Beginning January 1, 2013

Stop by the new site and take a look around.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Sleigh Ride Home by Roxanne Rhoads


The moonlight glittered off the freshly fallen snow. It was like taking a sleigh ride through a forest of crystals. Everything sparkled, glimmered and shimmered. It was truly beautiful. Caleb was really trying so hard to give me the “good, old fashioned Christmas” experience that I had always dreamed of; complete with a one horse open sleigh, fresh falling snow, and a thermos full of hot cocoa.

The blanket started to slip off my lap so I tugged it up to make sure it didn’t fall to the floor of the sleigh.

Caleb glanced my way, “Are you cold, Maggie?”

How could I be cold with Caleb, the man of my dreams and fantasies sitting beside me? I had wanted this man since high school, when he was the popular, hot guy that was so nice to everyone. Including a skinny, scrawny girl with braces and glasses. Me. “No, I’m actually quite warm. The night doesn’t feel that cold and between my thick leggings, sweater, wrap and the blanket I am toasty warm.”

“Good, I didn’t want you to get cold. After living in Texas for the past couple years I bet you aren’t used to the cold, Michigan winters anymore. I was afraid you’d be freezing by now.”

Caleb was always so wonderful. He was the kind of guy that was always concerned about people. We had been pretty good friends. He was so sweet he even took me to our senior prom seven years ago. I was sure he’d just done it to be nice because he felt sorry for me since no one else had asked me to be their date. Now I wasn’t so sure that he had taken me to the prom just to be nice. Maybe he had real feelings for me. The kind of feelings I have for him.

This was only the second time I had seen him since I left to go to college in Texas right after graduation but I had never stopped thinking about him.

It seemed that he never stopped thinking about me either. He sent me letters, cards and emails from time to time always asking when I was coming home. This was the first year I had replied telling him that I’d be home for Christmas. Usually my mom flew out to Texas to spend the holidays with me there. This year, though, my mother had finally met someone special and she wanted to spend the holidays with him…and me. Honestly I was glad. I had really begun to miss Michigan lately, especially at Christmas. There was nothing like a snow covered Christmas.

“No matter how long I stay in Texas, I’ll always be a cold blooded Michigan girl.”

His smile twinkled as bright as the snow, “Glad to hear that.”

“You know, Caleb, this was awfully nice of you to invite me on this sleigh ride. The drive through town seeing all the Christmas displays and lights was fun and then here, in the woods…it is so still, so quiet and so utterly beautiful. It is a dream come true.”

“Maggie, I remembered that last Christmas we spent together before graduation and how you would always talk about wanting an old fashioned Christmas with sleigh rides and hot cocoa and even ice skating. I have always wanted to give that to you. I’ve had old Drew here,” he motioned to the horse, “and this sleigh for five years now hoping you’d come home for the holidays so I could give you the Christmas sleigh ride you’ve always dreamed of.”

“Really? Caleb, I had no idea. But why?”

“Why? Maggie, isn’t it obvious? I love you; I’ve been in love with you since middle school. I’ve tried to put you out of my head, I’ve tried dating other people but it’s you. You are the one that’s always had that special place in my heart.”

My eyes welled up with tears as his words rang true. My heart swelled telling me I felt the same way. All this time I hadn’t let myself believe in my feelings because I feared rejection.

Caleb pulled the sleigh off the trail and into a small clearing.

“Maggie would you consider coming home?” “Caleb, I am home,” I said as I threw my arms around his neck.

“Really? To stay? With me?” he mumbled into my neck.

“Yes, with you, for as long as you’ll have me,” I cried.

“I hope forever isn’t too long for you,” Caleb said with a smile as he pulled away from my tear soaked embrace to look into my eyes.

“Forever sounds just about right.”

About the Author: Story strumpet, tome loving tart, eccentric night owl...these are all words that can describe freelance writer and erotic romance author Roxanne Rhoads. Roxanne writes everything from articles to web content. Her erotic stories and poems have appeared in Playgirl Magazine, several print anthologies, in ebooks and on numerous Web sites.

Roxanne Rhoads Freelance Writer, Author, Poet eroticroxanne@yahoo.com www.roxannesrealm.blogspot.com www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com

Author Interview: Cara Marsi


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Cara Marsi, whose latest releases are out this week: Cursed Mates was released yesterday from Noble Romance and Murder Mi Amore is coming out tomorrow from The Wild Rose Press.

I asked her to tell us a little about her new releases.

In Cursed Mates, Nick Radford is a reluctant werewolf who’s been fighting the Beast within for nearly 500 years. He’s never killed a human, but the Beast is gaining strength and Nick may not be able to ward off his inner demon much longer. Kyla Yaeger is an elite were-hunter with a scarred past. Her life’s mission is to slay the werewolves who slaughtered her parents. Her quest has brought her to Maine where she's been summoned to destroy the werewolf terrorizing the quaint little village of Heavensent. The last thing she needs is to get distracted by her mysterious--not to mention hunky--new neighbor Nick Radford.

Murder, Mi Amore is a romantic suspense about a young American, Lexie Cortese, who comes to Rome, Italy, to forget a hurtful breakup. The last thing she expects is to meet a sexy Interpol agent who suspects her of being part of a terrorist plot involving a stolen diamond. Suddenly thrust into a world of muggings, murder and kidnapping, Lexie doesn't know what to think or who to believe.

Dominic Brioni’s assignment is simple. Befriend the American and bring her to justice. Only Lexie seems like the most unlikely terrorist Dominic has ever met. Sweet, determined, and direct, she faces life with courage and fire, a fire that sparks his protective instincts and a longing for something more—something he allowed himself to hope for only once before. But that woman betrayed him, and his boss isn’t about to let him forget it. With his career on the line and Lexie in danger, will Dominic learn to trust his heart before they both get killed?

I asked Cara how she developed her plots and characters.

"I get a thought in my head. It could be something I read about or heard on the news. I also use snippets of things that have happened to me, especially past hurts and broken relationships. I love tortured heroes who find redemption through their love for my heroines. Redemption and second chances are themes that run through all my stories, whether full novels or short stories. When I'm developing a plot and characters, I think of the back story and how it impacts what my characters are doing now and how they handle problems and how they grow. I try to throw roadblocks at them and see how they get out of the messes I give them. I do character sketches of the hero, heroine and villain. It's important to know your characters, inside and out, to make your stories real. I use the same method on my short stories. Some of my plots aren't enough to sustain a full book, which is why I've begun writing short stories. Short or long, you must know your characters and they must grow during the story."

She told me, however, that no matter how well she gets to know her characters, when it comes to titles she was terrible.

One of her critique partners came up with the title Murder, Mi Amore. The original title was "A Diamond for the Kill," but her editor at The Wild Rose Press wanted something Italian in the title. Another critique partner came up with Cursed Mates. The original title of that one was "Love Came Howling," which a Harlequin editor said was "hokey."

"You know I had to change it after that!" she said.

When Cara was a teenager, she tried to write a romance about Old California, but never got beyond the second chapter. Then, even though she always wanted to be a writer, life got in the way.

"A friend and I were reading some Harlequin romances a while back. One day, we looked at each other and said, 'We could write these,'" she told me. "Hah! Writing a book that tugs at the emotions is a heck of a lot harder than we thought it was. It took me ten years of hard work and rejections to sell my first book to Avalon."

Cara was downsized from her job at the end of 2008, which gave her more time for writing, but she admitted she still doesn't have a real schedule.

"Some days I'm at the computer by 11:00 AM and writing till 4:00 PM. Other days, I'm doing chores in the morning and don't get on the computer till about 2:00 PM. I'll write till about 6:00 PM those days. I write 4-5 hours a day. Maybe I should be on more of a schedule, but I was on a schedule for decades when I worked. I can't do it anymore."

As far as her writing space, she said, "I wish I could say I'm writing from the terrace of my villa overlooking the Caribbean, but I'd be lying. At least my new writing space is a step up, literally and figuratively, from my first writing space in a corner of the dark, damp basement. About a year ago, my husband and I converted a first-floor bedroom into an office. My desk faces a window which overlooks the rose garden. In the summer and spring, it's very pretty. In the winter, not so much. The most exciting thing to happen out there was when I saw a fox bury a dead squirrel under one of the rose bushes. And a groundhog visits the rose garden once in a while."

When she's not writing, Cara loves to travel. Since 1998, she and her family have traveled to Arizona three times, Hawaii, California, Las Vegas twice, Australia for a multi-country family reunion, Canada, England, Italy, plus places close to where she lives like Washington, DC, and New York City.

"There're still plenty of places we want to visit," she said. "My husband and I tend to get lost a lot when we travel. I just bought a GPS so hopefully we won't get lost and won't have any more fights about getting lost."

"How many books have you written?" I asked. "Which is your favorite?"

"I've written five books, one novella, and twelve short stories. So far, three books, the novella and ten of the short stories have been published. I can't pick a favorite. I love them all, and I especially love my heroines and heroes. I have a soft spot for my very first manuscript, which hasn't sold. I've discovered short story writing. I've sold one story to New Love Stories Magazine, and nine and counting to the confession magazines."

On a personal note, Cara hates how she looks in pictures.

"I try to tell myself I really look better in person, but I know I'm lying," she told me.

The strangest thing she's ever eaten was on her trip to Australia, and it tastes like chicken—kangaroo.

"Please don't be angry at me for eating a cute kangaroo," she said. "It was on most menus at the restaurants we frequented."

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

"Read what you want to write; write the stories you want to read; go to conferences and workshops to hone your craft and learn the business side of writing; never give up, even in the face of rejections and criticisms; learn from critiques of your work. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE AND NEVER GIVE UP."
You can keep up with Cara on her website, http://www.caramarsi.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Elaine Hopper

My husband gave me a Droid for my birthday a couple weeks ago and I’m thrilled with my new toy. I’ve hardly put it down, much to my children’s’ dismay as they want to play with it, too. 

When I was a kid, all phones had rotary dials and plugged into the wall. I was a teenager before phones came out in pretty colors and I got a sunny yellow one to compliment the fuchsia walls of my bedroom. 

I loved how George and Jane Jetson always spoke to each other on TV phones. A few years later, I was intrigued by how the Star Trek universe had e-reader type devices (before I knew what to call them) for reading books and letters.
 
I thought it would be so cool if I could have those types of devices and wondered if they would ever be developed and if so, during my lifetime.
Thus, when eBooks and eBook readers came on the scene, I jumped for joy. I was confused and dismayed when so many other people not only rejected but criticized them.
I’m glad to see that they’re becoming popular. People I know in real life, not just in the cyber world, have, use, and love eReaders now. Most of the people I know who don’t have one, want one.
My Droid is awesome. I have a phone, camera, pedometer, flashlight, MP3 player, internet, calorie counter, and a Kindle app with books all in one small, handy device. Last night I read a book using only one hand, even to turn the pages. I could read it easily as I had adjusted the font to a larger than normal size. Awesome!
If you don’t have an electronic device to read books, check them out. I’m willing to bet, given a chance, you’ll like them, too.


 
Elaine Hopper writes sweet and paranormal romances. Currently a customer service manager for a charity that serves the poorest of the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America and of course romance writer, she's also served in the United States Air Force and worked as a Cost Pricing Analyst. Although she hasn't made it into outer space - yet- she marched and twirled flags throughout the south including New Orleans and Biloxi with the AF Drum and Bugle Corps.
Her blog can be found at:
 
She is published by:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Elaine Hopper

I’m excited. Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to receive my royalty check for my October release.

Of course, the paycheck helps as I have a large family with ravenous appetites, but that’s not why I’m excited.

I’m excited because I hope to see that a lot of people enjoyed my latest book. Hopefully, they enjoyed many of my former releases, too.

If I were to never earn another dime from my stories, I’d still write and continue to share my stories with the world.

My characters long to come to life. Often they battle inside me to be the next one to have their story told. They lobby me. They bribe, wine and dine me. Sometimes they argue with me. A few have even tried to seduce me. A couple have succeeded. Sometimes it feels as if other dimensions fill me, trying to get out.
(Oh oh, now the men in the little white coats are going to come to my door to take me away. Or maybe they’re too busy “helping” all the other writers who admit similar things.)

Obviously, writers have to have a vivid imagination if they’re to create original stories.

If I could, I’d write full time. I’d bring hundreds of characters to life. Hopefully, thousands.

My biggest hope, however, is to entertain thousands of readers, starting with you.

 
Elaine Hopper writes sweet and paranormal romances. Currently a customer service manager for a charity that serves the poorest of the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America and of course romance writer, she's also served in the United States Air Force and worked as a Cost Pricing Analyst. Although she hasn't made it into outer space - yet- she marched and twirled flags throughout the south including New Orleans and Biloxi with the AF Drum and Bugle Corps.
Her blog can be found at:
 
She is published by:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Elaine Hopper

Every year I promise myself I won’t let Christmas drive me crazy. Don’t misunderstand. I love the season and especially the reason. However, the craziness often overwhelms me. Often, my writing slides during this time of year.

I’m sure I’m not the only writer who runs out of time and energy to write between Thanksgiving to the New Year (or in my case, my birthday which is a week before Thanksgiving, to the New Year). Or the only person, writer or not, who can’t fit everything we need, much less want to do, in twenty-four measly hours.

And yet, this year, I’ve signed up to be a guest blogger not only here at LASR, but at several other blogs. I must be certifiable.

I say that half-jokingly, as I love to blog and write and I love Christmas. However, I’m half-serious as my day-job is much busier in November and December than any other time of the year. I work a lot of overtime and skip most of my breaks, then exhausted, I drag home and fall into bed.

Thus, weekends that are devoted to writing the rest of the year, are devoted to Christmas preparations and celebrations with my family and friends during this time of the year. I feel guilty about writing and promoting less, however, I’d feel worse ignoring my loved ones. When my life comes to its end, I’ll be happier knowing I spent quality time with them rather than writing the most beloved book in the world.

That said, I love to write, and I’d love for my stories to live way beyond my years. But I will share a secret. I’ve written many Christmas stories, but I usually write them in July with Christmas movies and music playing in the background, sugar-cookie or peppermint scented candles burning in the house, and Christmas decorations adorning my writing spaces. Sometimes I even wear my Christmas socks and doo dads to get into the holiday spirit to take advantage of the time to do the stories justice.

If only I’d had the foresight to write Christmas blogs in July, too. Perhaps, this July I will.

 
Elaine Hopper writes sweet and paranormal romances. Currently a customer service manager for a charity that serves the poorest of the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America and of course romance writer, she's also served in the United States Air Force and worked as a Cost Pricing Analyst. Although she hasn't made it into outer space - yet- she marched and twirled flags throughout the south including New Orleans and Biloxi with the AF Drum and Bugle Corps.
Her blog can be found at:
She is published by:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Elaine Hopper

As I shop for Christmas this year, I’m reminded of how many different personalities there are in my family.

K # 1 who used to be L, wants sexy lingerie from Victoria Secrets, spa days, and silver jewelry. On the other hand, K specifically does not want movies or electronic doo dads this year.

B wants baking pans, cookbooks, and new car seat covers.

K # 2 wants lots of books including Stephen King’s newest and the Wheels of Time series.

M wants new clothes as she’s just lost 60 pounds. She also wants a new MP3 player, music, and workout equipment. She would like a Droid and an e-reader, too.

S wants a Japanese learning tape, art supplies, and gift cards to Borders or Barnes & Noble’s so she can get lots of manga. She’d also like a Droid and an e-reader.

E wants a lot of video games or a gift card to Game Stop. He also wants T-shirts and jackets but only if they have freaky skulls adorning them.

D wants a Play Station football game and anything to do with football or baseball.

G has no idea what he wants.

Me? I’m all about writing. I want custom artwork for my blog. I’d love to have a housekeeper and cook so I have more time to write. And I’d really like to have a treadmill with a built-in computer so I can read and write while working out.

S and M look a lot alike. K #1 and E also have a strong physical resemblance to one another. Yet, you can tell from their likes how different they are. Whereas E is a homebody who prefers to entertain himself at home, S can’t wait to travel to Japan.

This is a simplistic characterization, but would be a good start to populate characters in a book.

Of course, if I were to begin creating characters with such generalizations, I would build on them, adding muscle and sinew, flesh and bones. For instance, I might add that although D didn’t put it on his list, he loves everything about the rock band KISS. He wishes he could have been a guitarist rock star or pro baseball player. However, he’d settle for being an umpire in the big leagues.

In K #1’s case, I would let you know that the reason she doesn’t want movies or electronic gadgets is not because she doesn’t like them, just the opposite. She’s very cutting edge and has all the latest technology. It’s very difficult to find a gadget she doesn’t already own.

M has more reason to lose weight than merely looking better, getting healthy, or even to feel better. She wants to start a career, join the military, and see the world. She has a big goal that’s very important to her.

Of course, I wouldn’t create a character for one of my books exactly like someone I know. But I observe and take notes. I mix, match, and change things around. And sometimes, I just conjure them purely from my dreams and imagination.

 
Elaine Hopper writes sweet and paranormal romances. Currently a customer service manager for a charity that serves the poorest of the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America and of course romance writer, she's also served in the United States Air Force and worked as a Cost Pricing Analyst. Although she hasn't made it into outer space - yet- she marched and twirled flags throughout the south including New Orleans and Biloxi with the AF Drum and Bugle Corps.
Her blog can be found at:
She is published by:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Elaine Hopper

After the day job today, my daughters and I stopped at the mall to catch a sale and get a bite of Japanese for dinner. On the way out, I spied a sign, got all giddy inside, jumped up and down and pointed at the banner. I squealed something like, “Barry Manilow!”

My twenty-seven and twenty-year-olds gave me twin blank stares as if I’d gone crazy and asked, “Who?”

I was surprised for a split second then I realized, as I often do, that the past forty years have flown by in a blink. I felt old at thirty when my husband took me to see Manilow in concert. (Hint – that was in 1990.) I was a young teen when “Mandy”, Manilow’s first song released and propelled him into super stardom.

I never thought Manilow had a great voice. It was pleasant. Yet, I loved him. I still love him. As he put it, “he wrote the songs that made the whole world sing.” His songs are a huge part of my life. A couple are numbered in my all-time favorite songs.

Why?

His songs evoke wonderful emotions in me. They’re twisted and tied up with beautiful memories. They take me back to a time I was falling in love. When they play, I feel like I’m falling in love again.

Just like a cozy romance novel.

Romance is all about the emotions. When you find one like “Mandy” or “This One’s For You” (Manilow songs), you want to savor it and wrap yourself up in it forever.

Hopefully, some of the romances I’ve written will fall into that category. (Heck, hopefully all of them will.) I know I’m on the right track when I get choked up with emotion or shed tears as I’m writing.

Hopefully, my husband will take me to see Manilow in concert for our anniversary this year. And, hopefully, my daughters will remember the singer they’ve heard their mother play for many years. That may be too much to hope. The twenty-year-old is the same child who asked me who “Sir Paul” (McCartney) was a couple years ago.


 
Elaine Hopper writes sweet and paranormal romances. Currently a customer service manager for a charity that serves the poorest of the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America and of course romance writer, she's also served in the United States Air Force and worked as a Cost Pricing Analyst. Although she hasn't made it into outer space - yet- she marched and twirled flags throughout the south including New Orleans and Biloxi with the AF Drum and Bugle Corps.
Her blog can be found at:
She is published by:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Wishes by Sharon McGregor


Abby Hudson pressed her nose against the brightly decorated store window. There it was- the Tamsin doll, the toy her daughter Emily had talked about for weeks and number one on her Santa list for this Christmas. She stared until she could make out the price tag and gulped in dismay. For once, she wished she had a credit card. She knew there would not be enough left from her paycheck after rent and utilities to cover the expensive toy. Ricky had been a wonderful husband and father, but a terrible financial manager. Abby hadn’t realized the extent of their money problems until after he died when she had to start picking up the pieces. First thing on that list had been to cut up all credit cards. Her job at the bank just covered essentials and she knew the Tamsin doll wasn’t one of those.

She sighed deeply, only to hear a familiar voice at her left elbow. “It can’t be that bad , surely?”

She looked up to see Darren Harding, her neighbor from down the street and father of Emily’s best friend, Jennifer. More than once those startling blue eyes and the slightly off-center grin had passed through her dreams. She pulled herself together to say. “Just window shopping. Have you finished your Christmas list for Jennifer?"

“Almost. It seems Jennifer and your Emily are now BFF’s. They haven’t reached the texting stage yet but the terminology seems to fit.”

“I’m glad they’re friends. It’s been a tough move for us, to start everything from scratch. Jennifer has really helped Emily. She even has her asking to sign up for figure skating lessons.”

“Are you visiting family for Christmas?”

“It will just be Emily and I. And Santa, of course. How about you?”

“My sister and her husband are coming to stay; we take turns. This year I get to mangle the turkey.”

Abby saw the time reflected on the store clock. “I’ve got to run, can’t be late for work.” With a last lingering glance at the doll and another lingering thought of those blue eyes, she dashed down the street and turned the corner to the bank.

Her boss was waiting for her. "Can I have a word?”

She froze for a moment, wondering if she was going to be let go or her hours reduced. She never expected the card held out to her by her boss. “I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve appreciated your good work,” he said. “There’s a little Christmas bonus in here as my way of saying thanks.”

Abby peeked into the envelope after stammering out a surprised thanks, and a blurted request for five minutes to run an errand. Now she had enough to buy the Tamsin doll for Emily.

She rushed down the street but her heart sank as she saw the doll missing from its place in the window. Then she turned to see Darren exiting the store with a shopping bag. She knew without looking what was in his package.

“Thought I’d better get it while I could.” He lifted his bag. “These dolls are a hot item and Jennifer has been talking about nothing else.”

“Emily too,” said Abby, unable to disguise the dismay in her voice. Somehow, the magic of the blue eyes failed to work for her. She stuffed the bonus money deep into her pocket and turned for work, hoping Darren didn’t see the moisture in her eyes. It was silly to be so worked up over a doll, but she couldn’t help the disappointment.

She checked the internet, googling all the major toy stores, with the same news everywhere. Sold out. Not available.

She busied herself with the tree and decorations, working herself into a holiday mood, almost forgetting about the doll.

Then the doorbell rang the Saturday morning before Christmas. She looked out to see Darren standing with a shopping bag held tightly. “I know Emily is skating with Jennifer,” he said, “so I thought this would be a good time to stop by.” He held out the package. “I could tell how disappointed you were when I beat you to the punch with the Tamsin doll, so I asked my sister to check for me in her town. Miracle of all miracles, she found one.”

He looked at her open mouth. “You do still want one? Or did I misread? I do that sometimes.”

“No; that’s perfect. How can I ever thank you?” She also thanked her stars she still had the bonus money tucked away. How embarrassing it would be if she didn’t have the money to repay him. “Emily will be so thrilled on Christmas morning. She’ll be on the phone to Jennifer first thing.”

“I think we’re going to be subjected to a few tea parties together in the near future.” The blue eyes emanated megawatts.

“I think I can just handle that,” thought Abby.

About the Author: Sharon McGregor has had stories and articles appear in Lake Country Journal, Fifty Something, Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine, Horizon, and Stories That Lift.

Author Interview: Sarah-Jane Lehoux


The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Sarah-Jane Lehoux, whose latest book Shades of War has just been released by Mundania Press.

I asked her to share the blurb from this second book in her fantasy series.

Sometimes the past can't be forgotten. Sometimes the truth refuses to be buried. And sometimes the dead won't stay dead.

It began as a simple request: Journey to the Northern Jungles and bring a wayward son back to the safety of his farm and family before the racial tension that is building between humans and dark elves erupts into civil war. But life is never simple for Sevy, and she soon finds herself entangled in a bloody battle of good versus evil, love versus hate.

Old friends and enemies reunite, familial bonds are broken, and loyalty is tested. And in the midst of the steamy, sultry jungles, the ghosts of a serial killer's victims come out to play. Sevy, as petulant and irascible as ever, must overcome her personal demons in order to expose a madman and bring peace back to the kingdom. But just how much of her sanity must she sacrifice to help her friends? And how can she save anyone when she can't even save her own soul?
Sevy was introduced in Thief, the first book of the series. It follows Sevy, a self-proclaimed bitch who has lost the man she loved above all others. She goes to some extreme lengths, including demonic pacts and black magic, to try to regain the happiness she once felt. But her obsession doesn’t come without a price, and she just might lose her soul, her sanity, and the life of her only friend in the process.

Sarah-Jane is currently working on the third book in the series, Masquerade.

"I’m also working on a comedic fantasy called Red Rover," Sarah-Jane told me. "It’s about a bored, twenty-something office worker who gets whisked to a crazy alternate universe by a Puck-like immortal. I also have a couple of short stories and a novella that I’ve been pounding away at to limited success."

The characters, like the office worker above and Sevy, always come to Sarah-Jane first.

"I’m not a huge fan of plot driven stories," she said. "I enjoy letting the characters themselves become the focal point. I think that helps to create a story with more heart, a story that readers can more easily relate to."

"What inspired you to write your first book?" I asked.

"I had joined a thread online where around ten people took turns writing a story. That fizzled out thanks to lack of participation and overall suckiness, but I enjoyed one of the characters I had created and decided to tell her story from the beginning. And it just grew from there."

And, thus Sevy and the fantasy series was born.

I asked Sarah-Jane if she ever suffered from writer's block.

"I don’t really subscribe to the notion of writer’s block. I think it’s pretty much a cop out. ‘Oh, I can’t possibly write today, but it’s not my fault because I have writer’s block.’ Bull! The only way to get through slumps is to power through them or wait them out. But most important is to accept the fact that it’s not that you can’t write that day, it’s that you don’t want to."

Sarah-Jane told me that she writes at a small desk, completely free of clutter.

"It’s all rather bland and boring because I have a very short attention span and if my desk was too busy, I would lose focus," she explained.

When Sarah-Jane was growing up she wanted to be: a pirate, thanks to Peter Pan; an actor, thanks to a local production of The Wizard of Oz; and an archeologist, thanks to Indiana Jones.

"I was a highly impressionable kid apparently," she said.

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

"A good grasp of human nature and a developed sense of empathy. A lot of people throw around the saying 'write what you know,' but if that were true, I would only be able to write about a day in the life of a vet tech. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write about fantasy worlds filled with murder and monsters and mayhem. To me, writing what you know doesn’t mean personal experiences. It means understanding how and why people react to events the way they do. Before the plots, before the prose and the poetry, writing needs to have a soul."

Sarah-Jane shared with me that she would love to get a dog, but she thinks it might not work out so well with what she calls her "horde of evil cats."

"They would murder any canine I dared to bring home," she told me. "Luckily for me, I’m a veterinary technician, so I can get my fix of doggy breath and happy tails at my day job and not have to get mauled at home. Unless, of course, they smell the dogs on my clothes. Then I can look forward to stinky little surprises left around the house."

She has six of them, which she says is an occupational hazard of working at a vet hospital.

"I can’t help but take home every sob story I come across," she explained. "And do you think they thank me for it? Hah! Oh well, I guess that’s just part of their charm."

"What is your strangest habit?" I wondered.

"I was raised Roman Catholic. For some reason, don’t ask me why, whenever I walk under a bridge, I have to make the sign of the cross. OCD? Just a smidge, I suppose."

She told me she doesn't consider herself either a morning person or a night person, but more of a "random half hour person."

"I have fairly low energy levels most of the day, except for one little burst that happens sporadically. During that half hour, I enjoy a great deal of creativity and drive, and I also annoy my husband to no end. Especially when that half hour comes at midnight and takes the form of spontaneous serenades."

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

"There is a difference between writing as a hobby and writing as a career. Research all aspects of writing, from first drafts to editing to finding and submitting to the appropriate publisher. Don’t expect any short cuts. This is a line of work that can take years before you see any tangible results. Be patient, be persistent and stay positive!"
You can keep up with Sarah-Jane on her blog, http://sarah-janelehoux.blogspot.com,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Spotlight: J.S. Nichols


It's a Team Effort

            It’s Friday and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Long and the Short Reviews for hosting me this week.  As an unknown debut author I can tell you getting your name out in front of new readers is a team effort.  Through opportunities like the Author Spotlight and with help from my publisher, Sapphire Blue Publishing, the name J.S. Nichols is no longer completely unknown.
           
            Every day this week, I’ve asked you to follow along as I used themes from my upcoming novel, Come Back to Me, to talk about some of my favorite charities. As crazy as it sounds to use a book set during spring break to highlight charities as we head into the winter holiday season, I think it’s worked.

We’ve talked about Erin’s favorite charity, The March of Dimes, Ryan’s favorite charity, Stop Hunger Now, we used the cruise ship to discuss The YMCA and I kicked off this week talking about the American Red Cross.

            Today, I want to talk about the American Cancer Society. Cancer is a frightening word, especially when applied to your sibling, your parent, your spouse, your child or you. I’m intimately familiar with the word. In seven years we’ve had three different types of cancer affect my family.
           
            Did you know the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is already gearing up for next spring’s walk? As we wrap presents and sing carols, staff and volunteers are recruiting team captains, encouraging donations in memoriam and designing new ways to inspire more people to take action.

            The American Cancer Society doesn’t just focus on one type of cancer but the money donated goes to researching all different types. Finding and funding a cure for all cancers in our life time is a team effort. For more information about the American Cancer Society or getting involved with the Relay for life go to http://www.relayforlife.org/relay/

            Thank you for reading this week. Come Back to Me is scheduled for release in January 2011 by Sapphire Blue Publishing. Again, this has been J.S. Nichols but you can call me, Jess.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: J.S. Nichols


Hungry for a Cause

            One of my favorite songs, especially at this time of year is, “Do They Know It’s Christmastime (Feed the World)” by Band Aid. The song happens to be a favorite of Ryan McKinnon, hero of my debut novel, Come Back to Me.
           
When not chasing after his wayward fiancée, Ryan McKinnon likes to lend a hand to help end world hunger. A big guy—we’re talking 6’6”—Ryan is often called upon to help load trucks with the assemble bags of food.  Honestly, that’s fine with Ryan; he’d rather do the heavy lifting than talk in front of an audience.

With his background as a police officer, Ryan has seen the darker side of life.  Living in the city of Tidewater, he also knows poverty and hunger can strike anyone. Children are often the most affected. And a hungry or hurting child is something he cannot stand to see. For this reason, Ryan is active with Stop Hunger Now, an international organization dedicated to ending world hunger.

            Although Ryan is a fictitious character, Stop Hunger Now is a real program. Founded in 1998 the organization made it a mission to feed the world. This grass roots non-profit works with religious groups to raise funds to buy nutritious food then asks the local community to come out and help assemble bags. In a single afternoon, with the help of the community, Stop Hunger Now can assemble 20,000 bagged meals ready for shipment around the world.

            For more information about this incredible organization go to: http://www.stophungernow.org/site/PageServer .

            Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: J.S. Nichols


Swimming in the Sea

            It’s Wednesday and during the holiday season most people don’t think about swim safety. Right now, thoughts have turned to casseroles and cookies, shopping and wrapping.
           
            Let me divert your attention for a minute. Join me as we step onto the cruise ship from my debut novel, Come Back to Me. The romantic suspense is set on a cruise ship sailing around the Caribbean.

The sun blazes in a sky so blue it almost hurts your eyes. The air is warm, salty and invigorating and you can’t help drawing a deep breath.  In the distance a bird arrows down into the water then shoots back toward the heavens, a hapless fish dangles from its beak.
           
            The handrail of the pristine ship is teak and warm to the touch.  It gleams in the afternoon sunshine.  Below, waves lap at the side of the anchored ship.  People disembark, some head out to shop, others amble toward the beach. You follow the beachgoers.

The sea water is crystalline and fish dart away as people begin to splash. There are shrieks of joy followed by laughter.  Nearby, a line forms on a pier nearby polished so well, no one receives a splinter even when bare toes curl on the wood.

One after another, people jump from the pier.  The water looks warm, and inviting. Do you jump of the pier?

Can you swim?

You think back to swim classes you took at the YMCA. The swim instructor not only helped you conquer your fear of the water, but encouraged you every step of the way as you learned the backstroke, the breaststroke and even your feeble attempt at the butterfly.

It didn’t matter to the Y that your family couldn’t afford the swim classes.  Through their Open Doors program, you received the lessons you needed.

You can swim. Thanks to the staff and volunteers who helped run the classes that the Y holds all year round. 

With a smile and a wave, you dive into the water.

To learn what classes are available and what else the Y does to help its community go to, http://www.ymca.net/.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: J. S. Nichols


Marching To Your Own Beat

            It’s Tuesday, December 7, 2010. The carolers are singing and the weather is turning cool, but not in my debut novel, Come Back to Me. There it’s springtime on a cruise ship. The temperature’s up and the music blasting has nothing to do with the holidays.

Stretched out on a lounger wearing her black bikini is Erin Brady, heroine of Come Back to Me.  Right now, she’s soaking up the hot sun’s rays but when not sailing around the picturesque blue-green Caribbean waters, Erin is a Labor and Delivery (L&D) nurse in Tidewater, VA.

Erin is smart, feisty and beautiful. She’s one woman who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, even in the face of danger. Whether in a bikini or wearing hospital scrubs, Erin is the first to rush to someone’s aid. She often leaps head-long into dangerous situations simply because she cannot stand to see anyone hurting. Unfortunately, she’s also the last to ask for help. Oh and she has a big secret…but to find out what is, you’ll have to read the book.

Today, we’re talking about one of Erin’s favorite charities. The March of Dimes.  Safe pregnancies are important to Erin. As a L&D nurse, she understands that despite our advances in science and medicine, there are some women who cannot get pregnant and others who cannot remain pregnant long enough to deliver a full-term baby. Did you know premature birth is the leading killer of newborns in the US?

It’s why Erin and I support the March of Dimes. To learn more information about this amazing organization, founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt go to http://www.marchofdimes.com/.

Have a wonderful day!