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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ancient Magic by Denyse Bridger

The air is scented lightly with the sheer agelessness of this world. The twilight colours of the sky paint a pattern that echoes the voices of Gods and heroes upon my heart, bewitching an imagination that is easily filled with wonders and magics. Stars wink, the playful flirtatiousness of Zeus, perhaps? Or the watchful eyes of the wrathful Hera?

I came here, alone, lost. In this timeless place of myth and legend; home of the mighty Gods of a past that reaches across all barriers to become the reality of my spirit.

Ares, proud and defiant; harbinger of doom, death, and perverse seduction. A War God, symbol of all that I abhor. Yet, I cannot deny his allure.

Aphrodite, sensual temptress, paragon of beauty and passion. The lingering memory that is inborn to all women who accept their truest natures.

The fierce demi-god, Hercules; Champion of the people, despite his own all too human weaknesses. Bound by honour, to be revered by all who walk this world after him; this was a man who embraced his destiny and did all that was demanded of him.

Wicked Dionysus, who indulged the weaknesses of mortal men, and laughed as only the Gods could.

Artemis... Hephaestus... Poseidon... Hades... Apollo... Athena...

My mind reels with the stories, the possibilities.

And among this splendour, this vast, enchanting world, he smiles for me; and I know that I would trade none of that Ancient sorcery for these precious hours in his company.

My dream walks at my side in this Greek island paradise. The deepening night is not dark enough to cast the nightshade of his hair into formless shadow. His smile is the sun, and my heart races to see it.

He holds out his hand to me, beckons me into his orbit; a place that feels more like home than any place I have ever known.

The touch of his fingers as they curl around mine creates a warmth that floods into my veins; Ambrosia of the soul─the Gods themselves could have possessed nothing as sweet.

In the distance, the lilting reverberations of music; tempos at once wild and melodious.

"How long do you want to stay?"

Forever, my mind whispers. "Tonight is long enough," answers the part of me which demands no less than honesty.

He stops, stares intently at me; measuring truth against longing. Silently, he draws me closer, and turns toward the ocean waters. The azure depths have grown ebony now, the reflected glory of the heavens dancing on the tips of shore-bound waves that lap gently at the sands. On the glittering surface of the eternal vastness of the sea, pale silver moonglow illuminates a path that leads to another place and time.

"I feel like the Gods are striving to seduce us into Olympus," I murmured, entranced by the vista before us. Grey eyes are dark, unfathomable as the depths of Poseidon's domain when I look up at him.

His smile, a breath of curve to his lips, is enigmatic and erotic. The brush of his hands skimming the contours of my arms as he draws me against him makes me shiver.

"Are you cold?"

I laugh, he knows better; it's in his voice. He knows that his very presence is the cause of my tremors. That I am held captive by the smooth, soft cadence of his tones, the silk of his shoulder-length hair, the supple strength in his slender muscles. But, mostly, my heart aches for his love.

"You're a romantic," he teased, with profound gentleness.

"You've known that from the moment we met," I answered. "Before we met."

He nodded, and leaned closer, placed a feather-like kiss on my forehead. Then, I felt the languid sway of his body as he began to draw me into a dance.

Breathing deeply, I sent a prayer to the divine Goddess of Love. Long minutes later, when he lowered his lips to mine, I knew she'd heard me; and answered my heart's deepest desire...

He loves me, too. Forever just might be one night, but with this man, it can be enough.

About the Author: Canadian born and bred, and a lifelong dreamer, I began writing at an early age and can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating in some artistic form. My life has had several on-going love affairs that shape much of what I write, the American West, Victorian England, cowboys, a passion for pirates, Greek Gods, and Ancient Egypt. The other endless love affair in my life is Italia and all its magic, beauty, and dazzling culture. That passion spills into all aspects of my life. Website: http://www.denysebridger.com Blog: http://fantasy-pages.blogspot.com

Author Interview: Doralyn Kennedy

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have Doralynn Kennedy with us today. Doralynn's debut novel, Sleeping With Skeletons, was released by The Wild Rose Press last fall.

She's currently working on a crime book she's absolutely in love with called Spiders and she thinks it's the best manuscript she's ever written. "I consider it a cross between Tami Hoag and Stephen King," she told me. "I don’t want to give anything away, but I can tell you that the crime my villain commits in this book has never been done before."

She admits her favorite author changes frequently, but said that, currently, her favorite is Tami Hoag.

"I have a law enforcement background and many of her books center around characters who are in law enforcement. She has a great grasp on how cops think and act. Her characters are completely convincing," she explained. "I swear they’re in the room with me. It takes a real talent to bring characters to life in such a vivid way. She also writes an engaging mystery that keeps me turning the page. But mainly, I think I just love the leading men in her books."

Mr. McIntyre, her 8th and 9th grade English teacher, started Doralynn writing. He gave his students contracts at the beginning of the year, and the students could choose which grade they wanted to earn. The options were A, B, or C and each option required a different commitment. One of the things Doralynn had to do to earn the A she wanted was to write several short stories.

"That's when I discovered I could write," she said. "Mr. McIntyre started reading those stories to the class. It was exciting for me to hear my fellow students laughing at all of my jokes and cheering my characters on. One day I turned in a story, and he shook his head and gave it back. 'I know what you're capable of, and you can do better than that. Never do anything less than your best.' It was the best piece of advice any teacher ever gave me."

By the time she finished his class, she knew she was a writer and has been writing ever since.

"I’ve never been very practical, I’m afraid. Very few people actually succeed in this profession. There are so many hurdles to overcome. Not just the hurdle of writing something that’s good enough to be published. In some ways, that’s the easy part. It’s the hurdles you face after you’ve written the book. It’s so difficult to find an agent. And, the way things are now days, you can’t find a publisher unless you can find an agent first. But agents, if writers can get them to respond at all, typically turn away most queries with a form rejection letter. 'It doesn’t meet our needs at present.' Really? How would you know? You haven’t read it! It’s so frustrating. I just want to scream. It’s why so many writers are turning to small, print-on-demand publishing house—or just self-publishing. I’ve read some self-published work recently that was 10 times better than some of the books coming out of the big publishing houses by well-known authors."

Doralynn is very much a "pantser." She told me she doesn't really develop her characters or plots—they develop themselves.

"With me, a first sentence pops into my head, and then I start writing," she told me. "Within a few paragraphs, I have a general idea of what is going on, who my characters are, and what the plot is. But the story mostly writes itself. I just jot down the action as it plays out in my head. It’s almost like watching a movie and then telling others what I saw."

She sees writer's block as not really, in her case, a problem, but more just a natural rhythm in her writing life. "I don't really do anything," she said. "I enter into a long ice age where I just can’t write. Eventually the ice starts to thaw, and I start to write again—fast and furious."

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

"I think that’s a blend of the writer’s voice and the characters. If the characters don’t leap to life and jump off the page, then the book doesn’t work for me. But it doesn’t work if the writer’s voice doesn’t have a certain magic to it either. Some writers just have a writing style that pulls me into their world. A successful writer is almost like a snake charmer. They draw you into their story, and all you can hear is their music until you close the book. And if they’re really good, you still hear the music after the book is closed."

Agatha Christie is the writer who most influenced Doralynn. She would walk to the library almost every day after class when she was in middle school and check out books. Usually, it was an Agatha Christie mystery she picked out.

"Her books gave me a love for mysteries that has lasted my whole life. They have also influenced my own writing. Generally, when I sit down to write, I’m sitting down to write a mystery," she shared.

On a personal note, I asked Doralynn, "Do you really, really want a dog?"

"Well, I’m getting one—whether I really, really want it or not. My niece can’t take care of her dog anymore, and since my last cat just died, I’ve agreed to take Tequila. (Tequila. What kind of name is that for a dog? I’m not sure why, but all young girls nowadays name their pets after alcoholic beverages.) But I don’t really consider Tequila a dog. She’s a Chihuahua. She shakes constantly, weighs less than a pound, and reminds me of a terrified mouse. She’s incredibly sweet though, and she loves me. It’s hard to resist something that loves you—even if it is one of the strangest things you’ve ever seen."

She hates how she looks in pictures. "I used to steal cameras from my friends and remove the film if I was on it," she admitted. "I curse the invention of cell phones because someone is always taking my picture."

"Do you have any strange handwriting habits, like capitalizing all your R's or dotting your I's with heart (or anything like that)?" I asked.

"Maybe, but it’s hard to tell. I can’t read my handwriting. I often look at it and think Who on earth wrote that?"

She claimed to be completely normal and without any strange habits, but when she was young (before the invention of Skittles and Starburst) she thought anything with a pretty color belonged in her mouth.

However, the strangest thing (besides crayons) she's eaten would have to be octopus.

"That was an accident. I was traveling in Italy and stopped at a cafeteria. I thought I was getting some kind of chicken noodle dish," she explained. "When I got to my table, I stuck my fork in, lifted the first bite, and stopped in mid-motion. Long, dangly legs like rubber bounced off my fork. There were little hairs and suction cups on my noodles. I turned to my traveling companion and asked what kind of noodle it was, and she informed me that it wasn’t a noodle. It was a squid. I decided to be very brave and try a nibble—which turned out to be a mistake. I gave it to my friend. Fortunately, she liked squid. I can honestly say that I prefer crayons to squid."

"Have you ever made a crank phone call?"

"I grew up before caller ID, so yes. But they were silly little pranks that never terrorized anyone. We’d call, giggling, and ask stupid questions, like, 'Say, is your refrigerator running?' If they said 'yes,' we’d laugh hysterically and say, 'Better go catch it!' Then we’d hang up and our neighbor would call our mother and tell on us."

Finally, I wanted to know what advice Doralynn would give to a writer just starting out.

"Not to give up and not to stop believing in themselves," she said." I think it’s important to study the craft—take classes, read books, join groups. Writing is like any other profession. It requires study and serious work. All of us, no matter how much innate talent we possess, can always improve. I know there are a lot of people who dream of being published, and many times they give up their dreams. Don't do that. We miss out on so much because of that. I think the best advice I can give to aspiring authors is, 'Don't give up. Keep everlastingly at it.' And remember what Mr. McIntyre told me, 'Never do anything less than your best.'"

You can keep up with Doralynn on her blog, http://www.dlynnkennedy.blogspot.com

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Beth Caudill

What’s New?

My latest release is a novella at Whispers Publishing:

Healer’s Fate - Corliss Rumdone hides behind her status as Healer to avoid the normal wolf pack hierarchal challenges. A forced mating changes the course of her life. Instead of Raymond, the beta wolf selected for her, she mates with Liam—her best friend and heir to the Alpha pair.

Liam whisks them away to a shifter retreat so they can allow the mating bond to settle in private. But interference from those seeking power and two terminal children arouse past hurts and challenge their new relationship. Even their home is not the haven it should be as Liam must watch Corliss fight for the right to stay his mate. For one healer, death becomes a weapon to balance life.


Bitten by Books gave Healer's Fate a 4 1/2 tombstone review. Emma D. says "...I must admit to being entranced and wanting to hear more of Corliss and her world." You can read the entire review here.

The first chapter is included in a sampler you can read from my blog. Here is an excerpt from the middle of the book:

Corliss stepped onto the cabin’s back deck. The gentle breeze caressed her bare skin. Liam had kept her indoors the past five days. With a little smile, she thought it had been quite satisfying, but she wanted to run, to feel the wind in her fur. At home, a part of her day included exploring the forest as a wolf.


Liam’s dictate to stay inside had her pacing the floors. He might be able to sit around designing all day but she needed to feel the spongy moss between her claws.


About to take the first step down to the grass, she scanned the surrounding forest, searching for any threats. A movement in the deep shadows caused her to hesitate and step back onto the center of the deck.


A midnight black wolf walked into the moonlight. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear the wolf strutted. But that would be ridiculous. Bigger than a natural wolf, she knew it to be another shifter.


The animal’s head came up, and she shuddered as a calculating look crossed its face. Maybe coming out without Liam had been a bad idea. The air around the animal shimmered as he changed.


In its place stood a good-looking man who had nothing on Liam. He had short, not-quite-black hair perfectly in place atop a round baby face. She couldn’t make out his eye color but it didn’t matter to her. She had her Prince Charming. No need for another.


“Well, hello, neighbor. Interested in a midnight romp?”


Not with you!


Her stomach threatened to rebel at the thought of him touching her. Although he seemed charming enough, something didn’t feel right. His smile appeared a little too practiced, as if he forced it rather than expressing a genuine attraction.

“Not tonight. I only stepped out for some air.”


The hiss of the cabin’s sliding glass door echoed in the still night. Liam’s woodsy male scent surrounded her as he wrapped his arms around her. Corliss leaned against his hard chest muscles, safe in his embrace.


“Sorry, I already have a partner for the night.”


Liam leaned down and whispered in her ear so only she could hear, “Only for the night? I think someone is being naughty and asking for a spanking.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Beth Caudill

Where do you write?

When I first started writing four and half years ago, I worked on the sofa while my youngest son slept. The oldest had gone to school and it was a lot easier to try and write while dealing with one child. Now both kids are in school and I’ve moved up to our bonus room (ie, the catch all room – play room, guest room and mom’s writing office.)

Here’s a picture of my current setup:



I work in the corner, which is nice because I can use the walls. I’ve filled one bulletin board already. I’m trying to decide if the wall in front of me needs a white board, bulletin board, or pictures. I have a window to look out so I should use that space for work.

My research books are up here, as well as all my paperback books. Those bookcases take care of most of the wall space not taken up by the bed and dresser. My sons' legos and the elliptical exerciser take up the middle area. Our new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy is going to have to find her own space to lie down on while I write. (Yes, all the legos are in tubs so she won’t eat the little pieces. No puppies were hurt in the process of writing this entry.)

The only personalizations I have on the desk are two small statues. You can just make out the one of Eeyore in the corner next to the label maker. The other one is hidden by the stack of folders on the right. It’s of Sorcerer Mickey. I have stuffed animals and other things I could put out but then it would get too cluttered. So I’ve kept myself to the minimum of things that could easily fill the gaps I had on the desktop.

My goal for the new year is to write from 10am until 3pm. I haven’t always stuck to that rule allowing errands and friends to eat into that time. But with the new year, I hope to make a new schedule and stick to it. Also no facebook or email (unless writing related) allowed during that time. I can check those once the kids get home. Rowdy boys are not conducive to writing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Beth Caudill

Research! Research! Research!

Okay, I’m a research book nut. I have crystals, herbs, fashion, musical instruments, and animals crowding my bookshelves. There are craft books, maps, faery tales, etiquette, political and philosophical guides. I won’t say I have everything, but I have two bookcases worth and the pile keeps growing.

But wait, you write about imaginary worlds and creatures. Doesn’t that mean you make all that stuff up? Well, yes and no. You have to have a touch of reality. The reader would not understand a palm tree in the middle of a swamp without a very good explanation. My job as a writer is to get the reader to feel comfortable with something different by relating it to the familiarity of everyday life.

In this excerpt from Healer’s Fate, I tried to get across information about how my werewolves lived on the made-up planet Arilase by talking about the food they ate:

Corliss turned into the restaurant of the new hotel and sat at the bar. While the bartender prepared her peach spritzer, she scanned the area. Nature prints from all over Arilase decorated the burgundy and tan walls.

In her immediate area she saw a prairie desert, a mountain river, and grasslands. Half the tables were already filled and a line had formed around the hostess desk. A good sign for business.

Her gaze drifted back to the mountain scene. A herd of elkan—large, curly-coated, four-hoofed grazers—drank from the river. It reminded her that the next hunt would be her responsibility.

While eating moderately cooked meat in human form would satisfy the wolf, every three months a shifter needed to hunt in animal form and eat raw meat.

In the past, this task had fallen to Mollie as the strongest female below the Alphena. As Liam’s mate, the job became hers. And none too soon, in her opinion. Mollie could, on occasion, be lazy and selected herds close to the home village.

Several groups had been over-culled while others grew too large. She made a mental note to confer with the outer boundary scouts on the best area for hunting.

In my research, I found wolf packs in winter will hunt down animals like caribou, reindeer, and the occasional moose. By naming my wolves' food source similar to an elk, I could get an image in the readers mind but still be on another planet. BTW, a great resource about wolves for both information and pictures is The Art of Being a Wolf by Anne Menatory.

So don’t skip over those reference books in the discount pile, you never know what you might need for a story

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Beth Caudill

I Think I Can…

With two kids, I find reading old favorites a good solution for their need to hear the same story over and over again. One such book is The Little Engine That Could retold by Watty Piper. I smile every time I read “I think I can. I think I can.”

I kept ‘I think I can’ as a mantra through half of college. At which point, three dimensional calculus kicked my behind. ‘I think I can’ became replaced by ‘Let me out of here.”

As I work on a novel-length manuscript, ‘I think I can’ has come back into my life. I use it to fight the dreaded doubt demon. This is the little guy that as you write, he whispers, “That sucks. Why are you doing this?” He can be quite persistent at times. You just have to persevere and ignore him. Particularly when you receive a rejection for one manuscript while working on its sequel.

Another thing you have to protect against is letting critiques and rejections influence the heart of your story. You have to remember that this is your story and weigh the comments from critique groups, partners, contest judges, and editors against your vision. Most comments will probably make your story better, but there may be a few you don’t agree with changing. Make sure you have taken time away and thought over the comments logically. If you still feel the change is wrong, don’t make it so long as you can give a detailed explanation (besides you don’t want to do it) of why the change is incorrect.

Remember, writing is a business and emotion needs to be left in the story and not your interactions with the people who are helping you. And no matter what, write that next story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Beth Caudill

Why write fantasy and paranormal stories?

One question I’m often asked is why do you write fantasy and paranormal stories. The answer is simple, because I can escape into a new world and forget about my troubles. That ability to escape is also why I read those same genres.

Does this mean I don’t read any contemporary romance stories? No. I just don’t read them as often or seem to become as engrossed. For example at my local romance book club, we read Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockmann. I finished it in two weeks – a long time for me (I usually finish a novel within three days.) It was well written and I liked the characters. However, the plot of dealing with drug dealers didn’t catch my attention. I could put the book down and walk away without an internal clock ticking my impatience to return. To be fair, around the same time we had an incident at a local mall with 200 people getting into a gang related fight. The book hit too close to home and I couldn’t get away from the things I wanted to.

Does this mean fantasy/paranormal stories lack these things? No. A mage could become addicted to the rush of power from ‘blood magic’ or a vampire’s need for blood means he can’t wait to sink his fangs into the next victim. Janny Wurts does a great job mixing political and religious issues in her Wars of Light and Shadows series. Isaac Asimov mixed science and social-economic issues in the Foundation series. Nalini Singh in her Psi/Changeling series mixes political and economic issues in addition to romance.

One day I hope to create worlds and characters as memorable as theirs.


Beth Caudill
http://www.bethcaudill.net/

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dance With Me by Jennifer Probst

“This is stupid.”

Jacklyn dragged her feet and prayed her best friend wouldn’t notice.

Jodi shook her head. “You’re acting ridiculous. You need to have fun and meet men. Salsa class combines both.”

Jackie groaned. “I hate dancing, I’ve got two left feet. You’re making me miss an episode of Survivor.”

“You need a man more than the remote.”

“You’re forgetting my shortage theory. Women outnumber men by 2 to 1. One single guy has communities of women fighting for his attention. Do you believe the 1 percent left can be registered for Salsa?”

Jodi opened the door. “Yep.”

Couples scattered across the glossy floor. Jackie glanced around the room and spotted—

Thank you, God.

He was beautiful. Dark glossy hair, black, brooding eyes, and a lithe body made for dancing.

Her best friend grinned. “Told you.”

This time, Jackie didn’t drag her feet as she made her way toward the James Dean look-a-like.

“Welcome to Salsa 101. I’m Pete Connors.”

She studied the man in front of the room. A strange longing bubbled up from the pit of her tummy as she gazed at him, and she wondered why he seemed familiar. Then the moment passed and he was just her instructor – a nice looking man with friendly brown eyes and wheat colored hair. The laugh lines carved around his mouth told her he enjoyed life. He moved with a masculine grace, practically floating across the floor.

“I’m going to pair you up and go through a few basic moves.” The erotic beat of the Salsa roared through the room.

Jackie moved her feet to copy the rhythm being demonstrated, but she occasionally bumped shoulders with James Dean. To her delight, he actually smiled and spoke. “I guess we can be partners. I’m Frederico.”

She smiled back. “Jackie. But I have to warn you, I have two left feet.”

“That’s okay.” They practiced, bumping occasionally into each other and laughing. She was about to ask a few personal questions when Pete interrupted her moment. “Time to switch, guys.”

Her mouth fell open. “Switch?”

He winked. “Partners. Everyone take a step to the right and continue.”

Frederico took the fated step into the arms of a giggling teenager. When Jackie looked to her right, there was an empty space. Embarrassed, she tried to casually move toward the corner. Strong hands suddenly grasped her waist and spun her around in one easy move.

She looked up at her instructor. “I don’t have a partner.”

Those chestnut eyes gleamed with amusement but his tone was serious. “Then I’ll show you the ropes, and you can impress your friends at parties.”

She laughed. His hands were firm as they clasped her fingers and guided her through the movements. After a few moments, Pete stopped.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly.

He studied her face for a moment and again she felt the hard tug of excitement.

“You’re not having fun,” he said.

Horror coursed through her at the accusation. “Of course I am!”

His lip twitched. “You’re concentrating too hard on following the steps. You’re trying to learn it like a school project, but dance is different. You have to let go and trust your body. You need to risk looking silly.”

His words stung at first. Then the meaning sunk in and she realized he was right. “I don’t like to look silly,” she offered.

“Nobody does. But the payoff is pleasure. Fun. Isn’t that worth it?”

He pulled her into a firm dance frame, and began to lead. This time, Jackie allowed his subtle motions to guide her, allowed her feet to enjoy the pounding beat of the music, allowed her hips to swing a little bit freer. Something broke deep inside, and she let herself go, laughing a bit as she danced to the Salsa and forgot about everyone else in the room.

Too soon, he had released her. Their gazes locked.

Pete smiled. “Much better.” He cleared his throat. “Last time, switch back.”

In a flash, she was back in Frederico’s arms, and he seemed glad to see her again. “What made you sign up for dance lessons?” she asked.

“I want to dance well at the wedding.”

“Oh, that’s nice. A relative or friend?”

“No, mine.”

She stumbled. “Your wedding?”

“Yes, I want to surprise my fiancĂ©e. Do you think she’ll like it?”

Jackie only felt relief. “Yes, I think she will love your surprise.”

The music ended. Pete stopped in front of them but seemed distant. “Great job, guys. You make a nice couple.”

Jackie caught the flash of some emotion in Pete’s brown eyes. She opened her mouth to thank him but he had already moved away.

Jodi walked over. “Well?”

“He’s getting married.”

“Damn. Maybe we can check out the karate studio.”

Jackie stared at Pete. “Maybe not. Wait here.”

She squared her shoulders and marched over. Pete looked up from his briefcase. “Hey, what’s up?”

The words got stuck in her throat. “I loved your class. Can I come again next week?”

“Sure. I’m glad you liked it.”

“Everyone seemed to have fun.”

“Yes, but I usually have a shortage problem.”

Her heart skipped a beat. “Shortage?”

He leaned one hip against the wall. “Yeah, this class holds mostly females. Most of the time I end up putting two girls together as partners. It’s the same in all of my classes, from dance to sports.” He smiled wryly. “Seems almost like a male population shortage, doesn’t it?”

Jackie knew with a blinding flash she had found who she was looking for in Salsa 101.

“I agree. Maybe you’d like to get a cup of coffee sometime?”

Pete took a step closer. “I’d like that. I teach Tango tomorrow. Maybe you’d like to meet afterwards.”

“Can I come to class first?”

“Do you have a partner?”

Jackie smiled. “I do now.”

He smiled back. At the corner of her eye, she saw Jodi flash a thumbs up signal.

Missing Survivor had been so worth it.


About the Author: Jennifer Probst dreamed of becoming a romance writer since she was young. She takes inspiration from her husband and two young boys, and makes her home in upstate New York. She is the author of the contemporary novel, Heart of Steel, and the erotic novella, "Masquerade" in Secrets Volume 11. She has a masters degree in English Literature from Mercy College. http://www.jenniferprobst.com

Author Interview: Jana Richards

The Long and the Short of It: LASR is very pleased to welcome Jana Richards, who has two short stories in the soon-to-be released The Cupid Diaries: Moments in Time.

Jana shared with me she had tried her hand at creative writing, but never really found what she really wanted to write—until she read her first romance. "That first book was full of suspense and danger with a wonderful love story and amazing characters. I was definitely hooked."

She usually starts with an idea—a "what if" question. For instance, in her current work-in-progress, she wondered what it would be like to have a second chance—an opportunity to go back in time and do things differently the second time.

"Then I started to think about the kind of person who would need a second chance, especially a second chance at love," she explained. "What circumstances had led to this character losing the love of his life the first time? Who was the love of his life? Why did she leave him? What time period would my hero go back to? What setting? And exactly how do you travel back in time? By asking and answering these questions, the plot and the characters start to come life for me."

This paranormal time-travel WIP has a working title of "Twice in a Lifetime." I asked Jana to share a bit about it.

"Frank Brennen is an old man living in a nursing home when he’s visited by an angel who gives him the opportunity to go back in time for a second chance at love. She takes Frank back to 1944 to Plymouth, England just before the D-Day invasion. Back to Claire, the English beauty he’d loved, who betrayed him with another man. Frank can’t imagine how anything can be different the second time around, unless he’s able to save the life of his best friend Cal this time. But Angelica the angel tells him he can’t change history, only his reaction to events. She urges him to give Claire another chance by keeping his heart and his mind open. Can he find his way to true love this time?"

Another story she's working on is a contemporary romance. "My heroine, Bridget, moves back to her small hometown after both her business and her marriage fail. Her teenage daughter is acting out, she and her mother are at odds, and her sister has revealed some of her secrets to the town gossip! Bridget feels like a big, fat failure. At her absolute lowest point Bridget is reintroduced to Jack, her high school boyfriend and first love. Bridget discovers that things she always believed about her family aren’t necessarily the truth. And she also discovers that the embers of her old flame are still burning bright."

Jana usually goes with a theme-based title or something in the book that suggests the title. In her book Her Best Man, Sarah falls in love with the best man at her wedding—after her groom dumps her at the altar. In Burning Love, her latest release from The Wild Rose Press, the hero is a firefighter and the heroine is prone to setting fires. The novella opens and closes with a fire. "And I like it's the name of an old Elvis song," she added.

"After causing three cooking fires in her apartment, Iris Jensen finds herself homeless. She lands on Riley Benson's doorstep, looking to rent a room in the beautiful old home he's restoring. It's only for six weeks until Iris leaves Portland, Oregon for her new job on a cruise ship. Firefighter Riley knows exactly what a bad tenant she can be. But he needs money to finish the work on the house he loves. And something about Iris pulls at his heart…

"Meanwhile, in Heaven, two angels watch over the young lovers. Angelica and Hildegard work in Heaven's Relationship Division, where angels match mortals with their soul mates. The angels believe so strongly in Iris and Riley’s love that they break Heaven's rules to help them. Can the the angels convince them their love will last a lifetime before time runs out?"

I asked her to describe her writing space.

"This is kind of embarrassing because my writing space is somewhat unorganized. Mostly I write in a corner of a spare bedroom where I have my desktop computer. Being a packrat/unorganized/messy person, my desk is covered with papers and notes, and all manner of stuff. I also have a laptop that I take from my dining room table to my bedroom to the deck when the weather’s good. I keep saying that someday I’m going to be organized and neat but unfortunately it hasn’t happened yet."

There are many things Jana finds hard about writing a book.

"Making sure I have an interesting plot and a solid and believable conflict. Creating characters that jump off the page, and ensuring that the sexual chemistry between them consumes them and the readers. But for me, probably the hardest thing in writing a novel is keeping all the threads from unravelling," she revealed. "All the plot lines need to be kept straight. Sometimes by the time I get to the middle or the end of the story, I can’t remember what color my hero’s eyes are supposed to be. Or what his brother’s name is. Hey, I’m lucky if I can remember my own name by the time I finish a book!"

On a personal note, some things you might not know about Jana:

She has cried through so many movies, she never goes any more without tissue. She also cries during sappy commercials.

Her favorite pizza? "I love ham and pineapple, loaded with cheese. But I’m also crazy about pepperoni and mushroom. Oh, let’s face it. I’ll eat pretty much any kind of pizza."

She feels scientists should invent a pill that instantly makes you lose weight and gets you fit and healthy.

She's terrified of thunderstorms. "When it comes to thunderstorms I’m a total wimp. During storms me and the dog head downstairs and lock ourselves in the family room. It has no windows and so if I close the door we can’t hear or see the thunder and lightening."

To read more about her dog, Lou, check out the short story on Jana's website: "A Dog Named Lou". You can keep up with Jana on her website, http://www.janarichards.net

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Angie Fox

Thanks so much for having me on Long and Short reviews this week. It’s been a blast to talk about writing with you. When it’s all said and done, I have to tell you that my favorite part about writing paranormals is that everything is possible. Not only can I write about a world where a demon slayer gets to ride around with a gang of geriatric biker witches, but I can also populate that world with any number of supernatural creatures.

One of my favorites is Lizzie, the heroine’s pet Jack Russell Terrier. He’s not especially magical on his own, but because of her abilities, Lizzie’s dog can talk to her. And this little guy has plenty to say. Pirate even gets his own pet in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, a baby dragon that he names Flappy. It amused me for a pet to have a pet. It goes something like this:

Lizzie: You can’t have a pet. You are a pet.

Pirate: Exactly. So I know how to treat a pet. First rule – no Healthy Lite dog chow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Angie Fox

Dangerous demons

Hi, my name is Angie Fox and I write the Accidental Demon Slayer series. It’s about a preschool teacher turned demon slayer who has to run off with her grandmother’s gang of geriatric biker witches. It happens every day, right?

The series has been a blast to write and I think I’ve had some of the most fun coming up with demons. Yes, they are scary. Yes, they are out to take over the world. But they have to have their own personalities and problems too.

In The Accidental Demon Slayer, Vlad the demon has been imprisoned by my heroine’s ancestor, who was one of the greatest demon slayers. But has he spent his time in the fifth level of hell just moping? No-sir-e-bob. Vlad is a bit of a mad scientist. He’s coming up with ways to beat demon slayer technology.

And then there are the sex-on-the-brain succubi in The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers. They’re out to conquer the world, one man at a time. Problem is, no one seems to take sexy creatures seriously. The magical bureaucracy has ignored the succubi problem in Las Vegas. After all, they’ve added a certain “what happens in Vegas…” charm. But demons, left to their own devices, will get out of hand.

Finally, you have the old family friends turned demonic in A Tale of Two Demon Slayers. This one was fun because they figured out how to use my heroine’s magic against her and it really forces her to take a look at her abilities, her powers and just what she’s willing to do to protect the people she loves.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Angie Fox

Why I love griffins

Hi, my name is Angie Fox and I write a series about a preschool teacher turned demon slayer who has to run off with her grandmother’s gang of geriatric biker witches. But what cracks me up is that some readers don’t even ask me about that.

Biker witches? Sure! Demon slaying preschool teachers? Why not? What a lot of readers most want to know is why the hero of the books, Dimitri, is a shapeshifting griffin.

My answer is always – why not? Don’t get me wrong – I love werewolves and vampires and all kinds of heroes. But frankly, I’m surprised we don’t see more griffins in paranormal books.

Aside from being sexy as all get out, griffins are known to be loyal, intense and strong. Griffins were even a symbol of marriage in the Medieval church because they mate for life. I can’t think of a better quality for a hero to have. And while griffins may not be your classic Alpha “my way or the highway” type of guys, they are tough and absolutely willing to leap tall mountains (literally) for the women they love.

In honor of Dimitri, and griffins everywhere, I’m giving away a copy of my latest book, A Tale of Two Demon Slayers. To enter, just answer the question here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Angie Fox

How I hit the NYT Bestseller list

Or: Everything I needed to know, I learned from George Costanza


I’ve always loved to read, so it was no surprise to anyone when I eventually decided to write a book of my own. When I did, I attacked it head on. I planned, I worked, I outlined more than any woman should. The end result? I wrote three mysteries that didn’t sell.

I don’t know how many of you watch Seinfeld, but there is a time in George’s life where he decides what he’s been doing hasn’t been working, so he decides to do the opposite. That’s what I did with my books. I’d been writing serious mysteries, with lots of science and research involved. They’d generated some interest, enough to almost, almost sell. But nothing quite happened.

To take my mind off the latest mystery making the rounds with agents, I decided to write something completely different, a funny paranormal romance where I could build my own world and make up my own rules. I fell in love with the idea of a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born.

Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I giggled my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months.

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of an editor, who asked to see the whole thing. That same editor bought the book less than a week after I finished it.

And the response from readers has been truly overwhelming. I still can’t believe The Accidental Demon Slayer hit the New York Times bestseller list.

While I’m not sure Seinfeld is the best place to go for life lessons, I really do think there’s something to be said for following your instincts – in writing and in everything else.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Angie Fox

Riding with the Harley Dogs: One Author’s Adventure

I always knew writing would be an adventure. Still, I never predicted my writing would put me on the back of a coal black Harley Davidson, with an Irish Setter in tow.

I’d set out to write a paranormal about a straight-laced preschool teacher turned demon slayer who has to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches. But my heroine has a smart-mouthed dog that, thanks to her new powers, can talk…and talk…and talk. And I really loved that dog. What’s a writer to do? Well, I went online and learned that there is a nationwide club of Harley bikers who ride with their dogs. So my heroine could have her pink Harley, and her Jack Russell Terrier too.

And of course I had to meet these Harley riding dog lovers. I called up a few of the members of a Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club and the adventure began. They invited me into their homes, introduced me to their dogs and, like my heroine, the bikers hoisted me up on the back of a Harley, with a dog in tow.

Things I learned right off the bat:

* After an hour on a Harley, you’ll walk like John Wayne for a week
* Helmets hurt when they are worn backwards
* Dogs love riding motorcycles



Stone, the biker who spent the most time making sure I didn’t fall off his hog, showed me how to ride, invited me to some biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink next time), and helped make A Tale of Two Demon Slayers as real as it could be (for a book about a somewhat sheltered preschool teacher turned demon slayer).

So just when I thought I was writing fiction, it seemed my made-up characters weren’t so imaginary after all. One of the bikers I met even has a wife who is a biker witch. I’m wondering if she, like my heroine’s biker witch grandma, wears a “Kiss My Asphalt” t-shirt and carries a carpet bag full of Smuckers jars filled with magic. Maybe I’ll find out on my next adventure.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Be Careful With Your Heart by Christina Cole

Six-year-old Sadie McGinty clutched her mother’s hand and climbed the steps to the schoolhouse. A cold wind stung her freckled cheeks and snowflakes danced in the air, but excitement warmed her heart. Underneath her winter coat, Sadie wore the new jumper her mother had sewn for her – the red one with little red hearts on the blouse. Today was Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Wexhall’s afternoon kindergarten class was having a party, and little Sadie was in love.

Before Sadie could look for Andrew, Mrs. Wexhall was hovering over her, helping her off with her coat and hanging it on the bright purple peg with Sadie’s name on it. Mama was fussing with her, too, tugging off her bonnet. Long curls the color of a new copper penny spilled out.

Sadie’s blue eyes rounded in wonder as she gazed about. Overnight, Mrs. Wexhall’s classroom had been transformed, its walls now adorned with pink, white, and red hearts and lacy bits of frothy paper doilies. Twisted streamers of crepe paper festooned the usually stuffy ceiling, and all around the room hung the Valentine mailboxes.


***

Yesterday they’d each brought a paper bag to decorate. Sadie colored hers with rainbows and butterflies, because she liked rainbows and butterflies, but she added lots of hearts, too, and a few flowers. She wrote her name in big, bright letters.

Mrs. Wexhall must have worked all night tacking up the mailboxes and decorating the room. Sadie’s mother had worked all night, too, baking fancy little cakes. Petits fours, she called them: small squares of white cake, iced with creamy white frosting, and sprinkled with cinnamon hearts.

Sadie had spent hours carefully choosing valentines for her classmates. Pretty ones for the girls, and mostly silly ones for the boys. Except for Andrew, of course.

She picked a funny-looking frog for Rob, and a grinning turtle for Michael, then hesitated, trying to decide between a friendly lion or a weeping crocodile for Willie. Or maybe it was an alligator. Sadie didn't know much about alligators and crocodiles. She didn't know much about Willie Jenkins either since his family had just moved to town the week before. She chose the crocodile for him, and wondered if anyone else would give him a valentine.

What should she choose for Andrew? One by one, she considered each card in the box, but none seemed to say what was in her heart. She would have to make her own, Sadie decided.


***

She cut and pasted, and colored and trimmed, and in her neatest hand she labored to spell out the words: BE MY VALENTINE. Her creation looked a little lopsided, and she couldn't fit all the letters on the right lines, but Mama said it would do just fine.

Sadie fell asleep with a smile on her face.


***


"Children, gather around." Mrs. Wexhall clapped her wrinkled hands together, calling for attention. "It's time for valentines. Just slip them into the mailboxes," she instructed.

Sadie hugged the white envelopes to her chest, her excitement mounting. When she noticed Andrew standing nearby, she smiled. He had dark, curly hair, and dark, dreamy eyes, and Sadie's heart always seemed to beat faster whenever he was close. She watched as he went around the room placing an envelope in every gaily-colored paper bag mailbox.

"Only a few more minutes," Mrs. Wexhall warned. "Hurry up, children."

Sadie realized she still had her valentines in her hands, so she hurried around the room, matching up the names on the envelopes with names on the mailboxes until only one valentine remained.

Her special valentine for Andrew. It had no envelope. She'd purposely made it bigger than all the others. She peered around to see if he was watching, then when Mrs. Wexhall clapped her hands again, Sadie quickly dropped the valentine into the mailbox.


***


Sadie and her friends gathered around one table, chattering and giggling as the teacher took down the mailboxes and handed them out. They ooh'ed and aah'ed and giggled again as they pulled out their cards.

Sadie pursed her lips, disappointed that Andrew had given her a stupid circus clown. Sadie hated circus clowns.

All the while, she kept an eye on him, waiting for him to find her valentine.

It wasn't there.

Sadie glanced around the room, then watched in horror as Willie Jenkins pulled out a hand-made heart with bold, misshapen letters. He turned it over, then looked at her and grinned.

She'd slipped her valentine into the wrong mailbox. But, it was all Mrs. Wexhall's fault for making her hurry!

Frantic, she turned toward Andrew. Maybe she could explain, tell him about her mistake. She stopped when she saw Ashley Bloom. The girl's blond ponytail bobbed as she and Andrew laughed together. Sadie's heart broke in two when Andrew handed Ashley a foil-covered chocolate kiss.


***

"Would it be OK if I sit by you?"

Sadie turned at the sound of the voice, and her face heated up when she saw Willie Jenkins standing there. She didn't want him to sit with her, but then she saw the hopeful look in his gray eyes. She knew what hope felt like, and she nodded.

"Thanks for the valentine, Sadie. I didn't get too many, you know."

"Yeah, that's why I made a special one for you," she replied, figuring a little white lie might be all right.

"Can I tell you a secret?"

When Sadie nodded, Willie leaned forward. His warm breath tickled as he whispered in her ear. She giggled and blushed again.


***

Afterward, when the party was over, and all the petits fours were gone, Sadie put on her coat and bonnet. She clutched her mother's hand as they hurried down the steps.

Maybe she should have been more careful with her heart, she thought. Or maybe not. If she hadn't given it away by accident, she would never have known how much Willie Jenkins liked her freckles.

Sadie pressed a hand to her cheek and smiled.

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

Author Interview: Lynn Romaine

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Lynn Romaine.

Lynn has written academic stuff and some nonfiction, but she never thought about writing fiction until she told someone she's always had stories inside her head. When she was a little girl, she used to sooth herself at night or nervous situations. They challenged her to write the story down. She did and four months later, her first book was finished. A month after that, it was contracted.

She's still working on learning to write better, however; it's one of her passions. She shared with us some things she feels strongly about—"1) Showing rather than telling a story (painting a picture with words). 2) NEVER use a clichĂ© if you can help it (i.e., bulging thighs, chocolate eyes, exploding passion, etc.) Try and find a fresh way to say those things. 3) Edit, edit, edit (after you write it first). The average best seller is edited 5-6 times. My 3rd book just out (Long Run Home) was edited 16 times! 4) Remove the overwriting (and we all do it in learning the craft) - overwriting is adding too much information, too much description. A perfect example is describing the 'fluffy potatoes' and 'steamy rolls' at dinner between the characters, or 'she slipped into her Luqz Bergman white leather running shoes.' It's done all the time, even by best sellers, but it's bad writing. Good writing is looking to hone down while still capturing the experience for the reader. 5) Avoid adverbs completely if possible - 'she ran lightly' and 'when you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them--then the rest will be valuable' (Mark Twain). 6) Use short sentences - see overwriting (I have this habit bad - on and on and on)."

Lynn's characters always come first—they are about the development and growth of a specific character. The plot is used to move that development forward. Her books all open with a catastrophe or other bad circumstance—usually murder since she writes romantic suspense—where the heroine is challenged. "She learns throughout the story that she's been living in a lie or an illusion about life and she has to come to terms with a new way to live. She discovers that she can create her life and design it newly," she explained.

She's currently working on The Reckoner, about a woman of thirty who murdered two men when she was fourteen.

"It sounds gruesome but it's about how one deals with being a good person but doing something really bad - how do you live the rest of your life? My heroine, Sonny, killed her older sister's rapists after she finds her older sister dead, having hung herself after being raped. The story opens in present time with the character working at a low income day care center in Manitoba where she meets a detective. They fall in love and marry and then suddenly her past deed she's trying to atone for is uncovered. She and her husband who is committed to justice, have to come to terms with her past actions and reckoning for it."

After the characters and theme, Lynn feels the next most important part of the book is the title.

"My titles have to come to me in some way - I wait for them to show up before I even start writing," Lynn explained. "Leave No Trace came from my daughter who was getting a degree in environmental science; Blind Spot came from Landmark Education's distinction around something that runs our lives but we don't see it. Long Run Home came from having a vision of my character running in the desert, trying to escape being caught by the FBI and the murderer."

Her fourth book, Night Noise, is in the editing phase. It's a romantic environmental suspense—a woman who has a great life, a nice family, and a wide open future working as an environmental engineer at a steel mill in northwest Indiana on Lake Michigan. It all changes on one beautiful spring morning when she discovers her parents and kid brother murdered, execution style, in the family kitchen. From then on, her life is about finding the killers. She teams up with an FBI agent from Chicago who's investigating a threat to the Chicago water system to uncover ecoterrorists, the murderer and ultimately discovers the source of the family murders was an incident that happened when she was a child.

Lynn finds editing the hardest part of writing her book as well as being the most fun.

"It's the place to experiment with words, find the one true word that fits. It can be very tedious but also the most rewarding," she assured me. "The other hard part is connecting the story line for someone like me who writes scenes out of order. Then I have to figure a way to join them and make some sense."

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

"Write and write and write. Like the Malcolm Gladwell book The Outliers says - mastery is a matter of practice - 10,000 hours always produces a master (about 10 years at 3-4 hours a day). WRITE AND DON'T EDIT! Editing comes after a book is finished. (Or after a chapter is done if you're of that mind) Then you go back and comb through each sentence to make sure it says what you want, always bearing in mind we're like screen writers - we want to show our story in words to the reader - not tell it to them. We want to paint a picture and let the reader live in that picture. To do that, we writers need to find a way to put ourselves into the middle of our story and be the characters. But mostly don't judge yourself (if that's possible) - just keep writing and trust you have something amazing to say (we all do)."

Lynn shared with me if she could, she would erase the death of her older sister when Lynn was fifteen. Lynn was supposed to be in the car with her, but wasn't.

"It shaped my life in a certain way, though, and probably led to my commitment to young women living fulfilled lives, so while horrible for my family, it has made a huge contribution to my commitments and probably to the themes of my books."

Lynn's always promoting and speaking for young women around the world to discover their own self-expression; to learn how to create their own lives and make a difference on the planet.

" What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?" I wondered.

"That I have many stories inside of my head wanting to be told. I believe we all do. It's simply a matter of taking the foot off the brake in the mind (the brake that screams I don't have anything to say!)."
You can keep up with Lynn on her blog, http://womenwritersunderground.blogspot.com

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Jason Barret

End of the Road ~ For Now

Well, this is the last day for my spotlight here on Long and Short Reviews and I want to thank those of you who read my spots and I especially want to thank Judy and Marianne. They have been incredibly helpful and very patient with me, especially when I would get lost, a polite word for confused, while making arrangements to be here on Long and Short Reviews.

I’ve tired to give you a glimpse into my world, my real world outside that of the worlds I create on paper. It was a little more difficult that I had first anticipated and even then I was, too say the least, very intimidated by the task of writing directly to readers and writers! I didn’t want to write about writing because if you are a writer then you have already been bombarded with characterization, world building, GMC, story boards, plotting, etc., etc., etc. If you want my personal insight on writing or the rules to creating new worlds I would be more than happy to share that with you through personal emails, so please drop me a line if you have any questions at all.

If you’re a reader I assumed you don’t care about how I got to the point of getting the book written as long as it’s interesting to you and, if you do read Dead Or A Lie, I sincerely hope that you enjoy it. If you have any questions about the book or characters please feel free to drop me a line also. Nothing would make me happier than receiving email or questions about Dead Or A Lie. My email address is jason at jasonbarret dot com

My next book will be Dead Or A Lie ~ Saint’s Sword. It’s a prequel to Dead Or A Lie and goes back six centuries to a different era of man versus vampire. It’s based on the mystical sword presented in Dead Or A Lie and I’ve gathered a great cast of character’s for your enjoyment. I’ll be getting more out about that when the publish date gets nearer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Jason Barret

Cleaning Up The Garage

My wife and I have always tried to work together to keep the house picked up, especially in light of our busy schedules, and, I know this may seem hard to believe, but I’m not that good at picking up after myself. My tools get scattered around the garage as I jump from one job to the next and then to the next. I usually pick up the garage a little bit when my wife told me she’s having a little trouble getting the van in, but things are different now because I started writing.

And how did writing help with cleaning the garage, you may be asking. Well, I started writing and then, of course, started sending out queries and entering contests just like any other author. When I’d get a rejection, or bad scores in a contest and especially when I’d get two good scores and one bad one, I’d swear off writing forever and retreat to my safe zone, the garage. Without a real project to do, I’d straighten out my trusty tools and leftover lumber or whatever else that was preventing safe passage of Jan’s minivan. These tools and lumber never let me down. I knew exactly what to do with them, how they went together and what I could build. They were my friends and comfort zone. The saw cut the wood, the screws held the wood together and the stairs were built, easy and predictable. Writing wasn’t so predictable. Just when I thought I had it down, wham, a rejection letter and off I’d go to the garage to sulk. By the time I got things all organized, cleaned up and the garage back in good shape I’d be ready to write again. Well, sometimes I’d make the job last a little longer and putter around trying to fix frazzled lead cord or something, but eventually I’d come out of my self imposed exile from the pen, ready to jump back into writing.

So, all kidding aside, don’t let one person, a rejection letter; or a low score in a contest deter you from your dream. Yes, sometimes they hurt and you wonder why you put yourself through such misery, but rather than saying “I quit,” just clean the garage or do whatever you can to reorder your thoughts. Go to your comfort zone. Believe it or not, you’ll still be working on that book in the back of your head but it’ll just be “on the back burner” so to speak. Once you’ve decided that the rejection or scores weren’t all that bad and not the end of the world you’ll be ready to jump right back into what you love to do most- write. Plus that, your cupboards will be organized again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Jason Barret

The Road Trip: The Truth - The Whole Truth So Help Me Nora.

ALee, Jenna and I had been critiquing for quite some time and we all decided it was time for a road trip to pitch our books. While in critique you really have to put yourself, or at least your creative self, in a vulnerable position and through that process there grows a certain trust and then a lasting friendship. We dubbed ourselves the Diamonds Critique Group and became best of friends; still are. We all registered for a major conference and for the last few critique sessions before the conference we helped each other distill our books into a one page synopsis, and worked on our ten minute pitches. With the blessings and well wishes of our families, we headed down the road towards the fame and fortune rightfully enjoyed by published authors! Ha!

We arrived at the conference hotel in plenty of time to check into our own rooms and met downstairs where there were tables set up with trinkets and goodies from the many published authors attending the conference. As time passed we hooked up with more members of our group and planned the evening. We all knew what classes to take and would meet back in the lobby when things were done for the evening. I remember, “Pitching To An Agent Or Publisher 101” was a class I took.

We all met back in the lobby after the classes were finished and joined in on the scheduled social hour. We were all having a fantastic time; energized by the day’s events when we heard “Ellora’s Cave,” a relatively new publisher, had set up a hospitality room and all were welcome. So off we went. When we reached the suite where the Ellora’s Cave had set up the hospitality room we found it crowded with new authors wanting to pitch and some actually in the process of pitching to the various editors. Wine, chocolate and goodies were readily available and everyone was having fun, except me. I was a fish out of water and knew it, especially after hearing some of the pitches that were going on. I told ALee and Jenna to step up and pitch their books while I grabbed a soda and some snacks. I retreated to a safe wall away from the main flow.

I was very content just quietly witnessing the whole spectacle in front of me when a lady approached me. I recognized her from the opening ceremony as one of the officers of the romance group hosting the conference. I nodded a polite hello and she returned hers. We stood side by side for a while enjoying the excitement of the room when she asked me, “Are you an appendage?”

I froze. Being a little hearing impaired I wasn’t exactly sure what she had said and if I had heard her correctly, what had she meant by that? Is it a romance writers slag term for a male support character in a book? Was my fly unzipped? God, I really didn’t know and couldn’t check on the latter. I braved a response. “What?” I asked.

“Are you an appendage?” she returned. “Is your wife here pitching her book?”

I got it. She thought I was an over protective husband, fearful to let his wife out of his sight for a moment and just hanging around. “No,” I said. “My wife is at home hoping I sell my book.”

“Oh… good,” she said. I finally slipped away into the hallway and we avoided each other for the remainder of the conference.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Jason Barret

Joining the RWA

I had just finished, Unrequited Love, that first tragic novel. I think the title was a give away to everyone but me, but what did I know? I was a guy who primarily read Sci-Fi; yep a Trekkie for years, and books filled with action. But now that I had just finished a story that demanded to be told, what could I do with it?

I bought a copy of Writer’s Guide and from its description I was convinced that I was holding a Romance novel. So, out of the blue, I looked up a local romance author, Mary Reed McCall, and asked her advice. She was so nice just to take a phone call from a total stranger, but she did and suggested that I go to a conference that was being hosted in a few weeks by the Central New York Romance Writers in Syracuse, New York. Talk about dumb luck. It took me years to finish that book, and if I had finished it just two weeks later I would have missed an event that changed my life. I took her advice; sent an email, made a call, and I was registered for the conference.

When I arrived I was greeted very warmly at the registration table and was given a stick-on name tag for my shirt. I was then escorted into the conference where I saw more than eighty other authors. Personally, I had never even met an author before and the feeling, that sight, was overwhelming. My escort then introduced me all around, you see, Mary had called ahead! When I met Sci-Fi writer CJ Barry, and Historical writer Gayle Callen, who loves Star Trek, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I might actually fit in. I wasn’t prepared to be in a room with so may other authors, it’s a memory and feeling I’ll never forget. The Romance genres were fully represented; Sci-Fi, paranormal, time travel, historical, westerns; you name it, they were there. It was a lucky day for me in so many ways. I was reluctant to go to the conference at first because I associated Romance books with only Historicals and Knights in shining armor dashing off to rescue the needy maiden in distress but that wasn’t the case. I was completely clueless about the genre and writing it but I got the feeling that somehow I had come home.

Then came lunch, I was waved to an empty seat at a table for twelve by my future critique partners, ALee Drake and Jenna Grey. We all ate and talked excitedly about the conference and our works in progress. When it was my turn I jumped right into a short verbal synopsis of my book. Then it happened. I told them my heroine died at mid-book. Gasps, forks dropped, and a deadly silence settled over the table. At my best memory there were ten little pairs of unbelieving eyes just staring at me in utter disbelief. I thought I had sworn and didn’t realize it. Finally, my soon to be critique partners, ALee and Jenna, took pity on me and delicately told me that my book, although it sounded great, was not a romance, but not a problem, everyone is welcome at the CNYRW group. I came to understand romance writing with their help over the subsequent many months and I’ve been a member of the RWA and CNYRW since that day. A reviewer once said to my editor, Amanda Barnett, “you can tell it’s written by a guy!”

“Thank God,” I thought to myself.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Jason Barret

A Question I Have to Answer

Okay, let’s just deal with the first question on everyone’s mind, “What the heck is a guy doing writing romance?” There I said it. It’s on the table. I’m out of the closet, so to speak. But now that I’ve asked that question I actually need to answer it. I suppose it’s because I like a happy ending, but it wasn’t always that way. The first book I finished was a contemporary novel with romantic elements. Unfortunately, those romantic elements dealt with loss, devotion, and the main character’s unwillingness to accept that loss. The main character was written with a Shakespearian-like tragic element. Believe me, in no stretch of my vivid imagination am I comparing myself to Shakespeare, but when I was plotting that book I had just finished a college English Literature class where we read and studied Shakespeare for the first half of the semester. I guess that was just the way I had learned to view the male protagonist.

I didn’t start out to write a tragedy, I actually hadn’t planned this book at all, but once while in the car my wife and I barely missed being involved in a major accident. Shortly after the adrenaline stopped pumping through my body the premise of the book popped into my head and away I went. I was plotting in my head all the time for years. I wrote a little here and there, but it was slow going. As a young husband and father I was busy with work, school and various household responsibilities as well as getting our daughters back and forth to dance class, drama club, soccer, baseball, dances and, since we live in the country, any place they need to go including visiting friends! I’m not complaining; it actually provided us with a lot of one on one time where we actually talked. Those late night trips gave us an opportunity to enjoy a great bonding experience that we still enjoy today. When our youngest daughter graduated from college I was actually able to finish that book.

The main character was a very tragic figure and I was constantly dealing with scenes that drove him further down into the depths of his own remorseful hell on earth, to the point of suicide. Unfortunately, I had been so attached to those characters and that tragic story for so long it actually impacted on my personal mood. I was really relieved to write “THE END.” But a happy ending? No. He dealt with his loss and found forgiveness, but still that painful loss would be with him forever. His tragedy stayed with me for quite some time. So now you know why I like the happy endings of Romance and why I enjoy writing them.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cat Lover by Michael Bracken

Esther Nelson was an attractive thirty-something woman with cats--three of them to be precise--named Larry, Curly, and Moe. She never intended to be a cat person, but the cats had gravitated to her and she was too kind-hearted to turn them away.

Larry arrived first, a "gift" from a friend who had married a man allergic to pet dander, and the orange-and-white Scottish Fold came prenamed. Curly, a black-and-white cat of indeterminate heritage, had arrived on her doorstep a few months later and refused to go away. Moe she'd coaxed from under her car at work one evening, and Esther had brought him home because she didn't know what else to do with the gray tabby.

Because she had three cats, Esther spent a significant amount of time visiting her veterinarian, a handsome single man only a few years older than her who always had a smile and a warm greeting when they met. Her cats were the excuse for visiting Dr. Joe Kleinfelder, but Esther knew the real reason she kept taking her cats to him was the liquid fire that raced through her veins whenever the good doctor was near.

Even so, Esther realized that her veterinary bills were piling up faster than her cats were coughing up fur balls, and she realized that she couldn't keep seeing Dr. Joe while he was on the clock. If something didn't change soon, she'd have to be a woman with cats, but without a veterinarian.

Late one Saturday afternoon, after a morning of shopping, Esther took Moe to the animal clinic and was pleasantly surprised to find the handsome veterinarian working alone. Dr. Joe's office manager and his veterinary assistant had taken off early that day, and Moe was the only patient waiting for Dr. Joe's attention when he stepped into the waiting room.

The veterinarian smiled when he saw Esther and her gray tabby. "Good afternoon, Ms. Nelson. How's my favorite Stooge?"

"Moe's just not been himself lately, Dr. Joe," Esther explained as she stood and walked toward the door he held open. She put just a little extra swing in her hips, hoping the good doctor would notice.

"So who has he been?" Dr. Joe asked. "Shemp?"

That Dr. Joe knew his Stooges was one of the many things that endeared him to Esther, and she laughed appropriately at the doctor's little joke.

After Dr. Joe led them into one of the examination rooms, Esther put Moe on the stainless steel examination table. It was the first time Esther and Dr. Joe had ever been alone and her heart fluttered.

Unlike Larry, Moe was comfortable in the veterinarian's examination room and didn't require Esther's complete attention. So, while Dr. Joe examined Moe, Esther examined the good doctor. He had dark, curly hair with hints of gray, a square chin with a trace of five o'clock shadow this late in the day, and a light tan. Even though his white lab coat disguised his figure, she'd seen him without it once and knew he had a classic V shape from his broad shoulders to his trim waist. He obviously cared for himself as well as he cared for his patients.

As she examined the doctor, Esther wondered if he had noticed that she had dressed to capture his attention in a sheath dress that accentuated her best assets and masked her self-perceived flaws. She'd purchased the dress just that morning for just that purpose.

After he thoroughly examined the gray tabby, Dr. Joe told Esther, "There's nothing wrong with Moe."

"I know."

The veterinarian looked up at her, a twinkle in his emerald green eyes. "Then why are you here?"

"To see you," she explained.

"I've been wondering why you keep bringing me healthy cats." He smiled. "I was beginning to think all your cats were hypochondriacs."

"Or that I was just a crazy cat lady?" Esther asked with a self-depreciating smile.

"I never thought that, Esther," Dr. Joe said. "Not even once."

It was the first time he'd referred to her by her first name, and Esther's heart took another tumble.

Moe meowed as if he realized the two humans were no longer paying attention to him. Esther gathered the gray tabby in her arms and held him against her chest.

"I close in less than an hour," Dr. Joe said. "Perhaps the five of us could meet for kibbles?"

Esther answered his question with one of her own. "How about if I leave the Three Stooges at home and the two of us meet for a real meal?"

Dr. Joe smiled again. "I would like that very much, Esther."

As she left the animal clinic a few minutes later, a smile lighting up her face, Esther realized being a woman with cats wasn't so bad.

About the Author: Michael Bracken is the author of Just In Time For Love, a YA romance published by Hard Shell Word Factory. His short romantic fiction has appeared in Sun, True Experience, True Love, True Romance, True Story, and many other publications. Learn more about Michael at www.CrimeFictionWriter.com .

Author Interview: Nicole Green

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have Nicole Green, whose debut novel Love Out of Order, is being released today by Genesis Press. Here's a little bit about the book:

Denise Rich isn't interested in anything except getting her law degree and becoming a lawyer. There's a plan. A very good one. And John Archer isn't part of that plan. But he comes along anyway and blows the plan to pieces. He takes away her ability to hold everything in perfect order. Up until him, she was happy to live vicariously through her two best friends, Suse and Astoria.

At first, Denise thinks what John gives her in trade for her old life is worth the disruption of everything she's known -- a chance at real love. And it is until he takes it away. Denise is now at the end of her ability to love and believe. Her journey to get that ability back is a rocky one that involves a trip to Vegas and almost ends in disaster.


Along with her writing, Nicole is attending law school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she can often be found at midnight "writing. And definitely not reading for class like I should have been." Because she's a night person, she admitted that she her early morning classes sometimes give her trouble.

Nicole told me she's been writing stories in notebooks as long as she can remember. "I've always loved telling stories," she said. "Apparently, when I was little, I'd talk my relatives' ears off with my stories. When I was seven, my teacher entered a book I wrote in a contest and it won 2d place! It was about the seasons."

Notwithstanding her first book, when it comes to Nicole's writing the characters definitely come before the plot.

"They pop into my head, start doing something, and I just start writing it down as it all unfolds. I very rarely plot in advance or outline. When I do, my plotting is very vague," she confesses. "I'm a big fan of the Stephen King uncovering the fossil method. Until I read his book,On Writing, I thought I was doing it all wrong."

Stephen King is also one of the authors who has affected her own writing, "even though I don't writing in the same style or genre," she shared. Others include Anne Rice and J.J. Murray.

Her favorite author, however, is hard to narrow down, she admitted. "If I had to try, I'd say right now, it's Crystal Hubbard," she said. "A good story and characters I love combined with good writing is my absolute weakness. That's what makes for a book I can't put down."

"What advice would you give to a new writer just starting out?" I asked.

"KEEP WRITING. Just write, write, write at least something, if only a paragraph, every day. And get feedback. Even if sometimes painful, when you're ready to take your writing seriously, it's very necessary."

She lives by that mantra—even when she's suffering from writer's block.

"I write if I can, even if I think what I'm writing is crap. I can revise the crap out later. But it's important to keep the routine or writing going. If I really can't bear to look at the story, which is rare because I usually try to make myself write through the block, I work on something else, like a short story or a blog entry. But the point is, I'm still writing something."

In Nicole's opinion, one of the most important elements of good writing is to know the rules.

"You can break them later, but know them. This means pick up Strunk and White, the Chicago Manual of Style, etc. IF you are unsure. But most of the time, if you read a lot, chances are you've already learned them. That and having a strong voice. Without a strong voice, the words fall flat on the page and they're usually pretty dull to read."

On a personal note, Nicole hates how she looks in pictures most of the time—most of the time. "My old boss took one I absolutely adore and now I use it for most things when I need a picture," she said.

"You can erase any horrible experience from your past," I said. "What will it be?"

"Nothing. It all makes for good material when it comes to my writing," she replied with a smile.

And for the future? She'd like to know when she will get married. "Or ummm," she amended, "will I get married?"

Nicole also shared with me that she does cry at movies—one of the latest was at The Secret Life of Bees. "The book didn't make me cry," she said, "but the movie got me."

Her favorite pizza used to be pepperoni. "Since I no longer eat mammals," she told me, "I guess I'd have to go with veggie. All kinds of veggies…but especially, and at least, peppers, mushrooms, and onions."

Finally, I asked, "What stereotype would you label yourself as?"

"Nerd. 100% wholly own it. I am an N-E-R-D."
You can keep up with Nicole on her blog, http://lisezvous.blogspot.com

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Victoria Roder

I’d like to thank the Long and Short of it Reviews for providing me the opportunity to be the guest author this week, and I’d like to thank everyone that checked in. Now, a few tidbits about me.

Have you noticed that both of my novels, The Dream House Visions And Nightmares and Bolt Action are set in the state of Wisconsin? It’s a simple explanation I’m a small town girl. I was born and raised and continue to live in Wisconsin. My husband Ron and I have three grown sons that are each making their own way in the world, so now we’re young ‘empty nesters’. We’re young in our distorted version anyway, and we’re ‘empty nester’s’ if you don’t count our three dogs, two cats, and the lizard.

I am a camping, hiking, 3D bow shooting, snowshoeing, and motorcycle riding kind of woman. Going camping is my favorite activity. Our personal goal is to camp at two new campgrounds a year. The fresh air, the hikes, the stars, soft music, and the flicker of the campfire relax me. My dogs seem more excited then I am when they hear that diesel engine turn over, and they witness my husband Ron hook up the fifth wheel. If we leave a door open on any of the vehicles, Rocky our three-legged husky spins in a tight circle and then jumps in the back seat eager to go for an adventure. All three dogs believe riding in the truck is the best thing since canned dog food. On future camping excursions we’re considering trying our hand at canoeing, but with Tucker, Rocky, and Molly’s child-like enthusiasm we’re not sure if we’ll be able to keep from tipping over.

Camping allows me the freedom to take a break from the hustle bustle and stress of daily life. It’s time for me to relax and reflect on the most important things in life such as, the beauty of this glorious earth and the company of my friends and family. Don’t get me wrong I’m still a writer in the woods and I take my editing and my laptop for those early quiet morning hours. If you’re camping next to me and hooting and hollering, or partaking in goofy games you may end up a character in my next book. Of course I’m kidding because my characters are all fictional!

My work in progress is a paranormal ghost story entitled The Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary. With an inheritance from her parent’s estate, Hailey Price is remodeling a portion of the former Ingersull Penitentiary into a bed and breakfast, and banquet hall. Time alone in a dismal abandoned penitentiary could play tricks on a person’s psyche, but a wandering Ouija Board, a possessed electric chair, and shadow people threatens to push Hailey over the edge. Can she overcome the haunting of her own past in order to find the strength to battle an evil force and save the guests from horrible deaths? The guests check in, but will they ever check out?



Be sure to check out my website at www.victoriaroder.com

Novels: The Dream House Visions And Nightmares, Asylett Press June 2009 and Bolt Action, Champagne Books April 2010. I am seeking publication for The Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary.