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Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Pamela Ridley

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or would it?

All writers, I assume, have a process for the selection of character names. This is how I do it. I have the story situation and a theme I’m writing toward in mind. I then “audition” characters to play the part. In Another Memory, my protagonist is fighting for a real life, rather than a shadow life where all she does is go through the motions.

For this story I needed someone tough, but also soft on the inside. In a word, she needed to be vulnerable. So what’s a good name for someone like that? I thought of the actor Forest Whitaker. He’s a big man, but comes across as sensitive. Whitaker; that will be my character’s last name, I decided.

For a first name I thought the character needed something not too heavy or serious because her life was serious enough. I didn’t want an Elizabeth, Millicent, Cynthia, or Monique. All perfectly fine names, but they didn’t speak to me although their shortened versions could have possibly worked. So, okay. What are some choices around me…family or perhaps a name that I randomly pick from a newspaper or magazine?

Hmm. I have a cousin named Chelly. The “chell” like “shell” part worked in the sense of a coat of armor, yet the “ly” gave it a softness like an upturned curlicue, which suggests hope of good things to come.

Did I look up Chelly to see what it meant? No, to be honest, I usually do at some point, but I didn’t. So, I’ll do it now at my favorite place to look up name meanings… http://www.kabalarians.com/index.cfm.

Here are three of the characteristics listed:

· The name of Chelly creates a very versatile and creative nature.


· You are quick-minded and have the freedom of expression to mix easily with people.


· Although you appear positive, you inwardly lack self-confidence and will-power.

Those characteristics work well with how I needed the Chelly in my story to approach life. That site is nice, but even if Chelly meant something totally adverse to my vision of her, I probably would have used the name anyway.

What did others think of my name choice? Well, one writing buddy in particular wondered, “If it’s pronounced Chelly with an /sh/ sound, why not save the reader a moment of confusion and spell it Shelly?” Valid point except I felt Chelly was a fairly common spelling and I’ve never met a Chelly who pronounces her name with a /ch/ as in chair. Have you? Besides, the reader gets to decide how she or he reads a character name in her or his head anyway, no matter what the writer intended. And finally, Chelly is how my cousin spells her name. I did run it by my cousin though, on the off chance she would read the book and take issue with it.

Voila! Chelly Whitaker is my protagonist’s name.

What are your thoughts on selecting character names?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanks Given by Sherry Gloag

The rain slapped against the windscreen, challenging the wipers to clear the glass long enough for Alex to see her way forward. "The plane trip from hell" didn’t begin to describe her flight from Heathrow to the States, and now this. She’d checked her map and turned off the highway onto what amounted to little more than a dirt track. One that emulated a trampoline, throwing what the man behind the counter of the hire firm called, ‘a neat little European compact, ideal for a lady’, all over the rutted surface. Surely her journey could only improve.

Apparently not.

The raging storm muffled the bang when the front tire blew. The steering wheel jerked to her right, hurling the car into the centre of the road, confirming the worst. The air inside the vehicle turned blue as she grappled to control the car.

Thank God Americans drove on the wrong side of the road. In this case a deserted road. Instinctively she brought the car to a slithering halt and tried to release her fear-locked fingers from the steering wheel. Failing, she gave up and rested her forehead on them instead waiting for the shaking to stop. The curtain of rain and falling dusk masked her surroundings. No way would oncoming traffic see her vehicle slewed across the road until it was too late. She had to move it. How much room did she have? She didn’t fancy ending up in either ditches edging the road. O.K. She’d have to get out and check, but first, she’d ring her brother-on-law, Luke Marino, so he and her nieces wouldn’t worry. He once judged her on her modeling career. Shallow, frivolous and a useless specimen of humanity, so this latest calamity would only add to his conviction. And yet…

They’d met when he’d filled in when one of the regular photographers couldn’t make the shoot, and he'd not hidden his disdain. Why then had he asked her out for a drink afterwards? His broad shoulders, lean hips and tightly muscled body sent shivers up her spine every time she saw him and soon they became a couple. He filled her thoughts, and like a fool she’d dreamt of happy-ever-after. And then he’d met her twin, Alice. Before she could say ‘Boo-to-a-goose’, Alice had a ring on his finger and they’d left for America within a week of meeting.

Now, for the first time since her sister’s funeral, three years ago, she’d agreed to return to their ranch for their Thanksgiving holiday.

No signal! She stuffed her fist into her mouth to prevent a scream of frustration. With exaggerated care she returned her phone to her bag before wrenching the driver’s door open and stepping into the torrential rain. She popped the trunk and gazed in horror at the empty space. No tyre! In the deepening dark, her fingers searched for a nut or bolt that could hold a spare tyre beneath the trunk.

Nothing!

Several European cars cradled their spare wheels beneath the car body. No way would she grovel about in the rain and dirt to confirm her suspicions. Loudly, and without censorship, she damned the man who designed the car. No woman would tolerate a design that turned reaching for a spare wheel into a life-threatening operation.

Increasing winds drove the icy rain through her clothing and chilled her skin. Stalking to the verge she estimated the space for turning the car. She reckoned she’d travelled one of the four miles along this track. Could she risk trying to drive on the front rim of the car? The steering would be shot to hell. At least the car had power steering! Did she dare risk it, or stay here with the car? Darkness fell while she pondered her options.


***
“Why isn’t Aunty Alex here yet?” Trudi asked for the hundredth time, and Luke wished he had the answer. He’d checked the airport, confirmed she’d picked up her rental car and left over three hours ago. Rain slammed against the windows, the wind keened around the building and the dark concealed the view outside.

Mandy joined her sister on his lap, and cupped his face in her tiny hand. “I want Aun’ie Allie.”

“So do I, sweetheart. So do I.” He wrapped his arms around his children and rested his chin on their soft golden curls.

He’d tried her cell phone.

Nothing!

He’d checked with the police. No accidents reported in his vicinity. Did that mean…what? His fingers tunneled through his dark hair.

Since he’d brought Alice, the wrong twin, to the ranch, six years ago, she’d never stopped moaning. The isolation gave her the creeps; she wanted kids. He gave her two. They were noisy, dirty and a nuisance; she wanted out of the marriage. He negotiated total parental rights, and Alice smiled sweetly before disappearing from their lives. A week later Jim, the local Sherriff, informed Luke of his wife’s death in a head-on-car-collision.

He’d waited two years before inviting Alex to join them for Thanksgiving. Last year she declined, using work as an excuse. This year… This year she was somewhere out there in the teaming rain and the dark.

Alone!

He had to go to her. Had to find her. Until he did, his soul would never rest, never be whole again. He called his foreman and asked his wife to stay with his girls.

Luke edged his truck through the muddy water swilling across the access road to the house. The curtain of rain obscured her vehicle until he almost ran into it. His headlights shone on the flat tyre, but failed to reveal any sign of the driver. Fear drove him from his truck to the car, and relief buckled his knees when he saw her curled up on the back seat.

He yanked her door open, hauled her from the car and wrapped her in his arms, and vowed never to let her go again.

This was the best ever Thanksgiving holiday of his life.

About the Author: Sherry Gloag enjoys reading and and 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.

Author Interview: Jenna Bayley Burke

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to have Jenna Bayley Burke with us, who also writes erotic romance under the pseudonym of Jenna Allen. She's the author of novels from Mills & Boon, Samhain, and Black Lyon. Her short stories are available from Wild Rose Press and Freya's Bower. Jenna Allen's novellas are from Phaze. Her newest book, Pride and Passion will be released in March from Samhain.

She's a brave woman and currently working on Shattered Expectations during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You can keep up with her progress (as well as other things going on in her life) on her blog.

This isn't the first time Jenna's done NaNoWriMo.

"I was half way through writing Compromising Positions when I heard about NaNoWriMo," she told me. "National Novel Writers Month mandates that you start a brand new story to participate in the race to write a novel in a month…so I set Compromising Positions aside and wrote Just One Spark (a 2006 release from Mills & Boon Modern). Coming back to the story was hard after living with other characters for a month, but the story is better for what I learned by finishing the other novel."

Jenna told me that, when she's writing, she usually comes up with a scenario first, then her mind runs through several characters before settling on who would work best in the set-up. She can't start writing, however, until she knows her characters.

"Compromising Positions started with a CNN segment," she shared. "Par for the Course was a magazine article…but Her Cinderella Complex was the heroine, Heather. She wants to be the Cinderella of her own story, and I got that. Coming up with the characters first meant I could layer in any element I wanted…like the mock wedding, swimming pool, yacht, and private island."

Jenna told me she has to have a working title she likes before she can write a book. started out as Breaking His Rules, then became Working It Out, then morphed into Sensational Sex before finally settling on the final title.

CNN was mocking a sexy exercise class. "I thought it would be a great backdrop for a romance novel. At the time, I’d never finished a book," she told me. "I started over a dozen before the first one that saw The End. It took me a while to find the characters and play with stereotypes until I knew I’d have to finish the story because I cared too much about Sophie and David to leave them in the lurch. They so desperately needed one another to bring out the best in them, to show the other what they deserved from life and love…if they were real to anyone but me I’d thank them for that gift. They taught me the easiest way to finish a story is to truly fall in love with your characters and care what happens to them."

It takes Jenna a while to get into what she calls "the writing head space," so if she's forced to write in short bursts, it can feel like she's blocked. But, if she has a few solid hours to write, she's fine again and the words flow. Those days can be hard to find, especially with three children—two in school and a baby. She used to be able to write for an hour and a half in the afternoon and an hour and a half after the boys were in bed. Now that Grace, her baby girl, is around—her writing schedule is sporadic at best. "Someday I’ll get back up to my old pace," she said.

On a personal note, I asked Jenna if she hated how she looked in pictures (I always do!)

"Omigawsh, yes. I had a baby last year, so I don’t look like ‘me’. It’s awful. Whenever I’m asked for a picture for promo stuff I cringe. Do you think it’s cheating if I buy an art photo from a stock photo site and claim it’s me? Drat, I thought so."

She wanted to be Danielle Steel when she grew up, she shared with me. "My mom is a huge fan and buys all her books in hardcover because she can’t wait for paperback to get her latest fix. I wanted to tell stories like that, that people couldn’t wait for and counted on. Plus, as a kid the idea of having a bunch of kids and writing sounded heavenly. Now I wonder how many nannies she had to help her out."

Because her boys are school age, she finds herself using the phrase "use your words" a lot. "Of course," she said, "I find I use it a lot in critiques as well."

She considers herself a morning person—as long as she's slept, that is. With a baby in the house again, that doesn't always happen. And, she's very much a multi-tasker. "I have three kids, a dog, a husband with career aspirations that blow my mind, I manage to write novels and I don’t have a maid," she explained. "Some days, I wish I didn’t multi-task, then maybe the husband would spring for a cleaning service..."

"What is one thing scientists should invent?" I asked.

"Easy weight management. Diet chocolate. Feeling rested after two hours sleep. Diapers that change themselves. Training wheels that lift and lower based on how the kid is balancing on his big boy bike," she said. "Oh, right. You asked for one."

Finally, I asked Jenna what advice she would give to a writer who was just starting out.

"Write," she said. "It’s too easy to get caught up in taking every class and learning every ‘rule’ out there. Writing teaches you more than any class you can take."

You can keep up with Jenna on her blog, http://jennabayley-burke.com

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

On writing

In the midst of a labyrinth of plain grey walls sits a center for swirling, unimaginable, imagined magic. Few would guess the location. Utter ordinariness projects from all fronts, save perhaps, from the back. A small, very perfect garden sits behind this rather stocky old building. The architect of the garden, I think, put in a lot more thought than the one who designed the plain rectangle of brick in front of it.

Rocks, varying in color from ordinary flat grey to blue, and then the odd pinkish ones, make the short stonewall. The wall serves to terrace ground, so the visitors strolls in at one level, between the elbow-high black-eyed Susans leaning into the path, and the rounded bunches of hostas, all carefully set in two shades of green. At this upper level, one rectangular strip of lawn is trimmed to such precision it could correct a ruler. The sticky-sweet smelling crab apple tree, trimmed with a bonsai in mind, shades the one corner. Two industrious bumblebees buzz around the sturdy trunk, while one tiny butterfly swoops elegantly closer to the roots.

Turn and step down the three granite stares, bordered by the waving pinks and reds of the cosmos flowers. The squarely trimmed forsythia is a border of solid yellow for a spare few weeks each year, then plain green, if utterly impenetrable. Tiny eyes peer out at the visitor from under every leaf and twig. Here, utterly dignified and oblivious to scrutiny is a stern of Praying Mantis. There, three ladybugs glare at our interruption. One enormous, fuzzy caterpillar slowly undulates in our wake.

Their tiny voices pause, as they study us more closely. If we sit quiet – take out our lunch and take no notice – all at once, their meeting resumes. We can slip undetected in to observe this secretive realm. The flowers bend toward their speaker, the lady bugs sit up attentively. The bees carry on with their own business, casting looks over their yellow-and-black, all halfhearted, once in a while.

Back through labyrinth, into the intensity of ordinariness that marks my space, we take up the place of a conjurer. With fingers never quite fast enough, the story in the back garden is woven together. The writing must capture this exciting world of colors and smells and activity. The creaking and squeaking must be shared, and the boundless energy of this small, well-tended world sent out to all of those trapped in small, square worlds of grey.

Somewhere, in a similar cabinet, sits another conjurer, Weaving together the life of the golden monkey that swings past every dawn, while on a quiet shore the voice of gulls is captured by yet another. Writing captures often unseen lives… and shares.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Tea, anyone? Love and the historical novel… oh let’s just admit it, the oh-so-Victorian!

Among my absolutely favorite, FAVORITE things to read: catty drawing room conversations between the ladies and their guests in Victorian times. Oh, I’m sure there were some genuinely pleasant women among the population who made up nice, cream-filled pastries for their afternoons and asked their guests well-meaning questions. Who wants to read that? I adore the ones who guilelessly swirl their coffee, a cucumber sandwich poised tres’ elegantly in their hand, and murmur something along the lines of; “Scarlet red… my dear, it does suit you…” and trail off, apparently innocently oblivious to all the innuendos…

Of course its impossible for an entire work to encompass snide conversation, but I sure do hope someone gives it a try. I have a Victorian-era novella available from the Red Rose Press: “To a Foreign Shore.” I have to admit the drawing-room doesn’t get much play, but it isn’t for lack of trying!

Do you have a favorite historical novel or novella you’d like to recommend? I’d love to find some great new reads, myself!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Do you have special connections? Empathy for certain things, creatures, or people? A different perception of our world? (Or, heck, some other world?)

I’ve long felt an attachment for the big mammals out there, especially dolphins and whales. Capturing a moment in their world obsesses me. In my current work-in-progress I stray perhaps too far into their world. Will readers want to follow? When you write – or read – do you find certain descriptions fill your mind? Do they add, or take away from, the story? The following is a brief passage from that current WIP:

A single whale, perhaps that same, curious one, sliced through a wave and arched her neck, closer now, little more than one white-capped wave away. The curious whale drifted, her focus seeming fixed on the boat. The tiny waves parted as a small rounded hump of another white whale broke the surface to spout. Little of the whale was visible, though Seth stared, transfixed.

A warm flush washed over Cori, and she couldn’t help but smile at the big man. So handsome, he was far out of her league, she thought. But honestly, his tenderness drew her more than his looks.


Does the focus on the whales intensify her feeling for Seth, or distract?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Were dragons ever real? Sure, go ahead, dismiss them as mere ‘myth.’ How could such a creature ever really exist? Take the Chinese water dragon – the flamboyant red scales, shooting flames and popping out of wells… doesn’t seem likely, does it? So we say ‘myth’ and what we really mean is ‘not true.’

But hang on, don’t dolphins often appear in old myths and legends? The ancestress of the Yangtze River Baiji was a beautiful princess who disobeyed her father and plunged into the river to escape his wrath. In the Amazon, the Boto become Enchanted and join human parties – you can tell who they are by the fancy hats they wear. And in stories the world over, dolphins have rescued men overboard, or swimmers in danger of drowning.

Sure, today, we know dolphins are real… but the very last of the Baiji Dolphin on this planet was spotted back in 2002. They’ve been declared extinct. Their charming, friendly cousins, the Ganges River Dolphins are departing too… how long will it be before youngsters laugh and shake their heads, when some old-timer claims to have seen a river dolphin?

Fog sits heavy around the well in the backyard, of an early morning. Through the mist, wouldn’t it be fun to see the a ruby dragon slipping back to bed, after its evening prowls? And when the water splashes loudly near the shore, to catch a glimpse of a tiny, snow-white dolphin leaping in its mother's wake?

Interested in helping some of the species still with us? Check out http://endangered-species.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_endangered_ganges_river_dolphin

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

Spinning The Baiji

Lin Li has no memory of a time before she loved SunLee. He is an old-fashioned sort of man, practicing tai chi and communing with the river creatures as in times of old. She knows he is promised to another, still, she secretly shares his dawns. She wishes to stop time and stay forever on the leaf-spattered trail where their lives entwine.

The day approaches when the mighty Yangtze River’s current will still, and the finest things in her life must end. Her love for SunLee, like the unimaginable beauty of the Yangtze lotus, will fall away to no more than myth. Sorrow brings her the last of the baiji. The magic of the white river dolphin offers her a lyrical world of love, but perhaps, not her one love...


excerpt:

A deep echoing voice washed over the ripples, echoing "watch over you." A great black fish swam up from the depths. The voice resonated deep and warm and full of all the imagined things the Revered One had spoken of; The cries of twisty, sneaky red dragons gathered in the back, and the quacks of ducks playing in small pools near the shore. The buzz of honeybees and the strange clicks of locusts, the sound waterfalls even, harmonized through the voice of the one. It drew her down, beneath the surface. Above, beautiful white lotus flowers danced around the snow white body of the baiji, adrift in the current.

Old Yang, the mighty black catfish, blinked as he emerged from the depths, shambling forward like the oldest of grandfathers. His wise old eyes blinked, and he looked about him slowly. "Where did you find the eyes to see?" He grumbled.

Wonderingly, Lin whispered into the water, "If I met a catfish, I was supposed
to ask…"

__ -____

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hollow Hearts by M. Flagg

Agatha hated left turns. Especially on windy, rainy nights that happened to occur in late November just before Thanksgiving. But such a sweet request had come from the little angel that this grandmother couldn't resist.

"They'd better still have pumpkins," she muttered.

Her old blue Jeep jumped the curb. Barreling into Woodridge Farms' parking lot, Agatha missed a mini-van pulling out and came to a halt that could've caused whiplash when the jeep lurched and stopped just two feet from wide glass doors.

"Crap," she mumbled, seeing a well-built man approach the dented hood. He looked somewhat familiar, but no. It couldn't be, could it? "Oh no, he's—"

The knock on her window was a two-knuckled thud.

Agatha smiled; bit her lower lip as the window slid down.

He's still a looker, that's for sure. Tall, pensive and oh God…why did I come here tonight?

She slinked lower. No make-up or lipstick and pinned back hair that made her average features less than attractive. Where's a fairy godmother when you need one?

Agatha gave demure a shot. "Oooh…sorry about that, but I-I need a pumpkin."

Firm, familiar hands gripped the window frame's ledge, bringing memories front and center.

"You could have killed my customers, lady. The economy's bad enough."

Yep…just like I remembered him… "I'm very sorry. I-I just need a pumpkin."

Puh-lease let him not recognize me, Agatha prayed. But Darby's head dipped lower and his warm hazel eyes were narrow. They had been kind eyes, if her brain still worked after so many, many hard years away.

"Ma'am? You still with me?" his voice called through Agatha's stormy haze.

Test number one…say hello and do not dare to meet his concerned expression!

"Hi, Darby," she barely whispered.

His hands flew off the door.

"Aggie?"

"Yep."

"Jeez," he sighed. "Where you been for the past thirty years?"

Lie, she told herself. "Definitely out of town, and I need a pumpkin."

The chuckle also sounded familiar—kind as well.

"How far out of town?"

Agatha wasn't about to explain.

Water under the bridge, let sleeping dogs lie, etcetera…

Before she could think of an answer, Darby added, "Yeah. Make it a good one."

Weary eyes instantly welled. How do you apologize for mailing back an engagement ring just before the bus to nowhere pulls away? College and career didn't come with midnight bottles and teething issues. How do you tell someone that you loved him too much to mess up his life-plan?

That's what I should have done, she realized. No. I couldn't. I didn't. Not even eighteen yet and accepted into NYU with a full scholarship. Parents that didn't think a girl deserved an education. Then disaster struck. Sworn to secrecy, only my sister knew where I'd gone. "Darby deserves better," my mother had bitterly declared, "and he doesn't need to be saddled with you or a kid. Neither does your father or me."

Woman's Lib hadn't come to this town yet, so Agatha ran. She left every dream behind at that bus station and squared her shoulders to take on the most lonesome journey a woman could.

That was thirty years ago, Aggie. Water under the bridge, let sleeping dogs... "I couldn’t fight that kind of pressure," she murmured low.

"Aggie, you okay?"

Was that gentle concern or just old-fashioned politeness?

"My sister's dying," she blurted out.

“And she needs a Thanksgiving pumpkin?"

"What? No. They put her in a hospice on Route 23 somewhere. She's battling the last stages of cancer."

"I'm sorry to hear it," he gently replied.

"Why are you still staring at me?" She blew out a loud breath. I really did love you, she wanted to say, but the words wouldn't come. Neither did a "Thank you."

Agatha truly expected the man to walk away. Instead, Darby thrust a weathered hand into his jeans and produced a worn wallet. She willed tears away while her mouth set in a typical, stoic pose of "don't make me explain."

The store's reflected light was just enough to see what sparkled between his two fingers. She could've crumbled, could have bled down to the worn carpeting beneath the brake pedal.

"Darby, I can't—"

"Did you marry?"

"No."

"Me neither. So take it. You took my dreams with you thirty years ago," the gentleman admitted. "That hurt, Aggie."

Breathless sobs hitched in her throat.

"Why did I think that what we felt for each other was special? My parents ran this place into the ground. I had nothing in my life after you left, so I put my all into it. Thought life would be different… At least a kid to brag about, you know? A booming business and… Just take it."

Agatha reached for the ring. It still shone as bright as when she sealed the envelope with no letter, no explanation.

He still isn't walking away. Do these things honestly ever happen in real life? Do long lost loves just find each other again after so much heartache? Here's another test, she thought. I don't have thirty more years to run from what I really wanted.

Her heart pounded like a timpani. Vision prickled the way it does just before a person faints. Agatha took a leap of faith.

"I-I need a pumpkin…for my…for our granddaughter."

Agatha didn't have to see Darby's face. He gave a quick exhale as broad shoulders suddenly slumped. "Please don't hate me," she whispered.

With a slow shake of his head, both hands locked tight to the old jeep's door.

"Pop the lock," he mumbled.

"Huh?"

He reached in and grabbed the door handle. Then Darby Woodridge opened it and pulled her out, ordering, "Put that ring on your finger and come inside."

If he loosened his grip to her arm, she’d hit the gravel at flight-speed. But taking a chance, she had to look into those gentle eyes that said, hurt as well as hope.

"I can explain."

Darby didn’t look away, didn’t slow his stride. "Oh, you will. But first there's the matter of a pumpkin."

About the Author: Mickey Flagg has been teaching music in and out of the classroom for over 35 years. She holds two Masters Degrees and was recently named a 2009 Distinguished Educator at Yale’s Symposium on Music in Schools. Her debut novel, Retribution! The Champion Chronicles: Book One was released in March 2009. Book Two in the Paranormal Romance series, Consequences, is also contracted with The Wild Rose Press. http://www.mflagg-author.com/

Author Interview: Jami Davenport

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to have Jami Davenport whose third book in the Evergreen Dynasty series is available from Bookstrand Publishing.

Jami had problems sleeping as a kid, so she would tell herself stories. Eventually she wrote them down and has a chest full of stories she wrote in her attic. "Of course, they will never see the light of day," she admitted, "and shouldn't!"

She wrote her first "novel" when she was six. "I called it Wildfire," she told me, "and it was about a wild horse (are you seeing a common theme here?). I even illustrated it myself."

Jami's passion for horses is long-lived. "I've been horse crazy for as long as I can remember drawing a breath," she said. "I've owned horses since I was in my teens. I can't imagine my life without them." She currently owns a Hanoverian mare that she rides and shows in dressage. And, like most horse women, she's also an animal lover and always has a secondary character in her stories that's an animal.

Her characters are all-important to her books. "I love figuring out what makes them tick," she explained, "why they do the things they do, and what they think they want as opposed to what they really want. Being an armchair psychologist, I always delve into their pasts and what shaped them to be what they are today."

Jami's favorite book is one that's not yet been published. Fourth and Goal is a sports hero romance—a reunion story about two life-long friends turned college sweethearts who are reunited (reluctantly) by friends a few years after college.

However, she's working on a story this month during National Novel Writing Month that might usurp F&G as her favorite book. "It's my first romantic suspense, and I"m very excited to start writing it," Jami said. "It covers the plights of single fathers, rather than single mothers, and what happens when a mother refuses to allow a father to see his child and how far she'll go."

She starts with a working title, but rarely ends up with that title. "I think about my titles a lot. I have a file of possible titles that I'll go through. I want my story to be identified by my title. So many books have these generic titles that don't fit the story and are unmemorable," she said. "So I want my title to tie into the story in a big way. Sometimes, my story actually starts with a title I love and I build a story around it."

There have been times, however, when she would go through a time where she's blocked. What does she do when that happens?

"I write one sentence every day whether I want to or not. Eventually, I write two sentences in a day. Before I know it, I'm into the story, and I'm writing pages a day."

She can't write at a desk or in total silence, however. While she was in college, she learned to study and read in the midst of chaos, and she now needs white noise to be able to concentrate or she hears every little sound. She has her laptop, her recliner in the living room, noise around her--- and she's good to go.

Part of the noise surely must come because of her dog, Leonardo. Jami's husband went to pick up their lawnmower from the repair shop and came home with a beagle. Jami had had two beagles as a kid, and she warned him that the dog would be hell on paws and would be running off every chance he got.

"He didn't believe then, but now he does. Leonardo is a little pistol but cute as they come," she told me. "The cat is not amused though, as he wasn't consulted on the new addition to his home. The cat is certain I'm his servant put on earth to cater to his every whim and need. But then again, I guess I am because I do cater to him."

Jami told me she's a picky eater, so doesn't ever really eat anything strange. The strangest thing she's ever eaten would have to be ostrich or buffalo.

She would love to know how long she'll live though, if she could know the future.

"That way I can cram everything I want to do into the time I have left and not miss out on anything," she explained.

She admitted to making crank phone calls as a kid. "You know the usual, 'Your refrigerator's running...' My girlfriends and I thought we were really clever. Do kids even do such things anymore? Ah, the good old days."

Her favorite pizza is pepperoni. "I love it but it's way too fattening so I've been avoiding pizza lately."

Jami is a Gemini and told me that she's everything a Gemini is supposed to be.

"I'm two different people," she said. "I can argue both sides of almost any subject. I love being around people. I'm creative. I'm impatient, and I work at light speed. I'm a multi-tasking junkie (It's a Gemini thing) . I juggle so many balls that I don't know how I keep them in the air. Lately, I've been dropping a few, but I'm trying to reestablish my routine so I can get some order in my life. I'm an IT professional in my day job and a writer by night, not to mention that I'm extremely social and have to have my people fix often. I'm not much of a homebody."

In fact, if she could wish for anything she wanted, she'd with for ten million dollars.

"I'd give half to veterans' charities and the Red Cross," she said. "I'd take all my stepkids and a few close friends on a vacation they'd never forget. Then I'd head to Europe and buy the best dressage horse money could buy. I'd retire and write books all day long and hire a housekeeper so I'd never have to clean or cook. I'd buy my husband that Mercedes he's been wanting."

She's very much a morning person. "I hit the ground running and never stop until I slip into my big bathtub with a good book at the end of the evening," she told me. "Then I'm done. I'm not worth a darn until the next morning. "

"Do you sleep with the lights on?" I asked.

"No, I don't. In fact, in my small development, we banned mercury vapor lights, so when the lights go out at night, you can't see your hand in front of your face. I love it like that as long as my husband is home. If he's not, I'm a chicken. I watch too many true crime shows on TV, and I don't do well alone at night anymore."

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

"Learn the craft. Listen to others, but stay true to what works for you. Watch out for well-meaning (and not so well-meaning people) who tell you that there are rules to writing, such as you can't write about rock stars or sports stars. You can write about anything you want. If the story is good enough, you'll find an audience."

You can keep up with Jami on her blog, http://jamidavenport.blogspot.com

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Jennifer Loy

WIP and My Wish List

My works in progress are another romantic comedy and I’m thinking maybe some jewels and a love triangle. Ha! That’s all I’m sharing. And on a more serious note I will finally be telling my mother’s story. Her life was truly one of courage and struggle. It needs to be told, if not for the world to hear maybe I’m just supposed to write it for posterity. I also have many new ideas for some romantic suspense in the hero’s point of view which will be a challenge for me.

My wish list is to publish the children’s book I’ve written. Currently there are two states in the U.S. that don’t have a blind school. Nevada is one of them. My youngest daughter is legally blind and has congenital nystagmus (the quivering of the eye). I see her struggle in school on a daily basis and I hope to someday be able to donate all the proceeds of that book to The Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation so they can open a school for these special children in need. There are hundreds of children just in Southern Nevada that are visually impaired and blind that would benefit from a school just for them. To be able to receive a special education in an ideal setting for them would be wonderful. It is my hope that someday I will be able to contribute to this organization not just for my daughter but for the hundreds that seek a place to meet and learn with all the benefits of current technology and proper materials. A place for students to have an opportunity to interact with other disabled children and feel comfortable in their surroundings.

Thank you for joining me this week on Long and Short Reviews Author Spotlight and Thank you Marianne and Judy for the opportunity to post here. Have a great weekend everyone! Don’t forget to visit my website. You can contact me or join my groups from there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Jennifer Loy

What fantasy genre/character would you choose?

Of all the fantasy genres out there I knew if I ever wrote a fantasy story it would have to be about Mermen. I mean who can resist the idea of a strong sexy man swimming out in a beautiful sea just waiting for you to step into the Shoreline? Besides while I sat on the beaches of Hawaii I had my questions. The sea is full of mysteries and Merpeople are at the top of my list. So I created a world of answers and suspense was definitely in this mixture. After all..Don’t go swimming alone at night, you could snag a Merman!

Shoreline teaser…

I walked farther out and the water touched my thighs. I just took a bath, but I really wanted to swim. I leaned forward and dove in. The cool water surrounded me and I felt alive. Now, this was a vacation. Cool water, no heart attacks,no interruptions. I surfaced and took a deep breath. I smiled and looked at my beach house. It was cozy and—

Something hit hard up against the back of my thighs. I was forced into a back flip as something wrapped around my waist. I struggled for the surface, but I was being pulled down. I panicked and kicked out, but connected with nothing.Something gripped me tightly and I was afraid to know what it was. It didn't feel like teeth and I felt no pain. Bubbles filled the water around me and something held my face. My lungs
filled with air as I descended. I opened my eyes and saw a dark figure in front of me and two others behind it. Stretching my arms up, I grabbed for the surface. Water rushed behind me and a slick mass rubbed up against my back. I was pulled down again, and the figure in front of me lunged toward the other dark silhouettes. A loud, high-pitched sound vibrated around me and my waist was released. The figure in front of me swam away and the two in the distance got closer. My heart pounded as they approached. I turned and pushed as hard as I could in the opposite direction. My ears burned as I struggled upward.

I reached the surface and looked around. My cozy little Lanikai beach house was a dot in the distance.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Jennifer Loy

To be or not to be in First Person?

I love to write in first person because I can really live out the novel in the heroine’s head. Everything comes from her experiences, her feelings, her agitations when the story is from her point of view. Even fighting with herself is comical when in first person. There is nothing like having an angel slash devil fight on the shoulders while your heroine is determining her next move when it’s in first person. In There Goes the Neighborhood it went like this:

He scratched the back of his head and looked down the street.

“Hello?”

“Of course I didn’t do that. Did you do that to my truck?”

I opened my eyes wider and went to yell some more. I was stopped by a little thing called guilt. The little angel sitting on my right shoulder was pinching my earlobe. I could hear it saying, “Now don’t lie, just tell him the truth and confront him about what has been happening.” Of course the little devil on the other side was saying,” Lie through your teeth to the filthy bastard and tell him you’re holding his dog for ransom.” At this point, I wanted money for damages.

“No, I didn’t touch your truck!” I said; which was really a little white lie that the devil and angel would have to compromise over.

“Well, have you seen my dog?” he asked.

“No,” I said, looking straight at Christian and suddenly heard a muffled bark behind me.

Christian glanced over my shoulder and wrinkled his nose. He squinted at me and stepped forward. I bolted for my front door.

“What the hell are you doing? That’s my dog!” he yelled.

I slammed the door and locked it. “I found him in my backyard this morning! My gates were closed. That’s the second time you’ve put him over here, so now I’m keeping him!”

“Damn you, Victoria, that’s my dog! I didn’t paint your car or put my dog in your yard. Now give him back!”

“Not until you admit that you’ve been the one sending over nasty singing telegrams. Oiling and painting my lawn! I slid across the grass naked for God’s sake. I could’ve broken my neck!”

“I missed that!”

“What?”

“I just mean I would have liked to have seen the naked part!”

I growled and hit the door from my side.

~~~



I loved this scene and I think it was so much better because it was in first person.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Jennifer Loy

Why I love Romance?

I am such a hopeless romantic. From the time I read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem "How do I love thee?" I was hooked. Some of my favorite movies are Romancing the Stone, Six Days Seven Nights, While you were Sleeping, Notting Hill, Some Like it Hot, and The Saint..all romances with a happily ever after and elements of comedy, romance, or adventure. Every day around my busy life of family I am creating new ideas, scenes, and plots in my brain. Conjuring up scandals, love triangles, cliff-hangers and such, and it just works for me. So when I get the chance to finally sit down at my computer I can type out more romance. Every once in a while I will throw in some suspense, a weapon, or some sexy competition for my hero and stir things up a bit, but mostly the knight in shining armor gets the girl and is headed for a wedding or at least the sunset.

I guess the reason I really love to read, write, and watch romance is for the magic. I know it sounds silly to some but there is nothing like watching the hero admit his love to the woman he desperately can’t live without while rescuing her from danger or absolutely making a fool of himself in front of a crowd, or even posing nude while she draws him to make good on a bet like I did in Rodeo Drive. There are so many stories unwritten of how people have fallen in love and I will continue to have fun writing some of them out.

Excerpt from Rodeo Drive

"Are you ready?"

He nodded and removed the towel. He uncrossed his legs

and sat straight up. I bit my bottom lip and hid behind the

canvas. Nick Bennett had nothing to be embarrassed about.

"Are you laughing again?" he asked.

I peeked around the canvas and stood up. More at ease

than I thought I would be, I went to him. "Not at all," I

replied. I shifted his shoulders and tipped his chin slightly to

the side.

"Your hands are cold."

"Sorry."

He took my hands and rubbed them between his. I

suddenly had a hot flash as I realized he was touching me

with his hands, and that he was in front of me totally nude.

I gently pulled my hands away and positioned his

shoulders for the second time. "Stay still, okay?" I whispered.

"Okay."

"I don't know why you're so nervous. This isn't so bad, is

it?" I asked, and tipped his chin to the left.

"Why don't you try it, and I'll ask you the same question?"

"I tell you what. If you let me sell this painting on Venice

Beach, I'll be your model."

"Really?"

"Sure."

I stepped back and looked him over. I positioned him

leaning to one side. One hand gripped the stool seat, his

other hand rested on his thigh. His left foot rested on the

bottom piece of wood on the stool, his right foot touched the

floor.

"What if some weird man buys my portrait?" he asked.

Rolling my eyes, I began to draw him. I sketched his

shoulders around each bicep. With every stroke, I learned

some detail about Nick Bennett's body. Mostly, I drew and

painted landscapes, so for me portraits were unfamiliar, and

more difficult. I continued to draw his sides and down each

thigh. The muscles in his legs were defined. It looked like he

had ridden a bike more than just that one time at the beach.

I sketched both his legs down to the tips of each toe. His feet

were as nice as his hands. No crooked toes or bad toenails. I

sketched up the inside of each leg, growing nervous. He

hadn't moved his head. He was looking slightly to my right.

He wouldn't know what I was focusing on. I kept going with

all the detail in between his legs. It was a dirty job and I had

the pleasure of doing it. It took me an hour to outline his

shape and get the perspectives correct.

"My butt is numb," he finally said.

"Hey, you didn't want a photo." I waved him to get up.

He stood up without the towel and walked around for a

minute. Apparently, he wasn't embarrassed anymore. He

came closer to me.

"Stay back there," I said. I held up my hand and motioned

for him to stop. "You can't see it until I'm all done."

"What? Come on? How do I know you just aren't scribbling

on the canvas and staring at me?"

"Fine, one look, but after that, not until it's finished."

He came around my side and leaned over me. I felt his

thigh on the back of my arm and I knew the rest of him

touched me.

I swallowed hard and studied his expression as he

regarded the sketch.

"Not bad," he said and shrugged. "Of course I'm not that

big."

I dared not turn around and take a closer look. "Would you

like me to draw it smaller?" I asked, staring forward.

He folded his arms across his chest and leaned down closer

over my shoulder. "Nah, it's good."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Jennifer Loy


This article was published in the Romance Writer’s Report in April 2007. Today, I look back on my decision to become a writer with three published print books available and I’m happy. My mother would be proud of me.

Behind Every Novel


Behind every novel is someone's passion, maybe a history, a reason, or possibly an escape. Two years ago I received a phone call from a coroner that changed my life forever. The call was to inform me that my mother, only fifty-six years old, had been violently murdered by her husband of only two years. Speaking to my mother on a weekly basis was normal for me and not hearing from her that last week of her life was more than disturbing. When someone that you love passes on, especially without being able to say goodbye, your purpose in life seems to change. Needless to say, it was the hardest thing I'd ever been through.

One year later I moved to Hawaii. It was paradise. I lived there for one year and that is where my story really begins. I felt the need to write down what I had been through. I purchased my first laptop. Want to know what I wrote? Not about grief, not about sadness, and not about guilt. I wrote the funniest damn story I could think of. It was the best therapy anyone could have offered. I wrote five full length novels that year and joined the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Aloha Chapter.

Now in Las Vegas, I have written seven full length novels. Being a writer and published author has changed my life. It's given me a sense of hope that anytime I need to escape I know where to go. It is drive that creates a good novel. It is passion that makes you continue to write them. It is life experience that encircles your plots, but most of all it is You, a unique voice behind your novel. No matter what happens in your life remember that people may not see your feelings but they sure continue to read them.

Jennifer Loy

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Take a Chance by Ashley Ladd

Carly Schuyler dreaded another Thanksgiving at her grandmother’s. The entire family would converge to gorge themselves, watch football, and goad her about being an old maid. Not necessarily in that order.

She considered pleading a migraine or hiring a boyfriend. Later, however, there’d be a million questions.

After she put the finishing touches on her pies she threw on a festive top and jingle bell earrings. She shouldered into her faux fur jacket and boots then stepped outside into the cold. At least it was white and snowy. She loved snow.

After slipping and sliding on ice all the way across town, she changed her mind. “Rotten snow,” she mumbled as she stomped it off her boots.

“Carly’s here!” her aunt told the others. She hugged Carly. “Happy Thanksgiving, Honey.”

Her grandmother muttered, “She don’t have no kids or husband to slow her down. Why’s she always so late?”

As all gazes turned on her, heated flooded her cheeks. She ducked into the kitchen where she collided into her least favorite cousin, Leesa. Feeling greener, she tried to bolt.

But Leesa drawled, “What a cute little girl top.”

“Thanks,” she muttered as a real headache started.

“Your old boyfriend’s here.”

Carly’s heart slammed into the floor and she gulped. Which old boyfriend? Who would Leesa know?

“Of course you might not remember since it’s been so long since you’ve had one…”

Carly’s breath hissed in and she counted to ten. Deciding Leesa had a right to be pissy with four children under five at home, she let it go. Stepping around her she peeked into the living room.

When she spied Keifer Johnson her heart fluttered. They’d been so in love in high school, then she’d gone into the Army and he’d gone to college. Time and distance had been too much. He’d simply stopped writing.
Why hadn’t she gone ROTC? So she could go to college with him?

Because she’d been young and stupid and hadn’t thought of it until too late.

As if she’d screamed his name, Keif’s gaze locked on hers. He crossed the room and enveloped her in a suffocating hug. “Carly! I was so scared you wouldn’t make it home.”

There was so much she longed to ask but her throat froze. God, but he looked terrific. He was built. His shoulders had broadened and he was all man.

“I forgot how pretty you are. Of course now you’re a woman.” He held her at arm’s length while his gaze roamed her length. “Fully grown. Funny, you don’t look like a soldier.”

The pulse at the base of her neck ricocheted. Her heart pounded against her ribs. There was so much she yearned to say, but not within ear shot of her relatives.

Finally, she found her voice. “You, too. You look terrific.”

“Speak up, child.” Grandma Pam scowled. “I can’t hear you all the way over there.”

Carly cringed and broke free of Keif’s hold. Before she could chicken out, she gave him a gentle shove. “Let’s go to the basement.”

A stream of screaming children beat them to the door and stampeded down the stairs. The house shook and reverberated with their ruckus.

Keif shook his head and cracked a rueful grin. “Where else can we go?”

Family crowded the den as well as the living room. All she could think of was, “The bedroom.” But every door was locked.

He looked at her. “I know. Grab your coat.”

She quirked her brow and peeked out at the darkness. Snow glistened on the window panes. Icicles clung to the awning and reflected the blinking Christmas lights already strung on the house.

They tried to slink out the door but the jingle of her earrings sounded loud in her ears. Cursing, she yanked them off and stashed them in her pocket.

Keif captured her hand and led her to the side of the house. Moonlight cast a silvery sheen on the snow as they trudged through it.

“I have a confession. When Spence told me you’d be here, I hounded him to bring me.”

Her jaw slacked and her heart stopped. She didn’t know whether to hug or slug her cousin Spencer. She searched Keif’s eyes. “Why?” Was he going to be alone for the holiday? Had he grown a conscience and after all these years he wanted to apologize for dumping her without a word?

He slid his finger under her chin and tilted up her head. “I want to know why you ignored my proposal and then stopped writing.”

The word “proposal” rang in her head. In shock she asked, “What proposal? You stopped writing to me.”

His brow furrowed and he ran his fingers through his hair. “I thought it odd so I called. A guy named Dwayne answered and said he was your boyfriend. He told me to stop pestering you. I was pretty torn up.”

Her buddy, Dwayne?

Her head spun. The earth quaked and she clutched her throat. “There was never anything romantic between me and Dwayne. He was just a friend. I loved you. Even if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t end things so callously.”

"Loved? Past tense?” Keif moved closer and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.

He was the one. But she was scared to bare her soul and get shot down. Then the years of loneliness stole over her. The north wind seemed to whisper in her ear, “Take a chance.”

She licked her lips and shored up her courage. “It’s been a long time, but I’ve never forgotten you, never stopped loving you. It’s not too late for us? Can we have a second chance?”

“We can if we say so. I say so.” He kissed her softly. When she melted into him, he plundered her lips.

Only when snow melted on her face did she pull back. She trembled but not from the cold and she traced his lips with her thumb. “So do I.”


About the Author: Ashley Ladd has more than 40 published romances. Her most recently released story is "Sorry Charlie" in the "Friction" anthology, published by Total-E-Bound at www.total-e-bound.com She's originally from Cincinnati but now lives in sunny South Florida. Her next release, an erotic romance, will be on October 5, 2009 at www.total-e-bound.com and is entitled "Recipe for Disaster".

She loves to read and write about comedy romance, time-travel, and as a big Trekkie, Air Force vet, and cat lover, you'll often find military heroes and heroines, space, and talking cats in her novels. She invites you to visit her at her blog at http://www.ashleyladd.blogspot.com and also on Twitter and Facebook as "Ashleyladd" (all one word, no quotes).

Author Interview: Carolyn LeComte

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to welcome Carolyn LeComte, author of the recently released Dark Paradise from writewordsinc.com and Trinity James, a western which is under contract with Black Velvet Seductions Publishing.

She's always been a writer and artist, as she made her living as a medical artist; then she worked in the technical documentation department of a defense contractor. She can remember, as a child, filling notebook after notebook with her own illustrated stories. For her twelfth birthday, I asked my parents for a typewriter and received it. "I was thrilled by the ability to fill page after page with my own writing," she said. "It looked so...professional!"

Carolyn has written six novels, taking both published and unpublished together. "The first three are what I call my 'practice' novels," she said. "Now, I would never dream of actually pursuing publication of any of them. However, I may go back and rewrite one or two, as they do have some parts that may be salvageable. Of my last three – Dark Paradise (published), Trinity James (under contract), and Pale Angel (first draft done), I suppose I like Trinity James best. She’s a feisty heroine, with a child-like faith that somehow she can make the worst of circumstances turn out right. There’s a lot of action in the story."

Besides promoting Dark Paradise, and working with her publisher on the edits for Trinity James, she's begun editing the first draft of Pale Angel.

"Like Trinity James, Pale Angel is a historic romance/western," she said. "In between, I write shorter pieces—humorous essays, and poems, which I occasionally share online in various venues. My favorite part of the writing process is when the first draft is donw and I can go through and edit (many times) for all the flaws I can now concentrate on. Having the entire story done is a great milestone in the process. But it is only the beginning."

Generally, Carolyn will get a bare-bones idea of a story and sketchy characters. "I'm not sure where that comes from . . . a lightning bolt? A dream? A remembered favorite TV show from my younger days? I may have a vague idea of beginning and end, but the story doesn’t take shape until I start writing. It develops before my eyes. I do not work from an outline, I write by the seat of my pants, so to speak. And, I hate to say it (because it sounds like a cliché) but most of the time, my characters tell me where the story will go. I once wrote a novel that included a cruel man (the villain!) who turned out to be a much nicer person than I had planned. I really felt awful when I had to kill him off. A writer can get very close to her characters – after all, she (the writer) is the source of all their triumphs and tragedies."

The hardest part of the writing, for Carolyn, is pushing herself through the weakest parts of the story. "I know where I am. I know where I want to go," she said. "But building that bridge between sometimes doesn’t come easy. In order to avoid being blocked at that point, I write something – anything – kind of like a place-holder, to get me to the part I’m sure of. Almost always, as the story progresses, the bridge becomes evident and the 'of course!' moment comes and I can go back and build that bridge in earnest."

When she would get blocked, she would do anything that would put off writing. "Gee, I need to dust that table or I have to go out and shop for shoes – which was the wrong approach! A better tactic, for me, is to have another novel going simultaneously, or at least have a different piece of writing to concentrate on when I’ve reached an impasse with one piece. Directing my mind to a different place seems to relax those brain muscles that get tense when one feels blocked. (I know there are no 'brain muscles,' per se . . .) Generally, not thinking about a problem seems to make the solution come more easily . . . later. Many humorous essays or poems of unrequited love have flowed from my severely blocked gray matter, and I’ve always gotten back to the novel with a renewed sense of purpose and the feeling I haven’t wasted precious 'writing time.'”

When it comes to good writing, Carolyn says, "Attention to the technical aspects are important (unless, of course you are already a famous author or celebrity and people buy everything and anything you write). That said, I think the second most important aspect of good writing is to be true to your own voice. You may have favorite authors whose writing you admire to a fault, but it would be a mistake to try to emulate anyone else. Write how you speak (with proper grammar, please), what you feel. Let your passion show through your words.

"Other things to consider – important points that most editors, publishers, and agents seem to adhere to – are: Avoid clichés (with a passion). There is always a way to say it in your own words. Be original. Then, keep adjectives and adverbs to a minimum (especially adverbs). Good writing is concise writing. It’ll be stronger without a lot of descriptive words."

Carolyn first considered herself a writer the moment she finished her first novel. "I felt uncomfortable saying, 'I'm a writer,' to anyone who inquired as to my occupation, because, invariably, the next question would be, 'What have you published?'" she told me. "Once I was contracted by a publisher, I became confident in referring to myself as a (verifiable) writer. I was an actual 'author.'”

On a personal note, Carolyn admitted to me that while she likes a varied diet, she's not very adventurous. Her strangest quirk has to do with a drink instead of food. "I like flat soda," she confessed. "Never cared for bubbles-- they make you burp and hiccough and you can’t drink soda fast enough to quench your thirst. Other than that, the only other odd thing I’ve ever eaten was when my husband tricked me into eating calves’ brains. Don’t remind me . . ."

It's hard for her to pick out a favorite animal, because she's an animal lover. "The beauty of a horse, the sleekness of a tiger, the intelligence of a dolphin, and the fantastic plumage on many birds all captivate my heart in different ways," she said. "I always smile when I see a family of Canadian geese or a line of ducklings, and I’m a sucker for kittens and puppies. Of course, I guess I’d have to say my favorites are my own four parrots. They sure keep things lively!"

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

"I have two beautiful, intelligent, talented daughters who have made wonderful families of their own and given me the most fantastic grandchildren. One of my daughters has Crohn’s disease and one has MS. You can guess my wish."

Finally, I asked her what advice she'd give a new writer just starting out.

"While encouraging her to write as much as possible, I would also stress that the technical aspects of her writing be as clean and strong as possible," she told me. "Grammar, spelling, punctuation should be as close to perfect as she can make it. All those boring high school English classes really were important! Sloppy mistakes have sunk many worthwhile stories. These are the tools of communication that enable the author to make her meaning clear, to communicate all her ideas.

"Another point I would stress is to keep writing – write through blocks and through rejection, perhaps using these times as a springboard to keep improving, keep striving, keep learning. You must never stop learning and improving."

You can keep up with Carolyn on her website, http://www.carolynlecomte.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Diana Castilleja

And now we're winding down. It's day five and it has been so much fun telling you about this book and the wonderful heroine who inspired me to write it. Brooke is a gentle hidden strength within the dichotomy of the four siblings. Where the boys are kind of obviously in your face and all about protection and Selene will support any choice or take you to task for a bad one, Brooke is a healer on many levels. Her craft, her innate ability and compassion, her internal good and bad barometer; she is simply a unique force out of the four.

What's more, is it takes a certain type of man to bring her forward, a certain equally quiet strength to meld with her and make her complete. Mitch is and isn't, but when push comes to shove, he's what every hero should be. Willing to sacrifice, willing to support, and willing to love unconditionally.

I hope when you meet these two, you see them the way I did when I wrote them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Diana Castilleja

Okay, so we know Brooke is a witch. She's actually a strong spellcaster, but until the threats of her story, she never really had to dig deep to find out just what she knew, and how much she remembered from her training. She trained with a beloved if slightly eccentric aunt, and soon learns that her entire future lies in a choice she must make. Nothing like a little pressure, right? That means finding the one man she could love, children, the whole caboodle. Of course, it would have helped her if she knew all of that... But then where would the story be? The catch? The choice doesn't affect just her, but her entire family.

I will admit I'm not very versed in Wicca or any form of magical or pagan arts, so a lot of my fantasy and magic is well... my invention. I do try to find a way to loop it back to an origination point for authenticity. I like making my own rules. Makes them easier to remember too if I make them up. That's one of my quirks as a writer. This was one of the nuances of Brooke's story that was all me: her spells. Yep, completely my invention. I actually had fun writing them. I wanted a flow that had meaning in the book, in the moment.

There is one scene where Brooke is calling on the skills and strengths of her ancestors, being the current embodiment of that lineage. I hope the 'spell' does it justice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Spotlight: Diana Catilleja

We have four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, all born within minutes of each other. No, they weren't angels, and in Brooke's story, you begin to get that idea. There's a little more of the family history, of their background, in her story. She's a gentle, soft-spoken woman with a heart of a lion. She's not shy about giving as good a she gets. To steal a line from the book, Bram says, "I had a picture of a cute lady with a sunhat and trowel. ...This ain’t her.” And believe me, he isn't saying she isn't cute. Brooke really blooms through this book, but her heart stays true and that is important with a character in a book.

When she meets Mitch, it sends her entire world into a tailspin. We all know it's because it's suppose to, but work with me here. Mitch was almost a thaw during the duration of the story, a slow realization until that one moment when he gets smacked by reality. And reality isn't gentle either. I love those moments. A little torture goes a long way. But then you also see the brother bond between Mitch and Bram, so the concept of family is a strong thread throughout the books.

One aspect that did take me by surprise was the depth and scope of Brooke's magic ability. Come back tomorrow to hear about it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Diana Castilleja

Part of this series that intrigued me was the quadruplet angle. Yes, it has an astronimically high probability quotient, but it can happen. Especially when there's the rumored belief that their dear mom might have had a hand in it, but would you want to ask your mother if she stirred the kettle?

Well, neither did any of my gang. And each one of the four has a unique tale to tell, which kept the entire concept engrossing for me. Another point that made this series so much fun to write was how the four weave in and out of the books in cameo appearances. There's always a chance to reconnect with the brothers and sisters no matter whose story you're reading, and each one is individual, so there's never the sense of feeling lost because you didn't start with Roman's story.

Did I mention the four aren't identical? Yep, not a twin to be had, but they do resemble each other in color and maybe a bit more between Roman and Morgan, but it's their unique qualities, I think, that set them each apart. Their closeness is also a very strong thread through the stories. There's a bond between the four that is an unbreakable undercurrent. That sibling strength becomes apparent in Book 3 and Book 4, which leads us into the topic idea I have for tomorrow.....

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Diana Castilleja

Welcome! Thanks to the LASR crew for letting me come in this week and tell you all about my next release! I'm really excited to share this week with everyone. Part of my excitement is the series I have for offer, Aiza Clan Shifter books. I have had this series for years, tweaking and improving as I've learned new things and I've really grown attached to the stories--especially Morgan! But he's later. Yep, I'm a tease.

Brooke is the oldest born daughter in UNBOUND TRUST, a naturalist at heart who discovered she shares more than her lupine tendencies with her family. She also has the natural talent to control the arcane. Yep, she's a witch. And a darned good one at that, but she finds it hard to believe in her own strength and powers for a long time. She's never thought of herself as more than her brothers and sister, all of whom already share some remarkable traits. Being quadruplets for one, and all having the shape-shifter ability to transform to wolf at will. So when an amulet reappears, havoc and chaos are the result. You can't forget the romance for this poor girl either. Mitch is Bram's younger brother, a hunky sweetheart firefighter who knows something is missing in his life, but can't quite figure out what.

Meeting Brooke definitely begins to put it all in a new perspective! But what's a guy to do when he knows his brother is keeping secrets? When he can't seem to forget a stolen kiss from the one woman he can't escape? And no one is willing to fill him in on the oddities happening in the wilderness surrounding them all...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Setting the Stage for Love by Kelli Wilkins

“I need to be with you, Jake. Ever since our weekend skiing trip, I…” Suzanne stepped closer and rested her hand on his thick biceps. Her heart raced as she touched his warm skin. She took a deep breath to calm her jangled nerves, but only inhaled spice-scented cologne.

“You need me?” his deep voice rumbled. “But I thought--”

“Cut!” The house lights went up in the small community theater. “Miss Carmichael, your character is hopelessly in love with this man. The least you could do is make eye contact.”

Suzanne bowed her head as the drama teacher approached the stage.

“If I recall correctly, you’re supposed to kiss.”

She glanced at her acting partner, Mike Kendrick. He was grinning from ear to ear, and he rolled his blue eyes as the teacher stepped onstage.

“Miss Carmichael, I’m not expecting you to actually fall in love with him. You see, class, acting should feel natural. If you don’t believe it, really feel the emotions, the audience won’t…”

Suzanne drowned out the drama instructor’s words as she slunk back to her seat. Why had she listened to Linda? Her sister had convinced her that taking an acting class would be a good way to get over her recent breakup and meet new people. And she was right. In just a few weeks she had boosted her self-confidence, but now she had a different problem. She was falling for her acting partner—for real.

Mike sat down next to her. “Don’t worry, I think we’re pretty good together. We have chemistry.” He winked.

She smiled and studied his profile. He was tall, blond, and well built. How had she gotten so lucky? They were paired up for a romantic love scene after only three classes, and they would be partners for the next six weeks. Sometimes when he held her hand or gazed into her eyes on stage, she thought he might have romantic feelings for her. But that was the goal of acting… right? Were his emotions sincere or just part of the script?

The teacher cleared his throat. “We’ll take a ten-minute break. Then Suzanne and Mike will pick up where we left off.”

Suzanne stood up. A tingle ran through her body as Mike touched her shoulder. “Come with me,” he said. “Let’s have a chat.”

***
Suzanne leaned against the wall next to the vending machine. Mike unwrapped a roll of mints and handed her one.

“I want you to be honest with me,” he said. “Are you okay with this? If the thought of kissing me makes you uncomfortable, I can ask for a different partner.”

“Oh no, it’s not that! I’m fine with kissing you. I wouldn’t mind that at all,” she answered in a rush, then giggled when she realized how that sounded. What woman wouldn’t want to kiss him? He was handsome, sweet natured, and had a good sense of humor.

Mike chuckled and arched an eyebrow. “I’m glad to hear that. I’m happy we’re paired up. I think we work well together.”

“Me too,” she admitted. “There’s no one else I’d rather be partnered with. The scene is fine, it’s just…” She glanced into his blue eyes and decided to try a little ad-libbing. After all, she didn’t have much to lose. If things turned into a disaster with Mike, she could drop the class.

“Jake and Betty are supposed to be madly in love.” She swallowed hard. “How can we convey that when we barely know each other?”

Her pulse quickened as Mike tenderly took her hand in his. “Suzanne, do you think it was an accident that we ended up together?” He grinned, showing off his dimples. “When I saw how the teacher was assigning partners, I switched my seat with the guy next to me. I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to get to know you.”

“Really?” The more Mike talked to her like this, the more she found herself mesmerized by his soft-spoken charm. “Then you…”

“I’m not acting—here or on stage.” He gave her hand a light squeeze. “Maybe we could continue this conversation later—if you’d let me buy you dinner.”

Her heart soared. “I’d like that.”

“Good, because we’ve got to get back to class.”

They walked back into the auditorium and took their places on stage.

“Take it from the middle of the scene,” the drama teacher said.

Suzanne recited her lines and moved closer to Mike. This time, she felt a spark of electricity sizzle between them.

Without hesitating, Mike drew her into his arms. She relaxed and let herself be swept away. Deep down, she knew that this was the start of something magical.

“Fate brought us together, and I never want to let you go,” Mike said, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. “I mean it, Suzanne, for real,” he whispered as he bent close to kiss her.

About the Author: Kelli Wilkins’ short & sweet romances have appeared in The Sun, New Love Stories, Romance Rag, True Love, and ChickLitReview. She has also published several romance novellas with Amber Quill Press. To learn more about Kelli and to catch up on all her writings, visit her website: www.KelliWilkins.com

Author Interview: Denysé Bridger

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to have Denysé Bridger with us this week. Denysé told me that, in one way or another, she's been writing her entire life. When she watches television, she dreams up new episodes of her favorite show.

"That’s what led me to the phenomenon called Fan Fiction, which is pretty much where I learned my 'craft' as a writer. After writing in the area of 200+ stories for various shows, some scripts, and reams of poetry, I decided on a lark to enter a writing contest. I waffled around on doing it, until 48 hours before the deadline, and at the last minute sat down and wrote the story that came to mind. Much to my surprise, I won a place and my first pro contract! Haven’t stopped since then, really."

And, she really hasn't! She said she's written more books that she can recall. And, she writes a variety of genres –from sweet to erotic romance, from westerns to victorian detectives and Greek mythology.

As Fate Decrees was her first major release and was based on Greek mythology and a romance that transcends time. Bella Signorina was her first sweet romance in years and got its title from a song.

She never has a problem with writer's block. In fact, her problem is just the opposite (she suffers from too many ideas) and she told me that it's just as frustrating in some ways as not being able to write at all.

"I write my notes and move on, knowing that I’ve laid the groundwork – and if there is a time when the ideas dry up – I have all this stuff waiting to be explored and written…. It’s a bit like money in the bank that way," she said.

I asked Denysé to share a little bit about what she's working on now.


I’m working on some wonderful projects at the moment!!! Things I am very, very excited about. The biggest projects involve other people, too. One is a book set in Italy, and the hero in it is an International singing sensation – he is in reality based on a friend of mine who is currently recording his debut CD – a handsome, exciting singer named Riccardo Foresi. He is talented, charming, Italian, and incredibly sexy – perfect hero!

My personal passion is the project I am doing with the wonderful man I adore, and it’s a combination of talents. He is a gifted photographer, and we are crafting a lovely book using his photos, his poetry, and mine – and the resulting love affair is called Amore Senza Confini, which translates into Love Without Limit. I’ve set up a blog, and occasionally we post a piece, and photos, so that people can see what we’re doing. It’s quite magical in many ways, and the romance is pure escapism and beauty.

I’ve also begun a project called “La Casa di Segreti” (The House of Secrets) – and that one will be shared with four other very talented authors. It’s set in Victorian era London, at an unusual brothel. There is a teaser/trailer posted on my blog to whet your appetite and stir your curiosity!! I think it will be quite amazing when it’s all done.

Another special book I’ve just started is one called “Viper’s Nest” and it’s for a soldier in Italy who is awaiting his orders to go to Afghanistan. He’s very generously given me photos to use for a cover later, as well as patiently answered what I am sure are very inane questions to him.

I have a new fantasy novel underway called “An Alteration In Destiny” that is a bit of a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, with the added element of gargoyles and fantasy. Really, there are SO many things in the words right now, it’s hard to keep track of it all!


Denysé always tries to create a world where people can be touched in their hearts and imagination.

"Something that has emerged as a trend with books and movies in recent years is this belief that you have to have a message, or teach a lesson," she said. "We are artists, ultimately, and our job is to create entertainment. Sometimes all a book needs to do is make you feel good and entertain you. A lot of people lose sight of that. Romance is about escape and beauty at its core, and as long as you can create a love story that makes your reader believe and smile, then you’ve done your job well. The elements needed to do that are timeless, strong people who bring passion to the story. Well chosen language and attention to detail of era and attitude is an essential element if you do anything historical in nature."

Along with writing, Denysé also looks after a parent and she's the co-owner of an online magazine called Sensual Treats, along with her partner Heather Gardener.

"The magazine is always free, and has picked up quite a following," she told me. "We’re preparing issue three right now, our Holiday edition, and it will be amazing with the features we have lined up! Fabulous interviews with people like Kelley Armstrong and Lisa Jackson, to name just a couple. The website has some special surprises, too."

She also has a special website for free reads: Romantic Moments which contains both erotic and non-erotic tales.

Writing professionally, she told me, is about 90% perseverance and 10% talent. "You have to believe with everything you've got to withstand the tremendous odds against your success," she said. "That's cold, but it's realistic."

I asked Denysé what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out.

"Listen to strangers about your work when they read it – not your best friend or your family," she told me. "The people who love you have no objectivity, and the people who don’t will be truthful. Your editor is not there to rewrite your work, or crush your spirit, so listen to him/her and learn all you can from the wisdom of people who are in the business. Once a story is done, leave it alone and move on – do not keep re-writing it, or you’ll never move past it. Accept that each book will be better than the one before it, and that no matter how good you are, you will never write a perfect book – it can’t be done by anyone."

You can keep up with Denysé on her blog, http://fantasy-pages.blogspot.com

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Clare Austin

Where do you go to find romance?

Setting my stories is one of the most pleasurable aspects of writing. Butterfly is a contemporary romantic comedy that takes place in and around Boston and Nantucket, Massachusetts.

This part of the country has always been a literary center. Some of my favorite books were written there: The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, Little Women, as well as poetry and essays by our nation’s most brilliant minds.

Butterfly opens in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston. The pub where most of the story unfolds is based on a real place a few blocks from the Quincy Market. I have walked those streets, stepped into that pub, chatted with the locals. I tried to make my interpretation of the setting as believable as possible. If you are a Red Sox fan, it might please you to know that the game where Cade takes Flannery on their first date was a real game. If you are not into baseball, it’s still a fun scene full of humor and sexual tension. Sexual tension at a baseball game? Hmmn…interesting.

It is not a requirement to have actually traveled to the place where one sets a novel. I am privileged to be able to travel quite a bit. But, I’ve also traveled virtually, via Google Earth, maps and satellite imagery, to get an orientation to places and figure out where my character is walking or driving. I also use airline and bus schedules, calendars, tide tables, and charts that tell the rising and setting of the sun and moon in a specific place to keep my make-believe world as accurate as possible. These details might not ever be important to a reader, but as an author, I think I write better if my make believe world is intact.

Though my stories usually start as character studies, I am often inspired by a place. In a way, the setting becomes a character. O’Fallon’s Pub is a major player in Butterfly and the next book in the trilogy, Angel’s Share. For the third part of this series, I am taking the story back to Ireland. Selkie’s Song is set in a village on the coast of North County Clare, undeniably one of the most beautiful and compelling sites for a love story.

If you are curious about the settings that inspired my Fadó Trilogy, I hope you will stop by my website, www.clareaustin.com and www.myspace.com/clare_austin. If you wish to contact me personally, my email is authorclare@gmail.com. Don’t be shy…I love to chat with people about writing, books, music and places that inspire romance.

Butterfly is available in paperback as well as e-book and Kindle formats. Angel’s Share will be available March 2010.

Reviews of Clare Austin’s novels:

“The musical imagery in BUTTERFLY makes the story sing with magic that encompasses the senses of the reader. It reveals sadness, joy, hope, and deep, hidden needs--physical, spiritual, and emotional. Enchanting reading!”

Camelia, The Long and The Short of it Reviews

“In ANGEL’S SHARE Ms. Austin has created a fast paced, suspenseful tale, full of twists and unexpected turns, and a love story that will touch your heart.”

~Kate Stevenson, author of Witness…And Wife? And A Piece of Tomorrow, Silhouette Intimate Moments

And, Hot Flash, a stand-alone novel due for release in 2010

"Sexy but sensitive, powerful but poignant--HOT FLASH is not your daughter's romance! This is a story for real women. Savor every word!"

~Award-Winning Author, Deb Stover