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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Janie Franz

Responsible Research in World Building

Fantasy writers are skilled world builders. Long before writing a single word of their stories, many will fill notebooks with all of the elements of their worlds. These often read like geography books, detailing climate, landscapes, flora, and fauna. Some read more like social histories and include the biology and cultures of the people they want to write about, histories of the cultures (including considerable backstory about specific characters), spiritual practices and rites, and even old tales, poem, and songs. Ursula K. Le Guin took that to the extreme in her 1985 work, Always Coming Home, an anthropological document about the fictional Kesh. But most of us are not so technical and just keep notes about characters and the environments they are in.

In order to create these worlds, authors need more than just a very active imagination. Naturally, they draw from places they have visited and people they have met, and they also will glean information from movies, television, and books that they have been exposed to throughout their lives. But there does come a time when writers need more. That is when research is done.

Research can either provide a simple answer to something the writer needs to know about or it can be the framework for accurate portrayals of specific cultures that are being fantasized. For example, if a writer were creating a world that was based on a society similar to the samurai warriors of Japan, he or she might read everything possible about the hierarchy within the society, what the history of the world was like at the time this group rose to power, the environment, what their clothing looked like and how it was made, where they got their food and what dishes they ate and how they ate them, types of transportation, weapons and armor, social rules, treatment of women, etc. An undertaking like this could take several years just to amass the necessary background information in order to begin the writing so that the work would reveal a very painstaking portrayal of a samurai-type society.

Another writer might take all of this same information and just use it as fuel for the imagination, breaking rules right and left, shaking up everything that had been written about the samurai in order to create something new and fresh. Frank Herbert did that when he created the Fremen on Arakis for Dune. Much of that culture, especially some specific desert words, was based on desert cultures on Earth, particularly the Bedouin.

Still another writer might just do research on samurai weaponry and model a blade that a single character uses. That same writer might also borrow from a variety of other cultures and historical times.

As fantasy writers, we have the opportunity to create something never seen before. Often, this allows us to offer new ways of looking at our own world, our own society, and the problems within it in fresh new ways. These worlds become foils for our own. That has always been the hallmark of great science fiction. It can also apply to fantasy as well.

For myself, I do research as I write—not usually before I begin a book. I will stop and look up information about food or herbs or the marriage customs of West Africa or what kind of tents Bedouin people traditionally have used in the desert. I’ll look at photographs and landscapes and write from that.

I did a limited amount of research for the first three books since they were based on an agrarian society that was fairly simple to construct. The spirituality was based on previous research I had done. I did look up information on herbs, drink, food, and building construction.

This last book in The Bowdancer Saga, The Lost Song, has been exciting to write because it involves a journey where the main character meets many different kinds of people, cultures, and lifeways. I have had to not only adapt the herb wildcrafting and foraging to a changing landscape but game availability and water sources. I have also had to create dress, customs, speech, and spiritual systems for different communities. I have gleaned information and then altered it to fit the different peoples that I have created. But I have to do this carefully.

When writing about other cultures, and especially about spiritual belief systems, as writers we have to be careful that we aren’t just co-opting somebody’s sacred teachings just to tell our stories. This is like the urban New Ager who drops into a Native American pow-wow and asks where the next sundance is and whether he can go watch. This is just so wrong on so many levels. Though the New Ager may have a sincere interest in finding something deeper spiritually and may really want guidance, asking to be a part of any sacred ceremony is already an offense. And, then to ask this at what is more of a community event (though some native people debate this and consider even a pow wow a spiritual ceremony) is insensitive.

We can create our own spiritual systems, but we have to make sure that what we do does not offend someone. A lot of times, that means obscuring the source from which the material is taken so that there is no resemblance to that culture. Sacred words should not be used, if possible. We’re writers. We should be able to make up our own sacred words or alter those we find in such a way no one would know.

There still may be readers who will find themselves or their cultures in our works no matter what we do. Sometimes, that is merely their interpretation. Sometimes, it is the strength of the spiritual system or the culture coming through no matter how hard we try to obscure it or twist it into our own version. That is what disclaimers are for and should be put into the prepages of your fantasy novel if you sense that there could be some confusion between your world and a culture in this one.

Research is an excellent tool, but do not let it dominate our writing energies or replace our imaginations. And, most of all, do not let the quest for accuracy supplant good judgment. We are writers, not cultural thieves.


© Janie Franz 2010 all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Janie Franz

Finding Music for Your Book Trailer

At a writers conference a few years ago, writers were abuzz about a new marketing tool: Book Trailers. They have become a hot item that is a tech-smart addition to anyone’s virtual book tour or other marketing plan. And, everyone is doing them—from the debut author to multi-million dollar bestselling ones.

Since book trailers can be put together on home computers, authors have been doing them themselves. Today, though, many book publicists and PR companies are adding book trailers to their list of services. In fact, some book trailer production companies have sprung up to capture this market.

Fees for this service vary as much as the quality. Some are quite reasonable and offer the author 2-4 minutes of text, visuals, and music. Some companies offer the same quality as the budget service for exorbitant amounts of cash—even charging as much as $5,000 to $10,000 for a book trailer. The results, most often, aren’t Hollywood quality though the fee might be.

Back when this all burst on the publishing scene, the only option for music for book trailers were—cringe!—midi formats. And, frankly, they were awful.

As the technology for mp3s became more widespread and music on the internet became an entity unto itself, authors started expanding their search for suitable book trailer soundtracks. Some authors wanted to rip music they found on the internet or in their music libraries, layering their favorite Christina Aguilera song or the soundtrack from a movie underneath their book trailer.

At that writers conference years ago, I jumped into this discussion since I’ve been a music journalist for sometime. Ripping songs for commercial use such as in a book trailer has profound legal consequences. This is a big NO-NO. Copyright and fair use laws apply.

Some writers assume that because they hear Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” in a soft drink commercial or a hear a new band’s track at a moment in CSI that they are free to use materials like this. All of the uses of music in commercials, television shows, and movies are licensed. That means that the music artist is paid a fee for either a one-time use or royalties every time the commercial runs. In addition, all of the music, even streaming live radio, that you hear in restaurants, bars, grocery stores, shopping malls, etc. is playing because of fees paid by the establishment to BMI and ASCAP for using the music. This protects musicians and songwriters as much as the copyrights on our books.

So, if you cannot use music you have on hand or find on the internet, where do you find music for your book trailers? Some of the book trailer producers are offering original music in their packages. That is often the reason for the more elaborate fees. However, much of this music is synthesizer based—and, frankly, a lot of it sounds much the same.

What I suggested to authors at that writers conference was to look at your local community or those you know. Seek out local musicians and songwriters. Go to university music composition instructors, as well as guitar and piano teachers and choir directors. If you have connections with musical artists outside of your city or town, those are good options, too.

There is a lot of music that is traditional or public domain material that is free to use. Original music is always a bonus. Sometimes, an artist already has a piece of material that is suitable and it would not take any effort to use it.

The song should be recorded in a format that you can use. That may mean that it is done in a studio or on a modest home recording system or a computer.

What you can offer to these musical artists is either a flat fee for the song outright or for its use in the book trailer. In lieu of money, you can also trade in-kind services such as writing the band’s next press release or a story about the artist in a local paper or some other service. You can also share your marketing efforts in the promotion of the book trailer, making it a sweet deal for both of you.

Make sure that you offer full credit to the artist for the soundtrack that is written for your book trailer. Identify the name of the track you use, the artist, the artist’s website if he or she has one. And, when you market your book trailer, promote the artist as much as possible.

While I was putting together the first book trailer for The Bowdancer Saga, I boldly asked Chris O’Brien, the frontman from the Minneapolis band, Enchanted Ape, if he would consider writing some music for it. He agreed and collaborated with Matthew Probst, an electric cello player, to produce a thoughtful piece of guitar-cello music that shaped the book trailer. Chris was so excited about the project he wants to do more. This worked out very well for both of us because his music will be marketed to a book reading audience and my book will be circulated among music fans. It’s a win-win.

As you put your book trailers together, look around you at what local resources you have. Step boldly and don’t be afraid to approach musical artists. They are just creative people like you.

© Janie Franz 2010 all rights reserved

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Janie Franz

Janie Franz, Author of The Bowdancer Saga

Like many authors, I have probably written all my life. I started out with small stories that I scribbled in a notebook. Several years ago, I found one of those that I wrote when I was about 12 or so, but I had written it in pencil and the pages had smeared so much I couldn’t read any of it. It was probably awful but I grieved when I had to toss it.

In recent years, I have been busy building a full-time freelance journalism career, even launching my own online music publication, Refrain Magazine. I also review an uncommon number of books every year. I was at a point last fall when I felt I had a steady stream of regular clients that I could make time to do some fiction writing.

Though I had written The Bowdancer, my first published book, several years ago and had made the rounds of trying to get it in print somewhere, I never could place it. It was a novella, larger than most print publications wanted, and it never seemed to find the right home. I remember getting two written rejections. One was from a man who thought it was too flowery. The other was from a woman who liked it but it just wasn’t a good fit for her publication. Conflicted, I put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Then last fall as part of the Muse Online Writers Conference, I pitched it to Breathless Press and they picked it up. And asked for more.

I had a few notes on the second book, The Wayfarer’s Road, and I started in writing. Because I had a serious internet access problem right after The Bowdancer came out, I plunged into writing the second book, then the third, and I’m in the middle of the fourth.

The Bowdancer begins the saga. Jan-nell is the bowdancer, a healer and spiritual leader who also preserves the lore and history of her village through story-songs and dances. The giant bow she carries calls the children to lessons, which are often tales and stories about the important people of the village. The bow also is the instrument with which she dances and sings these story-songs. She also creates new story-songs for special events such as weddings and births. And the great bow calls everyone to celebrations. When a bandit enters her world, her whole way of life is challenged as well as her heart.

The rest of the books in the series deal with what Jan-nell encounters throughout the rest of her life. And it isn’t always what you would expect.

I have used The Bowdancer Saga as a way to explore gender, roles, cultures, the arts (music, dance, visual art, culinary skill), spirituality, and different concepts of family. There is also romance and adventure along the way.

While the series has been labeled a fantasy romance, I will admit that I am the last person I thought would ever be a romance writer. I don’t read it and I don’t review it. However, I do enjoy reading about relationships of all kinds. So, I prefer to think of myself as a writer of relationships that involve intimacy on many levels including the physical and spiritual.

I do think the whole Bowdancer Saga empowers women, even though we are sometimes caught by circumstances. It is in those situations that women seem to show a resilience that allows them to be more flexible perhaps than men. While I extol the virtues of women in the books, I do however appreciate men, though sometimes they may seem to be more flawed. And some are very strong allies for Jan-nell. But I did have one female character, who was supposed to only be a secondary character, step up to take a big role in the fourth book. Her personality was so strong I couldn’t leave her in the background. She became a very interesting character to work with.

You can read more about The Bowdancer Saga on my website:

http://thebowancersaga.wordpress.com

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mr. 7:13 by Liz Lafferty

“Is there a doctor here?” Priscilla shouted out at the Friday night travelers.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake. I don’t need a doctor,” I said, feeling more embarrassed about her inappropriately loud voice than the fact I was laid out on the Handley train station platform flat on my back. My luck was so bad.

“Jane, if you could see your ankle, you’d know why I’m screaming for a doctor.”

I rolled my eyes, regretting that my best friend had talked me into seeing the Blue Man Group -- again. “Just call 9-1-1. Nobody else needs to be involved.” I grabbed the lapel of her jacket and pulled her toward my face, so she could hear my whisper and know that I was serious. “And can you help me to a bench? I don’t want people looking at me.”

“Is there something I can do?” Mr. 7:13 squatted down beside me, his hand on my shoulder.

The pain in my ankle vanished, replaced by an acute need to melt into the cement.

I called him Mr. 7:13 for a reason. I’d seen him every morning for the past year across the platform. I was southbound -- downtown. He went north on the 7:13 train. It was just plain wrong that he was on my platform tonight.

“I think she broke her ankle,” Priscilla said. That voice! Why had I picked her to be my friend?

His hand disappeared from my shoulder only to find its way to my ankle. I gasped at his touch.

“It’s okay. I’m a doctor.” He smiled at me. His train platform manner convincingly competent. “Does it hurt?”

“Yes.”

Under my short skirt my legs were bare, a normal thing to do on a warm summer night. His fingers skittered across my skin making it feel very unnormal. He slipped my Louboutin heel off with ease.

His serious frown didn’t quite reach his green eyes. There seemed to be a concerted effort on his part not to smile.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he said. Priscilla clutched my hand in support.

“It’s broken,” I said with matter-of-fact dignity.

“Yes. Irreparably, I think.” He held up my shoe. The heel had snapped off.

“Oh, no! I just bought those.”

“Your ankle is broken, and you’re crying about a broken shoe?” Priscilla snapped.

“He didn’t say my ankle was broken.”

“But it is,” he said, confirming Priscilla’s diagnosis. “Can you call an ambulance, please?”

“I’ll go wait out front,” Priscilla said, easing away.

Mr. 7:13 turned is gaze on me. “So, Miss Book-a-week, how did this happen?”

“Book-a-week?”

“That’s what I’ve called you for the last year. What’s your real name?”

“Jane.”

Our conversation seemed to have ended as we stared at each other. It was disconcertingly embarrassing to talk to this familiar stranger, the man I watched every morning, fantasized about one weekend too many and now wished to –

“A nice solid name for a clumsy girl.”

“I was pushed.”

“Oh.”

The ambulance siren wailed as it drew closer to the train station. I already regretted that I couldn’t ask him more questions, find out more about him, but he was on his way to somewhere and I was just another stop on the line.

Just my luck. I finally meet him, while lying flat on my back, one shoe off and the southbound Metro pulling out of the station.

“You missed your train,” I offered with a weak smile. I suppose I was trying to apologize, even though I wasn’t really sorry.

“No problem. I’ve always been lucky that way.”

The milling crowd had all but disappeared. It was just the two of us.

Restraint would have been good, but I couldn’t help myself. I attributed that to my weakened condition. “I always wondered-”

“What color your eyes were,” he finished. “Green, just like I thought.”

“Right this way!” That would be Priscilla.

“Time to go back to our routine. They’ll take good care of you,” he promised.

The paramedics rushed to secure my ankle and loaded me onto a gurney within minutes. Mr. 7:13 waited and watched, even escorting me to the ambulance.

“What hospital are you taking her to?” he asked.

“Northland.”

Priscilla was allowed in the ambulance with me. He waved as the door shut.

By the time I arrived at the hospital I was pleasantly buzzed. My loud friend was consigned to the waiting room while I waited behind a curtained area on a hard hospital bed. My remaining Louboutin still resided on my left foot.

“Hello, Jane.”

I blinked a few times before I asked. “Why are you here?” As opposed to the alternative statement, will you marry me and let me have your babies. Thank goodness I was drugged.

“I work here. I decided to see how you were doing. And I’m looking for the owner of this glass slipper.” He held up my broken shoe.

“That woman has bad luck,” I said.

“Friday, July 13th -- not so unlucky after all.”

I smiled. Mr. 7:13.

About the Author: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. "Mr 7:13" is part of a series she wrote about familiar strangers, people we see every day, but don't know a thing about.

Author Interview: Franny Armstrong

My publisher is Red Rose Publishing. The first time I submitted, I was rejected. (so sad) However, this particular small book press took the time to tell me WHY I was rejected so I had a chance to repair my ‘issues’ and try submitting again. I’ve now sold three singles and two series with them. (a total of 20 books so far)

Small Packages-A Christmas Story released on December 10, 2009, much to my delight. I have two books releasing in March, one in June, and another in August. Being an author isn’t as easy as one would think. I’m a full time author who was disabled with BiPolar II disorder and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) in 2002 and thought my life had ended. Little did I know, after becoming a writer to put my feelings on paper…ah…computer, I found that my life was only beginning!

We’ll focus on Extrasensory Elements Series Book 1-Author’s Demise. My hero is an undercover cop who was hired by CEO Lana Anderson’s boss to protect her, though in the guise of an author from out of town. Forced to ‘put him up’ at her home, Lana soon finds that not only squeezing the toothpaste in the middle is something about him that annoys her. He dogs her every step to watch over her.

The evil villain is a psychopath who is killing off the celebrated authors of Brinkman-Bonnette Publishing in the exact same manner as their characters are killed off in the books they write. Stalking Lana since she releases the novels, the killer terrorizes her wherever she goes. This story keeps you on the edge of your seat through the entire book.

Since being a full time author, I do my ‘chores’, feed my pets and help my hubby run his business by answering the phone. (hate that part but love is love) I also have three young adults to my name, one of which is due to deliver my grandson in April. (yay me!)

I take my laptop everywhere, even on vacation and type every spare minute I get when I’m not networking and socializing to push the books.

There is no such thing as ‘balance’ in my life. I just go with the flow and write when I can, edit, promo, update and build websites, and so on.

If I were to give an aspiring author any advice it would be to ‘NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER SURRENDER!’ Your dreams must become reality to succeed. I waited six long years (it seemed long to me) before I got a break. I had the previous words taped to the wall in front of the computer as well as ‘A Published Author Is An Unpublished Author WHO NEVER QUIT!’ Words to live by, believe me.

I promote my books in every social network I can: ie: Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Blogtalkradio, and so many more it would take a week to list them. The best way to get noticed is to make people nearly sick to hear your name just one more time! (not really) It takes a lot of repetitiveness to become popular. I’m still working on it.

Writing Tips: The things that will give you the BIG BAD BOING from publishers are: poor punctuation, repetitiveness, spelling errors, and pace. There’s nothing that will turn them off more than sending them into a nap before the first chapter is done. Make it exciting. Get critique partners. And no matter what, never throw out a rejection. Learn from them. The reason we get them is because something about the book isn’t working.

Character creation doesn’t seem to be an issue for me. They are swirling around in my head constantly. I have to write them down or my brain gets all muddled and I can’t think straight. Keep a notepad handy or the computer and write them down as they come to you. Sitting in the doctor’s office, I study people. Or at the game, or shopping, or whatever; the world is full of interesting characters.

I research all the time. If you know someone who’s a cop, grill them. My brother and son are skydivers, (Book 2 I B Jumpin’ after Author’s Demise) My brother told me that he couldn’t believe how accurate my writing was about skydiving. And I never left the ground! LOL

Every five to ten minutes your story should have something to make your reader say…”Hmmmm.” Twists and turns make a story interesting. Don’t give them what they expect. Make their heads spin with unanswered questions about your characters.

Oh, wow, let’s see: Ten things about me that no one knows?

I’m a chocoholic

I love singing, though no one can stand to hear me

I dream about the amazing characters, immersing myself in their lives

My favorite color is green…nearly any shade.

The man of my dreams I met in a bar when I was 19 and still have him 30 years later. Awesome guy. Most of my characters are based on him.

I’m a tad shy, but still get up on stage and speak to a large audience without issues (give or take some sweaty palms)

Kindness and diplomacy are two things about me that can be considered faults because I never tell people when they bother me about something, just stew in my own anger.

My children are my life, even though they are adults now. I look forward to holding my grandson like you wouldn’t believe.

You could be next in one of my books if I get to know you a bit as my mind stirs with interest when I meet people.

Ah, a tough one: I love indigenous artwork and the essence of history. My native name is STAR WOMAN (Nemgueeswka) However, I haven’t got a drop of native blood in me. More’s the shame.

You can keep up with Franny on her blog, www.paranovelgirl.blogspot.com

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Spotlight: April Dawn

Crushing Desire



“It sounds like the guests are arriving.” Reena plucked a flower, spinning it in her fingers as she stood.

“All the more reason you should be on your way.” Emily eyed the darkening sky, not quite rolling her eyes at Reena. “I should have brought a whip with me. It would have moved you along faster.”

Reena winced. She knew she should hasten into the tent and greet her guests, but the longer she waited, the more she could imagine the pleasant possibilities and ignore the disagreeable ones. Perhaps she would enter, and Joshua would be awaiting her, eyes shining, hand extended for the first dance. He would fight away all others who asked for a dance, then kiss her deeply, telling her he loved her too.

Sighing, she trudged on, knowing it more probable that he would spend the evening sitting in the corner with his eyes on the floor, and she would spend it pining for him.

The candles and torches, which lit the fluttering canvas, cast a magical glow on the night. Entering the tent, she found herself greeted by a cheer as the first chord of a favorite country dance was struck. Merry voices called loudly, and dancers took their positions.

“Come, come.” An excited Daniel Dubois encouraged Reena onto the dancer’s line.

She took her place, the corners of her traitorous lips lifting against her will. Her mind wanted to hold on to her worries, to hold on to thoughts of Joshua, but her body wanted to dance. Whirling across the floor, she glimpsed Joshua for the first time. He sat in the corner, eyes downcast. His gaze rose to meet hers. Her heart caught in her throat, and she found it hard to breathe past the lump it formed. She missed a step in the dance and shrugged her apology to Dan, falling back into line with him.

Trying to focus on the steps, which by and large came so naturally to her, Reena kept her eyes on Dan. But she could feel Joshua’s gaze. Tingling heat filled her cheeks and spread down her neck to settle in her belly.

Whirling into a turn, she followed the others in the dance, coming in to touch hands with Dan, and then stepping away again. She glanced back toward the darkened corner where Joshua sat. He was still so attractive, though perhaps a bit thinner. His black waistcoat and breeches showed his mourning, but his eyes showed something else: a profound craving. A heat that burned her from across the interior of the tent.

The last notes of the dance played, and Reena turned, curtsying at Dan.

Merci, Monsieur Dubois.” He looked devastatingly handsome with his dark hair, buff breaches, and tan waistcoat. But her gaze moved right past him, gliding over his shoulder to the spot where Joshua had been but a moment ago. “If you would excuse me, I must greet my uncle.”

Reena surveyed the room, searching for Joshua. There was a small band and a table filled with refreshments for the small group. A number of chairs lined the walls for those who wished to rest, but Joshua was nowhere to be found.

“Where could he have gone?” she mumbled to herself and moved to the opening in the tent, eyes on the room. She stood at the entrance, watching as the next set of dancers took their places. With her bottom lip in a tight hold between her teeth, Reena snuck out.

The darkness was near absolute after being inside the well lit tent. She could make out two figures in the darkness beside the tent. They stood very close, almost intimate.

“You are stunning tonight, my sweet one,” the male voice said before lowering his head to the woman in his arms.

Reena looked away, her fingers curling in the folds of her skirt. She had always wondered what it would be like to kiss Joshua like that. Her gaze slid back to the whispering couple, and her heart beat harder in her chest. She should move on, she knew it, but her mind had filled with the fantasy images of Joshua kissing her as Dan had in that alleyway so long ago. Better still, as this man now kissed his woman in the consuming shadows of the night.

Averting her eyes, she shook the daydream from her head and continued her search. It was not good to linger on things that were not to be. Joshua had never shown interest in her before. Though his eyes had lingered on her tonight.

The torches that lit the edges of the garden illuminated a lone figure sitting on a bench, head in hands. Something in the strength of his build and the dejected way he slumped told her it was Joshua, regardless of the shadows. Soft music filled the silence of the night beyond the tent. She stepped forward, hesitant to break into his isolation.

"You shouldn't be out here, Reena. You should be in there, dancing and enjoying yourself." Joshua sat up, eyes rimmed with dark circles, his countenance stiff.

The use of her given name sent a thrill through her, raising goose flesh from her head to her toe. She took another small step; sure she hadn't made a noise. How had he known she was even there?

"So should you," Reena said softly, her eyes gliding over his lean form. Her heart welled, seeing the man before her, so decimated by grief. Eyes tearing, she bit her lip, trying not to think of the great love he must have shared with his departed wife. Trying not to be selfish and wish that love were hers.

He rose from the bench, facing her, his face illuminated somewhat in the torchlight. His gaze wandered to the well-lit room from which music and frivolity emanated.

"Go inside, Miss Harrison, I'm not fit for company yet." His gaze returned to his shoes.

"I don't mind staying here with you. You are always enjoyable company to me."

His eyes met hers. They blazed with ferocious intensity, burning into her, holding her entranced. Her pulse thundered in her ears, and her breathing became shallow. It seemed neither of them had moved, but in the next instant, she was in his arms. First he only held her, as if his life depended on the heat and energy of her body. His strength and warmth seared through the material of her dress. Reena pressed herself closer, clinging to his arms as he held her against his chest.

For a moment, that was enough. They held each other in the night without a sound. Then they were kissing. His tongue found its way into her mouth and made Dan's kiss meaningless. There was something powerful and intimate about this stolen moment. Fire built in her body as his kiss deepened, Reena moaned deep in her throat.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: April Dawn

More About My Writing

Books are an amazing experience that can’t be duplicated in other media. You get a lifetime in 500 pages or less. You don’t just have to sit back and be a spectator, like you do in the movies. You actually get to be in the character’s head and experience things as they do. Their thoughts and fears are on display for your interpretation.

When I sit down to write a romance, what I love most about romance is just the same. A Lifetime of Romance in Less Than 500 Pages. The characters speak to me. They tell their stories, and I feel excited to be a part of that. It makes it difficult to put their stories on hold, even if it is only for an hour or two.

The hardest time for me as a writer is when I have a number of stories fighting to be told at once. Each battles for supremacy because my inept fingers can’t keep pace with the 10 – 20 thousand words a day each would love to have written down. I try my best to keep up during those periods, but I rarely am able. It is really fun as an author to try, though.

One unexpected benefit of having this particular vocation is that I have learned not only to type without looking, but to do so quite quickly. So as the years have gone by, at least, my fingers have become more adept at keeping time with my mind. Perhaps someday they will come up with a direct from brain download, then I will be able to have a lifetime of romance in five seconds or less. Until then, I struggle to keep my fingers in time with my mind as I commit those lifetimes to paper.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: April Dawn

Bound By Love

Chloe Adderley is on the run from an unwanted marriage and a father who is far more dangerous than she realizes.

Her grandmother's house in Italy seems the best place to go. She will pretend to be a governess, and hire a ship to take her there. It is a flawless plan. When she is attacked and knocked unconscious, however, she never suspects that the man who finds her will mistake her for a harlot.

Captain Darion Bannon is dismayed to discover that the unconscious woman he has taken aboard is actually an innocent lady. Darion, a privateer for the Sons of Liberty, finds himself arrested for piracy, as the Crown calls it, and must fight to keep the woman he loves in the face of a cruel prison and transportation to the Colonies. Will their love survive the cruel twists of fate?


Hearing the sound of heavy boots drawing near to the door, she ran to the bed. Quickly, she covered herself with the blanket and thrust the blade into the folds. She closed her eyes as she heard the soft clicking of a key entering the lock as though it were telling the story of her doom. Her ragged breathing seemed too loud. She held her breath.

She heard someone come in, and the door locked again. She continued to be patient, her pulse went wild, but she remained still. Finally footsteps came toward her, and a hand touched her face softly.

Now or never!

She slid the knife out of the covers as quick as she could. The covers fell away from her breasts, exposing them to the cold air. The peaks went rigid, and a blush covered her skin. Ignoring this fact as best she could, she thrust the tip of the blade against his throat.

She gasped as she met the eyes of the man in front of her. She seemed to be peering into two dark pits that were sucking her in. Her eyes left his and glanced over the rest of him. He was not what she had expected.

She thought that she would be faced with a repulsive, putrid seaman with dirty hair and a long beard, perhaps even an eye patch. She was alarmed at his clean clothes and rugged, yet handsome appearance. A scar above his eye gave the impression he wasn't someone to toy with. He was clean-shaven and appeared to be freshly scrubbed. A very masculine smell emanated from him, like salt, leather and sweat. It made her want to put her nose to his skin and breathe deep.

She chided herself inwardly for the wicked thought. Trying not to show the fear and excitement which raced through her, she took a breath. She amazed herself as she held the knife steadily in her hands.

"Release me right now or I shall slice your throat, you cad. I'll not accept your hands on me again."

He perused her with an infuriating smirk.

"You sure are a feisty little trollop," he said.

"Put down the knife. I intend to pay when I have need of your services."

She tried to appear confident, ignoring his words.

"Give me my clothes, take me to the dock, and let me go, or I'll kill you!"

Her eyes stared into his and didn't flinch. Heart pounding as though it would erupt from her chest and flee from the room, she tried to breathe steadily. Her hand shook slightly with the dread that coursed through her veins. She was not certain what scared her more, that she was at his mercy, or that she found the thought exhilarating.

He ogled her exposed breasts.

"I rather like you like this." He smirked, causing her blush to deepen.

How dare he stare at her in this indecent manner! She glanced down for a second to jerk the sheet up around herself, realizing her mistake at once. He grabbed her hand and twisted. The knife slipped from her grasp.

Wrenching her other hand back, he held them behind her, forcing her breasts into his chest. The friction of her nipples against the rough material of his shirt sent waves of pleasure through her. She struggled to get away, not just from the man, but from the feelings. They confused her and drew her mind from her struggles.

He pulled her up with him as he stood, the hard length of him pressing against her softness. The blanket fell away, exposing the rest of her ivory body. She strained to keep her legs together in an attempt to protect her vulnerability.

He towered over her; the top of her head came well below his chin. Stronger also, much stronger than he seemed. His lankiness was a facade, for the muscles bulged through his shirt as he held her in a vice-like grip. Dragging her with him as though she were a rag doll, he shook his head resolutely.

"You want to play a game, harlot? Good, we'll play."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: April Dawn

My Writing

Each writer has their own way of doing things. They each have their own way of finding inspiration, and handling, or avoiding, controversy. Today I thought I would share a few things about the way I write.

Inspiration

Some authors get out a glass of wine, others listen to music. I’ve even heard that Stephen King has trained his muse to show up during an eight hour period. Personally, I find my inspiration at all hours. Things just come to me with no impetus. I might be in the tub or watching television. Sometimes I’m in the middle of my Biggest Loser WII game. Regardless of the hour or inconvenience, I find myself inspired. Unfortunately with the way my inspiration works, if I don’t catch it while it’s running, I can’t duplicate the moment of inspiration from memory, no matter how I try. If I do try, I tend to end up with something bound for deletion, or at least major rewrites.

Controversy

Some of my most beloved stories dealt with controversial issues, but the writer handled them in a straightforward manner instead of handling them with kid gloves. If it is a natural part of the story, I think the reader will understand it, whatever it may be. When I face a controversial part of a novel, I keep those novels in mind. I don’t stop. I don’t let myself be afraid of the controversy. Instead, I face it boldly and honestly. I let it unfold without too much fear of where it will go.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Spotlight: April Dawn

Crushing Desire by April Dawn

Reena Harrison is anything but the fashion, but despite her flaws she has several suitors. Unfortunately, the one man she has always loved is not one of them. After things go dreadfully wrong with a suitor and her family, she finds herself asking Joshua a peculiar favor.

Joshua Sinclair has long had a fascination with the tall beauty that he met when she was young. After years of denying his feelings in pure military fashion, he finds himself thrown together with her in an out of control scheme. How can he possibly rule his emotions when he finds himself posing as the sensuous woman’s husband?

We have an interview with Emily Benton, Reena’s chaperone and companion.

What do you think of Reena?

She’s a lovely girl, but the poor dear is far too self-conscious. I do wish she could see that some men don’t mind a tall woman. It’s not all about what society dictates. But she never did comprehend the practicalities of how things are between a man and a woman. I told her once that a man will make love, propose, dance a jig, whatever he must to compromise an innocent girl. She thought I was being silly.

What do you think of Joshua?

Ooh, a handsome fellow that one. Not as terribly cheeky as some of her suitors, but a bit stubborn and thick where Reena is concerned. If he’d just opened his eyes and seen her for the woman she was earlier, things wouldn’t have had to happen the way they did.

What did you think of them when you first saw Reena and Joshua together?

Those two were meant to be together. Never was there a day they were in the same room and not staring at each other. Cheeky young man would stare at her even when she was with another man. Though I must admit she would do the same.

When you heard that Reena ran off with Joshua, did you expect things to turn out as they did?

Well, of course. I always knew Reena would turn to Joshua. Girl’s been crazy for him long as she’s known him. She just needed a push to admit it.

Did you do your best to be the best chaperone that you could?

One can never to too careful. That is why I always had an eye out for the dear girl. Especially around that grabby Martin, and his older brother Dan. However, a girl does need some privacy for proposals and such, but she was never left completely on her own. Shame about what happened. You aren’t going to print that are you? You’d best not even think it, or I’ll--. Oh, good. I thought you wouldn’t.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Calendar Girl by Shannon Schuren


John tugged at the zipper, his hands gliding across her back as he guided the dress from her shoulders to the floor. His lips blazed a trail from her earlobe to her neck as he whispered his words of love.

“Tell me who it is.”


Wait. That wasn’t right.

Piper blinked as the soft picture of John’s office faded, replaced by the cramped space of the copy room.

“Tell me who it is,” she heard again. She recognized Gloria’s nasal voice. She sounded gleeful, which was about what she’d expect from a woman who’d once brought snacks to a co-worker’s funeral. “Unless there’s more than one?”

“No. He’s just firing the one. I saw the name on his desk calendar.” The throaty voice was Ruth, a chronic smoker who has sworn she’d quit three weeks ago.

The acrid smell of tobacco told a different story.

Didn’t she know that was a fire hazard? The paper and toner would go up like kindling, and Piper would die here, alone, and all because she’d dropped her earring behind the copier.

“Diamonds, Mr. Klein? I can’t accept these.”

“You’ve earned them, Piper. It’s a small token for such loyal service.”

“There’s another service I’d love to perform.”


Of course she hadn’t said that. She’d never given voice to her fantasies, never given anyone even a hint that she might have feelings for their boss beyond an obsessive desire to organize his files.

“It’s Calendar Girl,” Ruth said, her voice thick with smoke.

Piper crouched in stunned silence, waiting out Ruth’s cigarette break and trying not to burst into tears as Gloria twittered on. Normally, she had no problem ignoring the other women in the office. She just drifted off into one of her daydreams. But not anymore. Now, her dreams were as dead as the butt Ruth ground into the carpet.

Because Piper was the Calendar Girl.

They’d given her the nickname years ago, because of the efficiency with which she handled Mr. Klein’s schedule, and it had stuck. She’d tried to pretend it was because she had the look of one of those old-time pin-up girls. Once, she’d even crammed her feet into a pair of size 6 platform heels, just to see if they made her feel as confident and sexy as those women.

They hadn’t.

And now it was the week before Christmas, and John was going to let her go.

Mr. Klein, she corrected herself. In her fantasies he was always John. He was also passionate and sensitive, which was not how her colleagues would describe him.

But Piper saw a different side. He had kind eyes and a gentle smile. There was another man under that cool business exterior, and she longed to see it. Touch it.

Make love to it.

“Snap out of it, Piper,” she muttered. “You’re not a pin-up girl, you’re just his calendar girl. And he’s not your prince charming. He’s the monster everyone thinks he is.”

She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She needed to see the proof herself.

His office was dark, the shades pulled against the noon sun. He’d be out for at least another hour. She knew because she’d made the lunch reservations.

“Here’s the file you asked for.”

He gripped her wrist, his touch sending shivers down her spine. He leaned closer, his breath warm on her cheek. “I won’t be needing that after all.”

Papers fluttered to the floor as he led her to the sofa and pulled her down on top of him.


In reality, the only time she’d ever sat on the sofa was the day he’d hired her. Otherwise, it was always the hard wooden chair in front of his desk, while he dictated and she took notes. Lately, most of his correspondence had to do with mounting bills and budget cuts.

She circled the desk, trailing her fingers across the glossy finish. A date book lay in the center. And penned in on the 24th was her name.

She was cold, immobile, like sculpted ice on a buffet table. The oxygen had gone from the room, along with the gravity, and she clutched at his ergonomic chair for support.

There had been talks of cutbacks, perhaps even a lay-off or two, but Piper had always assumed she’d be safe. After all, she was the one John confided in, the one he depended on. The one who kept his calendar.

Except for this one appointment he’d made on his own.

Which was his right. Because she wasn’t his lover, or even his friend. She was just his secretary, who’d built up their relationship in her head, so that her fantasies wouldn’t seem so over the top. She’d imagined the soft laughter of understanding between them, the feel of his hand upon hers.

“I see you’ve discovered my secret.”

“Oh!” She bumped against him, warm and solid. “I can explain,” she began, then stopped. She didn’t owe him anything more than the undying love and service she’d already given. “Maybe you should go first.”

He cleared his throat, then fiddled with his tie. “This isn’t how I imagined it,” he stammered.

“Just get it over with,” she demanded. “Fire me, and I’ll go.”

“Fire you?” He began to laugh. “Why would you think that?”

“Your schedule. . .” she trailed off.

“That isn’t my schedule.” He smiled, his sapphire eyes crinkling at the corners in the way that made her pulse race. “Have I ever had an appointment you didn’t arrange?” He touched the date. “This is a technique I picked up in business school. If you want something bad enough, envision it as if it’s already yours. Mark the date you’re going to act.”

She stared down at the book, at her name scrawled boldly across the paper, then back up to his outstretched hand.

Piper felt her heart flutter. “You mean . . .?”

“Piper. You’re all I want for Christmas this year.”

BIO: Shannon Schuren lives in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She works at a child care center and finds writing in her spare time both emotionally rewarding and a great way to avoid cleaning her house. Her short stories have appeared in The Chick-Lit Review and Big Pulp, among others. Her first novel, How to Host a Ghost, is available through major online bookstores. http://shannon.schuren.org

Author Interview: Carrie Lofty

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Carrie Lofty, whose latest book Scoundrel's Kiss was recently released by Kensington. It's the stand-alone sequel to Carrie's Robin Hood-themed debut, What a Scoundrel Wants.

"When last we saw Ada of Keyworth, she'd just been rescued from the Sheriff of Nottingham and had seriously burnt bridges with her family," Carrie said. "She and a young admirer, Jacob ben Asher, head off to Spain together. But she's haunted by the unlawful and sickening torture she endured and turns to opium for relief…

"Gavriel de Marqueda is a warrior on the verge of taking his vows with the Order of Santiago. Before he can do so, he must pass one final test: save Ada from herself. He's vowed obedience, nonviolence, and chastity, but Ada refuses to be held against her will, even for her own good, and vows to use every possible resource to thwart Gavriel's offer of aid."

Carrie learned that the 13th century was a strange time in the history of the Church in Spain. The Church was so desperate to recruit active, skilled young warriors in the fight against the Moors that men were accepted to religious orders like the Order of Santiago without having to give up their property or live inside a monastery.

"They could even get married!" she told me. "Conjugal chastity was the way to go! In addition, because the powers-that-be wanted to civilize the frontier area between Spanish and Moorish strongholds, they did everything they could to encourage families and settlements. Men and women could marry each other without witnesses and without posting banns, as long as they both agreed to be married and were both Christian. My imagination took flight when I read that little piece of historical trivia, and I incorporated it into Scoundrel's Kiss."

Neither plot nor characters come first with Carrie in her writing.

She said, "I'll be stubborn and say that setting comes first. For What a Scoundrel Wants, my debut, I knew I wanted to do a Robin Hood-themed romance. For Scoundrel's Kiss, I knew I wanted to set it in Spain. Then I hit the books and learn what type of person could've existed in those places and times. From there comes the plot, which is always last and subject to change. I'm a very character and research oriented pantser!"

It's important to Carrie that she knows who her characters are—to the extent that she will take a Myer-Briggs personality test on behalf of her hero and heroine.

"Once my husband was reading over my shoulder as I took the test," she told me, "and said, 'That's not you!' I can really relate to the show Castle because I know the premise is sound. Authors can be very perceptive when it comes to human nature."

Carrie told me she's been writing "since I could string words into half-baked sentences." She started reading romance when she was 13 and became seriously interested in the history of the Old West about the same time. "Writing historical romance was a perfect fit! But I floundered for years and years. I didn't have it in me to take my ambitions seriously," she admitted. "Then my husband went to graduate school, a degree program that sent him to Virginia for a summer internship. I stayed behind in Wisconsin with our two daughters. I realized that if I wanted to get back out in the world and have my place in the sun, I needed to become dedicated. I finished my first manuscript that summer, then sold the following year."

She loves lush, beautiful writing, and her favorite romance authors are Candice Proctor, Penelope Wilson, Laura Kinsale, and Patricia Gaffney.

"They all craft such amazing stories, not simply packed with emotion and fascinating characters, but with poetic language to describe every aspect of the hero and heroine's lives," she said. "I read those books and knew that's what I wanted to write. Those are the kinds of stories I love to read, so why not give them a try in my own style with my own unique voice?"

Carrie's official "office" is a computer desk in the bedroom she shares with her husband, but often –especially if one of her daughters wants to play games on her computer—she uses her husband's laptop. However, for serious writing, she takes her Alphasmart somewhere quiet, like the local library.

"I rarely accomplish anything if I'm too near to the internet," she confessed.

Regular days, when both her kids are in school, Carrie gets up, checks her email, puts out any fires, then she takes the kids to school. She'll work on her Alphamart to hit her word count for the day, generally averaging 3,000 words. Then, after lunch, she takes care of social networking, promotions, blog stuff, etc. until it's time to pick up the girls.

"Evenings are spent watching television, doing critiques for my writing partners, goofing around on Twitter, or revising that day's work," she shared.

On a personal note, I asked Carrie about her heritage.

"Um, I think the last time my dad worked on this, he figured that I'm Welsh and English on his side, and that I'm Swiss and Dutch on my mom's side. But all of my ancestors have been in the US so long that it gets muddled. I'm generally a pale mutt American. My husband, however, is English. His mum can trace the name 'Lofty' back several hundred years. At least our daughters will have half of their family tree well stocked with facts!"

She also admitted to crying "All. The. Time." during movies.

"I'm such a sap," she said. "It doesn't matter how often I've seen The English Patient, or Atonement, or The Joy Luck Club, or It's a Wonderful Life…I blubber like a baby."

Carrie told me that growing up in the Midwest, like she did, you have to at least tolerate thunderstorms, but she really enjoys writing when it's storming outside and she has the house to herself for a few hours.

"That's a very productive time for me," she told me. "Or else I nap. Either way…win!"

Something you may not know about Carrie: She's a Coke girl.

"Pepsi is too sweet for me," she explained. "I like the biting fizziness of Coke."

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

"Read. Join a local chapter of RWA. Study as much as you can about craft and the business of publishing," she replied. "Then treat your writing like a night-time degree program or a start-up business. Those things take patience, dedication and sacrifice. They don't earn you money up front, but they can be very rewarding in the long term!"

You can keep up with Carrie on her blog, http://lovelysalome.blogspot.com

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Franny Armstrong

How important are emotional roller coasters? The ups and downs of a story.

Life is about emotional roller coasters. Without the joy and pain of living, there would be no interest, no seeking fun and fantasy, no battling obstacles to become the best at what you do. Imagine if there weren’t any villains, emotional breakups, or likes and dislikes in life. How dull would that be? If it were easy being green, we’d all be green. (so Kermit told me)

Granted, some of us have it worse than others, but we basically chose to live on this earth and must learn and grow before moving onto the next plane. (This is what I believe anyway) Funny how we are all born and eventually must pass on, yet none of us get used to the idea of losing a loved one.

My characters run the gamut of joy and happiness all the way down to depression as they strive to overcome the odds that hold them back. Life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. Even those with so much money that they want for nothing have their issues. Yes, I’d love to be wealthy and famous, but not at the cost of happiness.

So, like my characters, I will strive to do the best I can in this world and enjoy the finer moments while riding the bad ones like a trooper. I’ve already and learned a lot in this life and always live by the motto: NEVER SURRENDER! NEVER GIVE UP! After all, it took a lot of learning to get to this point. Enjoy the stories. They come from my heart.

Hugs

Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Franny Armstrong

Is it more important to write to make money, or write because you love it?

Frankly, writing for the love of it shows in your work. When you only write to make money, your work doesn’t have heart and soul. When I’m immersed in my ‘other’ worlds, I thrive with the joy of creating them.

From day one when I decided to become an author, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, pouring out my heart into my book. Granted, I haven’t released that one, nor do I think I will until it gets a complete revamp, but it was a learning experience as well as placing a piece of my heart on the computer. You can’t replace that with anything, but when I do go back and read it now and then, I find that all the things I’ve learned about point of view, punctuation, and so much more made the story a definite fixer upper.

Loving what you do and being happy in it shows in any job whether it’s writing, waitressing, or flying out of this world in space shuttles. Just watching the Olympians and the joy and pain they feel in that few minutes of fame can make you scream for joy, or cry for them. They obviously love their career and are willing to go all the way to succeed over all obstacles. That’s what writing is to me. Love!

Hugs

Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Franny Armstrong

What Puts Up Road Blocks (Writer’s Block) In A Story

Just when you think you’re on a roll and the story is going just where you want it, DOUBTING MATILDA, the negative muse, jumps on my shoulder and tells me I’m doing it all wrong. I hired ADAMN AMUSING to push her away and since then things have become much better.

ADAMN is a nice guy. He guides me and shows me where to go with the story and when I become stalled, I just go to sleep only to awake with more to tell. DM hasn’t been around in a while, thank goodness. Her nose must be out of joint!

When I hit a brick wall, I meditate for a while, running the story through my mind until suddenly, characters and plot emerge, begging to be released. I never go anywhere without the laptop now, even on vacation. While in the Dominican Republic last month, my mind became full of ideal characters as I studied not only the locals, but the people at the resort.

Yes, there’s nothing like having a positive muse on your shoulder to guide you, but to also kick some negative butt! The most important thing to remember when you flatten your nose against a wall is to take a break then keep trying. ‘You only fail if you don’t try!’

Hugs

Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Franny Armstrong

Does A Story Reflect An Author’s Life?

Absolutely! Granted, I always throw in some life experiences to make it true to heart. No, I’ve never been stalked by a psychopath, but hey, there’s always tomorrow. I watch some TV to get ideas of what cops and private investigators have to go through, but my plots are my own, created from the characters and stories I have filling my mind.

Since becoming ill, I realized that all my life I was an author bursting to get out. The more experiences you have in life, the more you need to write about. My beloved mother always told me to write my thoughts down to get anger, frustration and so on from life out of my system. Oh, boy, do I wish I still had those notes. I’d even written a story about a boy named Toby who I played while doing the play in the garage and inviting all the local neighbourhood kids to watch for only a nickel. I was a STAR! LOL

In many of my books I placed some tidbits of life experiences, like the time I was in Jamaica and a Rastafarian man threw his arm over my shoulder, wanting to ask me out on an evening of delight, in front of my husband to boot! Anyway, I looked over at his hand on my shoulder and he was holding a very large joint of what I assume was marijuana. Needless to say, that made it into one of my books for sure. LOL

Hugs

Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Franny Armstrong

Writing With Heart And Soul

It’s one thing to write a book, it’s a whole other ball game to write with your heart and soul. Each story begins with characters, a vague plot, and goals, motivation, and conflicts for the hero/heroine/and villain. When you’re actually reading the book, it all should flow like a river, smooth and easy as you go. You can sit on the edge of your seat as long as you don’t tip off the chair

Stops and starts in a story tend to confuse and make you lose track of where you left off thereby halting the natural flow. How many times I’ve gone back to read the same chapter again to try and figure it out is unbelievable. Reading your own work is even harder because your mind knows where the story goes, it’s just that your story isn’t cooperating.

As an author, I find that when I get ‘on a roll’, I just can’t stop writing. That’s not to say that I need someone else to read it to make sure it ‘works’, but the best way to write when your muse kicks in is the best time to get it all out. Going back later to fix the errors is better than trying to ‘fix’ it right away. It’s important to give the story a week or two to ‘settle’ before you go back and re-read it.

Writing with heart and soul gives the story life and covers all the bases, giving you an amazing conclusion. Happy Reading

Franny Armstrong-ParaNovelGirl

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Princess Who Loved Dragons by Teresa Leigh Judd

"What is it with you and dragons, Princess?" her father asked, taking a jadeite carving down from the mantelpiece.

"Dad. I just like them, so I collect them. And don't call me Princess. I'm not ten years old anymore. I'm in my thirties. Call me by my real name."

"Sorry. Old habits die hard, Laura. It just seems like every time I come to dinner, there are more of them."

"Well, you're right. I have been getting a few more. Once I really looked at one, I began to notice them everywhere. They are so intricate, so beautiful."

"But dragons are fearsome creatures who breathe fire."

"Not all of them. What about Puff?"

"Puff aside, the rest of them have a rather unsavory reputation. All that capturing of fair maiden stuff. Knights in armor dashing to the rescue. It's in a lot of books so it must be true."

Laura laughed. "I'm beyond the fair maiden stage, Dad. And I don't think dragons are much of a threat to old maids."

"You aren't an old maid. Look at you. You're pretty, smart, accomplished. You just haven't found the right dragon slayer yet."

"Enough about dragons already. Dinner is served," Lauren said as she set plates of steaming pasta at each of their places and poured out a rich red wine into two goblets. The once a month ritual of dinner with her father, which had started shortly after her mother died, was an event to be looked forward to, their own special father and daughter connection.

"So what else have you been up to besides acquiring dragons?" her father asked.

"Same old, same old," she answered. Although her job as a librarian gave her access to the universe and all it encompassed, for all intents and purposes she was locked into a small brick building in an even smaller town. Her real life travels took her only as far as the front door of her house and back. All of her adventures took place between the pages of the books that surrounded her.

"You need to get out more," her father said, bringing her back to the present.

"I know. It just seems like there's no time. And fixing up this house is taking all my money right now. Maybe I can take a trip next summer."

After dinner, they carried their wine glasses into the living room of her newly purchased house and sat with their feet up on the coffee table in front of the fireplace. They laughed and reminisced about a time when she was only a child and he was a young man. It made them both feel good to revisit those past memories.

"Well, Princess, I had better be going," her father said, standing and setting his glass down on the table. "As usual it was a wonderful evening."

"Da-a-d!"

"Oh sorry, it was a wonderful evening, Laura. But in spite of your being all grown up, you are still a princess to me."

"What can I say to that. You know I always enjoy our visits so if you want to call me Princess, so be it. Goodnight now, drive safely," Lauren said as she kissed him on his cheek.

"Goodnight. Oh, and have some one look at your heater. I think it's malfunctioning. It's awfully cold in your house."

"The heater's fine. The house is just drafty but the fireplace makes up for it."

She stood in the doorway and waved goodbye as he got into his car and backed out of the driveway, smiling to herself. He never stopped parenting in spite of the fact that she was well beyond needing it. Yes, her house was in need of work but it was what she could afford and she was proud of being a homeowner. Slowly, she had begun to repair and remodel. Each project was an adventure and she was enjoying every minute of it.

She went back into the house and turned out the lights. The fire in the fireplace was barely smoldering and a chill had already begun to invade the room. She quickly washed her face, brushed her teeth and donning a flannel nightgown, jumped into bed. Pulling the comforter over her, she laughed to herself about her father's dragon remarks and fell soundly asleep.

#

She knew she was dreaming but she couldn't seem to wake up. She was dressed in a flowing white gown and standing against a tree unable to move. A huge dragon stood in front of her belching fire from his nostrils. The heat from his breath was almost unendurable. Shaking with fear, she tried to escape. Hot, she was too hot. She had to get away. Struggling, she awoke and found she was wound tightly in the bedding. Most nights the house was so cold, she huddled under the covers just to keep warm enough to sleep. She threw off the blankets but then realized that heat was pouring into the room.

She sat up and looked around. Smoke was pouring in from the living room. A low roaring noise filled her ears. Fire! She jumped out of bed and ran to the door. Flames reached out to engulf her. She slammed the door shut and ran to the window. Never opened, she found it was painted shut. She groped for the metal dragon on her bedside table. grabbed it and smashed the window. Fresh air poured in. But the space was too small for her to crawl through. Glass shards cut her arms as she tried to break open a bigger hole. Blood ran down her arms as fingers of smoke crept around the doorframe. She began to lose consciousness.

#

When she came to, she was being carried from the blazing building in the arms of a firefighter. She looked up into his handsome face, and as the flames' reflection danced across his helmet, she realized that she had indeed been rescued by a knight in shining armor.

About the Author: Teresa Leigh Judd has only begun to write short stories. They include "Playing House" published in Capital Crimes, a Sacramento SinC anthology. "Quick On The Draw", which won second place in the 2009 Deadly Ink short mystery competition and the following short stories published or to be published by L &L Dreamspell: "Deja Vu" in Romance of My Dreams, "Alligator Dreams" in Ghostly Dreamspell, "The Purrsistant Cat" and "Mystery, Mischief and Mayhem" in Cats is a Dreamspell.

Author Interview: Jason Barret

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Jason Barret whose debut novel Dead or a Lie was released last month. He's currently working on a prequel entitled Dead or a Lie—Saint's Sword. The sword is introduced in Dead or a Lie and is a part of Jason's website banner.

In Saint's Sword, Jason takes us back to the 14th century where another hero and heroine, along with their band of ragged warriors, go in search of the sword, which has mystical powers and can destroy a vampire with the slightest scratch.

"I am really excited about the story because this diverse group of characters gives me a lot of room to create sub-plots and a certain amount of mystery," Jason told me.

He admitted that coming up with titles is one of the hardest things for him to do.

"Usually the titles come from the core idea of the book and may change as I get further into the book but for Dead or A Lie I had help. Once while reading a passage that contained the words 'dead or a lie' during a critique session my good friend, fellow author, and critique partner, ALee Drake, she blurted out, 'That’s your title,' and she was right. Everyone loves the title."

The plot always comes first to Jason. It's as he begins to develop the plot that he begins to understand his characters and how they react in different situations.

"By the time I finish a short version of the plot I have a good idea of how I want to portray each character. Then I develop each character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts so each character will react in the way I need them to while keeping them character. I also develop a bio for each main character including age, family history and physical attributes. The family history plays into the goals and motivation. For example: the heroine’s father deserted her and her mother so consequently she doesn’t trust men," he explained. "When this is completed I then write a full outline of the book which will be anywhere from 80 to 125 pages. Then I write the book, most of the time tweaking the outline because the characters sometimes take unexpected turns."

Jason still has to make a living in the real world, so what he does when he's not writing and what he would like to do are two different things.

"As a construction inspector I have the opportunity to meet new people and be involved in many different types of projects. For the most part I actually enjoy what I am doing and I’ve included a page on my website dedicated to the hard working guys I’ve had the pleasure to work with," he said.

His wife, Janice, bought him a 1972 MGB sports car for their anniversary one year and restoring it is what he likes to do for entertainment.

"I think she was sick of me always saying, 'I think I’ll get another MG,'" he admitted. "When we were dating I had a 1959 MGA which I got running. Notice there’s a difference between 'got it running' and 'restored'. It was in rough shape but we got around in it and had a great time doing so. I taught her how to drive a standard shift in it and I let her drive until she pulled the shifter out of the transmission. I thought we were dead! I guess when I was 'getting it running' I kind of forgot to tighten the bolt holding it in place."

He and Janice also like to kayak in areas that are far away from the civilized world and upstate New York, where they live, has many such places. They will quietly paddle around in search of photo opportunities of nature in all its glory.

"Well, Janice is the photographer and she just calls me Scout while in the kayak," he confessed.

In addition, he loves spending time with his family and make sure they all get together on a regular basis, even if it means a four hour drive to do it. He also plays golf, but only if he doesn't keep score. "Otherwise I get a little cranky," he told me.

"When did you first consider yourself a writer?"

"I guess when I typed 'The End' for the first time. I labored over the book for years, sometimes not even writing a word for months due shuffling my daughters back and forth to soccer practice, dance lessons, drama club, etc., etc., etc. Not that I’m complaining. We knew when we moved to the country that this was part of the bargain. I can’t tell you how many times I fell asleep in the car waiting for a late dance class to finish up. As a matter of fact I never told anyone I was writing a book because I didn’t know if I could actually do it or not. I remember taking my time, typing each letter slowly and deliberately, relishing the sound of each click of the keyboard, until I finished the last two words, 'THE END' and then hit 'ENTER'."

Jason's college concentration was in math and science, which left him little time for anything else. He was already married with one daughter and another on the way, so he traded hours at work to enable him to go to classes either days, nights, or weekends. He was desperate to get his major course work completed, so put off all his electives until last.

"Enter Alene R., my college English literature professor and the dreaded English Lit with Shakespeare and all that jazz," he said. "Suddenly, to my surprise, I was drawn into her course and began to understand the space between the lines. To make a long story short she tried to lure me away from math and science, and entice me to switch to literature. She did in a way-- I didn’t change majors but she did change my life."

On a personal note, he admits to having eaten a crayon. "Sure hasn’t every kindergartener? I still remember the waxy taste. Not sweet like I thought the red crayon would taste. I also remember that it took a while to get the taste out of my mouth and the wax out from between my teeth."

That, however, is not the strangest thing he's ever eaten. When he was a kid, he would sneak Milk Bone dog biscuits and crawl behind his father's baby grand piano and crunch them up.

"Actually they were a little mealy but all in all I don’t remember them being so bad. My brother squealed on me," he remembered. "That’s growing up I guess."

Another thing he did as a kid, which he feels in this day of Caller ID is probably a bit passé, is make prank phone calls.

"We would call a butcher shop and ask if they had pig’s feet. When they said yes we’d say 'you’d better see a doctor.' Click. We’d call a tobacco shop and ask if they had a popular pipe tobacco, Prince Albert, in a can. When they said, yes we’d say, 'Well let him out.' Click. Sometimes they’d yell at us over the phone and that was an added benefit. Ah, simple pleasures for simple childish minds. I am smiling now just thinking about it."

He wouldn't tell me what he thought scientists should invent.

"Every time I think of something I either see it on the shelf or in the news," he explained. "In Dead or A Lie I used a certain GPS technology and two years after I wrote it I saw it on the news."

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

"First and foremost find a writers group. It is so difficult writing in a vacuum. Family can be supportive but only other writers seem to understand the issues that go along with writing. All of those things that are going on in your head that seem to indicate that you’re crazy are common among other writers but you have to be in contact with them to understand that. 'Oh, you have friends in your head? Me too,' or 'Oh, you got a rejection? We all have here. It just means you’re getting closer to being published.'

"But most of all there is something magical about walking into a room full of writers for the first time. I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I walked into a Deb Dixon seminar put on by the Central New York Romance Writers and I found myself with 60 other WRITERS! I also found my critique partners that day, ALee and Janine. A critique group is an essential element to successful writing as long as your group does it with heart and critique is constructive and never harsh or destructive."
You can keep up with Jason on his website, http://www.jasonbarret.com

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Susan Palmquist

My Books

Before I became a freelance writer I worked in PR and was a publicist for three years so I’d be foolish not to give my books a shameless plug while I have your attention on this final day. So let me tell you about them.

I have a children’s book published by Hearts on Fire Books called The One and Only, it previously won the Loft Children’s Literature Award and was finally published a few years ago. Brandon Jones, the main character, is one of my favorites.

Death Likes Me, also published by Hearts on Fire Books, is a series mystery featuring another one of my favorites-- PI Niki Webber. I can’t wait to write the sequel and continue to tell her story.

A Sterling Affair-a paranormal romance about Sir Ian Ashby who comes back from the dead, and yes, the Regency. I’ve had lots of people tell me they laughed out loud when they read some of the scenes, which always brings a smile to a writer’s face. It’s published by The Wild Rose Press.

And my latest published by Lyrical Press is Sleeping With Fairies. It’s been listed as a fantasy but I like to think of it as a slightly paranormal contemporary. It’s set in Ireland and has humorous scenes like A Sterling Affair. In fact, if you read all my books, you quickly figure out I like to make readers laugh. While A Sterling Affair was all about the second chances we get in life, Sleeping with Fairies is all about the magical things that can happen to us if we truly believe in ourselves and our dreams.

So here we are. Day 5 already. I hope I’ve done my job, kept you entertained this past week, told you things about me you didn’t already know and hopefully, encouraged you to check out my work and read my books.

Thanks for having me, happy reading, writing and all the best.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Susan Palmquist

What Are You Working On?

Yesterday I told you all about my writing day; today I thought I’d tell you about the projects I’m working on. With my fiction, I just finished work on my first historical novella. It’s set in the Regency, a period in British history I really love to write about. A short period of time but so much happened and changed during those 11 years. I’m working on my second historical novella, also set in the Regency. This one has more humor in it.

Next project is a contemporary novella about mistaken identity. I’m having lots of fun with that one. And I’m also finishing the first draft of my next novel, a contemporary romantic suspense set in Portland, Oregon. When I’m done with those, it’s back to writing a mystery.

A couple of years ago I was longlisted in the Harry Bowling Prize, which is a contest for novels set in London. My entry When The Devil Comes To Call is about 25% finished so one of my goals for the year is to complete it. If I have any time left this year I want to write or at least start on the sequel to Death Likes Me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze in a few short stories now and then.

Non-fiction wise I’m putting together some book proposals for a couple of publishers. One is based on my blog The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to the Universe, another one is writing related.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Susan Palmquist

What Do You Do?

Sometimes I think being a writer has to be the most fascinating thing, well, at least to people who don’t write. I’m always asked what I write and can they buy my books at Barnes and Noble. Most people make the whole writing thing more exciting than it really is but just in case you’re fascinated about what a typical writing day is like, here’s what mine often looks like.

We’re early risers in my house so I’m usually up and about before 6 a.m. First order of the day, make tea. I have to admit I’m hooked on the stuff and for me; no day should start without it. Next I’ll turn on the computer and check my e-mails. It’s always wonderful when some good news has traveled into my e-mail box overnight, like a publisher offering me a contract or another short story sold, or an editor liking a pitch I’ve made.

Once that’s out the way, I usually do about 30 minutes exercising. My husband bought me a Wii for Christmas and now I’m hooked on it. Next I shower, grab something to eat and work starts for the day.

I have to admit I’m not happy unless I have a ton of projects running at the same time so most days I’m switching from one thing to another. Most days I either blog or think about the topic of my next blog. I blog once a month at Romance Writers in the Rough. And also at Between the Pages where I write the Susan Palmquist Interviews. Each month I interview either an author or editor. I usually think a few months ahead and approach my interviewee long before the blog appears. Then I have my Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to the Universe site. I blog on Mondays and write two articles a week for that, which get put together on Wednesdays for posting on Thursday or Friday. If I’m writing a non-fiction article I might be in the planning or interviewing stage. Next on my list is working on new stuff. I might be gathering information to make a pitch to an editor, following up on a pitch or even just sorting through old files.

All this takes up most of the day and after dinner I close down the desktop computer, head upstairs and turn on the laptop where I become fiction writer. Sometimes if I’m working on a deadline I might continue with some non-fiction work but 99% of the time the laptop means I’m writing fiction. It might be a short story, a novella or a novel. I’ll listen to music, or in the summer open the window and listen to the stream in the pond by the living room. Sometimes I’ll watch TV. I did get into the habit of writing while watching NCIS. Sometimes I can do it; sometimes it’s distracting. It all depends on what stage of the book I’m at. I write for a few hours and then watch TV and yes, sometimes will write in longhand, making notes of things I need to do or notes for new stories.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Susan Palmquist

Who Are You?

What’s the first thing you do when you pick up a book?

I’m inquisitive…okay, I’m just downright nosy so before I start reading I always look at the bio of the writer. I’m fascinated by what people do, where they live, do they write full time? Did they draw upon their own experiences to write the book?

So on this second day of my spotlight I thought I’d share some trivia about myself with you, basically anything you wouldn’t find in my book bio. So here are 15 things I bet you didn’t know about me-

1. My dad was in the Coldstream Guards (yes, the soldiers who wear the bearskin hats and red uniforms at Buckingham Palace).

2. I was born in the same hospital as Boy George.

3. I went to Catholic school.

4. I got into a fight with another girl my first year there. We both wanted to be first in line at the door at going home time. After some pushing and punches being thrown, she bit me in the face. Our punishment was to stand at the back of the line for a week. This story does have a happy ending because we became the best of friends.

5. Growing up, I was terrified to ride in elevators.

6. I took elocution lessons.

7. As a child I was hooked on keeping backyard pets. At one time I had a rabbit, guinea pig, two tortoises and a turtle.

8. My career choice when I was growing up-stewardess…I figured it was an inexpensive way to see the world.

9. Growing up I loved watching soccer and was a Manchester United fan, (still am) and had a huge crush on the late Georgie Best.

10. When I was eight, a modeling scout wanted me to try out for a commercial for Johnson and Johnson floor polish, but I was too shy and hid her business card behind the fireplace so my mom couldn’t call her to make the appointment. Yes, I kick myself every day now!

11. I have all male cousins.

12. I’ve always wanted to play the piano and drums.

13. Initially I hated domestic science (cooking) classes at school but ended up loving it and scoring the highest percentage in final exams.

14. I give all my pets Irish names in honor of my heritage.

15. I was on the school athletic team for high jump and 100 and 200 metres.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Susan Palmquist

Let Me Entertain You

It’s my week to be in the spotlight.

To be honest, I thought I’d just have one day to spend with you. When I found out it was five, panic set in. I sat down wondering how I could keep you entertained all week. Then I realized it’s a bit like the process I go through each day when I turn on my computer.

Each time writers sit down to write, be it an op-ed piece or novel, their main goal is to grab your attention, hold on it and keep it until they’ve typed the last word. Not always an easy task but it’s one of the challenges of being a writer. It’s also one of the great things about being a reader. And I think it’s why so many, if not all, writers are also avid readers. As LASR is for both readers and writers, I hope my week’s blogs will be entertaining to all who visit.

So why do I love reading and writing so much?

When you pick up a book you wonder about the characters you’ll meet within the pages, the adventure you’ll be taken on, the places you’ll visit. Will the writer make you cry, make you laugh, leave you wanting more?

When you sit down to write you ask yourself what type of characters can I create that readers will love, cheer for, want to read more about. What plotline will keep them turning the pages? How can I describe where the story is set so they see, hear and smell what it’s like to be really there?

For me, there’s nothing more exciting than switching on my laptop, looking at the blank screen and typing the first word of a new manuscript. Most of the time there’s a story that’s been in my head for months and it’s just waiting to get out as fast as my fingers can type. Each story is different, each one comes about in its own unique way, and in my opinion, that’s the best part of the job. You call the shots, you’re the director and you decide what ends up on the cutting room floor.

Of course, there are the days when the fingers slow down, the characters aren’t in a hurry to move the story forward and the plot doesn’t seem to be coming together. However, the great thing is you can sleep on it and the next day your fingers are flying across the keys again.

Yes, some days are good, some days are bad, but all in all I wouldn’t swap this job for anything. And like I always tell everyone, even if I win the lottery tomorrow, I’ll still be back at my keyboards the next day.