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Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

Hello! I'm Lindsay Townsend. I write historical romance and romantic suspense. It's lovely to be back here at LASR! This is my second visit - I appeared in March 2009 on the spotlight and you can read my interviews then here:
http://longandshortarchives.blogspot.com/2009/03/monday-spotlight-lindsay-townsend.html

What's been happening since March 2009?

My second ‘knight’ novel, A Knight’s Captive, appeared at the end of March 2009. I've also completed another 'knight' book for Kensington Zebra, called A Knight's Enchantment. This is coming out on June 1st and this is the novel I'm offering this week at LASR as a prize.

I've finished a fourth 'knight' book for Kensington, due out in 2011.

I've had a sweet contemporary romantic suspense, Holiday in Bologna, published by Bookstrand of Siren-Bookstrand.

I've had an erotic novella, Silk and Steel, published by Siren of Siren-Bookstrand.

My sweet romantic suspense, A Secret Treasure has been issued as an audio book by Audio Lark.

I'm one of several authors appearing in an anthology, Cupid Diaries, published by Classic Romance Revival.

This week I'm going to talk about pace in romance, how I create my characters, what I put in and what I leave out, medieval cooking and recipes and today, a few of my favourite places.

Ten of my favourite places:

1. Favourite beach – Holkham Sands in Norfolk.

2. Favourite castle – Alnwick castle in Northumberland (The ‘Hogwarts’ of the ‘Harry Potter’ films.)

3. Favourite spa – Bath in Somerset. (The Aquae Sulis of my historical romance, Flavia’s Secret.)

4. Favourite cathedral – Lincoln cathedral. Its setting, architecture and sheer scale are all amazing.

5. Favourite European country to visit. Italy. Opera and bella figura. Lovely!

6. Favourite Italian city – Bologna. It has the oldest university in Europe, wonderful arcades and bookshops and superb food.

7. Favourite Greek island – Corfu and Rhodes. These two islands are so stunning and the people so friendly that I can’t choose between them.

8. Favourite ancient ritual site – the whole mysterious complex of Silbury Hill and Avebury in Wiltshire.

9. Favourite ancient woodland – some of the woodlands in Cambridgeshire. Wandering in them makes me realize all a wood can be, and how beautiful.

10. Favourite bookshop. Any that stocks my books!



How about you? What and where are your favourite places?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pretty Brown Eyes by Rekha Ambardar


Through the glass of the waiting area Nick Burns watched the agile orange-clad staff of the Jiffy Car Wash pamper his new silver Subaru. One aisle over, another crew were fussing over a small beige sedan, probably belonging to the young woman sitting a short distance from him, reading a magazine.

She looked up from her magazine.

“Is that your car?” Nick asked.

“Yes.”

“Nice model.”

“Thank you. Just hope they get done soon, then I can go buy lunch.”

“Is your office close by?”

“Downtown. The office equipment store.”

“That’s close to where I am. At the insurance agency.”

Just then a fat man barreled in between them and picked up a magazine and stood thumbing through it, forcing Nick to can the conversation for the moment.

When the man finally moved, Nick looked for the young woman, but she had vanished.

His car was ready too, so he got up and went to pay for the car wash.

After lunch, when Nick wanted to fax some documents to a client, he realized that their office fax machine was on the blink. They needed a new machine, and fast.

He went next door to the office equipment store. The girl at the front desk looked up. “May I help you?”

“I’d like to talk to one of your employees about purchasing a fax machine.”

“I’ll see if someone’s available.”

“Actually, I just met one of your co-workers, a young lady with big brown eyes.” Pretty brown eyes. He flushed. How lame it sounded.

An amused look crossed the girl’s face. “That would be Cindy. I’ll get her.”

Moments later, Cindy appeared.

“It’s you,” she said.

“We didn’t get properly introduced. I’m Nick Wade. Our office needs a new fax machine and I came right over, hoping you might be able to recommend one.”

“I’d be glad to,” she said. “By the way, I’m Cindy Torrence.”

“Nice to meet you,” Nick said. “We’re short-staffed today. Our administrative assistant is off, and this purchase can’t be postponed.”

Cindy showed him the models they had in stock, and helped him choose one. Then she wrote up an invoice.

“How did you know my name to ask for me?” she said.

“I didn’t. I just asked for the lady with the big brown eyes,” Nick said. “Sorry if I made it sound corny.”

“It’s flattering actually.” Cindy handed him the invoice. “Do you want the machine delivered?”

“No, I’ll take it.”

Back at the office Nick set up the fax machine and then got to work. No more excuses for seeing Cindy. This was it.

Three days later, he spotted Cindy coming out to their common employees’ parking lot at the back of the building. She saw him too, waved, and walked over.

“I’ve been meaning to call you,” she said. “My younger brother’s getting a new car and I promised to help him with insurance. Do you carry auto insurance?”

“Sure do.”

“Could you talk to him about his options?”

“You bet.”

“Thanks. I’ll send him right over tomorrow.”

The next day, Nick helped Cindy’s brother, Casey, choose the right auto insurance for his money and needs. He went away happy.

Cindy called to thank him. “You saved me a lot of time looking for the right policy for Casey.”

“I remember when I got my first car and insurance was my biggest expense,” Nick said. “I worked two jobs to keep my car, but it was worth it.”

“Casey’s close to working two and a half jobs and he doesn’t seem to mind,” Cindy said, laughing. “He knows responsibility all right.”

“Now that we’ve got a lot of business out of the way, how about dinner tomorrow?” Nick said. It was the easiest thing to say. He felt as if he’d known Cindy for a very long time, as if they were old friends.

“I’d love that, but I have a meeting I promised to go to,” Cindy said. “I’d like a raincheck on that.”

“You got it.”

“I have an idea,” Cindy said. “If you don’t already have plans, how about lunch al fresco today?”

“Lunch al what?”

“Al fresco. Outdoors,” Cindy explained with a chuckle. “Get hot dogs and a drink and sit outside on a park bench where we can talk.”

“That’s even better,” Nick said. “Do you realize all our conversation has been about work? Not that I’m complaining.”

“Me neither. It’s been the nicest work-related conversation I’ve ever had.”

It was time to take it to the next level, and he was looking forward to that. And so, obviously, was Cindy. Nick grinned to himself as he hung up.

About the Author: Rekha Ambardar has published over eighty short stories, articles, and essays in print and electronic magazines, including The Writer’s Journal, ByLine, The Indian Express, Writing World.com, Her mysteries have been published in Futures, Nefarious, The Gumshoe Review, Orchard Mystery Press, Shots in the Dark and other anthologies. She is a regular contributor to The World and I Online, a subsidiary of The Washington Times, and has published articles on topics of current interest and concern. http://rekha.mmebj.com

Author Interview: Judi McCoy


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Judi McCoy, author of the acclaimed dog walker mysteries featuring Ellie Engleman and her dog Rudy. Ellie is more than just a professional dog walker; she can also read the dogs' minds.

The third book in this paranormal cozy series, Death in Show is being released next month and takes place at, of course, a dog show.

I asked her to tell us a little about this latest installment in the series.

Professional dog walker Ellie Engleman doesn't know much about the ins and outs of dog shows. But when one handler is killed, Ellie will learn that it's a dog-eat-dog world. Especially since the killer might now have it out for her. She and her sometime boyfriend, Detective Sam Ryder, will have to dig up the truth faster than a speeding bulldog...
Judi told me that the characters always come first to her. "If I give them enough leeway, they seem to 'find' the plots themselves."

And the characters are easy for her to develop, especially Ellie and Rudy, because they are patterned after Judi herself and her own dog Rudy. Unfortunately, Judi lost Rudy last year and, if she could wish for anything, it would be to have him back in her life. She still has three dogs, but says she's willing to take one more. In fact, she can only write if her dogs are with her.

Other characters in her books are also patterned on either people she knows (Viv is drawn after her agent) or people she would like to know (Sam is a man she'd like in her life).

"I find a way to put many of my friends and family into my books," she confessed.

Judi's always been a reader, but wanted to change the endings on so many of the books she read, she decided to start to try writing one herself. She began in 1994 by taking the first aspiring author course given by RT magazine.

To date she's written about twenty-five books and have published seventeen of them. She's currently working on the fifth book of the dog walker series and hopes to get a contract for another three.

Fortunately for her, she's never really had the problem of writer's block. Her advice to a new writer just starting out? "Putt your butt in a chair and write every day, even if it's 500 words."

Many authors have influenced Judi's writing—"too many to name," she said. "I’ve always read romance, in all forms, so some of the older writers and some of the newer ones."

Her favorite author, however, is Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

"Her voice, her sense of humor, everything about her characters is exciting," Judi explained.

"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I wondered.

"Every so often a title creeps into my brain and just sits there, and those are usually the best. It gets difficult when the publisher doesn’t like an author’s title and demands a new one."

A case in point is this latest book, Death in Show.

"This was one title I wasn’t happy with. It’s more of a compromise between myself and the publisher’s marketing department."

From the first day Judi started writing, she considered herself a writer-and her first book was inspired by a simple single idea. She told me that the hardest part of writing her first book was hoping to get it right. That still remains the hardest part of writing her books.

Her day consists of getting up early to walk her dogs, then she has breakfast, does a crossword or puzzle from the paper, and sit at her computer to do email. She hears from readers constantly, especially dog lovers, and answers every email personally the day she receives it. When that's finished, she devotes the rest of her day to writing.

She used to be a women's gymnastic judge, but didn't recertify so she has a little more free time. For fun, she grows orchids and gardens.

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

"Oh, no, too many things to mention, and not one of them worked out."

On a more personal note, some things you may not know about Judi:

~~she absolutely hates how she looks in pictures.

~~she's very much a morning person.

~~she has a few expressions she uses a lot, including "crapola," "good grief," and a few with the F word we won't share.

~~the strangest thing she's ever eaten is rattlesnake. Her take on it? "Icky." She's never eaten a crayon, however.

~~her favorite animal is, of course, a dog.

"What is your favorite pizza?" I asked.

"Sausage, mushroom, and black olive. Why, are you going to send me one?"

And, she would want Coke, not Pepsi, with her pizza.
You can keep up with Judi on her website, http://www.judimccoy.com.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Ginger Hanson


Writing the Historical Romance

by

Ginger Hanson


“Never write a historical novel as your first book.” I read this piece of writing advice in my first how-to-write fiction book. I discarded the advice and spent the next two years penning a 900 page tome about Roman Britain set in 60 A. D. Gladiator it was not.

By the time, I wrote “The End,” the advice made sense. A novice historical romance writer is giving herself two difficult new skills to master: the craft of writing and the creation of a different time period. For example, if I decided to have my heroine look in a mirror, I had to find out if mirrors were around during that time period.

The beginning writer who decides to write a contemporary story is not quite as handicapped and can draw upon a store of shared contemporary images when creating a setting. For example, the word “McDonald’s” puts the reader in a fast-food restaurant replete with smells.

Life isn’t as simple for the writer of historical novels. You don’t have this store of contemporary images. In fact, if the story is set before 1827, you can’t even use the word restaurant because the word didn’t exist. Not only does the historical writer need to know if a word existed, she also needs to know the context in which it was used during the time period of her novel.

Still anxious to tackle your first historical romance? Of course, you are. If you weren’t passionate about writing and history, you wouldn’t be reading this article. Okay, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when writing a historical romance.

Whether your story is about Viking warriors or Regency rogues, you must enter that world in order to bring your reader into it. The world you create must be historically accurate because your readers know their history. Make too many historical mistakes in your writing and you will lose readers.

Too much history can cost you readers, too. Describing every ribbon and bow on the heroine’s dress can be as mind-numbing as endless pages of farming techniques in 17th century France. Always remember your characters live in this time period, they already know all about it. It’s your job to bring your reader into the time period without making your characters seem like strangers to the time.

Another challenge for the historical romance writer is to offer the reader a strong and independent heroine while staying true to the heroine’s place in time. This challenge can be turned into an asset if you use the social mores of the past as added conflict. Good research and writing will keep your heroine rooted in her time period no matter how much she rebels against the mores of her time.

Once a writer has settled on a historical story, how does she go about getting the goods on that time period? When I begin my research, I prefer to get a general feel for the time period before zooming in on the small things. To obtain an overview, I read a general history that spans at least twenty years. College textbooks are an excellent source because I can’t think of any period in history that some college professor hasn’t written about.

At the back of every textbook and nonfiction history book will be a bibliography, a valuable resource. The bibliography opens the door to the specific. Scan the bibliography of every resource you use, because nuggets of historical gold will be found there.

No, I’m not skipping the Internet. It’s a wonderful resource for today’s historical writer, but validating the information can be difficult. History buffs turned web site managers don’t always equal historical accuracy.

When used wisely, the Internet offers the historical writer a cornucopia of valid information. Archived newspapers, diaries, out-of-print books and other historical references are now available via many college and public libraries. The Internet traveler can enjoy virtual tours of everything from museums to period houses. As with any data, validate the information found on the Internet to ensure its accuracy. Remember, a good story plus good research is the key to a good historical romance.

Beware of the pitfall of too much research. For someone who loves fact digging, research can get in the way of the actual writing. In fact, the Internet has made it even easier for the historical writer to get sidetracked and spend too much time researching rather than writing the next chapter.

But at some point, your story has to be written. Research doesn’t have to stop, but don’t let it bog down the writing. Put asterisks where you need to do further research as you write and set aside time for research that doesn’t interfere with writing. Continued research offers another plus, an unexpected historical detail that adds more texture to your work in progress. Better yet, you might stumble across the perfect plot for your next historical romance!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Ginger Hanson


Using Speech Recognition Software to Write

by

Ginger Hanson



Time has read hare. Whoops. That isn’t right! I said, “Tom has red hair.” Darn that speech recognition software, can’t it get anything right? Well, it can and usually does. But sometimes I mumble or the dog starts barking at the UPS truck. Any number of events can alter how well a speech recognition program works.

I’ve been using speech recognition software for about 10 years. I started with IBM’s ViaVoice program and segued into iListen when IBM left Mac users high and dry. Since I use a Mac, iListen was my only option. It wasn’t a good one and it had a lot of trouble with my Southern accent. ViaVoice had been easier to train and much more accurate. If I’d come to iListen first, I would never have stayed with speech recognition. Fortunately, iListen got into bed with Dragon NaturallySpeaking several years ago and created MacSpeech Dictate, providing Mac users with a fantastic voice recognition program.

The beauty of MacSpeech Dictate (and I presume, Dragon NaturallySpeaking) is how easily it learned my voice. These programs used to have a major learning curve, but now the user has a greater learning curve than the software. I’m still trying to master all the commands while MacSpeech Dictate merrily writes what I say with 95% accuracy.

Improving accuracy is important, but users new to speech recognition need to understand the program can’t do it alone. Five elements contribute to increased accuracy:

* A good microphone. The microphone plays a key role in the use of speech recognition programs because it has directional and noise canceling properties. For best results, use the microphone recommended for the type of operating system on your computer. Microphones are available in headset, desktop or wireless configuration.

* The position of the microphone also plays a role in accuracy. The headset model needs to be off to the side of your mouth so it doesn’t pick up your breathing which will be interpreted as speech. Proper placement of the desktop and wireless models also contributes to their accuracy. I use the wireless model with its included lanyard which puts the microphone in the same spot each time I use it. If I clip it to a shirt, the microphone’s location varies depending on the shirt’s neckline, which can affect accuracy.

* Level of noise in the room influences accuracy. During the setup process, the program measures the amount of background noise and adjusts itself accordingly. If you first set up your microphone in a quiet room, it will have trouble with your speech if you use it later with Meatloaf’s "Bat out of Hell" blaring. This problem is simple to correct, just rerun microphone setup to compensate for the new sound level.

* Computer volume also affects speech recognition. It’s best to always check the computer’s volume to ensure it’s not too high because a high volume can distort your voice which impairs accuracy.

* Clear and consistent speech improves accuracy. These programs are a continuous speech recognition product, which means they rely on the context of words within phrases to obtain accuracy. When using speech recognition, relax and speak in a normal conversational tone at a normal pace. Accuracy declines if you speak too quickly or slur your words. It’s also helpful to speak in phrases or sentences. This involves thinking before you speak which isn’t my strong suit, but it helps the program with context, which in turn improves accuracy.

There are two disadvantages to using speech recognition programs:

1. Speech recognition programs will probably always have problems with homonyms because this program is trying to guess what you’re saying. For example, “To be or not to be” came out accurately but “two bees in a jar” became “to be in a jar.” Since accuracy improves with context, the program has a better chance of figuring out which word to use when given the most context. And sometimes, it just won’t be able to figure the word out and you’ll have to type it in yourself.

2. Speech recognition relies on a consistent voice and just as a writer can wear out fingers and wrists by typing too much, a writer can wear out his or her voice by talking too much. To avoid vocal strain, keep drinking! No, not alcohol. Just something to keep vocal cords lubricated. Room temperature, plain water is best. Sorry to say, caffeine promotes dehydration, so avoid it while using a speech recognition program.

While these are powerful programs, they aren’t intended to completely replace the mouse and keyboard. Yet. As a long time Star Trek fan, I know that day is coming. For now, I’ve used speech recognition to write novels, essays (including this one), emails, etc. If you use the computer a lot and haven’t tried out speech recognition software, you might want to give it a whirl. I’m glad I stuck with it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Ginger Hanson


Captain Devlin Carrington: The Doctor Is In

by

Ginger Hanson


Unlike today’s highly paid surgeons, nineteenth-century surgeons got no respect. They actually ranked below general physicians on the professional ladder of life. Thus, my decision to make the hero of Lady Runaway not only an army surgeon, but also a member of the aristocracy caused all kinds of complications. To incorporate the idea, I spent a lot of time studying Regency-era military medicine.

Death stalked the nineteenth century English soldier. In camp, he faced contagious diseases whose cures eluded contemporary physicians. If he survived the crowded, unsanitary conditions to meet the enemy, there was the probability of being killed or wounded.

The severely wounded soldier faced being left unattended on a corpse-strewn battlefield. For him, the lack of on site medical care and an organized plan of evacuation translated into hours, or even days with no one to care for his wound and no way to reach medical care. Help usually came after the action when the regiments sent out parties to sort through the carnage. The wait could and often did kill the injured soldiers.

If a soldier wasn’t too severely wounded, he might go to a dressing-station located near the battlefield. Crude and unhygienic, these dressing-stations were little more than frontline amputation depots. On tables made from doors or planks, the surgeons plied the trade of amputation.

A fact of nineteenth century life, amputation runs through all the military diaries of this time. With no drugs to combat infection, amputation performed competently could be the means of saving a life. For the poor soldier awaiting care, the sight of severed limbs tossed into grisly piles could hardly have seemed a route to health.

If the soldier couldn’t find a dressing-station, he might opt for the general hospital.

The British medical services established hospitals in various larger towns or villages within the territory it occupied prior to any military encounter. Utilizing buildings such as churches, convents or schools, these sites were usually equipped for 300 patients. In an emergency, they could care for more.

By the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the British army had adopted the idea of general hospitals and abandoned the concept of regimental hospitals suggested by Sir John Pringle. An army surgeon during the War of Austrian Succession, Pringle was a proponent of scattering small hospitals among villages and manning them with the regimental medical staff. He believed this type of hospital was better equipped to handle battlefield casualties while leaving the sick, who cannot be moved with the army, in the general hospitals located farther away from the shifting front.

In Lady Runaway, Dev describes the advantages of regimental hospitals to Lady Riana. He is frustrated by the decision to send casualties to the rear which was based on the leaders’ belief this would keep the army as unencumbered as possible.

My research revealed military doctors who fought to improve medical care for the soldiers and I used them as a role model for Dev. While the army surgeon of the Regency era had no field ambulances, antibiotics or anesthesia, by World War I doctors knew about bacteria, anesthesia, antiseptics and X-rays. Measured against the previous centuries of human existence, the years between 1800 and 1899 mark a unprecedented increase in medical knowledge.

If Dev could time travel to the present, he’d be surprised at the advances. He’d also discover that today’s army surgeon has a lot of prestige and a high value on the Marriage Mart.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Ginger Hanson


Where to Begin

by

Ginger Hanson
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Where to begin a story is not always easy to determine. If you’re a romance writer, the conventional wisdom says that the hero and heroine are supposed to meet early in the story. If they don’t meet right away, will an editor will buy your manuscript?

Conventional wisdom became a problem for me with Lady Runaway, my latest historical release. In my first draft, the heroine (Lady Riana Travistock) doesn’t meet the hero (Captain Devlin Carrington) until three chapters into the story. Instead of being romanced by Dev, Lady Riana is busy dealing with the villain. I really liked this beginning, but worried the “first meet” occurred too late.

I had good reason to worry. I had pitched Lady Runaway to an editor at a major romance publishing house based on her review and rejection of what would later become my first published historical romance. It was the typical “we can’t use this manuscript, but I’d like to see anything else you have.”

I gathered my courage and pitched a Regency. I had about three draft chapters and a partial outlined. She liked the idea of a doctor hero. Now, all I had to to was write the remaining 80,000 words. And for this publishing house, I knew I needed the hero and heroine to meet early in the story.

I went back to the drawing board and decided to put them at the same coaching inn en route to London in the opening scene. Unfortunately, by doing this, my original opening scene ended up as a flashback. You guessed it, once the manuscript was finished and I submitted it, one of the reasons cited for “passing” on the story was the use of flashback “which slows the pace.”

Undaunted, I tried opening the story in Dev’s point of view while he’s on the battlefield. That really didn’t work. Back to the drawing board I went, shuffling the scenes (printed on 4 x 6 index cards) around until I had a fast-paced opening with the first meet moved to Chapter 2. Problem was, I still had that all-important scene between the villain and the Lady Riana and no way to tell it except as a flashback.

My agent sent the latest version to many editors with no offer for a contract.

Time passed. My agent and I parted ways and I decided to revise Lady Runaway. Now, I have no way of knowing if hiding that key scene in a flashback was a reason for rejection, but it was my favorite opening for this story. I went back to my original version, putting that all-important scene at the beginning.

Surely, there had to be an editor who wouldn’t mind that the hero wasn’t introduced until several chapters into this story.

Last year I found such an editor at Twilight Times Books. Not only was she the first editor to see this version, she made an offer on the manuscript within several weeks of receiving it. This experience has made me aware that the needs of the story often outweigh conventional writing wisdom.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Ginger Hanson


Confessions of a Bookoholic

by

Ginger Hanson


I have a confession to make: I’m a bookoholic. I love books. Big books, tiny books. Fat books, thin books. Old books, new books. Fiction books, nonfiction books. Mysteries, romances. Cookbooks, history books. I love them all.

I buy books, I borrow books. I check them out of the library. I’ve dug through garbage bins to save them. Whenever I visit another city, I check out local bookstores and buy some book I didn’t know I had to have because I didn’t know it existed. I volunteer with the Friends book sale at our local library and lug home armloads of books.

I love the smell of new books and the crisp feel of a newly printed page beneath my fingers. I love the musty smell of old books and the soft, worn feel of a yellowing page.

I love the shiny dust jackets that make lavish promises. The audacious “New!” or “Latest” emblazoned on a 30-year-old book. I treasure the less presumptuous and tattered cover of the simple 1956 edition of a biography, promising only the life story of its subject.

I love the information inside the covers of books. Fiction or nonfiction, what joy it is to read what others have written. To be able to visit any time and any place while comfortably ensconced in an easy chair surrounded by books.

Books define who I am and how I live. They have gone from living in the multiple bookcases I have bought or had made just for them to showing up as part of the decor. Artfully piled on the coffee table, nestled in baskets in various rooms or stacked in hidden corners like the treasure they are, books are in every room of my house.

And while I know that if I did nothing but read 24/7, I could never read all the books I have before I die, that’s okay because I’m a bookoholic. I’m not into reading them all, I’m also into giving books a good home.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Forgotten Passions by Jan Bowles


Hannah sighed and looked at her watch. Ten more minutes and she could shut up the shop and go home. The afternoon had seemed endless with barely any customers.

Just when would her life be exciting? Since she’d split up with her boyfriend, she hadn’t even wanted to go out. The days seemed to last forever. They dragged on and on, until she finally went to bed. Melancholia had set in with a vengeance.

Her boss and owner of the chic jewellery store came through from the back office.

"You may as well shut, Hannah." He smiled, then looked out onto the street. "Oh, hold on. Now that looks promising. Man in a dark grey suit at two o’clock. Might make keeping open worthwhile."

Hannah stared through the glass doors. The rather tall muscular man had his back to her, as he peered at a display containing the most expensive of their diamond jewellery. He looked wealthy in his Saville Row suit. Tailored to perfection it fit snugly around his broad shoulders. The Crombie overcoat folded over his arm. The perfect shine to his black calf leather shoes. He’d an air about him which simply demanded attention.

Her boss went back to his office, and Hannah waited for the last customer of the day to enter.

When the well-dressed man turned to walk inside, she felt like a rug had literally been pulled out from under her. The world seemed to tilt on its axis, and for a brief moment she felt she may almost faint.

She knew that face. Knew it the moment his vivid blue eyes sought the handle of the door. Knew the sharp angle of his jaw line, and the chiselled sweep of his nose. The black hair cut neatly into the nape of his neck, and yes, the deep timbre of his voice as he finally spoke to her. She’d had a crush on Alex Sinclair since university.

"I’m interested in buying a bracelet."

Within a few moments she realised that he hadn’t recognised her. The man she’d had a crush on for years didn’t know she existed. Why would he? Hadn’t she always sat at the back of class? Kept a low profile? Learnt to melt into the background. No wonder she’d become invisible. The smile that she’d pinned to her face, faltered and slipped, until she stared coolly at him. She’d always thought herself inconspicuous, and now it had been proved right.

Her eyes narrowed on the man on the other side of the counter. She fixed him in her gaze. He might be handsome, but her faltering love life had made her immune to all men now.

"Yes, of course," she heard herself say. Better to serve him quickly. Then he would be gone.

She pulled out several trays of bracelets and displayed them on the counter.

He studied them for a while, before looking directly at her. His eyes widened slightly, as his gaze connected with hers. His brows drew together. Then he said, "What would you suggest?"

Hannah felt uneasy, as he continued to stare. Had it finally dawned on him? No, he remained totally oblivious to her. Wishing the floor would swallow her up whole, she diverted his attention back to the jewellery.

"May I make a suggestion, sir." She pointed to three bracelets in quick succession, in descending order of price. "Love, affection and friendship."

His face creased into a smile. "How very poetic." He flicked his eyes to hers. His brows drew together again, and he scratched the back of his head. "I feel I know you." He tapped a finger into the air, then clasped his hand to his chin. "It’ll come to me in a minute. I feel sure. "

"Sir, I can assure you we’ve never met before," Hannah replied defensively. Her heart now hammered in her chest.

His vivid blue eyes narrowed on her. His mouth opened as if he might say something else. Then he seemed to accept what she said, and continued with his purchase.

"The one described as affection seems most appropriate. Will you wrap for me, please?"

"Certainly, Sir." Why were all the good looking men taken? With nimble fingers she made quick work of wrapping the present, and handed him his purchase.

As he walked out the door he gave one last perplexed look over his shoulder, and then he was gone. She sagged against the counter, and breathed in. She felt as though she’d been holding her breath the entire time he’d been in her presence.

Ten minutes later she followed the crowds of commuters down onto the platform at Kings Cross Station on their homeward journey.

"It’s Hannah, isn’t it? Hannah Matthews, I knew it was you." The male voice caught her off guard, and she spun round to see Alex, just a few feet from her.

"I didn’t think you’d remember me, Alex."

"It took me a while to place you. The whole class had a crush on you; of course I remember you."

Although flattered she tried to bring some sanity back. "You must be thinking of someone else."

He grinned, and then said, "Not at all. We all wanted to take you out; we were just too scared to ask. Would you like to have coffee with me, Hannah?"

With her heart rate soaring she looked at the very attractive man standing beside her. Accepting his invitation would be a dream come true. Then she spotted the package he held. Surely he would want to spend the time with the new owner. A young sexy woman no doubt. "Haven’t you got someone to give that to?"

He smiled, and looked at the package. "It’s her birthday tomorrow, and besides my sister can wait. I’m more interested in what you’ve been doing for the last few years."

With a smile spreading across her mouth, Hannah accepted his invitation. She didn’t feel quite so invisible after all. "Thank you, Alex. I’d love to."

About the Author: Jan Bowles is a contemporary romance writer. At present she lives in the UK. When not writing, Jan loves to paint vivid landscapes. Her books, The Return and Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire are both published with Siren-Bookstrand. http://www.janbowles.com

Author Interview - Faith V. Smith


The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome back Faith V. Smith who visited with us last year. You can read her previous interview here.

"First, welcome back to The Long and the Short of It. What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you over the last year?"

"Thank you, it is great to be back here! I love your site, what you do for authors, and all your readers! Well, one of the most exciting things is that I sold two books last year and both have been released! I was thrilled The Wild Rose Press picked up the second book, Dunbar’s Curse in my Bound By Blood, The Legends series, plus a time-travel called Viking, Go Home. This was a writer’s dream come true for me."

Dunbar's Curse is the story of Miles Dunbar, one of Zacke Kensington’s friends from several centuries before. It is the story of his love for one woman and if she will or won’t accept him as a vampire.

"There’s some suspense in this and I’ve been told the ending was good. It’s hard to brag on my own work," she said with a laugh. "Now, the other release is a time travel called Viking, Go Home. It is about Wulgar a Viking who has a bit of a problem keeping his braies up, and a faery princess sends him to the future to learn the difference between love and lust. RT gave it a 4 and equated it to another time travel by Jude Deveraux’s, again, I hate to brag on my own work, so any interested can find the reviewer’s comments on my blog."

Faith's plans include book three of the vampire series and the story of the faery princess also from the time travel. She's also working on several other projects, including a couple of paranormals and a medieval.

Even with staying busy with her writing, Faith still finds time to network. She's just returned from Columbus, Ohio, and the 2010 RT. I asked her to tell us some of her most memorable moments.

"I have been to eight conventions. I think there have been several wonderful memories over the years, one being in 2006 when Lil Gibson and I met for the first time after I reviewed her book Sherem; this was before I was published. Another awesome memory was in 2008 when Carol Stacy announced I could no longer do reviews for RT because I was to be a published author. This year I had a reader recognize my name tag and tell me how much she loved Kensington’s Soul, the first book in my vampire series. This was unbelievable! I loved it!"

The first book Faith wrote was her medieval novel and, even though it's not yet sold, it remains her favorite.

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

"I just couldn’t not write it. The idea stuck and I needed to get it down on paper. Was it any good? Well, I think the plot was but as for the fundamentals of writing I was clueless."

Coming up with titles is sometimes difficult for Faith.

"It seems I have to have a title before I can more too far into the book, but suffice it to say book 3 of the vampire series does not really have a title yet," she told me. "Bummer."

When she's not writing, Faith loves to read.

"I know you’d think with me writing I might want to do something different, but I have so many favorite authors and love to get my hands on their work!" she said. "At the moment, I am reading an Amanda Ashley vampire novel. I just finished one by Angela Knight, Teresa Medeiros, and a couple of more."

The hardest part of writing the books, for Faith, is the ending.

"It means the book is finished except for sending it in and waiting," she explained. "It’s hard to let go of the characters."

"What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?" I wondered.

"Not sure I have one, but I have to be comfortable to write."

Interestingly enough, Faith didn't seriously think about writing as a career until she was older.

"I wanted to be a lot of things from the time I was 14 on," she told me. "At first I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. Wouldn’t have worked out, I’m scared of heights. I wanted to be a singer and that did happen. I had my own Southern Gospel group for 10 years and loved singing about the Lord."

"When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?" I asked.

She laughed. "I’m not sure I looked. Seriously, I still see the girl I was combined with the woman I am. That probably makes no sense, but I just see me."

Faith told me she didn't want to know anything about the future.

"It's scary enough without having a time line of what will happen," she said.

However if she could wish for anything?

"A lot of things, I think mostly for me to know that when God calls us home, I’ll make it into Heaven," she shared.
You can keep up with Faith on her blog, http://faithvsmith.blogspot.com,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Judith Rochelle

I’ve given you a taste of some of the other books in my Phoenix Agency series, but the one that I had the most fun researching is the latest one, Freeze Frame. My heroine, Kat Culhane, is a remote viewer, someone who is able to see things at a remote location. I was fascinated to discover the government had been using this method for years as a means of collecting additional intelligence information under a program called Stargate. Reading the declassified manual and talking to some of the people who have written about this psychic ability and who have it themselves gave me a whole new insight into the special gifts many people have. Here’s a little taste of the book for you. I hope it will draw you into the worlds of psychic talent.

Blurb:

Katherine “Kat” Culhane was a highly sought after remote viewer, but her gift was beginning to splinter, and just at a time when she needed it the most. Her sister Mari, along with Mari’s employer and his family, have been kidnapped. But Mike D’Antoni, a partner in the shadowy Phoenix Agency, is suddenly back in her life and could be the only person to help find the hostages. The chemistry between them is just as hot as it ever was, but they parted on very bad terms. Can they put the past behind them as they race to find and rescue the hostages? And what will happen when it’s time to say goodbye again?


Excerpt:

Kat went through the routine again. Hot tea. Meditation. Focus on the map on the computer.

This time the picture emerged a little more sharply and she could see the picture was a restaurant. On the water. People stood under the canopy but unlike the surroundings, they were too blurred to distinguish. A flash of black swept across her vision. A truck. No, a van.

The image stabilized, frozen across the plane of her vision. The Wright family, Mari, some strange men.

Then they were gone. Erased as if by a swipe of a cloth.

The first thing she felt was exhaustion from the effort. The second was the sense of a terrible evil. Something was very, very wrong.

Trying to control her panic, she grabbed her cell phone, checked once more to see if Mari had called, then dialed the number of her sister’s cell.

Still no answer.

She threw the phone onto the couch and flopped down next to it. What should she do? This was well past the time it should have taken them to arrive, get to the house where they were staying and settle in. What had happened in San Diego? Had they never even arrived in Hawaii?

She needed help from someone who could get answers for her. Mike D’Antoni’s name snapped into her brain at once. He had more resources than anyone she knew and could cut more corners. He was picking her up for breakfast but she couldn’t wait that long.

The clock in the kitchen read six forty-five. Too early to call?

The hell with it. She needed to talk to someone now.

Fishing the card he gave her out of her purse, she took a deep breath and punched in the cell numbers.

He answered after only two rings. “D’Antoni.”

“You don’t even sound like you were asleep,” she commented.

“Kat?”

“Yup. It’s me.” She swallowed hard, dredging up her courage. She knew she was really about to impose on him. On their relationship, which at the moment had no clear definition. “Sorry to call you so early but—”

“No, no. It’s all right. Fine. What do you need?”

Just like that. No questions. She took another long breath.

“I wouldn’t call you if I knew what else to do—”

“Kat,” he interrupted. “It’s all right. Just tell me what you need.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Judith Rochelle

What is romance?

We read romance. We write romance. People say they love romance. But what IS romance> What is it really?

Is it a room filled with flickering, candles whose scent fills the air with a tantalizing aroma? Is it soft music in the background, win chilling in the cooler, Godiva chocolates open on the bedside table? Is it a night at a fabulous resort overlooking the water with the man of your dreams?

Romance is all this and more. In the books we read and write we incorporate all of these things to create an atmosphere, an ambience, for seduction, for sensuality, for the emergence of love? Silky negligees – or no negligee!! – and flower petals strewn across the bed –hopefully with the thorns removed! It’s all of these – a ride in a horse drawn carriage. A sail into the wind with the sun kissing your skin and strong arms holding you.

But romance is a lot more. Here he is, your wonderful (boy friend, fiancé, husband, partner-pick one) and you wonder if the romance is still in your life. Well, honey, if he does the little things you can bet it does.

What little things you say? How about a foot rub when you’ve walked ten miles at an event for your kids? Or your boss/customer gave you the biggest migraine and your honey runs a hot bath for you, draws a hot tub, and when you’re in bed massages your temples and rubs your neck. Or he makes that trip to the grocery store in the pouring rain for the necessities you suddenly ran out of, and comes back with flowers and a candy bar for along with them. It’s holding your head when you’re sick and your hand when you’re scared.

It’s sitting out under the stars in your own back yard, cuddled together and knowing that the safest place in the world to be is with the person next to you. It’s holidays and special days, smiles in the morning when you hate to get up and at night when the day has just sucked.

And most of all, it’s knowing that at the end of the day, no matter how bad things have been, there’s one person who wraps his arms around you, kisses you with the same passion you had in the frantic early days, and tells you “I love you.” And means it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Judith Rochelle

Life gives you chocolate and you make a whipped dessert out of it

I look at the places my life has taken me and hope that I was smart enough to enjoy them all while I was there. I had great experiences working as a reporter for weekly newspapers, covering everything from local political meetings, to the trial of a man who shot his wife because she wrecked his car. I once did a tour of thirty stores in one day interviewing Santa Claus. It’s a good thing I didn’t wreck my car! I’ve things both sane and insane, like promoting the opening of a shopping center by sending people up in hot air balloons and stopping traffic for four miles in every directions.

But I think the real richness of my life, besides the hunk I live with, came from my years managing rock bands.

Rock musicians are a breed unto themselves. The music is their life, and one of their first goals is to be able to move their practice sessions from someone’s garage to a real practice studio. Sometimes they’re lucky and they get to practice far enough out of civilization that only the cows and horses can comment. Other times the poor manager gets to field phone calls from neighbors and—if you’re not lucky, the police—about that “awful sounding stuff”. But wherever they practice, it’s all about the music.

The sound.

Their sound.

It’s about fitting a thousand pounds of equipment onto a stage made for fifty. It’s about writing that one song that will click with the audience, bringing instant stardom, unlimited supplies of Jack Daniels and, when no one’s looking, easy access to “that stuff that makes you feel good.” It’s about chasing around Nashville and rubbing elbows with country rock legends because you’ve got a singer that knocks everyone’s socks off, as long as you can keep him sober.

I used to wonder why my bands needed booze or drugs to get high, because to me, being on that stage, bathed in hot lights, with an audience screaming for more, ought to be enough high in itself. I sat on enough amps back stage listening to an audience go wild over one of my bands to get high on it myself, and I wasn’t even playing.

Rock musicians, in many ways, are also like children. Again, it’s all about the music. And whatever it takes to make it work. I once had a band walk off a job as an opening act for a well-known recorded act because of the way their road manager wanted to set the equipment on the stage. It was in a concert club in a college town with three thousand kids waiting to get in to see them.

But they were a hometown band, and three months later they saved the club owner’s butt when an act bombed and they agreed to fill in at the last minute. The same three thousand kids came back to see them and the club owner paid a very satisfactory price.

Sometimes you’re their accountant, sometimes, their mother, sometimes a little bit of everything. You get them to the gig on time and tell them no, they can’t meet someone under a tree to buy a baggie of grass. You make sure no one is pouring too much liquor down their throats and you chase away the half-naked groupies.

Because, again, it’s all about the music. If you want to succeed in an industry far more cutthroat than publishing ever thought of being.

And the music is great. It’s good. It’s terrific. The success of a good song can give you the same high as really good sex. The success of your client can take you to orgasmic levels. And despite all the pitfalls, there’s nothing like being at the top, even if the bottom is always just a misstep away.

People have often asked me why I haven’t used all my years in the music business as background for any of my books. Well, I’m finally getting to it. One of my Desiree Holt novellas, "Having It All", will be in the March Ellora’s Cavemen anthology, Flavors of Seduction 1. And later this year I’ll be finishing a wild story about the rise, fall and redemption of a talented musician who manages salvation because the right woman falls in love with him.

Stay tuned!

Come visit me at

www.judithrochelle.com

www.desireeholt.com

and my latest appearance

http://www.bookswelove.net/holt.html

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Judith Rochelle

Do you have visions?

Mia Fleming does and she wishes she hadn’t been born with what some call a gift and she considers a curse. This week The Lotus Circle will release Visions of Darkness, the second in my Phoenix Agency books and the follow up to Always On My Mind. We meet Phoenix’s powerful CEO and Mia Fleming, who finds herself battling her psychic powers.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the visions always came to her in a timely fashion. Or if they were clear and easy to interpret. But too many times she’s carried messages that were wrong or came to late to help anyone. It raised a high level of skepticism with the police and others, and a burning frustration within herself.

She tries to focus on her position as an art historian for a museum, a job that requires a great deal of concentration and research and one she hopes will provide an effective block to her precognition. But after a long period of freedom from the visions, she is suddenly bombarded by them and they might as well be written in code for as much as she understands.

She’s smart enough, however, when she can’t push them away, to ask a friend to help her identify what she’s seeing and that leads her to send anonymous messages to Carpenter Electronics, warning them that their very secret new high tech project is about to be stolen. Dan Romeo, CEO of the low profile but powerful Phoenix Agency is called in by Chase Carpenter to find the sources of the warnings, and the trail leads him to Mia.

The electricity generated at their first meeting is enough to light of downtown San Antonio, but Mia shies away from personal involvements and Dan definitely has a rule about involvements in a case. But as Mia’s visions increase in violence and intensity and her life is threatened, as they work together to find the person planning the theft and the ones who have already killed three people, there’s no way they can deny what’s evolved between them.

Here’s a little taste of the book for you.
~~~

No. I’m tired. That’s all that’s wrong.

Mia Fleming put aside the art book lying open on her desk, closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She’d just been staring at the photo of the Da Vinci painting too long, that was all. As art historian and assistant curator at the DeWitt Museum, she was immersed in research for the private collection due to arrive at the museum next month. Part of her job was to gather information for the brochures that were printed and the press kits they distributed. And as usual, she’d been overdoing it.

Shoving her long brown hair, the color of rich chocolate, back behind her ears, she pulled the book forward and began to study the page again. And there it was. Just as before. Shimmering in the center of the photo of the Da Vinci painting. An ugly rock that looked like a misshapen lump of clay, bumping along, wobbling back and forth, with a pair of hands reaching for it. Then nothing except the original picture, undisturbed.

God, not again. Please, please, please. Choose someone else, okay?

Why did she have to be the one these things happened to? Why did she have to have what her grandmother called a “special gift”? More like a curse than a blessing, she often said.

But she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the book. The image on the page kept shifting, first the photo of the painting, now that stupid little rock with its jerky movements. Finally, the shadow hands reaching for it. Like a broken record, the vision continued to repeat itself over and over again, taunting her to find its hidden meaning.

Mia slammed the book shut and shoved it away from herself. It was just like always. How on earth was she supposed to figure out what the vision meant? A rock was a rock, right?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Judith Rochelle

Digging Into the World of Paranormality

When I sat down to write my first book I had nothing in mind except to try and combine a good love story and a good mystery. And hope that I could do it well enough that someone would buy it. Well, folks, four years later no one has, but my “area of operation’, fueled by my natural curiosity (some might say my essential nosiness) has grown and widened., and with it the sales of my books.

If someone had told me those four years ago I’d be delving into psychic experiences, people with psychic abilities—dogs with psychic abilities—I’d have sent them for counseling. Yet here I am, not only fascinated by it but immersed in it.

The word psychic refers to extra sensory perception and forces of a paranormal nature, as well as to a person who has extra sensory perception or paranormal powers. My Phoenix Agency books deal with former military men who have formed a security agency that contracts for both the government and private corporations. In each of the books, the heroine has special psychic powers.

In Always On My Mind, Faith Wilding is a telepath who becomes the only link to the outside world for her friend and lover, Mark Halloran, who is a prisoner in the Peruvian jungle. She receives fragments of his cries for help because a stronger telepath is working to block them.

In Visions of Darkness, Mia Fleming is precognitive. Visions come to her in flashes and pieces and aren’t always that easy to interpret. She’s frustrated by the strangeness of them and fears the dark messages they are sending. But with the help of other precogs she helps Phoenix CEO Dan Romeo find a missing high tech robot and solve three murders. In Scent of Danger which is still a work in progress, there is a dog with Psi abilities who communicates with his owner.

So I guess I’ve managed to combine my love of romance and mystery with my new obsession, the paranormal.

Here’s a little blurb of each of the first two books, released by The Lotus Circle (www.thelotuscircle.com).

Always On My Mind


As teenagers Faith Wilding and Mark Halloran discovered they could communicate telepathically. For most of their lives it’s been their private way to send messages, especially when a long weekend brought home the realization that their friendship had become something far more complex. But Faith is busy building a career as a successful author of political thrillers and Mark, a Special Operations team leader, is concerned with the covert missions he leads.

Now someone has betrayed their latest mission, most of his team has been killed and Mark has been captured. His telepathic messages to Faith are his only chance for help. But powerful forces want to sweep the whole episode under the rug and will do anything to make that happen—including killing Faith.

Visions of Darkness


Dan Romeo CEO of the mysterious Phoenix Agency, has just completed a dangerous mission and wants some down time. But when his friend Chase Carpenters calls with an emergency, how can he refuse him? Someone is threatening to steal Chase’s brand new high tech robot about to be unveiled and all he’s got is an anonymous tip. Art historian Mia Fleming has battled with her precognitive abilities all her life, often shunned by a skeptical public and even more skeptical police. But the visions relating to the robot are so vivid she can’t ignore them. When Dan tracks her down as the source of the anonymous note, he wonders if she’s the culprit or a conduit for a message? Things get complicated when the electricity between Dan and Mia ratchets up into high voltage and they find it’s not something they can ignore. Then bodies begin falling, Mia’s vision escalate in horror and intensity and the tension at Carpenter Techtronics is off the charts. When Mia is shot and almost killed, Dan and his team race to locate the real robot and find the killers before they can strike again.


How do you feel about the paranormal? Leave me a comment. I’d lopve to hear from you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Love Hesitates by Melanie Avila


Laura bit her lip. Say something! She wanted to wipe her hands on her jeans but Jason was still holding them, looking at her with such adoration that she was afraid to move. He pressed his forehead against hers. What if she said the wrong thing? Tilting his head to one side, he slowly rubbed his cheek along her jaw line.

Her heart stuttered, and not in the way she always imagined it would. What the hell was wrong with her? Why was she feeling so… uncertain? This was what she wanted, what she dreamed about, what they talked about, and now that the moment was here her words vanished and her body urged her to flee.

Jason released one of her hands and swept her hair behind her ear, then brushed his lips down the length of her throat.

A sigh escaped her, but still no words. Her thoughts chugged around inside her head, stumbling over themselves—Yes! No! Yes! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?—but it was as if someone had poured fresh concrete into her brain and it was solidifying before she could speak.

She thought this was what she wanted, yet how could she be sure? Her throat ached, struggling against the pressure of the words she knew she couldn't say. He deserves an answer. She pulled back and tried to lose herself in the emotion his warm eyes brought bubbling to the surface.

It felt like hours, weeks, months had passed since he asked her to marry him, but her heart had only beat a handful of times.

She parted her lips. Say it! "Jason, I…"

The corner of his mouth lifted into that smile she couldn't resist and her heart flipped back into rhythm.

Laura lowered her eyes, embarrassed by her hesitation. The answer was there all along.


About the Author: Melanie Avila is a freelance writer and graphic designer who recently moved back to Michigan after living in Mexico for three years. A graduate from James Madison University, she worked in Chicago for ten years and is an art director in western Michigan. She writes novels and short stories. You can learn more about Melanie at her blog Hoosblog, or read about her adventures in Mexico at What Am I Doing in Mexico? Oh, and her dog has a blog too.

Author Interview: Wendi Zwaduk


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Wendi Zwaduk and join her in celebrating the release of her debut novel Right Where I Need to Be. Wendi started writing the stories in her head about five years ago when she moved and left her teaching job. She usually has two or three stories going at one time, along with another one or two in her head.

Generally, she comes up with her hero first—what he looks like and his attitude; she then builds a heroine to give him a run for his money.

"Once I have those two characters in place, I work out the plot," she told me. "I'm a combination pantser/plotter. I write out what the plot will be, but it's always up to the characters to decide if that's the way they want to go. I have been known to let them deviate."

She had a story in mind about a cop and a stripper, but that one got bogged down in the details, so she wrote Right Where I Need to Be-- pairing opposite: a writer and an actor: she's country and he's city all the way.

"I wanted to play with the differences as see how they’d deal with each other, especially if the attraction is something they can’t fight," she said. "I sent what I thought was the polished and fabulous manuscript to a critique partner because I needed something to swap. Imagine my grief and ego crush when she suggested I should start all over again. But I did as she suggested and worked like a dog to get it going. I saw the things she pointed out and knew they needed addressed. When I submitted it, I was scared to death. I’m glad I went through the process and would do it again in a heartbeat."

There's a short race scene in Right Where I Need to Be and, in order to better describe the setting and immerse herself in the characters' world, Wendi spent quite a few Friday nights at the local dirt tracks observing the drivers and crews.

Another thing she does is take a notebook with her everywhere she goes in case she gets an idea for a story or figure out a section of another story that has her stumped.

"I once spent the better part of a dirt race jotting notes n a story idea instead of watching the action," she said. "Oops!"

If she gets really stumped on a story, she will chat with her critique partners or friends.

"I run the sticky part by them and we may brainstorm a way to fix it, or I may settle down with a good book I want to read and try to get inspired to keep going. If the story is good, then it will inspire you," she assured me.

Wendi likes to pull her titles from her actual manuscript—something the characters say that is pivotal.

"I want to reflect the general feel of the story in the title," she explained. "I also use song titles to inspire my titles because everyone has that one or two songs that inspire their lives and loves. Sometimes the best way to say what you mean is in a song (or a novel)."

Wendi's an artist by training, so when she's not writing she loves to create oil crayon drawings of animals and people. She also enjoys creating country crafts such as holiday ornaments and themed photo frames.

In addition to Right Where I Need to Be, Wendi told me she has four novel-length, racing-inspired manuscripts collecting dust, as well as two short stories published by The Long and the Short of It: Whipped Cream.

In speaking of the novels, Wendi said, "I know what I need to change; it's just a matter of changing them."

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

"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a history teacher. I loved getting lost in a good book and learning new things about a subject I didn’t understand. I loved learning about the Civil War and the 1960’s. As I went through school, I realized my skill in art and decided that would make the most reliable career choice. But reliable isn’t the same as making one happy. Art for me is a side job, but writing is my passion."

On a personal note, a saying Wendi uses a lot is "No worries."

When something gets me frustrated, I use that statement or when people get frustrated and I want to calm them down. I use it a lot also around the house because with four pets, a DH, and a DS, well, accidents happen," she explained." So, no worries."

Her favorite pizza? "My favorite pizza is one with mushrooms, onions, and green peppers. Oh and it better have lots of cheese. I love cheese."

Morning or night person? "Night person. I hate getting up in the morning. My mood in the morning resembles that of Garfield the cat on any given morning. I tend to think better under the gun and when I can use the entire night to work. If I have to get up early to make an appointment or in order to get things done, well, it might as well not get done."
You can keep up with Wendi on her blog, http://wendizwaduk.blogspot.com.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Allie Boniface

Yes, I do love being a teacher. It’s rewarding in so many ways. While some people might think I’m crazy for teaching teens, I’ve always found my niche with that group. Little kids aren’t for me. But adolescents? Even though I wasn’t crazy about high school myself, I was drawn to teaching it. And after twelve years, I’ve never looked back.

In fact, over this past year, I’ve discovered something else to love about it: my students have inspired me to tackle a Young Adult novel as my next writing project. Yes, that’s right: I’m taking a break from writing romance and instead in the middle of revising a book that features a 16-year old psychic as my heroine. There’s still a love story as a subplot, but the central focus is on the way she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and the challenge of being thrust into a leadership role while trying to hide her psychic ability at the same time.

I’ve loved writing the first draft, mostly because it came so easily – all I had to do was listen to my students! Every day I come home with a new idea, a new attitude, a new popular saying or trend. I realized a few months ago that I had a rich, rich resource right in front of me, five days a week (not to mention a possible built-in readership, as one author friend pointed out). Plus, as I mentioned yesterday, the students are very honest about what they do and don’t like in YA books. Hearing them talk about certain characters and why they relate to them, or certain conflict and why it is/isn’t believable, is invaluable for me.

Yes, YA fiction is hugely popular right now. Yes, other authors have made the switch over to YA from adult fiction. And while I’ll admit that it’s not a bad idea to strike the market while it’s hot, I also like the challenge of trying something different and something I feel confident about. So maybe next year at this time, you’ll see me back here in the spotlight, though over in the Aurora section of LASR, with my brand new YA novel! (A girl can always dream, right?)

Thanks so much for being here with me this week, and thanks to the lovely ladies at The Long and the Short of It for hosting me. Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief insight to my world. Please visit me at www.allieboniface.com or keep up with my daily adventures at my blog, www.allieboniface.blogspot.com. Happy Friday, and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Allie Boniface

I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus these days, since my day job takes precedence for ten months of the year. That’s right, I’m a schoolteacher – a high school English and Education teacher, to be specific. I don’t work in a typical public high school, though. I have the awesome opportunity to work in a specialized career & technical education center where I chair a program specifically designed for high-achieving high school seniors. They spend one-half of every day of their senior year with us, taking community college courses and exploring one of four specific career areas (medicine, engineering, education, or law/government). As a result, they have a chance to find out what a career is really like before they ever leave high school.

I love it – I work with really smart, really motivated, well-behaved kids. Best of all, I’ve built into my curriculum a monthly reading assignment, where each student chooses a book to read and then at the end of the month, we sit down and talk about them all. I love watching my students discover new books and new authors. I love hearing them talk about what they do and don’t like about a story – and yes, you better believe this helps my own writing! This year, they’ve discovered authors like John Green and Sarah Dessen, along with Phillipa Gregory, Jerry Spinelli, and Dean Koontz. They share recommendations with each other almost daily, and I have a lending library in my room that’s constantly in use.

Interestingly enough, they’ll rave about books that received lukewarm reviews, and they’ll tear apart award-winning stories. They’ll disagree with each other. They’ll talk with insight about what conflict works and what doesn’t – and most important, that a little bit of romance makes almost every story better. The old saying is true – “To teach is to learn twice.” As I teach, I learn from them too. Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about this. See you then!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Allie Boniface

What’s new in the world of writing and publishing? Well, ebooks have certainly taken the world by storm the last few years (the Christmas 2009 season saw Amazon’s ebook sales trump their print sales for the first time ever). Today’s youth do almost everything on a small screen: learn, talk, text, etc. So it’s not a leap of imagination to think that ebooks won’t keep gaining popularity as time goes by. Audio books aren’t nearly as new, of course. Books on tape, books on CD – they’ve been around a lot longer. I have many friends and family who visit their local library before a long car trip, just so they’ll have a few stories to listen to as the miles pass.

Audio books aren’t only good for when you’re traveling, though. While they’re the perfect solution for those who can’t read due to physical limitations, they’re also becoming popular for those on the go – and I’m not talking just commuters. Busy people can now download a book (or two or ten!) onto their iPods and plug in, listening while they shop, clean, do yardwork, etc. It’s perfect! I even have a friend whose husband talks to her nonstop if she’s trying to read – but if she’s listening to her iPod, he takes the cue and leaves her alone. She confessed that’s the only way she’ll ever be able to get through my books!

That’s where the good news comes in: as of right now, two of my previously-released contemporary romance novels are newly available in audio format. Lost in Paradise (a 2007 release with The Wild Rose Press) and One Night in Memphis (a 2008 release with Samhain), are both currently for sale at Audio Lark. If you haven’t read either book yet, or have thought about trying an audio book, this might be the perfect time for you. Click here for a sample “listen” to Lost in Paradise!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Allie Boniface

So yesterday I talked a little bit about why I write “twenty-four hour” romance. Today I’ll let you in on the secret of how I choose the settings for my books. My first One Night book was set in Boston. It’s one of my favorite cities, I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I felt familiar enough with its layout and culture that I thought I could write a book about it. The second One Night book was set in Memphis – what a terrific city! I chose Memphis because I loved the vibe, the music, and the whole experience of being on Beale Street in early summer after the sun goes down. In fact, the premise for that book developed from an actual night I spent there with my best friend, the summer after college. (I did spice up the adventure a little bit…not everything that happens in the book actually happened in real life – though it’s fun for readers to figure out which is which!)

I thought a lot about where I wanted to locate my third One Night book. I had an idea for the plot, but I took into consideration two things: the setting had to be a place I’d visited and enjoyed, so I could make the details as authentic as possible; and it had to be in a different part of the country. I didn’t want to focus just on the eastern half of the country, or on major cities with large populations. (Yes, this is a little bit of marketing influencing my decision!)

After that, it didn’t take too much of a leap to come up with Napa Valley, California. My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon there, which meant it already had romantic memories for me. It’s also an absolutely gorgeous area, with its many vineyards, rolling hills and remote, rural feeling. My hero, Grant Walker, is an amateur photographer, and early in the book, he stops to take a series of shots of the Napa Valley landscape. I loved recreating those details for readers! Since part of One Night in Napa also revolves around the fact that the heroine and her mother have ties to Hollywood, it worked out well to have the story located in California – far enough from the crazy lifestyle of L.A., but still within its influence.

So…where will the next One Night book take place? Right now it’s a toss-up between Savannah (such a beautiful city in the Deep South!) and Cleveland (yes, yes, I know – not as sexy-sounding, but a vibrant city I lived in for 4 years, which means I know it like the back of my hand). We’ll see – stay tuned!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Allie Boniface

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m happy to be here this whole week, talking about my latest release and what’s coming up in my writing world. First, One Night in Napa has just released in print from Samhain Publishing. It received a 5 Book review and the Best Book of the Week right here at The Long and the Short of It, back in September 2009. Now it’s hit the shelves, and I couldn’t be happier! This is actually my third One Night book, and if you haven’t read the others, what makes them a little different from most other contemporary romances is that they take place over a single day and night, with each chapter covering an hour (yes, sort of like the TV show 24).

Why twenty-four hours? Well, I first came up with the idea about five years ago, during an early morning run. I love reading about two people falling in love and the way their relationship evolves over time – I think most romance readers do! But I’ve also always been fascinated by the possibility of how two people can meet and change each other's lives in a matter of moments. Yes, I do believe you can be instantly “struck” by someone. Yes, I do believe you can feel a connection to another person after just a few hours of conversation. Yes, I do think some people will walk into your life and stay there forever, and you know that soon after you meet them.

Those are the ideas I wanted to explore in my One Night books. They’re considered “sweet” on the heat level, which means my characters aren’t jumping into bed for explicitly described one-night stands, but One Night in Napa does get pretty steamy in places. Hey, when your hero and heroine are locked up together inside a mansion when the power goes out, what do you expect?

But One Night in Napa isn’t just about a journalist who’s trying to take advantage of a breaking story, or the woman who’s trying to protect her family secret and stop him at all costs. It’s also about how far we’ll go to please our parents – how much the family name matters when lives are on the line – and how two people can actually have much more in common than they first realize. Here’s the official blurb for the book – please join me back here tomorrow, when I talk about why I chose Napa Valley and where the next One Night book will take place!

Journalist Grant Walker has one chance to salvage his job and his relationship with his domineering father. Terrorists have kidnapped a fading film star’s son, and Grant has scored the first interview with the grieving mother. Even better, a new twist has just arrived on the scene—an illegitimate granddaughter who hasn’t been heard from in seven long years.

It’s the story of a lifetime, and all Grant has to do is deliver.

After discovering a terrible secret about her birth, Kira March left home vowing never to return. With her father kidnapped and her grandmother cracking under media pressure, it’s up to her to find and destroy all evidence of that secret. Trouble is, a reporter has weaseled his way into the house looking for answers—and he isn’t leaving until he gets them.

Yet as the hours pass, Kira finds herself falling for the very man who could destroy her. And when Grant comforts her in the wake of a midnight tragedy, he remembers why it’s a bad idea to get emotionally involved with an interview subject. Especially when the family name is on the line.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Connection by Lynne King


Standing on the crowded platform, Sally glanced around at her fellow travellers. All she saw were unfamiliar faces - their impatient glares centred on down the track and then back up at the digital clock as another minute ticked by. The seven twenty-five to London was a minute late and feet started inching forward - preparing for the great onslaught when the train finally pulled in.

The announcement came over the public address system as a rumble sounded in the distance. Silent relief flooded those faces followed by more jostling of feet. One last scan and Sally felt her heart skip a beat with the sight of the tall ebony-haired figure. Dashing through the ticket barrier he was up and onto the train before she was and several carriages down. By the time Sally was onboard, every seat was taken and it was back to standing in the corridor for the hour-long journey. Determined to be at least near the man of her dreams, she walked down the aisle of the connecting carriages.

“Here have my seat, seeing I don’t think you’ll be lucky in the next carriage either.”

Normally such a bizarre statement would have had her stopping in her tracks and asking the man to repeat himself, in case she was hearing imaginary voices. No one offers their seat on a commuter train, not even if she was nine months pregnant, or in her nineties or both. Without looking at the Good Samaritan, she shook her head in response and opened the connecting doors to the next carriage. She spotted him straight away despite the newspaper partly obscuring his handsome features. He never seemed to recognise her though, despite working in the same building.

Michael held the newspaper up as if to read but his concentration wasn’t there. All he could think about was her, the way she walked, the rich auburn colouring of her hair and the delicate upturned nose. She wasn’t wildly beautiful and he was no girl shy teenager and yet he felt like he was having a school boy crush. Every morning he looks out for her with the promise that this time he would pluck up the courage and talk to her. Then this morning, it actually happens and he bottles out from carrying it further.

The train pulled into the London station and Michael was up out of his seat and joining the mass of impatient anxious faces. Bodies began pushing forward and converging on the platform like a swarm of locusts. Normally he would remain seated until it was safe to walk up the platform at a leisurely stroll and not feel as if he was being carried along. He guessed being his own boss had its advantages.

There she was, several paces ahead. Her auburn head bobbed and weaved as if she was looking out for an opening and about to make a run for it. He had to quicken his pace to keep up with her. He carried on following her steps and even managed to purchase a ticket in time to jump on the same tube. Not once did she glance behind her so that their eyes could at least meet and a connection made. Sidling up to her on the sardine packed carriage wasn’t the answer. Being a stalker was bad enough but a creepy pervert accosting women on the tube was going a little too far. No, once again he had failed in his mission. He carried on behind her keeping his distance and stood on the opposite street corner as she walked into an office complex.

That evening, Sally spotted an empty seat next to him. Nearly knocking over a fellow commuter in her haste, she beat him to the seat - a sweet innocent smile met the frown of her competitor as he moved away. Desperation took hold on how exactly to begin a conversation. After ten minutes of racking her brain for something to say and drowning in the scent of his aftershave, she fell asleep only to be woken by a sharp jab in the rib cage. Startled, her eyes shot open to find one side of her jawbone firmly cushioned by the padding of a jacket. Bolting upright she immediately rushed out with an apology. He responded by looking at her as if she was something he had just picked off from his highly polished black leather shoe. Shrinking further back into the seat, Sally wondered whether she had more than simply slept on his shoulder; dribbling came to mind and with it the wish for a shovel to bury herself with.

Stepping off the train they were like a stampede of ants all heading for the ticket barrier, Sally amongst them, that was until she tripped over a discarded coke tin and went flying. Her humiliation and disillusionment was complete when scrambling to retrieve her handbag, she caught sight of those polished black leather shoes step straight over her outstretched hand and march away.

“Here let me give you a hand.” Before she could argue, a firm grip hauled her up to her feet.

She found herself staring back into warm friendly blue eyes, the voice strangely familiar. Then she remembered; he had offered up his seat and she hadn’t even looked at him. If she had she would have liked what she saw.

“Are you okay?” He still held her arm.

“Yes, fine thank you; pride's a little bruised but I think it will recover.”

“I’m Michael by the way.”

“Hi, I’m Sally.”

“Well, Sally. How about we go across the road and buy you a drink to help with the shock.”

“That sounds like a good idea, I do feel a little shaky.” Sally felt it had nothing to do with her fall though and more to do with the fluttering her heart was undergoing. It was his smile what did it. There was no need for her fantasy man anymore; this one was real.

About the Author: My short stories have been published in quite a few popular UK magazines and I have a romantic suspense novel out at the moment, entitled, To Deceive Is To Love, published by The Wild Rose Press and given a great review by The Long and the Short of it. Find out more at www.MySpace.com/LynneKingAuthor