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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Round Robin -- Short Story

This month, in honor of the Christmas season, we did something new for our Free Short Story -- A Round Robin written by YOU our readers! It was great fun, and thanks to everyone who participated.

Part One (by Judy Thomas):

Noelle Henderson placed the last Christmas tree cookie on the baking sheet and sighed. She still couldn’t believe she had promised her neighbor twelve dozen Christmas cookies for her civic club’s annual bake sale. She must have been out of her mind. Either that or the eggnog Mrs. Chambers had served her that day had gone straight to her head.

As far as Noelle was concerned, if this Christmas season were to disappear overnight she wouldn’t miss it at all. What kind of Christmas would it be anyway? Her parents had decided now that the kids were grown they would take themselves a cruise. Her brothers and sisters were all spending Christmas at their respective in-laws. Sure, they had invited her to go along, but who wanted to be an extra at a family gathering? So, she’d made up a story about going skiing with friends from college.

The obligatory present shopping was done and sent out. The Christmas cards sat dutifully on the desk, stamped and waiting to be taken to the post office. But Noelle’s heart…for the first time in her life she was not looking forward to Christmas.

The timer beeped and Noelle turned to switch the cookie sheets. Too late she realized that in her preoccupation she had forgotten to pick up the oven mitt. Tears came to her eyes and a yelp from her voice as the heat from the metal pan penetrated her skin.

Her heart raced as she watched the skin bubble almost instantly. Being a hand model may not be making her rich, but it sure paid the bills. Thank God the new walk-in clinic had opened just down the street.

Part Two (submitted by Dru):

Hand wrapped in bloody gauze, Noelle rushed to the clinic and told the receptionist what happened. The receptionist directed her to a seat in the waiting room. Noelle sighed and prayed her hand wasn’t permanently damaged. She didn't know what she would do if she couldn't be a hand model.

Her hand wasn’t hurting so badly that she didn’t notice when a nice looking man walked into the ER. Her gaze went up and down his body. He glanced her way, and her face heated at his grin. She hurriedly averted her gaze, but sneaked another peek a moment later. He raised one eyebrow while he scanned the crowd in the waiting room. He talked briefly with the receptionist and was immediately sent to the back. He must be someone important, she thought. Too bad he hadn't needed to wait. The only open set in the waiting room was near her.

Finally, the nurse called Noelle to the back, too her blood pressure and then told her the doctor would be in soon. Noelle was still fantasizing about the man she had seen in the waiting room when the doctor entered the cubicle. Noelle’s eyes all but popped out of her head when she saw he was the man she'd just been thinking of. She grinned and couldn’t coax a word out of her mouth to tell him why she was there.

“Hi, Noelle, I’m Doctor Chris Jenkins; let's see what you did.”

“I, I, burnt my hand baking Christmas cookies”, she stuttered.

Dr Jenkins grinned, took her hand and gently administered first aid care. After giving her a prescription, he told her to call the clinic if the pain didn’t get better in a reasonable amount of time.

Noelle stepped outside, started walking and then stopped with a grin. She dug out the prescription form the doctor had given her, dialed the number on top and asked to speak to Dr Jenkins.

Part Three (submitted by Sarita Leone)

"Hello. Mayville Clinic, Dr. Jenkins speaking. How may I help you?" The voice was as smooth and warm as butter melting over a hot biscuit. Noelle shivered, her nipples tightening beneath her bulky sweater, as snow began to fall. Cradling her bandaged hand to her chest, she considered hanging up. Her finger hovered over the disconnect button but just as she was about to bring it down he spoke again. "Hello? May I help you? Are you unable to speak?"

Damn. What had possessed her to do this? Why wasn't she slow and steady like her sister? Why did she have to be the impulsive one?

"Um, h-hello." Brilliant, Noelle thought. Had she possessed a third hand she would have used it to smack herself in the head.

"Oh, good. You can communicate. What can I do for you?"

Noelle snorted, smiling. What can you do for me, doc? So many things...let me count the ways I could find to fill your days--and nights.

"Hello? Who is this?"

Noelle shook the snowflakes from her hair and took the plunge. "It's um, me, Doctor. Noelle Henderson. You just bandaged my hand, remember?"

The chuckle, deep and throaty, brought a new round of tingling to Noelle's body. She nearly forgot the throbbing in her hand as she listened to the handsome doctor's words. "Of course I remember you. You just left my clinic, didn't you?"

"Right, I did. I, um, didn't expect you to answer the phone personally."

"You were hoping to speak to Gladys, then? She left right after you did but I'm pretty sure she's still in the back parking lot. I can try and catch her if you want--"

"No!" Noelle clutched the cell against her ear, blowing away a snowflake tickling her nose. "I don't want Gladys. I wanted..."

He chuckled a second time. "You wanted?..."

Noelle took a deep breath. "I I, um, see I find I'm in possession of a large batch of freshly baked cookies and I'm sort of...well, sort of short-handed right now. You said to call if I need anything. Um, would you be interested in coffee and cookies, and maybe helping me package up the cookies for the bake sale?"

Part Four by Laura Shaheed:

Noelle couldn't believe she'd just blurted that out.

My God, she thought. He must think I'm a blithering idiot!

But to her amazement, he said, "Hmmm, that's an interesting offer. Since I opened this clinic with my partner, we've been alternating holidays. As luck would have it. I'm on for Christmas and wrapping cookies doesn't sound like such an awful task."

Still in shock, Noelle made arrangements with Dr. Jenkins, who was now Jonathan. Since the clinic closed early tonight, he was going to stop by her house around six o'clock and they could start packaging the Christmas cookies.

Noelle practically floated down the sidewalk. The throbbing in her hand was soon replaced by the throbbing in her heart. She thought how her mother would have fainted at the thought of her daughter being so forward!

She raced home to put the finishing touches on her preparations. She completed the final batch of cookies and then sped through the house to tidy it up for her special guest. The house had the sweet aroma and warmth that comes from the smell of fresh baked cookies.

Jonathan arrived promptly at six, fresh from a full day at the clinic. He may have been tired, but to Noelle he was the most breathtaking vision she could imagine.

He came in and handed her his coat and hat. "So, where do we begin?"

For some reason she blushed; was it what he said, or the way he looked at her when he said it?

Noelle led him into the kitchen and showed him the cookies she had laid out on the counter along with trays and cellophane wrap and ribbons. They stood side-by-side on a short assembly line getting every thing packaged.

Noelle was thrilled at how well the chatted with each other, no hesitation, just a smooth, seamless flow of conversation. She felt as if she'd know him for years and he seemed to feel the same. But of course there was the unanswered question. Was he seeing anyone? He wore no ring so she had assumed he wasn't married, but there could be other involvements.

As if he read her mind, he said, "I hope you're not seeing anyone, because I'd like to see you again, without any manual labor involved."

Noelle could not believe her ears. This man who was not only gorgeous, but a really nice down to earth person, was asking her out. Of course, she had taken the first step, but who cared?

Not knowing exactly how to respond, Noelle smiled and said, "I wasn't before, but I am now!" Jonathan swept Noelle into his arms. "Thank God for alternating holidays!"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Article: Pop Culture, Slang, And Day-Old Sushi: Things That Can Quickly Go Bad

by Laura Preble

(And How To Keep Them From Fouling Up Your YA Fiction)

In 10 years, will anybody understand you if you say "fo shizzle?" Will they stare blankly if you mention Britney Spears' buzz cut or Paris Hilton's jail time? They might, they might not, but the point is this: If you're a writer of young adult fiction, you can't afford to pepper your prose with slang and cultural references that reek like week-old sushi.

More than in any other genre of writing, writers of young adult material must be acutely aware of the fact that what's hip today is ho-hum tomorrow. In a youth culture where information is instantaneous and trends seemingly change by the hour, a great piece of writing can easily be spoiled by out-of-date references.

"Any pop culture references to fashion or TV shows change so rapidly," says Dr. Montana Miller, an assistant professor with the Popular Culture department of Bowling Green State University. (Yes, they have a whole department that studies nothing but popular culture.) "In a way the effort to be relevant to the young audience by putting in these references is futile because the references are so quickly outdated. Young readers have a high sensitivity to when these things are contrived. They like to have a lot of detail but pick up on when the detail is being put in their purposely to capture them."

Since the actual publishing of a novel generally takes a year (not counting the time it takes to write the first draft), shout-outs to famous people, hot television shows, political scandals, or trends will more than likely ring false to young adult readers once the book is actually read. Realistically, pop music stars who today are the focus of intense devotion on myspace will probably be has-beens by the time your novel is published.

Are there exceptions to this? Are there people, things, or events that become so entrenched in the prevailing psyche that they will fly as pop culture references? "Barbie is always going to be a touchstone for everyone," Miller notes. "But I think that very few things become that universal and as permanent as Barbie."

Barbie, though, has consistently wormed her way into the unconscious dreams and desires of little girls (and probably little boys too) since she was created in 1959. That's more than 50 years of birthday parties, Christmas presents, and unfettered envy plastered into every little girl's subconscious. Barbie has earned the right to be used as a cultural reference anywhere, just by longevity. But what about other less hearty objects? Anybody remember Tickle Me Elmo? Only the parents who clubbed each other one Christmas to hijack the local Toys R Us to make their childrens' dreams come true. The kids probably stuffed the thing in a closet somewhere, and don't even remember they wanted it.

Media is a tough call also. Music, movies, television shows, these all are a huge part of the American experience. But what makes a piece of media reference-worthy? Classic films from the '40s and '50s might be a cultural touchstone for people of a certain age, but for young adults, the idea is mass consumption, not lasting memories. And people of the older generations had far fewer options for entertainment and media. Pretty much everyone saw Casablanca and knows what it is. Pretty much everyone watched Leave it to Beaver because there were only three channels on the old black-and-white Zenith, and two of them didn't work if the weather was bad. These people shared many common references.

Today, though, an internet search of 'popular culture' will net you more than 2 million entries. It's not possible that every young adult who reads will have the exact same cultural references today, let alone remember them in five years, or ten. So, generally, the rule of thumb should be to avoid hot pop culture references in your writing.

At least two exceptions to this rule exist, though. First, if you're writing for a specific genre audience that will share the same background and cultural history, some pop references will ring true. The sci fi geeks who frequent Comic Con all know the Star Wars mythology, and more than likely share at least a passing knowledge of things like the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game and the old Star Trek series. Sub cultures have their own history and language, so using their own internal pop culture references might work if you're familiar with that world, but again, you must be absolutely sure that you do know what you're talking about. Sports, surfing, the goth culture, punk music, the gay teen scene, all these are sub groups under the young adult umbrella, and all have their specific common references.

The second exception, according to Miller, is the case where a teenager writes the account of his or her own experience. In that case, pop culture references that might go stale are acceptable because the pieces are more like documentaries or memoirs, and so the point of view is that of a real person who is recounting the details of his or her life. One example is a French bestseller, Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow written by Faiza Guene, a college-aged student who writes of her experience as the child of Algerian immigrants raised in Paris. Although labeled as fiction, the novel draws heavily on Guene's own experiences, and because of this and because of her age, cultural references in it automatically retain their credibility.

Another issue in writing for the young adult audience is the use of slang, which Miller notes is still "awfully regional." The term for something that's cool in San Francisco, ("hella") is different from the term for cool in New England ("wicked"). Although internet and text messaging slang might seem universal since most teenagers use it, the terms change and mutate so quickly that including them could be risky. One current favorite, "pwned" (it means "to be owned or dominated by an opponent in a situation"), actually is a corruption of the word "owned" and comes from a popular online game called World of Warcraft. In five years will anyone remember that? Hard to say, but it's probably safer to leave it out.

All in all, the best bet for YA writers is to capture a reader's attention with universal themes and characters rather than hot pop culture or slang. "If you're an older writer writing for this audience," Miller suggests, "the most important thing to capture the loyalty and love of young readers is to focus on themes of relationship, gossip, jealousy, betrayal, the things that keep readers attached and gripped. They respond better to plot and story lines and themes that are getting even more intense in this competitive world today. Kids want to see the kind of pressure they are really under now reflected in the stories they read."

Fo' shizzle.

About The Author: Laura Preble is a journalist, singer, teacher, and writer from San Diego. Her first Queen Geek novel is The Queen Geek Social Club, followed up this fall with Queen Geeks in Love. Learn more at

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Author Interview: Staci Stallings

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Staci Stallings. Staci is a stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids, and, as she puts it, “a writing addiction.” She has five inspirational romance novels in print and has also been a featured writer in Chicken Soup for the Body and Soul, Soul Matters, and several other inspirational, spiritual, and family-oriented ezines across the Internet. Her faith, as you might guess, plays a very important part in her writing career.  

As a matter of fact, she told me that her best writing comes when she allows herself to be “Holy Spirit led.” “About four years ago,” she said, “the Holy Spirit really stepped into my life and showed me that He was the One guiding it all. Up to that moment, I just thought I was crazy. Over and over when I have taken a breath and gotten out of His way, He has shown me His way surpasses mine by miles!” 

It’s a good thing she has the Holy Spirit to guide her in her writing, because her work schedule is, in her words, chaotic. “I don’t recommend writing the way I do it, but I don’t really have much of a choice,” she told me. “It’s who I am and how my situation has coalesced around me. I have three young children, a husband who owns his own company, and very little help (except for the Holy Spirit of course!). In the course of a month, I do the cleaning of the house, the laundry, the cooking, running kids everywhere, the family finances, the company bookkeeping, pay all bills, do the retirement accounts, payroll, help with homework and projects, help friends with their writing, market my books, my website, my blog (which because of the schedule has fallen by the wayside for now), keep up with extended family obligations, teaching Sunday school, church obligations, and miscellaneous issues like doctor visits etc. that crop up on a fairly regular basis. Around all of this, I write.” 

How on earth can she find the time to write, I wondered. “I don’t really know,” she said. “A few minutes in the morning while my kids are getting ready for school. Some in the afternoon if nobody calls and the opportunity presents itself. Writing is how I stay sane, so I try to do it as much as possible, but it’s never as much as I’d like. However, family is my number one priority, so the writing has to be fit in where it works.” 

All you have to do is talk to her to know how important family is to her. I asked her what event in her life she would change and she shared this heart-rending, yet inspiring, story. 

My brother’s death in March ’07. My brother was always a happy, positive, wonderful guy. In 2005, that started to change, and none of us could figure out why. He went from being able to handle everything to lying in bed all day with no confidence that he could do anything right. Over the course of a year and a half, we all spent hours on the phone with him, trying to get him to latch on to God (Whom he believed in), life which suddenly seemed out of his reach, and any type of will to live he could find. In late 2006, he took a dramatic upward swing, and we all thought we’d found a miracle. 

But the miracle was short-lived. In January the downward spiral started again. By February he was once again in the depths of a depression he couldn’t shake. In mid-March he was diagnosed with bipolar disease. On March 30, 2007, he committed suicide. To tell you the truth, there are moments I still can’t believe it. Just the other day I was like, “That’s it. I’m calling him. I know this has all been some crazy nightmare that isn’t real.”  

I do have to say though that my family is still standing because of our full faith in God’s mercy and goodness. Do I know why this happened? No. What I do know is that the love we have given to others all our lives has come back to us many fold through this tragedy. I also know this isn’t the end. … I will see my brother again. In fact, he may well introduce me to my Savior or at least meet me at the Pearly Gates. When you’re assured of God’s love, horrible may show up for a moment, but it doesn’t have the power to have the final say. For that, I’m eternally grateful. 

It isn’t unusual for Staci to have as many as six books going at any one time. She told me, “At first I took the advice of everyone on the planet—plan, plot, develop the characters, know where it’s going, schedule… It just didn’t work for me. I started one book, and in the middle of it, another idea came to me. I loved the second idea. Of course, you’re only supposed to work on one at a time, so I fought the second, telling it to wait. It didn’t wait. I couldn’t. So I started that one. I finished that one. Then I finished six more before I finished the first one I started. And many of them are like this. I’ll get going on one, and another pops up out of nowhere.”  

You might think working on more than one book at a time would be confusing. “I liken being able to write so many books at the same time to turning on the TV at 7 on Thursday,” she explained. “If you love a certain show on Thursday at 7, you turn on the TV, and you know the characters, the basic storyline, and the various conflicts. They don’t have to go back to the beginning each week and show you what’s already happened. You’ve been watching, so you know. Then on Monday night, you turn on a different program, and you’re not confused because you watched something else on Thursday. That’s the way the books are with me. I know the characters, the basic conflict, etc. I just have to figure out where I left them, and here we go.” 

It works for her. She’s finished twenty-two books… twenty fiction and two shorter non-fiction books. “Many of my most memorable stories have started as dreams,” she told me. “In the dream I am given a snippet of what happens, who the characters are, what they are facing. Sometimes this is mere seconds, sometimes whole scenes or plotlines. From there, I ask questions. ‘Well, why was she in the hotel room? Why was she alone? Why was her leg hurt? Who was he? How could she know him yet not really know him? Why was she so surprised he was still alive? What caused her to think he wasn’t?’ As I let go and let the answers come to me, the story begins to form around the moment of insight I’ve had. 

“Other times characters who’ve been in a previous book stand out, and I begin to see their stories as well. Those stories are harder to write because I really get inspired by the flash of understanding dreams. However, those stories that came from prior stories have often taught me as much as the originals—or more.” 

I asked her if she had a favorite book. “They are each special for different reasons,” she told me. “Living life through each character’s eyes has taught me something I wouldn’t have known about life any other way. I have gotten to be in the depths of poverty and on the hilltop reserved for the rich, a wife grieving a husband who’s been killed and a husband trying to find life again after losing the wife he so dearly loved. I’ve gotten to be world-famous and trying everything so no one would notice me. What I’ve learned is that everyone has problems and struggles and heartaches. Everyone has wishes that haven’t been fulfilled and moments of such incredible joy they find it hard to put into words.” 

Her latest book to be published is Dreams by Starlight. “I love this book!” she said. “Maybe I’m biased, but others have said it should be required reading in schools and by anyone who has a dream. So maybe I love it for a reason. Dreams is about Camille Wright, a high school senior, who is the quintessential nerd. Camille loves math—Calculus, Physics, Chemistry. If it will explode your brain, she’s in. However, she’s had so many classroom classes that her counselor thinks she needs a class that will expand her horizons. The choice comes down to drama and debate, and Camille reluctantly chooses drama. 

“Her plan is to put in a semester, standing in the shadows, get it on her transcript and transfer into a ‘real class.’ But life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will—even when you have a definite plan in place. Camille’s horizons are expanded way beyond what she ever thought possible. 

If you want to read the first three chapters for free, you can here

Staci’s philosophy on writing can be summed up in these words: 

If I’m never a big, successful author or if there never comes a day when everybody knows my name, that’s okay. Learning how to trust the Holy Spirit and that He is faithful in any and all circumstances has been more than worth every step it’s taken to get here. The cool thing is, it works in life as well as it works in writing.
Be sure and visit Staci at her website. “You’ll feel better for the experience!”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Article: No Time: Your Best Fake Excuse To Avoid Writing 

by: Cynthia Morris

After a full day of work, family and life, you fall into bed exhausted. Mentally ticking off your to-do list, you cycle through shopping lists, phone calls, appointments, feeling good about what you have gotten done, until you get to the thing you really want to do. You lay there, bathed in regret – why didn’t you get your writing done today? You vow to do it tomorrow. You will make time for your novel or that article you know would sell. You consider angles, write a few lines in your head, and fired up with enthusiasm for your writing, you fall asleep. The next day continues on much like the one before and you live the life of an unfulfilled writer, all because you do not do the simple work of making time to write.

The task of finding and dedicating time for your writing can be daunting. Many people who want to write identify this as the number one challenge – finding time. How can you give yourself more time when there are a limited number of hours in the day plus housework, family, a job, and other personal or professional obligations to fulfill? You can’t create more hours in your day but you can restructure the ones you have to make more time for your writing. As a writer and a coach for writers, I have identified some of the reasons behind the challenge and offer some ways to get around the lack of time excuse.

Often the “lack of time” is really a mask for writing fears. The work of writing, while satisfying, can be difficult to make time for. We put it off to do the easier things, the things we know how to do. Think about the things you do when you are procrastinating getting to the writing. Do you clean, cook, or exercise? Do you spend your valuable writing time reading or watching TV? The act of writing challenges us to dive into ourselves and come out with something tangible. This is not easy. Notice when you are resisting and when you really do not have time to write.

There are a limited number of hours in the day, but often we give away our passion and power by forgetting that we can always choose what to do with our time. I can hear you saying, “Well, I have my job, and then I have my family, and kids, and all these other obligations.” Your roles become more powerful than you are because you believe you have no choice in the matter. Certainly dinner needs to be served. Certainly you have other commitments that you need to honor. But who decided that your writing wasn’t as important as everything else? What would life be like if your passions had a place in the schedule as well? What difference would it make to the people in your life if you staked a claim for your writing? Hmmm...

With the help of a perspective shift, you may realize that your writing is important, too. Perhaps in your mind it has been important, but you haven’t taken that extra step to actually make space for it. Without space, your writing becomes a burden on your back, something you want to do but can’t. You then become a victim of your life. No fun.

Look at the following ways to restructure your time both internally and externally. Then try out a few of them and see what works for you.

Get in the habit of writing in short bursts of time. Give yourself ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes to write and then learn how to make the most of those bursts of writing. This means sidestepping the wandering or procrastination that distract you from writing.

Wake up early. Set your alarm twenty minutes early and give yourself that time to write. If the thought of getting up earlier makes you cringe, try giving yourself time at the end of the day.

Do you watch TV? Give it up and give yourself more time to write. Many people use TV as a way to zone out and relax at the end of the day, but isn’t there a better way to relax and be entertained? Yes! Use your writing to relax. Which leads me to...

Reframe the way you think about writing. Of course the art of writing is work, but if you think of it as drudgery and something that requires a lot of you, you are missing out on the rejuvenating aspects of the practice.

Whenever you do get a chance to write, take a minute when you are finished and write down three words that describe how you feel after writing. Use these words as a lure to get you to the page when you feel tired or uninspired.

Take part of your lunchtime to write. Or, use your allotted coffee or smoke breaks to slip away from work and scribble a few lines.

The real issue is often time management. We may have enough time but do not use it in a way that honors our priorities. What are your priorities? If you are not showing up for your writing, maybe it isn’t a priority. What else is going on in your life that is more compelling than writing? Take a moment now to jot down where you spend your time. What do you notice about your priorities?

Once you have a clear picture of where your time goes, how do you feel about it? Does the way you spend your time reflect what is important to you? Work and other obligations seem more fixed and indeed they may be for now, but where else can you make decisions to get writing into your life?

Perhaps your topic or project isn’t seductive enough. I have been working on the same project for years now, and there were times when I just wasn’t interested. I gave myself a break, knowing that I would come back to it. Now I have an angle on it that is compelling and fun and I am more eager to make time for it. How can you approach your project in a way that would entice you to make time for it? How do you find a writing project that earns your time and attention?

Play with an entirely new perspective. Let go of the idea of you as a writer. Perhaps now that you are clear about how you spend your time you are happy with it. Maybe you have realized that you really don’t want to make the effort to write at this point after all. How free would you feel if you let yourself off the hook for having the writing urge and not having the time to indulge it?

Try a tool I use with my clients. Imagine giving up writing, and the idea of writing. I call it ‘taking away the bone.’ Think of a dog with a bone. Imagine trying to grab the bone from the dog’s mouth. The dog will hang onto that bone for dear life. If the thought of losing your writing urge makes you want to grab onto it even tighter, it could be a signal that you need to do what it takes to make writing a priority in your life. Commit to yourself as a writer, get clear about your writing projects, and let it happen.

About the Author: Cynthia Morris, CPCC of Original Impulse helps writers and visionaries make their brilliant ideas a reality. Speaker, coach and author of Create Your Writer’s Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease, and Go For It! Leading Tours for Fun and Profit, Cynthia can be found at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Author Interview: Karen Wiesner

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome Karen Wiesner. Karen is a very accomplished author and a very busy lady. She’s also remarkably dedicated and disciplined.

She said, “Everything is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be.” Discipline has obviously stood her in good stead. In the past nine years, she has published forty-four books, which have been nominated for or won fifty-five awards, and has twenty more titles under contract. She doesn’t limit herself to one genre either. If it’s out there, she’s probably written it. Her books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. She also offers writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestseller, First Draft in 30 Days, available from Writer’s Digest Books, and the upcoming companion, Cohesive Story Building. I asked her how on earth she managed.

“Considering the number of genres I write in, the number of series I’m working on, and the number of publishers I write for, I'm extremely disciplined,” she told me. “For my novels, once a story has been brewing for a considerable amount of time and I’ve amassed the necessary research (which is done between books and well in advance of a project), I start with an extremely detailed outline, which is, in essence, the first draft of the book. The outline can take anywhere from a day to week to work out, depending on the complexity of the book. Because of the way I’ve worked my schedule, I’m able to set my completed outline aside for a month or more, then come back to it and make sure it’s as solid as I thought before I set it aside. As soon as I’m ready, I can begin writing. In general, I’ll write 2 scene per day (regardless of how long or short—this and the outline itself inevitably prevent burnout and/or writer’s block). My annual goal sheet can then include accurate timetables for researching, writing, and revising outlines and novels. I also use project goal sheets, so I can know down to the day how long it'll take to finish a book. Completing a 100,000 book generally takes me a month, usually considerably less. Once that ‘second draft’ (which is really my first draft) is completed, I again set the book aside for a month or so before I begin revisions. Depending on the project, revision amounts to minor editing and polishing. In this way, I alternate my time between novels in various stages of completion, and I can write at least 4 outlines/books per year.”

This way of working obviously works very well for Karen. Take a look at her progress over the last several years:

-wrote 3 novels and 6 novellas
-wrote proposals for 2 novels, 11 novellas, 1 series, and 5 Jewels of the Quill anthologies
-outlined 4 novels and 3 novellas
-revised and edited 10 novellas, 5 novels, and 3 JOTQ anthologies
-designed 25 book covers

-wrote 5 novels, 6 novellas and 1 writing reference
-wrote proposals for 2 novels, 1 writing reference and 2 Jewels of the Quill anthologies
-outlined 2 novels and 4 novellas
-revised and edited 8 novellas, 8 novels, 1 writing reference, and 4 JOTQ anthologies
-designed 21 book covers

2007: (so far)
-wrote 2 novels, 2 novellas, 1 writing reference
-wrote proposal for 1 writing reference
-outlined 3 novels and 7 novellas
-revised and edited 3 novels, 2 novellas, and 2 JOTQ anthologies, and 2 writing reference
-designed 16 book covers

Karen is firmly convinced that momentum is a powerful force in her, or any, career. She said, “If I stall because I haven’t done a good job of juggling my tasks, I can only blame myself. And, lest anyone wonders, I do plan my vacations from writing carefully, too, to help avoid burnout or writer’s block.”

She keeps track of her works in progress on her website. And she has shared the “secret” of her success with us all in her best-selling First Draft in 30 Days.

Like many of us, Karen has always wanted to be a writer, first and foremost. “I literally spent my childhood with my head in the clouds—when my nose wasn’t in a book, that is,” she said. “But I also had impulses to be a writer, a dancer, a singer. I still indulge my artistic urges by designing book covers, websites, graphics, etc.”

Karen is a compulsive list maker, as you might guess from the description of her work habits and her “progress reports.” She told me this is one of her strangest habits. “I can’t seem to help it,” she told me. “It started when I was a teenager. I made a list of my top ten favorite songs, albums, TV shows, cute guys… Ugh. Now I make lists for my career, lists so I don’t forget to do things, lists for camping, lists for other people…”

The hardest part about writing for Karen isn’t the planning or the writing. Karen has to be alone to write, so when her son is out of school for the summer she generally tries to work exclusively on outlines and revisions. “Mostly trying to relax and get my brain fertile again,” she said, “but my summer was all off-track this year because of my second sale to Writer’s Digest Books—the follow-up to my bestselling First Draft in 30 Days, Cohesive Story Building, which will be released in the Fall of 2008.”

Karen has so many series out, we could spend hours talking about them all. So, I asked her to tell me about one: her romantic action/adventure series called The Incognito Series. Book Five of that series, Under the Spell, was released in October of this year. (You can check out the reviews of this series by going to our reviews site here for all the books we've reviewed by her).

“I’ll give you a little background on the previous releases,” she said. “The first two books—No Ordinary Love and Until Death Do Us Part—center around a covert government agency I call the Network, in which all the operatives either willingly (in most cases) or unwillingly give up their lives to serve their country and basically live life in the shadows. All the books in the series are vastly different. In No Ordinary Love, readers learn about the only operative who’d ever escaped the Network. The second book, Until Death Do Us Part, introduces the scenario of the corrupt head of the organization putting his plan to topple the Network into affect. This takes several of the operatives outside of the Network. By posing as new neighbors, they’re able to protect key witnesses. Book 3, Bounty on the Rebel’s Heart, continued that basic story (though it very much stands on its own) with an operative going undercover to bring out the second witness who’d been in hiding for many years.

“At that point, I really wanted to show life inside the Network, rebuilding after the situation that almost destroyed them from the inside out, since all the stories up to this point and been set pretty far outside. The hero in Dead Drop, Roan Emory, was first introduced in Until Death Do Us Part, but also had a role in Bounty on the Rebel’s Heart.

“For… Under the Spell, I took the Network Communications and Systems Analyst, Justine Fielding, who’s had bit roles in all of the previous books, and I thrust her into a situation where she has to return to her old life as Gina Calhoun, spoiled daughter of a ranch owner in my made-up cowboy town, Fever, Texas. Alex Lynch’s dream of owning the Triple Aces Ranch has finally come true when Gina drops back out of nowhere (literally, from his point of view). Little does he know the woman he’s falling under the spell of all over again is there to stop the men who killed her father—and Alex is her chief suspect.

“Right now, I’m working on the sixth book in the series, Renegade’s Rose (coming March 2008), which sends Network’s 5th in Command, Hunter Savage—nearly at death’s door and turned renegade to save his sister kidnapped by the Black Pope, Rex Kovac, leader of the covert terrorist organization R.E.D.—to Mexico. Hunter’s only means of saving Celine? Steal Kovac’s most prized possession—his wife. Renowned belly dancer, ‘the Spanish Rose’, Tanya Kovac is nowhere near as innocent as she seems...and Hunter is nowhere near as indifferent to deep-cover operative Tanya’s charms as he wants and needs to be to save his sister.”

As busy as she is, you might guess Karen to be an early riser and she admitted that she’s seldom up and about at midnight. In fact, when I asked her what she was doing at midnight the night before, she confessed, “I’d like to tell you something interesting, but I can barely make it past 10:30 I’m usually so tired. So I was sleeping or trying to sleep. The older I get, the harder it is to sleep through the night. This is true of my husband, as well, and I often tease him about how wonderful it is (the way you would a newborn) when he actually sleeps through the night.”

A little known fact about Karen: “When I was little, my sister and I used to eat the soft brown parts at the top of a pine tree bough. I don’t know why. I think I’d get sick now. We also chewed the needles for good breath.”

For more information about Karen and her work, visit her websites at,,, and If you would like to receive Karen’s free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, send a blank message to

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Article: The Simple 5 Step Secret To Great Fiction 

by Suzanne Harrison

Stephen King says he starts his novels with a "What if?" question. What if a woman and child are trapped in a car by a rabid dog? What if a family pet buried in a Pet Semetary came back to life? What if a young girl could start fires with her mind?

I have also heard many other bestselling novelist such as Jodi Picoult, Janet Evanovich and Nicolas Evans lay claim to the same thing.

And I have heard others say they just saw an image in their mind, or had a persistent sentence knocking on the inside of their brains, and they just followed that to where it lead them.

And while their insight and tutelage is invaluable, when I was a budding writer it left me with another question.

What's next?

It's all good and fine to have a starting point. In fact a starting point is imperative. But in answering the question of "What next?" you will lift your novel from "What if?" to "Howzat!"

So in answer to the "What next?" question, I defined the five essential elements of any good story, whether it's a novel, a short story, a play or a screenplay. Use these five elements to plan your story and you're guaranteed to write a bestseller every time.

Step One: Desire

It is essential that your main character want something. Even if it’s only a glass of water, they must have an “object of desire” to pursue. It can be anything from a way of escaping their predicament, or a way to bring their world back into balance, but the key is that your main character must want something. Without that you will not have a story.

This “desire line” is the golden thread that will run through your story.

For example, in a love story, the object of desire is the beloved. In a story of illness, the object of desire may be anything from a medical specialist who can treat the patient, to a specific medicine guaranteed to cure. In a failing marriage, the object of desire could be the best divorce lawyer in town, or an apartment of their own. It’s your choice and will be dictated by the type of story you are writing.

Step Two: Conflict or Opposition

You will undoubtedly know that nothing ever moves forward in story except through conflict. So once your main character knows what they want, there has to be something or someone around to stop them. And the most powerful person, or thing, to oppose the main character is the one who can put the most pressure on them and force them to change.

It’s critical to remember this: the strength of any story is directly related to the strength of the opponent. If it’s easy for the main character to reach their goal, then where’s the challenge? Where’s the drama? Where’s the struggle for growth and change?

The Harry Potter novels kept us on the edge of our seats for seven books and ten years because of the promise of a showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort. The success of Star Wars hinged on the multilayered battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The Bourne series enthralls us because it's one man against the CIA.

In our earlier examples, the opponent in the love story is always the lover. If boy meets girl and they get together and live happily ever after, where is the story? There isn’t one! So the lover must resist in some way. In the case of the illness, the main opponent could be a government department that is withholding approval for a drug that will cure you, or it could be a lack of funds to travel overseas to see that one specialist who can treat you. And in the failing marriage, the opponent would be the other marriage partner, who is either trying to send you broke or stopping you from moving out.

Really take the time to explore your opponent. They can often be the most interesting character in the story!

Step Three: Moral Dilemma

The conflict must build so that your main character is forced into a corner, where they must make a decision that challenges their values.

There is only one question you need to ask yourself at this stage, and that is, “how can I push my main character into a place where they feel as though they are stuck between a rock and a hard place?” The decision they make here must be a true test of their core values, and whatever decision they make needs to tip them into the most intense conflict of the story, where they battle the opponent in a do-or-die climax to your story.

For example, in the love story, your character may be forced to choose between love and security, or love and family, as they enter new territory in the relationship stakes. In the illness story, your character may need to choose between health and authority, or health and pride, if they are forced to ask for charity to finance their overseas trip. And in the case of the divorced couple, your main character may be forced to choose between freedom and control, or financial security and love, depending on the scenario you choose.

One way or the other, your character has to make a choice and this choice sends your story into its most intense conflict.

Step Four: The Battle or Climax

You are now entering the most intense conflict of the story and the action here must take place between your main character and the main opponent. This is the classic “fight” scene, or where the great revelation comes out, where you can otherwise surprise or shock your readers. Push it out there! Allow whatever comes out to come out onto the page. Remember you are just exploring your story here. If it goes too far you can pull it back in the writing or the editing. Just remember that the most powerful climax will be one that brings about absolute and irreversible change.

It’s a good idea to explore your character’s highs and lows at this time. By this I mean look at how they can behave really badly, as we often do when we are pushed into a corner. Does your character come out swinging, or do they submit and surrender? Neither answer is wrong or right. It will depend entirely on your story.

Step Five: Resolution

Every good story asks a question at the beginning. Whether it's a Stephen King "What if?" question, or something entirely different, it's imperative that you answer the question here. How can you show your character having learned their lesson? How are they seeing themselves clearly for the first time? What impact does that have on those around them? What is the "solution" to your story?

I recommend not spending too much time planning this final step, as it almost always simply comes out in the writing. Stories that you are meant to write have a way of just coming out the way they need to, and too much planning of the ending will make it seem contrived.

So those are our five simple steps to great fiction. Have a character who wants something, add something or someone who tries to stop them, put them in an impossible situation, watch them fight their way out and see what they learn in the process!

Simple really!

About The Author: Suzanne Harrison is the Director of Writers Central, an online creative writing school and community. Known as the High Priestess of Fiction, she is the author of four bestselling creative writing, short story and novel courses. You can find her at

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Author Interview: Maggie Toussaint

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome Maggie Toussaint. Maggie is a fairly recent transplant to coastal Georgia after a busy life in Frederick, Maryland. She’s a scientist by training, but says “a romanticist at heart.” Her scientific training stands her in good stead, however, as she studies how things work “whether it’s complex machinery, a Sudoku puzzle, or the male femaile subtext of a conversation,” she told me.

She didn’t leave her busy life behind when she moved away from the busy city, however. This creates something of a challenge for her when it comes to her writing. She shared with me, “I used to be a scientist, then I ‘retired’ to write books. Once we moved south, the local weekly paper was short-handed. I volunteered to help temporarily until they got a real reporter in there. Two years later, I’m still working for the paper on a freelance basis. Every week I have deadlines I have to meet, places I have to go, people I have to interview.

“You can see how this unpredictable workload could play hell with your muse.

“The scientist in me analyzed the problem. I’m freshest in the morning, so I need morning time for my book writing. Afternoons are for the newspaper. Sometimes I have to switch it up and do interviews in the morning and there are always doctor appointments and hair cuts to work around. If I’m not careful, I don’t get much writing time.

“Plus, now that I’m published, I need time to promote my books.

“Bottom-line: I am a very busy person. I practically have to schedule dinner with my husband! The newspaper gives me a creative outlet, immediate feedback on my writing, plus I am providing a community service. Only after my first book came out did I see that my newspaper writing had helped build a reader base.

“So, it’s worth it to me to keep my day job. Which means I have to be relentless about protecting my writing time.”

She doesn’t limit her writing to just one genre, however. She writes romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press, sweet romance for Freya’s Bower, and cozy mystery for Five Star. And, with all she does, she must be a past master at multi-tasking.

“[Multi-tasking] is a dirty word to me,” she said. “I didn’t realize I’d been multi-tasking for years until they came up with a name for it.” She shared that in the field of science, many procedures are time-consuming and, with her job, she had to get used to doing multiple procedures at once. “I’d be centrifuging test tubes, drying glassware in the oven, using a rotary extractor to pull solvents off a sample, keeping up with all the paperwork – whew! It was a relief to go home at the end of a day,” she said.

And then, she had children (she has two). She told me that when she added them to the marriage and career mixture, “I had to [multi-task] at home to survive. Laundry – several loads a day; meals – short order cook, with at least 4 to 6 meals prepared daily; House cleaning & yard work – catch as catch can; running the kids all over the country – daily; well, the to-do list just went on and on.

“My brain rebelled. Or maybe I had hardening of the brain. I don’t know. I became less successful at balancing lots of things at once. Wet laundry would sit in the washer for a few days. The empty light of the car’s gas tank became my constant companion. But the kicker was the day I forgot to pick my kids up from school. It was the most embarrassing and humiliating moment of my life. Traumatized both kids too, or at least that’s what they tell me!”

She realized at that point, something had to change. She started multi-tasking less and having her kids do more. She told me, “Heck, my daughters both swear that I had them doing their own laundry as soon as they could see over the washing machine. Anyway, once everyone became aware that ‘Mom’ had finite limits, life became less stressful for me.”

She still gets drawn into projects to the extent she loses focus on what’s going on around her, but this can be an asset for a writer. “I guess you could say I’ve adapted to my limitations,” she said. “In any event, I no longer stress over multi-tasking. I do what I can and the rest can wait until tomorrow.”

I asked Maggie to tell us a bit about her newest book, No Second Chance.

Hope Farrier is the heroine of No Second Chance. She rescues horses, and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also abysmal at finances. Her horse rescue charity is on the brink of bankruptcy. If she loses her farm, Hope will lose the only real home she and her sister have ever known.

Devlin Temple, my hero, needs help winning the CEO job he covets. He’s pitted against his sneaky cousin who he believes is sabotaging the family firm to hurt Devlin. Though he’s much sought after by the ladies for his good looks and big bank account, Devlin is actually a shrewd accountant.

Devlin’s mother, Lillian, is the bridge between these two disparate worlds. She volunteers at Hope’s farm and she knows how much Devlin wants the CEO job she’s held most of her life. She’s also in the final stages of cancer. She binds the two of them together in a vesting trust so that Hope and Devlin must help each other.

Hope must overcome her trailer park origins and dazzle the Board for Devlin’s sake. Devlin must battle his allergies to pull Hope’s farm into the black. But with each passing day, trouble mounts for Hope’s farm and for Devlin’s company, until Devlin and Hope are fighting for their lives and their love.

Proceeds from this story will benefit a real life horse rescue charity, Day’s End Farm. Visit them at

I was interested to find out how Maggie went from being a scientist to a second career as a romance writer.

I’m a reader, a bookworm actually. In my heyday I could easily read a book a day, and I wore out my library cards. Now that I’m a writer, I read fewer new books because I don’t have as much free time.

Stories have always transcended the page for me. When I open a book, I step into that world. I embrace the action, the adventure, the romance. I’m compelled to keep turning the pages until I get to the end of a book.

I fell off a ski slope in 1991 and indulged my voracious reading appetite for a few months. Some of the books I read were excellent, some were annoyingly bad. I knew I could do it better. Which got me to thinking, if I loved reading books so much, what would it be like to write one? So I started writing. No training whatsoever, just all heart.

My first three novels were flat out awful, but I was blissfully unaware of how bad they were. Then I joined RWA and met other writers and became exposed to craft elements. A big eye-opener for me.

Learning how to write saved my dream and earned me a rewarding second career.”

Maggie has obviously learned a lot during her writing career, so I asked her for some words of advice for new writers. She started off by saying that, believe it or not, when you get a rejection letter or agonzize over an agent/editor meeting, it really isn’t the worse time of your life. Instead, you should see them as character building events, because you are entering “what is ultimately a very difficult, subjective industry. You have to be able to take negative comments about your work because they don’t stop once you get published.” She also reminds the new author, “Back in the beginning you are writing for yourself. Those stories are the most pure, the most you. Enjoy that very special time.” She goes on to say, “It may seem like it takes forever to “break in” but you can do it, if you want it enough. By that I mean you have to be able to take apart your stories and put them back together, in your voice, but with the constraints of the market and publishable writing. Once you have mastered the various craft elements, this becomes easier. But this is not an easy thing to do. Like I said, you have to want it bad.

“If you’re not brilliantly gifted, I strongly urge you to find a mentor. A published author helped me, and I’m doing the same with other new writers. Network with other writers and seek out those that have similar goals. You’ll need that fellowship, believe me.”

Now, for some little known facts about Maggie—

Like many of us, she doesn’t particularly like her own pictures. She told me, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to look like, but my picture isn’t it. I’ve just always assumed I’m an old soul, someone who’s been recycled through the cosmos, but with amnesia. I don’t have any thoughts about if I should look better or worse, it’s just that I look so unfamiliar. You’d think after 52 years I’d be comfortable with my appearance, but I still don’t know what I’m supposed to look like. I had the long straight hair of the 70s. The poufy, permed, big hair of the 80’s. The fashionable bob of the 90s. And the wind tousled razer cut of the 00’s. Is it any wonder I’m confused?”

Her big excursion into the world of crank phone calls hit its zenith when she was in elementary school. “Back in the dark ages, when dinosaurs ruled the land,” she said, “my best friend and I would pretend to be other girls in our elementary school class and set up dates with the guys. I don’t know whatever came of it, I mean, we didn’t get in trouble or anything. That would get kids in so much trouble today! The reality is that I’m from a very small town. There were only 50 kids in my grade for the entire county, so the likelihood that people didn’t recognize our voices was about zero. But what a vicarious thrill. My friend would be the voice. I was the dialer. We’d hold the phone between us, and it was all we could do to keep from bursting out laughing when anybody answered. Lord, the things kids get up to!”

One of the fun questions I like asking is “have you ever eaten a crayon?” Maggie told me, “I’ve never actually eaten a crayon, but one girl in my Sunday School class used to do it all the time. I ran into her at a community function the other day and I hadn’t seen her in 40 years. The first thing I did was to look for bits of colored wax in her teeth. I was disappointed to learn that she’d given up this entertaining habit, or at least she’d cleaned up her teeth for the event.”

Maggie loves hearing from her readers. She said, “It is so rewarding to hear that someone enjoyed one of my books. People write to me frequently and I use my fan mail to tide me over when my energy flags.” She added, “Two women in my hometown tracked me down to ask about my hero Jake Sutherland in my first book, House of Lies. They said they knew I couldn’t have made up a guy like that. They wanted to know who he was so that they could marry him. Wow, I was overwhelmed to say the least. Jake is my fantasy man. They can’t have him! And yet, he’d caught them just as surely as he’d caught me.” You can contact her at

Visit Maggie at for her latest release information. And, while you are there, check out her book trailer for No Second Chance. Click on the words “book trailer” on the home page and see the beautiful horses galloping through the clouds. 

Saturday, December 8, 2007

First Annual -- Best Romance of 2007 Award

If you have read a romance novel or story that was published in 2007--print or eBook--and LOVED it, then why not nominate it for ((drum roll please)).....

We're collecting nominations until Christmas, and then will run a month long poll to see whose writing affected the most people in a positive way.

There are four categories, and even prizes!

What are you waiting for? Go forth and nominate!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Article: Description: the Element of Every Great Story

by Gina Sares

When I was in the 7th grade, I learned the secret to great writing. It had nothing to do with syntax, vocabulary, sentence structure or tone. The secret was one word; one single, solitary command to be adhered to like a strict diet if you ever wanted to be a great writer. The word? Describe. 
If I learned everything perfectly the first time around, I guess I wouldn't have needed all those extra books and English classes that consumed my time throughout high school and college. But, at 13, I didn't quite understand the importance of my teacher's words when she said, "Don't tell me; show me." That, right there, is the key to great writing.  
At some time, all of us have heard someone tell a great story. We have sat straight up in our chair, completely enthralled in the words and movements of someone on the other end of the table. With eager eyes, we followed the swing of their hand gestures and noted every swift change of their facial expressions. We were like putty in their hands, eating up every word and ready to go wherever their story led us. 
What is it about a good story that has this affect on us? Well, it’s not so much the story itself, but rather the delivery of that story. Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone can make you relive it. A great storyteller puts you in the action of the story, turning a memory, an idea, or a dream into an interactive experience. 
In writing, we don’t have the option of great physical gestures or facial expressions. Everything we do relies on words. Therefore, our words must be powerful enough to stand on their own. They must be strong enough to place the reader in the story; to make them feel as if they are in the very shoes of the one who wrote or experienced it. 
As E. L. Doctorow says, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader. Not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” This distinction is what separates writing from good writing. It is what produces an affect on your reader that cannot be easily shaken. Sure, anyone can tell them it’s raining, but not everyone can make them feel it.  
As a writer, my job is not to make you think of rain, or remember the last time you felt rain, but to have you experience a specific rain -- my rain. No, not the warm, gentle rain that lulls you to sleep at night. Not the cool and refreshing rain that sweeps in the crisp autumn air. The kind of cold rain that bitterly pecks at the back of your exposed neck like a hungry crane. Yes, that kind of rain.  
Writing, in essence, is all about communication; and the clearest form of communication comes with vivid and detailed description. So if you want to be a good writer, don't just write for the sake of telling a story. Write for the opportunity of sharing the experience. Use your words to make those who read your writing feel and experience your story just as you have.

About the Author: Gina Sares is a freelance copywriter and editor from Toledo, Ohio.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Author Interview: Lucy Gordon

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Lucy Gordon, multi-RITA winner and finalist and Harlequin author, with us this week. Lucy has had an exciting life which filters through into her writing. She told me she got interested in writing while she was in school. “Way back at school I always did well in ‘composition’ class,” she said. “I used to get invited to read my compositions out loud, and it went to my head. I decided that I’d go in for a career where my creations would continue to be ‘read aloud’. I was that conceited. People who know me would tell you that, in some ways, I still am!!!!!”

If she’s conceited about her writing, it’s with good cause. She’s been writing romance novels for over twenty years and now has a backlist of almost eighty books. Before she became a novelist, she was a featured writer on a woman’s magazine. She told me, “I interviewed lots of stars, Roger Moore, Warren Beatty, George Segal. And I had lots of unusual experiences, like going out with the flying ambulance service in Scotland, that I was later able to use in books.”

She’s also learned a lot about herself through her writing. She told me, “I’ve discovered that I’m two people. One is intensely organized and can carry a plot in her head for months without needing to write it down. The other one is vague and dithering and can never remember where she’s put anything.”

She and her husband make their home in the English midlands, along with a dog (Toby, a Springer spaniel) and cat (Bertie). The romance she shares with her husband, a painter, could have come out of one of her own books and is, in her words, “the most romantic love story I have ever known.” He likes to cook and she loves anything he makes. He’s an early bird, while she’s a night owl. She told me, “He gets up at 6.30, takes the dog out for a run on the common, and gets home about nine, opening the front door very quietly, so as not to wake me.” Now, isn’t that one of the most romantic things you’ve heard of? No wonder she’s kept him for twenty years ;-) She said that even though her family and friends were aghast at the idea of her accepting a proposal from a man she’d met less than twenty-four hours later, “we are still married, still happy and in love.” They enjoy traveling and their destinations often work their way into her stories. She told me they recently took a trip to China for the first time, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new setting appear in an upcoming novel. They also take yearly (at least) trips back to Venice where they met and fell in love.

Describing her writing space, she says, “I’ve taken over the second bedroom as my office, where I have endless bookshelves and my computer on a very large desk. It has to be large because my cat, Bertie, lives there and jumps up onto it to be fed. No matter what stage of the book I’m at I have to stop and put him first, otherwise I’m trying to type through his legs. Sometimes he goes to sleep on top of the computer, or the printer. He’s wonderful company.”

I asked her to tell us a little about her upcoming books.

I’ve just finished writing THE ITALIAN’S CINDERELLA BRIDE, about a young woman who’s lost part of her memory, and who travels to Italy, to find the man she once loved, hoping he can tell her about herself. She’s discovered wandering in the rain by his friend, a count who lives alone in a deserted palace in Venice. He’s a troubled man, haunted by a tragic past. Together they find strength, but will their love be enough to banish the ghosts that still torment them both?

I love writing about Venice, the magic little city on the water, where no cars are allowed, and the silence speaks… Now, like any true Venetian, I think of it as ‘my’ city, the best place in the world.

Her latest books released have been the last two about the Rinucci brothers. She loves writing about Italian heroes, and it shows in the main characters of these books. Ruggiero, from The Mediterranean Rebel’s Bride (October 2007) is haunted by the memory of Sapphire, a glamorous woman he loved for two weeks before she vanished. Then Polly comes to find him in Naples, to tell him that Sapphire, her cousin, is dead and has left him a son. The last in the Rinucci series is The Millionaire Tycoon’s English Rose, (December 2007) about Francesco, who falls in love with Celia, and wants to shield her from every wind that blows, because she’s blind. But Celia is feisty and independent and won’t be protected. They have to separate before they can find each other.

Be sure and visit Lucy at her website, and read more about her very own real-life romantic fairy tale.