Beginning January 1, 2013

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Jennifer Crusie

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Crusie is with us this week to celebrate the release of her latest solo novel, "Maybe This Time".

So, which of your characters would you most like to go shopping with? Have at your back in a bar fight? Trust to babysit your dogs or your granddaughter? Have as your partner in Spades?

Hang out with, probably Mab in Wild Ride or Agnes and Lisa Livia from Agnes and the Hitman. Have at my back in a bar fight, Shane and Carpenter from Agnes and the Hitman.


Min from Bet Me or Andie from Maybe This Time would take care of my dogs and granddaughters. I don't know what Spades is. If it's something difficult like chess or bridge that needs a good brain and a cool head, then North Archer from Maybe This Time.

Which famous villain would you like to see redeemed? How and why? What kind of future could you see for him once he’s changed his ways?

Lucas Buck from American Gothic.

Put the right snarky, kickass, probably supernatural heroine with him and motivate him and I think he's redeemable. Of course, there are all those dead bodies in his past, but he's the devil, so not a surprise. But if he's Lucifer (Lucas, right?) then he was good and he fell, and those who fall can rise again. And the guy is unstoppable so he could do a lot of good in the world.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Jennifer Crusie

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Crusie is with us this week to celebrate the release of her latest solo novel, "Maybe This Time".

Jenny, what kind of writer are you? I don’t want to ask you where you get your ideas, because I know .. they’re everywhere! But, do you plot? Pants? Play the “what if” game? Do you interview your characters and make a character outline? I’ve seen pictures of your collages (they’re amazing ... wonder what they’d go for on eBay? *G*), so I know you’re visual.

I write the first draft off the top of my head, not in chronological order, just what ever floats into my frontal lobe. Then I revise and plot and analyze and organize and rewrite again.

I don't interview my characters or make outlines, but I do put the scenes up on a big white board and see where the patterns are, and I pay attention to how long the scenes and acts are, trying to keep everything well paced.

And yep, I work on the collages and play the sounddtracks the entire time I'm writing and revising.

Can you take us on a trip with you from idea to submission?

Well, take Maybe This Time. I got the idea long before I became a writer, back when I was working on my first master's degree in '87. I read The Turn of the Screw, and thought, "Somebody should rescue that governess," and it stayed in the back of my head, kind of nagging at me until about two years ago, when I told my editor I wanted to write my version of The Turn of the Screw. And she said, "Huh. Okay," and I began to work on key scenes and research ghosts and did a computer collage and kept noodling with it while we finished Wild Ride, and then I sat down and wrote the first draft and did the first scissors and glue collage and researched the soundtrack and reread The Turn of the Screw about six times.

Several months in, I realized I needed to set the book in a different time period, so I moved it to 1992 (which really screwed up the soundtrack) and then rewrote it again. And then I gave it to beta readers and took their feedback and rewrote it, and then I sent it to my editor and took her feedback and rewrote it, and then . . .

It gets really boring to explain once you get into rewrite territory because it's pretty much lather, rinse, repeat.

And worth all the work!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Jennifer Crusie

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Crusie is with us this week to celebrate the release of her latest solo novel, "Maybe This Time".

Jenny, we’re thrilled to see a solo book released by you. It’s been a long time – far too long! Did you find that you really loved collaborating with other authors? Is that why you didn’t write solo for so many years? And how did it feel to be the only one writing “Maybe This Time” (I don’t count the voices in your head)? Which do you prefer (collaborating or solo) and why?

I loved collaborating which was a good thing because I couldn't write by myself; menopause did something to my brain. Five years later, the brain is back and I can write solo again. I'll still collaborate, but I'll be doing mostly solos from now on. I know what the next six will be, so that'll take me awhile. As for which do I prefer, there are strengths and weaknesses to both, so I want to keep doing both.

That's good to hear! Any new collaborations coming up that you’d like to share with us? What about another solo book? What new Jennifer Crusie fiction piece is next on the horizon?

Next collaboration which is still in the talking-about phase is Fairy Tale Lies with Anne Stuart and Lucy March (aka Lani Diane Rich). It's what happens after the happily ever after to Rapunzel (Lucy's part of the story), Cinderella (Anne's part of the story) and Red Riding Hood (my part of the story). I've got another collab going with a good friend, but it's a fun book, and we work on it when we get around to it, so it'll be awhile on that one.

New solo fiction coming up: Four Liz Danger mystery novels-- Lavender's Blue, Rest in Pink, Peaches and Screams, and Yellow Brick Roadkill--that when read together form one hellacious romance novel. That is, they each stand alone, but if you read them in order, you get a romance novel, too. The Liz books are in first person, so that's new for me.

After that, I'm writing Haunting Alice, a book about Alice from Maybe This Time at 30, and Stealing Nadine, a book about Nadine from Faking It at 30. The two books take place at the same time and their stories overlap, so one is playing out in the background of the other, and some scenes are in both books, just done from different points of view (which makes them completely different scenes).

That sounds awesome -- we can't wait to read them!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Jennifer Crusie

New York Times Bestselling author, Jennifer Crusie is with us this week to celebrate the release of her latest solo novel, "Maybe This Time".

The Story

When Andie Miller goes to see her ex-husband, North Archer, to return ten years of uncashed alimony checks, he asks for one final favor: A distant cousin has died and left him guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already; will she take the job? Bribed with money and a need for closure, Andie says yes, packs her bags, and heads for Southern Ohio.

But when she meets the two children she realizes things are much worse than she feared. The children aren’t any run-of-the-mill delinquents, the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers, and

something strange is happening at night. Plus, Andie’s fiance thinks it’s a plan by North to get Andie back, and since Andie’s been dreaming about North since she arrived at the house, she’s not sure he isn’t right.

Then her ex-brother-in-law arrives with a duplicitous journalist and a self-doubting parapsychologist, closely followed by an annoyed medium, Andie’s tarot card–reading mother, her avenging ex-mother-in-law, and her jealous fiancé. Just when Andie’s sure things couldn’t get more complicated, North arrives to make her wonder if maybe this time things could be different….

Jenny, aside from the fact that you own dogs... why dogs? Don’t you ever have the overwhelming need to include a ferret or a bull frog or a llama in one of your books as a supporting character (I’m not counting the flamingos in “Agnes and the Hitman” as they were more walk-ons than supporting characters)?

How can you call Cerise a walk-on? Hell, she had lines.

I think animals (some of my heroines have had cats) are a good method of characterization; the way people treat animals says a lot about them, I think. Also, I like animals.

What other author do you love who uses animals as memorable secondary characters? Which of their animal characters did you love the most and why?

Pat Gaffney used dogs beautifully in her Mad Dash. And there was that hellacious bird in Lani Diane Rich's Maybe Baby. I like both of those because the dogs and bird were so integral to the plot, their personalities had an impact on the characters and therefore had an effect on the story, they weren't just there for da cute.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Author Interview: Hannah Howell


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Hannah Howell whose latest book, an anthology with Alexandra Ivy and Kaitlin O’Riley , called Yours for Eternity was released this month. Hannah's contribution to the anthology is titled "Highland Blood," – in which Lachann MacNachton (one of a medieval Scottish clan of vampires) finds a woman and a child and helps them escape danger. The next book in the history of the Murray clan called Highland Protector will be released November 30.

I asked Hannah what she's working on right now.

"Right now I’m working on another story about the Wherlockes, the psychic family from If He's Wicked, If He's Sinful, and If He's Wild. I’m giving Argus, a secondary character from those stories, a lot of trouble and a lady who’ll drive him nuts. In a good way, of course."

Hannah told me if you count the years she spent trying to get published and add to those the years she has been published, she's been writing for about 27 years. She always loved writing, but one day she saw an article about romances holding a huge part of the market. She suddenly saw a chance to actually make a living doing what she loved to do.

"Since most of the stories I always made up had a ‘couple’ in a starring role, romance was perfect for me. It still took 5 long years," she said. In 1988, Amber Flame was released.

Hannah told me she can get an idea for a plot from a lot of things, even a small news clip. Once she gets an idea, the characters start to come alive and that helps develop the plot. She has to have characters to go with it before a plot idea will really stick with her. Sometimes the plot comes first and sometimes the characters, but for Hannah it's usually almost simultaneous.

"If the plot begins to form it does so with at least one of the characters already taking shape," she explained. "Sometimes I just get a whole scene in my head, characters already in play, and the hint of a plot there. And if I can’t flesh out the plot to fit those people I can see then I set it aside because I might be able to do so later."

For Hannah, the middle is the hardest part to write.

"I get the characters, the basic plot, conflicts, and how it’ll end but it’s all those incidents needed to fill up the middle and make the book that can trip me up," she said. "I don’t plot those out as I feel the characters will lead me through them but sometimes they get stroppy."

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

"Oh, yes. I suspect every writer does. Even if it’s only a roadblock in the story they’re working on. I back away from the story and as I think on it I do other things. Read, shop, crochet, watch movies. All stuff to clear my mind and ease the stress that comes from not knowing what to write next."

Hannah writes in a big room over their expanded two car garage with an attic room over it that's been converted to a library. Circular metal stairs lead up to the library. One long wall has bookshelves, with a lot of other bookcases scattered around. She writes her stories, originally, in long hand at a big old roll top desk, then types them up and edits them at a computer desk at the other end of the room.

"Got the TV, the stereo, some ‘pretties’ to look at, Pre-Raphaelite posters on the wall, cat toys, cat furniture, and a small bay window that looks out toward the river," she told me. "Oh, and a fireplace plus a nice deck outside the door that leads to the garden. There are also French doors I can close to block out the rest of the house. And there are a lot of rocks scattered about as I like the look and energy of rocks, mostly small but there are a couple big ones."

On a more personal note, I asked Hannah if she had any strange handwriting habits.

"Actually I’m right-handed but write with a left-handed slant plus my writing is very small, with very few looped letters. Sort of a mix of cursive and print."

If she could erase any horrible experience from her past it would be the time as a teenager she woke up one morning to find several hornets sharing her bed—one that was even right on the pillow looking at her. She's been terrified of hornets ever since and she's even hurt herself a few times in her panicked need to get away from them.

"Embarrassing to say the least," she admitted.

Her favorite animal is the cat, and in fact she shares her home with five of them.

"Don't mind dogs," she said, "but I adore cats."

Not only does she admit to crying "all the time" during movies, she confessed, "Heck, I even cry over some songs which can be a real problem when they come on the radio just as you turn into the parking lot at the grocery store."

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

"The classic – Just write it. But also study the craft while doing so. If you can, take a creative writing course at the local college. Wanting to write and having a story to tell is a good start but you need to know the craft to get it down in a way that makes it acceptable to a publisher – and very readable."
You can keep up with Hannah on her website, http://www.hannahhowell.com.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Attorney Client Privilege by Liz Lafferty


My attorney was the best dressed man at the courthouse, in spite of the scorching heat outside and the tension building between me and my soon-to-be ex-husband seated in the plastic chair opposite.

They said he was the best attorney in town. Throughout the entire proceeding Mark had been calm and cool, offering the best advice without a hint of recrimination or sarcasm.

My husband stood and stretched. He’d lost weight since this started and I’m sure the county employees in the clerk’s office admired his thirty-five year old self. When he walked away, I felt a stream of tears budding and then the slow seep of pain trickle down my face.

Before I had a chance to wipe away the wetness, my attorney handed me a white hanky. I clutched it and dabbed at my eyes.

“You’ve made it this far. It’s almost over.”

“If you had ever married, you’d understand how it feels to waste your love and your youth.”

“You’re still young and there will always been someone else. Other opportunities.”

“How long have we known each other, Mark? Three months?”

“Four months, two days and twenty-two hours,” he said, while searching in his briefcase for an ink pen and a business card that he plucked from a small, silver holder.

I laughed. “That’s why you are a good attorney. Always precise.”

Mark never looked at me like a man looks at a woman, even now, he scribbled on the note card unconcerned that in twenty minutes, or whenever the judge saw fit to call us to his chambers, my life would changed irrevocably.

Still, I had the sense he could describe me to the inch, including every outfit I’d worn since the day we met, four months, two days and twenty-two hours ago.

“I never said thank you.”

“You’ve said thank you every time you’ve been in my office and every time we had lunch.”

“That’s not what I mean,” I said.

He turned his serious gaze toward me, catching and holding my devoted stare. Had the circumstances been different, I might have flirted with him, but it just didn’t seem right since I was still married and he was my paid legal aid. Those facts never stopped me from wondering though. There was a good looking man behind those suits.

“What do you mean?”

I shrugged, and turned away from his sudden intensity.

“I mean that you’ve done more than two thousand dollars worth of work and I appreciate all of your help. I didn’t think he was going to be so difficult about this.”

“One never knows how it will go when there are hurt feelings and money involved.” He smiled then and leaned toward me. “But I was surprised he had the balls to say someone of the things he did when he had two mistresses and one hundred thousand in gambling debts.”

“I must have been a fool.”

“Fools in love are the biggest kind.”

“How would you know?”

His eyebrows winged and he gave me one of those one-sided smiles. “Been there myself.”

The hearing went quickly, the judge ordering a fair division of the assets and an even fairer distribution of my husband’s debt. Mark had done his work and my ex-husband had been careless.

The judge pounded his gavel and it was over.

At the top of the staircase on the third floor of the county courthouse, Mark stopped and faced me. “So this is it.”

“I guess so. Thank you again.” We shook hands a little longer than necessary. I think it was because I couldn’t imagine letting loose of the lifeline he’d provided.

“You’ll probably be dating in no time.”

“Not for a couple months. Three months, at least. Maybe not even then.”

“I know you will. Three months, huh?” He reached inside his jacket and pulled out the card he’d been writing on earlier. “My cell phone number is on the back. I don’t give that to just anybody.”

I’d never seen him hesitant before. I accepted the card and stared down at his handwriting.

He cleared his throat and shoved his free hand in his pocket. “Since I don’t work for you anymore, and if you do decide to date, I’d like you to call me in three months. I’d like to go out with you. Sometime.”

I turned my face upward to gaze into his face. He bit at his lip, but said nothing else.

“I don’t know what to say.” I didn’t have a clue he’d even thought of me as anything other than a client.

“I promise I’ll be celibate until then.”

He turned away and took the stairs in a quick clip, turning the corning and disappearing while I still stood staring at his card. Three months?

The business card hung on my refrigerator, clamped in place by a chicken magnet. Every time I opened the fridge, I thought about Mark. A rather insidious need built up. He said he would be celibate. I knew I was, and rather than try to imagine his finer qualities, those of professionalism and perfection, I could only imagine him without his clothes -- a very difficult thing to do when I’d only ever seen him in his suit and tie.

I wondered if three months meant ninety days? Or the fifth day of September?

When I called, he answered on the first ring. “Julie, I’m glad to hear from you.”

“I wasn’t sure.”

“Are you doing anything today? I was going to take the boat out.”

“Sure. At Powell?” I never thought I feel like a teenager again, but I was near giddy when I hung up the phone.

He greeted me wearing shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and sunglasses, looking relaxed and not at all like the Mark I knew.

He pulled me into his arms. “I’m not waiting.”

The kiss was well worth the three month wait. The sailboat was a great place to end a three month vow.

About the Author: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. She has several short stories published, and loves writing historical romance novels.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Michael Davis

How much heat is too much?


I know that men and women view the sexual elements in life differently. Yes, we are more visual; do like to see skin, bumps, curves, etc. Yet, on a personal level, I find it difficult to home in on the right level of heat in my novels, especially when I first started writing suspense/thrillers with a romantic core. Why? Well, It’s hard to offend the taste of men. Oh, there are some reserved guys, but if they were honest, most like it juicy and hot. But with women, the spectrum of taste and visual images is quite broad. Before I started “trying” to write romantic scenes, I discussed this topic with dozens of female friends. Their preferences were all over the place in terms of how much detail, how explicit, how juicy. It varied significant by age grouping, but even within age groups, there was significant variance. That makes it hard, as a male writing primarily for a female audience, to decide how do you choice the right blend. I’ve even encountered this in the editing process (some want more explicit details).

What did I do? I decided that I would go as far as I was comfortable with either my sister or wife reading. Did it work? I think so. You know what’s happening, it does “move ya”, but in a slightly more appreciative sense for the act versus the erotic side. Funny thing happened on the way to writing my recent release, which is a collaboration between myself and a female author that centers on the romance genre. I didn’t want the H/H to “do the deed” until two-thirds through the story because of the shadows the hero was carrying inside. Even chapter where I wrote the male POV, she would query me first, “Can they do it, now? How about this chapter?, Okay, then what about this one?” Finally she got so frustrated (she is a vixen) she did something in one of her sections that, as a man, I could not ignore, and the pact was signed. Later I asked, “How the hell did you come up with that?” Her reply, “I was so frustrated, I just figured what the hell could I do to light your damn fire.” And it worked.

Hope you enjoyed my articles and stop but my site to check out some excerpts, reviews and video trailers. Later everyone.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)

Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Michael Davis

So ya want to know the big guy on a personal level, do ya?

I’m often asked during interviews, what makes you tick, makes you a unique person, and how does that flow into your writing. Ok, you want the juicy stuff? Well, seeing it’s just you and me, and we’re both good at holding secrets, I’ll share.

1. What’d you do before writing? - I worked as an Aerospace engineer, an Operations research analyst and an applied mathematician for the Army, Navy, and intel community.

2. Who are the pillars of your world? - My wife is unbelievable. Never complains about the time I spend in the backroom. My two sons (both who write fiction) have contributed so many great insights. And then, of course, there is my angel, Emma (my one and only grand daughter).

3. What do you do when not writing? - Work my farm, walk the woods, fish, listen to country music and soft jazz

4. What are your favorite quotes or parables? - Serenity prayer, Man in the Arena, "Badges, we don't need no stinking badges", “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have” (Thomas Jefferson). “People never lie so much as before an election, during a war, or after a hunt” (Von Bismark)

5. What got you into writing fiction? - I started thinking about writing fiction in the eleventh grade after I submitted a SF story to an English assignment and I got so many interesting comments from the students, the teacher, but especially the young teenage girls (Hey, my hormones were raging. Getting noticed by beautiful females with ponytails and those really nice curves got to me).

6. Did you ever consider quitting? – Four years ago I stated that if I didn't make it within two years, I'd quit (very naive of me). It was about 2 weeks before my deadline when I got my first acceptance. I learned later that many wait 4 or 5 years to get published, so it can take a long time.

7. What should men understand about women? Lord, I wish we understood anything. I've continued to expand my appreciation and adornment for women, but I doubt I know what makes these beautiful complicated creatures function (don't get me started), and why we men love them so damn much (I mean beside the top and bottom of course). About once every year or so, I have an epiphany that opens up one of the confusing elements about women (their vulnerabilities, their communication differences, why God gave them control of the sex baton, etc). I figure that on the day I pass from this world, maybe I’ll know about 10%.

8. What makes you, as a guy, able to write romance? - First, I don’t do pure romance. Got no problem with it, but to me, contemporary romance is more about the ”romance process” than the way I approach amore. Not sure whether it’s the fact that I personally am a softy, or it’s a guy thing but from my perspective, romance (aka love) is about the bond between a man and a woman and how it provides strength to overcome adversity and the demons of our world. How do I combine romance into a suspenseful storyline where, by the end of the novel, as chills inch up the valley of a readers back, they proclaim, “Lord, I never saw that coming?” I think it’s part of being an analytical modeler (in my prior life). To quantify how complicated systems behave, I would view the world as a complex network of interconnected things that have to be linked and correlated. No, my stories are not egg headed. Its just I start off with a theme, then create an upside down tree of how all the scenes and surprises fit together so I provide just a whisper (not a scream) of what’s coming. There’s also my age. In my view, there is no way I could of put the emotions into a story that I try to do now when I was 20 or 30. I just did not understand the human condition and the individual demons we all carry till I hit about 45. Plus, now in my fifth decade of adult life, I've experienced so much, seen so many people struggling, my appreciation of what we all go through, and the wonder of our existence expands exponentially each year now.

Did that wet your appetite? Sorry, have to stop; they limit my space and I can chat all day long. Till next time.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)

Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Michael Davis

So what defines a good character?


I always told my kids, “Let others sing your praise, 'cause when you do it, something gets lost in the translation.” I usually, almost always observe that advise, but I will violate it this one time.

I take pride in the characters I create. Why? Because they are real to me, like friends; no, more like family. I know it sounds strange, but I will actually go back and read my own novels every now and then because I miss my friends in the story. The reviews I receive for my novels reflect that same observation. Now, forming and molding characters that come alive ain’t easy. It takes a lot of effort, but let me ask you. Would you read a fictional story about a character that appeared unreal or dull or just plain plain? Not me. In fact, before I started writing fiction, I went back and reviewed books I truly enjoyed in order to determine why I liked them so much. Beside the intrigue and storyline, it was the realism of their characters.

So what makes a good character and how does a writer formulate fictional entities that become alive in your mind? The following summary highlights some key pointers that may help.

1. Where do you start? – First, every character I create is based on a real person in my life. Could be a friend, family, or someone I spied as I was waiting on my wife in the mall (I do that a lot). I take that image and begin to mold their heart, their soul, their inner darkness, their little flaws or quarks. Now really, does any person in the actual world not have flaws? I don’t think so. Fact is, a hero and heroine survive and evolve by conquering those dark spots.

2. Do characters evolve? – You bet they do. I’m often amazed once the script is finished how the characters grew from my original rough concept to the finale. Its like they came alive and moved in the direction they saw fit to best align with the needs of the story.

3. Names, names, names – Do you thing the label used for a character is happenstance? Better not be. I chose a name for each character based on what seems to fit best in the beginning. In many of my novels, as the story evolves so do the characters and their original name no longer fits, so I change it. Where do I get ideas? There are databases of male and female names, for most ethnic groups. When I have nothing better to do (like late at night when I’ve written all day) I go through a database and select names I like, that ring or flow or convey an image in my mind, then I store them in a file for later use.

4. What makes a character vulnerable yet strong? - All of my heroes would destroy dragons for their ladies. They also have tender hearts to the women they love and are easily abused by the wrong woman. My heroines are diverse, strong in character, sharp as a tack, and adore the man they love. He is their world. But they can be a little bossy sometimes (don't know where that comes from). Does that work for all authors? I’m not sure, but it's that way in the stories I like to read, and it’s the manner in which I exercise my life and my relationships with ladies.

5. One more thing – I’m often asked, “Who is your favorite character?” Funny thing, it always ends up being the last character I created in my most recent release. Guess that could be because it’s the one freshest in my mind. However, if you were to ask me, “Who is the character you most relate to” or “Who is your most profound character?” You would definitely get a different answer.

- For the character I relate to the most (emulates myself) it would be Eric in my novel TAINTED HERO. Some of me is in all my heroes, but Eric, man, the dude is a mirror reflection of me physically (in my younger days) and my mind set. Why? He is an extremely compassionate and protective person, but with tons of dark memories from his past. The women in his life form his foundation, and when that source of strength is threatened, it reaps havoc on his existence, rips at his soul, and sends him down a path of conflict. He is driven to do things that are out of kilter with the civilized world, until finally he is forced to made the most difficult decision any one person as even been asked to bear. His strength as a independent, assured man is monumental, but his sensitivity and dependence on the women he loves causes great vulnerability, until he is saved by one woman with her own demons. I relate to that image a lot. Eric suffers from the turmoil that many modern citizens struggle with: how to protect those you love in a flawed legal system designed more to defend the criminal then the innocent citizen. Each time I see a child molested, a woman raped, or a young girl killed because we allow scum to walk the earth, it gnaws inside, eats at my masculine side. Eric struggles with the same morale paradox, namely: observe defective social norms or set right the injustice resulting from a callus legal system, and it tears at the fabric of his core. This personal conflict is multiplied a millionfold when Eric is forced to decide the fate of the world by committing the ultimate morale paradox. That's why I created this character. It was a merging between myself and a friend, and a feeling of helplessness in today's world.

- My most profound character(s) are the heroine and hero in a novel to be released in December entitled SHADOW OF GUILT. First, the storyline is, OMG. It’s so powerful, I had to get up and move around after several scenes, it grabbed me so deep inside. Much of that reality and gut wrenching emotion comes from Sean and Christine, the H and H in the story. Their past, the shadows that haunt their thoughts, the barriers to a normal relationship, and their connection together just set me off. Yeah, I know, I may say the same thing on the next book, but for now, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Hope you enjoyed this article. See you next time.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)

Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Michael David

So you want to be a writer?


In every endeavor where you step foot in a new arena, you will be a babe in the woods, at least in the beginning. You’ll make mistakes, and you will do dumb things, until the naivety wears off. Yes, that even includes a 270-pound old dude. Writing is no exception. The other day a friend that follows my writing career asked, “Think you’ve learned anything about writing yet?”

Now, as a guy bud, he had a tone of jest in his voice, yet his attempt to pull my chain set me to considering how much I did NOT know about writing four years ago. I often get the related question at signings, “What would you advise newbies trying to enter the field of writing fiction?” Although my experiences and enlightenment will be different then other authors, many of the topics will have a common theme to most wantabee’s so here goes my take on not “All you ever needed to know”, but rather, “Boy was I surprised to learn this stuff.” I post the detailed lessons learned about what works and what doesn’t with 24 other authors at TheWritersVineyard.com, but this should get you started.

1. Make sure your manuscript is all it can be. I don’t just mean good, I mean that when you reread chapter after chapter you find yourself espousing, “Did I write that? No, I couldn’t possible have done this.” I’m not implying it has to be perfect, or that no improvement is possible, but I do mean you are comfortable that the reader will be enveloped into the story. Frankly, I will rewrite, alter, and mess with every story from twenty to thirty rewrites before I advance to the next stage. I will tune the characters until I love ‘em or hate the villains, and until the image I carry in my head is the one that flashes in the readers' mind when they are exposed to the characters. I also want the reader to smell, hear, feel and see the surroundings that are playing through my mind until they experience my fictional world like it is reality.

2. Find someone, hopefully two or three, that will read your scripts and be brutally honest, I mean brutal. Then listen to their comments with an open mind, and don't make excuses why they aren't reading it right. Be prepared to learn and grow with each story. Listen to all pre-reviewers, editors, and the publisher. You'll learn a lot.

3. The big eight publishers and agents are interested in established commodities where their risk is minimal. A newbie doesn't fit that category, unless you're a politician, actor, or have major connections. The small publishing houses are more open and can provide a higher probability entrance into the field, but it is still hard. I suggest you focus there first and Predators& Editors is a great source to check out for viable candidates.

4. The query letter and synopsis really means the difference between success and failure. One small house said they received 23,000 submissions a year. Now how the heck are you going to float to the surface of that queue if you don't grab them on the query letter before they even get to the manuscript?

5. Get accustom to rejection. I received over one hundred rejection letters before I got my first contract. And from what I’ve read at the writer’s forums, I was lucky.

6. So let’s assume you got through the door, into their screeners' pile, and a contract is offered. What now? Well, with one of the big eight, they can afford 100K to promote a new book. An indie cannot. Oh, they will promote, but so must you. After being contracted for my debut novel TAINTED HERO, I was authorized to join the publishers author loop. It quickly became clear that I was a babe in the world when it comes to self-promotion, so I began doing research. My problem was finding the time between writing and all the possible avenues for promotion. There was also much conflict on the web about what worked and what did not. I decided to conduct data driven experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of each promotion activity. Once I had the data, I could continue with those that worked and drop those that did not, and that’s what I did. For six months, I posted an article on my website that quantifies the effectiveness of two dozen different promoting activities. I eventually took it down to make space for some awards I received. If you’d like an email copy, then go to my website Davisstories.com, click the “Contact” button and send me an email. If I get a ton of enquiries, I’ll go back and redesign my site with new space for the article again.

I will relate here the best and worst promo avenues based on actual site hit data. For the amount of effort expended (if you don’t count the time required to complete the script), I received more deep hits to my website from the exposure provided by reviews and rewards associated with each novel. Surprisingly, my worst performer (considering what I spent) was the money I wasted on advertisement. That’s not to say that some site ads were not worth the cost, just that most were not. This was a major shock to me and many authors confirmed this result via emails. Funny thing was, the more the ad cost me, the fewer promotion hits I received per dollar spent. Go figure.

Hope this has been helpful. Till next time:

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)

Author of the year (2008 and 2009)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Michael Davis


Story behind the story VEIL OF DECEPTION


Sometimes, the story behind how a novel came about can be as interesting as the story itself. Here's an explanation for how our new release, VEIL OF DECEPTION, was born and its connection on a personal level. It is a collaborative effort between a male and female author to foster realism between hero/heroine interactions and their gender slanted point of view

Often when I write, my sleep becomes disrupted by ideas for new stories. On one brisk early morning, I arose and watched from my deck as a palette of crimson and blue colors embraced the sky and reflected against the lake. The predawn mist that frequents the surface on chilly mornings quickly blanketed the cove and partially obscured the shoreline. The vapor cloud that welcomes the sunrise offered an eerie ballet while it swirled and danced to a solitary spectator, me. As I sipped my third cup of coffee, the ghostly figures and sprites disappeared into the forest canopy and I caught the outline of several new visitors headed toward my dock. The string of serene images flooded my thoughts as I studied a brood of freshly hatched ducklings following in single file behind their parents.

The serenade of a mourning dove enticing his mate in the cedar tree to my right was interrupted by a radio across the cove. The blaring news report reminded me of a horrifying mystery still haunting the community near where I live. My peaceful thoughts became corrupted by visions of evil things that wait just outside our civilized world for the chance to reach out and destroy the innocent. At that instant, there was a splash. I turned and where there had been five sets of small paddling feet, now there were only four. Nature, with all her exacting reality, had taken a life from an unsuspecting family to feed the blind hunger of one of her beasts.

The parallel between what I’d heard on the radio and what was unfolding in the cove electrified my muse. The juices began to flow for a new novel, one based on the hidden dangers all around us, but it had to be anchored in truth and blended with a romantic core. Then it hit me. Sometimes deception is the match that burns love to a cinder. Whether it’s an attempt to deceive our mate, or a lie to fool ourselves, deception only fosters pain. In the same way, evil deeds are generally carried out through a VEIL OF DECEPTION, and the plot for a gut-wrenching romantic suspense was born.

I discussed the opportunity to collaborate with an author friend, Candace Morehouse. Our intent was to achieve realism by blending both gender views. Was the collaboration successful? Why not come on over to Davisstories.com, read a few excerpts/reviews, and you be the judge. There is also a narrated video that provides images taken from where the story was created. And, as all the early reviews have noted, if you think you know where the story is headed, boy, are you in for a surprise. Like a little blurb to peak some interest?

Something suspicious is happening at Spenser Lake. People are disappearing and their bodies never found. The fear and uncertainty affect the tranquil community, but especially Kurt Hawkins. The guilt that he was responsible for his wife’s loss precludes any normalcy in his life until he meets Danielle Gillette, a reclusive author with skeletons of her own. When the mystery to the disappearances is revealed, they discover sometimes truth cuts deeper than a lie.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What About Bryan? by Nancy Goldberg Levine


If anything could go wrong today, it had. First, Kacey Schneider had been late for work, and her boss didn’t like it when people were even one minute late. The copier had broken, and her co-workers were crazy, but the worst part was that the ceramic goose that sat outside her house was missing. She might not know what to do about co-workers or the copier, but she had a handle on where the goose might be. Kacey stopped short at the front door of her neighbor‘s stately English Tudor home, and knew she was right. Her ceramic goose, Jessie, was sitting brazenly on the porch, wearing a silly pumpkin outfit. Her neighbor, who had been very neighborly in his complaints about her singing while she cleaned her house on Saturday morning, was clad in neatly pressed tan slacks and a blue and white striped Oxford shirt. She hadn’t noticed how nice-looking he was when he’d complained to her about the music. He had wavy brown hair and brown eyes and broad shoulders. He looked a little like her favorite baseball player. Just a little.

“Yes?”

“I’m Kacey Schneider from next door and you stole Jessie. My mom left me that goose in her will when she died.”

“I’m Bryan Safer, and I haven’t stolen anything.”

Kacey pointed to the ceramic goose in question. “Then what’s Jessie doing on your porch?”

“This goose belonged to my Aunt Phoebe. When she passed away, she gave me the goose, this house, and everything else that goes along with it.”

“I don’t believe you even have an Aunt Phoebe, you…you…goose-stealer.” Surprised that she couldn’t think of any other names mean enough to call him, Kacey paused for a moment, then blurted out, “I work at the IRS. In the Tax Shelter Department. If you don’t return Jessie to her rightful owner, me, I’ll have them summon your tax records and then they’ll put a lien on your property, so I’ll get my goose back.”

Kacey noticed the twinkle in his eyes when he said, “I’m a lawyer. I specialize in probate law, so I don’t know much about taxes. I do know that if I don’t pay them, they can put a lien on my property, but I assure you, I pay my taxes every year. Early. ’Way before April 15th.”

Okay. So he had her there. “I’m leaving. But I’ll be back.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

When Kacey walked away, she wondered why she’d never noticed how cute Bryan was before.

Kacey thought about her missing goose all through the next work day. She vowed to get Jessie back. By the time she got home, she was still thinking about it.

The aroma from the beef stew with wine sauce she’d put in the crock pot that morning filled the house. Her brother’s laptop computer hummed as he worked on the historical column he wrote about their town in New Hampshire for the local newspaper. Kacey worked in the kitchen, chopping salad and pretending the tomato was Bryan‘s head.. She remembered how much her mom had loved Jessie, and how she’d enjoyed making the little outfits to cheer up both Kacey and her brother, Craig. Although Craig was a college man of twenty, he still needed cheering up since he was in a wheelchair because of his Multiple Sclerosis. Kacey had to get that goose back -- for Craig and for herself. And on general principle.

She started to sing one of her favorite pop songs as she worked. “Oh…oh…have you ever seen me…” she belted out, while she put the salad in one of her mom’s crystal bowls. She stopped in mid-song when the doorbell rang. “Who dares to interrupt the great opera diva, Kacey?” She opened the door and saw Bryan, holding not one ceramic goose, but two. “Oh. It’s you.”

Then she noticed that his usually neat trousers were soaked and muddy from the rainstorm that had been plaguing their town all day. There was a scratch across his handsome face, too. One of the geese that he held was in pretty bad shape, and was held together by gray duct tape. “Come in,” she said. “What in the world happened?”

“I did a little investigating on the whereabouts of Jessie. I found out that some teenagers took her, and then broke her neck. They tried to hide her in my rose bushes, and I saw them, so I ran after them, but they got away. Then I tried to put your goose back together, but…”

Kacey almost cried. She wasn’t usually so emotional; she just let things build up until she finally exploded. Bryan’s act of kindness had just made tears well up in her eyes. “You did all that for me?”

“Anyway, since I couldn’t save Jessie, I’m giving you my Aunt Phoebe’s goose. Her name is Lola.”

“Lola?”

Bryan shrugged. “My aunt really liked Barry Manilow music. I know she’d want you to have Lola, after all you’ve been through.”

“That’s so nice, but I don’t want to take away your memories.”

“It’s okay. Aunt Phoebe’s hard to forget. Besides, now I’ll be able to see Lola in front of your house. That is, if you don’t mind me hanging around.”

“I don’t mind at all,” Kacey said, noticing the laugh lines in his face and his introspective brown eyes. “In fact, why don’t you stay for dinner? I make a great beef stew, if I do say so myself.”

Bryan did stay for dinner, and Kacey had the feeling he’d soon become a regular guest at the table.

About the Author: Nancy Goldberg Levine is the author of "Tempting Jonah," a romance novel about friends who become lovers set in the fictional town of Mensocket, Maine, where "Mustang Lorelai" takes place. She is also the author of more than 50 short stoies. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and her day job is working for the government.

Author Interview: Stephanie Burkhart


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Stephanie Burkhart, whose latest book The Hungarian was released this past May. A short story, "Shadows and Light," in the Borealis II Anthology will be available December 2010 and several other novels are scheduled to be released next year from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Stephanie is an interesting mix of Polish, Ukrainian, and French. Her mother's family was Polish and Ukrainian.

"I can remember as a young girl, listening to tales from my material grandmother, who was Ukrainian, how her parents escaped from under barbed wire fences to get out of their country. They made their way to Italy and got on a boat to Ellis island. They ultimately settled near the NH/Massachusetts border," she said. "Interestingly, my grandmother married my grandfather, whose parents where Polish and had a similar story about how they came to America. My grandparents were first generation Americans and met in Massachusetts. My grandmother embraced Polish traditions. She loved cooking Polish foods and we even called her Bopshie, Polish for grandmother, despite her Ukrainian roots. My paternal grandfather was from Montreal, Canada. He fought in the European theatre in World War II. My parents met in Manchester, NH, the second largest French speaking city in the United States."

Stephanie told me that the paranormal genre is an outgrowth of gothic literature, including the classic VC Andrews and Victoria Holt she read growing up. These stories still resonate with her today and have greatly influenced her own writing.

"There's a great gothic story by Diane Setterfield called "The 13th Tale," that I read recently and it embodied the stories I really enjoyed growing up."

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

"Destination: Berlin was inspired by my own trip to Berlin. In July 1988, I was a young soldier in the Army, and I won a trip to the Berlin Orientation Tour. I caught the Berlin Duty Train in Bremerhaven, Germany, and took it to Berlin. While I waited at the Bahnhof for the train to arrive in Bremerhaven, I went to a local café for brotchen and a drink. The idea hit me – what would happen if the duty train derailed in the middle of East Germany? I started scribbling down notes on napkins which turned into the basic plot for Destination: Berlin."

Stephanie's latest book, The Hungarian, takes place in 1901. The first half is set in England, the second half in Budapest. Count Matthias Duma is a werewolf who thinks, because of his condition, he doesn't have a right to fall in love, but that's exactly what happens when he meets a young British noblewoman, Katherine Archibald. He risks his whole world to win her love. Steph picked the title The Hungarian because Matthias is central to the plot. Being Hungarian is what he is, more so than being a wolf. She wanted the title to put the emphasis on the man, not on the wolf.

She also has to have the plot down, or an idea of where to take the story and what she wants to do with it first. Once that's taken care of, she crafts her characters.

"What's your writing space like?" I asked.

"I'm downstairs on the dining room table so I can be near my kids and keep my ear out for them. I've got paper and binders thrown about in some type of organized mess," she answered with a smile.

A few things you might not know about Stephanie:

~the strangest thing she's ever eaten is squid. "And I never would have guessed it!" she said.

~her favorite animal is kitties. "Especially American shorthairs. Their fur is so soft!"

~her favorite pizza—shrimp and salami. "I used to eat it all the time when I was stationed in Germany while in the Army."

~She's definitely a morning person. "Even out of the Army, I still do more before nine a.m. than the average person," she said with a grin.

~She loves thunderstorms. "Thunderstorms are rare where I'm at now, southern California, but growing up in New England, you could count on them --violent, yet passionate."

~She is the Queen of Multitasking. "I work for LAPD as a 911 Dispatcher. Getting help to those who call require I multitask quickly and efficiently. It's a job that's not for everyone."

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

"Have patience is the first thing that comes to mind. In today's world, we're so used to instant gratification, but when it comes to writing and crafting a good story, submitting to agents and publishers, you need patience. Patience will pay off, but it's something I wished I had more of when I was first starting out. Second, be 'approachable' and 'net friendly.' If you're going to use the Internet for marketing, you need to develop a net friendly personality. Be pleasant. No one likes to work with an abrasive personality."
You can keep up with Stephanie on her blog, http://sgcardin.blogspot.com,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Social Media: Try it, You’ll Like it!



I had just started checking out Twitter when I was writing Pillow Talk. The ins and outs of it took me a little while to get used to. Just when I was ready to bag the whole thing, it started to make sense to me.

I’d recently had a second romance novel accepted by a one of the many publishers where I’d sent submissions. An editor, from one of the other publishers who looked at my manuscript, and I had connected on Twitter. To my surprise and delight, she commented that she’d read my romance novel and liked it. That was a great big much-needed pat on the back for me. And it gave me the incentive to submit my next romance novel to them again. They quickly accepted.

I’d heard about things happening through connections on Twitter, Facebook and other sites, but that was my first experience with it. I know it wasn’t huge, like someone who ends up with a TV series from it, but it was enormous for me! My writing and publishing journey has been mainly small steps. But each one gives me the boost I need to keep going. To keep writing, and submitting. It seems just when I’m feeling stagnant and stale, something or someone in the writing world gives me a lift.

We’ve all read about social media sites and the importance of being active with them. I’m a firm believer of that now. You just never know who might be reading your posts on social media sites. It could turn out to be a wonderful break for you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Haven’t We Met Before?


The characters in my romance novels have similar attributes. They’re not carbon copies of each other, but there do seem to be similarities. While the ages vary from twenties to thirties to forties, physically, they have a lot in common.

Sometimes you’ll hear of an author whose hero or heroine resembles him or her. When I start a book and read the physical description of a main character, sometimes just for fun, I’ll jump to the back of the book to see if there is an author photo. It’s amazing how often I’ll see something of the author in the character, whether it’s bright blue eyes, long blond hair, or a slim build.

I’m no exception. My heroines resemble me in one form or another. Most of them have short dark hair, large brown eyes, and are often klutzy. And they are always quirky. My heroes more often than not are tall with dark hair and eyes. You could look at my husband’s picture for that.

However, there have been times when I’ve checked the author’s photo inside the back cover and saw nothing of the characters in them, at least physically. It’s entirely possible, though, their personalities could be alike.

For some authors, writing is an escape from everything they are in real life. Their characters are polar opposites from themselves. They strive to put as much distance between themselves and the hero or heroine as they can. And if that works for them, that’s great!

But I’m like a homing pigeon. I gravitate toward the familiar in my writing and my life. Don’t get me wrong; all of my stories are unique. Each one has it’s own background, struggles and emotion. But I love to read funny, warm stories with happy endings. And that’s what I write.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Don’t Give Up Your Day Job


A lot of writers have other jobs. Probably most of them do. I’m no exception. I’m a licensed dental hygienist two to three days a week. Yeah, I’m the one who scrapes the gunk off your teeth. So my writing time, obviously, has to be worked in around that. My day job starts when I leave my house at 7:30 a.m., and ends when I get home around 6:00. Some might think I could write when I get home at night. Not usually. My job can be taxing mentally and physically. Especially if I end up with several tough cases where patients haven’t had a cleaning in more than ten years (physical) or I have a whole line-up of three to four year olds who’ve never been to the dentist before (mental). So when I get home from the dental office, I’m wiped out.

That leaves weekends and the other weekdays when I’m not working (or doing laundry, cleaning, etc). You all know what I’m talking about. Even though we’d like to be writing all of the time, or at least most of it, there are still other things we have to deal with. Like life.

But I do find myself thinking up story ideas as I’m cleaning teeth. (Now you’ll all wonder just what your hygienist is thinking the next time you see her or him. :-)) I’ve actually used experiences I’ve had with patients in my books. Not their names, of course, or even the exact details, but something closely resembling what happened. One character I used in a romance novel about a hygienist was a surly, impatient patient. I’d morphed three actual patients into the one character. And it’s funny, now when I see the patient who most of the character was based on, he doesn’t seem to get under my skin quite as bad. It’s as if, when I wrote about him and typed the words into my computer, I’d let out some of my frustration with having to deal with him.

I’m guessing I’ll probably always have to work at least part-time at something besides writing. Because I’m not getting rich right now from my books. I’m learning that very few authors do. But that’s okay. I love writing. I love it as an outlet for my imagination, humor, and emotions. So I’ll gladly keep my day job. As long as I can still write!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Don’t Be Afraid to Change


When I started out in my fledgling writing career, I’d made up my mind that I would write children’s books. I had so many ideas. I had a list of character names neatly printed on index cards. I studied children’s books already written. I talked to my young dental patients about what they liked to read. Then I was accepted into, and completed, a course on Writing for Children and Teenagers from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wrote stories and submitted. Then I’d wait, and wait some more. Most of the publishers failed to even respond. The few I did hear from were all in the negative. I’ll admit, I was dejected. Maybe I had no talent for writing after all. Maybe I’d deluded myself.

But one of the publishers I’d sent a young adult story to offered something different. My story centered on a high school girl with OCD. They rejected it, but said they would be interested in my personal story with the disorder. At first, I discounted the idea. Me? Write down the horrible stuff I’d gone through, and tell the world about it? It took a little while for me to warm up to the idea. Although I have to admit, writing my memoir never got easier. But I wrote down, in detail, my painful memories of my past experiences, and sent it off to the publisher.

They accepted! That’s how My Life in Mental Chains came to be. But after the excitement of being published, a book signing, and comments from family and friends, I still wondered if I could really write. Sure, people told me I’d written in a descriptive, easy-to-read style, but that was my own personal history. Non-fiction. Would fiction from my imagination come across as well?

I gave it a try. Sticking to write what you know, I delved into a story about a dental hygienist. As my story evolved, the heroine met and fell in love with one of her patients. I now had a romance on my hands. You need to understand, that was never my intent. When I started writing, I never planned on writing romances.

But here we are. I now have one published, and two more due out the beginning of 2011. And now I can’t imagine writing anything besides romance. I still have one special children’s story stuck in my head, which just may surprise me one of these days and beg for a submission to a publisher. But writing romance, for me, just clicks. Who knew? So don’t be afraid, or even surprised if your writing career ends up miles away from where you headed. That’s okay! Enjoy the ride.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Don’t Overlook Small Publishers


For new writers, their dreams are often of being a New York Times Best Seller. Actually, that dream isn’t just for new writers. It’s probably for most, if not all writers. But after gaining a little knowledge and writing experience, I’ve learned of the many opportunities out there for writers. The Internet has given the modern writer unending possibilities for publisher information and submission opportunities.

All of the publishers I’m associated with for my books are small, independent publishing houses. There are many positives there. Here are just a few:

Shorter response time for acceptance or rejection

More individualized one-on-one relationship with your editor

Comfortable back and forth e-mails concerning edits

Author input for cover art

Better opportunities for publication

Less competition from fellow authors for precious openings in the publisher’s schedule

Once accepted by the publisher, you’re often treated as a friend or even family

Many articles I’ve come across downplay small publishers. Most of these articles, I imagine, were either by or for someone associated with a large publishing house. When I first started my publisher research, I bought into that idea. But not now. My first experience with a publisher was not only with a small one, but non-profit as well. Oh, and did I mention the location? They are located in the UK. I live in the US. Indiana to be exact. They didn’t seem to mind that I’d never been published before, or that I asked a lot of dumb (really dumb) questions. They were patient and kind and took me through the process from query to finished product. For that, I will be forever grateful.

My other experiences with small publishers have been positive as well. And with each one, I gained a little more confidence in my writing life. If you are un-published, give them a try. If you are already published, and wish to try someone new, give them a try. What I’m trying to say is: give small publishers a try!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tropical Elevation by Kim Sheard


Colleen practically skipped out of her doctor's office and into the waiting room. The young man behind the reception desk noticed her and slid open the glass window. He smiled at her; his teeth were crooked but very white, and his pleasant expression made her own grin even bigger.

"Ready to check out?" he asked. A name plate pronounced that he was "Dan Johnston."

"Oh, yes!" Colleen answered. She didn't know this man, and she knew she should be quiet, but she couldn't help adding, "Possibly forever!"

"Treatment is going well, then?" he asked, genuine interest in his dark eyes. Colleen rested her elbows on the counter. "Two years ago I thought this day would never come. I thought I would be depressed forever."

It was true. On her darkest days, pounding headaches had kept her in bed, where she had no trouble sleeping twenty hours straight. When she'd moved through her "normal life," she had done so in a fog, performing actions that seemed to have no meaning. No accomplishment brought her joy, and spare time brought no fun. The only emotions she seemed capable of feeling were sadness and anger, and anger actually felt good to her, if not to the subjects of her wrath. At least when she was angry she was feeling something. Caring about something, even if it was only a typo in a report.

She hadn't been happy, and she hadn't been very nice, either. Thank goodness she had finally sought help due to, of all things, a commercial on television.

But those days were over now. She'd suffered through samples of several different antidepressants until she found the perfect one for her and talked about frustrations until she had no words left. "I have worked very hard in therapy, and I've taken my meds religiously. I deserve to feel better," she said.

"Yes, you do. Congratulations," Dan said. Lowering his voice he asked, "Are you concerned about recurrence?" Colleen knew that something like half of the people who suffered a severe depression once would suffer it again.

She shrugged. "It might happen. I try not to think about it too much. But at least now I can notice it sooner, and I know it can be licked!"

"That's a very valuable lesson. Congratulations again on your recovery," Dan said, handing her a receipt for the day's services and smiling at her once more.

Colleen also tried to not think about the stigma that was usually associated with "mental illness." Why psychiatric problems were treated so differently from physical ones, she had no idea. After all, the brain was a part of the body, with its own physiology and hormones. She'd been careful in the last few years to discuss her problem and her treatment only with those she thought would appreciate and understand the discussion. She certainly would not bring it up with her parents or, God forbid, her boss, who she thought could use some Prozac himself. But she dreamed of a day when she could casually talk about her depression like others talked about sprained ankles. She might even be able to help someone else through it. She would hate to think of one of her friends or family members sliding, without help, into the darkness she had seen, lived in, and finally survived.

The strains of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" echoed in her head, although she changed the lyrics to "I Have Survived."

"Ask me how I'm going to celebrate," she said to Dan, suddenly realizing she was still standing in front of the reception desk.

"How are you going to celebrate?" he said obediently.

"I'm taking a trip to South America," she said. "I've been wanting to go since I was a kid. It's a goal I set for myself when I started getting treated for my depression."

"The tropics?" Dan asked. At Colleen's nod, he said, "That's great. Exotic. Adventurous. I like that in a woman."

Colleen blinked. Was he actually flirting with her? Was he allowed to do that, considering he worked for her doctor? Well, former doctor. She bit her lip nervously, though her heart sped up with joy at the possibilities. "Thank you," is all she could think of to say.

"Think you'd be willing to show me your pictures when you get back? We could meet for coffee or, if you're up for it, dinner."

"Are you sure that's what you want?" she asked. "You know my medical history. Doesn't it bother you?" There was that stigma again. She'd managed to run off several men with her temper even before her depression had been diagnosed, though. She'd certainly be a better date now.

He rose from his chair and leaned forward so that they were now looking at each other eye to eye. He smelled faintly of wood smoke. "Let me ask you a question. Which feels more like you, depressed Colleen Waters or exotic, adventurous Colleen Waters?"

She took a step back and thought for a moment. "Well, obviously I like this 'me' better, but the depression was, and is, a part of me, too."

"Sure," he said, and "I've seen both, if you recall."

Colleen was ashamed to admit to herself that she'd never really noticed him the past. She was surprised; he was quite attractive, with wavy black hair and a strong jaw. Plus, he was obviously kind and understanding.

"If this is the Colleen you want to be," he continued, "I'm fine with that and everything it took to get you here."

She almost sighed with relief. Not only could she lick depression, but she could be attractive to someone who'd seen her in both conditions. She was going to like this new life!

Very clearly, very distinctly, she said, "I would love to show you my vacation pictures, Dan. Shall I call the office when I get back?"

He grinned again and shook her hand. His was large and very warm. "Please do," he said. "I look forward to it."

So did Colleen. But first, she had some toucans and monkeys to meet.

There was a wonderful world out there, and she was ready to see it all.

About the Author: Kim Sheard left corporate life in 2008 and now spends half her work day walking dogs and the other half writing. Her EPIC Award nominated romance novella, Movin’ Up With J.J., is available through The Wild Rose Press, and another, The Show Must Go On, has been published by Bookstrand. Visit her at www.kimsheardauthor.com. Writing LiveJournal: http://kimsheard.livejournal.com

Author Interview: Laurie Ryan


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Laurie Ryan, author of Stolen Treasures and its sequel Pirates Promise, both released by Bookstrand.

Laurie has always loved to read, but she never thought she could write. However, a few years ago one of her daughters was going through some issues Laurie needed to understand, so over a four month period, she created a character and wrote a 90,000 word story.

"Between the research I had to do and the emotion I had to write into the story, well, it helped me, and eventually us, to heal," she told me. "That book is sitting in a box in my closet. I don’t honestly know if it will ever see the light of day. It’s kind of dark and I prefer lighter, more entertaining fare. However, after that, all those stories I’d been playing with in my mind for years started nudging me to continue writing, and here I am."

Both Stolen Treasures and Pirate’s Promise were inspired by a local Tall Ships Festival Laurie attended.

"I got the spark of an idea, created some characters, and let them help me work out the plot," she explained.

The novel she's working on now, though, has a character from each of those books. Laurie liked them so much, she tossed them together and let them pick a direction to go in. And, sometimes that's a completely different direction than Laurie had planned, because the characters have a mind of their own.

"I create them. I give them life. And sometimes, they go all ornery on me," she admitted. "It surprises me every single time that happens."

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

"Titles are either very easy or a real pain. Stolen Treasures eluded my through about three quarters of the book. I also had not found a name for the schooner. One day my grandson suggested (since my book is about pirates) I call the schooner the Treasure. And voila! Just like that a name is born. I’m usually partway through the book before the theme really gels in my mind enough that I think of a title."

On the occasions when Laurie suffers from writer's block, she has a tasty way of solving it.

"A hot cup of cocoa almost always works, especially if it’s gourmet and creamy," she told me. "If my muse is still being argumentative, it’s time for a long walk. And if that doesn’t work, I move on, work on the next scene or another story and come back to what’s troubling me after it’s percolated for a while."

Long walks, either with a girlfriend or her husband, are one of the things she likes doing when she's not writing. She enjoys the outside, whether it is walking, puttering in her flowerbed or just sitting outside on her patio with her computer. She also does some scrapbooking , but admits, " I am woefully behind getting my pictures scrapped and into albums."

Laurie told me that they had always had dogs, and now that they are gone she really misses them.

"But we have a little guy, a gray tabby cat named Dude, who thankfully thinks somewhat like a dog," she said. "He likes hanging with us, loves to cuddle, and loves attention. For now, that will have to do."

"Do you have any strange handwriting habits?" I wondered.

"I make fat exclamation points. And lots of them. They end up almost looking like an upside down teardrop. Exclamation points are something I have to work hard at not over-using in my stories, too."

She admits to having some leftover bits of Valley girl in her that jump out at moments in phrases like "awesome" and "totally cool." However, she won't admit to ever making crank phone calls. "I have no idea where my children learned that trick," she claimed.

Her favorite animal used to be seagulls , during the Jonathan Livingston Seagull era. Then it was whales, then tigers, and then dolphins.

"I finally realized they are all my favorites," she said. "Well, maybe not dolphins so much. On a vacation, we got the rare opportunity to play with the dolphins in Central America. Our little friend clearly chose my husband as her companion. Hmmph."

"What is one thing scientists should invent?"

"Being a not-so-closet Trekkie, I vote for replicators. Ordering up dinner with no dishes to clean? Now that’s a cool invention."

Laurie is definitely a morning person. She gets up and goes for a mile walk, then she grabs a cup of coffee, checks email and then works on her word count for the day.

"By nightfall, I’m like that small town that rolls up the sidewalks. I’m done. It’s time to enjoy a little tv, read and then early to bed," she said. "Which is contrary to the night person my husband is. He’s just getting revved up as I’m winding down. Thank goodness we can spend time together during the day."

"Do you like thunderstorms?" I wondered.

"Thunderstorms are Mother Nature’s way of making us stop and take notice of what’s around us and I love them. I love all the seasons, although that’s probably because we don’t have any real extremes here in the Pacific Northwest."

Laurie told me that multitasking is beyond her abilities, to the extent that when she's reading or writing, her husband will clear his throat and wait for her to acknowledge him.

"Otherwise, I will have no recollection of what he told me," she admitted. "I get that deeply into what I’m doing, especially if it’s writing."

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

"Three things. First, write. Every day if possible. That is the single, most important thing. You will never publish if you don’t write. Second, study craft. Take online courses, read books, or whatever works best for you. Third, find a critique partner. Now, when I was new to this whole idea of letting others actually read my work, that thought made me shiver with dread. It really does pay off to have another writer to bounce things off of, though. For one thing, my skin got a little thicker (preparing me for the rejections just about every writer gets). And I learned so much through the process."
You can keep up with Laurie on her website, http://www.laurieryanauthor.com/

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Wendi Zwaduk

Everybody Has a Dream...


So you want to know how I got from mindless, aimless wandering to published author. Well, you aren’t the first to wonder; heck, I still have to pinch myself occasionally. I mean, who knew this kid from the middle of Ohio farmland could write a book people wanted to read?

Not me.

I titled this essay Everybody Has a Dream for multiple reasons.

First? I like Billy Joel.

This is one of his more obscure tunes, but it comes off an album that’s my vintage. Even from a young age, I was schooled in the melodies of the Piano Man. It seemed natural to translate his tendency for description in verse to my written word. No, I haven’t taken one of his songs and made a short story out of it (it’s a thought), but I took what I learned from him—world build a whole scene in a short period of time to draw the reader in—and used it for my work.

Second? It’s true. Doesn’t matter who you are, or how jaded you’ve become, everyone has a dream. What was mine? Strangely enough, not to be a writer, but to sing. Now, if you happen to hear me vocalize, I have a very low singing voice. Mariah Carey, I ain’t. But I had this dream to be on some major venue stage belting out a song—who knows whose song—and having a blast. As I got into high school and realized maybe I wasn’t the vocal virtuoso I’d envisioned, I decided I would be...ta da! Not a writer, but a teacher. History teacher. I love facts. Love learning about times I would never be able to live in. But standing up in front of a group of people my age? Yeah, not gonna happen because my nerves couldn’t take it. I didn’t turn to writing as a last resort. That’s the funny part. I’ve always had the ideas in my head, it just took a gentle nudge or two and a bit of healthy aggravating to sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Third? Oh, you didn’t think there was a third reason? Ah, but you’ve never heard me talk. I could talk for hours if I’m comfortable. So the third reason? That’s the easy one. Everyone has a dream for their version of happy ever after. I’m not saying the husband, two-point-five kids, dog, and four bedroom house is in the cards for everyone. I’m saying that there is a zenith we want in our own way. We all have the dream of achieving said HEA. I didn’t dream of writing happily ever afters, but I sure did imagine what it might be like (I’m officially dating myself again) to marry Jordan Knight from the New Kids on the Block. It had nothing to do with fame or fortune. Nope. I thought he was a hunk. So I would wonder what my life would be like had I been able to meet him and woo him. Then again, you have to realize I am rather naïve. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt farther than most would. I have no idea other than seeing him on TV what the guy would’ve been like. What I’ve seen now—he’s a bit of a narcissist and a jerk. But if I can take the qualities of him that I like—his looks, back in the day—and superimpose them onto a character and let said character run loose in my head... then I’ve got that dream. I’ve got that HEA for someone with the version of the hunk I’d envisioned and everyone is happy.

S’alright? S’alright.

I’m living out my dream in more ways than one and loving every minute of it. So don’t snuff out the dreams you hold dear. You never know when circumstances will arise that they could come true.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Wendi Zwaduk

The Fame Monster


The lights, the cameras, the shouts of adoring fans, seeing your name in lights or in print. Yes, celebrity, no matter how big or small is pretty darned tempting. Who doesn’t want recognition for doing something good? Take a look at Hollywood—lots of people have attained fame just for existing or doing something stupid. It’s how the world works.

Sounds like I’m being negative. I’m not. It’s my interpretation and I’ve been known to be wrong. And hey, I’m no exception. Seeing my name on the cover of my first short story was a heady experience. To know that something I’d created was considered well-written enough for others to read...it’s cool but it’s crazy.

In my first book, Right Where I Need to Be, Logan Malone, the hero is a celebrity. He’s sort of like Tom Cruise or Gerard Butler—a movie star. His issue? The Fame Monster. And no, I’m not channeling Lady Gaga. Up until the book starts, Logan let the fame take over and rule his life. In the public eye, he was considered a loose cannon. When he meets Cass, he has to figure out if the Fame Monster is something he wants to live with or walk away from forever.

This translates to real life as well. As an author, I get to talk to other authors and meet people while getting my name out there. I’ve found it’s easy to let the notoriety, no matter how trivial get to you. The need to be noticed, to be rewarded, can become consuming. It’s like I’m only important when people love me or “I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.”

Ok, now I’m channeling Norma Desmond, but it’s very true.

I’ve seen too many people who feel that they are only valuable when they have the love of other in mass form. Logan, during his acting heyday, wasn’t any different. He loved being the center of attention, having women fawn over him. Sadly, he’s not alone in this idea. Take a look at Hollywood. Yes, there are those who tout philanthropic achievements, and here, here! But there are a ton who are there just to have that huge party, to be seen, to just be famous.

What have I learned in the course of writing Logan’s character and seeing the book come to fruition?

Just because your name is on the cover of a book doesn’t make it good. It’s the comments from the readers and the insight given that makes the book great. If they can say, you transported me to a world I want to go back to again and again, then you did your job.

I learned that I am my biggest fan and worst critic. I see all the stuff I consider goof-ups in the finished product. I have also gone back and read what I wrote and thought, gee, I wrote this? It sounds so...good! Don’t mistake it for narcissism. It’s just a matter of ignoring the idea that I did indeed pen the lines, but seeing them for what they are—a romantic tale of love gone sideways for all the right reasons.

But the biggest thing I learned is not to let the Fame Monster take hold. My name may be on a book (or four or five), which is great, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. I’m still learning my craft and tweaking my characters. I’m still waiting to hit my true stride.

And that’s fine by me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Wendi Zwaduk

Take It Off


Those who know me well, or have been to my website and flipped through my works know I write both mainstream and erotic works. I’ve been asked on more than one occasion—how far is too far? Where is the line between a racy mainstream story and a softer erotic work?

Some days...I have no idea.

Sounds odd coming from one who writes in both lines.

Actually, it’s not. I’ve read some books classified as erotic, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I didn’t find them as erotic, but more like spicy. Conversely, I’ve read some books that I thought, holy moly, this is mainstream? I bought this at Walmart!

See? I’m no expert. I just call it like I see it.

So where is this imaginary thin blue line?

Wording. (Among other things).

There are about fifteen different ways to write any given love scene (for me—for you there could be an infinite amount). There is the downright smutty way that uses every dirty word and risqué descriptor in the book. Is it hot? Depends on the mood. Risqué and dirty don’t always translate into an emotional sentence.

Think about it. He rocked into her. Big deal. That had no emotion whatsoever. Yes, I kept the line G-rated, but you get the idea. But try it this way: Dante’s eyes blazed with passion as he gazed into her eyes. Sariah shivered, but not from chill. The raw need emulating from his body overwhelmed her. He was the one man she’d waited for all her life.

Doesn’t that sound hotter? Heck yeah. It drips with sensuality, but there’s the catch. It’s sensual and spicy and doesn’t disclose that it takes place in the bedroom. This line came from a scene in a restaurant with everyone fully clothed.

You might be wondering at this point, why I called this post Take It Off. Simple. In erotica, the idea is to have the characters naked and expressing their desire for each other. Mainstream is the same way, but with clothes fully in place.

I beg to differ.

If written well, with a hearty plot, an erotic work can be as emotional and powerful as the sweetest mainstream story. Then again, if the mainstream story has a weak plot, simpy characters, and lines like: they went to bed—that’s not going to make it a great read, not to me. I’d count it as more scandalous that the book was published rather than the lack of fornication.

So in the spirit of taking it off, where is the jumping part? The line separating the mainstream from the hardcore?

In the eye of the reader.

If the book is sweet—they lay together—then you still get the idea that the character are knowing each other on a biblical level. You don’t see them naked, but you know they were (especially if there is a baby involved—and it’s not paranormal, so immaculate conception can’t occur). On the other hand, I don’t need every single detail about the act to know the characters have made whoopee.

What am I going to do about this, since I am an author? I’ve come to the conclusion that the characters in my head are sexual creatures. They like to get naughty. So I embrace it. I encourage them to take it off, but I also look at the audience the book is aimed towards. If the character needs to be reined in to make the book better fit a hot label rather than an erotic label, well, then I’ll do it, but I won’t say the characters like it.

They give me the what-for later, but that’s where I get the ideas for the other books.

Speaking of which, I think it’s time to get to work.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Wendi Zwaduk

You Gotta Fight For Your Right


Yes, you read that right. Fight, rights, in your face. Now I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about.

My characters.

When I sit down and begin a new story, I generally have two things: one, a rough, and I do mean rough, idea of what the characters will do and two, a mental picture of what the hero will look like.

Sounds odd?

It is. I never know what my heroine will look like until she tells me. Hero? I tend to have an idea and then he shouts when a gent looking like him shows up on the tv or online.

But this post is about fighting for rights.

Now, when I sit down to write a story, as I said, I have the generalities figured out. That doesn’t mean things won’t change. Trust me, they change.

I had this one story more or less outlined. Yeah, I knew exactly what was going to happen, when the naughty parts would be, and how the end would work out.

Great.

Perfect.

Right up until the point where the hero leaned over my shoulder and whispered, “Hon, that’s great. The job is perfect and you have my visage down pat, but we need to talk about the race.”

I frowned. “Race?”

“Yup. You ain’t gonna believe this, but I’m nocturnal.”

Scratched my head. “Nocturnal? I suppose you’re gonna tell me you’re a vampire, too?”

“I would but you guessed it. I’ve tried to tell you three or four times now, but you wouldn’t listen. I figured digging my chin into your shoulder ‘til you had to pay attention would work.”

Well....crud. So much for planning. Ok. Back to the drawing board—sort of. All the sunsets and dazzling sunshine scenes were effectively out. I had to change my thinking from they made love that NIGHT to they made love all DAY. Oh the insanity of it all!

(Well, not really, but I have a flair for the dramatic.)

You’d think I would’ve been irritated, having to do so much rewriting. Not really. I took it as his version of a challenge. Up to that point, things went entirely too easily. I really didn’t have the emotional attachment to the story. When he stood up, shouted, and dug his dog-goned pointed chin into my shoulder, then I looked at it from the perspective that this guy CAN’T see the sunshine, can’t run in a summer rainstorm, or most things that we do during the day.

So I took the bull by the horns and worked my buns off. The story turned out pretty darned hot and is one of my favorites—all because he fought for his right to be who he was and not who I made him out to be.

Moral to my story?

When the characters fight to be heard, don’t argue, just go with it. You’ll be glad you did.