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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Heap of Trouble by Ashley Ladd

Raina Everett paced. She didn’t care that the desk sergeant glared as if he wanted to lock her up. Her taxes paid his salary and she had rights damn it!

She checked her watch and sighed. Then she marched up to the man. “Is Lieutenant Ross Lowe available yet?”

Scowling, the man insinuated his finger between his neck and collar. “He’ll be out soon.”

Soon?!? Her older brother had been missing two weeks and this moron told her “soon”? This department said the town Dave lived in wasn’t in their jurisdiction, that she had to go to Tampa to file the missing person’s report in person.

By the time Ross sauntered out her blood boiled. She rose and fisted her hands on her hips. Then she took a deep breath and tried to blind herself to the man’s raw sexuality more evident today than ever, damn him.

“Raina. Is everything okay?” Ross’s dark gaze swept over her as if he was guessing why she darkened his door.

The husky timbre of his voice sent chills racing down her spine, but she ordered her nerves to behave. Aware of an audience, she lowered her voice. “Can we speak in private?”

Ross’s eyes narrowed but he politely escorted her to his desk. He waved her into a chair. “How can I help?”

She splayed her hands on the table and looked Ross square in his eyes. “No one’s seen or heard from Dave in two weeks. The bozos in your department refuse to cooperate. I can’t take time off work to go to Tampa. Please help me.”

A long silence spun out as Ross stared at her. Then he tapped his pencil on his desk. “Dave’s made a career of disappearing for long periods. Is he using again?”

Raina recoiled from the sharp sting of his verbal slap. Seething she jumped up. “Damn you!” She stormed out of the office.

What had possessed her to think Ross would help or even commiserate? Ross accusing her of enabling Dave was the reason they’d broken up. Maybe if she’d let Dave stay with her the last time he’d asked, he’d be safe.

Footsteps rifled behind her and before she could duck into the elevator, Ross grabbed her arm and gritted out, “You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?”

Daring him to continue, she hiked up her chin and yanked away her arm. “What do you care as long as it’s not in your jurisdiction?”

Ross swore. “I’ve never stopped caring about you. I can’t stand to see that brother of yours suck you into his messes.”

Hysterical laughter exploded from her lips. She had gotten herself into a heap of trouble without Dave’s help. “You have a funny way of showing it.”

Yet her gut knotted and she shivered. She’d been stupid to come.

Ross captured her hand, dragged her to a private room and closed the door. He muttered under his breath and pulled her into his arms.

Surprised when his lips descended on hers she melted into his kiss. Starved, she plundered his lips.

The kiss deepened until she was lost. He pulled back but instead of releasing her he rested his forehead on hers and searched her eyes. “I could get fired for this but I’ll see what I can find.”

Relief and gratitude flooded her. Her knees suddenly weak she clasped her hands behind his neck and drew on his strength. “Thank you.”

Ross dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose then laced his fingers through hers and led her back to his desk. He plied her with coffee while his fingers danced over his keyboard and he spoke to several people over the phone.

She caught enough of the conversations to hear he’d broken into Dave’s phone records and was calling everyone on the list as well as his official contacts in Tampa. Several times he paused to squeeze her hand and lift it to his lips.

Bewitched, she longed to wipe out the past and start over but she couldn’t ignore her tumultuous thoughts. As much as she yearned to bury herself in him it wasn’t fair.

“Found him. He’s fine.” Ross curled his arms around her and nuzzled her neck. “He lost his phone skiing, but he’s okay. I blistered his ears for scaring you like this.”

Relieved, she slumped. Tears of happiness overtook her and she turned in his arms and sobbed on his shoulder.

Ross stroked her hair and nibbled her ear. “You heard me right? Dave’s okay.”

She gulped and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks. I apologize for those awful things I said. Forgive me?”

He frowned and regarded her questioningly. “But?”

“But what?” Unable to meet his gaze she veiled her eyes.

“This is it? What if I want us to try again? I love you.”

Happy but scared she trembled. “I love you, too. But I’m no good for you. My brother…”

Ross raked his fingers through his hair. “I don’t give a damn. I want to marry you, not him.”

She cracked a smile but it was short lived. “I can’t suck you into my problems: foreclosure, bankruptcy…”

Ross drew her into his arms gain. “Is that all? There’s no one else?”

“Is that all?” She choked on the words. “My problems could ruin you, too, especially if you marry me.”

Ross gave her a stern glare but it also brimmed over with love. “Then I’ll help pay off the debts. Money means nothing if we’re not together.”

She blinked rapidly. “Are you sure? Shouldn’t you think this over?”

He got down on bended knee and claimed her hand. “Positive. Move in with me. Marry me. Make me the happiest man in the world.”

Her heart somersaulted. Overwhelmed with love, she nodded and lowered herself into his arms and his kisses forever. “Yes.”

About the author: I'm a published romance author of 40+ romance novels. My most recently released book is "Sorry Charlie" in the Friction anthology, an M/M romance published by Total-E-Bound at www.total-e-bound.com I'm originally from Cincinnati but now live in sunny South Florida. My next release, an erotic M/F romance, will be on October 5, 2009 at www.total-e-bound.com and is entitled "Recipe for Disaster".

I love 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 even talking cats in my novels.
http://ashleyladd.blogspot.com

Author Interview: Linore Rose Burkard

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to have Linore Rose Burkard with us today, whose newest book The Country House Courtship is released this month. The Country House Courtship is third in her series that began with Before the Season Ends. I asked her to tell us a little about this newest installment.

"The Country House Courtship was a great excuse to visit the Mornays who are now five years into their marriage; and to give Beatrice Forsythe (the heroine’s younger sister from the earlier books) a chance to do a little more growing up and fall in love. Including some minor characters, there are three romance threads in the book, so overall it is a really romantic book, but in a clean and fun way."

Not surprisingly, perhaps, Jane Austen is Linore's favorite author, and she's currently rereading Pride and Prejudice, on her Kindle. Her Kindle was an anniversary present and now that she has it, she's actually being able to get in more fiction reading.

"I still don’t much contemporary fiction, but at least I’m getting to revisit some old favorites as well as find some new (old) books.What I am really appreciating about Jane this time around is that she has the style of the 19th century but without the greatly convoluted plots of a Dickens; or the drawn out slow pace of, say, Anne Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho)," Linore explained. "She was a master of keeping in her books and dialogue just what needed to be there and nary a word more. I love it."

To Linore, the story is the MOST important thing when it comes to good writing.

"I can enjoy a book in nearly any setting, contemporary to ancient, as long as the story is compelling enough," she told me. "And by that I mean, not only interesting, but smooth enough in its writing style so that I don’t have to stop and think about the writing style. Any book that I can get 'lost' in is a good book. This is with regard to fiction only, of course."

When it comes to her own writing, plots come to her based on who the characters are and whether or not they are contemporary or historical. She rarely has to ask herself how she can get the character into hot water, because when she first conceives of the characters, they are normally already in trouble.

"The rest of the story spreads out, like a network, and pieces get put into place," she explained further. "The central character is in the center of the web, and their background and circumstances gradually broadens around them until I get a full enough picture to start writing."

Sometimes she will already have her titles in place, but other times she needs to write much of the book before she can get a grasp on what the title could be.

"Before the Season Ends literally takes place within the course of a London social season—which explains the title," she told me. "The House in Grosvenor Square sort of speaks for itself, referring to the wealthy regency townhouse of the hero, which is a focal point for much of the plot. The Country House Courtship is perhaps the most explicit of the three, referring not only to location, but plot: you know it’s set in an English country estate, and that there’ll be a courtship! I like a title to reflect the book’s story in a way that isn’t so abstract."

Linore rarely gets a span of hours to just sit and write without an interruption, so she's learned how to jump back deeply into the story.

"Most of my children are in school or college," she said, "but my youngest does a good job of keeping me hopping, plus I homeschool her. I can eke out more hours when I really need to by keeping my internet turned off, and ignoring email!"

Unlike many present-day authors, Linore writes in omniscient POV (point of view).

"It seems writers are often taught NOT to write in omniscient POV, so they find my doing it either interesting, fascinating, enjoyable, or else it’s like a stumbling block to them," she told me. "They can’t get over that I break a perceived 'rule' in my books, and so it lessens the reading experience for them. I think writers are told to avoid it because it can be tricky, and so why take the chance? But it isn’t that I 'try' to write that way, it’s just natural to me."

On a more personal note, Linore confessed she almost always hates how she looks in pictures.

"When I see photos from ten years ago or more, now I think, ‘hey, they weren’t so bad,’ but at the time they made me cringe," she said. "I’ve felt that way since I was in grade school, when I and my siblings had hair cuts that my father gave us, making us look (we thought) like the little Dutch boy on the paint cans. I’m not saying that’s WHY I don’t like my own photos, but I do know it started young!"

Linore is curious to find out what kind of technology will be available in the next fifty to sixty years.

"I can’t even imagine how small our gadgets will be—and what e-readers will look like!" she said. "When you think about how extraordinary the changes have been in the last century, and how change is only accelerating, it definitely makes me curious as to the future."

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

"Have I! I’ve cried during commercials." She grinned. "I used to get really sappy and teary around PMS time, you know? So, really, the right commercial could get me."

She's from New York, originally, so her favorite pizza is real New York pizza. She told me that when she first moved to Ohio, she found the pizza sort of laughable, but she's come to really enjoy it.

"Early in our time here, I had stopped at a pizza place with a bunch of kids—not only my own five, but we had friends along. I wanted to know how much pizza to order, so I asked how many slices came in a pie. The guy could not understand my question—turns out they don’t 'slice' their pizzas, but they cut them into little squares," she shared with me. "Another time when I said I wanted to order a pie, the woman thought I meant a fruit pie! (In NY, we always ordered pizza ‘pies.’) "

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

She smiled and said, "Hmm, something like, ‘So how does it feel to be a million-copy selling author?’"

You can keep up with Linore on her website, http://www.linoreburkard.com

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Cindi Myers

New Years Writing Resolutions

5. Try sometime new


It's easy to get stuck in a rut in writing as well as in life, so in 2010 I'm going to vow to try new things. I'm going to write a project or two that's completely new for me. Even if the project doesn't sell, I think it will be good for me to stretch my creative wings a little.

And who knows? I might discover talents that have lain dormant until now, or fall in love with a kind of story I'd never considered before.

This is a business in which it pays to be flexible, and one way to do that is to keep trying new things. As for what that new thing will be, I'm not entirely certain. I'm fascinated by Steampunk right now, so maybe I'll try my hand with that. Or I'll write a new historical — something I haven't done in years.

The great thing about trying new things is that the possibilities are limitless. There are no strings attached, so I can try anything.

Do you have something new you'd like to try in 2010?




************************************************************
THE FATHER FOR HER SON
Harlequin Superromance
January 2010
Life hasn't been easy for single mom Marlee Britton, but she's proud of her ability to look after herself and her son. Then old flame Troy Denton shows up after seven years, wanting to be a father to his son. and to rekindle his relationship with Marlee. While Troy struggles to prove himself trustworthy, Marlee wonders how she can ever give her heart to the man who broke it so long ago.

**************************
"MELTING POINT" in BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE
with Jennifer Greene and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Anthology
January 2010
Kristjan Gunnarson is Iceland's first ever Olympic medalist. Coloradoan Stacy Bristol thinks he'll be the perfect model for her new advertising campaign, but she isn't prepared for the impact handsome Kristjan has on her. As she supervises filming around Iceland, Stacy fights her attraction to Kristjan. Can a down-to-business American and a footloose Icelander find love in the land of ice and fire?

******************************************

Cindi Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote and illustrated their own historical romance novel. The manuscript was eventually confiscated by her English teacher, who told her she should spend her time learning to properly conjugate a sentence. Since then, Cindi has gone on to write more than three dozen novels, both historical and contemporary. She also teaches writing and is a popular speaker and workshop presenter. She produces a weekly market newsletter at http://www.cindimyersmarketnews.wordpress.com Visit her website at http://www.CindiMyers.com
********************************************************

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Cindi Myers

New Years Writing Resolutions

4. Read more


You wouldn't think I'd even have to make this one a resolution, but as my schedule has become busier with writing, one of the things to fall by the wayside is reading. I have stacks and stacks of books I want to read. I keep buying new ones because I don't want to miss new releases by favorite authors and other books I've heard about and want to try.

So in 2010 I want to make more time in my life to read. Reading is essential research for any author. It's important to know what's being published in your genre. And reading outside your genre is a great way to foster new ideas and new approaches to familiar themes.

Last year I did start listening to audio books when I exercise and on long drives. That helped up my consumption of books considerably, and it's a practice I plan to continue this year. I even have a new MP3 player which will hold even more audio books.

How do you make more time for reading in your life?


************************************************************
THE FATHER FOR HER SON
Harlequin Superromance
January 2010
Life hasn't been easy for single mom Marlee Britton, but she's proud of her ability to look after herself and her son. Then old flame Troy Denton shows up after seven years, wanting to be a father to his son. and to rekindle his relationship with Marlee. While Troy struggles to prove himself trustworthy, Marlee wonders how she can ever give her heart to the man who broke it so long ago.

**************************
"MELTING POINT" in BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE
with Jennifer Greene and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Anthology
January 2010
Kristjan Gunnarson is Iceland's first ever Olympic medalist. Coloradoan Stacy Bristol thinks he'll be the perfect model for her new advertising campaign, but she isn't prepared for the impact handsome Kristjan has on her. As she supervises filming around Iceland, Stacy fights her attraction to Kristjan. Can a down-to-business American and a footloose Icelander find love in the land of ice and fire?

******************************************

Cindi Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote and illustrated their own historical romance novel. The manuscript was eventually confiscated by her English teacher, who told her she should spend her time learning to properly conjugate a sentence. Since then, Cindi has gone on to write more than three dozen novels, both historical and contemporary. She also teaches writing and is a popular speaker and workshop presenter. She produces a weekly market newsletter at http://www.cindimyersmarketnews.wordpress.com Visit her website at http://www.CindiMyers.com
********************************************************

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Cindi Myers

New Years Writing Resolutions

3. Exercise More


What does exercise have to do with writing, you ask? Quite a lot, it turns out. Healthy writers are better writers. Exercising increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, which has to help creativity, right?

Exercise also increases stamina, helping the body stand up to long hours at the keyboard. For all that it's a sedentary occupation, writing is fraught with possibilities for injury. I don't know any veteran writing who hasn't suffered with neck, back, shoulder, elbow and wrist problems. Stretching, weight training and generally being in better shape can help beat these demons to productivity.

I'd also add mental exercise to that list. This year, vow to make room in your life to let your imagination run free. Spend time journaling or listening to music or doing some craft project and let your mind wander. Make time to visit a museum, have a picnic in the park or see a concert of play. Refill the well of the imagination.

Exercising both the mind and the body will make you a better writer this year.


************************************************************
THE FATHER FOR HER SON
Harlequin Superromance
January 2010
Life hasn't been easy for single mom Marlee Britton, but she's proud of her ability to look after herself and her son. Then old flame Troy Denton shows up after seven years, wanting to be a father to his son. and to rekindle his relationship with Marlee. While Troy struggles to prove himself trustworthy, Marlee wonders how she can ever give her heart to the man who broke it so long ago.

**************************
"MELTING POINT" in BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE
with Jennifer Greene and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Anthology
January 2010
Kristjan Gunnarson is Iceland's first ever Olympic medalist. Coloradoan Stacy Bristol thinks he'll be the perfect model for her new advertising campaign, but she isn't prepared for the impact handsome Kristjan has on her. As she supervises filming around Iceland, Stacy fights her attraction to Kristjan. Can a down-to-business American and a footloose Icelander find love in the land of ice and fire?

******************************************

Cindi Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote and illustrated their own historical romance novel. The manuscript was eventually confiscated by her English teacher, who told her she should spend her time learning to properly conjugate a sentence. Since then, Cindi has gone on to write more than three dozen novels, both historical and contemporary. She also teaches writing and is a popular speaker and workshop presenter. She produces a weekly market newsletter at http://www.cindimyersmarketnews.wordpress.com Visit her website at http://www.CindiMyers.com
********************************************************

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Cindi Myers

New Years Writing Resolutions

2. Turn off the internal editor


Sometimes, there's a tape playing in my head. The tape is of a stern, critical voice saying things like "These characters are so stupid. Why would anyone what to read this?" or "Are you sure that dialogue is right? Maybe you should take it out and start over" or "This book is awful. You should give up now."

Listening to that voice is the biggest mistake a writer can make. That voice undermines every bit of creativity and paralyzes you. You become so afraid of making a mistake and so full of self-doubt you can't write at all.

When creating a rough draft, I work hard to turn off that voice. I need to banish her from the house as I face that blank page and the daunting task of writing an entire book.

Later, when I'm polishing the book, I can let a kinder, gentler version of that voice in to point out grammar errors and urge me to beef up weak plot points or strengthen my characterization. But early on, I have to shut all those voices out and allow myself to fill the pages with whatever seems to work at the time.

Do you have any good strategies for dealing with that internal critic?


************************************************************
THE FATHER FOR HER SON
Harlequin Superromance
January 2010
Life hasn't been easy for single mom Marlee Britton, but she's proud of her ability to look after herself and her son. Then old flame Troy Denton shows up after seven years, wanting to be a father to his son. and to rekindle his relationship with Marlee. While Troy struggles to prove himself trustworthy, Marlee wonders how she can ever give her heart to the man who broke it so long ago.

**************************
"MELTING POINT" in BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE
with Jennifer Greene and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Anthology
January 2010
Kristjan Gunnarson is Iceland's first ever Olympic medalist. Coloradoan Stacy Bristol thinks he'll be the perfect model for her new advertising campaign, but she isn't prepared for the impact handsome Kristjan has on her. As she supervises filming around Iceland, Stacy fights her attraction to Kristjan. Can a down-to-business American and a footloose Icelander find love in the land of ice and fire?

******************************************

Cindi Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote and illustrated their own historical romance novel. The manuscript was eventually confiscated by her English teacher, who told her she should spend her time learning to properly conjugate a sentence. Since then, Cindi has gone on to write more than three dozen novels, both historical and contemporary. She also teaches writing and is a popular speaker and workshop presenter. She produces a weekly market newsletter at http://www.cindimyersmarketnews.wordpress.com Visit her website at http://www.CindiMyers.com
********************************************************

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Cindi Myers

New Years Writing Resolutions

1. Write every day


When I'm working on a book I try to write on it every week day, but generally take weekends off. Some days writing even every weekday is a real challenge. Life gets so hectic I sometimes don't have time to squeeze in writing.

Last year I hit upon a solution to the time crunch problem. I heard a talk by Eric Maisel in which he suggested writing before you even get out of bed in the morning — before all the other distractions of life claim your attention and time.

I decided to give it a try. The first Monday in January, 2009, I had my husband wake me at 6:30 when he left for work. He brings me a cup of tea and I grab the Alpha Smart I keep on the nightstand and start writing. Most mornings I work until 8. In that time I can get a surprising amount written. At 8 I get up and begin tackling everything else I have to do that day. Some days I get back to the writing later in the day. Some days I don't. But even if I don't, I know I've at least written something that day.

What are your methods for making room for writing every day?


************************************************************
THE FATHER FOR HER SON
Harlequin Superromance
January 2010
Life hasn't been easy for single mom Marlee Britton, but she's proud of her ability to look after herself and her son. Then old flame Troy Denton shows up after seven years, wanting to be a father to his son. and to rekindle his relationship with Marlee. While Troy struggles to prove himself trustworthy, Marlee wonders how she can ever give her heart to the man who broke it so long ago.

**************************
"MELTING POINT" in BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE
with Jennifer Greene and Merline Lovelace
Harlequin Anthology
January 2010
Kristjan Gunnarson is Iceland's first ever Olympic medalist. Coloradoan Stacy Bristol thinks he'll be the perfect model for her new advertising campaign, but she isn't prepared for the impact handsome Kristjan has on her. As she supervises filming around Iceland, Stacy fights her attraction to Kristjan. Can a down-to-business American and a footloose Icelander find love in the land of ice and fire?

******************************************

Cindi Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote and illustrated their own historical romance novel. The manuscript was eventually confiscated by her English teacher, who told her she should spend her time learning to properly conjugate a sentence. Since then, Cindi has gone on to write more than three dozen novels, both historical and contemporary. She also teaches writing and is a popular speaker and workshop presenter. She produces a weekly market newsletter at http://www.cindimyersmarketnews.wordpress.com Visit her website at http://www.CindiMyers.com
********************************************************

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Memoriam by Giselle Renarde

Some girls liked to treat themselves to waxy chocolate or trashy magazines when they needed a little pick-me-up. Jenna preferred walking the cemetery.

“The cemetery?” the girls at work asked. “Why would you want to walk there?”

“It’s beautiful,” Jenna said. “All the trees and fountains and statues create such a relaxing atmosphere.”

Of course, that wasn’t the whole truth. People rarely revealed the whole truth all in one go. If beauty was all Jenna was after, she could find it in a park. What moved her particularly was the sad beauty of the cemetery. She couldn’t conceive of a more romantic place to spend her free time.

She didn’t just walk, she examined. She read inscriptions on headstones and calculated ages at death. There was a bittersweet splendour about those who’d passed the day after their birthdays or holidays. She imagined the dedicated elderly holding out to see their grandchildren’s smiling faces on Christmas morning. They could die happy after that.

Her dreamy morbidity wasn’t the only thing that made those cemetery walks an indulgence. She also saw a man there. Not in the sense that they were seeing each other. He’d smiled at her on a few occasions, but that hardly constituted a relationship. Anyway, she was pretty sure he was gay—and not just because he was cute and stylish.

Every time she saw him, he was planting a new batch of flowers in a plot with a stone marker. One day when he happened not to be there, she crept up to read the inscription. This lovely garden is planted in memoriam of Martin Cho, who knew how to celebrate life’s infinite beauty. There were no birth or death dates, but she had a strong feeling this was a young person’s grave.

The guy who planted flowers there was so impossibly cute, she made a case for his unattainability. If he was gay, she was off the hook. She didn’t have to make excuses for not approaching him. Could Martin Cho have been his brother? Doubtful. The gardening hottie had dark skin. It also seemed unlikely he would devote so much time to a memorial garden if they were just friends. Plus, he was much younger than most of the men and women tending the graves of spouses who had passed.

In Jenna’s fanciful imaginings, all these factors suggested one thing: the cute gardener had been lover to the late Martin Cho, who had most certainly expired after a long and excruciating battle with AIDS. As she watched the poor man plant, all she could see was a vision of him holding hands with his boyfriend. It brought tears to her eyes. She imagined him consoling, “You’re going to get stronger, Martin. I know you. You can beat this thing.”

When he looked up from his garden, it was too late to look away. Jenna was caught staring. He smiled, as he’d done in the past, and she smiled back. She even managed a sprightly, “How’s it going?”

“Good,” he said with a nod. As he dug into the dark earth with his trowel, she realized she wasn’t going anywhere.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted.

It was intended as a consolation, but his eyebrows furled in puzzlement as he looked up at her. “Sorry for what?”

Her mouth fell open, but nothing came out for a while. Eventually she stammered, “For your loss.”

He smiled, but shook his head.

“Martin Cho,” she clarified. “Your boyfriend?”

This time, his mouth fell open. His expression looked the way movie characters’ did when they were about to get hit by a train. With a charming laugh, he said, “I think you’ve got the wrong guy. My name’s Darren and—trust me—I’ve never had a boyfriend.”

Jenna was pretty sure her face had gone deep red. She felt like she was burning up. If only she were two inches tall, she could hide behind the daffodils. But if she was wrong, then who was Martin Cho?

“You’re doing such a great job with this garden,” Jenna said. She hadn’t assumed he was gay with any sense of malice. “I figured it must be for someone important.”

Dusting dirt from his hands, Darren replied, “The way I see it, everyone’s important. Makes no difference if I never met Mr Cho.”

It impressed Jenna that he would devote so much energy to someone he didn’t know. “What is the garden for?”

Darren smiled. “I’ll tell you if you give me a hand with these annuals.”

How could she say no? She sank to her knees beside him. As she dug holes, he filled them.

He told her, “Before I started planting, this was just a patch of dirt. I kept thinking how weird it was to have an inscription about a ‘lovely garden’ that wasn’t here. Finally, I asked about it at the cemetery office. They told me a man named Martin Cho bought this plot claiming the money for the flowers and the stone would be left in his will. When he died, there was only enough for one or the other. The garden or the headstone. No help from the family—they took their money and split—so the office decided to give him the stone and no flowers.”

Darren was doing all this work for a stranger? Jenna sat in awe of his generosity of spirit. When he noticed she’d stopped planting, he looked into her eyes. She took his dirty hand in hers. “You’re fulfilling the last request of a man you never met, simply out of the goodness of your heart?”

“I just think—rich or poor—everyone deserves to be honoured,” he replied. Darren smiled as he pressed her palm with his. “If you think so too, stick by my side. This garden is happy to have you.”

About the Author: Eroticist, environmentalist and pastry enthusiast Giselle Renarde is a proud Canadian, committed volunteer, and supporter of the arts. For Giselle, a perfect day involves watching a snowstorm rage outside with a cup of tea in one hand and a chocolate truffle in the other. Ms Renarde lives across from a park with two bilingual cats who sleep on her head. Giselle Renarde is author of Cunning Little Vixens,Tangled Roots, The Birthday Gift, and Kandinsky's Shirt Button (eXcessica), Beneath the Ice and Third Rail (loveyoudivine) and short story contributor to numerous anthologies. For more information on Giselle and her work, visit her website at www.freewebs.com/gisellerenarde or her blog, Donuts & Desires, www.donutsdesires.blogspot.com

Author Interview: Jim and Joyce Lavene

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to have Joyce and Jim Lavene, authors of over fifty books, visiting with us today. Joyce and Jim are a wife/husband writing team who very literally write together. They share a very large desk and sit across the computer monitors from each other, telling the story back and forth, like a round robin, until they have a rough draft. The room itself is shared with their black cat, Quincy, who writes with them. A window in the small room looks out into the woods beside their house.

"We always have maps, pictures and notes about the project we are working on all over the place and lots of calendars with deadline notes!"

The calendars have to be a lifesaver for them, because they have many series, not to mention characters, to keep track of. And, we have to mention the characters because each of their series are heavily character driven.

"The plot revolves around our characters," they told me. "In our Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries, 50-something Peggy Lee came to us as a botanist with an expertise in poison who also runs a garden shop. She was widowed but met a younger man (oh dear!) in her first book, Pretty Poison. In our Renaissance Faire Mysteries, 30-something Associate History Professor Jessie Morton spends her summers at the Ren Faire in Myrtle Beach, SC. She's kind of crazy, passionately in love with Village Bailiff Chase Manhattan and likes to play Cupid with her friends. She is also working on her PhD and learns a new craft for her dissertation in each book. In Ghastly Glass, the second book in the series, it's glass art. These characters are very different in the books and in our minds. They become part of your life."

They are currently working on another new series that is set in Duck, NC on the Outer Banks. The protagonist, Dae O'Donnell, is the mayor of Duck and she is a finder of lost things. She can find some things psychically and she is drawn to things that people lose. She runs a thrift store called Missing Pieces, which is also the name of the series.

"It is filled with many of her 'finds'," Joyce said. "She gets involved with two sisters in the first book, Death Watch when one of the sisters is looking for a missing watch. Dae finds it on the arm of the other sister, who happens to be dead; murdered and buried in a sand dune. She's a very interesting character and the book has been a lot of fun to write."

Death Watch is scheduled to be released in May.

You can see that often the titles are based on something in the book itself. Joyce and Jim have working titles to get them through the first draft, but don't actually title something until they are finished writing it.

One of the hardest things for them to get used to, they told me, was the fact that people other than family wanted to see what they looked like—they hate how they look in pictures!

Not only do they write together, Joyce and Jim just enjoy spending time together. When they aren't writing, they spend their time driving the back roads, taking photographs, spending time with family and friends, gardening, and working on computers. They will also take the time to help their son with his pizza place, Pizza and Beyond, even to the extent of delivering pizza for him at midnight. But, it's a fair trade, because they get their favorite pizza from him-- stuffed crust, green pepper, onion and mushroom, but he has to make it himself.

"What got you interested in writing?" I wondered.

"Definitely reading. Like most authors, we have always loved to read. There is something about the printed word that is impossible to ignore. If words paint pictures in your mind, you write. And you do it because you have to, not because you're paid for it or it looks like something you should do. Writers write."

The hardest part of writing their books, however, comes after the book is written—it's called revisions.

"When you write a book, it's all yours," they explained. "Until it's time to turn it in to the publisher. Then it becomes part of a team effort. It's as hard to let go of it as when your kids grow up. You have to believe in the people you are working with and feel that they will do a good job, that they have the best interests of the book at heart. You learn to live with changes they ask for, but you never really like it."

"What is your strangest habit?" I wondered.

Joyce said, "Looking outside each night before I lock the front door."

Jim's strangest habit is one that I, personally, don't find strange at all--eating grits for breakfast.

Even though Jim and Joyce have a cat and had a dog until it died last year, their favorite animal isn't what you would consider a "normal" household pet. What is it? "The cute little baby possum who wintered in our basement."

They both emphatically denied ever eating a crayon, but did confess they had each made at least one crank phone call.

"Neither of us will say exactly where, when or to whom. We will take that secret to our grave," they declared.

They both enjoy thunderstorms, sitting awake and listening to them for hours.

"What a saying you use a lot?" I asked.

"I need a new hard drive," Jim said.

"I'm pretty sure we can get along with the one we have," Joyce responded immediately after.

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

"When we give workshops we always tell people to develop an ego and some thick skin. You have to be willing to take some hard knocks learning your craft and even after you have been published. Editors' remarks aren't always easy to swallow and reviews aren't always kind. Persistence and a willingness to fall down are essential to this craft."

You can keep up with Jim and Joyce on their website, http://joyceandjimlavene.com

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

In the Magic Knot Fairies world, each fairy embodies the qualities of one of the elements. The leprechauns and Cornish piskies are Earth elementals, the Welsh Tylwyth Teg are Air elementals, and the noble old blood Tuatha Dé Danaan can be either Fire, Air, or Water. This gives them their powers, strengths, and weaknesses.

In the second book in the series, The Phoenix Charm, the heroine Cordelia is half Cornish pisky and half water nymph. It is the water nymph qualities inherited from her mother that have manifested, making her a water elemental. The sensual water nymph allure that attracts males has so far caused her nothing but trouble. When she reached puberty, her grandmother bound the power by covering the energy centers on Cordelia’s body with Celtic symbols. But the water nymph energies are also the source of her healing power so she has never reached her full potential.

The hero of the story, Michael, is an Earth elemental. He is a storyteller and has the gift of glamour, which makes him attractive, and silver tongue, which makes his words persuasive. As the story progresses he discovers a greater power he has inherited from his father, and he gains more control over the energy he channels from the Earth.

We all exhibit characteristics of the four elements, but we tend to favor one. Here is a brief description of the elements’ qualities.

Earth is the mother, the element of birth and renewal. Earth elementals are steady, grounded, and generous, with their feet firmly on the ground. Confident and steadfast, Earth elementals have an instinct for survival, which makes them excellent protectors.

Air elementals are intelligent with great imagination, and can be very persuasive. They are good at conceiving new ideas and seeing changes coming. They have an affinity to music. They may ‘have their heads in the clouds’ and be difficult to pin down. Their spiritual beauty is reflected in the intricate formation of snowflakes.

Water elementals are the nurturers, the calm center that supports loved ones to help them conquer problems. Sensual, graceful, and often very beautiful, Water elementals have strong emotions, and love deeply.

Fire elementals embody passion, enthusiasm, and desire. They are quick and bright, but often emotionally volatile. Forceful and highly opinionated, Fire elementals think they know best. They are considered to be ‘hot blooded’.

To find out which element you are, go to my website www.helenscotttaylor.com and take my elements quiz.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

I’m a great lover of all things Celtic. As I live in England, I’m surrounded by ancient ruins and other Celtic memorabilia. So I’m in the ideal place to indulge my interest.

Two of the most beautiful aspects of Celtic heritage are the intricate symbols and designs. When I visited Ireland, I took a tour around an ancient monastery and graveyard. The place was magical, full of beautifully decorated Celtic crosses. We also have Celtic crosses on Dartmoor in South West England a few miles from where I live.

The shape of the Celtic Knot gave me the fundamental idea on which my Magic Knot Fairies fantasy world is based. In my series, The Magic Knot is a magical pendant similar to a Celtic Knot possessed by every person with fairy blood. The three linked rings symbolise mind, body, and spirit. Lovers give their Magic Knot into the safekeeping of their soul mate—the ultimate demonstration of trust and commitment that binds them together in mind, body, and spirit for life.

Celtic symbols also gave me story ideas in the second book, The Phoenix Charm. My heroine is a water nymph. She has a sensual allure that her family were ashamed of, so they made her hide her natural gift by binding it with Celtic symbols painted on her skin. My heroine Cordelia has six Celtic symbols drawn on her back and mirrored on her front. These cover the energy centers of her body (also known as chakras in traditional Indian medicine).

The Celtic symbol of the maze traditionally marks the entrance to the Underworld, so this appears in the book marking the entrance to the Welsh Fairy King’s domain, as in Welsh Celtic mythology, he is also King of the Underworld.

My favorite piece of jewelry is a Celtic cross set with abalone shell that I bought when I visited Ireland to research my first book. I’m convinced the cross brings me luck.

To find out more about my contemporary fantasy series and to read excerpts, please visit www.helenscotttaylor.com.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

My favorite part of writing fantasy or paranormal stories is the world building, layering on the details that bring a fantasy world to life in my mind as clearly as a real place. I based the fantasy world of my Magic Knot Fairies series on Celtic mythology and have used areas rich in Celtic myth and legend to set my stories.

I had the pleasure of visiting Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland for research for The Magic Knot. For The Phoenix Charm, the second book in my Magic Knot Fairies series, I chose the small country called Wales in the United Kingdom as the setting for much of the story. Like most of Britain, Wales has a rich heritage of Celtic myth and legend.

All the pantheons of ancient gods—the Romans, Greeks, Norse and Celtic—contain a god who rules over the Underworld. In the myths of Wales, the Underworld is controlled by the Welsh Fairy King, Gwyn ap Nudd. He rules the Tylwyth Teg who are tall blond-haired fairies with a habit of stealing away mortal children.

In The Phoenix Charm, the Tylwyth Teg are my villains who trap my hero Michael O’Connor’s little nephew. He has to travel to Wales to recover the child and in the process comes face to face with a strange fairy king who is not what he seems.

In the third book of the series, The Ruby Kiss, due out at the end of 2010, my hero and heroine get tangled up in the machinations of the Seelie and Unseelie Scottish Fairy Courts. This summer I spent two weeks visiting castles and other historic sites in Scotland to do research for the story. Research is always a good excuse for travel!

For more information on my books and to read excerpts visit www.helenscotttaylor.com.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

I have two Shih Tzu dogs and a burmilla cat who are a vital and much loved part of my family. I am so pet focused that I love novels containing animals. Furry creatures often feature in contemporary romance novels. Some paranormal romances also contain pets in the story, and in shape-shifter paranormals, the fur belongs to the main characters. (I have to admit my favorite shape shifters are big cats. I’m writing a novella at the moment with a fire elemental, black panther shape shifter djinn as the hero.)

I especially love animals in books if there is some kind of magical twist. I believe I have a special spiritual connection with my cat; that she was destined to be mine. In my latest book, The Phoenix Charm, my heroine, who is a fairy witch, has a cat familiar that she is bonded with at the level of mind and spirit. The cat, Tamsy, is an important character in the story. I loved writing her because she reminds me so much of my own cat.

The concept that the type of animal we identify with reveals something of our personality is embodied in many cultures. For me, the peculiar wisdom of animals gives a peek into a mysterious world that exists outside of our understanding. We think we know what goes on in their world, but we see everything through the lens of our human understanding and values. The rules of nature are both harsh and pure, a conflict that is elemental, but honest in its brutal demands. This has an almost paranormal quality that lends itself perfectly to the paranormal romance genre.

The Phoenix Charm is just out. To read a two chapter excerpt or for more information on my work go to www.helenscotttaylor.com

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Helen Scott Taylor

What is it about immortality that fascinates us so much?

Paranormal romances are full of immortal characters, be they vampires who ‘live’ on after death, demons, angels, and other beings from spiritual dimensions who take human form, or other characters who gain immortality during a story from touching artifacts, from spells, or through other intriguing ways.

I am currently writing a novella for The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2, where my characters are descended from the Egyptian Sun god Ra. They gain immortality by renewing themselves by bathing in their own special fire.

For me, part of the appeal of immortality is that these characters have lived through times and experiences that we can hardly begin to imagine. They have seen great moments in history, suffered through the brutality of past ages, lost loved ones who have aged and died, and in the process may have gained insight and knowledge we, in our short human lives, can only aspire to. The experience of being immortal while those around die, especially when the character hasn’t the choice of death and must live on, seems like the classic case of be careful what you wish for. It sounds wonderful in theory, but must be heartbreaking in practice. Many immortal characters have undergone great suffering that has shaped them into tormented souls. And I love a wounded hero.

I explore the issue of immortality in The Phoenix Charm. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but one person has to come to terms with being immortal and everything this means for the future, both good and bad .

The Phoenix Charm is just out. To read a two chapter excerpt or for more information on my work go to www.helenscotttaylor.com

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Putting the Kart Before Love by Michael Bracken

I slammed on the brakes and spun my steering wheel hard to the left. I couldn't stop in time and my go-kart slammed into the back of a go-kart that had just crashed into the rubber tires lining the hairpin curve at the end of the track's back straightaway.

"I'm sorry!" I shouted at the other driver.

He appeared to be about my age, maybe a little older, with broad shoulders and black hair cut short. We were the only adults on the track. He shouted back, "Are you OK?"

"Surprised is all," I told him.

Prior to racing, we had been sternly instructed not to get out of our karts if they stalled or if we were in a wreck. While we waited for one of the amusement park's employees to untangle our karts and get us going again little kids zoomed around us.

"You know I'm going to need to see your driver's license and proof of insurance," the other driver shouted.

I laughed. My day was turning out much better than expected. Despite being in my first vehicle accident ever, I was actually having fun.

"I'm not kidding, ma'am," he said. He pulled a worn brown leather wallet from his back pocket and flipped it open to reveal a badge. He held it up with his ringless left hand.

"I'm sorry, officer, I--"

His laughter interrupted me. "You should see the look on your face."

I could imagine my look of surprise and I laughed with him. "You have a name?"

"Tom," he shouted over the roar of the other karts. "How about you?"

"Aunt Sara!" a young boy's voice yelled before I could respond.

I turned to wave at my nephew Steven as he zoomed past.

One of the track employees, a teenager who probably didn't have a driver's license, arrived before either of us could say anything else. He untangled our karts and sent me on my way.

"That's hit-and-run!" Tom called after me as I sped away.

I made a full lap around the track before Tom was untangled from the tires and his go-kart restarted. I passed him with a wave.

A few minutes later I was waiting at the pit stop with my nephew when Tom finally brought his kart to a halt and climbed out. A young boy my nephew's age pulled in behind Tom. It was obvious they were together.

"Hey, Aunt Sara!" Tom said when he saw me leaning against the rail. "You have your insurance card handy?"

"I'm afraid I left it at home, Officer Tom." I batted my eyelashes. I'd avoided three traffic tickets by batting my eyelashes and I was certain I could avoid trouble this time, too. "Can you let it slide this one time? Please?"

The two boys with us were having none of it. Steven grabbed my hand. "Come on, Aunt Sara. You promised."

After I introduced Steven and Tom introduced his son Danny, my nephew tugged on my hand again.

Although I was reluctant to walk away, I told Tom, "We're off to the bumper boats. I promised."

"We're headed that way ourselves," Tom said. He looked at his son. "Aren't we?"

That was all the prompting the two boys needed. They ran ahead, allowing Tom and me to talk as we walked.

Tom confirmed what I had already suspected--he was a divorced dad enjoying a weekend with his son. I told him that my older sister had just had her second child and that I was helping her out by keeping Steven for the weekend.

By the time we reached the bumper boats, Tom's son and my nephew were already in line.

"Are you coming?" they wanted to know.

"You two go on without us," Tom told them. "We'll wait here."

"Thank you," I said after we had settled onto a bench to watch the boys. "I wasn't looking forward to getting wet."

"Neither was I," Tom replied.

We spent the rest of the day as a foursome, joining the boys on some rides and letting them ride others without us. We had hot dogs, fries, and cold sodas for dinner. By the time the amusement park closed for the day, the boys were exhausted.

Tom and his son walked Steven and me to my car. I unlocked the door and was about to slide into the driver's seat when Tom stopped me.

"I've really enjoyed our time together today," he said.

I smiled. "So have I."

"And I would hate to have to put out a warrant for your arrest?"

"My arrest?" I said, surprised. "Whatever for?"

"Leaving the scene of an accident."

"How about if I give you my number so you know how to contact me, Officer Tom?"

"I think that would be a wonderful idea."

About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of 11 books, including the young adult romance Just in Time for Love. His short romantic fiction has appeared in New Love Stories, True Love, True Romance, and many other publications.

Author Interview: Stacey Coverstone

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is pleased to have Stacey Coverstone with us. Stacey's latest book, Outlaw Trail, was released by Champagne Books on December 1, 2009. Outlaw Trail is the first in a series called Wild West Adventures. The second book in the series will be published in April of this year.

Stacey shared a little about Outlaw Trail with us.

At nineteen, Josie Hart has lived a hard life on her New Mexican farm. A cryptic letter gives her a chance to change all that and guides her on a perilous journey toward freedom. But, there are others who want what she's after, and will stop at nothing to get it.

Grey Paladin seeks justice after having had his fortune stolen out from under him. He'll do whatever it takes to retrieve what's rightfully his and reunite with the only family he has left. That is, until a feisty girl stands in his way.

When Josie and Grey form an uncertain partnership, they must battle outlaws, nature, and each other while riding two hundred miles of dangerous trail to reach their destination. What they discover at the end is something that's been sorely lacking in both their lives--leading them each to rethink what the future holds.

"I’ve written five novels that have been published or are coming soon, two published short stories, and I have two novels in the works," Stacey shared with me. "I guess the first published novel is one of my favorites because it takes place in a New Mexican town that I was planning on moving to at the time I wrote it. I also love Outlaw Trail because of the two main characters and the traditional western aspects in the storyline."

Stacey told me she's been writing ever since she can remember. "In sixth grade I wrote my first play called 'Shotgun Weddin’,'" she said. "I’ve written short stories and poetry all my life, and I only began writing novels in November of 2006."

She's currently working on a contemporary paranormal romance called A Haunted Twist of Fate set in the Black Hills of South Dakota and agreed to share a blurb with us.

While grieving the loss of her parents, Shay Brennan is drawn to the Black Hills of South Dakota and finds herself the owner of a historic 1885 saloon. But, she soon realizes she's not alone in the Buckhorn. Two ghosts are sending her messages. One needs her help, while the other is intent on doing harm. What do they want with Shay? And what part does she play in the terrible events that happened in the saloon a century ago?

Colt Morgan, a local realtor who sold the Buckhorn to Shay, is a non-believer in the paranormal, but unexpectedly finds himself helping her solve the mystery of who the spirits are. Widowed for ten years, Colt's not looking for love. So why does his heart pound every time he's near Shay? And how does his connection to an old friend tie in with her and the haunting?

Two hearts in the present are linked to two souls from the past. Could it be coincidence, or is it a Haunted Twist of Fate?


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

"My husband gave me a unique gift for earning a Master’s degree in 2006 at the age of 48—a week at Cowgirl Camp at the Double E Ranch in Gila, New Mexico. Along with six other women from differing parts of the U.S., we spent the week doing ranch chores, riding horses through the Gila National Forest, learning to rope, barrel racing, and team penning, with the experience culminating in a day-long cattle drive through the mountains. It was so inspirational that I came home and immediately started my first novel ever. I had so much fun that I went back the next year and based my second novel, High Lonesome, on that dude ranch."

She didn't have a space of her own when she first began writing, but wrote on her laptop at the dining room table.

"Now I share my husband’s office and I love having my own little desk in the corner," she said. "I’m surrounded by everything western, including a collage I created, two painted pony statues, framed pictures of my book covers, a cast iron stagecoach, a cast iron wagon pulled by horses, cowboy boots, and a rock that has the word 'IMAGINE' carved into it."

When she's not writing, Stacey likes to ride horses with her husband (they own two) and play with their two large German shepherds (who she admits are "spoiled rascals"). She also enjoys photography, traveling, and making scrapbooks about her vacations.

"I also read when I can," she added.

Finally, I asked Stacey what advice she would give to an author just starting out.

"Fist, find a critique partner that is a seasoned author with a few published books under her belt," she said. "You will learn so much from a writer who has been through the editing process several times. This person can give you honest critiques, constructive criticism, and provide tips that most new writers are unaware of. Second, don’t ask family members and/or friends to read your work and give opinions, because they’re all going to say they love whatever you write. And, finally, learn all you can about the craft and persevere. Don’t let rejection discourage you from making your dreams come true."

You can keep up with Stacey on her website, http://www.staceycoverstone.com

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Linda Poitevin

This post is part of Linda's Virtual Book Tour celebrating the release of her debut novel A Fairy Tale for Gwyn. Linda will be giving away a pair of artisan-crafted earrings as well as a $10 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press (a total prize package worth $20) to one lucky commenter.

Her other stops can be found here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

Holding Out For the Unsung Hero

In the world of romance novels, the Alpha male still seems to reign supreme. With his take-charge attitude (or his take-no-crap one), he is strong, often tortured, and almost always impossible (at least to begin with). But does it really need to be that way? Does being an Alpha male need to be a prerequisite? What is it, exactly, that makes a man a hero, anyway?

There’s something about the “bad boy” image that seems to appeal to women everywhere. Maybe it’s our innate desire to be the one who can change such a man (don’t we all have a story like that in our backgrounds?), or heal him, but romance readers seem to love a story about the tough, bad-ass guy who meets his emotional match in a heroine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that –I’ll always be a sucker for a well-written tortured-hero type (and like to write them myself). But I do think we should give the world’s nice guys a fair shot at the heroic spotlight, too.

Because strong and tortured may make for great reading, but there’s something equally satisfying about the quieter heroes. The men who demonstrate their strength not just through physical prowess, but through compassion and understanding. The ones who aren’t afraid to be human as well as male; who can look after sick kids in one chapter and be masters of seduction in the next.

Because, bottom line, my kind of hero is the guy who’s going to be there when I really need him, whether it’s for taking down the bad guys or taking out the garbage. He’s going to be as adept at making me tea as he is making me feel like a woman. And he’s not going to be sexy just because of his looks or his muscles or his arrogance, but because, ultimately, he has nothing to prove to himself – or to anyone else.

So what’s your idea of a hero? Are you the guy-next-door aficionado, or one of those who prefers to live dangerously where men are concerned?


Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Linda Poitevin

This post is part of Linda's Virtual Book Tour celebrating the release of her debut novel A Fairy Tale for Gwyn. Linda will be giving away a pair of artisan-crafted earrings as well as a $10 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press (a total prize package worth $20) to one lucky commenter.

Her other stops can be found here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

Writing the Right Way

To plot or not to plot. That is but one of the questions that plagues many a writer, particularly those who are just starting out. Well, relax. Because, despite the fact your high-school English teacher might have tried to convince you otherwise, I’m telling you now that there is no one way of doing anything when it comes to creative writing.

Frankly, it would be a heck of a lot easier if there were just one right way. I can’t think of anything nicer than a handbook that worked across the board for all writers. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything more boring, either.

The truth is, the path to telling a story is as diverse as writers are…and as diverse as the stories themselves. Some of us fly entirely by the seat of our pants (pantsers), having no idea where the story is going until we get there. Others plot down to the finest detail, outlining events down to each individual scene. Some create elaborate character sketches, others prefer a less formal approach. Some start with a synopsis; others need to write the story first. Is any one of these approaches the single “right” way to write? Only for the individual author who uses it…and maybe not always.

The process of crafting a story is a fluid, ever-evolving thing. What works for one story (or ten) may not work for the next. Issues crop up (stubbornly uncommunicative characters, plotlines wandering off track) that require fresh solutions, and the wise writer is one who remains open to learning new skills and trying new approaches. Trust me, it saves a lot of headaches when you quit beating yourself senseless against that proverbial brick wall!

So whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this a while, do talk to other writers to see how they handle the storytelling process, but don’t try to fit yourself to their mould. Instead, take what works for you and craft your own approach. Be prepared to abandon things that don’t work, and always be on the lookout for ideas that do. Learn, evolve, and always remain true to your own unique voice.

Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Linda Poitevin

This post is part of Linda's Virtual Book Tour celebrating the release of her debut novel A Fairy Tale for Gwyn. Linda will be giving away a pair of artisan-crafted earrings as well as a $10 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press (a total prize package worth $20) to one lucky commenter.

Her other stops can be found here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

The Fine Art of Never Giving Up

So you’ve written a story (or ten) and received a rejection (or a hundred). What now? Do you hide under the covers with a pint of your favorite ice cream? Burn the manuscript(s) and swear off writing forever? What exactly does a writer do in the face of watching her/his dream fall flat, sometimes repeatedly?

Whether it’s your first attempt or your twentieth, I think the answer to that question depends not just on your level of determination, but on your ability to learn from your experience, improve, and move on. Let’s face it, if you’ve sent the same manuscript to twenty publishers/agents and you’ve received the same comments (or worse, the same form rejection) from all of them, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your approach, your story, or both. Because sometimes not giving up means moving away from simple stubbornness to a willingness to try another path.

No matter how much you love your story or your characters, publication depends on how much others like them, specifically editors. If you’re getting feedback in the form of any kind of personal comments on your rejections, pay attention. Remember that editors have (usually) been at this for longer than you have, and even if you don’t agree with their comments, they’re the ones you’re trying to reach at this stage.

Also be aware that repeated revisions to the same story might not be the answer. Be honest with yourself about your story. If the plot is critically flawed or you just can’t come up with a believable conflict for your characters, maybe it’s time to let go and move on to something fresh. If you don’t already belong to a critique group, join one – and listen to their comments. Take a class that focuses on an area you think you’re weak in, or pick up a book on the topic and actually do the exercises.

Above all, keep writing. Whether or not this manuscript is the one that catches an editor’s eye, it can and will teach you something more about writing…if you let it.

Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Linda Poitevin

This post is part of Linda's Virtual Book Tour celebrating the release of her debut novel A Fairy Tale for Gwyn. Linda will be giving away a pair of artisan-crafted earrings as well as a $10 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press (a total prize package worth $20) to one lucky commenter.

Her other stops can be found here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

Warm…warmer…getting hot…Mommy!!!

Ah, the joys of having children. No matter what age they are, it seems that the crises never end. My kids have reached a stage of relative independence, but their personal disasters only seem to have grown along with them. We’ve moved from fights over games to fights over borrowed clothing; from misplaced toys to misplaced bus passes; from being late for school to being late for a university exam or work. Same issues, different manifestations. Because I don’t have an office with a door in my home, those issues invariably end up involving me…or at least interrupting me.

And nowhere are these interruptions more intrusive than when I’m at a critical point in a book. While all writing requires an immense amount of concentration and focus, highly emotional scenes are just that much more intense. Which makes writing them around a family just that much more challenging:

Strong fingers traced her jawline, trailed lower, slipped beneath the edge of – Daughter Number One calls, “Mom, have you seen my umbrella? I left it right here in the front hall and now it’s gone!”

“In the closet where it belongs.”

– her v-neck sweater. Her breath fluttered in the back of her throat like – “It’s not there! Oh, wait, I found it. But I’m going to be late for the bus now!”

“Run for it and call me if you miss it.” Daughter Number One slams out of the house with a mutter I decide I’d rather not hear.

–the wings of a trapped butterfly. “Wait,” she whispered. “What if someone – “

“We’re out of milk,” Daughter Number Two informs me from the kitchen. “And bananas. And – “

“I’m getting groceries today.” I stare grimly at the computer monitor, determined not to lose my focus.

“ – hears us?” Her flutter of breath stopped altogether as he tugged her toward him. Slowly. Inexorably.

“But there’s nothing for my lunch.”

“Take some money out of my wallet.”

“I don’t have time to stop anywhere.”

“And I don’t have a magic wand.” More mutters, more ignoring. I read over what I have so far, trying to catch hold of the moment. Hand slipping lower, breath fluttering, tugging…

Daughter Number Three turns from the desktop computer where she’s been working (blessedly) quietly. Until now. “Hey, Mom, how do you spell penguin?”

Really, it’s a wonder that my characters don’t walk out on one another – or me – in sheer frustration.

Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Linda Poitevin

This post is part of Linda's Virtual Book Tour celebrating the release of her debut novel A Fairy Tale for Gwyn. Linda will be giving away a pair of artisan-crafted earrings as well as a $10 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press (a total prize package worth $20) to one lucky commenter.

Her other stops can be found here. Remember, the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.


Building Character


The Character Sketch. Some writers swear by it, others never use it. Still others have their own variation. But is any one of those variations better than another? Like most things when it comes to writing, I think it’s a matter of personal choice – of what works best for you.


Whether or not I use any kind of character-building exercise depends a lot on the kind of book I’m writing, and how complicated the plot line is. When I’m writing in only one or two points of view, I spend so much time in my characters’ heads that I often don’t need to do separate sketches of them – as long as (and here’s the caveat!) their goals, motivations, and conflicts are clear.


At times when GMC is a little on the hazy side, I’ve learned that I need to set aside the story and dig a little deeper. Even then, however, my process remains relatively informal and doesn’t follow any kind of a set format. Instead of listing traits (favorite colors, foods, etc.) or interviewing a character, I put myself firmly inside his/her head and write a first-person monologue. I begin by stating name and occupation, and then let the words flow from there.


By allowing my characters to tell their own stories in their own words, I gain huge insight into what makes them tick. Tidbits of history might surface that result in an “aha” moment (her kid brother put a snake into her sleeping bag on a camping trip? So that’s why she hates snakes so much!). Personality traits come out, back-story deepens, and before I know it, the issues of goal, motivation and conflict have cleared themselves up.


Will this method always work for me? Perhaps...and perhaps not. I may find a character one day who is so taciturn and uncommunicative that only the formal “sit down and answer my questions, damn it!” approach will work. The important thing to remember, I think, is that no matter how you achieve it, getting to know your characters at least as well as you know yourself is tantamount to a solid, believable story.

Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Author Interview: Alee Drake

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have ALee Drake who is an author with The Wild Rose Press. During the school year, she teaches elementary school; during the summers, she and her husband love to travel, insuring she will never run out of fabulous locations to draw from.

Hopefully, she maintains her students' interest better than her math teacher did. ALee shared with me she started writing stories while she was in math class to keep from dying of boredom, and her report cards classified her as "an incorrigible daydreamer." Even though she's daydreamed stories forever, she started writing seriously about ten years ago and considered herself an "author" when she received her contract from The Wild Rose Press.

ALee likes to work on multiple projects simultaneously.

"If I get writer's block on one project, I work on another," she told me. "If I'm totally blocked…a game or two of mah jong usually helps."

One of the projects she's working on is called "Men in Ts." It's about a "sex in the city" journalist assigned to cover a story during a week-long cross-country tour in a 1921 Model T. Unfortunately, it's essential she travels with a handsome old-car enthusiast who prefers a simple, old-fashioned lifestyle.

This title shows ALee's desire to have titles with more than one implication. Other titles include Thistle Dew, which comes from "This will do," and I Scream which is a romantic suspense set around an ice cream parlor.

Thistle Dew was inspired by the frequent "visits" ALee gets from her grandmother. "She reminds me that she is always with me in spirit," ALee shared. "People that love you never leave you."

I asked ALee to tell us a little about Thistle Dew.

Thistle Dew is a sweet paranormal romance. Sage Winters is the owner of an Adirondack bed and breakfast aptly named Thistle Dew by her late husband, Eric. She is a strong woman, not only successful in her business but as a mother. Although she tries to be loyal to her love for Eric, frequent guest and author Hawke is so irresistible that he catches her eye and eventually her heart. Sage is an overprotective mother who reluctantly learns to rely on others at a time of crisis.

Hawke, a shy, reclusive best-selling author, steps up to the plate as hero when Sage's daughter, Pia is missing and any clues to her whereabouts have been buried during a blizzard. He learns to trust his intuitive voice and finds Pia via dreams and eerie signs.

And it is Eric, in spirit, who is not always angelic, but intercedes and intervenes to keep his ‘girls' safe. He not only shows Hawke where to find Pia but encourages Sage to open her heart and love again.

I'm thrilled to report that so far my readers love Thistle Dew. Most readers comment on the characters, especially enjoying the antics of the little girl and her mischievous 'guardian angel'. They also comment on my description of the setting saying that they want to stay at the Thistle Dew Inn.
ALee's writing space changes depending on the time of the year. During the winter, she writes in a La-Z-Boy recliner with a mug of hot chocolate and a Jimmy Buffett CD. In the summer, she writes in an Adirondack chair next to the pond, an icy glass of lemonade, and a Jimmy Buffett CD.

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I asked.

"I always wanted to be a hero. I dreamed of daring rescues; a child floating downstream nearing a waterfall, a puppy in a burning doghouse, a toddler lost in the woods. Since I am really not a heroic person, my characters are always brave, quick thinking heroes."

On a personal note, ALee hates how she looks in pictures, but told me it's all the camera's fault. "I used to look young and thin in photos taken with a Kodak Instamatic," she said. "There must be a flaw in the digital process of the new cameras or something."

Her favorite cheese is Norwegian goat milk cheese. It's a sweet breakfast cheese and she admits it's an acquired taste. Her dad's side of the family is from Norway, so in addition to loving the goat cheese, she tends to put at least one reference to Norway in all of her books.

Her favorite animal? Alpacas. "I think they are beautiful," she told me. "They have pretty eyes, cute smiling faces and soft fur. They are also very expensive as pets and too much work now that I'm older, so I am content to visit a nearby alpaca farm on occasion."

The movies she enjoys most have at least one teary scene in them, whether it be happy moments or sad moments. She also cries during a good book, but she admits that blurry words are really hard to read.

She loves thunderstorms as long as she's cuddling with her husband or a grandchild, but would rather listen to rolling thunder than a sudden BOOM!

"Can you unwrap a Starburst with your tongue?" I wondered.

"I've never heard of this challenge. Some people have way too much time on their hands."

She's the mother of five kids, so multitasking is a given and, if she could wish for anything, she would honestly wish for world peace. "I would love to see people being kind to one another," she said. "I would love to see the return of courtesy, manners and respect."

For new authors, she has this advice: "Don't get discouraged by rejection. Just keep writing. If writing is your passion...write passionately."

Finally, I asked her what is one question she wish an interviewer would ask her.

"How does it feel to have your book made into a movie?" she said promptly, adding, "Answer: It feels absolutely terrific!!!"

You can keep up with ALee on her blog, http://aleedrake.blogspot.com