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Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Connie Chastain

On Writing

"Writing is agony. I hate it. ....When I'm writing, I spend a lot of time thinking, 'My, doesn't the top of the fridge look dirty'. It takes for ever. I like thinking about writing. I like having written. But actually sitting down and doing it ..." -- P.J. O'Rourke, journalist, writer and political satirist, to Christopher Bray of the U.K.'s Telegraph, 2005

P.J., I know what you mean. I don't have your credentials -- fame, education, publication history, ideological about-face -- but, boy, can I relate.

I'm a made writer, not a born one. My writing is not a talent I'm nourishing; it's a craft I'm trying to hone. Is it easier for a born writer? I have no idea. But, in O'Rourke fashion, while I dread the process, I do like thinking about writing and I like having written. I'd even go so far as to say I like reading what I've written.

Of course, I run across something now and then and think, "I could've said that better." Probably true of most authors. But all in all, I usually like what shows up in the final draft or the published page. I think that's also true of most authors. Thank goodness, huh? For all of us from the O'Rourke school of I-hate-writing, it would be appalling to go through that whole grueling process only to hate what we've ended up with.

That's surely not the case of my debut novel, Southern Man. I love the story, I'm reasonably proud of my telling of it, and I've been pleased by the reception it's getting from readers and reviewers. In fact, one of the most gratifying items was a comment from LASR reviewer Edelweiss: "This is a well written story, with prose that's concise and silky to read."

When you're a made writer, that's music to your ears.

It's been over twenty years since my first attempt to write a romance novel. Coquina was a behemoth psychological romance (approaching 200,000 words when I finally gave up on it) with a mixed up heroine who lived inside a protective shell--hence the title. Her shell was shattered by the breathtaking biracial hero who's maternal g-g-grandfather was a samurai and whose paternal g-g-grandfather was a colonel in the Confederate army. Well aware that my writing was mediocre, at best, I borrowed books on writing from the library, searching for the how-to's of concocting impressive sentences-- those that are long and complex but, paradoxically, easy to follow.

Fortunately, I didn't find such a book. What I found was How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively by Rudolph Flesch, an instruction book on simplified writing, the polar opposite of what I thought I wanted to learn. But the scales started falling from my eyes before I finished the first chapter. I devoured the rest of the book, returned it to the library, and bought a copy. I still have it--yellow-paged and worn around the edges--and I still refer to it because I'm a made writer and need to be regularly reminded how to increase the readability of my prose.

Flesch's book is not about story-telling, plot development, characterization, or theme. It's about putting words together in sentences and putting sentences together in paragraphs in such a manner that the reader is pulled along effortlessly, line by line. In Chapter Four, Gadgets of Language, Flesch quotes Fowler's The Kings English, a passage underlined in red in my copy:

"Anyone who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid. This general principle may be translated into practical rules in the domain of vocabulary as follows:

Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched.

Prefer the concrete word to the abstract.

Prefer the single word to the circumlocution.

Prefer the short word to the long.

Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.

These rules are given roughly in order of merit; the last is also the least."

In other words, don't try to concoct long, complex, "impressive" sentences.

To the extent I'm able to follow the rules for simplifying my writing, it occurs when I edit, not when I write. I still dread writing, still hate calling up a blank screen in the word processor, and my early drafts are always awful. But if I can force myself to get something--anything--in draft form, then I can edit, and that's where the process becomes enjoyable.

Before closing my first essay, I want to thank Judy and Marianne for the opportunity to step into the Author Spotlight at LASR Reviews. I plan to use these essays to pass along tidbits I have learned from writing and publishing my first novel. I hope you find them enjoyable, at least, and thought provoking.

Question: Any other writers out there from the O'Rourke school? How do you deal with it, and get your story told?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Precious Treasures by Sherry Gloag

“Excuse me I’m looking for Sarah DeLacey.”

She didn’t need the touch of his fingers resting lightly on her shoulder, nor the sound of the gravelly voice to recognize the man standing behind her crouched frame. With a smile and word of assurance for the toddler grappling with his building blocks, she rose and turned.

Would he recognize her after all these years? Ten years had passed beneath the bridge called ‘Life’. Her hair no longer flowed down her back in a smooth black curtain. Now it stood on end in carefully styled spikes of multi-hued blonde. Her once make-up-free face was carefully masked beneath skillfully applied cosmetics.

“There’s no one here of that name.” She used her maiden name now.

From beneath her colour coordinated lashes she studied her ex husband. He’d broadened out and toughened up. Money did that to a man. The sensual lips narrowed in a line of discontent, and his grey eyes resembled ash-covered ice chips. His bronzed skin had darkened from his sojourn in the tropics building exclusive resorts in exotic locations. She’d followed his meteoric rise to fame and fortune in the media, unable to avoid the zillions of pictures of him with a different woman welded to his arm each time. The coverage rose exponentially with his wealth.

Finally, she got real and stopped looking.

No whisper of a successor to her reign as his wife. No surprise there. Sarah knew his mother would persevere with her quest to see off any potential threats to her reign in her son’s home with the same speed and efficiently as she had been dispatched ten years ago.

Would she use the same lies? ‘Another man, Jason.’ Shock had rendered her speechless when her husband believed and accused her of his mother’s innuendoes. She’d shaken her head when she read the disbelief in his eyes. Died a little more each time his mother’s poisonous words etched deeper into his psyche. Until, when she’d announced her pregnancy, he’d disbelieved her and chucked her out.

Why would Jason DeLacey search her out now?

With a strange feeling of detachment she watched his eyes fill with confusion. “Her mother told me she worked here.”

He muttered the words in an undertone, but she still heard and understood them. What she didn’t understand was why her mother told Jason where to find her. She felt the blood drain from her face and reached for a chair.

“Are you O.K.?” Confusion turned to concern as he reached out to grasp her arm.

“I’m fine,” she lied. “I simply stood up too quickly.” Striving for a nonchalance she didn’t feel, she moved away from him. How could Jason’s touch still send her body up in flames? If she didn’t get rid of him soon she’d incinerate on the spot.

A wail from the far side of the room brought her back to reality and swiftly she crossed to the table of little girls drawing pictures. Without fuss she calmed the furor and settled the dispute, then turned back with the futile hope that her ex had gone.

Far from it. He’d followed her across the room and was staring at her. Confusion now warring with impatience. “You remind me of someone.”

When had the clear and coherent Jason DeLacey taken to muttering? This man held audiences captive while lecturing on the importance of construction and architecture blending in with the environment. The same man who remained unfazed while heading negotiations in boardrooms and conferences around the globe.

She decided discretion was the better part of valour and kept her mouth shut.

This was the man who’d fathered her son then turned his back on them both. Best she not forget that before she did something stupid, like beg him to take them back. Time to encourage him to leave. “I’m sorry we can’t help you. Perhaps you got the wrong location?” She saw realisation snap into place. Saw the fury darken his eyes to gun-metal-grey.

“Why?” The pain in his voice almost finished her off. Then the image of her son’s face imposed itself on Jason’s.

“You come here…” Gasping for breath she tried again. “You turn up out of the blue and ask why I didn’t fall into your arms? You arrogant b…”

“I found my mother’s diaries last week.”

“So?” Did he think that uncovering his mother’s lies, her obsession to control her son against intruders such as a wife and expected child, ten years ago, would send her flying back into his arms? Just because she’d never stopped loving him didn’t give him the right to expect instantaneous forgiveness.

Nate would arrive from school soon.

She remembered the first time Nate asked, “Mum, why doesn’t Dad visit us?”

How to tell your four-year-old child his father refused to acknowledge him? That his grandmother crowed when she’d left. “He wasn’t ready for fatherhood.” She refused to lie to Nate.

“You mean he didn’t love me?”

“He didn’t give himself a chance to love you.” She’d hauled him into her arms. “His loss.”

The doors crashed open and she watched her nine-year-old son explode into the room.

“Oh my God!” Jason staggered back a couple of steps before turning to look at her, his face ashen. “What have I done?” His pain ripped her heart in two.

“Mum?” Nate’s eyes flicked from her face to Jason’s. His shoulders went back, his chin raised, and he marched to stand in front of his mother and faced his father for the first time.

“I don’t know who you are, but I don’t want you upsetting my Mum.”

“Neither do I.” Jason’s gaze captured hers. “A long time ago I lost priceless treasures. I’m here to find out whether there’s any chance of recovering them.”

“You mean a treasure hunt?” Nate’s eyes gleamed. “What sort of treasure?”

“The only sort that matters.” Jason hunkered down and extended his hand.

Her heart won over her head as Nate connected with his father.

About the Author: Sherry Gloag enjoys reading and is an aspiring writer of contemporary romances, because she like stories with a happy ending. She lives in the East of England, where, like those who may enjoy watching the 'Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace', she enjoys watching the changing of the seasons in the countryside. Visit Sherry at her website: http://sherrygloagstheheartofromance.yolasite.com/.

Author Interview: Deborah MacGillivray

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Deborah MacGillivray, whose latest book Wolf in Wolf's Clothing, the third book in the Sisters of Colford Hall ™ series recently released by Dorchester.

And, she's currently working on two new books. The first is book four of the Dragons of Challon™ series--Redemption, which is a bit darker than Deborah's other historicals. Each of Deborah's books has a slightly different tone than earlier books. Redemption will be released by Kensington in October 2010. The second is To Bell the Vampire for Dorchester, the next book in the Sisters of Colford Hall™ series. It picks up only a few weeks after the end of A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing and is Brishen's story.

"The sexy Gypsy refused to shut up in Wolf," Deborah said, "so I had to promise him if he behaved his book would be next."

There's an interesting insider joke on Brishen that Deborah shared with me.

"He is 'actually' the great-great-great-grandson of Milosh, Dawn Thompson's hero in The Ravening. She was working on The Ravening (for which she went on to win the Romantic Times Award) and she said her hero Milosh was to die for. We laughed we both had Gypsies in our current WIPs, so we thought it would be fun to make my Brishen a descendant from her Milosh!"

Because of the books scheduled to come out, Deborah is on killer deadlines. One book is due next month and another at the first of the year. Needless to say, she's not doing a lot of reading. However, she did just finish Cynthia Breeding's Prelude to Camelot.

"It's an amazing book," she told me. "She just gets better and better with each book she does. She takes the Camelot stories and makes them new again, magically breathes life into these characters we know so well."

I asked Deborah if she ever suffered from writer's block.

"No, I don't really," she said. "I often hit walls, but I could easily switch to writing something else, so it’s not a true block. Author Melanie Jackson once told me contract writers could not afford the indulgence of having writer’s block. I have to say she hit the nail on the head there. Deadlines have to be met. The brain is lazy. It would rather find a hundred tasks to play at, and will convince you that you have writer’s block. I think there is true writer’s block, but that is very rare. If you are depressed it is HARD to write. If you are sitting there thinking I am so down I cannot write, you can easily convince yourself writer’s block is the problem. It’s more a lack of discipline. You must approach it as a job: you do day in, day out, whether you are sick, despite emotional upsets...whatever comes along."

Deborah told me she wrote her first book when she was twelve.

"I laugh with author Lynsay Sands over this," she said, "since her first book was at the same age, and both our mothers were horrified their daughters wrote sexy romances so burned them!"

She couldn’t find anything to read or watch on the television that satisfied her—she wanted a romance. With the encouragement of a couple of friends, she sat down and wrote a 365 page, handwritten novel.

When Deborah is writing—she writes until she drops. Thirteen or more hours a day—sometimes up to eighteen. "Somewhere along the way I try to remember to eat and sleep," she said. "I'm a night own and prefer to write then. I get more writing done at night. The Muse thrives when the moon sets."

Deborah has five books out, with the sixth being released next month, as well as a one author anthology consisting of nine novellas. "Each holds some special quality for me," she admitted, "so to say one is more special than others would be asking a mother to chose which child she loves best. Your first book is always special. Luckily readers agree, too, because three years after its release, A Restless Knight is still selling strong.

"I really loved writing A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing. One of those times I was hitting the point where I was going through self-doubt. Wolf was magic, made me believe in myself again, so it will always hold a special place in my heart."

Deborah shared with me that she gets a lot of fan mail and said it's very gratifying when the third book in a series isn't out yet, but readers are already asking for ISBN's for book four, five, and six. She also gets a lot of letters from men.

"Some are soldiers who enjoy escaping from the harsh life away from home by visiting Medieval times," she explained. "A lot of email comes from the Far East. I think males over there are interested in Scotland and the Middle Ages. The warrior class of that period is similar to their warrior class of the Samurai, so they relate to the stories. My first book has been released in translation in Japan by Random House Kodansha and is doing very well there."

A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing, out now, is a contemporary paranormal. "Oh, not vamps or werewolves," Deborah told me, "but spooky things that happen to affect people's lives. As anyone reading the series knows, a cat tends to play a strong character in the stories. There are two in this one. It's very quirky, so I was unsure how this type of story would be received, but I have received some amazing reviews, so I guess I hit the right buttons with this one."

It's not surprising that cats play an important part in Deborah's books. Her anthology, Cat o' Nine Tails features the animal and Deborah claims them as her favorite animal.

"I love horses," she said, "but cats are just so intelligent, so giving. They never cease to amaze me. Right now I have a half-munchkin tabby named Foutchie. She’s been with me for almost nine years.

"I also have Miss Fuzz. She belonged to Dawn Thompson. When she died in 2008, Fuzz came to live with us. Dawn was so worried what would happen to her. I told her Fuzz was welcome to come be a part of our family. She is doing amazingly well. Been with us for a year and a half and is so happy here. I know Dawn would be so pleased how she is doing. She is going to be eighteen in November, but I expect her to be around for a few more years."

One of her favorite sayings also involves a cat: "You know a cat by its scratch." Deborah shared with me that it's an old Scottish adage and sums up how to judge people.

You can keep up with Deborah on her website, http://deborahmacgillivray.co.uk

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Linda Banche

A Nice Guy

I like nice guys.

My hero is decent, intelligent, and reliable. He works hard at something useful. He builds things and people up, and doesn't tear anything down. He's kind, brave and true.

Lest he sound too much like an overgrown Boy Scout, he can use his fists if necessary, but usually doesn't have to. Why? Because he's so intelligent he can outsmart even the craftiest villain. "Nice guy" does not necessarily translate as "wimp".

My hero is an ordinary man, but the circumstances of his life have dragged him through the fire. This fire, which would have destroyed a lesser man, forged him into a better man, indeed, a hero.

So, here's my hero, Richard of Lady of the Stars, my Regency time travel novella. He's furious with the heroine, Caroline, who appears out of nowhere one night in 1817 England and literally runs into him. Then she argues that his cottage is hers. While he plans to hand her over to the authorities come morning, he, decent man that he is, allows her to stay the night. And so, our story begins.

As for intelligent, Richard is a mathematician. He works as a teacher, so he does something useful. He's had his troubles, and he protects the heroine when harm threatens (telling you how would spoil the story).

And last but not least, because all romance is part fantasy, he's also drop-dead gorgeous. See picture.

But all these qualities can belong to any decent man. What sets Richard apart? In the climax of the story, he faces a choice. His heroism shines through not only by what he does for Caroline's love, but also by what he's willing to give up for it.

What a hero.

Thank you all,
Linda

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Linda Banche

Titles

I can think up some weird titles.

The title of Lady of the Stars, my currently available Regency time travel novella, is not too crazy. But what about Pumpkinnapper, my upcoming Regency Halloween comedy?

What's a pumpkinnapper, you ask? Here's the one line blurb: Pumpkin thieves, a youthful love rekindled and a jealous goose. Oh, my.

As further examples of my penchant for weird titles, here are some of the titles of the posts on my personal blog, http://lindabanche.com:

Oh, No, Not Another Author Blog!-- My very first post. Probably shows it.
How I Started--Writing, That Is--My beginnings as a writer. Yawn.
To Blog Or Not To Blog, That Is The Question (My Apologies to the Bard)-- Blogging takes a lot of time. Does it help sell books? You got me.
And How Did You Become An Author? Success out of failure. Or maybe I'm just too stupid to give up.

And then we have my blog's Shameless Promotion series--subtitled Linda's Adventures in Promotion Land:
Shameless Promotion
Shameless Promotion II
Shameless Promotion, Again
More Shameless Promotion (Does She Ever Stop?)
Shameless Promotion. Again??!!!

And the titles I like the best, from my group blog, Happily Ever After:

Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches & Ruffled Shirts
Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches and Ruffled Shirts II

This series is my ode to Regency gentlemen's clothing. (What did you think it was?) I have to write a few more posts in the same vein. We can never have too many gorgeous men in our lives. **grins**

Do titles catch your interest? What do you like in a title?

Thank you all,
Linda

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Linda Banche

Gee, This Writing Is Hard Work

When I took it into my head to write a romance, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Maybe that's why I did it. I can't imagine working this hard if I had known how much effort writing is.

I love romances. I've read lots of them and when I finished one, there was another in endless supply awaiting me. Until I ran out. How could I keep myself in romances? Why, I could write my own. So I decided to give it a try.

The secret is: it takes more than a try. It takes lots of tries, and I mean lots. Writing is not for the lazy, the procrastinator, or the person who lacks perseverance. Especially the last. When someone asks me to describe myself in one word, I say persistent--that's French for "too stupid to give up".

I've spent a lot of time warming my desk chair as I write and rewrite. Someone told me most writing is rewriting. I believe it. Sometimes my stuff comes out pretty good, and sometimes it's pretty terrible. So I rewrite. A lot. And I find that even the parts that sounded pretty good to begin with improve with rewriting.

So I write and I rewrite, and in between I try to think up an idea for a new story. I've taken courses on writing and on the Regency, which is the era I set my romances in. I've entered contests and lost them. I just lost another one. I doubt I’ll ever win.

I sent my first story, Lady of the Stars, to The Wild Rose Press. Lady started life as a contest entry. I lost--no big surprise there. But the editor who read it told me how to improve it and said to resubmit. I resubmitted twice before she gave me the contract. Like I said, persistent. Or maybe, stupid.

Now that I have a contract (I have two: Lady of the Stars is currently available, Pumpkinnapper comes out on September 30, both from The Wild Rose Press), all I have to do write some more stuff. Right? Wrong. Now the dreaded PROMOTION rears its ugly head.

If you think writing is hard, wait until you try promotion. I have a website. I contribute to nine blogs. I'm on myspace, facebook, twitter and those are only the big three. I'm almost up to triple digits on the number of yahoo loops I belong to.

The bottom line: Is anybody reading my story? I have no idea.

OK, after all this, why do I continue? Because I think my stories are good and someone else may like them, too. I'm probably fighting an uphill battle because I don't write much sex. But I'll continue. At least for a while.

Like I said, persistent. Anybody for stupid?

Thank you all,

Linda

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight:: Linda Banche

What I Like in a Romance

Story! Lots of story!

Did you think I was going to say sex? Sex has its place in romance, but sex is not at the top of my list of requirements.

First of all, my preferred type of story is historical. I don't care for contemporaries because they're too much like real life. When I read, I want a vacation from the everyday. The past contains fantasy because we can't go there and see what it's like. I used to read pure fantasy, but the magical elements have worn thin.

My love for historicals is subdivided, though. Most of the books I read are set in the Regency, that period in England history about two hundred years ago. Lords and ladies, gorgeous clothes, and a time far enough in the past for a little fantasy, but not so far as to be unrecognizable. If I venture out of my comfort zone, I'll read a book set in the next closest eras, Georgian and Victorian. Occasionally, I'll read a medieval or two, and maybe an Edwardian, but I rarely travel farther.

Next, I want something in addition to the romance. I like mystery, adventure, or suspense added to the mixture. Although the relationship is paramount, I want it to develop in a larger context. What else do these people do?

I also want likeable characters. Both my hero and heroine must be decent people. No bad boy heroes or doormat heroines for me. My hero and heroine must be equally matched in strength and intelligence. At the end of the story, I expect them to walk into the sunset together, not one following the other.

I also like humor. Real life can be depressing. As the newspaper saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads". Not for me. I want a laugh. The funny possibilities of a story lock into my mind, so I appreciate humor.

And then there is the Happily Ever After. The real world has so few happy endings. If I invest several hours reading a book, I want that happy ending. I rarely read fiction other than romances.

And last, but not least, there is sex. I want romances full of love, and sex is part of love. Some is fine, but I don't care for pages and pages of it.

So, there you have what I read, and also what I write: a funny Regency with decent heroes and heroines involved in a story full of love with another story in addition to the romance. Sex is nice, but not necessary.

And of course, a Happily Ever After.

Romance, you gotta love it.

Thank you all,

Linda

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Linda Banche

I Write Regency

Why Regency?

As I sit here among the modern world of jangling cell phones, endless boring meeting and traffic jams, I ask, how can the modern world be romantic?

The commonplace, the everyday, is not the stuff of fantasy. Take me to a world lived against a background of life and death struggles, a vivid time, different from my own, but not too different, where vast possibilities reign--and that I can experience from a safe distance among all the modern conveniences.

Welcome to the English Regency. This historical period ran from 1811 to 1820, when George III of England went mad and Parliament appointed his son, the Prince of Wales, as Regent to rule in his stead.

But the Regency is an elastic term and can encompass the time from the French Revolution to Victoria's reign. The Napoleonic wars, that decades-long struggle which could have sounded England's death knell, occurred then. The literary giant Jane Austen lived and wrote in its midst. The time was one of extremes, of fabulously wealthy aristocrats and desperately poor commoners. But the era was also one of transition, when the old world, which defined a person solely by his birth, slowly and with great reluctance, yielded a new world where a person could make his own destiny.

The period was elegant, at least among the rich. In general, Regencies are tales of the upper classes two centuries ago. I love the sparkling conversation in these stories, the elegant manners and beautiful clothes. If I had lived then, most likely I wouldn’t have been the pampered lady of the house, but a poor servant, even more overworked and underpaid than I am now.

But in the realm of these books, I am the young, beautiful Lady of Quality, married to the same husband I have now, but who’s been transformed into a young, gorgeous hunk. We are both filthy rich so I can do what I like and not have to sit in boring meetings.

And I have all the modern conveniences. Ah, what a fantasy.

Thank you all,

Linda

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mother of the Year by Elizabeth Matis

"I am the worst mother ever!" The thought ran over and over in mind as I frantically searched the crowd for my son.

Evan had been through so much with the divorce and his father’s subsequent absence from his life. He’d been so excited about the town carnival. “Everyone is going to be there, Mom,” he had said just this morning. Tears came to my eyes. He was right beside me and a second later he was gone.

“Please, he’s only seven years old,” I whispered to myself. What if someone took him?

“Evan! Evan!”

“Over here, Mom!”

A waterfall of relief washed through me at the sound of his voice. I turned to see my boy riding on the shoulders of a very tall man. Shuffling through the crowd, I nearly knock down another woman. Add pushy to the list of my many faults.

As I reached Evan my nerves began to settle - a little. “Are you okay?” I still heard the panic in my voice.

“Gosh, Mom, I’m fine.”

I then became aware of my son’s rescuer still waiting for me to acknowledge him. Worst mother, pushy, and now rude. But the man didn’t seem to notice any of those things. His smile was kind and understanding. His deep brown eyes reminded me of the brownies I baked this morning. “Thank you so much.”

“No problem.” The man swung Evan off his shoulders and placed him gently on the ground. Evan giggled.

My attention returned to my little runaway. “This is not a laughing matter, young man.” I automatically ran my hands down his little frame to make sure he was really okay.

“What’s the matter, Mom? I told you I was going over to see Matt and his Dad.”

I didn’t hear you.” For the first time I noticed Matt standing next to the man. “Hi, Matt.” I tried to sound calm as not to frighten the boy with my lingering hysteria. I looked back up at his father. “And you must be Matt’s dad.”

“That’s my claim to fame.” He smiled. “But please call me Kevin.” He held out his hand.

I laughed and reached out. “I’m Kathy.”

The contact of our hands sent a little shiver through me. If I remembered right Matt’s dad was also divorced.

“Thanks again.” What must he think of me, losing my son like that? Embarrassed, I tried to make light of it. “There goes my Mom of the Year Award.” His laughed warmed me and made me feel instantly better.

“Somehow I doubt that. Matt tells me you bake the best chocolate chips cookies ever.”

“She does,” piped in Evan.

“Besides,” Kevin added, “in the last week alone I forgot to give Matt lunch money and was late picking him up twice. So I won’t be winning Dad of the Year any time soon.”

Wow, he really did know how to make a mom feel better.

“Well, if the tree house you built Matt earns you any points then I’d say you’re a shoo in,” I said.

He laughed again. I felt a blush bloom on my face. Wow, he really knew how to make a woman feel special.

“Mom, let's go on the roller-coaster!”

“Yeah, Dad, let's go!”

“Oh no, you three go. I draw the line at roller- coasters.”

“Ah, come on, Mom, it’s a baby one.”

“But still a roller-coaster. I’m more of a cotton candy type of girl.”

“That’s my type of girl,” said Kevin. By the look on his face I could tell he didn’t mean to let that slip out.

The cotton candy stand was right next to the ride. I watched the boys stand in line while Kevin ordered. He came back and handed me one.

“Thanks.”

I smiled, he smiled.

The boys were now getting on the ride. As I took a piece of the luscious confection, I wondered about Kevin. He seemed like a great guy; why would his wife leave him?

“She needed to find herself.”

“Oh.” Did he read my mind or did it show on my face?

“Do you need to find yourself?”

“I’m not lost.”

As the ride began we waved at the boys. I turned to Kevin and almost laughed at the sight of him. So very male, except for the pink cotton candy he held. I felt like I could tell him anything.

“He felt trapped,” I confessed about my ex-husband. “Are you claustrophobic?”

“Nope.”

We talked a bit about we did, about our kids, and about our plans for the summer.

“You know I’m thinking that we could team up,” he said.

“Team up?”

“You can help me with my mom skills and I could help you with your dad skills. Maybe over dinner? Tomorrow night?”

The ride was over and the boys ran to us. “Can I have some, Mom?”

“Yeah, me too, Dad. Remember what you said? Sharing is caring.”

“That sounds like Dad of Year to me,” I said to Kevin. “But you boys can’t have anything to eat until after you’re done with the rides."

“And that sounds like Mom of the Year to me.”

The boys looked at each other. “Oh, no, they’re ganging up on us,” said Matt.

"More like working together," said Kevin.

The boys groaned but I thought together sounded great.

About the Author: Liz likes to describe herself as a mild manner accountant by day and romance writer by night. She is 23 years married and is a VPM (very proud mom) of one son, who at the age of 22 has graduated from college and is working as a news producer. Liz got the idea for this story from the many times over the years when she said "There goes my Mom of the Year Award." Check out her blog at http://taoofliz.blogspot.com

Author Interview: Anita Higman

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have with us today Anita Higman, whose latest book Love Finds You in Humble, Texas was released in February by Summerside Press. This isn't Anita's first book, however. She's been writing twenty-five years, and Love Finds You in Humble, Texas is her twenty-fourth book, and she admitted it's her favorite.

Trudie Abernathy is a little inelegant, and she’s never had much luck in love. To make matters worse, her thirtieth birthday is fast approaching and her sister, Lane, has decided to treat her to a makeover and a blind date. Trudie is about to protest, but then she meets the kind and devastatingly handsome Mason Wimberley. In spite of Trudie’s humble manner, Mason finds her attractive, funny and smart. But there’s one obstacle in the way of the budding romance: Lane suddenly decides she’s in love with Mason! Trudie has never been one to complete with her glamorous sister, even when it means giving up the things she wants. Will she be able to stay true to her humble self and find her hearts desire in the process?

Her first book came out in 1988 and it was at that point she considered herself a writer.

"It was a little book of poetry," she told me, "but it gave me a start and gave me the confidence to continue."

There are three elements that are basic for Anita when she's reading: does she care about the characters; does she want to keep turning the pages; does she remember the story long after she's finished it. When these three elements are met, she considers it good writing.

Her own writing has been influenced by three older writers, all classics: Ann Radcliffe, a pioneer of the gothic novel; Jane Austen; and Wilkie Collins, who is credited with writing the first full-length detective stories in English.

Anita told me that her writing space was "a total mess."

"I keep trying to get organized between books," she said, "and I do for awhile, but then during the process of writing my office goes all crazy again. I’ve given up on trying to be a neat-freak."

She has a nice big window in her writing area, however she likes to keep the blinds shut while she's writing. "Life outside is just too wonderfully distracting," she explained.

Some of her favorite things to do when she's not writing include going to the spa and having a facial or a massage. "I love to drift far away where no one can find me," she confessed. She also loves to go out to breakfast or lunch with a friend and on the weekends, she enjoys going to the movies or watching them at home, where she multi-tasks by bleaching her teeth, ironing clothes, doing her nails, and "other small ultra boring tasks," she said.

She's never eaten a crayon, but when she was a kid she ate petals off some of the flowers in the backyard of her house. "I guess they weren't poisonous," she told me, "because I'm still alive."

But the flower petals didn't even rate a mention when I asked her about the strangest thing she's ever eaten. That was reserved for the kangaroo she ate in a fancy restaurant while she was in Australia a few months ago. Her reaction to it?

"It's not anything I would ever want to eat again."

The kangaroo is also her favorite animal. "That's probably one of the reasons I don't want to eat it again," she said. "Also, the color, flavor, and texture was a strange experience. I don’t think kangaroo would be a big hit in American restaurants."

"Have you ever cried during a movie?" I wondered.

"Yes, big-time. I sobbed during Schindler’s List, and I filled an empty popcorn bucket with tear-stained tissues when I went to see The Joy Luck Club."

Anita shared that she's very much a morning person, getting up at 5:30 AM and going to bed at 9:30 PM. "But I really need some good coffee to wake up," she confessed.

Another confession from Anita—when she was in college she made a prank phone call to a guy she had a crush on. "There's a chance he figured out who was calling," she said. "Not sure. I guess silly prank phone calls were popular with college kids back in the 70s. Guess we had way too much time on our hands."

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

"I would love to have one of my novels made into a movie," she told me. "I know that dream is common for novelists, but I hope to make it a reachable goal within the next few years."

You can keep up with Anita on her website, http://www.anitahigman.com

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Angela Steed

The Last Words

Okay, this is my last day here. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share with you a few things that light my way in life. And with that said, I’m pleased to have finally found the answer I’ve sought after for so long.

Why romance? I’ve narrowed it down to three important words. Unfortunately, I can’t pick just one reason why I love writing and reading romance novels. So, without further ado, here are the three simple words I’ve found: Spontaneity, Men, and, of course, Love. I love these words. They go beautifully together.

So, for my last words, I decided to post excerpts from my three books to celebrate the three words I’ve come up with. I hope you enjoy them.

From Assassin’s Fall: Men

A semi-automatic, holstered in a black leather glove shined brilliantly in the dim light of the room. She unsheathed it and studied it carefully. This definitely wasn't standard issue for a cop. What was he doing with something so powerful? And more importantly, why was it dressed with a silencer?

She studied the weapon in fascination. It was beautiful, black metallic like the shine from a car. It was easy to grip. The scope was waxed, perfectly aligned as she stared down the line and fingered the trigger.

"I could stand here and watch this all day," his voice called from the doorway.

Startled, she stuffed the gun back inside the holster and then the drawer. She turned to face him, the guilty look on her face won over the shyness of being caught completely naked.

He walked to her, reached down, and then closed the drawer as if telling her in a nice way to stay out of it. Maybe he was.

"You don't have to ask," he said, eyeing her body with a look of intent. "It's my undercover weapon."

"I was only looking for soap," she said nervously as she folded her arms across her chest.

"You were snooping." He chuckled. "There's soap in the linen closet, where most soap is normally kept."

He pushed a strand of her hair over her shoulder making her shiver slightly. He groped her body with his eyes and she thought for sure he was going to pull her into his arms, throw her onto the bed and make mad passionate love to her.
~*~*~

From 1080 Kiss: Spontaneity

“Ah, yes, of course,” he said. “I just spent the past day and a half listening to some nasally inclined woman on a plane talk about her dysfunctional family, paid triple cab fare to one of the rudest drivers in Chicago, and risked getting shot at by an overindulgent, possessive spoiled rotten rock star just so I can have sex with you.”

“You went through all that just to get here?”

“Yes,” he yelled, trying to catch his breath as he glared at her. “Not to mention I had to drive to four grocery stores just to find someone to personalize your birthday cake on Christmas Eve.”

It was wrong, completely wrong as she threw her arms around his neck and planted her lips on his. At first he didn’t know what to do as he stood stiff-lipped and stunned. But with her persistence, he softened his mouth and relaxed his tense muscles.
~*~*~

And from The Sea’s Embrace: Love

“I slept for five years in a hospital vividly dreaming about a radiant light—an angel with dark silk hair and lips of red wine.” He slid his thumbs softly across her lips. “I could almost touch her, but I could never see her clearly enough to find my way to her side. And when I awoke, I remembered nothing of myself or how I came to be.

I took the vision of her with me as I made a life for myself in this world, believing one day I would discover her and wake my memory.” He intensely gazed into her eyes. “And I swore I would take this beautiful woman who called me from my darkness into my arms and whisper in her ear how much I love her.”

“And did you find her?”

He pulled her against him and slid his hands through her hair. As he held her dark strands back away from her face, he pressed his lips to her ear and breathed.

“I would fall through darkness again to be near you,” he whispered, making her body tremble. He let go of her hair, grasped the back of her head and kissed her lips. “I would steal the stars from the night sky and lay them at your feet, but they would only bow to your radiance, for you are the angel I have dreamt of, and the woman I love more than all things. You are the Goddess of my heart.”
~*~*~


Thank you for having me here this week. I had fun! =)

-Angela Steed

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Angela Steed

Spontaneity

Wow, Wednesday’s spotlight was a spontaneous decision for me. I had planned on continuing where I left off on Tuesday, but I figured what the heck! See what happens when you’re a writer? It’s a fantastic feeling to stand at a crossroad ready to choose the next road, and then decide to go off the beaten path.

What shall I do with my characters? Exactly what horrible or delightful things could I put them through? Sure they’re going to fall in love, but they need to do some unbelievable things first and there are endless possibilities.

Vince and Morgan. 1080 Kiss. Unruly male snowboarder looking for manager to whip him into shape for the Winter Games. Morgan the manager has led an exciting career. Touring with famous rock stars and getting pampered with expensive gifts are among the few things she’s earned. But then she decides to do one spontaneous thing—take on a client she never would’ve taken before. There’s our word! Vince the snowboarder may not be the most exciting guy in the world, but he’s taking Morgan in completely new directions. Instead of being stuck in a tour bus, she’s flying down the highway on his motorcycle. Instead of being lavished with expensive gifts, he takes her to a sports warehouse to shop. She’s traded her days of road travel in to take a ride up the ski lift in the most beautiful place she’s ever seen—and we’re not just talking snowy mountains ladies.

Derrick and Katherine. The Sea’s Embrace: Let me just say, this fantasy romance was written to make the reader spontaneously combust. I wanted to put the characters through so many trials and tribulations that by the time it ends the reader can finally take a breath. We’re not talking crossroads here; we’re talking a million points of…everywhere else. There is so much love between the hero and heroine that even in their darkest moments, there’s still light.

Shane and Haley. Assassin’s Fall is a contemporary, suspenseful romance. I really enjoyed writing this one. Like I said in Monday’s post, I’m a glutton for action. Haley’s a tough woman. She survives nearly being beat to death, shot, and blown up. What’s more exciting then jumping onto the skid of a helicopter to bring it down in a fiery crash just to keep the bad guy from getting away? The love scene between Shane and Haley is hot too. *grin*

I also have another contemporary suspense romance in the works, but I won’t give away any secrets…yet. So I’ll just say, Spasibo!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Angela Steed

Intermission

For those of you that enjoyed The Sea’s Embrace, here’s a short I wrote called "The Orbs."

Lauren’s footsteps echoed as he made his way down the steel walkway. Lit only by an orange sun and a hazy moon shining through glass walls, the corridor seemed empty and endless. But he continued without hesitation and without glancing at the view outside, for he was too high above the earth, and he was terribly afraid of heights

A terrible task was at hand. He cursed under his breath at the thought of these ignorant people he visited once every few months because they couldn’t get their magic right. Failed magic—and the poor tiny souls experimented on were stuck in an eternal prison, an orb of metal and—the Gods know what horrendous things they were put through!

He shook his head and sighed as he approached the door to the room. He hated this place for it stunk like sulfur, and his feet always stuck to the floor as if he walked on a thin layer of tar.

“Lauren,” the man in the doorway greeted him when he finally arrived. “You’re here just in time to receive my latest invention. A few days earlier and you might have come too soon.”

“I am curious, Mr. Lee,” Lauren replied with a quaint grin as he followed him into the room.

Chi Lee always welcomed him in the same place and in the same manner every time he came. With his large bifocal glasses, and drab brown hair tasseled in every direction, as if he’d stuck a finger in a socket, he couldn’t pass as anyone other than an inventor and scientist.

Lauren always admired his gadgets strung out on the counters, wondering what each one did, though he dared not touch them. He’d made this mistake once during one of his first trips. By pushing one of the various buttons on what looked to be a simple dinner plate, he unknowingly sent a scatter of nanites into the air to gather for an entire meal.

It would’ve been fine if he hadn’t kept pressing the button swearing whatever Mr. Lee had invented didn’t work. And so they feasted that night, but the leftovers could have fed the entire city, and quite possibly the small manmade world he lived on.

Chi was known throughout many worlds, including his own, for his brilliance in harnessing ancient magic, and could alter any substance into a masterful work of art. Or in this specific matter, he’d created a tool for the lost.

“Your city must be overrun with these failures by now,” Chi said breathing out a disappointed sigh. “If only the idiots were intelligent enough to quit conducting experiments on these little bodies. Lucky for you, we’re running out of them. But unfortunately the bastards are going to destroy every last one of these gentle creatures.”

Lauren followed him into his simple looking office, but amazing light beamed from the ceiling cast by small metal orbs, humming like a symphony of bumble bees.

“This is new,” Lauren said, bewildered by the astounding display.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

Both men gazed at the floating lights for a moment until Chi cleared his throat, returning to the task at hand as he picked up a small pair of pliers from his desk. He reached up and pulled one radiant orb from the air and held it carefully in his palm. With the small instrument, he pulled the metal tie from its place, carefully twisted the container loose, and then gently opened it.

Lauren had never seen the inside of one, so this was a real treat to see this newly constructed globe. Chi obviously took much pride in his work as he breathed out with a hearty grin, and then his eyes lit up in delight.

“The soul of a faerie,” he spoke softly as he gazed down at the small light inside what looked to be a thick glass ball. “There’s a control inside the glass that operates a tiny engine, so they no longer have to wear themselves out using their own will to keep afloat.” He touched the small propeller and gently twirled it, careful not to run his finger over the glass. “It runs only on magic from the person, or creature, or whatever else it’s instructed to follow and changes colors with each enchantment. Whether it’s good or evil, all emotions inside is let out through the exhaust system. That’s the light you see.”

“Astounding,” Lauren announced as he watched Chi carefully put the orb back together.

“I’m sorry to say there’s a large amount of them this time.” He sighed as he opened the door to his gardening room behind the office and let out hundreds of them.
He turned to face Lauren with a half-grin. “I’ve heard their whispers,” he said, chuckling lightly. “They believe you’re some sort of angel that’s come to guide them to the heavens.”

Lauren watched the amazing display of color with tears in his eyes. Whites, pinks, teals, and even a shade of blue glowed magnificently as they danced around him excitedly. And for the first time in the many, many trips he’d made to this stagnant futuristic world, he was honored to guide these lost souls to their new home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Angela Steed

Writing Romance – Men 101

So now that you sort of know who I am and what piques my daily fancy, whatever that means, it’s time to find out why I write romance novels. I’ve asked myself this question many times. To be honest, there are many answers, but I have yet to land on one single definitive word.

It’s time to analyze.

The first word that comes to mind is, men, of course. I’m sure many romance writers will say the same thing. Let’s face it, gals. Some men in the real world need to be left alone on a deserted island tied tightly to a rotting palm tree awaiting the next tidal wave. Some need kicked to the curb for being the hair on the butt of a donkey, or better yet, the ass itself (no offense to donkeys everywhere). And then when you meet that truly handsome, out of this world man who is sensitive, kind and passionate, and loves to go shopping with you, he ends up being gay. In the wise words of Jerry Seinfeld, I quote, “…not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I love shopping with my gay friend Ben who has an out of this world sense of fashion and humor. ;)

Anyway, the men we read and/or write about, you know, the gorgeous, sensitive, I’ll bend over backwards for you, dear, kind of men, very rarely we will find in real life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in love with my husband. Sometimes he needs tied to a tree and left alone to realize his faults, (insert evil laughter here). But then, most of the time, he throws me for a loop and he becomes this unbelievably romantic, sexy, passionate man that I absolutely adore. So yeah, a rare find and I’m so lucky to have found him.

When we read and write about these hopelessly in love, gorgeous gods that make us feel all squishy inside, we make them real for us so we can have our happily-ever-after. Or, if you’ve already found the real deal, like me, it could possibly be we’re sharing the idea.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Angela Steed

In A Nutshell

Okay, so this is me—Angela Steed; mother, wife, reader, writer, movie critic, cook, and comedian. People often wonder what the meaning of life is. Well I have the answer. It’s happiness. Take me for instance. I love Tillamook cheese. If I could, I’d live in Tillamook and work in the cheese shop for the rest of my life. I’d end up being three hundred pounds, but that’d be okay because I’d be happy.

Although I don’t work in a cheese factory now, I’m still a happy camper. I have my health, an amazing family, and a somewhat adventurous outlook on life. I’m not a bad person. I stick to the rules, mostly. I don’t bother anyone, except for maybe a publisher and agent or two, and quite possibly a few friends I email a million times a day (spam-less). I’m brief and to the point. I’m honest and hard-working. And though my life is basically simple, I love a little spontaneity. Why?—because it doesn’t happen very often.

My day consists of getting up before the break of dawn to play World of Warcraft (Yeah, yeah, insert nerd jokes here). About an hour later I’ll open my latest work and write until my kids get up. The rest of the day is spent working out at the gym, cleaning house, playing with kids, repairing and building computers, and cooking up my latest edible experiment. It’s family time in the evening until my wee one goes to bed. Then it’s time to break out a movie or play my level 71 Night Elf Hunter spec’d for Beast Mastery on a PVP server (Insert more jokes here, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. *grin*). I have a white lion named Toguro that kicks major butt. Ha! Er…anyway, I usually play until a little past midnight or one, and then it’s off to bed. By the way, this is my summer schedule. Everything changes when school starts. That’s when I get more time for World of Warcr…er…more productive things.

So, yeah, spontaneous combustion when it comes to daily life around here. My favorite thing to do, set aside spending waking hours with my family, is write romance novels. I love telling stories. I’m a straight-shooter, a glutton for action, adventure, love, and, yep, spontaneity!

I hope you’ll stick around with me this week. Who knows what things I’ll come up with?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Love in Any Language by Christina Cole

"You're probably wondering why I enrolled in Spanish in the first place." Six-foot Danny James slouched in his chair and grinned at me. He was failing Spanish and had asked me to tutor him. "I heard it was a romance language. I thought if I learned it, all the girls would go wild over me."

"That means it came from Latin," I explained. "It doesn't have anything to do with love."

Not that Danny needed any help attracting girls. He already had every female in high school panting over him. Me, included, although I would never let him know that. With his blond good looks, his sleek, muscular form, and that irresistible smile, he could have any girl he wanted. He would never have any interest in somebody like me.

"What can I say?" He shrugged. "I'm just a red-blooded, all-American jock."

I laughed, but in truth, his words stung. Although he meant them as a joke, they reminded me that Danny and I lived in two different worlds.

My parents came from Mexico. I was born and raised in the states, growing up in various border towns. At home, we spoke Spanish. With my friends, I chattered away in English. I loved my heritage, and I loved being part of the American dream, too.

Last summer, everything changed. We moved to a small midwestern town. People stared wherever we went, and some of the shopkeepers made it clear they didn't want our business.

When school started, I hoped the kids would put aside their prejudice and give me a chance, but I soon gave up that idea. I felt awkward and ill-at-ease and was always getting tongue-tied. I didn't fit in, and I knew it.

Then, I met Danny. I'd seen him around school, of course. When he approached me in the hall one morning, I couldn't believe he wanted to talk to me.

He needed help. Desperately. As quarterback on the football team, he knew he could lead our Eagles to victory in the big homecoming game -- if he got to play. His low scores in Spanish threatened to bench him. Would I be willing to work with him to bring up his grades?

"Why don't you just drop the class?" I asked.

His blue eyes met mine, and he shook his head. "I'm not a quitter," he said in a firm voice. That's when I knew I liked Danny. I admired his determination.

As we worked together, I sometimes flattered myself, pretending Danny enjoyed being with me. I knew better, of course. He was only there because he needed my help. He even offered to pay me, but I refused to take any money from him. Not for something as simple as speaking a language I'd known from childhood.

Some afternoons he had football practice, but every other afternoon, and sometimes on weekends, too, Danny and I sat in my family's rec room downstairs, and he'd listen as I talked about mi familia. I told him stories about my parents, and about my aunts and uncles still living in Mexico. Sometimes Danny stayed for dinner to enjoy Mama's authentic Mexican cooking. One afternoon I grabbed a CD of Mexican music and taught him salsa and merengue.

I liked Danny, and I thought maybe he liked me, too.

But then I learned the truth.

"There's a girl I want to impress," he confessed one evening. "I want to write a letter to her, in Spanish, to tell her how I feel." He grinned.

"She knows Spanish?" Obviously one of the girls in his class had caught his eye. I hoped he didn't see my disappointment. "Well, you know the basic rules of grammar, and you've got a dictionary. Why don't you write something, and I'll check it afterward, OK?" It was the best I could offer. I couldn't sit there, helping him choose the words to tell another chica how much he cared for her.

Thank goodness our time together would soon be over. I wouldn't have to smile and hide my broken heart much longer. The semester finals were coming up the next day. Danny would do well. He'd be able to stay on the football team, and no doubt he and his girlfriend would have a great time dancing at the homecoming celebration.

"Adios, mi amigo," I told him when he left that evening, quickly closing the door behind him. The sooner Danny was gone, the sooner I could forget him.

Who was I kidding? I'd fallen head over heels in love. I would never forget Danny.

The next afternoon, he caught up with me as I walked home from school. "I did it! I passed the exam." His smile melted my heart. "Thanks for everything, Maria. Or maybe I should say muchas gracias."

I nodded and kept walking. Seeing him again made my heart ache.

"Oh, you said you'd read this for me." He reached into his pocket and handed me a folded sheet of paper.

Again, I nodded. His love letter. To his girlfriend.

It was simple, yet eloquent. His Spanish was far from perfect, but his meaning was clear.

"I wouldn't change a word of it," I told him as I handed it back. "I'm sure she'll be very impressed."

He stood in front of me, a tender expression on his face. "Maria? Don't you understand?" He reached for my hand and placed the folded letter in it again. "Es para ti," he whispered. "It's for you, Maria."

"Me?" I stared down at the letter and tears of joy filled my eyes. "You wrote this for me?"

He grinned. "I told you Spanish was a romance language. Maybe I don't speak it very well, but --"

His arms went around me, and his sweet kiss said it all.

About the Author: Christina Cole has recently returned to writing after being away from her desk for many years. She has been published in confession and inspirational markets, and now plans to devote herself to romance writing. Christina lives in the midwest. She is currently at work on a full-length historical romance.

Author Interview: Pauline Trent

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Pauline Trent, whose debut novel Falling in Love was released in February by Kensington Press.

Pauline has always loved words and claimed that it was practically a prerequisite to being included in her family. "My father taught public speaking and communication," she explained. "My mother did theatre. Words have always been a part of my life. So that has always been with me. My 6th and 8th grade English teacher, Betty Witt, though, is the first person I remember making me want to write better. Writing had always come easily and earlier teachers had been impressed enough to take what I wrote at face value. She took what I could do and asked me to do more. Her classes are the first time I remember falling in love with the act of writing."

She didn't want to be an author, however. Her plan for her life was to be a theatre director on Broadway. "My hero was Joseph Papp, the director at the time of NYC’s Shakespeare in the Park and the premiere American Shakespearean director of our time. I was going to be the first woman to win a Tony award for Best Director of a Musical," she said. "Julie Taymor finally did for The Lion King, so she’s one of my heroes to this day."

By the time she was 21, though, she realized she needed to get out of theatre and she ended up in pre-law with a concentration in international law.

"I wanted to be a Constitutional lawyer or an attorney for an international human rights organization," she explained. "Now I write romance novels, which has absolutely nothing to do with Shakespeare or human rights law. It’s amazing the way life works out, isn’t it?"

Pauline is very much a night person, to the extent that she claims that for her there's only one 8:30 in the day. "I don’t think until I’ve gotten my coffee," she told me. "Pre-coffee, we’re lucky I get toothpaste on my toothbrush, let alone think anything."

She also most productive in the evenings and nights. Since she writes almost everything in long hand first (in composition books and with Pilot G-2 pens), her mornings are spent re-reading and/or transcribing what she wrote the day before. She starts her actual writing about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

"I’ll take a bit of a break, have dinner, actually talk to my husband and then go back to work about 9 and work until I hit a stopping point. Sometimes that’s an hour or so, sometimes, it’s until 1 or 2 in the morning. When I’m in what I call 'crunch time', which is the last 2-3 weeks before a deadline, though, it’s different. During crunch time, I work from about 10 or 11 in the morning until 1 or 2 the following morning. Fourteen to sixteen hour days during crunch time aren’t uncommon."

I asked Pauline to tell us about her writing space.

"I tried to have a writing space," she said. "I really did. It was a great office. It was off away from the rest of the house so that I wasn’t disturbed by the goings on in the main part of our home. It had a lovely combination of professional and personal things around so that I had what I needed close by. When I realized I wasn’t ever going into it but was writing on the couch in front of the television or at my local coffee shop, I finally had to admit that I don’t write well at a desk or in an office. Which means my writing space is anywhere I am, so long as I’ve got a notebook and a pen with me."

It bothered her at first, because she felt as if she was doing something wrong by not having a dedicated space to write. She and her husband have decided to travel and live on the road, so it's a good thing she's flexible.

Pauline admitted she doesn't do a lot of developing when it comes to her plot and characters, as they come to her almost full-blown.

"It's not uncommon for me to write my opening scenes and my ending scenes the first day or two. After that, I'm really just along for the ride."

So, for Pauline, the first fifty or so pages and the last twenty or so pages are immediately accessible. "Those seventy pages come easily and quickly. Since I don't write chronologically, after those seventy pages, I can get the scenes I know about out relatively easily. That’s when it gets hard though. Figuring out what happens between all of those scenes to tie them together, to get the characters from one known place to the next known place can really stop me cold. If I’m going to hit writer’s block, it’s going to be here."

She runs into a lot of surprises that way. She shared an example from Falling in Love.

"My four characters had just enjoyed a lovely meal together. After the break, though, Angie was in her bedroom, throwing her shoe against the wall angrily. I was shocked and couldn't wait to find out what had happened between the end of the meal when I left them and now."

She has a couple of things she does when she does hit writer's block.

"First, I try to just sit and write," she said. "I will intentionally write badly. Anything to get some words on paper. It tends to be along the lines of 'She said this then he said that then she did this and he responded with that.' Really bad. But the point is to get a basic plot out on the paper. After an hour or two of that, I tend to get back into the flow. Sometimes, I have to start several days in a row that way. It lends itself to a lot of editing. The second solution is to get out of the house, away from my office. It doesn’t really matter where – a coffee shop, the park, anywhere really. Just get a change of scenery and write somewhere else. Again, it may take a day or two but it will get me writing again."

On more of a personal note, I asked Pauline about her heritage.

"I am entirely British. My understanding of it is that I am ¼ Irish, ¼ Welsh, ¼ Scottish and ¼ English. If I’m wrong, I’m sure my mother will let me know as soon as she reads this – but that is my understanding of it. First and foremost, though, I am my father’s daughter and my grandfather’s granddaughter. That blood line heritage means more to me than my ethnic heritage."

Finally, I asked, "Who is your favorite author and why?"

"This is the most difficult question of the whole interview," she told me. "The honest answer would be Dr. Seuss. The man was brilliant in the way he put together words and created images. The ability to take complex issues and break them down for kids while keeping them complex is amazingly difficult. However, when it comes to adult authors…that’s when it gets all but impossible. I have so many authors I really truly love. If I absolutely have to choose, I think I would choose Andrew Greeley. There’s something about his Father Blackie Ryan novels. I can read and re-read those over and over again. He’s one of the few authors I keep an eye out for his next title. I love his characters and the way he tells a story. My favorite book wasn’t written by Greeley, though. Again, if I have to choose, my favorite book is The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. That time period and those people were so fascinating anyway. Several authors can make those situations come alive but there is something really special about the way George does it. Again, though, this is such a tough question because I love so many authors."

You can keep up with Pauline on her website, http://paulinetrent.com

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Jennifer Johnson

Address: East Egypt

I write romance novels for fun, but it isn't my “day job”. My day job is associate minister at a Presbyterian Church. My new release called The Clergy Affair was about me writing what I know. The book opens with a minister counseling a bride with cold feet – not that I've actually counseled a bride with cold feet; this is a work of fiction, after all.

As a minister I've officiated quite a few weddings. It is my privilege to have the absolute best view of the bride and groom. I've seen the teary emotion on the young woman's face as her father puts her hand in her future husband's; I've witnessed the fidgety nervousness of a groom as he awaits the walk down the aisle of his bride; I've spoken the vows of husband and wife as they repeat after me promises that, by God's mercy, will be kept unto death.

Yesterday was my most recent wedding which took place at a house I almost couldn't find. Though I had Mapquested directions, the location was so obscure I feared I wouldn't make it there in time for the scheduled ceremony. Though I cut it close, I did arrive, and I worked to radiate a calm demeanor before I knocked on the door with my robe draped over my arm and worship book in hand. Anxiety tends to be high for the wedding party and immediate family, so the last thing they need is the minister declaring she “almost didn't make it.”

The groom, best man, and I took our places. I opened my book to the ribboned page and waited. Pachobel's Canon in D began. Most every wedding I've officiated has had this piece of music. It's like an old friend to me. When I heard that familiar trumpet tune, confidence built within me, and I was ready to proclaim the promises to be made between these two young people. Within half an hour I was driving away with the signed marriage license in my possession. My last, and perhaps most important job, is to send in the signed marriage certificate to the appropriate courthouse so that the marriage is legally binding according to the state. With that done, I breathe a sigh of relief and mark the date on my calendar. In one year I can send an anniversary card and remember with fondness the small part I played in helping them become a family.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Jennifer Johnson

Yes. Silver does turn me on.

My children have been taking swimming lessons at the “Y”. Their teachers are perhaps seventeen years old – so close to men, but so youthful compared to me with the big four-oh breathing down my neck. I sit with the other parents on the benches hugging the walls sucking in chlorine-laden air and pondering the firm beautiful bodies of the teenagers. I examine my thoughts searching for any cougar tendencies or Mrs. Robinson fantasies and find none much to my relief. I consider that my appreciation is for the vision of a healthy young specimen who has been a kind and patient teacher to my offspring.

The children line up at the diving board and jump at one of the teachers in the deep end of the pool. This signals the end of swim lessons for the day. When we arrive home, my husband has supper on the table – chicken spaghetti. This year he will turn forty-seven. His hair which used to be dishwater blond is silver at his temples. Not gray; silver. Sometimes I watch him in the morning before he wakes up – the crow's feet next to his closed eyes, the dark stubble of beard not yet turned by time. I feel the stirrings of lust, and I am thankful.

The gratitude isn't because I'm lusting after my own husband. Lust at thirty-nine originates in gratitude to a man who still loves me after putting up with me for fourteen years, who fixed the washer last week, who raises his eyebrows lecherously at a body with stretch marks his kids caused, and who considers retirement planning with me worthy of his time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Jennifer Johnson

Faking it in Book Club

I meet with three other women on the third Friday of the month to discuss a mutually agreed upon book. When I was invited to be a part of this endeavor, I thought, “Wow! I'm in a book club! I'm finally grown up!” While feeling so mature with my book club colleagues, I pose poignant questions or read aloud quotations demonstrating I truly did read the book – until this past time. I hadn't gotten around to getting the book until the day before when I checked out the audio version from the library. I figured it isn't exactly cheating if you at least listen to it, right? And the library also had the print book so I could do my usual flip-thoughs during our meeting.

Imagine my delight when the library presented me with an MP3 player to listen to the audio book. Still meandering in the 20th century, I had never used one of these inventions as I prefer to listen to my music and audio books on these antiquated circular objects known as compact disks. Imagine my chagrin when I noted later I had to supply my own listening device for the player. Well, it makes sense, actually. Do I really want to stick something in my ear canal which had been in the ear canals of countless other library patrons? Yuck! And yet, I was left with no way to listen to the book and with only two hours time at work before the book club met – gasp!

So, I went without reading anything, but the cover and the table of contents. I resisted the urge to talk about the picture on front – a sure sign someone hadn't done her homework. Instead, I chose random pages, picked out a blurb here and there, and asked my more informed colleagues their opinion. I faked it pretty well and felt terrible, as if I had betrayed the group somehow. My only redemption would be to take the book back home and actually read it. Or to buy those little ear listening devices to plug into the MP3 player.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Jennifer Johnson

How long is too long?

I went to the doctor today and had to wait an hour and a half to even get back in the examination room. And please, don't start telling me stories about how long YOU had to wait. I'm trying to get a good rant worked up here. Honestly, do they have no concept of the value of anyone's time but their own?

When he came in the room, he sat down. I know that trick. If they actually sit the perception is the visit is longer. I learned that in my college psych class.

He asked me if I've had any problems since my “procedure”.

Yeah, dude. I just spent an hour and a half of my life in a crowded waiting room trying to ignore bad TV programming.

Does he get on his knees and ask for my forgiveness? Heck, no. He starts telling me how bad his life is. Oh, boo hoo. Sixty women vying daily for your professional presence. I can't quite work up the sympathy. Not to mention I took the afternoon off work, and I didn't even get to strip off my clothes to put on the paper gown.

Why can't they assign those little light thingies that the trendy restaurants pass out when you have to wait for a table? The nurse could give you a five minute warning to be back in the doctor's office when the doctor was finally ready to see you. Am I the first one to think of this? I tell you one thing. I bet half the people would be off their high blood pressure medicine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Jennifer Johnson

I am woman. Hear me call AAA on my cell phone.

Yesterday I had a flat tire two hours from home. Fortunately, I have AAA, so instead of changing the tire myself as I was taught to do in driver's ed. in high school, I let the professional handle it. Or, at least I let him handle it enough to get me back home.

This morning I visited the neighborhood tire man who had sold me new tires two weeks ago. I figured he at least owed me an apology for not making sure the spare wasn't flat (it was), and at most he'd give me a refund on a tire which couldn't handle getting run up on a curb. Well, I did get an apology for the flat spare. No refund was offered as he seemed to be under the impression that it was my fault for hitting the curb. I've hit curbs a lot harder than that with no damage – gee whiz!

Needless to say I had to buy a new tire, but the tire guy did put air in the spare. He also taught me how to retrieve the spare with use of this metal wrench which loosens a nut in the floor attached to a descending wire on the bottom of the car. I was so intrigued I got down on my hands and knees to get a good view unknowingly exposing my skivvies to the tire guy. I cannot fathom why I needed to know how to get the spare unless I let AAA lapse or work it in a book somehow. I did notice there is room to put something inside the middle of the spare where it is stored - like a gun or a similarly sized murder weapon.

Except I don't write suspense! Still, I can't quit thinking about what a darn good hiding place that is. I might just have to work out a plot for it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Author Interview: Laurean Brooks

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Laurean Brooks, author of Journey to Forgiveness, now out from White Rose Publishing.

Her fifth grade teacher enjoyed the oral book reports Laurean gave the class. Laurean read mysteries written for pre-teens and, when she would read the reports aloud, leaving the story with a cliffhanger, classmates would scramble to be the first to read the book.

"Miss Mary planted the seed when she announced to the class, 'One day Laurie will be an author.' Each time she repeated it, it became a little more ingrained," she told me. "Her words spurred me to be the best I could be. Through junior high and high school, I wrote essays, poetry, and even kept a four-year diary. While the rest of the class groaned over writing assignments, I was invigorated. I could hardly wait to get time alone with pen and paper."

Laurean joined the work force after high school, which didn't leave much time or energy for writing. But, in December 2001, she submitted an essay to a local magazine and when they published it, the fever struck again. That next year, she added twenty more stories to her collection and, on January 1, 2004, made a resolution to write a book. The result? Journey to Forgiveness.

Journey To Forgiveness, Laurean's first release, is mostly fiction, but it is based on Laurean's mother’s life. She told her children tales of the abuse she and her own mother had suffered at the hands of her father. "The stories have been repeated since my childhood," Laurean shared. "I subconsciously knew it would have to come out someday. I have taken the story and turned it into one of love, humor, healing, hope, and a happy ending. I want the reader to walk away with that message. The hardest parts to write were the nightmares Jenny suffered due to past abuse. A couple times I was so overwhelmed—-physically shaken-- that I had to shut down my computer and walk away. Until that time, I had not realized how emotionally involved I was."

The original title was "A Healing Love," but Laurean wanted a title that was more descriptive. "Since the story is about forgiveness, and my heroine journeys to Chicago, I think the new title exemplifies the book a lot better," she said. "I was about half way the manuscript when the new title came to me."

Laurean is a self-admitted, full blown pantser. "I get an idea about my hero or heroine’s personality, write it down along with a description of their physical characteristics," she said. "As for the plot, I know where I want to begin, I know how I want the story to end. But except for a couple scenes in the middle, I have no idea what will happen. I am struck with brainstorms in the middle of my writing. I love it when that happens. I cannot write fast enough. By the way, I write everything long hand before I go to the computer. It flows better. Typing seems to interfere with my thought process. And I love the feel of a good, smooth-flowing pen gliding across the paper."

Writing in long hand first means that Laurean can write anywhere, as long as she can find a reasonably quiet spot. "I will admit," she confessed, "that the TV gets on my nerves, especially the political arguments my husband loves to listen to. There is no door between my work area and the den, so I sometimes ask him nicely, to turn down the volume."

The most interesting place she's found to write is in the truck while her husband is inside an auction house, bidding on his next treasure. "My pen flies across the page to the rhythm of the auctioneer’s muffled voice," she said. "I wrote most of the last six chapters of Journey to Forgiveness outside an auction barn. And it was there I finished it."

One thing Laurean feels is important for a new writer to do is to read books within the genre you're interested in writing. She devoured books by Emilie Loring, Barbara Cartland, Victoria Holt, and today's Danielle Steel, who is Laurean's favorite maintream author. "She knows how to get into the minds of her characters and make the reader feel the emotion," she explained. "I like to put a lot of emotion in my writing, also. In the inspirational genre, Gail Gaymer Martin, Marta Perry, Robin Lee Hatcher, Susan Feldhake are my favorites. I can’t seem to pinpoint one above the other. These authors write interesting plots and their characters seem to breathe. Danielle Steel has probably influenced my writing more than the others, since I have read her books over the past twenty years."

Laurean and her husband have two lab-mix dogs they picked up on a country road where they had been abandoned. "There were four in the litter," she told me. "We raised them from puppies. One turned up missing two years later, the other was hit by a utility truck. I had been going through a tough time emotionally when the 'Rat-pack' (as we dubbed them), came into our lives. Caring for the puppies, nurturing them, and watching them play, were the biggest contributors to my healing process."

They are also a good way of helping her break out of the occasional writer's block she suffers.

"When you hit a wall, the best thing to do is quit beating your head against it," she advised. "I put on my sneakers, whistle for my labs, Yipper and Peewee, and we head out for a walk. Parading through the woods and over the fields clears my head. If weather doesn’t permit a walk, I bake a batch of Chocolate Chip cookies, or put on lively music, and sing along, or dance until I am stress free. Dancing is good exercise, and forces the blood to flows all the way up to the brain."

Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"This is a tough one since I am a new writer just starting out," she said. "First, I think you must start with a good grasp of grammar rules, a love of reading, and a vivid imagination. If you loved literature and composing essays in school, you have a good head start. If you were the one in your family who loved to tell stories and spin tales that would be a plus.

"Second, read!

"Third? Avoid 'dream stealers.'Surround yourself with people who encourage and prod you to be your reach your goals. Those who make you laugh and feel good about what you are trying to do. They will get you over the rough spots. I have a few friends like that. But one in particular comes to mind. I read aloud to Kay week after week, while writing Journey to Forgiveness. She laughed at all the right places, and cried in all the right places. The revelation that my writing could move someone to tears or joy gave me confidence that I was headed in the right direction.

"Fourth? Never give up on your dream. Take writing courses and join critique groups to polish your skills. We learn from other writers, and they keep us motivated.

"Last but not least? Pray. It is very important to ask for daily guidance and the gift to write from the heart. On days when I neglect that very important step, I usually trash a large part of what I have written."

You can keep up with Laurean on her blog, http://laureanslore.blogspot.com