Beginning January 1, 2013

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Brenda Novak

Another question I’m often asked is: Do you ever get writer’s block?

The answer to that question is yes AND no. I don’t really believe in writer’s block. But there are days when I get stuck, when my story seems to be turning to drivel or I can’t get it to hold any emotional tension. That’s when I know something is wrong. I’ve taken the story where it wasn’t meant to go, for lack of a better way to describe it.

Fortunately, there are ways to get myself “unstuck.” Experience has taught me to step back and evaluate the manuscript from a macro perspective, always asking myself, “Where did you go wrong?”

I start from the beginning and check the story as a plumber might check a series of pipes for leaks. I feel my way along, testing the story to see if it’s still “holding water.” I read, consider, read, consider and read some more until I find the “break” or part that isn’t in harmony with my intuition. Sometimes I do this by reading the manuscript aloud to my husband and asking for his input. Then we both search for the reasons my story isn’t coming together. Maybe I’m forcing my characters to do something these types of characters would never do. Maybe I’m ascribing a certain trait or pathology to my villain that just isn’t ringing true. Maybe I’ve veered too far away from my “core story.” It’s a bit of a hassle to go back, and definitely risks some unraveling and rewriting, but if I take the time to do this I almost always find the point that’s troubling my subconscious and interrupting my ability to proceed. And then I can fix it.

Sometimes my production will fall not because the story isn’t working but because I’m too distracted to concentrate properly, or I’m emotionally exhausted. At these times, I need to “refill the well” by listening to music I find deeply stirring, reading quotes or poems that resonate with me or watching movies. The musical score from Les Miserables fires me up every time. Same with Phantom of the Opera--or watching my favorite movie, Last of the Mohicans. That emotional scene where the hero (played by Daniel-Day Lewis) is forced to leave the heroine (played by Madelyn Stowe) behind at the waterfall never fails to rejuvenate me. Taking a break to be with people helps, too. Laughter is a general cure all.

I’ve learned not to overreact when I run into a difficult patch, because overreacting only makes it more difficult to fight through it. Occasionally, all I need to do is sleep. Somehow my subconscious continues to mull over the problem--and when I get up in the morning, the path is once again clear. Hallelujah!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Spotlight: Brenda Novak

For my blog entries this week, I’ve decided to answer the five questions people ask me—and probably every other author--the most.

1. Where do you get your ideas?

2. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

3. Do you write from experience (wink, wink—at which point I’m supposed to understand that they’re referring to the sex scenes)?

4. How did you get published?

5. Which of all the books you’ve written is your favorite?

So, first things, first: where do I get my ideas....

When I first started writing I had THE GREAT IDEA. It was based almost entirely on a title that popped into my head one day—OF NOBLE BIRTH. This title lent itself to a very specific theme: whether one is noble or not depends on the heart and not the pedigree. That was the message I wanted to deliver, and I knew the best backdrop for a story with such a message would be in a historical setting where the caste system was firmly in place, so I decided that my book would be a historical romance set in Victorian times. (I needed the historical part to convey my theme. The romance I simply wanted to be there, because romance has and always will be my favorite genre. I mean, what’s more hopeful, healing or happy than love?)

The idea for my first novel lived with me for five years while I added two more children to my family, researched the time period, taught myself the craft of storytelling and created characters that would be interesting enough to help convey my theme (the hero was born to a rich duke who rejects him because he's imperfect--he has only part of one arm). You’ve probably never heard of my first book, so you’ve already guessed that OF NOBLE BIRTH did not become the next GONE WITH THE WIND. LOL But I did get lucky enough to sell the first manuscript I’d ever even attempted, which isn’t all that common, and the publisher let me keep my precious title from which all else had sprung (publishers often change a manuscript’s title to something they feel is more marketable).

As exciting as that was, however, I soon realized it was NOT the only idea I would ever need if I wanted to make my living as a published author. In order to build my career, I needed to write another story, and another, and another. In other words, I had to develop my imagination, turn it into a deep well of ideas from which I could draw time and again.

I didn’t know how I was going to do this but, fortunately, our brains are very adaptable. The more I demanded that my imagination deliver IDEA NUMBER 2, the harder it began to search. Before long, my mind was sifting through everything and anything that came my way--every conversation I overheard, every funny anecdote I was told, every movie I saw, every newspaper article I read, every true crime show I puzzled over--until I could pull an attitude from one character I’d "met" in a TV show and mix it with a situation my mother had mentioned the week before and then throw in some of my personal experiences as a child and…I was off and typing.

Some days, I still fear I’ll run out of ideas. I was so engrossed in my current work-in-progress (titled INSIDE), which will be released next summer in July, that I had no clue what my follow-up novel would be about. My publisher kept gently nudging me to give them information about the story so they could get started on the cover, but I had no clue what to tell them. I thought my sifter had failed me after thirty-something books. But just about the time I finished INSIDE, a character from that story connected with my imagination and seem to whisper, “Tell my story. Considering my background, I’d be a very interesting character to work with.”

And I’m now finding that to be true….

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Author Interview: Rachel Brimble

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Rachel Brimble, whose first historical romance The Arrival of Lily Curtis was released last month. I asked her to tell us a little bit about it.

"The Arrival of Lily Curtis is set in Bath and Colerne which are a real town and village near where I live. Here is the blurb:

At the mention of an arranged marriage, Elizabeth Caughley feels her life is over at the age of three and twenty….so she hatches an escape plan. She will reinvent herself as a housemaid. Overnight, Elizabeth becomes Lily – on the understanding if her attempt at independence fails, she will return home and marry a man of her parents choosing.

Viscount Westrop wants nothing more than his legacy to be passed to his own son one day. Even though he feels insurmountable pity for the unborn child already, he knows how much pain a broken promise can cause and will do what is right. But with the arrival of his new housemaid, his plans are thrown into disarray. Lily is funny, feisty and the most beautiful creature on earth – Andrew is thunderstruck. But if anyone suspects how much he wants to ravish her and endlessly love her, Andrew’s lineage will undoubtedly be in peril. And he cannot let that happen…
"I am very proud of this book because I managed to throw in the history, the intrigue, the sex, the romance and most of all, huge doses of love and laughter. Hopefully readers of the book will love it as much as I do!"

Rachel's been writing ever since she was fifteen and received some wonderful encouragement from her English teacher.

"She was passionate about my writing and told me that one day I would be a famous author," Rachel said. "What more does a young writer need to hear?!! I obviously grew older and real life took over for awhile but once I became pregnant with my eldest daughter I started writing again. But it wasn’t until 2006 that novels became my goal and soon the first steps to success began to happen."

Once she held her first novel, Waiting for Sophie, is her hands she felt as though she'd arrived.

"I'd done it," she explained, "and there was no stopping me now. It is the most euphoric feeling in the world and I still feel the exactly way every time I receive the advance copies of my new novels in the mail.

"But having said that, the reality is you are a writer the moment you start writing! My advice to all aspiring writers is don’t wait for that first acceptance to think or tell people you’re a writer, start now. If you write, you’re a writer."

Rachel told me she has three absolutely favorite authors: Nora Roberts for romance, Jodi Picoult for mainstream fiction, and Philippa Gregory for historical.

"All three of these wonderful writers have inspired me to write the best material I can as well as making me dream big and consider the affect my stories have on my readers," Rachel explained. "Whenever I pick up a book from one of these writers, I know I won’t be able to put it down as well as studying it as much as I do read it….and more often than not end up fretting if I’ll ever be that good!"

When it comes to Rachel's writing, she told me that her characters show up first.

"I’m usually in the bath, ironing or walking my black Labrador and I will hear a voice…And that voice always turns out to be my next hero or heroine," she shared. "I then tend to listen to them over the next couple of weeks and very soon the first inklings of a plot will start to emerge. And that’s when the real work starts for me!"

She admits that she's not a natural plotter and has go through blood, sweat, and tears to include both the hero and heroine GMC as well as exciting plot points and everything else that makes up a good book.

"Makes you wonder why I keep doing this writing thing, doesn’t it?" she asked.

In upcoming news, Rachel has recently signed a contract for her first novella-length story called Transatlantic Loving. It's part of a new series from The Wild Rose Press that is set around the fictional town of Summerville and the Class of 1985 high school reunion.

"The whole concept is fantastic and, as the heroes and heroines are in their early 40s," she explained, "they bring a wealth of experience and stories with them."

After Rachel's second book, she and her husband bought a log cabin type of office which sits at the bottom of her garden so she could have a dedicated writing space.

"I have an L shaped desk. The two walls surrounding the L are floor to ceiling cork for all my notes, pictures, brainstorming ideas etc. The third is covered with books – books I love, books to be read, books used for research…it’s full, believe me! And then the final side is windowed to let in all that rare and gorgeous British sunshine…or a place I can more often than not, watch the rain!"

She admits that her writing schedule is a bit hit and miss, grabbing time whenever she can around a part-time job, two young kids and cleaning what she calls "an often messy house."

"But having said that, my writing is on my mind ALL the time so often the house is the last thing to come into consideration!" she told me. "Some days I only manage an hour, other days three or four – it totally depends on the mood my kids are in, anything unexpected cropping up or the fact I can commandeer my husband to take the kids off for awhile. Writers can be very resourceful (and sly!) if they put their minds to it."

On a personal note, Rachel told me that dogs are her favorite animal and she shared with me a little about her Black Labrador, Max.

"He is most definitely my third and most obedient child. Having said that, he does have a mind of his own and if he doesn’t want to come back to me on command, he won’t…but he never answers me back, never looks at me as though I am the biggest moron to grace the earth and always, always lets me catch around his neck and give him a big hug."

Finally, I asked, "What would you like to know about the future?

"I want to know that all my hard work, tenacity and belief in my writing is going to pay off one day so I can actually make a living from doing what I love – I don’t necessarily want the millions (although it would be nice!), but I would love to know this is my real JOB and in turn, people would let me work without assuming I’m not just ‘playing’ at writing stories!"
You can keep up with Rachel on her blog,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Spotlight: R. Ann Siracusa


You have to know where you’re going in order to get there

Why prepare a Career Plan?

• A Career Plan is all about you and what you want out of writing.

• Writing is either a hobby or a business. None of the rest of this matters if it is a hobby and has to take a back seat to everything else in your life. It will happen as it happens.

• You need to know where you are going in order to get there. It doesn’t matter if you choose hobby or business, but you must know what you’re striving for in order to make choices. Otherwise, writing will always remain a hobby, whether that’s your prefence or not.

• Writing takes commitment and requires sacrifices; it requires a large investment in time, emotions, money, energy, and self-esteem. You need to know how much you are willing to invest in all of these areas.

• A plan is a guide for decision making.

• You need goals and measurable action steps to measure your progress.


• The plan is for you. Don’t show it to anyone. It will change with time.

• Put it on paper.

• Be honest with yourself.

• Be specific.

• Be realistic.

• Keep it simple.

• Reevaluate and revise at least once a year.


• Assess honestly where you are now in your writing (if you are a beginner, you’d better admit that to yourself.)

• Write down your ultimate goal―your long range goal (as it is now)―write it like an end statement.

• Write down where you want to be five years from now―your five year goal.

• Identify what has to happen to achieve that goal―your five year objectives.

• Identify the specific measurable steps you must take to make those things happen―5 yr. action plan.

• Write down where you want to be one year from now―one year goal.

• Identify what has to happen to achieve that goal―one year objectives.

• Identify the specific measurable steps you must take to make those things happen―1 yr. action plan

• Identify how and how often you will reevaluate your Career Plan.

• Do the same for years two and three.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: R. Ann Siracusa


As an architect, I apply that same basic approach to writing as I do to architectural design of a building.

What is it?

What kind of building is it? Is it a house, an office building, a factory, or a combination of several uses? The parallel in writing is what kind of story you’re going to write. Is it a romance, a murder mystery, a coming of age novel? Both architect and writer need to know that at the beginning.

Where is it?

Where a building is located affects availability of building materials, cost, climate controls needed, orientation on the site, methods of construction, and so on. The location and setting of a novel matters in same way. One additional factor facing a writer, which is generally not a problem for architects, is “when” the story takes place.

Who is going to use it?

Who is going to use the building is more or less equivalent to the characters in a novel. When designing a house, you need to know who is going to live in it―a king, an older middle-income couple, a low-income family with six children? A rich family with six children? In the same way an architect needs to know about the users of a structure, the writer also needs to know something about the characters in the novel, such as their situations, daily habits, needs (perceived and real, which are different), expectations, goals, motivations, weaknesses.

What is the layout?

The floorplan of a building is a logical progression of related physical spaces which allows movement from one to the next and provides for the activities which take place in the building. The floorplan of a building is similar to the plot of a novel which deals with what happens, how the characters react. The plot is what allows the characters to move through the time/space continum. A floor plan has to make sense in the same way a plot has to make sense.

What is the structure?

Here’s where I get into it with other writiers. Some insist that the structure is the same as the plot. I disagree.

In architecture, the “structure” is a system which combines the building materials used and the way those are put together to achieve certain kinds of spaces to accommodate how the structure will be used. For an auditorium the architect needs to use a structural system which will span large spaces. Each structural system has advantages and disadvantages and offers the architect the ability to create certain kinds of physical spaces.

The structure of a novel is not the plot, but the way in which the story is told. Just as the architect can use exactly the same floor plan with different structural systems, the novelist can tell the same plot in different ways through choice of tense, view point, narrator, and whether the story is told as it unfolds or looking back on past events, or a combination of those. Do you move in and out of viewpoint throughout, or by scene? Is there a chapter in one person’s viewpoint, the next chapter in another character’s viewpoint? It the novel told as though one is reading a diary? Is it a series of letters? Is a secondary character narrating a story about the hero/heroine? Is there an omniscient narrator? And so on.

Structure is how the story is told. Plot is what story is told.


This approach works for me. It may or may not work for other writers, but it does seem that most novelists are able to draw a parallel between writing and another activity with which they are familiar: gardening, raising children, quilting, herding chickens with an invisible rod. Whatever. Give it a try.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: R. Ann Siracusa


World travelers are always exposed to some of the world’s pressing social issues. These problems are overwhelming and easy to ignore, and many travelers do just that. They come home with photos, souveniers, dirty clothes, weary bones, and a myriad of other things. I do that, too. But, also, I gratefully return to the United States with concerns regarding issues such as population growth, environmental degredation, loss of historical and cultural heritage, poverty, hunger, racial and religious discrimination, poor living conditions, inadequate medical treatment, etc. (Fortunately, not all of those in one trip, or I’d quite traveling.)

But I came back from China impressed with the way the Chinese handled the previously-uncontrolled population growth.

What? No, you read that correctly. Not a misprint. Thirty years ago, China couldn’t house, feed, or educate the growing population or provide adequate jobs. In 1978, China adopted a population control policy which restricts the number of children of married urban couples to one child, although it allows exemptions for rural couples, the fifty-five ethnic minorities and parents without siblings. About 36% of the population is subject to the control.

Granted, this would be huge in the United States, but as a result of the policy, overall conditions have improved significantly for the Chinese people. While, undoubtedly, there are still many problems―and we hear about them all the time in the news―the PRC is now in a position to begin to get a better handle on the issues of historic preservation, environment, and human rights. Tiny steps, but, in my opinion, steps forward nonetheless.

The Chinese I talked to favored the policy and claimed it does not punish anyone for having more than one child, but any “additional” children aren’t entitled to the benefits afforded the first child, like free education and health care. But I’ve also read articles that characterize the policy as widely-hated and claim that, at its peak, the policy resulted in forced abortions, sterilizations, and even infanticide. Whether that is true or not, it seems the culture still values male children over female.

Now the PRC is considering recinding the policy because demographers predict that in the future there will be a shrinking workforce, i.e. not enough young workers to support an aging population, which has been the case in much of Europe for quite a while. You can’t win for losing! The government has commissioned feasibility studies to determine what might happen if the policy is eliminated or redefined. We shall see.

What’s your opinion?

I’d love to hear from people who have a personal experience with this policy. In the mean time, I see a potential story line for a novel.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: R. Ann Siracusa


My two favorite activities are traveling the world and writing fiction, and my “brand” is combining those loves into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.

When I started traveling, I had no clue that my adventures would eventually inspire writing novels set in foreign lands. But here I am!

These passions have evolved into a humorous Romantic Suspense series (published by Sapphire Blue Publishing) entitled “Harriet Ruby: Tour Director Extraordinaire.” Each of the five novels is a fast-paced romantic romp in a different country while Will and Harriet pursue an intriguing spy story, extraordinary sex, and an evolving relationship.

All For A Dead Man’s Leg introduces Harriet Ruby, a well-balanced young woman of twenty-four, who has taken a position in Europe as a tour director while she tries to decide what she wants to do with her life. She wants new experiences and some excitement before she settles down in to a career and family. Until now everything in her life has been good, but ordinary and predictable.

While conducting her first solo tour in Spain and Morocco, all goes well until she and her tour group get lost in the medina in Tangier. There, one of her tourists becomes ill. She needs a doctor, can't speak Arabic, and doesn't know how to get out of the walled city.

A handsome and mysterious stranger, Will Talbot, a Europol spy and covert operative for the US government, with a dark and troubled past and a calling to rescue innocent bystanders, offers his assistance. At that moment, Harriet's once predictable life turns upside down and will never be the same.

Together she and Will experience a series of hilarious misadventures, great sex and a life-threatening journey as they smuggle a dead body out of Morocco, then go in search of the dead man’s secret, murderers, an international smuggling ring, and terrorists.

First Date, a Tour Director Extraordinaire Story, takes place five weeks after Will and Harriet meet in Morocco. This short story takes the readers on Harriett and Will’s very hot and steamy first date, which potends the future of their adventures and relationship.

First Christmas Follies, a Tour Director Extraordinaire Story, dips into fantasy as Will and Harriet share their first Christmas together with an unexpected and unconventional tour group.

All For A Fist Full Of Ashes brings Harriet and Will, who have been seeing each other for a year, to Italy where their work assignments again overlap. Harriet is conducting a custom tour for fourteen members of an Italian-American family from New Jersey. The matriarch is on a quest to find the unknown location of her mother's grave so she can bury her brother's cremated ashes which have been smuggled into Italy wrapped inside Cuban cigars. Will has one of the family members under surveillance as a suspect in an assassination plot.

He wangles an invitation to join the tour. The quirky family members, including four unruly teenagers and a pet green tree python, sweep through Italy in search of long lost relatives and a lost grave, leaving danger and hilarity in their wake.

Will and Harriet, on their own personal journey, find that traveling together for twenty-four hours a day threatens their budding relationship, which is fraught with trust issues. Harriet wants to be involved in everything and Will can't, and won't, trust her. Harriet's intervention leads her to intuit the time, place and victim of the assassination attempt. Unable to reach Will, she puts herself in danger to thwart the assassination.

In Destruction Of The Great Wall (scheduled for release Summer 2010), Will travels with Harriet on her tour to China as her husband, his cover for a mission to recover a list of double agents. Unexpectedly, Harriet's parents show up as part of the tour group and, to protect Will's cover, they must pretend they’re married. The drama heats up when an attempt is made on Harriet's life, diverting Will from his mission. He stays with Harriet, her parents, and the characters in her tour group, on a cruise down the Yangtz River, providing plenty of laughs and life-threatening adventure.

Halloween In The Catacombs, a Tour Director Extraordinaire Story, (scheduled for release in Fall 2010) finds Harriet conducting a tour of the Roman Catacombs on Halloween.

Book 4 takes Will and Harriet to Russia with a new spy adventure. Book 5 is set in southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe).

Come join the fun with Harriet Ruby: Tour Director Extraordinaire and Will Talbot and travel to exotic foreign lands.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Spotlight: R. Ann Siracusa


The short dull version.

Who is R. Ann Siracusa? That’s my real name, but you’ll have to guess what the initial R stands for.

I am retired from a 35 year career as an architect and urban planner, which makes me older than dirt. I’ve been married to the same man for more than 45 years. My husband and I live in San Diego, with no pets but we do have a wild rabbit that lives under the workbench in the garage. We also have three grown children and eight grandchildren, all living in normal houses and not under anyone’s workbench.

My debut novel was published in 2008, and since then five additional works have been published by Sapphire Blue Publishing, and two more are being released in August and September. I have been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1985 and recently served two terms as Co-president of the San Diego RWA Chapter.

The more interesting version

In June, oh, so many years ago, with my Bachelor of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley tucked in my suitcase, I toodled off to Rome, Italy, to take a doctorate in Urban Planning at the University of Rome. Instead, the first day there, I sat down next to a handsome Italian at the Fountain of Love in Piazza Esedra…and the rest is history. (My choice of seat was not an accident.) I didn’t speak much Italian, he didn’t speak much English, and a month later I had to look up the word fidanzata in the English-Italian dictionary to find out I was “engaged.”

In October I wrote home to tell my parents I intended to marry an Italian policeman from Sicily. Without warning, my mother showed up in Rome to take me home…and I hadn’t even told my folks yet that he was a widower with a three-year-old daughter. I was just twenty-four at the time. Scary, isn’t it?

I refused to go but promised my mother if I didn’t have a job by the end of the year, I would come home. She left me with a plane ticket back to California. I immediately cashed in the ticket, borrowed a hundred dollars from my ex-boyfriend―Ronnie, if you’re out there somewhere, I want to pay you back with interest ―and Luciano and I got married in a civil ceremony at Christmas time. Now, here’s naïveté for you. I had this plan that if I didn’t get a job, I would go back to California, work for six months, save up some money, and convince my parents I hadn’t turned into a raving lunatic, then go back to Italy and live HEA. He was going to “wait” for me.

Yeah, right! This would never get past an editor. “It’s too unbelieveable. The heroine is TSTL.” Fortunately, a week before I was scheduled to return to the US, I got a job as an architect with an Italian land development firm. Lucky for me, because I was already pregnant.

Being a policeman in the Guardia di Publica Sicurezza (national police), Luciano needed permission to get married, which he hadn’t requested since we planned to marry in the Catholic Church. While we waited for that, I had to take instruction since I wasn’t Catholic. So there I was, six months pregnant (but not showing much) meeting twice a week with a priest at the American Catholic Church. I did fine until we got to the part about birth control. Then we had a major confrontation. When he explained that birth control was a sin because it was a perversion of a natural function, I pointed out that using anti-perspirants also perverts a natural function, but I didn’t see the Church opposing that. (And I read now that the ingredients in anti-perspirants have been shown to be a cause for breast cancer.)

Long story short. I was willing to convert to Catholicism for my husband’s sake. The Catholic Church said, “Thanks, but no thanks. Just sign this promise to bring up your children up in the Catholic Church. We’d rather you remain an Episcopalian.”

How’s that for rejection! Clearly, Fate was preparing me for a career in local government and for writing novels.

P.S. My husband and I are coming up on our 47th anniversary. It hasn’t always been fun, but it’s never been dull. Maybe I wasn’t so stupid after all.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Second Look by R. Ambardar

“Thanks for hauling away the leaves, Eric,” Tina said, leaning against the porch railing and scanning the freshly raked yard. “Our town doesn’t allow us to burn leaves.”

“We have the same problem. But since I have woods nearby I dump them there.” Striding over to his pick-up truck, he hauled out a bright blue tarp and swept some of the leaves from a neat pile onto it and lugged it back to the truck. After several trips to and from the pick-up, the leaves were all cleared away.

“You’ve been such a help since I moved here,” Tina said. When raking the large yard, she had wondered how she would get rid of the leaves. Then Eric arrived to save the day.

“Least I could do since my mother told me she and your mother were friends since school days. Your mother asked if I could help you around till you got settled.” He pulled off his cap and ran his fingers through his hair. Thick dark hair, Tina noticed reluctantly.

If she knew her mother right, she was making plans behind the pretense of getting Eric to “help out” with her move to a new town and a new job. But she didn’t want to seem ungrateful. Eric had been cheerful and kind in the way he’d called now and then to ask if she needed anything.

“You must let me treat you to a home-cooked dinner soon,” Tina said. Though when she could do that she didn’t know since she was busy learning the ropes at the computer software company which she’d just joined.

“Don’t worry about that. You just settle in.” He waved and drove off. Tina picked up her rake and gloves to put away when her neighbor, Carol, came out to sweep the leaves off her front steps. Seeing Tina, she smiled and walked over to her.

“You’ve got your leaves done and I still have to do mine.”

“That’s because I had some help with it.”

“Was that Eric Masterson I saw talking to you?” Carol asked.

“Yes,” Tina said, surprised. “Know him?”

“He’s the speech therapist for the school my husband teaches at, and Tom can’t say enough good things about him.”

“Really?” Tina hadn’t even asked what line of work he was in. She’d just taken his help for granted without trying to learn anything about him. Of course she knew why. Her mother, well meaning as she was, expected that the casual friendship would jell into something else, and that wasn’t what Tina wanted at all. “He’s just helping me settle in since our mothers are good friends.”

“Well, back to work. If you need anything, holler.” Carol grinned and walked back to her house.

Tina sniffed the crisp fresh air and squinted in the golden sunshine. She like it here and the neighbors were friendly. Still, it would take a little time before she was really settled. Putting away the rake and gloves she went into the house and got to work emptying a cardboard box containing kitchen supplies. Soon she would have the semblance of a home.

The shrill tone of her cordless phone caused her to lean up and grab the phone from the kitchen table. It was Eric.

“I was going to the Farmer’s Market. Did you need anything from there?”

“Not right now. Thanks for asking.”

Tina bit her lower lip as she replaced the phone on the table. Eric seemed so nice and thoughtful. If her mom hadn’t planned for him to be a chaperone while she settled at her new place, she might have been interested in him. She had deliberately ignored the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled. He was probably helping her against his will, just to be nice to his mother. She blew out a breath. Too bad. That was what happened when her mother tried to prod her along to meet “somebody nice.”

The phone rang suddenly. It was her mother wanting to know if Eric had helped her.

“Yes, he did, Mom. But I know what you’re up to.”

“And what is that, dear?”

“You’re trying to fix me up with him,” Tina said with secret glee. She had caught her mother at her little game.

“What? Eric? Oh no. You’ve got it wrong.”

“You were not trying to fix me up with him?” This was a first.

“Of course not. You’re not his type.”

“What type would that be?”

“Well--you’re outgoing. When I met him at Phyllis’ once, he struck me as being a serious young man.”

Tina was so stunned that she had no words for a few moments. This put a whole new complexion on things. Her interest in this serious young man, as her mother called him, was perking. She wanted to know what made him tick. Maybe she would prepare that dinner and invite him after all.

“Are you there, dear?”

Tina realized that she hadn’t said anything for a while. “Still here. Well, he’s been helpful.”

“That nice,” her mother said. “But there is someone I’d like you to meet. He’s your father’s business partner’s son, a lawyer who’s setting up practice in your neck of the woods.”

“Mom, don’t you ever give up?”

“Just meet him, that’s all I’m saying.”

“We’ll see.” After a few minutes of chitchat, Tina hung up.

The next week, Tina was so busy meeting clients for the first time and getting to know her co-workers that she forgot all about her plan of inviting Eric over for dinner as a “thank you” gesture. In fact, she forgot all about Eric, until he called one Friday evening.

“I’ve got two tickets for the football game tomorrow. It’s the biggest thing in town. Canton College is playing Ferris State, and I’ve been stood up. My date canceled at the last minute. Would you like to go? You wouldn’t believe the hot dogs at the concession stand.”

Tina laughed. “Okay. You don’t have to bribe me. I love watching football games.”

“Really?” A soft chuckle accompanied the surprise in his tone. “So do I. Pick you up at six-thirty?”

“It’s a deal.” Tina felt a slow simmer of warmth. He seemed self-assured in an understated way and going to the football game beat opening up more boxes. There was just one down side to this. She wouldn’t have been going to the game if his date hadn’t canceled. Kind of like a left-handed compliment. Oh well.

Eric picked her up at six-thirty and while he was driving, she had a chance to observe him. He was friendly and comfortable to be with.

“Hopefully, we’ll be early enough to find good seats,” he said, parking the car in the lot that was filling up fast.

Just as he had predicted, they found good seats and soon the scramble of the first two quarters claimed their attention. At half time, they threaded their way to the concession stand.

“Hot dogs are on me,” Tina said, and bought hot dogs and small cups of cocoa.

“Let’s go sit at that bench,” Eric suggested.

It somehow felt just right to be sitting there enjoying their hot dogs and cocoa while watching people hurry by. Still, Tina wondered if Eric would have taken the initiative to ask her out if their mothers weren’t good friends.

“I have a confession to make,” Eric said, after a few moments of silence.

“Confession?” Tina swung around.

“I didn’t know if you’d come out with me because you wanted to or only because I was helping out,” Eric said. “So I told you my date had canceled at the last minute. I figured if you agreed to come to the game it was because my date stood me up.”

“So you didn’t have a date?”

“No.” He threw her a heart-stopping grin.

“Want to hear my confession?” Tina said, wiping her hands on her napkin.

“As long as we’re on confessions.” Eric wrapped his napkin into a ball and stashed it in the empty cocoa cup.

“I thought you might get bored helping me settle in and wouldn’t want to see me again after that. Not that I’d blame you.”

Eric shook his head. “I remember when I first came here I had a nice neighbor helping me out. She still does--reminds me of my mother.”

“I have a nice neighbor too, but I doubt she would have been able to haul away leaves,” Tina said with a laugh.

Eric stood up. “Time to head back.” He put his arm around her and guided her gently through the crowds.

They found their seats again to catch the last few minutes of the half-time display, and as Tina settled into her seat, she made a mental note to ask Eric to dinner. How nice that things had worked out in their own persistent way. Somewhere in town was a lawyer, who, she was sure, wouldn’t mind getting his own date at all.

About the Author: Rekha Ambardar has published over eighty short stories, articles, and essays in print and electronic magazines, including The Writer’s Journal, ByLine, The Indian Express, Writing, Her mysteries have been published in Futures, Nefarious, The Gumshoe Review, Orchard Mystery Press, Shots in the Dark and other anthologies. She is a regular contributor to The World and I Online, a subsidiary of The Washington Times, and has published articles on topics of current interest and concern.

Author Interview: Anne Hope

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Anne Hope, whose latest release Broken Angels is scheduled for release next week.

Anne told me she enjoyed writing this one, because it allowed her to incorporate some of the lessons she's learned from being a mother. Here's a blurb about Broken Angels:

Zach Ryler always prided himself on his ability to handle anything life flung at him. Nothing could have prepared him for his sister’s brutal murder, let alone being named legal guardian of her three children. Now, the only person who can help him is the one woman he vowed never to touch again. The one woman his love couldn’t fix.

Rebecca James never stopped loving Zach, even after her infertility slowly crushed her spirit and destroyed their marriage. Suddenly Fate has dropped her dream in her lap: a family. But opening her heart to them—and to Zach—is a risk she wonders if she’s ready to take.

As Zach and Rebecca struggle to help the children deal with their grief, they slowly begin to rediscover the passion they thought they’d lost.

Just as they believe that this time, they can get it right, shadows from the past close in, tearing at the fragile bonds they’ve forged. And a lethal predator is waiting and watching, one who will stop at nothing to protect his secrets…even murder.
"These children were a joy to write and became very real to me because they reminded me of my own kids," she said. "I also enjoyed tackling the emotional challenges presented in this book, as the hero and heroine struggle to overcome their demons and trust each other again."

Her first book, Where Dreams Are Made, placed in several contests—including the Golden Heart—before being picked up by Samhain Publishing.

She's currently working on a paranormal series that features an entirely new breed of heroes and heroines. In book one, a doctor gets sucked into a world she never knew existed—an underground community of immortal beings that bring out the worst in people...and one of them just happens to be her soul mate.

The only problem, besides being pursued by a horde of soulless creatures bent set on destroying them, is that his kiss could drive her insane. Or worse, kill her.

"This series is shaping out to be one of my best," she shared. "I hadn't realized how much I like writing action!"

She told me that she thought she was born interested in writing.

"I’ve always loved stories, whether it was the book of fables my mother read to me as a child, my favorite TV shows or a movie that inspired emotion in me. I can’t tell you how much I cried at the end of Old Yeller! These stories stayed with me, and I found myself constantly rewriting the endings to suit my own vision of where the plot should have gone," she said. "As a kid, I was a bit of a loner. I was an only child for ten years, and, apart from school, my social interactions were limited. Thankfully, I never got lonely. I had so many wonderful characters in my head to keep me company. The first thing I did when I learned how to write was commit these characters to paper. I still have several of these first attempts. I’ve even read a few to my children!"

She also admitted that at one time she harbored fantasies of becoming a soap opera writer.

"I grew up on daytime TV and became so engrossed in these shows that I actually plotted out my own daytime drama," she confessed. "It was called Promises and revolved around a very colorful cast of characters. The story was ripe with deceit, secret babies, evil villains, you name it. That script never did see the light of day, but I guess I haven`t strayed too far from the path!"

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

"What I suffer from is laziness," she said. "Sometimes, the mere idea of sitting at my keyboard and tackling a particularly difficult scene is overwhelming. Telling myself that I’m suffering from writer’s block is just my way of avoiding the challenge. Quite often, I just force myself to stare at that blank screen and start typing. Before I know it, the words are flowing.

"On those occasions when inspiration continues to elude me, it usually means I took a wrong turn somewhere. Maybe I introduced a plot point too soon or sent my characters somewhere they didn’t want to go. In these cases, writer’s block is a red flag, urging me to take a step back and rethink things."

For Anne, character development, especially in writing romance, is the single most important element of a book.

"You need to make people fall in love with your hero and heroine, or at the very least, identify with them. Otherwise, they won’t care what happens to them," she explained. "Even if your plot is interesting and technically perfect, if the characters don’t jump off the page, chances are readers will eventually put the book down. People read to be swept away. That only happens when they can place themselves in a character’s shoes."

After character development, the next important element of a good book is an original plot that keeps readers guessing.

"Books that constantly raise questions, then gradually answer them are more likely to hold a reader’s interest," she said.

"Finally, a good book inspires you to suspend disbelief, even if the plot is completely fantastical," she told me. "It all boils down to world building. If a writer does a good job creating a given reality for the reader, that reader will be ready and willing to believe just about anything."

Anne is a pantser, a "seat-of-my-pants" writer, so she never has all the details when she begins a new book. Usually, she'll get a spark, an idea, and then she lets it simmer in the back of her mind while the characters take shape, with the plot and characters being developed simultaneously. She will have an impression of who the characters are and what the concept will be, but she likes to figure out the rest along the way.

"That keeps the story fresh for me and avoids predictability. Somewhere in the middle, however, I’ll force myself to sit down and do some plotting," she said.

"Plot and character need to complement and challenge each other in order to heighten conflict," she continued. "For instance, let`s say your book is about a woman who needs to fight immortal beings to save the world. Now take two heroines. One is a black-belt in karate, works for the FBI and was once in the military. The other is a shy school teacher. Obviously, the twists and turns your story takes will be very different, depending on which of these two women you choose to write about.

"The FBI agent will not be daunted by physical trials, but may be daunted by emotional ones, so the obstacles you send her way will have to challenge her belief system and force her to make difficult choices. The school teacher will be completely out of her element. Everything will seem like a hurdle to her. As she faces each challenge, she will grow and change. Ultimately, she may become the greatest kickass heroine you`ve ever written.

"That’s why, in my opinion, plot and character are always intricately linked."

On a personal note, Anne told me she and her kids harassed her husband for five years until he finally gave in and consented for them to get a dog—an Australian Kelpie.

"We love her to pieces," Anne said. "Her favorite thing is to be held like a baby. She wraps her paws around my neck and kisses me silly. She can be a real pain sometimes, though. Right now, she’s at the window barking. When she’s not terrorizing the neighbors or the cat, she likes to jump on my kitchen table in search of a tasty morsel or two."

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

"Never give up on your dream. Criticism and rejection are part of the business, and sometimes—okay, most of the time—it’s difficult to take. It’s like someone telling you your baby is ugly. I know how tempting it is to throw that rejection letter in the trash, but don’t. Those letters are your badges of honor. Keep each and every one of them, take the advice that makes sense to you, ignore the comments you don’t agree with, and try again.

"You’ve got to view your writing career as a business, take the personal element out of it. Your words aren’t gold, they’re tools. You need to learn how to wield them properly, and an editor or agent can help you do that. That being said, don’t let anyone dilute your voice. The way you view the world is what makes you unique. It’s your brand. Always stay true to it."
You can keep up with Anne on her website,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Spotlight: K. Dawn Byrd

My Experiences with Desert Breeze Publishing

I've had more than one person ask me why I chose to publish with Desert Breeze Publishing. Killing Time was the first book I pitched to them. It wasn't written for the market. An agent told me that it might be hard to sell because the first few chapters were set in a jail. I actually enjoy jail television shows such as Lockup and Cops, so I begged to differ.

When I read Michelle Sutton's Danger at the Door and fell in love with the book, I e-mailed her and we became friends. She suggested that I pitch to Desert Breeze because they don't have a strict guidelines as the big publishers on what they take. Her comments was that they like strong writing and a good story. I sent a proposal and was elated when thirty days later, they said they wanted to publish it.

Desert Breeze is an ebook publisher, but they're different than most. First of all, they don't publish erotica. I'd feel comfortable with a child reading their website. Some of their books are steamier than others and each book is placed in a category that ranges from sweet to intense. Of course, the intense books are much steamier than the sweet books I write, but even then wouldn't be classified as erotica.

Another unusual aspect of Desert Breeze is that they allow the author to have a say-so in the book cover design. Upon signing the contract, the author fills out a questionnaire as to what they'd like to see on the cover. I wasn't happy with the first cover they designed for Killing Time and they worked we me until they'd designed a cover I was proud to call my own.

I liked the Desert Breeze experience so much that I sent them a second book, Queen of Hearts. It was my first historical, a WWII era romantic suspense that I wrote during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) Queen of Hearts has been out since April and was their bestseller for its debut month.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: K. Dawn Byrd

Hobbies Anyone?

Writing is more than just a passion. It's something I think about all day and can't wait until my workday ends and I can sit down with my laptop. I've found that if I go any length of time without writing, it's like I've lost my best friend. It's almost depressing.

I tried oil painting. I took a one night a week class and it was so much fun! However, I never was all that good at it and couldn’t paint from a picture in my mind. I'd scour magazines or greeting cards until I found something I wanted to paint and then take it to class and let the instructor guide me. It was a creative outlet, just not the perfect fit for me.

In a world where sometimes things don't go as planned and tragedy strikes in situations where we can see no good coming out of it, people begin to feel helpless. The opposite can be said of fiction. My heroines are plunged into danger and just when readers think things couldn't get worse for them , it does. However, my characters always shine in the end because I love to write stories with happy endings.

I write first to entertain myself because I love creating new characters, environments, and plots. It's what I do while my husband plays golf or rides his bike. It works for us because I'm not interested in those activities and I need total peace and quiet to write. I write second, to entertain readers. If someone loves what I write, it's icing on the cake and gives me a little more encouragement to continue.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: K. Dawn Byrd

Getting to Know K. Dawn Byrd

How did the story come to you?

I've always been an avid reader and planned to write a book one day. When I began work as a counselor in a jail, I thought that would be a neat setting for the book. I began to jot down notes about the environment such as sights, sounds, and smells. Before I knew it, my heroine had formed in my mind, begging me to tell her story.

Tell us about the journey to getting this book published.

This book didn't go through rejections because I never sent it out. I did enter it into some contests in order to get feedback. It finaled in the Duel on the Delta last year. An agent took a look at it and said that she really liked my writing, but was afraid it might be hard to sell a book partially set in a jail. It was then I realized that there's such a thing as writing to market if you want to sell. About that time, I became friends with Michelle Sutton and she recommended one of her publishers to me, Desert Breeze Publishing. They liked it and the rest is history.

Tell me three things about yourself that would surprise your readers.

1.I own two hairless Chinese Crested dogs.

2.I love sour things....pickles, lemons, sour candy.

3.I used to ride a Harley, but gave it up in order to have more time to write. (My husband always wanted to stay out way too long and take the scenic route home. He still has his bike, but I don't miss mine at all.)

What are you working on now and what's next for you?

I'm working on my fifth novel. I've not tried to place novels three and four because an agent is looking at them and I'm awaiting his advice. I can say that Desert Breeze has been absolutely wonderful to work with and I'll be sending them more of my work.

Where can fans find you on the internet?

I'm also on Twitter (kdawnbyrd) and facebook (K Dawn Byrd.) I am the moderator of the Christian Fiction Gathering facebook group (!/group.php?gid=128209963444) If you join this group, you'll get reminders about the weekly book giveways.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: K. Dawn Byrd

The Story Behind the Story

Killing Time came about due to my work as a counselor in a jail. I've always been an avid reader and had planned for many years to write a book. When I began work at the jail, my thoughts returned to the book. I thought it would be interesting to use the jail setting. My overactive imagination took over and questions began to surface, like, "What if a strong Christian woman is wrongly accused and incarcerated? Will she turn against God? Will her faith grow stronger? Will she crack under the pressure? What if she's stalked and someone attempts to murder her upon release? What if I cause her to fall in love with a handsome counselor at the jail, someone she knows she can't have because now that she's an inmate, she's everything he's against?"

It wasn't long before this character took shape in my mind. I'd already been jotting down notes pertaining to the jail setting such as the sounds, odors, sights. Our jail was a new facility, but it had a distinguishable unpleasant odor that I can almost smell with I think of it. I can still hear the sounds of heavy metal doors slamming. The air was always frigid and I wore a jacket with my jail issue uniform most of the time. Everything was concrete and metal. There were no signs on the office doors and nothing on the hallway walls. All the corridors looked the same and it took me a while to get it mapped out in my mind.

It's an interesting environment, but one I'd never want to experience from the other side of the thick glass walls that separated inmates from jailers. That's it...the story behind the story!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Spotlight: K. Dawn Byrd

Running the Race

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? You're not alone. Between working a full-time job, continual marketing, and life in general, there's little if any time to write. I've found that I have to make time if I'm going to accomplish it at all. Here's my take on getting things done.

Prioritize. What's more important to me personally...the dirty dishes in the sink or an hour of uninterrupted writing time? Can I even leave the dishes and hit the keyboard? A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have made the time to write until everything else was done. I've learned to retrain myself. If I decide that car needs to be washed, the towels need to be removed from the dryer and folded and the carpet needs to be vacuumed, I'll never find time to write. It's at that point that I decide what's most important. Will the world come to an end if I let those things slide for an hour? Or even until tomorrow?

Breaking the task down into small segments helps me to feel less overwhelmed. In November, I took the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I learned to break it down into 1,667 words per day. On days the creative juices were flowing, I continued past my goal, which allowed me to take a few days off here and there during the month. Now, I try to write something every day. In the past, I wouldn’t write unless I had an hour or two to spare. I've found that fifteen minutes slots work well because my thoughts are flowing even when I leave the keyboard and work on something else. Then, when I return to write, I know where I'm going. You'd be surprised at how much you can get done in several fifteen minute slots.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Social Media: Try it, You’ll Like it!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Author Interview: Laura Hogg

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Laura Hogg, creator of the Romeo vs. Juliet series, in which Romeo and Juliet travel to different eras. The hero is Elizabethan and a contemporary of Shakespeare. He has to go up against the love of his life. In the second of the series, The Questrist, the characters first go to the future, then the past, to the fifteenth century. They change the course of a battle and radically alter history.

I asked her what surprising thing she's learned from her writing.

"There’s a historical mystery about whether or not King Richard III of England murdered his nephews in the Tower and seized the crown. I read a lot about this and came to the conclusion that he’s innocent," Laura said. "My characters meet him in RvJ II: The Questrist. As a result of what Richard learns from my character, Elizabethan history is wiped off the map of time. So, I ended up learning about the Wars of the Roses and the people involved. I didn’t know when I started that I’d take this side. Even Shakespeare thought Richard was guilty. But if you mean straight out learned, for certain, I learned that my suspicion was true: writers are really great people. I met so many after I started writing. They’re wonderful and helpful people who want to help others get to the top with them." She paused then added, "But I guess that’s not so surprising, is it? I guess I screwed up this answer."

"What got you interested in writing?" I asked Laura.

"I started writing poems as a little girl then rock songs in high school. Later, I began writing stories and novels. I’ve just always loved to write, have always loved language."

However, when she would think about what she wanted to be when she grew up, "author" wasn't on the list.

"I wanted to be a musician and an inventor," she told me. "I have been in rock bands, and I have invented games, but I don’t have the money for the patents, so someday..."

"What inspired your first book?" I wondered.

"A picture. That picture inspired a short story, which turned into a novel."

Sometimes Laura comes up with a brief synopsis and then creates characters to carry out that plot. At the same time, the development of the characters can alter the plot, so there is a lot of give and take. She really enjoys, however, writing books in a series, like her Romeo vs. Juliet series.

"For the books after the first," she explained, "I already have my major characters and their world, so I try to create an interesting plot." She's currently working on a story in the series set in 1920s New York, among other stories.

I wondered how she came up with the titles to her books.

"With Baby Vamp and Copacetic, since they’re set in the 1920s, I used popular twenties phrases (Baby Vamp is not about vampires)," she told me. "Sometimes I meditate and a name comes to me; for example, my historical novel Descent into Darkness has a title that just popped into my head when I thought about the plot. In The 12th Kiss, there’s an important plot point that figures around the heroine giving her man the twelfth kiss. Double Vision is a paranormal about a psychic, and he and his love fall in love on the astral plane. Emma the Outlaw, my Western, well, I think the title describes what the story is about. I sometimes name my work according to the heroine’s name, as in my Victorian novella, Margot. In For the Love of a Queen, my hero does something terrible for the sake of his wife who is a queen. It just depends."

Of all her books, probably her favorite is the first book in her series, Romeo vs. Juliet.

"I even learned how to write screenplays and wrote one for this book," she said. "The characters jump through different decades and have adventures." She hasn't yet sold her screenplay, but she's still hoping.

The show Highlander, as well as Shakespeare's play, served as inspirations for this series. Connor and Duncan MacLeod lived through different eras; Laura's characters visit the different eras in an adventurous, highly passionate story. Not surprisingly, when I asked her one thing she wished for, she answered promptly, "The ability to time travel."

Laura was a French major in college and told me that she learned a lot from French novels, calling them "clever and deep." However, she admitted, "I like how Americans tend to end their stories on a happy note. Romance requires the happy ending. I like to smile when I read a book."

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

"No, I have cats," she answered. "I really want a hamster, but my husband says our cats will eat it."

Some things you might not know about Laura:

~~She describes her heritage as "very mixed. 25% Iraqui.. let's see: French, German, Italian (Sicilian), English, Welsh, Cherokee, Scottish-Irish."

~~She told me that not only did she cry during The Passion of the Christ, she cried for hours later.

~~She feels scientists should invent a food replicator.

~~She considers herself a night person.

~~She likes thunderstorms.

~~She can taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi and prefers Coke.

You can keep up with Laura on her blog,

Sparkle Threw Us Together by Christina Hugh

Caitlin Foster was worried; her cat Sparkle hadn’t eaten in the last two days. She’d read in a book that baby food would always tempt a cat with a poor appetite, so she ducked into the grocery store on her way home from her new job.

She didn’t recognize anyone in the store. Were there really that many new people in town? The store had been remodeled and expanded, like much of the town. Caitlin had been away for ten years, ever since her high school graduation, and all the newness made her uncomfortable, but she loved the little town and she loved her new job as the town newspaper’s editor. Even though she’d come home, she felt like she was starting over.

Caitlin took a quick peek at herself in a hand mirror in the cosmetics aisle. She was thirty, with a pert nose and a saucy blond haircut. She didn’t look much different from when she was a high school cheerleader. She sighed as she remembered Rob, the captain of the football team. They’d dated all through high school, but then they’d gone off to different colleges. They promised to stay in touch, but they didn't and Caitlin married Steve. Now she was divorced and home again. She wished for a moment that she could go back to those days and make better decisions. She still remembered Rob’s straw-blond hair and eyes as blue as a summer sky.

Caitlin shook herself and went to the proper aisle to get the what she needed. She chose three jars of baby food: pureed ham, beef and chicken. At the checkout counter she paid, then paused for a moment to put her pocketbook back in her purse while the man in back of her bought a quart of milk. She bumped into him as they were leaving the counter.

"Excuse me," she said, and turned her face up to look at the man politely. He was tall, handsome, well built and clean cut. He had short straw blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. "Rob!" she said.

Rob smiled the biggest smile Caitlin had ever seen. "Caitlin!" he exclaimed. "It’s so good to see you, how are you?"

They hugged and Rob stood back to look at her. "You’re even prettier than I remembered! How was I ever fool enough to let you go?" Caitlin spun around playfully, showing off her new dress, delighted beyond words to see Rob again.

"Would you like to--" Rob began, then his eye caught the plastic grocery bag Caitlin was carrying. It was easy to see what was inside it. Baby food. Rob looked crestfallen; naturally he assumed that Caitlin was married and had a baby.

Just as Caitlin started to stammer an explanation, Rita, one of her top reporters saw her. "Oh, Ms. Foster, I’m so glad I ran into you. I just wrote a big story, and I wanted to talk with you about it!" Rita was a terrific reporter, but Caitlin had already noticed she sometimes became too enthusiastic when she was excited about a story. Caitlin could hardly get a word in edgewise. She tried to interrupt Rita so she could introduce Rob, but by the time Rita took a breath, Rob had disappeared.

Caitlin went home. Sparkle didn’t eat any of the baby food, not even after Caitlin warmed a bit from each jar in the microwave. That night Caitlin cried for the first time in months.

The next day was Saturday. Sparkle had a veterinarian’s appointment at 4:00 pm, and Caitlin decided to take a walk in the park in the early afternoon. She was still thinking about Rob. She sat down on a park bench and watched children playing a Little League baseball game. The parents were cheering and all the kids were having a great time. Caitlin wondered if she would ever marry again and have children. Maybe someday she’d be out there with her husband, cheering for her own kids. She thought about Rob again.

The baseball game ended. It looked like the home team had won. Like good sports, both teams shook hands and exchanged smiles. Then two of the winning players, a blond boy and girl who were obviously brother and sister, ran off the field and gave a big hug to a tall man with straw blond hair. He picked them both up and spun them around. She didn’t know the children, but she recognized the handsome man. He was Rob.

Caitlin went home, did some chores and tried to get Sparkle to eat, but he still didn’t have an appetite. Caitlin looked at the clock. Three in the afternoon. She felt disappointed to know that Rob was obviously married with children. "Well, I’m happy for him," she told Sparkle. "I was the stupid one to let him go." Then she put Sparkle in his carrier to take him to the vet. She put a little dish of his regular food inside the carrier in case he decided to eat after all. "Maybe they can see us early, and we can find out what’s wrong with you," she said.

At the vet’s office, the receptionist was very kind. He asked about Sparkle’s symptoms so that he could write them in Sparkle’s chart. Caitlin told him about the baby food. "That was very smart of you," he said. Then someone walked by the other side of the receptionist’s desk, the part facing the inner office. She couldn’t see who it was, but the receptionist gave the chart to whoever it was. Then he turned back to Caitlin. "Excuse me for the interruption," he said. "I was going to say, you must have done a lot of reading about cats. You’re a very caring pet owner."

Caitlin blushed. "That’s kind of you to say," she said. "Thank you. I know I'm a little early, but I thought maybe if the veterinarian were free, perhaps he can see Sparkle now? If not, we can wait for our appointment."

"If you don't mind seeing a different vet, I think Dr. Winston's partner might be avail--" the receptionist began, but he broke off as the outer door opened and two excited Little Leaguers burst in. They were the children from the park. A dark-haired man followed them, laughing good naturedly.

"Is Uncle Rob here?" the children asked. "We want to invite him to ice cream!"

"Now, now," the dark-haired man said, looking at Caitlin. "This lady was here first. Let’s let her finish, and then we’ll ask for Uncle Rob."

A man's voice said, "Did someone say Uncle Rob?" Caitlin was surprised to see Rob appear from around the corner, wearing a white lab coat and holding Sparkle’s chart. He didn't notice her right away. "Hi there, John," he greeted the newcomer. "Where’s Sis?"

"Mom’s at home, ordering pizza!" the children said.

"Well," Rob said, looking at the chart. He still hadn’t noticed Caitlin. "I have a very important patient here right now who hasn’t been eating even though his owner has been tempting him with baby food." Dr. Winston isn’t here yet, but if you’d the cat to be seen now, Miss... "He suddenly smiled, looked around and found Caitlin. He looked straight into Caitlin’s eyes, and she looked into his. They both smiled. Now he knew that Caitlin was single, and he understood the baby food. And now Caitlin knew that Rob was single. The children weren't his; they were his niece and nephew.

Suddenly a series of rhythmic hacking sounds erupted from Sparkle's cage. As Caitlin and Rob and even the receptionist and children looked on, Sparkle coughed up a huge hairball. Then he moved to the little food dish clipped to the door of his carrier and placidly began eating.

Everyone laughed. "Well, it looks like Sparkle has his appetite back," Rob said to Caitlin. "But I'd still like to thoroughly examine your cat." He put the chart down and took Caitlin's hands in his. "And then let's have ice cream with the family."

About the Author: Christina Hugh is a lawyer and former high school math teacher. She lives in California with her husband and two cats.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Spotlight: Ginger Simpson

Interview with Taylor and Mariah from Sisters in Time

Today, through the power of the pen…okay, the computer keyboard, I’ve been able to bring together my two heroines from Sisters in Time. I thought it might be interesting to the readers of this time-travel to hear from each lady personally about her thoughts on waking up in a new and strange era. We’ll start first with Mariah Cassidy, our pioneer wife and mother of two children then go to our modern-day attorney, Taylor Morgan.

Ginger: “Good Morning Mariah. It’s very nice to have you here. A reader can only imagine how strange it was to start off on a trip to town for supplies and awaken in another time and place. Tell us how you felt about it.”

Mariah: *runs her hand down her long gingham skirt and sits a little straighter on her stool. “It’s very nice to be here, although it does bring back some frightening moments. *glances around at all the equipment and leans back to study the cylinder-like mike.*

Ginger: “Tell us a little about what happened the morning you woke up in 20th century Colorado.”

Mariah: “There isn’t much I recall except packing a lunch for the trip and waiting for Frank to bring the wagon around. The children and I had already done most of the chores indoors and were ready to go.” *sighs*

Ginger: “Go on….”

Mariah: “The last thing I remember is stopping next to a boulder so our son could… well you know. A nest of rattlesnakes spooked the team and I reckon I was thrown off the wagon seat and hit my head. Frank did the best he could to manage the horses—”

Ginger: “I’m sure it was a frightening moment for everyone, but tell us how you felt when you opened your eyes for the first time after the accident.”

Mariah: *widens her eyes* “Scared. There I was in some big ol’ bed, in a room filled with strange contraptions—like in here. *gestures to speakers and control panel* “I had a tube in my throat, couldn’t talk, and a man I didn’t recognize at all sat by my bedside constantly and called me Taylor. I swear, you don’t have any idea how exasperating it is not to be able to speak. I had no idea then who Taylor was or why he thought I was her.” *turns and smiles at Taylor, seated next to her*

Taylor: “Well it wasn’t any picnic waking up in your archaic bedroom with your pesky husband bugging me, either.”

Mariah: “Pesky?”

Taylor: “Yes, pesky. The man wouldn’t take my word that I wasn’t his wife. And how you lived back then with no cell phones, hair dryers or nail salons, I have no idea. *Bends her knuckles and examines her manicure*

Mariah: *swivels on her stool* “Your husband was insistent, too. I must have told him a thousand times my name wasn’t Taylor. It wasn’t bad enough that I had to be in a hospital for such a long time, I couldn’t believe the… the tacky clothes he brought and actually expected me to wear them to your house. I have doilies that cover more.

Taylor: “You wouldn’t know style if it was forced on you…and it was. Those things hanging in your… your armoire are a far cry from New York’s fashion center. I couldn’t tell the difference between your daytime and nighttime wardrobe.”

Ginger: “Ladies, ladies, we’re getting off track here. Let’s get back to the interview. Taylor, tell us about your first impression… in a kind way if you don’t mind.

Taylor: “Can you imagine landing in a space in time where words like Taxi, phone, radio, and Lexus don’t make any sense? I felt like I came from Mars and spoke a totally different language. Frank, Miss Priss’ husband, got frustrated with me. How is that my problem?”

Ginger: “It must be alarming to wake up in a place totally strange and then have to be without the usual comforts.”

Mariah: “It’s equally as frightening to wake up in a place full of gadgets you know nothing about. I almost fainted when the basin in Taylor’s kitchen growled at me. And I had no idea that ice boxes had come so far. Frozen meat, sodas, and what about that little device that opened cans all on its own? My goodness. I tell you what though; I’ll never be able to describe the thrill of flying.

Ginger: “That’s right. You flew in an airplane, didn’t you?”

Mariah: “Yes, David arranged for me to have that most wonderful experience.

Taylor: *Her face red, her jaw tense* “What other wonderful experiences did David arrange for you? Did you sleep with my husband?

Mariah: *Lowers her gaze* “Not of my own will. Remember, he kept insisting I was you. *turns accusing eyes to Taylor* “Well, you slept with my husband!”

Taylor: “It’s not my fault.”

Mariah: “Then whose fault is it?”

Taylor: “I didn’t write the story, Ginger did. I was on my way to work, minding my own business when she dragged me into her plot. It’s her fault.”

Mariah: “Yeah, it is her fault. Frank never would have thought of sleeping with someone else. We were perfectly happy until she dreamed up this combination time-travel historical. *cast a stony gaze at Ginger*

Ginger: *checks her watch*. “Oh dear, we’ve suddenly run out of time. This has been very interesting, but we’ll have to say goodbye for now. All I can say in closing is Sisters in Time is available now. Visit or Thanks for joining us. I’ll be back next time with a book that features only one heroine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday Spotlight: Ginger Simpson

Interview with Sarah Collins – Sarah’s Journey

HOST: Today our guest is Sarah Collins, the heroine in Ginger Simpson's new release, Sarah's Journey. Sarah, it's very nice to have you with us.

Sarah: Thank you. I'm actually glad to be anywhere after the harrowing journey I had.

HOST: Oh, do tell us about it. Our reader's love historical romance novels.

Sarah: Ginger's latest book isn't a romance per se. It falls more along the lines of an "Americana". There's a romantic faction involved and it's peppered with historical facts, but it's really more about me and my struggles--trying to overcome the hatred and prejudice that existed in the old west.

HOST: Unfortunately, we still have some of those problems even today.

Sarah: That's very true. The roots of unkindness run very deep, and often for no real reason. I got a very good dose of unfounded hatred in Sarah's Journey.

HOST: How so?

Sarah: Let me start from the beginning. *cups her chin and sighs*. My parents both died from Typhoid fever and I had no relatives left in Hannibal. Let's just say the banker wasn't at all helpful, and tried to barter to make me his wife in order to save Papa's land. I decided it wasn't worth it, so I sold everything in the barn and a large part of what was in the house. I kept only what I thought I'd need to make a new start. I used the money from the sales to buy a wagon and team then joined a train set for California.

HOST: That seems brave for a single woman. Traveling such a long way, much less handling a team isn't an easy feat.

Sarah: I guess I should have mentioned I found a very nice man to be my driver. Actually, I gave very little thought to danger; I was more excited about seeing a new place and letting go of bad memories.

HOST: Tell us more, please.

Sarah: The wagon master and the other folks traveling with him seemed very nice. I felt safe traveling with the group, and I quickly became fond of Molly. We spent lots of time together, walking alongside the train and talking about our futures. We had such great plans and I never suspected *pauses and wipes a tear*...

HOST: Suspected what?

Sarah: That Indians would attack the train and kill everyone. I don't know how I survived. *lowers gaze to the floor*.

HOST: I can see this is very painful for you. Don't feel you have to continue.

Sarah: Oh, it's all right. I'm very lucky to be here. I tried to save Molly, but I didn't have enough medical knowledge or even tools. It was bad enough to lose her friendship, but then I realized I was truly all alone in the middle of nowhere with no idea what to do.

HOST: Oh, my gosh, what did you do?

Sarah: Luckily, I kept my wits about me. I realized that going back the way we came made more sense than heading in an unknown direction. The problem: The Indians took all our livestock and food.

HOST: How in the world did you survive without food?

Sarah: My Ma taught me a lot about roots, berries and such. I had no doubt I could find plenty to eat, and eventually, water. I filled what canteens I found, took just enough extra clothing to keep me warm at night, then set off. I had to leave in case the Indians came back again. Dealing with the coyotes and buzzards was already more than I could handle.

HOST: So, did you travel all the way back to where the train started?

Sarah: Ginger will have my head if I give away too much of the story. Let me just say that after everything else I'd been through, I got bit by a gol-darned rattlesnake. I thought for sure I was a goner, but a very handsome, and I hate to use this term, 'half-breed', saved me. You'd think I would have been overcome with glee, but I was eaten up with guilt because I realized he was the same person I'd left for dead when I tried to steal his horse. It's a long story, but you'll have to read Sarah's Journey to find out more.

HOST: Well, I'm going to have to read it. I can't stand being left hanging like that, but I understand you can't share more. Can you just give us a hint what happened after he saved you?

Sarah: One more little tidbit and that's it. Wolf promised to take me to Independence and introduce me to a friend of his. That's where I ended up. Wolf, too. Now, that's absolutely all I'm going to divulge. *giggles*

HOST: Well, I won't press for more. I do thank you for being here and taking time to share a little about your journey. I can't wait to read it.

Sarah: It's available at Eternal Press ( in download format and in print. I do have to warn you, it's not your typical 'happily ever after' ending. Don't you just get so tired of predictable endings?

HOST: Now you have me hooked for sure. I'll be looking for your story. Thanks again, Sarah.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Ginger Simpson

Interview with Cecile from Prairie Peace:

Today we have a special guest, Cecile Palmer Williams, the heroine from Prairie Peace by author Ginger Simpson.

Welcome Cecile. It’s nice to have you with us. I have some questions to ask for our guests about your role in this exciting western historical romance, so let's dig right in.

HOST: How in the world did you ever convince your rigid father to allow you to marry a virtual stranger?

CECILE: *Squaring in her chair* You have to remember that back in the olden days, women married young, and sometimes even without the benefit of knowing their groom. Mail order brides were common so I think my father considered that, by some standards, I was well past marrying age and could make my own decisions. Walt simply swept me off my feet and I would have gone anywhere with him. *She smiles with a cocked head*

HOST: I read with great interest how you perceived your new ‘home’. That must have been a terrible revelation.

CECILE: *Swipes hand across her brow* Oh, you have no idea. Walt had described the perfect setting; he just failed to tell me that he hadn’t yet built a suitable home. My skin was gray from dirt for days… trying to sweep that horrid shack with half a broom that someone left behind. And to be perfectly honest… I didn’t know a thing about keeping house. I guess some might say I was spoiled by my parents. *smile*

HOST: I’ll bet you were scared to death when Walt left you alone while he traveled for winter supplies. How did you handle the fear?

CECILE: It wasn’t easy. *Runs a hand through her long hair*. I never realized how many noises there are once the sun goes down. I just prayed that the lock on that old weathered door worked good enough to keep me safe. God knows, I knew nothing about using a weapon. I think if I hadn’t been so exhausted from all the chores everyday, I would have had trouble sleeping. I got used to it after a few nights, but I still didn’t like it.

HOST: The book couldn’t possibly have captured the terror you experienced when Lone Eagle collapsed in front of you. Tell us how that felt.

CECILE: My heart leapt clear up here *clasping throat*. You understand, I’d never seen an Indian before and I expected to look up into the face of my beloved husband. I thought for sure I was going to die, but Lone Eagle fell in a heap at my feet. Lordy, my heart raced... all those stories I'd heard about scalping and such.

HOST: So, of course, being a good person, you did the right thing and nursed him back to health…

CECILE: Of course. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I’d just let him die. In the end it turned out well for me, but I don’t want to divulge too much to those who haven’t read Prairie Peace.

HOST: You’re so right. That’s not a good idea.

CECILE: I can say that the life saving was mutual. *giggles*

HOST: So without asking questions that reveal the outcome to the readers, I’ll just inquire what life was like in 1867.

CECILE: Oh goodness. *shuddering*. There was a wagon load of difference between my life in Silver City and moving to the prairie with Walt. In town, we bought everything we needed from the mercantile. Mother baked once in a while and cooked delicious meals, but we never had to put up our own vegetables. I was flabbergasted when Walt talked about the garden and the tomatoes, corn and other things we’d grow. I sure never expected that I’d be outside hammering nails in a dilapidated old barn, let alone milking a cow. I think the most frightening experience at first was that darned rooster. Who would have thought that something so small could terrify a body like he did?

HOST: *glances at watch* Well, I see we’re out of time, but I truly want to thank you for being our guest. I'm sure that fearing your husband dead, watching an Indian drop at your feet and having to make the difficult decisions you face presented some difficult challenges. Prairie Peace certainly was a page turner for me. Can we look forward to a sequel?

CECILE: Well, as you know, Prairie Peace is a re-release of Ginger’s 2003 debut novel with another publisher. She’s really improved how the story flows, and I can only hint that you might visit her website to see if anything looks like a continuation of the story. You can find her at and I can give you another hint: Remember Lone Eagle is Lakota Sioux. *giggles again*

HOST: Thanks again, Cecile. This has been fun. Hopefully your fans will visit Eternal Press and purchase the new version of Prairie Peace. They can find it at

CECILE: One can only hope. I know that Ginger needs another root canal, liposuction on her hips and a neck lift, and that's just the emergency necessities. Poor dear, growing old has its own challenges and every purchase helps with the expense. Thanks for inviting me to visit with you… Oh, and Ginger also has is on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget her blog, whatever that is, at Do you have any idea how long it took me to memorize all that?