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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cracks in My Heart by Angela Adams


The red and gold leaves, blazing bright, swayed in the afternoon autumn breeze. Children romped in the tailored green grass. Patrons sat on wooden park benches, eating lunch, reading, or simply enjoying the sun’s rays.

Seeing the oak tree, its thick branches hanging over the iron fence onto the busy sidewalk, I managed a smile despite the usual tears blurring my eyes. Jeff and I had always sat on the bench beneath this particular old tree.

A low sigh escaped my lips as I slid onto the firm bench. My thoughts wandered, and it was two years ago. I felt Jeff sitting beside me, our thighs pressed together. He held my right hand, our fingers laced.

"I’m sorry," he uttered. "Our relationship has to end. I can’t go fight a war and leave you here, alone. Waiting. You deserve better."

We had only been dating two months when his notice arrived from the military.

"But I want to wait," I told him.

He shook his head. "No," he said, his tone adamant. "It’s not fair to you. You ought to have a life. There’s a guy out there who deserves a great woman like you. Promise me you’ll move on. Forget about me."

Forget him, he said. How could I forget a man so kind and honest? The man who made my heart race, my pulse rush, and my cheeks ache from grinning? Who made sitting in the park watching children play, tossing peanuts to squirrels, and hearing birds whistle a memorable experience? Forget him was like asking me to forget to breathe.

I had learned how steadfast he could be when he had a conviction in his head. He couldn’t concentrate on the hardship of a battle zone, defending his country while thinking of me at home, yearning, and waiting for letters that he perhaps would have no time to write.

And what if he didn’t come home? At all? Or arrived in a box with a flag draped over it? Or came back with a part of his body missing? Or his mind not fully functional?

Those factors were sometimes the heartrending outcome of war.

We had yet to say the words, and I wouldn’t pressure him with them now. Despite the short time the calendar said we’d been together, we loved each other.

Jeff believed you didn’t burden people you love.

I believed that when you love someone, pain was sometimes part of the deal.

"All right," I said, slipping my hand from his. Even as I felt the cracks in my heart, I wished him well. With tears stinging my eyes that day, I watched him walk away.

Much has changed in those two years since Jeff and I sat under this oak tree together. The war has ended. Some soldiers were coming home, adjusting to a life that would never be the same as before they had left. Others would never return. For those soldiers, it was their families who would be forced to make the adjustment.

I finished college and am teaching sixth grade. Some day this war will be in the history book I’ll teach from. I wonder how our side will be chronicled, and how I’ll feel every time I present the lesson, knowing that I had lived through history and what it had taken from me.

What hadn’t changed, what remained over time, were those cracks in my heart. They hadn’t healed. Tears streamed down my cheeks.

"Susan?" a male voice called.

My breath stopped. Jeff’s voice? Or was it my imagination? I began trembling. I was afraid to turn, fearing he wouldn’t be there. That his voice was all in my head and only a fantasy.

"Susan!"

My heard swirled toward the park’s front gate. His dark hair was cropped. He had dropped some weight, his jeans baggy, his chest lost in the khaki green T-shirt he wore. But the slow, leisurely smile that made me tingle inside hadn’t disappeared.

"Jeff!" I cried, swiping at my tear-stained cheeks with the back of a hand.

I jumped up from the bench. We ran toward each other, he with arms held wide open. I couldn’t help myself and threw myself against him. His arms wrapped around my waist, pulling me close and holding me tight. Jeff was gentle, yet strong, and everything I had dreamed of all these months. Only now he wasn’t a dream. He was real.

"You‘re home," I whispered.

"A week," he said. "I’ve been coming here every day looking for you." He eased back and looked at me. "I missed you so much." His eyes held mine and he blurted out the words. "Are you seeing anybody?"

I was stunned by the question, but couldn’t help the smile as I shook my head. "I’ve thought of you every day while you were gone. Sometimes, like today, I’d just come here and think of us being together."

With the back of his hand, he rubbed my cheek "I love you, Susan. I have since the day we met."

"If you love me, why didn’t you want me to wait?" I asked.

"Because by not asking, I had hope. That’s what kept me going," he said. "If I had asked you to wait, there was always the chance you’d get tired. I’d get the letter saying you had found someone else and we were finished. By not expecting you to wait, I always had the anticipation that you would be here when I got back."

"There’ll never be anyone else for me. You’re the one I love," I whispered.

When my arms slid around his neck, he pulled me closer and kissed me. His mouth was warm and soft. As he deepened the kiss, I got lost in him.

And the cracks in my heart began to heal.

About the Author: Angela Adams lives and writes contemporary romances in Philadelphia, PA. Her story, "Irresistible" appeared last summer in Whipped Cream.

Author Interview: Gail Pallotta


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Gail Pallotta whose first romance Love Turns the Tide was recently released by Awe-Struck Publishing. The main character of the book, Cammie, had been deeply hurt in a relationship and was determined not to get hurt again. Love changed her mind and, that, combined with the beach setting lead to the choice of her title.

Gail told me that the hardest part about writing the book was being so enthusiastic about something she knew was going to happen to Cammie, but yet having to build up the scene.

"For instance, I knew Cammie would allow Vic, her suitor, to come over and prepare dinner for her," she explained, "but I couldn’t let that happen until she got to know him well enough to be comfortable with him."

I asked her to tell us a little bit more about Love Turns the Tide.

In Love Turns the Tide twenty-six-year-old Cammie O’Shea faces a traumatic split-up with her fiancé and has to leave her family and friends to take a new job in Destin, Florida. A feature writer, she dreads meeting her new boss, the editor of The Sun Dial newspaper, but her real source of angst turns out to be Vic Deleona, the influential real estate tycoon she must write about to generate interest in the paper. While she refuses to open herself to another painful relationship he attempts to court her. Even though she sees him as pompous she goes out of her way to maintain a good business association. Trying to get over her heartache, she reads her Bible and says prayers. One day she reads Romans 8: 28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” Afterward she ponders how living in Destin possibly could be good for her. To make matters worse, break-ins occur at her friend’s condo and her unit. However, Vic comes to their rescue. He even launches his own investigation into the crimes, and Cammie sees a different side of him. But finally she gets an offer to return home to her old job. One minute she believes God is telling her to leave Destin, the next she isn’t so sure.
Gail has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, but realized while she was studying literature and analyzing writing in creative writing classes while she was in college that writing was a tool that can be used for good or for bad.

"Even though that was a long time before I heard the word 'spin' in the media, I saw the 'spin' and wanted to use it in a good way," she told me, adding, "But, my husband may best explain the reason I started writing. He says I have fictitious people and pretend events running around in my head, and I have to let them out."

When Gail first gets an idea for a book, she starts by making notes about what will happen.

"Of course, the cryptic outline is later re-written," she admitted, "because the action often leads to twists and turns. I also record the physical descriptions of my characters and write a little about them before I begin the book. However, as the characters grow their personalities expand."

Gail's writing was influence by Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage.

"Both writers were so good they made me see the world through the eyes of their characters," she explained. "After reading the books I realized we all start at different places in life, and for some the feelings of inferiority or inadequacy that this creates causes great pain. I thought it was so sad that Philip in Of Human Bondage couldn’t cling to his faith, because I knew when one believes he or she is a worthwhile person with a purpose that God is working out, it lifts up him or her. I wanted the characters in those books to find beliefs that would lead to fulfilled lives."

"When did you first think of yourself as a writer?" I wondered.

"Writing and thinking of myself as a writer are two different things. I was dating Rick, whom I eventually married, the first time I claimed to be a writer. Until I felt obligated to let him know that I had no talent for darning shirts or planting flowers, I thought of myself as a person who wrote. But I realized he couldn’t look at me and know that once I had tried to learn to sew and had stitched the dress I was hemming to the pants I was wearing or that plants shrivel up when I put them in the ground. One night when he came to pick me up for dinner, I took a book, Anthology of American Poetry, off the bookshelf and said, 'I have a poem in here. I’m a writer.'"

On a personal note, I asked Gail if she liked the way she looked in pictures.

"Even though I’m glad that I have photos of my husband, my daughter and me, at the time they were taken I hated seeing myself in all of them. Now it’s even worse. Not only am I young at heart, but we don’t have bright make-up lights in our bathroom, and even if we did, I stay too busy to linger in front of the mirror. I don’t think about my age until someone records it in a photograph. But one of these days I suppose I could look at one of them and think, 'Gee, it was great when I had all my teeth.'"

Gail has a brand new strange, weird habit she shared with me.

"This past year for Christmas a friend gave me a purse-size sanitizing light that shines on germs and kills them. Even though it’s not for use on the skin, she explained that it’s great for headrests and armrests on airplanes. She said, 'Then, in the hotel room flip the wand out of its case and wave it over the vanity, the bed headboard, or whatever you want clean. In everyday life use it on your toothbrush after you’ve been ill, or sterilize silverware in restaurants.'

"One night I was seated in a diner where the silverware already had been placed on the table, but the napkin had come unwrapped. Having no idea how long the fork, spoon and knife had been exposed to whoever might have come by and coughed on it, I whipped out my sanitizing wand. One of the managers walked up and asked, 'Ma’am, what is that?'

"I explained, and he asked, 'You just wave it, and it sterilizes?'

"'Yes,' I said.

"This is a handy, fun gadget, and I can see using it is going to become a strange habit."

Gail's favorite saying comes from a cross-stitched calendar that had been given to her mom one Christmas. They all liked the quote so much that even after they tore the pages off for each month, they kept the calendar. It read, "Happiness is seldom where you look for it. Sometimes where you find it. But always, where you make it.”

Her favorite animal? A dog.

"When I was young and single, I had a stray dog, Happy, that had followed my sister home and latched onto me while I was there for a vacation," she told me. "After I left my mother called and said the dog was grieving and wouldn’t eat, so I returned and brought her to live with me in my apartment. A mutt, she charmed my neighbors, who knocked on my door from time to time and said, 'We had steak. I brought the bones to Happy.' The apartment manager let herself in my unit everyday at lunchtime, so she could walk Happy and brush her. The twenty-pound pet grew from being afraid when I picked up a newspaper to wagging her tail and grinning at everyone she met. A mighty defender, she once brought me a dead snake, and when she was seventeen years old, she killed a possum that tried to slink across our deck. I love animals in general, but there’s a special place in my heart for Happy."

Unless thunderstorms are too intense, Gail likes them. In fact, when she was single and lived alone she always slept well during storms because she thought No one will come out in this weather to break into my unit and attack me. Even today, if the thunder isn't too loud, the sound of the rain will lull her to sleep.

"Can you multi-task?" I wondered.

"I think all women, especially those who are mothers, have to multi-task. When my daughter was young I often stirred gravy on the stove, talked on the phone and opened a juice drink all at the same time. My dentist’s hygienist once told me she attended a conference about differences in men and women. One of them was that women can multi-task, but men can’t. She said, 'If your husband is sitting in front of the television with the newspaper in front of him, he’s either watching television or reading the paper. He can’t do both.'"

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

"Usually writers are people who can’t not write. If that’s the case, then learn as much about the craft as possible by reading about writing, going to conferences and taking workshops. Keep sending out manuscripts, and don’t get discouraged. Realize that writing is subjective and editors’ needs change with society’s demands. I’ve often said I sometimes wish God had made me an accountant, because two plus two equals four, and no one has an opinion about that. One day a fellow pointed out to me that two plus two might not equal four if the mathematician uses a base eight number system. I said, 'Never mind. I’m a writer.'"
You can keep up with Gail on her blog, http://www.gailpallotta.blogspot.com

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Stephanie Burkhart

Ebooks and Ebook Readers

Ebooks are a growing market, not just in the US, but worldwide. With ebook readers becoming more popular and affordable, I thought I'd take a look at the ebook industry in this last spotlight.

The Hungarian, my paranormal romance, is available as an ebook. You can find it in the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony ebook stores.

Pros to having Ebook reader include: saving space, you can have multiple books on them, they use EInk Technology with black printing on a gray background, and you can take an ebook reader anywhere. I have a Kindle and love it.

Cons – you can't autograph it like you can a print book.

A Kindle supports the Amazon bookstore. They have a wide variety of books which can be wirelessly downloaded on a 3G free network, at the touch of a button. They just came down in price to $189.00 from $259. They have a text to speech feature that will read the ebook to you. Personally I enjoy this feature very much and I use it on my way to work and on my way back home from work. The Kindle is avail through the Amazon website and is being tested for sales in Target stores.

A Nook supports the Barnes and Noble ebook store. You can buy it through the online site or most Barnes and Noble have the Nook available in the store. The WiFi model is $149. If you have wireless Internet, this model should be able to download books with a WiFi connection (but WiFi isn't everywhere). There is a 3G model for $199 and it downloads books at the touch of a button. The Nook also supports audio books.

The iPad is an ebook reader that Apple makes. They have a Kindle and Nook app you can use on it. They do have a bookstore supported through Libre Digital. It offers color and hosts other features such as allowing you to check email and surf the net. The lowest costing iPad is $499 and uses WiFi.

Sony has several different models of their ebook reader. The lowest model runs for $159 and it does not have WiFi or 3G. (But Sony does make more expensive WiFi and 3G models). For the $159 model you would have to download books from their store and upload to the ebook reader.

Borders has just opened the ebook store and is using the KoBo ebook reader to support it. KoBo became available on 17 June.

Ebook readers go around the world and they open up the international markets. Places like New Zealand and South Africa charge extra for print books to cover the shipping costs, but now books can be sold in those markets at an affordable price with an ebook reader.

I hope you got a "flavor" of what to expect from ebooks and ebook readers. If you're thinking about getting an ebook reader, research it well. There are other models then the ones I mentioned. Things to consider when buying an ebook reader include what does it do, price, and what do you want to use it for.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on ebooks and ebook readers. Let me know which ebook reader you have and what you like the most about it. If you have apprehensions about ebooks, I'd love to hear them as well.

Last 5 Books I Read:

5 – Prime Suspect by Melanie Atkins (Romantic Suspense)

4 – Thin Ice by Liana Laverentz (Contemporary Romance)

3 – Knight of Glory by Nicole Zoltack (Fantasy Romance)

2 – No Other by Shawna Williams (Inspirational Romance)

1 – Outcasts by Gail Delaney (Sci-Fi/Speculative Romance)


Link to The Hungarian book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZwaF8hAdow

Find me on the Web at:

Website: http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Blog: http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephBurkhart

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Stephanie Burkhart

Hungarian Cooking

Hungarian cooking. Just the phrase hints at the exotic. We've all heard of paprika and goulash soup, but Hungarian cooking is very rich and heavy. Paprika gives it a distinct taste. Recipes favor sour cream, tomatoes, green peppers, lard, and onions.

In my book The Hungarian Matthias has a Hungarian cook, János, who has to prepare a specific diet for Matthias. Matthias, as a werewolf, has certain foods he can and can't eat. Garlic is a big no-no for Matthias – it will make him sick since his body is so different.

One of János's favorite recipes is pogácsas, Hungarian scones, favoring cheese or poppy seeds. Here's a recipe for you to enjoy.

Prep Work:

Preheat oven to 400

Grease baking sheet
Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp shortening

1 egg

¼ to ½ cup milk

cheese (I prefer cheddar) or poppy seed to taste

Mix together the dry ingredients and shortening.

Rub in the flour with your fingertips until it is coarse. Beat the egg until it froths, add milk and beat. Pour into the flour until a soft dough is made. Add cheese or poppy seeds to taste.

Roll the dough into 2 inch balls. Flatten just a little with your hand or spatula.
Place scones 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet.

Bake on middle rack at 400 for 13-15 minutes until light brown.

Serve immediately.


Link to The Hungarian book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZwaF8hAdow

Find me on the Web at:

Website: http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Blog: http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephBurkhart

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Stephanie Burkhart

Creating Characters

After I get the "germ" of an idea for a story and let it ferment, then I work on creating my characters.

I usually start with the hero. In The Hungarian, Count Matthias Duma has a secret – he's a werewolf. I started drafting his timeline first. When was he born? Who were his parents? I filled out a mini-character biography including 3 likes and 3 dislikes. Then I cast the character.

For me, casting the characters give an extra layer to the characterization – a visual picture that I can see of my character. For Matthias, I cast Jonathon Rhys-Meyers. I've seen Rhys-Meyers in The Tudors, and one of the things I thought he captured well was simmering intensity. I used that for Matthias's character. Matthias has a lot of simmering emotions underneath the cool presentation he gives the world due to his condition.

I did the same for my heroine, Katherine Archibald, creating a biography for her and I cast an actress that I saw on As The World Turns, Justine Cotsonas. Justine had the look I wanted for Katherine – long flowing curly hair that Matthias could sink his fingers into. Justine's smile in her stills speaks to an innocence and purity which I brought to the character.

Lastly, I wrote several short stories allowing me to really know the characters well before I sat down with the novel.

It may sound like a lot of work, but this process allowed me to create characters that I enjoyed writing about, full of life and love.

Link to The Hungarian book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZwaF8hAdow

Find me on the Web at:

Website: http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Blog: http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephBurkhart

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Stephanie Burkhart

Creating Setting & Using the Moonlight

What is more romantic than a kiss under the moonlight? I love having a romantic scene in my writing under the moonlight. For me, setting is an extra element, once mastered, that can "amp" up the romance in a story.

Before I write, I research the setting. The first thing I attempt to do is visit the setting. It really helps give a writer a solid idea of what the place is like. In 1997, I had an opportunity to visit Budapest on a USO morale trip when I was deployed to Hungary.

It was wonderful! Budapest is filled with romantic sights, the Széchenyi Bridge, the Danube River, and Fisherman's Bastian – just to name a few. It was a visit that visually resonated with me.

If I can't visit my setting, I get on the Internet and check out pictures. I print off what I can. I check out maps so I can learn the lay of the streets.

I also look at the history of the setting. Hungary was a crossroads nation in Central Europe with several cultures coming to pass through and settle there. The seven towers on Fisherman's Bastian represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled there.

Then I try to do a little extra: what types of food are served there? Does the setting make wine? What are the seasons like there? What do they do for the holidays? I try to blend those subtle things into the story's settings. In The Hungarian, Matthias is a wine maker who makes tokaji, a Hungarian dessert wine. He has an estate on Lake Balaton, and his favorite view is that of the Danube and the Parliament building from his study.

5 Cool things about Budapest:

1. The Széchenyi Bridge: It was built in the 1840's and was one of the world's first suspension bridges.

2. Fisherman's Bastian: Built in 1901-1902, this is a ½ mile wall along Buda Hill.

3. The Danube

4. The Parliament Building. This was built in 1896.

5. Goulash soup. It's hearty and meaty, and will keep you warm in winter!

Link to The Hungarian book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZwaF8hAdow

Find me on the Web at:

Website:http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Blog: http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephBurkhart

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Stephanie Burkhart

Hello, I'm Stephanie Burkhart and I write paranormal romance and historicals. This is my first visit to the LASR Author Spotlight and I'm excited to be here.

The Hungarian is my first novel with Desert Breeze Publishing. It is a sophisticated/intense paranormal romance and takes place in 1901 between England and Budapest. Count Matthias Duma harbors a dark secret, but when he meets a young British noblewoman, Katherine Archibald, he risks everything for her love.

It's currently available as an ebook through the Desert Breeze Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Sony ebook store, All Romance Books, and Books on Board.

My previous released work this year includes "Matchmaking Amusement" in the BeMused Anthology released through Desert Breeze, (4 books, Long & Short Reviews) and The Giving Meadow, a children's print book with 4RV Publishing about a caterpillar who travels through a meadow making friends. My short story, "Royal Pretender" was featured in the Cupid Diaries, published through Classic Romance Revival.

This week I'll be talking about creating settings in stories, creating characters, Hungarian recipes, ebook readers, and today some of my favorites. I spent over 7 years in the military stationed in Germany so I'll share some of my favorite German things. My 2nd favorite country in Europe: Denmark! I was married there in 1991.

My favorite German vacation spot:

Berchtesgaden

My favorite German city:

Berlin

My favorite German castle:

Neuschwanstein Castle

My favorite German beer:

Hefeweizen or Berliner Weiss

My favorite German food:

Steak with Krauterbutter

My favorite German pastime:

Volksmarching

Link to The Hungarian book trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZwaF8hAdow

Find me on the Web at:
Website: http://sgcardin.tripod.com

Blog: http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephBurkhart

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tourist Attraction by Rekha Ambardar

“Club san on rye.” Valerie called out and slapped the order on the spindle near the kitchen, for the guy with the great smile, she added silently.

He sat at the counter sipping the coffee she’d set before him.

“None of your snowmobiling buddies with you today?” she asked casually.

He looked up, his gray eyes twinkling. “They’re making a side trip tonight. Me, I wanted a great meal and a quiet evening,” he said. “I’ve been in the snowmobile all day.”

“You’re not from the area, are you?” A bunch of them had walked in yesterday evening wearing snowsuits, carrying helmets tucked under the arm.

“No. We’re from Chicago, up here for a few days’ vacation,” he said. “By the way, I’m Steve Lemire.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Valerie, as you can see.” She pointed to her nametag. “First time up here?”

He nodded. “It’s a great place.” He looked around the restaurant. “Nice fireplace.”

Valerie flushed with pleasure. The fireplace had been her idea. She’d talked Dave, the owner of Country Kettle, into adding one.

“Glad you like it.”

When his order was ready, she brought it to him and then waited on the other customers. The rest of the evening had her hopping so she didn’t see Steve leave.

Valerie didn’t see him the next day either, or the day after. Nor did she see his snowmobiling buddies. They’d probably all found another restaurant, which was okay. Or they’d taken a trip to one of the many scenic trails in the area.

The restaurant was filling up, and it was just as well that Steve and his bunch hadn’t shown up or they’d have been short of tables, and that wouldn’t be good for business. Two days later, when Valerie and Melanie, another waitress, were wiping down the tables and counters, Steve came in.

“You’re still here?” Valerie asked, then realized it must have sounded rude.

He grinned. “For two more days,” he said. “I came to ask if you’d be interested in showing a hapless tourist around the Winter Carnival tomorrow.”

She shook her head. “I’m doing a double. One of the waitresses can’t make it tomorrow, and being Saturday, it’s going to be busy.” There was no denying the disappointment she felt.

“Too bad.” He seemed to share her disappointment, too.

Then she had an idea. “I’m off on Sunday. If you still want to go, I can come for an hour or so before I get to my chores at home.”

“An hour would be great. We’re leaving around noon,” he said. Since Valerie offered to pick him up he gave her the name and address of the place he stayed at.

Early Sunday morning they went to see the snow statues.

“Blast from the Past,’” Steve said, reading the big sign that displayed this year’s theme for the Carnival. “Historic events carved in snow – what a great idea.” He took pictures with his digital camera.

They walked around for a while and then stopped at a nearby coffee shop for doughnuts and hot chocolate.

They picked up their order and found a small table by the window. For a few minutes they watched people hurrying by bundled up in their warm jackets, scarves and hats.

“Quite the winter wonderland,” Steve said. “So different from the big city.”

“I suppose you miss the big city when you’re in a place like this,” Valerie said.

“Not really. This place has a charm all its own.” He took a sip of his hot chocolate.

“Are you all packed and ready to leave this afternoon?” she said, stirring her drink.

“Just about. We hitch our snowmobiles to our vehicles and then we’re off.”

“Don’t be a stranger to the area,” she said. “If you return here next year, stop by the Copper Kettle with your friends.”

“I’m going to do more than that, Valerie,” Steve said, wiping doughnut crumbs off his fingers with a napkin. “For a small town there’s so much going on here that I’d like to move my sporting goods business up here.”

“You would?” Valerie was stunned. And here she was interested in a guy who she thought she’d never see again. “That’s a big decision.”

He looked straight into her eyes. “Sure it is. But I’m also certain it’s the right thing.”

Valerie finished her chocolate. “Well, what are we waiting for? We have more statues to see before you leave.”

“You’re right,” Steve said. “And the sooner I leave town, the sooner I can get back.”

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: Jill Marie Landis


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Jill Marie Landis whose latest book Heart of Stone, the first book in her Irish Angels series, was released in March. The series is about four sisters, daughters of Irish immigrants who moved to New Orleans in the 1850s. The parents died, and the girls—11, 9, 6, and 4—are separated. The oldest sister, Laura, is the heroine of Heart of Stone and begins the search for her sisters.

Heart of Stone is set in the small fictional town of Glory, Texas in 1875. Laura Foster, who was introduced in Jill's The Accidental Lawman, is a lovely young widow who refuses all proposals of marriage because she has a very dark and very secret past. She's been in Glory about four years when Reverend Brand McCormick begins courting her.

"As Laura finds herself falling in love, she realizes she has to make a decision," Jill tells me. "Should she leave Glory to spare Brand shame and embarrassment if her dark past ever comes to light? Or should she stay and fight for their love? It’s being published as inspirational romance and though faith is a key element in the story, I haven’t pulled any punches. I think at its core it’s a Western romance that will appeal to any reader who enjoys a heartwarming page-turner. So far it's one of the favorites of the 23 novels I’ve written."

Even after 23 novels, though, Jill told me she's still amazed that the writing process never gets any easier.

"The big shock comes when you finish that first draft of your first book and discover that it’s not really finished yet," she said. "At least it isn’t for me. The end of the first draft is just the beginning of the editing process and that’s where the real magic happens."

Jill normally has a working title—something that says what she thinks she's saying the book. She usually loves her own titles, but once the book goes into production the publishers have marketing departments with a big say in what they think the title should be.

"I’d say I’ve gotten to keep less than half of my titles," she told me. "Sometimes I’ve liked what they name the books, sometimes I haven’t, but that’s the name of the game."

For Jill, one important element of good writing is being a good storyteller.

"That means you must pace your book to make it a page-turner," she explained. "Texture is important. Immerse the reader into the book by use of the five senses, describe by using lots of small details. Detail excites emotion. Characterization is another important element. Create characters the readers want to be with, characters they root for and will miss after the last page is read. Storytelling, texture, detail, emotion, characterization. I think that’s plenty."

"What is your work schedule like when you are writing?" I wondered.

"I wish I could say I can keep to a schedule. I’ve been writing at least one book a year since I started my career. Sometimes two. Since the actual writing takes me about 5 or 6 months, that gives me a half a year to wander around doing home improvement, sitting on the beach, swimming, dancing hula, and 'thinking' through the story and characters, letting it perk. Then suddenly about 5 months out, it hits me. I have a book due soon! Katie bar the door! I start warning neighbors not to show up during my work hours (9 to 4). I start grousing at my poor husband about how he’s interrupting me too much. It’s pretty intense around the house during the last two months. Of course, I could keep to a shorter daily routine and stretch it out evenly all year, but where’s the tension, the angst, the drama in that?"

Her husband, though, makes up for the interrupting when he brings her coffee in bed every morning so she can sit in bed, read, and wake up gradually.

"It’s the biggest treat of my day, those early a.m. hours when I get to read and look out of our windows at the waterfalls on the mountains nearby."

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

"No. I really, really don’t want a dog. Why not? Well, number one is dog breath. I can’t stand it. Number two is that they have to be walked, which leads to number three, I can’t stand picking up dog poop. It makes me gag."

Needless to say, dogs are not her most favorite animal. That honor is reserved for cats. Why?

"You don’t have to walk them. Actually, you can’t walk them if they are a normal cat. They never get close enough for you to smell their breath until they get old and then you love them too much and don’t care what it smells like. They make nice little litter box deliveries and cover them up. And you can teach some of them to use and flush the toilet."

"Have you ever eaten a crayon?" I asked.

"More to the point, why would anyone eat a crayon?" she countered. "They might taste good, but then you have those colored waxy crumbs all over your teeth. Not that I've ever eaten one, mind you, but I'm pretty sure that's what would happen if I did."

Jill feels that one thing scientists should invent is a cream you rub on that dissolves fat. "Eat what you want and then just rub on the lotion," she said. "It should be a lifting cream, too. Oh, and of course they should invent a cure for every disease known to man, but the fat dissolving cream first, so we look good while we’re waiting for the other cures."

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

"Have I ever cried during a movie? When don’t I cry in a movie? I even cry in comedies. I cry at animated movies. I cry whenever there’s a happy ending. I cry during commercials! I even tear up during previews of coming attractions."

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

"If you dream of becoming a writer for fame and fortune, you’re dreaming the wrong dream. True writers are compelled to write whether they sell or not. They can’t not write. Writing is hard work both physically (long back breaking hours at the computer) and mentally. Before you can become a writer you have to have been a voracious reader. You must learn the craft of writing, the nuts and bolts of grammar and composition. You have to know the rules so that you can break them and find your own voice. Above all you have to be a storyteller in order to write a page-turner. You have to be willing to go the distance, not just talk about writing, but sit there day after day until you’ve finished the first draft of a novel. Then you have to go back to the beginning and edit it, once, twice, as many times as it takes. Then comes submission and while you wait to hear from an agent or editor, you start your next book without looking back."
You can keep up with Jill on her website, http://www.jillmarielandis.com.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Celia Yeary

Blurb from Texas Blue

She wasn’t a fit mother…

So said the county judge who hired Buck Cameron to retrieve his little daughter. But when Buck finally locates the pretty mother and child, he finds the claim very hard to believe. Now, he faces a dilemma. Should he obey the order? Or should he defy the judge and rescue Marilee and her child from isolation?

She’d been banished…

Rejected and abandoned by her father, Marilee Weston used the pain of betrayal to survive. Now, she needs a way out of the forest, where she and her daughter had lived for five years. But the towering pines and fear of the unknown imprisoned her. How could she begin a new life for herself and five-year-old daughter? Will the alluring stranger free her, or prove to be even more dangerous?


Excerpt from Texas Blue

Buck daydreamed of Marilee in a pretty, flowered dress, maybe pink, with a wide sash tied in a bow in the back. The neckline should have a ruffle all around, a little low in front and maybe off her shoulders a bit. Her hair would be loose, shining with cleanliness, pulled up from the sides and tied with a pink ribbon in back. Soft, kid slippers would be on her dainty feet, and…

“Buck! Buck! You’re not listening to me,” Josie demanded, tugging on his hand. “I said, lookit! See the river? Mama’s already down there, and we’re just pokin’ along. Come on!”

He smiled a little, chagrined he’d been caught spinning fairytales in his head. Never in his life had he thought of the clothes women wore. Mostly he knew if they looked pretty or not.

Sure enough, Marilee had found the “river”, actually now a muddy stream. But it was clearing fast, so hopefully, they could clean themselves a little.

“Hey,” he said as he approached. “Looks good, doesn’t it?”

She smiled shyly. “How can we do this? It’s too muddy to get in, and I think it’s flowing too fast. What should we do?”

“I’m going to unsaddle Cherokee first. His blanket is wet. Marilee, why don’t you give the gun back to me? I’ll put it in my saddlebag. Josie can’t get to it there, and you won’t need to worry about it. All right?” He held his breath. Another test.

He could tell from the stiffening of her back, she resisted the idea. She felt safer with it, he knew, but he’d bet a nickel she wouldn’t fire the thing at him. And no one else was around to put them in danger. She folded her hands together in a tense grip, but quickly relaxed and reached in her pocket. She handed it over, and looked up at him with mixed emotions playing across her pretty face.

“Will you give it back if I ask for it? I’ll want it later on when…” Her sentence ended in an unspoken question.

“Don’t say it yet, please. Give me a chance to make things right for you. Promise me you won’t just leave, not knowing where to go, and not giving me time to work this out.”

She gazed out over the meadow before she answered, as if searching for the right words to say. “I can’t promise, Buck. I’m too scared. But I’ll try to think everything through first, instead of bolting like that stupid horse did. I’ve tried running twice, now, and it hasn’t worked, yet.” Her eyes sought his. “It’s time I faced reality.” With that, she turned to Josie and walked away from him.

What did she mean, exactly? Surely, she didn’t intend to give up. He sure as hell wouldn’t.

BUY LINK: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/celia-yeary-m-366.html?zenid=9a1403ef5a7af85f2ef21c295a269de0

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

http://celiayeary.blogspot.com

Celia Yeary

Romance…and a little bit o' Texas

www.celiayeary.com

TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK—eBook

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-eBook and Print

http://www.thewildrosepress.com

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Celia Yeary

QUOTES TO LIVE BY

I love quotes. The first one I remember using was years ago when we still had teenagers at home, AND I taught teenagers biology. Dealing with this age group on a daily basis tested my patience to the nth degree. After a while, though, I decided I’d “let go—with love.” I read this quote in my horoscope one day: “Live and let live; you cannot control others.” I cut it out and taped it to the bottom corner of my dresser mirror.

Years later, I sold my bedroom set, but I left the quote taped there, hoping the next person could use it. I didn’t need it anymore. I finally learned that valuable lesson.

The quotes I love really tell me something and don’t just sound like griping. I use them as small snippets of wisdom to remind me of a wish, a bad habit I should break, or a worry I should cast away. One is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi.

And still another favorite: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou

My #1 Favorite is from Elbert Hubbard: “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” This, above all others, is my mantra, the sentence I say to myself when I doubt my ability to write, sell a book, and entertain readers. Criticism is my biggest fear. It looms large in my vision. “What will my friends think of me?” “Will I receive good reviews, or those that are stamped ‘not acceptable’?” But if I pay attention to Mr. Hubbard’s advice, I’ll move on, keep going, try harder, and accept the criticism for what it is—a roadmap to success.

I GOOGLED Mr. Hubbard, since I’m using his quote, to learn a little something about him. He lived from 1856 to 1915—not very long. During his lifetime, he worked as a writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher. He wrote twenty-six quotes, and if you read them, you learn something about him as a man. And by the way, his very best quote says “Life is just one damned thing after another.” He must have been having a bad day.

Quotes? Do they serve any purpose? What are your favorites? Why?

http://celiayeary.blogspot.com

Celia Yeary

Romance…and a little bit o' Texas

www.celiayeary.com

TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK—eBook

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-eBook and Print

http://www.thewildrosepress.com

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Celia Yeary

To Blog Or Not to Blog-Confessions of a Blog Junkie

Almost all authors blog one way or another. Many of us have a personal blog, while others may choose only to guest blog occasionally. Either way, the author makes that choice. I shied away from blogging for a long time, but I always had it in the back of my mind as something I would love to try.

Publishers list blogging as a desired social networking tool for promotional purposes. Agreed? Even though the idea seemed easy enough on first glance, I quaked in my boots, terrified no one would read my blog, let alone take a quick peek at it. Once the idea became firmly implanted in my brain, I could think of nothing else until I made the decision. In the meantime, I became a Blog Junkie—and I admit I still am. I can’t tell you how many blogspot or wordpress posts I’ve read, or at least studied briefly. I’ll read just about anyone’s blog—if I have the time.

Yes, of course, I have a blog, titled Celia Yeary-Romance…and a little bit ’o Texas. I invented this tagline after scanning, oh, probably hundreds of blogs. Each author has something unique, and while their tagline doesn’t play a role in my like or dislike of her blog, it does tell me something about that particular person as a writer.

The fact is I never met a blog I didn’t like.

http://celiayeary.blogspot.com

Celia Yeary

Romance…and a little bit o' Texas

www.celiayeary.com

TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK—eBook

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-eBook and Print

http://www.thewildrosepress.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Celia Yeary

Is a Series a Good thing?

A series is a group of novels or books that should be read in order as is often the case in speculative fiction and all its sub-genres. The series should have one storyline, and is often without plot re-introduction, reiteration or reminder, save for cursory mention of past events.

However, Category Novel Series, which is more common in romance series, is a set of novels which have their own title and free-standing storyline, and can be read independently or out of sequence, or in sequence. The books may share a particular setting or timeline.

Texas Blue is the first novel in my Texas Trilogy. It tells the love story between Marilee Weston and Buck Cameron, their adventures, and finally their HEA, complete with two little daughters. Texas Promise tells the story of Josie Weston, now grown up and goes by Jo Cameron until she marries her childhood sweetheart, Dalton King. Texas True tells the story of the younger daughter, True Cameron, and her eventual marriage to Sam DeLeon. A fourth Texas novel, All My Hopes and Dreams, is a spin-off from Texas Blue, and tells the story of Cynthia Harrington—who really wanted to marry Buck Cameron—and her impulsive marriage to visiting horse-buyer Ricardo Romero.

As an author and/or a reader, what do you think of series novels? Personally, I love to become involved in a special series, and if I like the author and the books, I’ll keep my eye out for every one. Two authors I follow are Linda Lael Miller (western historical and contemporary) and Mary Balogh (Regency). I also love to write a series.

Texas Blue and All My Hopes and Dreams are available now from The Wild Rose Press.

Texas Promise and Texas True are Coming Soon as the series “The Cameron Sisters” from Desert Breeze Publishing.

http://celiayeary.blogspot.com

Celia Yeary

Romance…and a little bit o' Texas

www.celiayeary.com

TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK—eBook

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-eBook and Print

http://www.thewildrosepress.com

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Celia Yeary

All About Me, All About You

In case you don’t know me, not that I’m insinuating hordes of people do, my name is Celia Yeary. In the south—or Texas—each person must have two names which go really well together so you will know when your mother is really angry at you. Fathers don’t need to know our middle names, because they wouldn’t call you in the same tone of voice our mother would anyway: “Celie Ann Davis, you get yourself in here right this minute, and don’t dilly-dally doing it, either!” Mother and everyone else called me Celie instead of Celia—it was the old-fashioned way to pronounce it. Even today, at my age, when I call my 88-year-old uncle, he’ll yell, “Honey, it’s Celie Ann.”

I grew up on the South Plains of Texas, near Lubbock, where the sky often looked like a big blue bowl turned upside down on a flat-as-a-pancake sea of brown, giving an unrestricted view because of the scarcity of trees. There’s actually a town named No Trees, Texas. Life was wholesome and happy for the most part on the South Plains. I learned everything I know that’s good from those years—help your neighbors, speak kindly to your elders, don’t call your sister a bad name, and whatever you do, wear clean panties every day in case you have to go to the hospital.

My life has been ordinary, mostly uneventful as far as tragedies go, but my family did follow the oil fields until I was ten years old. In all those years, we had no permanent home, but lived in rented places, usually too small for five of us, with barely adequate facilities. As an adult, I married, had two children, and then at age 27 began college. I did it my way, but…it was the hard way. I always told my children and students—“don’t follow my example.”

For some unknown reason, I began to write romance stories in 2004. The process amazed me, since I’d never written anything fictional in my life. I caught on fire with the thrill and pleasure I gained from this activity. Up until then, I did needlework, crafts, scrapbooks, and played golf. I’m glad I switched to writing. At least I do make a little money, and maybe now I won’t get skin cancer.

Now, what about you? Even if I know you somehow, where did you grow up? Did you have a career? If you’re an author, what do you write? As a reader, what is your favorite genre?

http://celiayeary.blogspot.com

Celia Yeary

Romance…and a little bit o' Texas

www.celiayeary.com

TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print

SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK—eBook

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-eBook and Print

http://www.thewildrosepress.com

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Destiny's Diner by Betsy Knapp


Kate Morgan had slept through her alarm. There had hardly been enough time for her to shower and shampoo her shiny auburn hair. There had definitely been no time for breakfast, not even a cup of coffee.

Now, Kate was starving. She spotted Destiny’s Diner in the middle of the block. As she opened the door, a bell jingled. Taking a stool at the counter, she was about to order a cheese burger when that “little voice inside” reminded her, “Don’t forget your blind date tonight.”

Kate thought, “One bite of a cheese burger and I won’t be able to wear my new dress.”

She didn’t realize she had spoken aloud until a waiter, tall and well-built, said, “Excuse me, but I think you would look beautiful in anything you wear.”

“Thanks,” Kate mumbled, feeling her face turning red. “I hate it when I blush.”

The waiter smiled at her. “There you go again…talking out loud.”

She pretended she hadn’t heard him. “I’ll have the cottage cheese and fruit platter.” The waiter gave a little salute, disappearing into the kitchen.

Kate looked around the diner. She was the only customer. A chill went up and down her spine. Maybe the guy wasn’t a waiter at all. Maybe he had been robbing the place when she walked in.

She called out, “Mister, could you cancel that order?”

“No problem,” he replied. “The diner is closed for vacation. I just stopped by to make sure everything was secure.”

Kate looked at the waiter, with lingering doubt. “I didn’t see a sign.”

“I was about to hang the sign in the door when you came in,” he said.

She wasn’t persuaded he was telling the truth. “It seems to me you would have lots of customers with Mercy Hospital just around the corner.” 

  “Destiny’s Diner is usually full to capacity twenty-four hours a day,” the waiter replied. “Our regular customers know we’re on vacation. Mercy’s new interns and residents eat on the run. Some of them grab a sandwich in the hospital cafeteria.”

“Are you a cook there?” Kate asked.

The waiter threw back his head, laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.

“Maybe he’s telling the truth,” Kate considered. She had spent the morning at Mercy, sitting through long presentations for First Year Surgical Interns. There had been a lot of grumbling about the hospital cafeteria being crowded, and no coffee.

Feeling suddenly dizzy, Kate began to tremble.

“Is something wrong?” the waiter asked.

Kate tried to answer. Then she almost fell off the stool.

The waiter hurried around the counter. “I’m taking you to Mercy Hospital right now.”

“I didn’t eat breakfast, that’s all.”

The waiter, with a firm voice, came back with, “You didn’t eat lunch either.”

He took a pitcher of orange juice from the cooler and poured a generous serving in a glass, handing it to Kate. “Drink this” he said. “If you’re not feeling better in a few minutes, we’re off to Mercy Hospital.”

Kate finished the orange juice and took a deep breath. “I’m fine now. Honestly.”

“I still think you should get checked out by a doctor.”

“I am a doctor,” she replied, with a touch of sarcasm. “Dr. Kate Morgan.”

The waiter gazed at Kate. “Did you say you’re a doctor?”

“First Year Surgical Intern,” Kate said. “I start at Mercy next Monday. I’m a little nervous. Some of the other interns told me to watch out for one particular Second Year Resident.”

"What’s the resident’s name?” the waiter asked.

Kate replied, “Dr. David Tyler.”

“Dr. Morgan, you are in for a demanding year. Dr. Tyler is a perfectionist. He expects his interns to know every bone in the human body.”

As Kate tried to recollect all of the 206 human bones…208 if you count the sternum as three bones…she asked, “How do you know so much about Dr. Tyler?”

With a bow and a flourish, the waiter announced, “Because…I am Dr. David Tyler.”

“Oh, no!” Kate said, her voice rising. “This is going from bad to worse.”

Dr. Tyler seemed surprised, “What do you mean?”

“My mother’s best friend fixed me up with a blind date tonight.” He’s a doctor,” she continued, “and his mother calls him Davy.”

Dr. Tyler chuckled, “My mother’s best friend fixed me up with a blind date tonight. The girl is an intern at Mercy Hospital.” He smiled a very sexy smile. “Her name is Katie. Could that be you, by any chance?”

In disbelief, Kate nodded her head, “That’s what my Mom calls me.” She looked into Dr. Tyler’s eyes. Her heart thumped, but there was nothing left to say. “I’m sorry about this.” She headed toward the door. “I’ll see you at Mercy Hospital, Dr. Tyler.”

“Wait, Kate,” David called after her. “I was here simply by chance when you came in to order lunch. My brother owns the diner. I've been checking in every couple of days while he's on vacation."

Kate had her hand on the door.

“Please hear me out. Don’t you think it was more than accidental the two of us wound up here today?”

Wavering a little, she said, “Maybe.”

“Then why don’t we have our blind date here tonight?” he asked.

“Here?” Kate was puzzled. “In the diner?”

“Sure. We’ll have the Destiny Special.”

“What’s that?” Kate asked.

“Grilled cheese sandwiches.” There was David’s sexy smile again. Only this time, Kate smiled back.

She laughed with a 'what-the-heck' attitude. “No champagne?”

“We’ll have to settle for coffee tonight. We could have champagne tomorrow night. And the next night, too.”

She nodded in agreement as a look of passion crossed David’s face. He whispered, in a low and throaty voice, “Kate…”

She didn’t allow him to finish. She stepped into his waiting arms. He pressed his mouth gently against her soft, sweet lips.

Kate knew she wanted to stay safe in David’s arms forever.

Maybe destiny had stepped in for the two young doctors.

About the Author: Betsy Knapp is a former broadcasting executive and newspaper columnist. She is currently writing a number of romance short stories, as well as working on a contemporary romance novel. Her short story, “The Cover Girl” was recently published on The Long and the Short of It. Betsy and her husband make their home in a charming Vermont village. You can visit Betsy at:twitter@betsy_knapp or check out her blog at http://originalshortstories-author.blogspot.com/.

Author Interview: Tracy Fabre


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Tracy Fabre.

Tracy said she's been interested in writing since junior high.

"I know I had some vague adolescent belief that I would be A Writer, and that it would be possible to Make A Living by writing," she told me. "Naturally, these were delusions. I took up the pen (or PC) seriously about ten years ago, when I decided it was time to stop starting novels and start finishing them. I completed my first 'hey that might not suck' novel in 2000."

I asked her if she had ever suffered from writer's block.

"If you define writer's block as sitting in front of the computer (or over the blank paper) having no idea what to write, no, I've never had that (well, since college/grad school). But I've had long periods where I had no motivation to write, and during those periods, well, I don't write! I'm fairly lazy; discipline is by no means my middle name. It's not even my confirmation name. In fact, it's not the name of even one person in my extended family. I don't even KNOW discipline, and I wish it would stop calling me."

She admitted she couldn't pick just one favorite author. She used to read Stephen King and loved his characters and dialogue; she loved Dick Francis' leading men and Donald Westlake's humor. She considered Lewis Grizzard a great humorist and Jane Donnelly, in the 60s and 70s taught her it was possible to write books in which the lead characters got to know and care for each other in ways unrelated to wild animal passion.

"Not that there's anything wrong with animal passion, mind you," she said, "it's just it doesn't last."

The characters normally come first for Tracy, sometimes long before she comes up with a plot in which to embroil them. The plot only came to her once or twice before the characters.

At any given time, Tracy told me she always has works in progress—either in a file or in her head. Some of the things she was working on at the time of the interview were a sort of mystery set on Mobile Bay, Alabama, in which a murder from sixty years earlier is the focus and a tale of an accidental time traveler from the old West who ends up in present day in the middle of a schoolteacher's complicated life.

Sometimes titles for works just jump into Tracy's mind, like with Evan's Castle and Sending Rupert Home. However, other times they take a long time to appear, as Reasons did. She has a series of mysteries which took forever to name themselves because she wanted them to be similar and interesting.

"It's that last part which is so tricky," she said with a smile.

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

"My first book ... the one I finished when I was fifteen and in love with the characters on the old TV Western High Chaparral? Or that first 'real' book, back in 2000? Let's go with the latter; I've already said too much about the former. I was obsessed by both a character and a subplot point: what if your husband was once accused of murder and everyone knew it? What would your life and your marriage be like?"

Tracy has completed twelve novels with Sending Rupert Home, which came out in March, being the third one published.

"Describe your writing space," I invited.

"My head. Kinda damp, pinkish gray... squishy... oh wait, you mean where I AM when I write. Boring. My office/spare room, just me and the PC. I'm surrounded by books, dust, papers, a bit more dust, clutter, a Spock bobblehead, more dust, and two stuffed sheep plus a stuffed baby gorilla."

She admitted to learning some surprising things while creating her books.

"That spell check couldn't stop me from being an idiot, that not every word I write is gold, and that in spite of this, I still want to write and apparently I don't suck."

On a more personal note, Tracy doesn't want a dog. In fact, if she had a pet it would be a cat, but she has allergies that prevent her from having either.

"I wonder if I'd be allergic to hamsters," she mused. "I could probably handle a hamster." I asked Tracy if she had any strange handwriting habits.

"Some find it odd that I write the top of a capital T before I write the bottom of it. I'm lefthanded, so others find it odd that I write properly (not that hook style hand many lefties have). My mother always wants to take knives away from me when I'm cutting meat because it 'looks wrong,' but this is perhaps beyond the scope of the question."

The strangest thing she's ever eaten? Emu.

"The emu sausage was tasty; the burgers were a bit dry, and the steak was a bit tough. In case you wondered."

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

"Baby, I cry during Hallmark commercials."

Tracy snickered when I asked if she'd ever made a crank phone call.

"Yes. In my teens. The only one I'll admit to now is when (egged on by friends) I called a sorta friend and simply shrieked into the phone. (I was inspired by a scene from The Ritz)."

She feels scientists should invent a dishwasher that unloads itself.

"I mean, honestly. Wouldn't that be a fantastical thing?"

She can't unwrap a Starburst with her tongue, but if you give her one she can say, "Ack! Ack! Ptui!"

She can also tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke.

"Pepsi is bad, and Coke is good. Pretty easy, she says confidently from the security of her locked room where none of those Pepsi Swill lovers can get her. But in truth, I drink Coke Zero and Diet Coke. Coke is 'IT!' Pepsi is 'what?'"
You can keep up with Tracy on her website, http://www.tracyfabre.com

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Spotlight: KS Augustin

What I write

So this is the last mini-essay that I'm writing for the Author Spotlight, and I'd like to thank Marianne and Judy for offering me such a wonderful opportunity to reach out to you, and I haven't yet told you what I write!

It's all part of my nefarious plan. You see, I write a branch of romance that not many people read. (If you look up the definition of "shooting yourself in the foot", you'll see the words "see KS 'Kaz' Augustin"!) I write science-fiction romance.

That means a lot of things to me. Of course there are spaceships and advanced technology and romance, but there's also some serious stuff in there. I write romance without The Serious Stuff inside, but I make sure I put it in for my SF romances. No no, I'm not talking about politics, so please don't run away! I'm talking about basic questions on our humanity. In the book I'm promoting for this Spotlight, IN ENEMY HANDS, I'm talking about strength of character. Almost everyone in the book is tested for it, and everyone answers it in some way.

I want to know, could you live with yourself if you gained fame through the exploitation of another human being? Could you somehow force yourself to remember someone if you lose your memory every two days? Could you give up your ambition if it meant correcting a personal injustice?

The characters in the book face all these questions, and how they react is very much a part of their strength of will and sense of justice. If you're interested in finding out more about the book, you can read the entire prologue (yes, I know some of you hate prologues, but I've been told it's well done!) at my website: http://www.ksaugustin.com/?page_id=378

Or you could just enter the competition! Best of luck and thanks for having me here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: KS Augustin

Sausage (and Cookie!)

I always thought of myself as a cat person. They're such low-maintenance animals and seem to be the perfect pets for authors. They're content to sleep and be adored for twenty-three hours a day, and eat for the remaining hour (accumulated time). But recently, we acquired a dog and now my entire world has changed.

Her name is Sausage and she's a miniature bull terrier. You hadn't heard of that breed? No, neither had we until we moved to Malaysia. After doing some research, however, I've discovered that they're a bona fide breed. They have all the energy, stubbornness and clown antics of a full-sized bull terrier, but in a smaller package.

I've always been partial to the cute-ugly piggy looks of bull terriers because an uncle of mine used to breed the standard-sized bullies, but they're banned now in the country. I'm in a quandry about that decision. I don't think that animals should be punished for our own shortcomings but I recognise that some people just don't have what it takes to handle particular breeds of dog. Well, I have my own private thoughts on the debate but, the upshot is, we have Sausage. (And, by the time you read this, like a bully junkie, we would have also received another mini bull terrier. We're calling her Cookie.)

And now that I've got Sausage, I've changed my mind about perfect pets for writers. I think dogs are of immense value for the sole reason that they force me to get off my butt and out of the house several times a day. If there's one thing writers can suffer from, it's the Vicious Circle, whether it be going round and round trying to solve a plot hole, moving past a sagging middle or -- ahem! -- writing promotional short essays. And the one, best, counter-intuitive thing that a writer can do in such circumstances is just leave it alone, get some fresh air and think of something different for twenty minutes. Enter the dog and their potty breaks. It's amazing how well stepping outside with your four-legged bark machine clears the mind and fills you with renewed energy and purpose. Not bad for an animal that doesn't know how to use a litter box!

So if you ever read any interviews of mine in the future, and someone asks, "What advice would you give an aspiring writer?", and I say, "A dog", you'll know what I mean.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: KS Augustin

Ah-choo!

In case you were wondering, we live in Malaysia at the moment. The capital is Kuala Lumpur, but we don't live there! LOL We live in the southernmost state of the peninsula, Johor. (If you find it on the map, it's that part of West Malaysia that looks like it's about to eat Singapore.)

As you can imagine, being one degree north of the Equator means it gets pretty hot. And humid. It's a very rare week when it doesn't rain, the soil is hard and leached of a lot of nutrient, but you still get the impression that you can stick a broomstick in the ground and it'll grow. Oh, and we get some fantastic thunderstorms. And it's green. Green as far as the eye can see. If you're a landscaper, you'll never run out of work in this part of the world.

What may not be obvious to you, and was only clear to us after living here for a couple of years, is that there are seasons. Right! Bang on the equator and there are distinct seasons to the year, and I'm not talking monsoons. I found that out near the beginning of the year when I got...hayfever! It tickled the locals no end because *everyone* knows that people only get hayfever in more extreme climates. No, I'm sorry, we have no hayfever medication. Aarrghhh! I had to make do with some generic anti-histamine tablets. I'm dreading next year already.

The bougainvillea, that the Singapore authorities use extensively for landscaping, bloom at certain times. Our weeping gum tree was actually dormant over Christmas before bursting into leaf a few months ago. It's something that's strange and wonderful in a place where you'd least expect to see such a cycle. So I'm happy to tell my overseas friends that we have seasons here! And, when I say it, there's always a smile on my face.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: KS Augustin

Hobbies

This topic seems to be a very popular one among readers. What are your hobbies and interests? Mine are a little strange, I think. I'll put down the top three and you see what you think.

Kite-flying. I don't get enough time (or steady wind) to do this as much as I'd like to. That's because high winds in this part of the world usually precedes a thunderstorm and I have no intention of imitating Benjamin Franklin! But, depending on what kite takes my mood, it's a pastime that can be relaxing, invigorating or just plain hard work. (I've got kites that can lift me off the ground, so a degree of care is always required.)

Fish-keeping. Yeah. I like keeping fish. We have koi in our large pond in the courtyard, but I also have a large aquarium in the house where I keep mostly angelfish and several species of tetras. I like watching little groups of fish as they whizz through the greenery of the aquarium. I like the simple elegance and markings of my angels. I like the way the koi come up and greet me in the morning...but only to check if I have their breakfast with me! The cats don't go near the koi who are well able to take care of themselves by splashing any too-curiouis animals with water. It's fun watching them.

Cooking. I cook to relax. I read cookbooks the way someone reads a novel, from cover to cover, and then I go cook from it. Our son, The Wast, seems to have also caught the cooking bug because he sometimes spends his free time browsing cookbooks as well. In fact, I have a new cooking blog up called "Cooking with Kaz". If you're interested, you can find it at http://food.ksaugustin.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Spotlight: KS Augustin

The perennial traveller

A lot of our friends tell us that my husband, J, and myself are "too demanding". They say this because they see us country-hop from one place to another, never seeming to be able to settle down. (Over the weekend, J commented to me that the family had actually had more international relocations than vacations in the past four years!)

We admit that we keep searching for something. A place where we can feel safe, where our children can live up to their potential. A place that will give us a chance despite the fact that some of us have brown skin or speak with an accent or are painfully shy. To be honest, it doesn't look like we've found it yet, but we're resting for a while in Malaysia, the country where I was born.

It's an interesting sensation because it's my country and yet, after so many years away from it, it isn't. It's fascinating peering in through the window, so to speak, and observing how life is for a different society, but also makes me feel a little introspective. If I can't belong in the country of my birth, what hope is there for me elsewhere?

That's not to say I'm unhappy about the amount of travelling I've done. I think the experiences of living in several countries and observing the inhabitants has given me a better feel for how people act and react, something I hope I translate well into my books. But the price of that insight is to be an alien on my own planet. Maybe that's why I like writing space opera so much. I can relate to the alien.

I think I'm a more extreme example of all of us. In different situations, under different circumstances, we are all aliens, caught unawares by silent communications or expectations that we didn't know walking into the situation. As painful as it sometimes is to be in that situation, I think there's also a lot of benefit to be gained by it as it gives us a chance to observe our surroundings in a new light, and maybe find a truth that was previously hidden to us.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Those Three Little Words by Carol Ayer


“You've never told him? Ever?” Laura dropped her pen and gaped at me. The pen rattled around on the floor and settled under her chair. She didn't even bother to pick it up. I'd never seen her so flummoxed.

“Well, of course, I've wanted to,” I stammered. “It's just, well...” I looked helplessly at my friend, unable to explain.

“You do love him, though?”

I nodded vigorously, almost giving myself whiplash in the process.

“And he's told you?” Laura asked. “I mean, he proposed a few weeks ago, so he must have, right?”

“Yes, he told me when he proposed. And he's told me before and since. Many times, in fact. And I've meant to say it back, I really have. I've tried. So hard. But I never could do it. I don't know why. What in the world is wrong with me?” I shook my head, unable to come to terms with what a loser I was.

“You're just going to have to do it, Caitlin. Stop beating around the bush. Do it tonight first thing.” Laura reached for her ringing phone. I sighed and returned to my own cubicle.

As I half-heartedly proofread my press release, I reflected on my inability to tell Chris--my fiancé, my soul mate, my one and only--that I loved him. Those three little words, seemingly so simple, were a phrase I'd never uttered. To anyone. I'd never even told my parents, whom I still missed terribly four years after their tragic car accident. We had never been an expressive family, perhaps because of our stiff-upper-lipped heritage. My parents didn't believe in showing affection, to me or to each other. And those three little words were just not a part of our vocabulary.

But I didn't want to carry on this particular family tradition. I wanted to tell Chris how I felt. I needed to. Maybe Laura was right. I would just have to do it.

I resolved to tell Chris that very afternoon. We were meeting at Kelly's Bakery at four to sample wedding cakes. I would tell him I loved him, we would taste cakes, and we would get married and live happily ever after, with all the affection and “I-love-you's” anyone could wish for.

Unfortunately, things didn't start out as smoothly as I might have liked. A client called and, for the life of me, I couldn't get her off the phone. I had no time to fix my makeup or my hair. Then, to top it off, I lost an earring, and one of my contacts tore when I was trying to adjust it. I didn't have a spare, and my glasses were in their case on my nightstand. I was particularly upset about my earring, as the pearls were the last thing my mother had ever given me. They had been handed down to her by her own mother, my grandma Nan, who had died when I was a baby.

At twenty after four, I arrived on foot to Kelly's Bakery. I was grumpy, my hair was a mess, and I couldn't see. But I was determined to tell Chris I loved him. I wasn't going to change the plan. I would tell him the second I saw him. No beating around the bush.

I stumbled across the doorway and located my fiancé sitting at a table in a badly-lit back corner.

I approached him, bent down to give him a huge hug, and said, “Don't say anything. I just have to tell you something. It's something I should have told you a long time ago. I'm really sorry I haven't been able to tell you before now. So sorry.” I realized I was babbling. I had to get to the point. “Here it is.” I drew a deep breath. “I love you, Chris. I love you so much.”

“That's very nice, Miss, and thank you for the hug, but my name isn't Chris.” This statement reached my ears at the same time that Chris' deep belly laugh reverberated across the room behind me.

I squinted at the man to whom I'd just professed my love--the only person to whom I'd ever done so--and saw that he was much older than my beloved, a little shorter, and not nearly as cute. I stuttered out an apology and turned around. Chris took me into his arms.

“That was priceless. I'm so glad I waited two years for that.” His blue eyes twinkled.

“Chris, I...I...” Great. Back to the stammering. Did I, or did I not, have a degree in English from one of the state's top universities?

“It's all right, Caitlin. I know you love me. You don't have to say it.” He paused. “Now what is this that's sticking into me?” He reached into the folds of my sweater and pulled out my missing earring. He handed it to me. “Yours, I presume.”

“My earring! I'm so glad. My mother gave these to me. Thank you! I love you!” I gulped. I had done it. I hadn't even meant to, but I'd told Chris what I'd been longing for two years to say.

He enclosed me ever more tightly in his arms, and I knew right then and there that I'd never have a problem saying those three little words again.

About the Author: Carol Ayer's short romantic fiction has appeared in The Prairie Times, Woman's World, and in previous editions of The Long and the Short of It. Her romantic novella Storybook Love is available from Wild Child Publishing. Visit Carol's website at www.seaaircarol.com.

Autor Interview: Franny Armstrong


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to have Franny Armstrong with us today . Franny's latest book, I B Jumpin', the second book in her Extrasensory Elements series, releases this month. The first book in the series, Author's Demise, was released in March.

Franny's publisher is Red Rose Publishing.

"The first time I submitted, I was rejected. (so sad)," she told me. "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. Author's Demise released in March, I B Jumpin' releases this month, and another in August."

It's not always easy being an author. Franny is a full time author who was disabled with BiPolar II disorder and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) in 2002 and thought her 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!"

Extrasensory Elements Series Book 1-Author’s Demise featurs a hero who 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.

I asked Franny to describe her day.

"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. 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."

She admitted that there's no such thing as "balance" in her life. She just goes with the flow and writes when she can, edits, promos, updates and builds websites, and so on.

She promotes her books in every social network she can: ie: Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Blogtalkradio, etc. "so many more it would take a week to list them," she said. "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."

Some writing tips from Franny: "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 Franny. She told me that they are swirling around in her head constantly.

"I have to write them down or my brain gets all muddled and I can’t think straight," she admitted. "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." She laughed and added, "And I never left the ground!"

Another piece of advice she has for writers—"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."

I asked Franny to tell us ten things about herself that no one knows.

"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 color.

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. I 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.”

Finally, I asked Franny what advice she would give to an aspiring author.

"‘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."
You can keep up with Franny on her blog http://www.paranovelgirls.com/frannybloglinks.htm,