We’ll skirt stunning old farmhouses and isolated, luxurious properties, standing in our stirrups to take sneak peeks into gardens straight out of glossy magazines. We’ll wander through hills and meadows, ford parched streams. Suddenly, as we reach the top of a hill, a giant amber ball will appear on the horizon, which is now a spectacular shade of amethyst edged with peach, gold and tangerine.

Welcome, moon! We’ll stop for a while, awed by the silence, our reins loose, our shoulders hunched, watching the full moon chase away the remains of daylight, watching the sun-baked countryside relax in the iridescent, silver glow. We’ll sit quietly, awed, content and at peace, before picking up our reins and slowly heading back to the stables in the warm, moonlit darkness, our lungs inhaling the heady scents of nature, as eager as our horses to get home and feast upon our evening meal.

****

I hope you have enjoyed visiting Ibiza with me this week. If you’d like to spend more time on this beautiful island, why not pick up a copy of my romantic comedy, Mucho Caliente! – Wish upon a Latino Superstar? It is available as an e-book as well as in print. For more details, please see my website: www.francescaprescott.com.
Lots of love,
Francesca
June 2009

Francesca Prescott
"MUCHO CALIENTE! - Wish upon a Latino Superstar"
An effervescent romantic comedy
LASR: Best Long Book of the Year 2008 : "Laugh out loud hilarious!"
NOR: Reviewer Top Pick : "A seriously fun book with more twists and turns than expected"
CRR: “Hard to put down”
www.francescaprescott.com