Beginning January 1, 2013

Stop by the new site and take a look around.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Cate Masters

Rocking romance


If you’re anything like me, music is a constant part of your life. I love finding new bands and musicians whose music moves me. So it’s no surprise I love to write about music too.

I also love to write flawed characters. In Rock Bottom, my contemporary romance from Lyrical Press, both the hero and heroine are sometimes too stubborn, and too leery of taking a chance. At his manager’s urging, Jet Trently’s stuck performing the same old music, and now is contracted for a second season of the awful reality dating show, Rock Bottom.

Billie Prescott’s a rock journalist, and somewhat of a music snob. Like me, she loves her music fresh. Though she idolized Jet as a teenager, now his music bores her. Things are just beginning to heat up with her editor when he assigns her a long-term story far from Philadelphia. Billie arrives in Malibu with a chip on her shoulder.

For rocker Jet Trently, success means playing the same platinum-selling hits over and over. Philly rock journalist Billie Prescott thrives on covering the latest releases. When her editor sends her to Malibu to cover Jet’s reality dating show, Rock Bottom, her blog’s success keeps her trapped there. Her life’s at Rock Bottom too, until she hears Jet’s new songs. They touch her heart as his music did when she was 15. When Jet touches her heart as well, will the reality show ruin the real thing?

Here’s a mini-excerpt:
Billie affected a sharp business tone. “Already did. I’m Billie Prescott from Strung Out. My editor spoke with Mr. Gilbert about covering the show?”

Jet’s eyes widened. “You’re Billie Prescott?”

Billie had a feeling she’d just made Jet’s Lust Have list, though she had no doubt the list, if printed, would require reams of paper. If he licked his lips, she’d be out of there before he could retract his tongue. “You’re expecting me, aren’t you?”

“Billie Prescott, yes. You--no.” His appreciative gaze wandered the length of her.
The trio chuckled in unison.

Like she didn’t get that same response every freakin’ time. Biting back a snide reply, she forced out, “Do you have an information packet for me? Something that will help me catch up on where season one ended?”

Stu glanced at Jet. “Cindy can put something together.”

Jet tilted his head. “Not a fan, eh?”

If she didn’t know better, she’d think he appeared pleased.

Wrinkling her nose, she grinned. Let that be answer enough.

“Pity you weren’t a contestant.” He arched a brow and turned to the third man. “Now there’s an idea.”

Rock Bottom’s available from Lyrical Press.

You can find more on my blog.

Rock on!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Cate Masters

Magical ingredients


Lavender has many legends and myths. In olden times, girls slipped lavender beneath their true love’s pillows to turn their thoughts to marriage. Once married, they used lavender as an aphrodisiac.

As an herb, lavender can be used in cooking or cleaning. Doctors used it as an antiseptic in World War I. The flowers can be candied or used in many recipes, from lavender syrup to lemonade to sugars used for dusting desserts.

Many people today use lavender to help soothe their troubled thoughts. It may appear to be a simple flower, but don’t be fooled! It’s a powerful deterrent against evil. Its complex history intrigued me the more I researched it. So of course I had to use it in a story!

The Magic of Lavender is the first book in The Goddess Connection series, which says: Every woman should embrace her inner goddess. What’s your connection? I have several more novels in this series in mind to follow. In each, the heroine will be somehow connected to a goddess. Her lifelong quirks will become strengths once she finds her true place in the world, and accepts herself for who she really is.

Joss Gibson, the heroine, buys an old bed and breakfast, intending to make her grandmother’s lavender recipes the specialties of the house. But planting lavender also draws the fae – and darker forces. Lavender helps soothe a neighbor, veterinarian Eric Hendricks, who lost his wife five years earlier, and is drawn to Joss by more than lavender. *grins*

Jocelyn Gibson forgot about the realm of magic. But it never forgot her. Gram always told her: don’t ignore your magical gifts, it will insult the family. But Joss didn’t realize her gifts included channeling the energy of powerful ley lines. Or that her family included a goddess. Family connections come in handy when the Lord of the Underworld kidnaps local vet Eric Hendricks. He’s an amazing lover, but Joss didn’t know she loved him until too late. With a little help from the Goddess Iris, Joss defends the new life she’s forged, and helps save the town of Boiling Springs from destruction. Once Eric escapes Hell, can she stop loving him to keep him safe?

Excerpt
Feeling useless, he poked at the logs in the fireplace. The flames leapt higher, and he crouched to stare into the fire. He should be used to it by now—the fact that everyone had a family to share the holidays with. Everyone but him. And Joss. His awareness of her heightened to a sharp keenness. He tried to dredge up a memory of Karen, but the vivid image of Joss in the kitchen blotted it out. He shouldn’t just sit here. He should go home. But then Joss would be left to finish up all alone.

As if in a dream, he moved to the kitchen doorway. “Need any help?”

Dishes and food warmers crowded the counters. She glanced over and flashed a humorless smile. “No, I’m fine.”

Then why didn’t she sound fine? She sounded upset. He moved closer, needing to do something, anything, to erase whatever pained her.

She fumbled containers into the fridge. “Why don’t you go relax? You’re welcome to put on a new CD, maybe sit by the fire. Before you go home.”

He didn’t want to do any of those things. He stood dangerously close, fighting the urge to touch her hair, run his hands down her back.

With wide eyes, she averted her gaze, her body tense as she moved to the sink, picked up the towel and dried a glass. “It’s supposed to dip into the twenties tonight, so if you need to get going now, then—”

He slipped the towel from her hand. “I live three minutes from here.”

“Right.” She slid her gaze away, but turned toward him, opening to him. To the possibility of him. “But the snow…”

Only inches away, the heat from her body zapped the slate of his mind clean. He operated on impulse. On need.

In a breathless rush, she asked, “Did you enjoy your meal?”

“Mm hm.” Every course of the meal brought his taste buds to life as never before. His senses still vividly alive, he traced her collar bone with one finger.

“Eric…” She inclined her head toward his hand.

The motion, slight as it was, made his pulse race. Hearing her murmur his name ignited his senses. His heart revved in his chest like a race car engine ready to explode from the startling line. “Don’t send me away. Please.” He touched his lips to her forehead, then her nose.

Her breath smelled of coffee and cranberries, and something more enticing—herself. “You’re making it difficult to, but…”

His mouth hovered near hers, just out of reach. “Don’t say no,” he whispered.

The honey gold of her hair caught the light, and she appeared illuminated from within. Parting her lips enticingly, she searched his face.

It wasn’t a no. It was enough of a maybe that he closed the space between them. The feel of her soft lips and sweet-tasting tongue moving against his made him shudder with tantalizing release.

You can view the book trailer, read another excerpt and see the Casting Call at: CateMasters.blogspot.com.

The Magic of Lavender, Book One of the Goddess Connection, is available at Amazon
and at Smashwords.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Cate Masters

Settings are the real estate of fiction


I love to find unusual settings for my stories, whether it’s an exotic locale I hope to visit someday, or just a place I find interesting.

A few years ago, I read a story about a small North Carolina town that used technology to bring together its farmers in a very cool and productive way. As I tend to do, I clipped it for my file.

A few years earlier, I’d begun writing an erotic romance. Something about it wasn’t quite right, even after revising it a few times. I liked the characters, and they certainly liked each other, so much it was sometimes difficult to keep them apart. *grins* But it wasn’t until I hit upon weaving the agricultural news story into my own story that things began to click. I love that clicking sound.

So the story became Just the Right Amount of Wrong, an interracial contemporary erotic romance.

The hero became Ravelo Pena, a Latino whose parents emigrated from Puerto Rico, and who push Rav to be the top of his class. Rav’s ambitious, and highly successful when he returns home to that small North Carolina town. But has success tainted him?

The heroine, Sara Mullaney, can’t be sure. In high school, she and Rav used to dream about helping the local farmers, but now that he’s a man, he’s different in so many ways. Some of them are very good ways – he used to be cute, but now he’s drop-dead gorgeous with the physique of an athletic trainer.

All wrong? That’s what Sara Mullaney’s parents always said about Ravelo Pena. She’s starting to believe it. After dumping her years ago, he’s back in town. And threatening to ruin her business plan designed to help local farmers. When he’s fired for trying to help her, she realizes he’s still the same old Rav. And she’s finding it hard to keep her hands off him. Can the right amount of wrong make the perfect combination?

You can find more info at: CateMasters.blogspot.com.

Just the Right Amount of Wrong is available at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Cate Masters

A San Francisco makeover




At some point, most people at least think about reinventing themselves. Maybe out of boredom, maybe frustration. Maybe just curiosity.

In San Francisco Dreams, my historical novella, my hero and heroine reinvented themselves out of need. Both had disastrous lives and not only needed new ones, but needed to escape. In the early 1900s, San Francisco didn’t yet have the Golden Gate Bridge, but the nation saw it as a golden city.

Norah Hawkins was desperate to leave her life behind. Born to a prostitute, she might have ended up the same if not for her gritty determination to rise above. A self-taught businesswoman, she heads to San Francisco to fulfill her dream of opening a high-class saloon.

Gerard “Mac” MacKenzie’s tired of the East Coast. His family won’t speak to him because he refused to work in the coal mines like his father. A talented piano player, he hopes to tickle the ivories in a concert hall one day. San Francisco seems like the perfect place to get away from East Coast snobs and go after his dream.

But what happens when you reinvent yourself, and life strips away everything you have?

Amazingly, the people affected by the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco immediately dug out of the rubble and rebuilt their lives. It seemed like the perfect setting for two characters to truly find themselves – and each other.

Can the daughter of a well-known prostitute start a new life where no one knows her family history? Norah Hawkins is sure going to try. When a letter arrives deeding her property in San Francisco, she packs her bags.

Irishman Gerard MacKenzie likes his life free and easy, but is tired of the snobbish East Coast folk. San Francisco has enough vice and folly to suit his needs. Meeting Norah gives him the opportunity to bartend in her saloon. Maybe he can convince her to let him play the piano too. She’s a shrewd businesswoman, and negotiating with her makes his blood boil. Damn if she doesn’t make his blood boil in other ways too.

The morning of April 18, 1906, a terrible earthquake buries their dreams beneath the city’s ruins. Can Norah and Mac rebuild their lives? Will rebuilding their dreams bond them forever, or tear them apart?

You can view the trailer, read the excerpt, Story Elements, see the Casting Call (who I envisioned in these roles, a very fun blog series I started), and read the first chapter of San Francisco Dreams on my blog.

San Francisco Dreams is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Masquerade by Lynne King


“Louisa, why is it taking so long?”

Kneeling down beside the wheelchair, my hand covered his on the armrest. “We’ve got him home, Dad. The security services promised they wouldn’t keep him long.”

The doors to the airport lounge swung open and a tall figure dressed in baggy jeans and an oversized combat jacket, stepped in. Dull blond, straggly hair hung about his shoulders and the only part of his face visible from the fuzzy growth of an unkempt beard, were razor cheekbones protruding below sunken eyes. My gasp came not from shock at his dishevelled appearance but that there was nothing familiar about him.


….
The brother who had teased and drove me mad at times but who I loved was gone. The stranger who replaced him sat with my father in the sade of a walnut tree, with Auntie Flo's black Labrador, Max, at their feet.

“They have a lot of catching up to do.”

My aunt stood next to me, our attention on the scene in the garden.

“He hasn’t spoken much, about what it was like or what he’s been through? I mean he looks so different now.” I couldn’t even address him as Richard.

“Louisa, slow down.” Placing an arm around my waist, she drew me in close.

It was a perfect summer's day. I should be feeling so happy and yet...

“Is that what’s been troubling you? Really, Louisa, you can’t expect Richard not to have changed. He has been held prisoner in dreadful conditions, traipsing through malaria infested jungles, never knowing whether that day might be his last.”

A small shudder ran through me. How could I be so insensitive by always asking him questions, grilling him, when all he wanted to do was forget? I forced out a smile and took hold of the plate of sandwiches held in Aunt Flo’s free hand. “Come on, let’s join them.”

Richard gave up his seat straight away for Aunt Flo and sat down on the picnic blanket next to me.

Whilst sipping my wine, my gaze was drawn to his face. The razor cheekbones had begun to fill out and the eyes were no longer sunken lifeless orbs but shone with vitality. Gone was the furry fuzz leaving behind a smooth youthful jaw-line and his fair hair was now short and fashionably layered. If I tried really hard, I could see my brother in him.

He caught me watching and our eyes locked. Whatever tiny resemblance I thought I saw, vanished. The burning sensation travelled right down to my bare feet.

“I can’t believe the beautiful Louisa isn’t married to some hot shot by now with several grandchildren around your feet.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I continued staring down at the grass and pulling it out by the roots. It was my way of releasing the tension. I was twenty-five years old and still living at home. Moving out wasn’t an option. I had no time for long term relationships -my commitment always to find Richard and bring him home. Now my life was my own again and yet I couldn’t embrace it. How could I throw that in his face, that he wasn’t the only one held captive all these years?

“Have you thought about what you plan to do now?” I didn’t look up.

The dog’s snoring grew louder and a blackbird began calling to its mate.

Finally he answered. “Writing down the truth of what really happened. It was once said to me, if you are forgotten, you cease to exist. Some things and some people should never be forgotten. I only hope with my words comes forgiveness.”

I met his gaze and found myself drowning in such sorrow within those depths. “Surely you don’t mean your kidnappers?”

His shoulders sagged as his eyes lowered. Looking up again, he didn’t have to say anything, I could feel it - he wanted my forgiveness.

He stood up abruptly. “I think I’ll take Max for a walk down by the river.”



The journey home from Auntie Flo’s was a silent one. Father had dozed off as soon as I started the engine up. Richard sat in the passenger seat staring at the setting sun. It was a remarkable sight, the grey endless road seemingly disappearing into the golden blaze of yellow with its halo of fire.

“There was a time when I thought I would never again marvel at a sunset, hear a blackbird sing or experience emotions other than fear,” he said softly. “But what stopped me from giving up, was the prayer that one day I would be sitting here and gazing upon the one image that gave me that hope not to give up.”

I felt the intensity of his gaze.


….
“No,” the inhuman cry tore through the house.

Throwing my book onto the floor, I jumped out of bed – grabbing my gown as I ran out into the hallway. Father’s light was showing from underneath his door, but I knew the sound had come from Richard’s room. Bursting through the door, I was confronted by a tormented soul thrashing about the bed, covers revealing his perspiration soaked torso. Eyelids though closed were quivering and whatever nightmare he was undergoing had him in its grip so deep, that even the light going on didn’t wake him.

“Don’t you die on me, we’re brothers in this, do you hear me…”

I fell to my knees beside the bed. “Wake up.” My fingers began lightly stroking his damp forehead. “It’s just a dream; you’re safe now.”

It was the first time I had had direct physical contact. Even at the airport he had embraced Father but had held back from hugging me. Now I was placing my hand upon his chest, my fingers caressing the smooth skin.

His eyes opened wide and stared into mine. “I couldn’t save him. I tried so hard, you have to believe me.”

It hit me full on what I had known from the moment he had stepped into that airport lounge.

“Who are you?” I sprung up from my crouching position and backed away from the bed.

“Don’t be frightened of me, Louisa, please.”

I could feel my heart racing and the room closing in on me. “Where’s my brother? What have you done with him?” The wall stopped me from backing up any further. I wanted it to swallow me up, save me from what I was about to hear.

“He caught malaria and his body couldn’t take it anymore.” He stared at the far wall. “I never left his side.” His gaze turned to me. “We helped each other survive by talking about our families or at least Richard did because, believe me, I had no happy memories to draw upon so I lived through Richard’s.”

My legs buckled and I slid down the wall. Throwing the quilt back, he looked as if he was about to jump out of bed and come over. I held up my hands.

“Stay away from me.”

His feet were off the bed and on the ground so he remained there and pointed to his jeans lying over the back of a chair. At least he had kept his boxer shorts on sprung into my mind. What was I thinking? I threw his jeans over to him.

“Unlike Richard, I had no family to fight for my return. Your brother saved my life by having them believe I was an aid worker, like him.” He began pulling on his jeans.

“Negotiations started up again with the guerrilla forces holding us but Richard was bad by this time and died before the news came that we were to be freed. They had a list of names – I wasn’t on it. We looked alike, same build. I became Richard, believing once I was on English soil, I would reveal the truth.”

“But you didn’t. How could you do that to us?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me. You at least owe me that before I call the police.”

“You witnessed how your father was at the airport. I needed time to explain.” He threw his hands up to his face, the words sounding as if they were being torn from him. “Today I could pretend no more but he already…”

A movement in the doorway caught my attention. In his wheelchair with a blanket draped around him was Father. A sad acknowledging smile appeared. “You gave me something special and that was my son’s memories. I was as much to blame - I didn’t want it to end.”

My anger for the deceit had drained away. “What’s your real name?”

“Simon Blake. I’m a freelance journalist or at least I was.”

“Is that everything?” I asked.

“I’m also in love with you."

Rising from the floor, I went over to my father’s side and took hold of his hand. My other hand reached out towards Simon.

About the Author: Based in the UK. My short stories cover different genres and have been published in popular UK magazines and on-line. As for my novels, I love writing romantic suspense. Run To You, published by Eternal Press is my latest. Find more about my writing by visiting: www.lynnekingauthor.co.uk

Author Interview: Joanne Troppello


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Joanne Troppello. Joanne is currently focusing on a new project, a mystery with the working title Island Honeymoon.

Joanne has always wanted to be a writer. She started writing her senior year in high school and kept working on her first novel, editing it time and again, until she felt ready to submit it for publication. She worked full time in various office environments until 2008, when she launched her home-based freelance writing/marketing business. She has experienced writer's block before and told me it's not always easy to get back into the writing mode when you're going through that. She makes herself sit in front of the computer and tries to brainstorm or free write. Listening to music also inspires her, but her best weapon is preventive measures like making sure she writes some every day, whether in her daily blog, her current WIP, or other writing projects. When Joanne is working, she usually follows similar procedures in going from idea to book. Her first step is to try to come up with a title.

"It’s always a working title because my first idea is not usually the end result for the title," she explained.

After that, she works on the chapter outline—the plot comes to her before any character development.

"I try to be as detailed as possible," she said, "with the realization in the back of my mind that as the story progresses, the chapter outline will most likely need to be changed to allow my characters the chance to tell their own stories."

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

"A great story that draws the reader in is very important. You need to maintain a strong point of view, without head hopping from character to character. Another important element is to create engaging dialogue and make sure to show your readers the story line and not tell them. Create characters that the reader wants to get to know and is sorry to leave them when the book is over."

Two of her favorite contemporary authors do just that—capture the reader's attention, maybe in different ways, but with the same goal in mind…to immerse the reader into the world of the characters and allow the reader to witness their growth through the story. Her favorite literary writer, Jane Austen, was a big inspiration for Joanne's second book Mr. Shipley's Governess. I asked her to tell us a little bit about it.

"My latest book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess is a contemporary inspirational romance, with a classic feel. My protagonist, Sophie Baird is looking for a way to escape the painful reality of her parents' deaths. Unable to live in their home any longer, she takes a job as a live-in tutor to Anastasia Shipley to remove herself from her painful memories and the feeling that God has abandoned her. Anastasia has an illness that has prevented her from ever attending school and makes her father, Sebastian, over protective. When Sophie first meets Sebastian, she cannot deny the intense attraction she feels toward him. When an unexpected romance begins between them, she starts to rebuild her relationship with God, with the help of a certain little girl."

Jane Austen was influential in another part of Joanne's life, as well. She used to have a pair of cats named Mr. Knightly and Emma. Sadly, she developed allergies to pet dander and had to give them away, but cats still remain her favorite animal.

Joanne shared with me that she doesn't like having her picture taken and doesn't like to be the center of attention.

"I think that’s one reason why I like writing so much," she mused. "I can escape to another world and write about characters that are different than me."

"What a saying you use a lot?" I wondered.

"Just ask my husband and he’ll tell you that I say whatever all the time. Now that’s not a saying, but more my trademark word. I’m trying to work on that, though; after all, we’re all a work in progress, right?"

Sometimes Joanne thinks she'd like to know what the future holds, but then reality sets in.

"I realize that would be a disaster for me," she told me. "I’d rather live my life to the fullest every moment and trust the future to God. He has everything in His hands anyway."

Her faith is something she strives to share in her writing and is, in fact, the inspiration for her writing. She wants to write compelling stories about the journeys of faith that her characters are taking.

On a personal note, I asked her if she were a morning or night person. "I am a night person who is married to a morning person so that makes for some interesting differences. When my husband and I go to the gym at 6:30 in the morning, I barely talk to him until 20 minutes later when the cardio is done. I’m just getting started later on in the evening and love to talk and he’s nodding off to sleep in his chair."

She loves thunderstorms, but only if she's nice and cozy inside. She hates driving in the rain and doesn't like being outside when it's lightning. They have huge windows in their house, however, and have a great view of lightning from inside.

At night, though, the lights have to be off and she has to have total quiet and no distractions in order to fall asleep.

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

"My most important advice is to keep writing. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. Wishing you were a writer on the best seller list is not going to get you there. You need to combine those hopes and dreams with a strong work ethic and hard work…then anything is possible. Once your book is signed with a publisher, you need to get a website set up. There are many good free websites out there, like www.weebly.com you can utilize until you begin to get a good investment on your book and then you might want to switch to a fee-based website like www.godaddy.com. After you establish your website, you should set up accounts on Facebook (a fan page is suggested, not just your own personal page), Twitter and LinkedIn and any other social media networking sites; however those three are the most currently utilized sites. Really try to create a strong online presence for your name, not just for your book titles. Try to network with other local authors to schedule book signings and readings. Always be active in self-promotion of your work. You are your most avid fan and you need to utilize that factor. No one cares about your success more than you; use that fervor to your advantage and never stop marketing yourself."
You can keep up with Joanne on her blog, http://joannetroppello.weebly.com/blog.html

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Kara Lynn Russell

I recently read the last installment in a favorite series - The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix. I had waited months for this book to come out. The previous book ended in a cliffhanger and I agonized over the fate of the hero until I could get that final volume in my hands.
I wanted - needed - to find out how the story ended. But when I did get to that final chapter, it was difficult to turn the pages, knowing that when the story ended I’d be saying good-bye to my friends in that story world forever.
And that was nothing compared to saying good-bye to the characters I created.
I told myself it was for the best, that I’d be free to explore new story ideas.
But first I had to write just one more story for Orchard Hill - Susan’s 4th of July Fireworks. Susan was the “villain” of Entertaining Angel. A friend complained that she was “just too mean” and so I felt I owed Susan a chance for understanding and redemption. (Yeah, I felt indebted to a fictional person. That’s what happens when you write a series and spend months and months with the same characters.)
Okay. I got that out of my system and then I wrote a story for White Rose Publishing’s new Christian Gothic line, Snow Blind. It is not my usual style at all, but it was fun to try something new.
Then Valentine’s Day was coming up and it’s my favorite holiday and...I just had to take another trip back to Orchard Hill for Vanessa’s Valentine. But that was definitely it.
Okay, it’s not. I admit I’ve grown extremely fond of Orchard Hill. I’ve been slowed down by some health issues, so I’m not sure when the new set of stories will be finished, never mind published, but I’m working on it. Here’s a taste:
There’s a new matchmaker in town. She’s tired of being the only girl in a family that includes herself, her father and two bachelor uncles. She needs a couple of aunts and maybe even a mom. This clever little girl has heard all about Pansy and Misty and their matchmaking glory. So she’s writing a letter to them, hoping for a few pointers.
I opened this set of posts by stating that a series demands a certain commitment of readers and writers. I’ll close with a warning. Sometimes the series won’t let go, even when the commitment should be fulfilled for the writer and the reader. The abundance of fan fiction sites attest to that! So choose what you read - or write - with care. ; )
Thank you to Long and Short Reviews for hosting me on the blog this week. Thank you to all the readers who’ve followed these posts. I hope you’ll stop for a visit in Orchard Hill.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Kara Lynn Russell

One of the horrible things about books is saying good-bye to beloved characters when the story ends. One of the great things about series is getting to spend time with those characters again and again.
There are a number of romance series that follow the love lives of siblings, cousins or friends. In those cases, each member of the group gets his or her own special story, but is also present in the stories of the others.
This is the case with the Orchard Hill series. With nine stories to fill, there was a lot of opportunity for cameo appearances and supporting roles. Some of the small town characters have known each other for a long time. The hero and heroine of Saving Gracie had been best friends since kindergarten. Some relationships were new. Entertaining Angel’s hero and heroine, Jeff and Angel, had never met but were connected by another person. Angel’s brother had been Jeff’s college roommate.
Pansy and Misty’s relationship is featured throughout the series. It was a challenge to show the growth and change of these women - always present but with only the beginning and end of each story devoted to their point of view.
There are entire chapters and even entire books devoted to developing characters but relatively little is said about developing relationships between the characters - other than developing the romance between the hero and heroine. I think this is an oversight. Relationships are as complex as the people who form them. Writers need to put thought into creating the ties that bind their characters.
Tomorrow is my last day at LASR. I’ll talk about life beyond Orchard Hill. I hope you’ll join me here. For more information on Orchard Hill please visit my website: http://sites.google.com/site/karalynnrussell/orchardhill

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Kara Lynn Russell

Story Arcs and Series Structure
The Orchard Hill stories have three different story arcs.
First there is the story of the matchmaker’s contest. Rival matchmakers Pansy and Misty set traps for would be couples, try to sabotage each other and find love themselves in unlikely places. That story develops slowly over the course of the series and concludes only in the final story Finding Joy.
Second, there is an individual story of a romance that concludes at the end of each of story.  (Well, concludes to a certain point. Three of the stories have a “mini-sequel” offered as  a free read.)
Finally, I divided the stories into sets of three. The first three stories - Saving Gracie, Entertaining Angel and Considering Lily - are about business owners in the downtown area of Orchard Hill. The characters tend to have family relationships or friendships linking them.
The second set of three - Keeping Faith, Enduring Hope, and Accepting Charity - are about the staff of the elementary school. The characters are teachers, therapists and support staff that share friendships as well as working relationships.
The last set of three - Disrupting Harmony, Losing Patience and Finding Joy - are set around church events. The characters are church members, volunteers and staff. This is a small church in a small town so of course everyone knows everyone else.
I chose these three “sub-communities” - business, school and church - because I believe they are a big part of small town life.
If you are a writer that is interested in creating a series, I suggest you think about some of the series you’ve read and try to determine the common threads and the structure that runs throughout.  How would the series hold out if one or some of the elements were removed?
Tomorrow I’ll write a little about series characters and their relationships with each other. For more information on Orchard Hill please visit my website: http://sites.google.com/site/karalynnrussell/orchardhill

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Kara Lynn Russell

Weaving Common Threads Through a Series
A series can be a set of stories that have as little in common as a setting, like Kasey Michaels alliterative Regency romances (The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, The Anonymous Miss Adams, etc.). All are romances set in the Regency time period and have alliterative titles but have little else in common. Many series, like the Nancy Drew books so many of us remember fondly from our childhoods, may have the same set of characters and the same plot types but anyone can pick one up from any place in the series and have an enjoyable read. There is no character development and the plots are completely separate.
Then there are ones like the Harry Potter series. The central characters pretty much remain the same throughout but the plot of each sequel builds on that of the book or books that came before. And the Harry Potter of The Sorcerer’s Stone is very different from the Harry Potter of The Deathly Hallows. The characters change and grow along the way.
Different series have different common elements that will determine how closely the books are tied together.
The Orchard Hill stories stand fairly well on their own, but there is a thread of plot that flows throughout the series.
The series started with a location - a  small town much like my own.
Then I had a thought. Holiday stories are always fun. Why don’t I set each story around a holiday? The series takes place over one year’s time, with each story revolving around a holiday,from New Year’s to Christmas.
I started playing around with titles and found a pattern in the titles that I liked. It seems like titles should come last, or at least after the plot is constructed but for me, titles often come first. They inspire me to find a plot that fits them.
So I found my titles: Saving Gracie, Entertaining Angel, Considering Lily, Keeping Faith, Enduring Hope, Accepting Charity, Disrupting Harmony, Losing Patience and Finding Joy.
But it wasn’t until I met Pansy and Misty that the series really began to come together. Pansy and Misty are the matchmakers that decide to see who can make the most matches in a year’s time. It is the thread of their story that weaves through all the installments and ties the stories together, while also keeping each story separate.
I’ll talk more about Pansy and Misty and story arcs tomorrow. For more information on Orchard Hill please visit my website: http://sites.google.com/site/karalynnrussell/orchardhill

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Kara Lynn Russell

Creating a Romance Series: The Making of Orchard Hill Romances
Hello! My name is Kara Lynn Russell and I wrote a series of short stories called Orchard Hill Romances. This week I have the pleasure of sharing with you how it all came about - from inspiration to printed pages.
As a reader I have followed a number of series. I love getting to know the characters and then coming back again and again to share in their lives. But let’s face it, when you see “book 1” on the cover of a book, you have to make a decision. Are you going to commit to buying and reading multiple volumes of this author’s work? We’re talking both time and money here - and both resources are often in short supply. Then there’s the possible psychological pain. Are you ready to put up with agonizing waits for the next installment?
I’ve waffled over whether to buy the first book in a new series enough times to know how it feels. I’m grateful to every reader who’s given my Orchard Hill stories a try.
As a writer, a series requires a big commitment. A writer commits many hours to working on a single project. Multiply that for each installment in a series. If a writer decides to commit to creating a series, she’d better be sure she’s going to love the characters and plots she’s working with enough to stick with them through writing, editing and even promoting.
Fortunately that was the case for me and Orchard Hill. I had so much fun working on the original nine stories that I added four free reads and a tenth story to the mix. And now I’m planning another set of stories set in Orchard Hill, Wisconsin.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me say a few words about the series first. Orchard Hill is a fictional town set in my home state of Wisconsin. The series starts with a contest between the town’s two biggest matchmakers....
Orchard Hill Residents – lock up your hearts!
Pansy Parker and Misty Green are rivals in romance.  Each believes she is the town’s best matchmaker.  Now they’re going to settle the question for once and for all.  They’re keeping track to see who can make the most matches in a year’s time.  Both Misty and Pansy are determined to be the winner.  No heart is safe in Orchard Hill – not even their own.
Please join me again tomorrow when I’ll talk about weaving common threads into the Orchard Hill stories. This week I’ll also include threads about stretching the story arc across a series, characters and life after Orchard Hill. For more information on Orchard Hill please visit my website: http://sites.google.com/site/karalynnrussell/orchardhill

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Always by Sherry Gloag


The blood thrummed through his veins, while anticipation licked at his heart. Six months! Six long months since he last saw her. And now? He fingered the four-inch-square white card in his pocket. No identification. Only fancy printed script named the destination, date and time. And yet he knew.


*****
Luke first met her nearly three years ago when he arrived at the victim’s house.

“Drug lord assassination,” his partner Jack, informed him, as he drove them towards the crime scene. “Given what we know from the surveillance data, Drew Saunders paid the price for encroaching on another drug gang’s patch and attempting to take over their suppliers.”

“How the mighty are fallen.” Shuffling the papers on his lap Luke stopped long enough to study the bullet-peppered face of the revered lawyer, predicted by many to go all the way to the White House.

Why did a man who appeared to have everything get mixed up in drug cartels? He’d seen images of the aspiring senator and his beautiful wife. For that matter, how did his wife manage to condone her husband’s lifestyle? Did she know?

Even in death the man looked hard, ruthless, and merciless. He’d always attributed it to the man’s well documented ambition to run for President one day. But then, as leader of one of the most famous, or should he say, infamous drug cartels in the area, perhaps Drew Saunders considered himself at the top of that pole and wanted more.

“Has the widow been informed?” Luke sighed when his partner shook his head. Of course not, why had he asked. He pulled another photograph from the folder and studied the face captured when she’d smiled at someone standing close to the photographer. He hadn’t expected the punch to his gut when he stared into those midnight-blue eyes with laugh-lines flaring round the edges. A woman who didn’t resort to Botox, he decided, and stuffed the picture between the other papers before his fingers skimmed the glossy gold locks falling free against her shoulders. It took him a moment to work out what else struck him as odd about the picture. Retrieving it he studied the face again.

Innocence stared back at him. The kind of uninhibited innocence and an understated elegance that came from within. She was good, he thought, as with a vicious thrust he pushed the image out of sight.

Either she lacked a conscience, and as Drew Saunders’ wife it seemed the most likely prospect, or she had no idea that the money she undoubtedly lavished on her high profile image came from more than his work as one of the most ambitious lawyers in the area. He’d talk to her after he finished at the crime-scene. Mary Saunders stole his heart and scrambled his sanity during their first meeting. During the long months of the investigation into her husband’s murder, Luke struggled to keep his feelings under control. But Jack knew. His partner didn’t hide his anxiety about Luke’s escalating feelings for a potential murder suspect.

“It’s not like you, Luke. And I don’t appreciate you allowing a pretty face to wreck to your career and, by extension, mine too. If you’re not careful, they’ll throw us off the case. Do you want that? Because I sure as hell don’t.”

Something about Mary drew him in. Against everything he’d learned they spent time together. At first he told himself he needed more answers, but before long he admitted to himself, and Jack, he’d met the only woman he’d love for the rest of his life.

With a resigned sigh and a hand on his shoulder, Jack implored him not to act irrationally. “You’re in danger of jeopardizing the whole case, Luke. If I can see what’s going on between the two of you, it won’t be long before others notice how much time you’re spending over at the Saunders’ house. At best they’ll pull us off the case; at worst they’ll suspend you before firing you.”


*****
“Luke?” The sound of his partner’s voice shot Luke back to his current surroundings. “I didn’t know you came here.” Hesitancy warred with curiosity in Doug’s eyes.

Luke squirmed in his chair. Shit! Why had she chosen this restaurant tonight?

“I don’t normally.” He fought to control his flaring embarrassment.

Either he failed, or Doug, who’d taken a lot of flack from him during the six months since he last saw Mary Saunders, decided he’d taken enough from him today and led his wife to their own table after another brief exchange.

Luke glanced at his watch. Anticipation moved out to make way for nerves. He wanted a drink; instead he grabbed the glass of water and gulped. Had he got it hopelessly wrong? The sound of the chair opposite him gliding over the plush carpet snapped his head up.

“You came!” He rose and rounded the table to hold her chair for her before the waiter arrived.

“You look amazing.” Way to go, he told himself. Remind her of the last time they’d spoken, when her laughter had disappeared leaving her face pale and gaunt.


*****
Against police advice she turned up every day for the trial of her husband’s murderer. And nothing he’d said changed her mind. Every day, as she listened to the sordid details of her late husband’s second life, she lost a little bit more of her innocence.

When the trial ended, and they stood together at the top of the courthouse steps, he wanted to take her away but she laid her hand on his arm, offered him a sad smile and shook her head. Bewildered and hurt by her refusal he’d stepped back. “Why not?” Hell, after the time they spent together during the previous months did she intend to dump him? Had she been using him and he’d been too besotted to see it? Well he had his work, she could…

“Luke!” Her voice cut through his rising hurt. “There’s nothing I want more than to go home with you.”

She stepped back before he could reach out to take her arm, and held up one hand, palm out. “I love you Luke, but I need some time alone.”

Struggling for patience and understanding he’d dropped his hand to his side and nodded.

“Without you beside me I wouldn’t have survived this.” Her hand arced towards the courthouse. “But now, I need time to find myself again.”

She’d stopped him with a beseeching look before he could utter a word. “I thought I knew Drew, and I loved the man I married.” She’d drawn in a deep breath and looked him in the eye. “I need to know who and what I am before I commit myself to another man. To you.” She’d paused, her gaze beseeching. “I need to trust, that after making such a horrific mistake before, I’ve got it right this time. It’s hard when you discover that far from assessing people accurately, by falling in love with Drew I got it horrendously wrong. I need time alone to come to terms with my sense of failure.”

He’d tried to persuade her they could work through her fears together but she’d turned to watch a group of people exit the building and scurry down the steps before looking at him again. “I’m asking the impossible,” she said, cupping his cheek with her hand. “I’m asking you to trust me, when I can’t trust myself.”

Covering her hand with his, he turned it, kissed her palm and curled her fingers into a fist.

“Always,” he’d promised, hoping she wouldn’t keep him waiting too long.


*****
Now as he studied her across the table, his heart leapt in his chest. In her beautiful eyes he saw serenity, and more. Unfettered love shone back at him!

He sought the ring box and opened it. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes.”

He slipped the ring on her finger. “I love you, Mary.”

“I love you too, Luke.” Her smile engulfed him. “Always.”

About the Author: Multi-published author of romances that stay with you, Sherry Gloag is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal county of Norfolk, England. While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as no other walkers close by. She loves to hear from her readers. Her website: www.SherryGloag.com Her Blog: http://tinyurl.com/68oomm6

Author Interview: Beverly Breton


The Long and the Short of It welcomes Beverly Breton, who was a nonfiction writer by career. When she graduated from college, she worked on Capitol Hill for several years, editing and writing a trade magazine. At the same time, she freelanced for several newspapers and magazines, writing travel and lifestyle pieces. She continued freelancing as a stay-at-home mother, while also writing two books on teaching kids sports. In the last couple of years, she's turned her full attention to fiction.

Her writing didn't start when she got out of college, however. By the time she was in teh second grade, she was a dedicated diary writer. By fourth grade, she was handwriting a neighborhood newsletter. She's always written letters (and still does, she assured me, "Real letters on stationery that I send via postman!"). She published her first story in the local newspaper before she was out of high school.

"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I wondered.

"For nonfiction writers, writer’s block is an unaffordable luxury. As a nonfiction writer, when I needed to meet a deadline, I wrote, period. Many well-known authors, Nora Roberts and Anne Pachett to name two, approach their fiction the same way. Writing is a profession. Sit down at your computer or pad of paper and start working. To avoid sitting down and writing complete trash, I am creating in my mind throughout my day. Walking the dog, taking a shower, cooking dinner, I’m turning characters or scenes around in my head so that when I sit down, I’m prepared to write. I do think all of us need time away from writing to nurture and recharge ourselves, but I don’t call that writer’s block. I just call that smart!"

One of the most important elements of good writing, in Beverly's opinion, is consistency.

"Nothing turns me off more than a character or plot line that doesn’t follow from what has come before," she explained. "I don’t ever want to think: 'that character wouldn’t do/say that' or 'that wouldn’t happen.'"

Characters are usually the first to come to her, but usually they are characters in a situation or setting or with a particular problem. Usually each character is a mix of people she knows or have read about, and often there's a bit of herself in each one as well so there's at least one personality trait with which she can readily identify. Then, she just lives with them in her head--watching them, listening to them, imagining them in situations. Over time, the story begins to take on a life of its own, and then she starts writing.

Sometimes the perfect title for a story will just pop out at her, while other times she reads through the finished story for a catchy phrase or pivotal scene that really speaks to what is unique about the story.

"And I can admit, other times, I’ve put my need out to my critique group and gotten the exact title from one of my writing colleagues, who has generously offered, knowing next time I might be the one offering the perfect title to her!" she told me.

Beverly described her writing space as chaotic, adding, "But it's, generally, a chaos I understand. I have books and piles of papers and files all over my desk tops, on auxiliary tables, the floor. I’d like to be neater and more organized, but somehow I always return to writing in creative chaos."

On a personal note, Beverly told me she has a dog, Abby, who is a four-year-old yellow lab mix who was rescued in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

"She starred in a personal essay I wrote for Bark magazine," Beverly said. "The magazine sent out a photographer so we even posed for pictures, our little model girl and my husband and I. Proud parents, of course."

I asked her about her favorite animal and she said, "If you take most little girls' favorite animals, dogs and horses, out of the equation, since I was no exception to this rule and dreamed of riding my horse with my dog by my side, my favorite animal is the gorilla, hands down. I could watch them for days on end, their facial expressions and interactions, imagining what they are thinking about because I’m betting their thoughts are closer to mine than I could probably ever imagine."

She admitted to crying during movies, while reading books, at athletic events, awards ceremonies, and weddings.

"And I cry, guaranteed, every time I hear bagpipes," she assured me.

Pizza is her favorite food, and she can be happy with various vegetarian versions. Her current favorite, however, is mushroom, especially if paired with caramelized onions.

She refused to label herself as a stereotype, telling me, "According to my favorite astrological book, I was born on the Day of the Nonconformist and all I can say is, they got that right."

Beverly's never been comfortable in thunderstorms, and now she dislikes them even more because the noise and flashing lightening makes Abby uncomfortable.

"Did my canine daughter pick this up from her mother?" she wondered. "I hope not."

She used to be big on multitasking and was good at it. However, now she finds that being efficient with her schedule and the flow of her day, but doing just one thing at a time, is more productive. She makes one exception, however.

"I listen to book tapes while I do mindless household tasks."

Beverly shared with me that she's super-sensitive to noise, sound, and sensations.

"I have trouble sleeping in a room with any light, noise, or movement, but I am the ecstatic new owner of seriously effective black-out curtains and as long as my husband’s not coming in late or my dog isn’t barking at some nocturnal wild animal, I can now enjoy sweet dreams indeed," she told me.

She doesn't drink carbonated beverages, but told me that, if necessary, she could probably tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke.

"I would probably go for Coke because while I don’t like carbonation, I do like the taste of Coke syrup. Go figure."

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

"Learn, listen, and write. I have seen writers who write and write, but don’t learn from conferences or reference books or critique suggestions, so their writing doesn’t evolve. I have seen naturally-talented writers who don’t persevere. I think to succeed, most of us need the whole package. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen is to acknowledge your weaknesses and write to them. Make your weaknesses your strengths."
You can keep up with Beverly on her website, www.beverlybreton.com

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Settings for our stories are an important factor for writers, one that can make or break our stories. Because Love Tattoo is set in Memphis, I am often asked if I am from Memphis or that area. I’m not, although I love the place and like to visit, but the question flatters because it means that I must have captured the essence of the place.

My newest release, Love Never Fails, is set in the small town where I live. That may sound like an easy location to depict but in truth, it’s hard to look at a place where you’ve lived for many years and describe it to people who have never seen it. My WIP is set in my hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri, but back in 1925 so I have to draw on both memory and history to get the setting right.

Location, location, location is a realtor’s chant but it’s vital for writers too. We must get our locations, real or imagined, right or the reader cannot envision the place. If we don’t make our small town come alive to those who have never seen it reality, then we fail.

I am a firm believer in writing what – and where – you know. If I write about a setting, I’ve been there and know it – so do my readers.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

My great-grandmother made a major impact on my life. One of the things that she did was quote old adages, those things like “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” but one that stuck with me has always been “Practice makes perfect.”

That seemed like a very tall order when I was a young child trying to draw a neat, perfect picture of some flowers or a pet. As I grew older, however, and tried my hand at other things that I learned that another of her sayings, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again” went hand in hand with the first.

My first cakes fell flat, my biscuits burned, but since I tried again, I eventually got the knack of both.

The same applies to writing. I first decided to write a novel in the fifth grade and so I labored over my story, a historical romance that I called “Good-bye Dixie”. It owed a great deal of inspiration to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind that I had just read and when I look at that blue ink spattered manuscript on lined notebook paper, I laugh.

But at the same time I see it as a start, a foundation for my writings. That first humble effort lay a foundation for me to continue, to practice until I made perfect. My novels may not be perfect but they’re published and I believe that my writing continues to improve because practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

In high school, I took one semester of creative writing but couldn’t connect with the instructor. My English teacher loved my writing in Composition class, but my creative writing teacher didn’t seem to “get” what I wrote. As a first semester college student, I took another creative writing class and the teacher, a would-be writer herself, judged my work on subject matter than content or form. When I moved up to the area four year university I found a professor who encouraged my work and suggested that I might manage to become a writer one day.

Among the useless information I learned along the way from those early classes was my freshman creative writing instructor’s insistence that we call ourselves “authors” or even “writers”. I balked at that because it seemed to me that would generate questions such as “What do you write?” or “What have you written?”

I might admit to people that I scribbled a few stories or wrote for the campus newspaper but until I started earning both check and bylines, I would not call myself a writer. In fact, stickler that I am, I refused to call myself an author until I had a published novel.

That changed the perception of the local people where I live. My reputation as a freelance writer has soared up to new levels as I’m known as “the lady who makes the books” or “a local author”.

Waiting to earn the title mattered – at least to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

In my college and young adult years I did a little theater, playing roles both large and small. I loved acting – it brought forth the chance to be someone else, to adopt mannerisms and habits to portray a character. As a writer, I rely on some of those acting skills to bring my characters and story to life.

I’ll confess that there may be times that my family may think I’m talking to myself because I’m trying out lines so that I can get beneath a character’s skin. I might go so far as to occasionally dress the part which tends to delight kids when they’re young and embarrass them as teenagers. Last year I wore a long gingham dress, apron, and sunbonnet to an area historic site, Fort Scott. A lot of the staff and visitors dressed in period clothing too but my teenage daughter swore she would hide her face if she saw anyone she knew. It’s lucky for both of us that she didn’t.

On stage I brought my characters to life through costume, through delving within to determine just what kind of person the character might be and how to show that. Since one of the writer’s mantras we hear so often is show, don’t tell – acting can show us who our characters really are!

I had to put myself in Caroline Cunningham’s shoes to write her character in Love Never Fails, with a little make believe and pretend. That’s what acting really is, short and simple.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Relationships can be memorable. Like just about everything else in life, some are good, some are bad, and some most of us would rather just forget. Writing about romance, however, means that I think about relationships on a daily basis. Although I’ve been married for 17 years I have to think back and remember how it feels to fall in love and what the early stages of a relationship feel like. To do that, I have to dig deeper sometime and remember all the significant others from my past.

Any author has to become each of their characters anyway and so I pedal backward to recall my current and past relationships from both my point of view and his (whichever “him” it might be). None of my heroes in my novels are my husband but some may share a few of his qualities. Neither are any of them someone I can name because each one – whether it’s Reid Ramsey from my newest release, Love Never Fails or the sexy, truck driving vampire Will Brennan from Love Tattoo and its upcoming sequel – is unique. They may be the kind of men I might dream about, larger than life, but they are not any of the men I dated or the boyfriends from high school.

In addition to my own relationships, I watch couples of all ages in public, not as a voyeur but with respectful interest. Writing romance and doing my best to understand relationships go hand in hand!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Author Interview: Jane Toombs


The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Jane Toombs whose latest book Shadow on the Floor was released by Red Rose Publishing on June 2. It's the first story in Jane's Dangerous Darkness Series. I asked her to tell us about it.

"These four books all begin with a prologue where four Special Ops Agents are ambushed in a Central American jungle. Chapter I begins after each one is back. Shadow On The Floor involved Dev with ghosts. Watcher At The Door involves Mal with a shapeshifter. Terror From Before involves Joe with a Death Bird. And, Stranger On The Shore, involves Cy, who the other three believe dead, with nanabots."

Jane's first experience with writing and having her work critiqued came when she was six. She wanted to learn how to use her father's big old L.C. Smith typewriter. He insisted that, if he taught her, she would have to write him a story on it at least once a week.

"For some reason it never occurred to me at six years old that I couldn’t write one. And I had no trouble at all, except for frequent typos, in writing my first story about how my father found my first cat, Merriweather, in the woods when he was working (he was a MI Conservation Officer at the time) and brought him home to me," she remembered. "My father praised my effort, telling me this was a real story and then gently pointed out places where I might improve it--never even mentioning the typos. Correcting my spelling and grammar came with later stories--always with praise first. So I must have learned early on, without realizing it, what a good critiquer can do for a writer."

In the late sixties, Jane took a writing class in California's San Joaquin Valley from a poet who'd always wanted to write a novel. The poet had been to the emergency room in an old local hospital that was in the basement, and she'd found it very spooky. Jane thought it would be the perfect setting for a gothic, which were very popular at the time. She was a nurse herself, so the heroine became one as well and she fooled around with the story for a while, using the basement emergency room as a setting.

Later, they moved to San Diego and she took a writing class taught by a published mystery writer.

"At our first session he told us if we weren’t serious about selling what we wrote, we might as well leave before we had to pay the fee, because he was only interested in teaching those who were," she told me. "About half the class walked out. But the rest of us profited no end by his expertise. He critiqued everyone’s one’s writing and told me privately after a week that he thought the gothic I was doing was salable. If I paid attention to his critiques and finished the book, he’d take a look at it and maybe ask me to make a few changes before he sent it to his agent. Hey, I knew nothing about the business, so all I thought was that was very nice of him. Of course I finished it. Well, after two class sessions he felt the book was ready and so off it went to his agent, who then sold Tule Witch to Avon in 1973.

"My first published book! I was extremely grateful, but still had no idea this was unusual, which, of course, it was. I sent a signed copy to the poet and she was as thrilled as I was that her idea had made it into print."

Jane's not sure exactly how many books she's written but the number is somewhere around ninety, she thinks.

"But if I pause and really think, I believe The Scots may be the one I’m proudest of writing. Or maybe Chippewa Daughter. Oddly enough, those are both books I never would have written except for Packagers. Packagers are those who put a book or a series of books together-- idea, cover, everything and even do the editing-- so when they offer the book or series to a publisher for a price, everything is taken care of and all the publisher does is actually put it into print and sell it. Packagers contact agents for writers who might be interested in writing these books. My former agent (he’s dead now) worked with packagers a lot. He’d call me up and say, 'What to you know about Scottish immigrants?' Instead of saying nothing, which was the truth, I actually said, 'Well, my father’s parents were Scots who immigrated to Canada.' True, but I knew next to nothing past that. So it took a lot of research to write that book.

"With Chippewa Daughter the conversation went: 'What do you know about the Chippewa Indians?' 'Hey, my home town was built on the site of a Chippewa Indian village.'

"Another load of research--all of it fascinating--for that book.

"And the great plus about research is often as not, you can reuse parts of it for other books you write."

I asked Jane if she ever suffered from writer's block, but she said she didn't think she ever did—though she knows she's suffered from procrastination.

"And I’m still not sure that isn’t what it was," she said. "But when simply sitting down and forcing myself to pick one of my six series where I’d never finished the first book didn’t work, I figured I was in trouble. I narrowed the problem down—since I couldn't decide which series to choose, I made a New Year's resolution to finish the first book in every series I'd ever planned.

"In order to do that, I chose each series in order by what I deemed its sale ability. I decide the Darkness of Dragons Trilogy had the best shot. So I finished the first book just as Devine Destinies came into being as a non-erotica spin-off from eXtasy books. They put out a call for submissions, so that’s where Dragon’s Pearl went.

"I hadn’t allowed for that, being a new venture, they’d want the other two books as fast as I could write them. So that slowed me down considerably in finishing the first book in another series. But it also showed me the plan was working, and all three books in that series, Dragon’s Pearl, Dragon’s Diamond and Dragon’s Stone are now out.

"Champagne Books went to contract on Taken In, the first book of the Dagon House Ghosts Trilogy. The story has now been edited, so I know I’d better start writing the second, Where There’s Smoke.

"Red Rose Publishing wanted Shadow On The Floor, the first book in the Dangerous Darkness Series, and it just came out. By now, though, I knew the pattern, so wrote the second book, Watcher At The Door, and sent it in before the first came out, so I’m ahead of the game there.

"So the plan is working and certainly has gotten me going full blast again. I have stories ahead I know an epub wants, which inspires me to get them written."

The title for Taken In, as most of her titles, came to Jane when she's writing the synopsis.

"For example, I envisioned the hero and heroine, who are on the run, having a car crash. They then have to search for help on a isolated road in the night. They find this old Victorian mansion in the middle of nowhere and are reluctantly taken in by the occupants. So not only did Taken In become the title, but spawned two more stories about why the occupants are hiding there. Finally, the house itself turned out to have three ghosts only the child in the house could see. So this became a trilogy called The Ghosts Of Dagon House. And what happens to the others living there becomes the titles of the last two books: Where There’s Smoke and Ghost Hunt. Odd things I don’t foresee often happen when I write a synopsis."

The plots always come first, but many times the main characters will spring to her mind as she's conceiving the plot…and, yes, she is a plotter.

On a personal note, Jane told me that until she was seventeen and a half, she wrote normally. At that time, she joined the Cadet Nurses, a program the government arranged during WWII to provide more nurses for the Armed Forces. Jane had finished high school at sixteen and had a year of college. She had always wanted to be a writer, but when all the boys in her high school graduating class joined the military service, she was eager to do her part as well. The cadet nurse program was the only one she was age-qualified for. The nursing knowledge she gained has been invaluable in her career as a writer, but it has ruined her handwriting. They had to print everything that went onto the patients' charts except their signatures.

"To this day I frequently have printed letters in my regular handwriting," she admitted.
You can keep up with Jane on her website, http://www.janetoombs.com/

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Sandra Cox

The Pranic: Not Your Run of the Mill Vampire

We’re all familiar with vampires and their penchant for human blood. But I’d like to introduce you to a different type of vampire found on Vampire Island: the pranic.

Being a fledgling Pranic can be every bit as dicey as being a blood vampire. Pranics gain their power by absorbing other humans’ energy. Since it brings about a larger than life feeling of power and a sharp rush of energy, it’s difficult for a new Pranic to stop once he or she has started absorbing energy from someone. If they aren't careful they can literally suck the life right out of another human by sapping them of every last drop of energy in their body.

A seasoned Pranic is aware of the delicate balance and just takes the amount he/she needs. It’s much easier and less noticeable if he/she does a little crowd hopping, drawing from one human then moving on to another, till he/she is satiated.

Taking energy from humans is not necessary for a Pranic to survive but it increases their power and also helps them heal, not to mention it’s an unbelievable rush. Like their counterparts, as Pranics mature their skin becomes more sensitive to light. Their sleep cycle changes and they have difficulty functioning in the daytime. Pranics can do great good or great harm.

Vampire Island, First in the Hunter Series
http://www.classactbooks.com/Sandra-Cox_bymfg_20-4-2.html

I live in North Carolina with my husband, dog, cats and an occasional foster cat. During the day I work at the local community college as an admin assist and by night I writer. I’m a vegetarian and believe in the adage, ‘if it has a face don’t eat it’. I’m, also, an animal advocate. As far as my writing I’m a genre hopper. I’ve written nonfiction metaphysical, YA Crossover, paranormal romance, time travel and western romance. My blog sites are: www.sandracox.blogspot.com and www.downtownya.blogspot.com. If you’re in the vicinity drop by and say ‘hey.’

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Sandra Cox

The Family Business


We all know folks that work in a family business. In our area, two sisters got their degrees in art, couldn’t find a job and decided to open a quilt shop which has become very successful. Many farmers keep their farm in the family for generations. And of course, there are several successful musical groups composed of family members.

Cousins Jolene Sayer and Zoe Tempest are also in the family business although theirs is a bit more unusual. Jolene Sayer of Moon Watchers is a werewolf hunter. Her cousin Zoe Tempest of Vampire Island hunts vampires. They are alike in heart, tenacity and toughness. Oh yes, and they both love Pop-Tarts. But there it ends. While Zoe is one of the best in her field she is a firm believer in dressing for success. No way, would she consider going into a fight with a chipped nail or shoes that didn’t match her outfit. She’s blonde and blue-eyed while her cousin is dark-haired, full lipped and sultry. And while Jolene could look like a fashion plate if she chose there’s no way she’s got time or the inclination to waste on fashion and makeup. Worn jeans, a flannel shirt or an old sweater, work just fine for her. Her one weakness: boots. She loves boots—as long as they’re serviceable.

What about you? Do you know anyone that has an unusual family business?

The Hunter Series

I live in North Carolina with my husband, dog, cats and an occasional foster cat. During the day I work at the local community college as an admin assist and by night I writer. I’m a vegetarian and believe in the adage, ‘if it has a face don’t eat it’. I’m, also, an animal advocate. As far as my writing I’m a genre hopper. I’ve written nonfiction metaphysical, YA Crossover, paranormal romance, time travel and western romance. My blog sites are: www.sandracox.blogspot.com and www.downtownya.blogspot.com. If you’re in the vicinity drop by and say ‘hey.’