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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Giving Up

by Christina Meanea

“What do you mean you give up?” Sharon’s perplexed voice caused Brenna to raise her distracted gaze to her best friend and coworker.

For a moment Brenna was at a loss as to what she HAD meant when she’d moped into Sharon’s office and thrown herself into one of the chairs before Sharon’s desk.

“Oh,” Brenna cleared her throat. “I’m through with MEN! I don’t need them!”

“Gonna start batting for the other team?” Sharon laughed.

All Brenna was capable of for several seconds was a slow blink. “Umm… no,” she murmured. “I can appreciate a beautiful woman, but I love the way a man looks, how he moves, how he feels…” her eyes took on a faraway look and she sighed lustily. Sharon’s snicker brought Brenna back to herself with a start. Grinning she met the amused gaze of her friend.

“No, really… I’m done with men for awhile. I keep getting duds! Do I have some sort of sign tattooed on my forehead in creep ink that begs others to take advantage of me?”

Sharon choked on her sip of coffee as she snorted out a laugh. When she was finally able to wheeze in a breath she gasped out, “Creep ink?”

“Yeah, ink that is invisible to everyone else but creeps… Creep Ink!”

“Wow!” Sharon said, obviously astounded by her best friend. “Come here.” Sharon crooked her finger causing Brenna to lean forward. Sharon reached up and brushed Brenna’s wispy bangs from her forehead. “Nope,” Sharon said decisively, “no creep ink!”

Brenna slapped Sharon’s hand away and sat back in her chair with a laugh. “Yeah, but you’re not a creep!” she said with a sigh.

“Says you!” snorted her friend. “My ex-husband might disagree with you! Oooh, there’s an idea, why don’t we have him stop by and see if he can see the ink!”

Brenna couldn’t help it, she burst into laughter. Shaking her head she stood and giving a small wave, left Sharon’s office heading for her own. “I’m heading down to the deli,” she called back over her shoulder. An unintelligible grunt was her answer. Brenna guessed that Sharon didn’t want anything from the ground floor deli in their office building.

Stopping quickly at her own office to grab up her purse, Brenna set out for the bank of glass elevators in the middle of the building. Normally she took the stairs, a girl had to exercise where she could, but today she just didn’t have the energy or the motivation. She’d take the stairs all day… tomorrow.

As she stood at the bank of elevators waiting for one of the cars to arrive, her phone set up a jarring chorus. She knew that ringtone. It was Dave’s. His ringtone used to be one of her favorite songs, but she’d changed it when he’d become someone she wanted to avoid. Now it was the most annoying ringtone she could find. That way she never answered it on accident when he called. Ignoring the strident beep coming from her purse, Brenna stepped onto the elevator car once it arrived. Seeing that the lobby button was already lit she stepped to the side wall and turned, leaning back she crossed her arms over her chest and dropped her head back against the wall as her phone fell silent again.

When her phone started ringing again, she dug through her purse and vehemently jabbed the off button. “I don’t want to talk to you!” she muttered viciously. Tossing the phone back into her purse she was startled by the sound of a throat clearing. Slowly turning her head, Brenna came face to face with the most intense set of eyes she’d ever seen. A murky hazel that was more green than blue, what made them truly extraordinary were the starbursts of chocolate brown that radiated outward from the pupils. All thoughts fled Brenna’s brain like wisps of clouds on a windy day.

The man attached to those eyes wasn’t so bad either, she thought. With curly black hair, cut short to tame the curls she assumed, and a stocky, muscular build, he was quietly appealing. The humor in his gaze didn’t hurt any either. She loved it when a man could laugh with her, and make her laugh. Judging by the faint lines radiating from his eyes and the corners of his mouth, this man laughed a lot. Well, that and the distinct twinkle she could see in his eyes. He just screamed “mischief”. When he raised one black brow Brenna realized she was staring. Clearing her throat Brenna turned back to the front of the elevator, watching the lights change with each floor they passed.

Trying to appear casual, Brenna glanced back over her shoulder, only to lock gazes again with the man. She quickly turned back to the front again. Somehow, his face looked very familiar. Had they met in passing before?

She looked again, this time noting how he stood. Leaning against the back glass wall of the elevator, his legs were crossed at the ankle. He was so very relaxed, how was it that she felt as if she’d grabbed a live wire? He’d placed one hand in his pocket while the other casually grasped the railing that ran around the wall of the elevator. Again, that black brow rose in question. Again, Brenna quickly turned back to the front. Maybe she did know him.

Finally, Brenna gathered her nerve and turned fully to confront that laughing gaze.

“Don’t I know you?” she asked quickly. He blinked once, long and slow.

“Isn’t that supposed to be my line?” he asked with a truly appealing laugh.

Blushing, Brenna stuck her hand out, “Brenna Wilson,” she introduced herself. When his warm hand enveloped hers a jolt shot up her arm and into her chest.

“Kyle Banner,” he said with a smile.

Well, Brenna thought to herself, maybe not giving up after all.

About the Author: A wife and mother of four (five if you count the dog), Chris is a full-time Mom and part-time dance instructor. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing and playing with her family. As a beneficiary of her own HEA, she loves writing about them. You can visit her on her blog at

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Article: Overcoming Writers Block

by Lynette Landing

If you’ve been sitting by your computer for days, weeks, months, or even years wringing your hands and wondering what’s stopping the words in your head from landing on the page, the following tips may provide some food for thought and quite possibly end your writer’s block:

1) Make sure you BELIEVE you are a good writer: If you harbor any limiting beliefs or self sabotaging feelings (even down deep in your subconscious), you may find it difficult to write. Do you ever find that when you make an effort to write, the inner critic (false voice in your head), starts tossing objections at you? Thoughts like "What are you thinking – you’re no writer! You don't have time to write! You have no content left! No one will be interested in this thing you are trying to write," flood your head, leaving you feeling so overwhelmed your hands seem paralyzed! In my case, I wanted to write articles and books on self-growth, but my inner critic had me convinced that without a degree no one would take me (or anything I wrote) seriously. First, I had to become aware of this constant negative tape that played in my head “You can’t write about self-help! You don’t have a degree!” Second, I had to be willing to believe otherwise - I went into the bookstore and looked at all different self-help books and was amazed at the number of books that were written by people without degrees! That really helped me to get past that limiting belief. I suggest you determine what your inner critic is saying to you and then choose to think differently or prove to yourself (as I did) that you have what it takes just like any other well known author.

2) Journal your inner pain and frustration: This is what I call “venting on paper”. If there is something your inner SPIRIT needs you to write in order to heal, you may find it difficult to write the things you want until you write the things you need. I was raised in an abusive home and never dared to fight back even when I was treated terribly. I felt I lost my "voice". As an adult, I learned if I couldn't confront the abuser, I could at least vent my pain via pen and paper. To certain individuals, I wrote letters that I chose not to send. Just the act of writing the letter and burning it was incredibly healing and enabled me to move forward with my publications to some degree. But it wasn’t until I finally worked up the nerve to stand up to a relative by actually mailing a letter that I noticed my writers block began to disappear! I wrote an honest, but firm letter out of love and not as an attack, and the moment I dropped the envelope off at the post office, I felt a freedom like none I'd felt before. Within a couple weeks I published 6 articles in electronic and hard copy magazines. I knew it was because I had finally written something that my inner spirit needed me to write (the letter). All that painful stuff had blocked my ability to write the stuff I enjoy writing! I encourage you to look inside and see if there is something your own spirit is yearning to release in writing in order for you to heal. Either in a journal or in a letter you burn...or best of all, in a letter you send. I assure you, the act of journaling your pain will free you up to write your desires.

3) Be aware of the “fear of success”: Could you harbor some fear way down deep that you may not be aware of? Fear that your writing will make you so successful you may offend someone (like a parent, or a husband, or a sister?) Fear of success means counting the cost. "What will I lose if I become successful?" Or better said - "WHO will I lose if I become successful". Many successful people, who were raised in middle class families or families barely making ends meet, found it difficult to do something amazing (like write) for fear it would offend their parents on some level. I know a famous author (20 some books and still writing), who was raised by a family of little means whose values were "hard work is good for you!” This author started making so much money as a result of his writing, that he no longer needed to work long hours, but then he would hit financial plateaus and experience writer’s block on a grand scale. His dad’s values from childhood haunted him and he worried dad would think him lazy for not working much...or that dad would be offended by a son who did better in life than he did. The son became aware of this deep seeded fear and chose instead to believe his dad would actually be very proud of him for his accomplishments thus ending his fear of success and eliminating his writer’s block.

4) Procrastination VS Processing: This last tip is an excerpt of an article I wrote recently. Procrastination certainly causes writer’s block, but is actually the symptom, not the cause of writer’s block. The question to ask yourself is why are you procrastinating? Is it something easy to identify like time management issues - no time left in the day to write? Or is it something deeper that relates to things I’ve mentioned - limiting beliefs or fear of success? When you’ve ruled out those things, I encourage you to consider this. You might not be stuck, you might not be procrastinating, you might just be PROCESSING! Your internal “computer” brain takes in information every micro-second of every day – that’s a lot of information, ideas, energy and drama! Processing time is very important; think of it as a “download” of information into your brain. If you have ever downloaded new software on your real computer, you understand the need to turn off all other applications and restart your computer. Can you apply that same principle to your brain? Simply believe that even when things appear to be “stuck”, that something is really happening – filling you, refreshing you, and preparing you to move forward successfully. Be patient and don’t fight the process!

About the Author: Lynette knows all about LIMITING BELIEFS and how they can keep you stuck! That's why she created an inexpensive product called: SWAP THE BS THAT'S BLOCKING YOUR CONFIDENCE! - and for a limited time, purchasing the product is extremely CHEAP and gets you a FREE BONUS TELECLASS! Visit to learn how to change your "BS"! Lynette Landing is an enthusiastic speaker, personal development coach, and owner of Look for the Sun Empowerment Center in Morrisville, PA. She's an expert on personal empowerment; specifically building self esteem, overcoming strife, coping with change and expanding one's comfort zone. Once a penniless, single mom forced from her home with her 6 year old son, Lynette abandoned her complete lack of self-worth and became engrossed with studying the habits of leaders, self-made successes and entrepreneurs. She developed her own life-changing tricks to creating a successful life and manifesting her heart's desires. Today she helps others to set and surpass their own goals by bringing her motivational message to individuals and groups.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Interview: Donna Dalton

The Long and the Short of it is excited to welcome Donna Dalton. Donna, a mixture of English on her mother's side and Irish and American Indian on her father's side, was born, raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she discovered a love for reading at an early age. She told me her Grandma Stone had a massive bookcase filled with such treasures as The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Then, when she reached an age thought appropriate, she was allowed access to "the hallowed romance collection."

It wasn't long before she started writing herself and was published in her high school's literary magazine. No genre was off limits to her imagination. As a matter of fact, one of her earliest stories, as a young girl, was about garden vegetables where the carrots, potatoes, and squash were all living characters. "Bringing my imagination to life," she told me, "was, and still in, wonderfully fulfilling."

Life intervened and she married and had children, with historical romances becoming her favorite escape from the demanding roles of wife and mother. But, time went on, the children grew up, and once the nest was empty, she focused on her writing career. She discovered that writing is not an easy process. "Nor is it stagnant," she said. "I’m always striving to improve my writing through workshops, conferences and talking with other writers both on-line and at the monthly VRW membership meetings."

As a matter of fact, it was at a workshop given by two Virginia Romance Writer members five years ago that prompted her to try her hand at writing historical romances. She told me, "I love reading that genre, so why not write them?"

And write them she has. Since beginning her writing career, she has written and published three full-length novels and has a fourth currently in progress. Irish Destiny was contracted with The Wild Rose Press in January 2007, followed by The Cavalry Wife and Irish Charm, which we are giving away in our weekly contest. She told me all of her books were favorite but Irish Charm proved to be the most challenging.

"Trying to weave romance into an intricate murder mystery plot was quite the task," she admitted. "I wanted to keep the reader engrossed with both the romance and the plot without giving away too much too soon. This story required a bit more plotting than the other two, but the end result is very satisfying."

The hero in Irish Charm, Jamie Donovan, was a secondary character in her first book, she told me. In her new book, Jamie is a Pinkerton agent, hot on the trail of a murderer. "He's a cocky Irishman," she said, "who uses his charms to bring criminals to justice and lure women to his bed. Most women, that is, except icy Agent Kathryn Mitchell. She's immune to his charms." Or, until she is forced by events to join up with Agent Donovan.

Most of Donna's writing is done early, as she's a morning person. "My best writing," she said, "is done between eight and noon. After that my brain decides it's siesta time and shuts down."

One of Donna's traits is that she's a compulsive organizer, a fact that has no doubt stood her in good stead in her writing. She told me, "That trait seems to have mellowed a bit with the years, much to the delight of my dear husband. Clutter drives me nuts, and I'm always straightening up." She hastened to assure me that she only does so in her own house. In another person's home she doesn't "no matter how badly I itch to adjust a crooked picture." I'm sorry she added that, because I was just before asking her to come visit…my house could use some compulsive organizing!

I asked Donna what was an expression she used a lot. "I say 'Oh my!' a lot when exclaiming over surprising incidents," she said. "Sometimes I add a 'goodness' or 'heavens' to the exclamation, but it’s usually just 'Oh my!'"

Donna shared with me she owned a quarter horse named Coke for a while before family issues made it necessary to sell him. "Trail rides through the Virginia Blue Ridge were my favorite excursions," she said. "But he's living with a good friend now, so I get to visit now and again."

Please visit Donna at her website.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Unexpected Bounty

by Masha Holl

Khurshid paused outside the Rim Bar and wrinkled her nose. Not that she had much of a choice on Station 3 if she wanted a drink, but why did fate have to send a whole phalanx of ornithoplasts here, of all places?

Adjusting her rebreather, she sidled into the area reserved for those who could afford to pay for air double-filtered and botanically purified. Or for those, like her, who could not afford to let their senses be dulled by the putrid stench of certain species.

The zero-sun lighting and neutralized scent of the closed lounge provided a brief respite from the usual station-side assault on her system. A well-programmed server-bot glided up to her and presented an array of refreshments.

A familiar aroma drifted across the room. Her hackles rose just before the deep, husky voice reached her.

"Hyia, Shidi."

She forced herself to take a deep breath before she really got upset. Damn her Sharti genes. If she got riled, she would fur over.

And damn his face, Stone Mikkelson liked it too much to leave her alone.

"Stone. What are you doing here?" Stealing away my deal again? Last time they were moored at the same station, he'd left just minutes ahead of her, and she'd lost the deal of the decade.

She didn't believe in coincidences.

"Refueling," he said, looking a little surprised.

"A bit out of the way for you."

He cocked his head and examined her. "You're angry. Why? Are you mad at me?"

She took another deep breath, trying to suppress her atavistic response. "What do you think?"

He looked really puzzled.

Khurshid stepped closer and inhaled his scent. He smelled puzzled. Some of her anger evaporated. She tried to hang on to it. It would be much too easy to go back to other feelings with Stone Mikkelson.

He shook his head. "I have no idea. We got along pretty well last time."

The suggestive leer in his gaze almost made her smile. Stone Mikkelson knew how to amuse her. But not at the expense of a lucrative shipment of Cassanian liquor. "I lost a deal that time," she said.

His eyes hardened to the flat brownish-grey that gave him his nickname. "I almost lost my ship," he said. "Someone pointed out my passengers to the Yxxry hunters."

Khurshid's pointed ears went flat against her skull. "You know I would never do that. Not even if they were wanted murderers. I am Sharti."



He acknowledged her ingrained, inborn code of honor with a bow.

Khurshid sighed. "All right. You had refugees on board. Even if you were the kind to betray a friend, you wouldn't risk a helpless family for petty cash. Who then?"

He raked his fingers through his hair, too long for a space pilot, and she let herself admire the play of muscles under the skin-tight shipsuit. Yess... If he wasn't an enemy, maybe they could reestablish their friendship. Yess... Very good, very pleasant friendship.

"I'm hungry," he said, breaking her train of thought. "My ship-time isn't synchronized with the station. I haven't eaten in..." He glanced around. "Too long."

She nodded. "A meal would be good. Even station-side food is better than what I've had lately." She wrinkled her nose. The air purifiers strained against the emanations of the ornithoplasts. "But not here."

"No. I can afford to treat us to something better."

"Good. That missed run didn't help me."

Stone led them away from the greasy fumes of the cafeteria, toward the diplomatic-corps sector and the Commodore's Hall.

Khurshid sniffed at the display of wealth, but allowed herself to be shown to a pleasant table next to a softly bubbling fountain where adapted lionfish swam in colored waters.

They were about to bite into dessert when a commotion at the entrance drew their attention.

A short, pudgy, balding male of mixed races wobbled into the Hall, surrounded by a half-dozen barely clad courtesans.

Stone's features hardened. "Is that..."

Khurshid hissed. Her ears flattened on her skull and her lips curled back to reveal gleaming fangs. "Yesss..." She half-rose from her seat. "Florinus Willoughby."

Stone grabbed her arm and pulled her back. "Wait. Look."

Instead of hushing down the noisy company, the manager rushed to greet Willoughby and to usher him to the best table in the restaurant.

Khurshid sat down. "What the... This rat is wanted in half the universe for almost every crime invented..."

"I know." Stone kept hold of Khurshid's arm. "He sold me out to the Yxxri."

She hissed again and felt herself furring over. "He was there."


"I didn't know. He was my broker."


Khurshid glanced at Stone. She had never heard a human express so much rage in such a short sound. His hard stare and the uncompromising set of his jaw made her shiver. Yesss, his name surely fit him. "We could take him," she said. "There's a very nice reward."

Stone's smile was not pleasant. "Not in this system."


"How's your ship?"

"I've had a run of bad luck."

He bared his teeth. Grinning like that, he looked almost like a Sharti on the prowl. It made Khurshid shiver and melt inside.

"Shidi," he said, "what do you say we join forces?"

"What are you saying, Stone?"

"I'm proposing, Shidi. I've been thinking of it since our last meet-up. Don't say you haven't."

"I won't. Say."

He leaned forward a little harder, but he still didn't look at her. "How about we grab the fat slug, jump on my ship, and celebrate our partnership with a joint reward and a proper contract on Sharti Prime?"

Khurshid shivered and couldn't quite suppress the purr that came from the depths of her being. Oh yesss, Stone knew her. He knew her very well. What better way to start a life partnership than with a good hunt and a good run from those who would take your prey away from you?

About the Author: Masha grew up on magic tales, Russian literature, classical music and French suisine. Now she writes about werewolves and spaceships to metal rock, but she still enjoys Mozart and Verdi. Visit her website to learn more about her!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Article: Tackle A Trilogy And Triple Your Profits

by: Suzanne Harrison

Are you a writer with big ideas? Are you always imagining epics, sweeping stories, great tales of human struggle and sacrifice, interlaced with personal stories of love, sadness and triumph? If so, you ought to consider turning your book or story idea into a trilogy.  
Why a trilogy? Believe it or not, there are deep psychological reasons that we do things in threes. The holy trinity is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Triple Goddess is Maiden, Mother, Crone, detailing the feminine journey through life. How many times have you heard the phrase "third time lucky", or given someone "three guesses" or "three chances"? And of course in baseball it's "three strikes and you're out!"  
You will have no doubt heard of the traditional "three act play". Almost all big Hollywood screenplays are based on this structure and it's certainly a tried and true form of storytelling that captures viewers and keeps them going back to the cinema in droves. And the world of fantasy writing is packed with trilogies: The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (that's two trilogies in fact), and any story by Sara Douglass, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan or pretty much any fantasy writer in the world today is told across at least one, if not more, trilogies.  
Add to that the success of such popular movie franchises as Star Wars, Pirates Of The Carribean and the Bourne movies, and you will see that a well planned and executed trilogy is a one way ticket to success.  
So how do you do it? Do you just take an idea and spin it out over three stories? Or do you just come up with a great character and three great premises and you're home and hosed?  
Neither actually!  
The success of the trilogy is based on the traditional three act play, where book or movie one is act one, book or movie two is act two, and book or movie three is act three. The only ingredients you need are one great big story running behind three stories compelling enough to carry a movie or book on their own, and you've got the basic ingredients you need to succeed.  
So if you are the type of writer who thinks big, if your scope is broad and your plots complex and intertwined, and your characters are people on a life's journey, then trying to squash that all into one book may be too many chocolate chips in the cookie. Giving yourself the room to think, plan and write a larger journey over three books will make each one a better book in its own right, and if you do get it right, you've got a guaranteed audience for books two and three. And publishers love that!  
The most important element to grasp as you embark on the trilogy adventure is that you are dealing with a multilayered project. Unlike the acts of a play, the individual stories in a trilogy need to stand up on their own, in addition to playing a part in a larger drama.  
So let's take a look at how you can go about turning your dreams of epic tales into the reality of a trilogy.  
How To Build Your Trilogy  
1. Decide on your over-arcing or larger story.  
This is definitely the most important first step by far. Without it you don't have any story, let alone a trilogy.  
Some examples of great larger stories are:  
a) a leper passes out on the floor of his lounge room and wakes to find himself in a strange land. There, instead of being treated as an outcast, he is considered a savior and the question is asked, will Thomas Covenant accept his destiny and save The Land? The larger story: will Lord Foul prevail or will Covenant save The Land?  
b) a farm boy dreams of becoming a fighter pilot. He meets a Jedi Knight and trains in the ancient art. The question is asked, will Luke Skywalker become a Jedi, save the Rebels and bring freedom to the Galaxy, or will he turn to the Dark Side like his father? The larger story: who will prevail, light or dark, good or evil, The Rebels or The Empire?  
c) a man is found floating off the coast of Marseilles. He has no idea who he is. As he attempts to find out, will he learn his true identity, or will Jason Bourne wish he'd never asked? The larger story: it is one man against the world, as Jason Bourne challenges the might of the CIA, and who will prevail?  
These are just a few examples of the initial questions asked, the initial journeys laid out before the heroes and the ultimate possibilities open to the creator of a great trilogy. Nail your larger story, and backdrop it against anything from war to a love story and you'll have a great basis to work from.  
2. Each book in the trilogy is roughly the equivalent to an act in a screenplay.  
In the three act play, Act One is "The Set Up" or "Decision To Act", Act Two is "The Confrontation" or "The Action" and Act Three is "The Resolution" or "The Result Of The Action".  
When you are planning out your larger story (which you will do first) this breakdown will help you form the basis of each of the books in your trilogy. In Book One, you will cover the elements of the larger story that take that story through the set up phase and onto the threshold of another world, or some different action. Book Two will follow with the result of what was decided in Book One, as the story moves forward through the crisis/ordeal/midpoint and traditionally ends on a dark note. This leaves Book Three open to rescue the heroes from the jaws of defeat as the larger story reaches its climax and all the initial questions are answered. Planning this out in the earliest stages will give you very strong guidelines as to where to go with each individual book's plot, structure and characters.  
3. Each book must stand alone as a complete story in itself.  
This is where you need to be very aware of the layered aspect of this process. You have a larger story you are telling in the style of the three act play. Now you need to plan, structure and write three stores within that structure that fulfill all the criteria of successful books in their own right. So take "The Set Up" phase and construct a story showing how you would set up your larger story. It's very common here to have a reluctant hero, who hears the call to adventure and refuses. Thomas Covenant is a good example of this. Thus the entire first book can be the process of the hero trying to escape the call. In a different scenario, you may have a willing hero, like Luke Skywalker or Frodo for instance and the first book may be a complete hero's journey in itself, showing how the hero is embracing the quest or task, but still leaves the greater part of the task to be completed.  
Possibly the most important thing to remember is to hold information or events back as long as you can. It's tempting when you're writing a trilogy to put too much in up front, but doing that is a mistake. Give your readers some credit for intelligence and imagination, and don't tell them everything up front. Trilogies are a great tool for holding back secrets and springing surprises on your readers to keep them guessing. Good examples of this are Darth Vader revealing he is Luke's father at the end of the second episode in that trilogy, the interesting faux "love story" between Elizabeth and Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Carribean and the scene at the end of the second Bourne film which is repeated right near the climax of the third film. You are in a great position to lead your readers wherever you want them to go so use it!  
4. Your characters must have "legs".  
There is nothing worse than flat, lifeless characters and there is definitely nothing worse than trying to hold our attention with these flat and lifeless characters for three whole books. Make sure you do your homework on your characters just as you would with any other book you write. Put their flaws and universal needs right there up front for us to see, you still need to grab your reader's attention from page 1. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because you have three books you have more time and space to develop your story and characters. Wrong! If anything you are under more pressure to hook us straight away, because we're not going to keep reading if we're not interested, as we know that the story doesn't actually finish until the end of the third book.  
5. Your "golden thread" must run throughout all the three books.  
This is where the intricate weaving of story on story and the skill of balancing the separate elements becomes critical. Your golden thread could be a war, a family saga over generations, a love story or a ring quest, but regardless of what it is, remember that THIS IS THE STORY YOU ARE ULTIMATELY TELLING. Star Wars is ultimately about the battle between the Rebels and the Empire, the Bourne movies are the story of one man against the CIA, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are about a leper who becomes a savior in a different world, and The Lord Of The Rings is the war of Middle-Earth. While there are countless subplots, character journeys, love stories and red herrings in all these tales, they all still have their own individual "golden threads" and ultimately the telling of the story is to serve this golden thread.  
If you are prone to larger ideas, give this system a go. It may be just the breakthrough you need to get yourself on the publisher's lists.  

About The Author: Suzanne Harrison is the Director of Writers Central, which offers online creative writing, short story, novel and screenplay courses, as well as a vibrant community forum, where members share news, reviews and tips, enter competitions and find industry professionals.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interview: Kinley MacGregor/Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome Kinley MacGregor.

Kinley lives a life of extraordinary danger. She says just like "any woman with three sons, a husband, a menagerie of pets, and a collection of swords that all the above have a major fixation with."

When she's not running interference or rushing off to the emergency room, she spends her time playing with all her imaginary friends on the computer. She has a lot of friends to play with, because there are more than ten million copies of her books in prints, in twenty-six countries. Kinley and her alter-ego, Sherrilyn Kenyon, have several series: The Dark-Hunters, Brotherhood of the Sword, Lords of Avalon, and BAD.

Kinley has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She wouldn't tell me exactly how long. As she said, though, "A long time." And she's been fortunate enough to never suffer from writer's block during all that time.

For her, the characters of her novels definitely come first. They are essential to the story. And, if you've ever read any of Kinley's or Sherrilyn's books, you will realize how her characters jump off the page. There's a good reason she's a New York Times best-selling author many times over.

One of those characters, Acheron, has his own book coming out this August (shhhh, Sherrilyn asks that we not tell him) and so this year is "The Year of Acheron." Stay tuned for a lot of fun as this long-awaited novel finally comes out.

I asked Kinley/Sherrilyn with so many books out, how she comes up with the titles? "I don't," she told me. "My wonderful publishers do."

Kinley/Sherrilyn is definitely not a morning person. "Night," she said, "is my favorite time to write or do anything really!" So much so, that at midnight the day before the interview she was "writing up a storm." And, when she's not writing, she's thinking about writing. Her "imaginary friends" keep her supplied with stories about them.

Be sure and check out Kinley/Sherrilyn's website, where you can discover so much more about this amazing writer. To read her complete story of how she came to be in the place she's at, read here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Court Ship

by Tracy A. Gates

I dutifully stood in line at the Superior Court to have my jury duty badge swiped. I was surprised when they didn't even ask for ID. Did the swipe bring up my driver's license picture?

Heck, eBliss asked for more identification information than that! And I would know, as I had labored long and hard over the absurd questions that promised to find me my perfect mate.

So far my matches had been less than pulse racing. Don't get me wrong. Most of the gentlemen seemed perfectly nice and I honestly wouldn't have minded being friends with some of them. But that brings up the age old question: Can men and women really be just friends?

I was holding out for that magical match all the commercials and ads promised.

I wanted my breath to catch. A panicked giggle to bubble out. I wanted...

Yeah, well, didn't we all?

I made my way to a corner of the large waiting room. I was surprised by the bright colors that the chairs sported. Somehow it didn't seem court dignified. I guess it was an attempt to make a possible day-long wait as comfortable as possible.

They even had several computer stations that the jury pool could use for up to thirty minutes a turn. It was okay to quietly use your cell phones. There were vending machines. Magazines.

I settled into my chair. It was semi-comfy, but if I had to sit in it for eight hours I might become paralyzed.

The room quieted as we watched a rather well-done short video on our civic responsibility. Then the waiting began.

I opened my book and began to read where I'd quit last night, but soon tried to nod off.
The book was a thick, deep subject which was fine for short bursts, but I found myself needing to pace a bit before I started snoring.

I scanned the room full of potential jurors. Most were reading, too, or napping. I wandered toward the bank of computers and saw that one of the stations was empty.

To entertain myself, I slid into the seat and signed in to my eBliss account.

I patiently read through the new matches. Gave them a lot of consideration. I wanted to be fair and I didn't want to hurt anyone. There was such vulnerability to this whole process.

I sighed and sent psychic apologies to the wonderful sounding men that just weren't the one.

"Pretty boring, huh?"

I looked up, over the partition between stations, and there he was. The one.

"Uh, I heard your sigh and figured it was from boredom. Sorry if I interrupted anything." He smiled and slid out of sight.

Interrupted anything? Only my brain, my breath, my heart.

When I came to my senses, I stood and peered over the divider.

"You didn't interrupt anything." I hoped I didn't sound breathless and desperate.

He lifted his blue, blue eyes to mine. "So, it was boredom?"

Should I confess? "Actually I was checking my eBliss account."

"You're on eBliss?" He sounded surprised.

"Yeah, " I admitted. "Looking for love in all the possible places."

He grinned. "Me, too."

He gestured for us to leave the computers, so we met at the end of the wall and found seats by the windows.

"So, was the sigh because you found your dream guy?"

I felt that giggle forming deep inside. My dream guy was sitting right next to me. I had to clear my throat before I could speak. "No. Everyone seems so nice and interesting, but I'm looking for an unmistakable spark.

I was about to go up in flames right now.

"I know what you mean. It's hard to meet real people. Sometimes it seems like everyone has some sort of agenda. I don't like to play games. Ya know?"

This time I could only nod dumbly because I was afraid I'd drool and break the spell.

I was saved by the woman at the check in counter as she began calling out names to go with a bailiff to the courtroom.

Everyone held their breath. The ones who wanted to be picked and the ones who didn't.

I didn't get called and neither did Mr. Blue Eyes.

"I guess after all that name calling, at least I could introduce myself. I'm Joe Knight." He stuck out his hand.

"I'm Jesse. Jesse Andae." I place my hand in his. Oh yeah, I thought, as we touched, we're talking nuclear here. Did he feel the heat?

His blue eyes seemed to look a little smoky as he held my hand and grinned.

The desk lady spoke again, "Here's another list of names that get to go home because your judge has dismissed you."

Everyone held their breath again as the roll was called.

With my hand in Joe's I was finding it hard to breathe period. And I had to try and tone down the roaring in my head to understand if my name was on the list.

As fate would have it, both our names were called out.

Still holding hands we both stood to leave the courthouse.

"Would you like to have lunch with me, Jesse?"

Oh my God. My body actually tingled with a thrill I'd been waiting for. To heck with eBliss. I'd found my man.

"I would like that very much, Joe."

And as easy as that we walked out into the sunshine. Together. Two people in search of something real. In search for that seemingly elusive happiness.

If I had anything to say about it about it, our bliss was starting right now.

And as if he'd read my mind, Joe's hand squeezed mine. He smile down at me and said, "We make a perfect pair, did you know that?"

I must have looked shocked into silence, because he continued, "Don't you get it? We're Knight Andae!"

About the Author: I have been a writer since I first took pencil to paper as a child. As a youth, I wrote creatively through avenues of poetry, journaling, and short stories. As an adult, I belonged to a local writer’s group for many years, eventually leading it for some time. I led an Open Forum for creative writing that catered to new writers and published local authors. One year I taught creative writing to an elementary class of students in preparation for them to enter a short story contest judged by professional editors.

I have been published in magazines on subjects from my opinion that the government should not dictate what we can put on the internet in regards to alternative health to my most recent article in our local TEE TIMES golf magazine on the effects of massage on golfer’s elbow. I have also written advertisement, marketing material and college curriculum. As we speak, I have a non-fiction book being looked at by a New York Editor, and several agents looking at two fiction novels.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Article: Yesterday Once More—How to Research Historical Fiction

by: Suzanne Francis

Have you ever read a book that was set in some long-past time, only to find that the characters used modern-day slang or relied on some as-yet-undiscovered knowledge or device? Such mistakes are unsettling and can tear a reader’s attention away from the story.

As authors, we certainly don’t want that to happen!

So how do we make sure our period pieces feel, well… true to the times? Three words—research, research, research.

Yes, that is only one word, but the importance of careful research cannot be overestimated.

They say the devil hides in the details, but then again, so do angels, waiting to sweep your reader into an authentic world rich with imaginative description.

So, how to go about building, layer upon layer, a historically accurate framework for your book?

1) Always begin at the library. Your local library doubtless has a reference and research desk. If you are unsure how to use the on-line or traditional card catalog, ask the friendly people there for help. But don’t just search for items that relate directly to your subject! When I was writing Heart of Hythea, which is set in the mid 1700’s, I wanted to make sure I could create realism, down to the finest detail. Although Heart of Hythea is a work of romantic fantasy, set in an imaginary world called “Yrth,” I still had to pin my work to a time period, and stick closely to it. So in addition to finding out about fortresses, and weapons and clothing, I also found a book full of recipes and foodstuffs. Now, when my characters are sitting down to dine, I can be sure they are eating and drinking the right things.

Don’t overlook the children’s reference section. That is the place to find lavishly illustrated reference works on every subject imaginable! Need a diagram of a ninth century Viking village, or a picture of a medieval morning star? Children’s books can give you critical information without unnecessary detail to wade through. DK Eyewitness Books are particularly helpful. I used Arms and Armor a great deal for Heart of Hythea.

2) Use the internet—wisely. Yes, it is quick and easy to look something up on the World Wide Web, but it is no substitute for the library. You have no guarantees that anything you find on the internet is accurate or fair. Wikipedia is edited and re-edited by thousands of people each day, and it reflects the biases and political positions of every one of them. Never use the internet as the sole source of any important historical feature in your manuscript!

Nevertheless, the internet can be helpful. I often use a website called Etymology Online to check the accuracy of words and phrases. When I wanted the main character in Heart of Hythea to fling an insult at her future lover, I originally settled on “yellow” as a synonym for cowardly. A little research showed me that yellow dated from the mid-1800’s, so was most unsuitable. “Craven” turned out to be the correct expression! Picky? Perhaps… but the more things we get right as authors, the more we can seamlessly draw our readers into the story.

3) Museums and archives can be very helpful. Wander around the section devoted to your time period. Pick up any articles you are allowed to touch. Feel the pommel of the sword, the heft of the blacksmith’s hammer. Study the expressions on paintings or photographs, and look closely at the clothing and hairstyles. Let the history seep into your pores and you will be rewarded with descriptive passages that come alive.

4) Talk to the experts. Most universities have lecturers on many subjects who will be willing to spend a short time on a research interview. Be prepared with specific questions. Don’t ask, for example, “What was life like in the Middle Ages?” Ask instead, of an archaeologist—“What building materials were in use in 1000 CE?” if that is germane to your book. Be sure to keep the interview short, thirty minutes is best, and write your subject a thank you note afterwards.
Don’t discount the memories of your older friends and relatives, if your book is set reasonably close to the present day. They can recall stories told to them by parents and grandparents, giving a gritty perspective to what might otherwise be dry historical narration. We all know there was a depression in the thirties in the USA, but what was it like to live it—to be hungry, out of work, rootless?

5) Add real historical figures or events into the background of your story. Giving your reader a recognizable name or place gives your story instant credibility and helps create a wider context for your work. But, as always, make sure to get your facts absolutely straight!

You spend a great deal of energy creating believable, lovable (or hateful) characters, and a convincing story arc. Don’t short-change your work by forgetting to color in the background scenery. It is an essential part of creating the world your characters inhabit. Skimp on the research and it will show—either through weak description or out-and-out anachronisms. But never lard on so much detail that reader is bored, or tempted to skip ahead. A few economical phrases painting a general picture would be far preferable to a tedious recitation of what everyone in the room was wearing.

Historical fiction can be interesting and engaging, even educational, but only if you, the author, do your homework first!

About The Author: Fantasy author Suzanne Francis was born in King’s Lynn, England and spent much of her early life traveling with her military family. In addition to writing, her passions include music, neo-paganism and tramping through the countryside. She now lives in Dunedin, New Zealand along with her husband and four children.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interview: Lynsay Sands

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome Lynsay Sands, New York Times bestselling author of the Argeneau Vampire series. Lynsay's first novel was published in 1997 and since then she's written more than 34 books and anthologies.
She doesn't write only about vampires, though. Her romantic comedies span three genres—historical, contemporary, and paranormal. She told me about one of her latest books, The Accidental Vampire, which came out the end of last year (our review of it is here).

" I had loads of fun with that book," she said. "The characters and situation were such fun. In the story, fifty-seven year old Elvi Black went on vacation in Mexico with her friend Mabel only to wake up one morning looking twenty-five and craving blood. Mabel realizes Elvi has become a vampire but isn’t willing to give up a lifelong friendship over a little thing like that. She helps her get home and then informs their small town of what has happened and gets everyone on board to help Elvi with her little 'issue.' With no other source to tell them how to do that," she continued, "they base their 'help' on movies and books like Dracula. It works well enough, however, and things are going swimmingly until Mabel decides Elvi needs a mate, a vampire like herself to share the future with. And how do you find a vampire mate for a friend? They put an ad in the personal columns of the newspaper in the city. Unfortunately, that ad draws the attention and wrath of the immortal’s council and Victor Argeneau is sent to Elvi’s small town to hunt her down and bring her in for judgment. But a little glitch to this plan crops up when Victor arrives to find that Elvi is his lifemate. That is then compounded by the fact that someone is trying end Elvi’s immortal life early and Victor has to catch the would-be killer and figure out how to appease the council, all while dealing with the town full of protective friends as well as the other suitors for Elvi’s hand that answered the ad. I really enjoyed this story, perhaps partially because I placed it in my own home and the town where I live. I even put my neighbors in the story. It was quite fun to write."
After The Accidental Vampire, Lynsay has come out with two other books in the Argeneau series, Vampires are Forever (our review of this is here), and coming out this month, Vampire Interrupted (our review of this is here). By the way, if you want to read the Argeneau series in order, Lynsay recommends you follow the book number, not the publishing date, as they were published out of order.

I asked Lynsay what she wanted to be when she grew up. "I’m really not very good at the growing up thing," she said. "I don’t feel any different inside now than I did when I was sixteen. I think that’s a common thing. At least it is in my family. About ten years ago I asked my gran when I’d start to feel grown up and like an adult and she said she didn’t know, she was still waiting on that and still felt 16 inside too. At any rate, I always wanted to be a writer, and still do. Hopefully I always will."

Most of her writing takes place in a sunroom. "It has everything," she explained, " a tea kettle, coffee pot, tv, dvd player, wicker furniture . . . About the only thing it doesn’t have is a desk. That’s downstairs. Instead I use my portable and write on an adjustable table and—as of recently—my desk chair is a recumbent bike. I spend so much time writing lately that my health was beginning to suffer (as in, I’m getting a huge butt). I decided I had to find some way to fit some exercise in while working so now ride the bike while tapping away on my keyboard."

Personally, I think that's an excellent idea. I may just have to steal if from her.

Another idea I might swipe is what she does when she suffers writers block. "I head to the coffee shop," she said. "For some reason, writing by hand in a coffee shop loosens up the ideas and lets them start flowing again."

There is one thing she does that I don't think I'll be taking away with me, though. Lynsay enjoys peanut butter and dill pickles. Together. "Stop saying ewwww," she told me. "It’s really quite good. The pickle cuts the stickiness of the peanut butter and the peanut butter cuts the bitterness of the pickle. A lovely combination." Lynsay, I'm going to have to take your word for it.

Lynsay also told me she's a night person, which makes sense given her proclivity for the creatures of the night. "I sleep the day away," she said, "and write evenings and through most of the night." Hmmm…on her website, she jokes about being a vampire and writing the history of her family. Maybe there's more truth in that than she wants to admit.

In closing, I asked Lynsay what advice she had for new writers. "Write what you love. If you love it, the reader probably will too," she said. "And try to remember to show and not tell. That’s a hard one I even sometimes forget despite all the books I’ve written, but it’s important. Writing the character’s emotions out as thoughts they're having just slows down the pace of the story and can be boring, whereas showing it in their actions and words is more interesting and keeps up the pace."

Lynsay, thank you so much for being with us. Make sure you visit her at her website where you will find some fun things for her readers.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In This Time

by Luree Vanderpool

Jazz was unpacking her suitcase, keeping up a running conversation with her friend Sandy about her recent business trip to Northern California, when she pulled out the wrapped treasure she’d found.

“Where did you find that picture?” Sandy asked.

“In Calistoga at an antique shop. I couldn’t leave it there.” Jazz ran her finger down the silver gilded frame looking closer at the group of men dressed in army fatigues sitting in a field during World War II. “You remember that dream I keep telling you about?”

“The one about the guy?”

“Yeah, that one. In the dream I keep seeing a man’s face. His hands are reaching for me. I feel such a sense of love coming from him. But I can’t get to him and I wake up crying. The man on the bottom right of the picture?” She pointed. “That’s him.”

“No way. Let me see.” Sandy pulled the picture closer. “He is cute, but he would have to be eight-five now.”

“I know, but that’s the face I see.”

“Too weird. Do you know who he is?”

“Not yet. I was waiting until I got home to do some research.”

“Let’s take the picture out of the frame. Maybe someone wrote on the back.”

The clasp on the back of the frame was stiff from age. Jazz worked them loose with care and pulled the cardboard away from the picture. Faded script listed the names of each solider and the date June 7, 1943.

“His name is Ryland Cooper.” Jazz couldn’t believe she had a name to go along with the face. She turned the picture over looking at the young man staring back. Her heart hurt with longing.

Abandoning her unpacking, she headed toward her kitchen and the lap top. “I’m going to get on the internet and see what I can find. Come on.”

Sandy pulled a chair next to her at the kitchen table. “Where do we start?”

“Google his name I guess. Then genealogy sites. World War II records. We’ll have to see where it leads.” Jazz started typing in the Google search box.

“Look at all those websites,” Sandy said after an hour of surfing the web. "I’m heading home. Call me later and let me know if you had any luck.”

“I know I should let it go for now but I don’t want to stop yet," Jazz acknowledged as Sandy left.

Now that she had started, Jazz felt an urgency to find out about Ryland. Why did she dream about him? What had happened? Was he still alive? She stretched her stiff shoulders and kept opening websites, not sure what she was even looking for until she found it-- an official government site that listed the names of soldiers that had died during World War II. She scrolled through the names. Ryland Cooper died June 9, 1943 in the Pacific Islands. Born 1923, Tucson, Arizona. Tears ran silently down her cheeks. He was so young.

He was born right here in her home town. Maybe he had relatives that still lived here. Her fingers flew over the keyboard searching the phone directory for Coopers. Twenty-four were listed. Her spirits sank. She ran down the names stopping at D.R. Cooper. Maybe the R stood for Ryland?

She picked up the cell phone and called Sandy.

“I found him,” she said. “He died in the Pacific Islands days after the picture was taken. But listen to this; he was born right here in Tucson.”

“You’re kidding.”

“And I found a D.R. Cooper listed in the phone book.”

“Well call the number,” Sandy insisted.

“And say what? 'Hey, I’m some crazy lady that has dreams about the man in this picture. Are you related to him?'”

“Say you are doing some research and ask if you can talk. It would be the truth.”

Jazz disconnected and summoned up her courage to call the listed number. An elderly man answered. Ryland Cooper was his older brother. He would love to see the picture and gave her the address. She grabbed the picture and got in her car before she lost her nerve.

She knocked on the door, taking a deep breath, uncertainty shaking her resolve. She was so close to finding the answer she couldn’t chicken out now. A gray haired man appeared, scooting his walker out of her way as he let her in.

“Mr. D.R. Cooper? I’m Jazz. We talked on the phone.” He showed her into the living room.

“Actually my name is Mark Cooper. My grandson is D.R., Dale Ryland. My brother’s namesake. This is his house. I’m just visiting.” At that moment a man her age dressed in faded jeans and a blue t-shirt came through the back door.

“Here he is now.” Mark introduced them.

He was the man in the picture.

Jazz couldn’t stop staring at Dale and he stared back, his eyes questioning. All her life this
man’s face had been in her dreams. Now the live version was in front of her. What was she supposed to say?

“I brought the picture.” She showed it to the men and Mark teared up. Dale put an arm around his grandfather’s shoulders.

“I’m not sure why I am here,” she confessed. “I’ve had this dream…”

“A face, a feeling?” Dale interrupted.


“Me too. You are the face,” he said walking to her, taking her hand in his.

Mark looked at their joined hands with a sparkle of joy in his eyes. “Come, let me tell you a story.”

About the Author: Writing and storytelling is what I have always done, what I have dreamed and lived inside my head. For the last twenty years I have practiced the craft here and there, wrote a novel, play and many short stories, attended classes and writing groups. Now my children are grown and my long time writing partner and I decided to give ourselves the gift of just writing. For the last six months we’ve had no outside jobs and concentrated only on our writing projects and pursuing publication. It has been glorious. It is my goal to make writing my career. In the meantime I may have to go wait tables! Visit me at my website and blog.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Article: How Editors Know You're an Amateur

by William Meikle

Are you happy being an amateur writer? Do you want to stay in that happy state? Then just follow these tips in all your submissions.

Don't address the editor by name. After all, there may be many editorial staff at the publication just waiting to jump at the chance to read your work, and you don't want them to miss out, do you?

Don't use double spacing. You never see articles or stories published in double space do you? So why should you bother double spacing your work, when someone is just going to have to convert it to single spacing later?

Don't bother checking your spelling or grammar. That's the editor's job, isn't it?

Don't send return postage. Why should you assume they'll return your work? That's defeatism. If they want to publish it, they can write you a letter - surely they can afford that? And as you've paid to send it to them, surely they can pay to return it?

Don't put your name on the manuscript. They're bound to keep your manuscript and the cover letter together, aren't they? No one would ever file correspondence and submissions in different places. Neither would they keep your letter, and send your submission to someone else to appraise it. That never happens.

Don't tell them how many words it is. Surely they can count?

Don't use a standard font. Everybody else does, and you want your manuscript to stand out from the crowd.

Don't use a new ribbon or cartridge. Why waste ink when the manuscript will get re-typed before publication anyway?

Don't tell them you've sent it to other editors. What they don't know can't hurt them. And you can always play one editor off against another when they both offer you publication. Surely they'll understand that they can't expect an exclusive look at your work without a guarantee to publish it?

Don't read the publication's guidelines. Your work is so good that they'll have to publish it, even if it doesn't fit what they say they want. They just don't realize that they want it yet, that's all.

Just follow the tips above, and you're guaranteed to remain a happy amateur forever.

Source: - Free Articles Directory

About The Author: I have seven novels published in the States. I am available for all freelance writing work. Contact me and read some free fiction at my web site

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Interview: Cyndia Depre

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Cyndia Depre visiting with us this week.

Cyndia and her husband currently live in the Twin Cities. They also keep what Cyndia calls "an old, but much loved" boat on Lake Minnetonka and use it as much as possible. They are also seeking to find a new dog. Unfortunately, they lost their previous one, a miniature Schnauzer, on September 11. It's not been an easy task because her husband wants a hunting dog and she wants a little cuddler. If you have any suggestions for Cyndia, you can share them with her tomorrow, as she joins us in Long and Short Romance Reviews for a Q&A session.

Cyndia is currently working on her third novel. Her first two: Amanda's Rib and Oblivious (which is just being released) are the prizes in our weekly contest. She ran her own business for ten years, but now writes full-time…or when the mood strikes her. She admitted to me that she doesn't have a set schedule for writing. "I write when the mood hits, for the joy of it," she said. "If I'm not in the mood, it isn't fun. Since I don't worry about it, I don't have writer's block."

Cyndia keeps paper and pencils in every room and in her car, because, as she says, "my best ideas seem to come at the oddest times. Most of my writing is done in the middle of the night, sitting on the bathroom floor with a tablet."

She then gathers all her notes together and forms them into completed scenes. "When I [do that]," she said, "I need huge blocks of time with no interruptions or noise. It's like entering another world, and I love it."

I asked her about multitasking while she was writing. She laughed. "No. Absolutely not. People with children, especially small ones, amaze me. They do eight things at once and still carry on a conversation. Just watching makes my head spin. I do one task at a time, with all my effort. Then move on to the next. I'd like to learn to multitask, but I'd have to do it when I have nothing else going on."

Cyndia always has a lot going on in her mind, that's for sure. I asked her what she wanted to know about the future. She informed me, "I want to know everything. How far will we go with computers? What diseases will we cure? Will nations ever learn to live in peace? Who really will be the next Food Network star? Big or small, I want to know it all. I feel like I'm reading a book I'll never be able to finish, and it's frustrating. If there's an afterlife, I'll be peeking at everyone and everything."

Cyndia always loved reading and began dabbling with words at an early age. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, with a second major in finance, but dreamed of writing a novel. "About ten years ago," she told me, "when I hit my mid-forties, I wondered when I planned on starting that book. It was a 'now or never' moment. I went to my office and wrote the ending of Amanda's Rib. Over the next several years I wrote the rest of the book. Then rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it, each time learning a little more about how to put words on paper."

Her work on Amanda's Rib paid off. She told me that some of her readers have become so invested in Jack and Amanda they write to her asking more details. For instance, at the end of the book, Jack gives Amanda a gift. "People want to know what it looked like," she said. "It never occurred to me to describe it, but that's a detail many want. I keep that in mind when I write now. It may not seem significant to me, but readers may want to know."

She also has received mail from readers telling her how Amanda's Rib has helped them and that after reading it they didn't feel so alone. "It boggles my mind to think something I wrote actually helped someone," she told me.

I asked Cyndia what advice she would give to new writers just starting out. "Realize you have a lot to learn and it won't be easy. Master the mechanics," she said. "Understand POV and only use one per scene. I've heard people say it's okay to head-hop if you do it smoothly. Piffle. If you head-hop, you risk confusing your readers. I think it's just plain lazy. Pick the character with the most to gain or lose in a scene, get into his or her head, and stay there. Resist the urge to stuff big chunks of back story into first chapters. Only give readers the back story absolutely necessary. You'll be surprised how little that is. If your protagonist is interesting and/or likeable, your reader is hooked and you can fill them in on the character's past in later chapters. Finally, don't let anyone tell you there is a right or wrong way to do the actual writing. Do what works for you. When I wrote Oblivious, I started with the ending, just as I did with Amanda's Rib. You don't have to write in any particular order. First chapter to last. Write what you want and weave it together. I always think of my first draft as my outline."

A little known fact about Cyndia? She has a friend who calls her "Weather Weenie," because thunderstorm terrify her, and for good reason. "I was once caught in my car during a tornado," she said, "and I think it scarred me for life. Every spring I put a radio, snacks and a mini 4-pack of wine in a corner of the basement. In a room with no windows."

Please visit Cyndia's website