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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Short Story: Little Matchmakers

Little Matchmakers
by Ceri Hebert

"Mom, you need a date."

Sarah snapped her head up and threw her daughter a startled look. It wasn’t necessarily the words but the volume that unsettled her. After narrowing her eyes at Abby she glanced to her left through the white picket fence that separated her property from the neighbor. Said neighbor, Neil Ramsey, was at his shed, certainly close enough to hear Abby’s statement. He must’ve because Sarah could see his lips turn up in a smile even though he appeared to have his attention on his paintbrush.

Sarah Callahan attacked the tender tiger lily stem with the clippers and added the length to the long basket at her side but then looked back up at Abby.

"Gee honey," she remarked dryly, "why don’t you say it a little louder. I don’t think the neighbor heard."

Abby bestowed her best "you’re totally clueless" roll of the eyes reserved almost exclusively for her little brother. "Hello, that’s the point. I can say it louder if you like, though."

“Don’t you dare.”

Sarah glanced up at Neil Ramsey again. He’d gone back to painting the old shed that stood halfway between his new house and her property line. Shirtless, the sultry July sun gleamed against his tanned shoulders and back. His brown hair stood on end as if he’d raked his hand through it many times.

"He’s too young for me," Sarah muttered lamely. She cut another tiger lily and scooted down towards the pale pink roses.

"You can’t be that much older than him," Abby continued.

Sarah turned and looked at her relentless daughter. Her little matchmaker who was only thirteen.

"I think you should invite him over to dinner on Friday."

"What makes you think he has any interest in an old woman like me?" Sarah winked at her daughter, but only got the rolling of the eyes again.

"Because he’s always outside when you’re cutting flowers. Listen, Mom, I know boys, and I can tell when one is interested."

Sarah nearly laughed over that statement but figured it would probably only hurt Abby’s feelings, so she rolled her eyes back.

"Well, my little Yenta why don’t you leave my love life alone for now. The poor man hasn’t been in town more than two months. He probably wonders who the crazy neighbor in the straw hat who cuts flowers all day is."

Abby stood up quickly and tucked a pink rose behind her ear. "No, he likes you. We’ll get you a date with him, leave it to me."

Before Sarah could respond, Abby turned and dashed off to the house.

"Abby, you better not try it!" Sarah yelled before she realized the attention she drew. She glanced back over at Neil. Again his dark eyes were pinned on hers, and underneath the moustache that framed his upper lip he smiled broadly.

Regardless of whatever evil little matchmaking plans Abby was cooking up, a distinct increase of her heartbeat took Sarah by surprise. She smiled back at him and shrugged. It would be a struggle to keep it cool now.


It had become a ritual in the Callahan house, from the time Sarah and her husband divorced four years ago. Abby and her younger brother Seth would cook dinner for Sarah every Sunday night. It gave Sarah an opportunity to soak in a hot bath after a hard weekend of catering. Abby had become quite proficient in the kitchen and after a few years Sarah stopped worrying that her kitchen would burn down.

“Mom, dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes!” Abby called from the other side of the door.

Sarah sunk lower into the lilac scented bubbles, soaking the hot water into her body. Enya drifted from the CD player in the corner and the wide edge around the tub held half a dozen lit candles.

“Mom!” Abby’s voice was closer to the door this time. “Did you hear me? Dinner is pretty soon. You have to get ready.”

“Yes, I heard you. Since when do I have to get ready? I can get ready in less than five minutes. Robe, fuzzy slippers, ta da.”

Abby gasped. “No, not tonight. Tonight we made you something special. Please Mom. You need to be dressed.”

Sarah picked up on the panic in her daughter’s voice. “All right, all right. I’m getting out.”

With more reluctance than energy, Sarah pushed herself out of the tub and released the water. She snuffed out each of the candles and switched off Enya.

In her bedroom a deep ruby red dress had been laid out on her bed, a dress she hadn’t worn but twice since her divorce.

“What the heck are you up to?” Sarah muttered to herself, but took the dress up anyway and held it up to herself. Facing the mirror she wondered if she’d even fit into it. When she’d worn it in the past it made her feel like a million dollars.

“Can only try,” she told her image in the mirror and with firm resolve got ready for her dinner with the kids.


Soft music drifted up the stairs to meet Sarah as she walked down, securing a gold and ruby earring. When she reached the bottom she stopped. Something was up. Her little dears had done something and as she paused at the entrance to the living room, she wasn’t too sure she’d be happy about it.

Sarah stepped into the softly lit living room and before she could stop, gasped. Neil Ramsey swung around and faced her, his dark eyes wide. He gaped at her for a long moment then smiled.

“Hi, I’m sorry I’m early,” he said. “The kids let me in.”

Sarah took another step into the room, quite aware that she looked stunned. She pushed the look away, and smiled more naturally. “No, it’s all right. I hope you’ve made yourself comfortable.”

Neil nodded. Sarah couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was, an inch or two over six feet, a trim, athletic build clothed in a dark blue oxford shirt and black slacks. He even wore a tie.

“And where did those kids get to?” but as Sarah glanced into the dining room and saw the table set for two, complete with beautiful pink roses and candles, she knew the two had long gone.

Leaving her alone for a romantic dinner for two with her new neighbor. She opened her mouth to speak, then shut it again, turning back to look at him. What the heck must he think of her? But he only smiled, a dimple cut into each cheek.

“They said they’d be back in a few hours,” Neil replied.

“Oh, that’s right,” Sarah said with forced cheer. “Can I get you a drink?”

Neil laughed. “Sure, I’d love one. But I’ll say it if you won’t. I think we’ve been set up.”

Halfway to the dining room, Sarah turned and looked back at him, with an embarrassed grin. Heat crept into her cheeks. He stood a pace behind her. How much more humiliating could this be? The romantic music, the candlelit table, her dress that bordered on sexy.

“May I apologize right now for my children? And I’ll give you the opportunity to back out of this evening with no hard feelings at all.”

Neil gazed down at her, a small smile playing on his lips. Apparently he enjoyed this. There wasn’t an ounce of discomfort in his dark eyes. Sarah’s heart rate climbed to a new level.

“And disappoint them? If you’d have me, I’d love to stay for dinner,” he replied in a low voice.

A flutter of motion at the French doors off the living room caught Sarah’s eyes. In the dim evening light she could see Abby and Seth dashing across the lawn towards their tree house at the back of the property.

She shifted her eyes back to Neil. “It would be my pleasure to have you stay.”

About the Author: Since the age of 12, it’s been Ceri’s dream to be an author. With three books published this year, she’s achieved that dream. Currently she’s happily settled in southwestern New Hampshire with her husband and four children busily weaving stories and continuing to pursue her dreams. You can find out more about Ceri at her website or join her Yahoo Reading Group.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Author Interview: Marva Dasef

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Marva Dasef, whose newest book Missing, Assumed Dead is scheduled to be released July 29 from MuseItUp Publishing. Next week Marva is also beginning a virtual book tour for the book. You can follow her tour stops here.

I asked her to tell us a little bit about the book.

Missing, Assumed Dead begins when Kam McBride gets a letter from a court in a tiny town in eastern Oregon informing her she is the administrator of the estate of a man named Salvadore Vasco. She's never heard of the man and brings the letter to her mother to see if this is some long lost relative. He turns out to be a distant cousin of Kam's deceased father. Kam thinks she should just write the court and tell them to find somebody else. Her mom, though, is a genealogy fiend and wants Kam to go to the probate hearing and see if there are any old family photos or records.

En route, she and her rental car run afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem . . . accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when she meets the probate Judge, and he tries just a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.
Marva usually starts with some idea about the main character and what that particular character will do. Then she develops the plot to get her main character (MC) from the beginning of the story to the end she has in sight. This end may change more than once. New characters will come in to fill the main character's world. She also outlines the plot and finds that many of the scenes come from research as she develops the MC's world.

"For example, in Missing, Assumed Dead, the character of Kam McBride came from my own work with computers," Marva explained. "She's a systems analyst. Should she be married? No, because she's got to find the love interest. I first had her being divorced, then thought that would be irrelevant to the tale. But she couldn't be footloose and fancy free. She had to have obligations to drive her actions, so I made her a part-time caretaker of her mother who has multiple sclerosis. Since I'm a part-time caretaker of my aging parents, I understand the pull of responsibility.

"I had already decided I wanted a murder mystery, so I needed a setting and at least one body. Since I'm familiar with the high desert of eastern Oregon, I went with that because it has remote areas where a person can become lost, cell phones don't work, and there are a few nasty people lurking around. Everything else came from research about eastern Oregon, police procedure, how probate courts work, etc. And there you have it."

"What was the hardest part about writing Missing, Assumed Dead?"

"Getting enough from the internet to combine with my memories of eastern Oregon's high desert country. I wanted to make sure it was right, so I spent a lot of time finding out things like what's a good restaurant in Jordan Valley, are there cell phone blackout areas, how much leeway does a small court have in dealing with such things as probate. I even had to find a make of rental car that fit my scenario.

"I say all this was hard, but it was also the most fascinating part of the process. I got whole new scenes when I discovered something in my research that I didn't know about."

Marva has another book coming out in October, Bad Spelling, the first book in her Witches of Galdorheim fantasy series. Much of the series revolves around Scandinavia, because Marva's maternal grandmother was Norwegian, and that's the closest group with which she identifies, even taking Norwegian in college.

I asked Marva where she got her titles and she told me that it depended on the story. For Missing, Assumed Dead, about half the story was written before she thought of the title. For her upcoming book, however, she had the title before she even had the main character clearly in mind, because she wanted to write a fantasy about a witch who couldn't pass a proper spell.

Marva's first book, Tales of a Texas Boy, is still her favorite, however.

"It's not even a novel, but a set of twenty short stories based on my father's boyhood growing up in West Texas during the Depression Era," she said. "The stories appeal to southwesterners, older folk who grew up in a rural setting, animal lovers, fans of writers like Mark Twain (not comparing myself to him, just saying my book is similar in flavor to Huck Finn). It's also my best selling book."

"How long have you been writing?" I asked.

"Unlike other authors, I did not spring from the womb with pen and pad gripped in my tiny fingers. I was always a good writer who loved essay questions while others in the classroom groaned. I did my teenage share of stories and poetry (really really horrible poetry). At college, I made up my own curriculum combining English composition and computer science courses to create a brand new major: technical communication. I worked as a tech writer for the next thirty-five years. Five years ago, I retired with the notion of writing a bit of fiction. I've been a professional writer for more than forty years."

Marva has a wonderful writing area in her family room, "right next to the kitchen for quick snacking," she explained. The oak computer desk faces out a big window.

"Not much of a view, but I can watch the squirrels at play. When I write, I find any music distracting so there are no iPods hanging out on my desk. I've become used to the sound of the dishwasher, hubby running power equipment, and my cat vocally worrying about those danged squirrels."

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

"Get your web presence set up RIGHT AWAY. Start with a blog, but I strongly encourage you to snag a website with your name as soon as possible. Get on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, but don't make enemies by expressing strong political or religious views. If you want to do that, use a pseudonym. You want to be prepared to jump out of the gate running when you sell your work."
You can keep up with Marva on her blog,

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Rocks, Pebbles and Sand

Some of you may have heard of this, but there’s an illustration that was used recently at our church for a children’s moment. The woman talking to the kids held up a large, plastic, empty jar. She asked the kids what would happen if she tried to put a container of rocks, another of pebbles, and a third of sand, in the jar.

She put all the sand in first, covering the bottom. Next she poured in the pebbles, making a second layer. Third, she started layering the rocks on top of that. Know what happened? It wouldn’t all fit. She took out the rocks, scooped out the pebbles, and poured out the sand, all back into their original containers.

But when she put the large rocks in first, then poured in the pebbles, the pebbles filtered down in between the spaces of the larger rocks. The sand was then poured in. It filled in around the rock and the pebbles.

Sometimes we have all the tools for writing books, yet we feel unorganized and at loose ends. Maybe it’s just a matter of looking at things from a different perspective. There are times when I’m writing a scene and it’s not flowing the way I’d like. But I’m right in the middle of my story, so what do I do? I can’t just stop writing that scene and go to something else, can I? Well, why not? I’ve found my creativity sometimes gets a jumpstart if I back away from something that’s not working at the moment. I can start on a different scene in a new blank document. I format the page with the same font, paragraph spacing, etc., so that when I cut and paste, I can set it right in the original document.

Something not working with your story? Rearrange your rocks, pebbles and sand.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Better Fill the Feeder

Right now, I’m watching two hummingbirds fight over the sugar-water in their feeder. The thing is, it’s empty. It’s on my list of things to do today, but I haven’t gotten around to yet. Nevertheless, they flit, fight, twitter and chirp. It’s amazing how territorial these tiny birds can be. And how much they can eat! I read once where a single hummingbird can eat more than his body weight in one hour, depending on the sugar content of the food. Yikes! I don’t even want to think about what I’d look like if I did that.

Sometimes, though, writers need energy. Nourishment. The food that comes from taking a break from their own writing and recharging. Read a book. Take a walk. Attend a writer’s conference. I recently attended the Lori Foster Readers and Writers’ Event in West Chester, Ohio. It was amazing! Not only did I learn valuable information, I met fellow writers who I’d previously only e-mailed, and even had an appointment with a very nice agent. All of this helped me to get back on my writing track. Showed me what was important in my writing and what wasn’t.

My favorite part of the conference was sitting in my publisher’s hotel room with several other writers, just talking about the writing industry in general. E-mailing back and forth is great, but sitting there, listening to others’ ideas, their laughter, watching their facial expressions as they described something that happened to them, was priceless.

If you feel like you’re running on empty in your writing life, better fill the feeder.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Let’s Go Outside

“Let’s go outside.”

That’s something my mom used to always say to me when I was a kid. Actually, she wanted to stay inside while I went out to play. It’s funny that I never quite figured that out until I grew up.

These days, I love going outside. Not only does it get me a little sunshine splashed on my face, I get to hear the birds chatter and watch the butterflies dance around our flowers. And if I want a change of scenery, I get out my bike.

Just last fall, a new bike trail was completed a mile from our house. We live out in the country, so I can ride my bike to the trail, and just continue my ride once I’m there. I don’t have to load my bike in the back of my Jeep and drive there first.

Last week on my ride, I was treated to sights and sounds I don’t get to experience in my own yard, even though it’s not that far away. A bluebird’s brilliant blue and orange feathers flashed in the sunlight, dipping up and down in the air as it flew past me. A Baltimore oriole twittered and chirped at me as I rode by the branch it was perched on. A pesky mocking bird serenaded me with several melodies while I pedaling and steered.

While I loved every minute of this special treat of different sights and sounds, it also recharged my writing mind. Sometimes I need to get outside, experience something different to get myself in gear. I need that spark, that different outlook to pull my imagination out of the mud. And into the sunlight. So the next time you feel sluggish in your writing, try going outside!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Doesn’t Everyone Love Their Dentist?

Raise your hand if you like going to the dentist. Oh, come on. There must be someone. Anyone? Maybe just a little bit? All right, I can see we have a tough room here.

The dentist I work for is a very nice man. He’s fair, honest, and hardworking. I wish I could say that about other employers I’ve had. But I can’t. Some of them have been, well, slugs. The reason I’m bringing all this up is that several of the books I’ve written revolve around dentistry. There’s been a tooth fairy, a hygienist, and now with Grin and Barrett I have one about two dentists.

The main characters, Remmie Grin and Victor Barrett, are as different as teeth and gums. They argue at every turn, while trying to convince themselves they don’t feel a mutual attraction. It doesn’t work. They finally cave in to their feelings for each other. But not before they both do everything they can to compete for all the new patients in their small town.

The story I’d written before this one was returned to me for editing. I was told there wasn’t enough conflict. That the characters were too nice, and needed to conflict more. Maybe even argue! This time around, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. The strange situations Remmie and Victor get into while trying to convince people to pick them for their dentist will have you wondering just what goes on with your local dental professional.

Now doesn’t that make you want to learn more about your dentist? Hmmm. Thought so.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Ruth J Hartman

Writers: Never Stop Writing or Reading

Like it or not, writers often write what they know. It’s something we’ve all heard, starting from the time we had to write our first dreaded term paper. For me, what I know is dentistry and cats. Odd combination, I know. But aside from my husband, that’s what I know best. I’ve been a licensed dental hygienist for over twenty-five years. And the cat thing? Let’s just say I’ve always had them. And will always have them, as long as I’m able.

I bet if we polled all the writers right now, we’d get some pretty amazing responses to write what they know. And, the responses would be as varied as the people.

That’s what makes writing, and reading, for that matter, so enjoyable. Every writer of every ilk has something unique to say. A different perspective on life taken from where they live, how they were raised, their age, and a whole wide range of other factors.

I’m always fascinated by reading what other writers have to say about different cultures and vocations. Like a big sponge, I soak up facts about others’ lifestyles and jobs. There are some pretty unusual folks out there, doing equally unusual things. Reading is never boring for me. There’s always something to learn.

I had the privilege, just today, to send a letter to a third grade student, encouraging her to read, and keep reading. It’s a wonderful program to inspire this love in kids. I told her about some of my favorite books growing up, and why I still love to read. I hope the fact that I added that one of my jobs is being an author will inspire her, too.

So writers, write what you know. And readers, read what you love!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Author Interview: Nan D. Arnold

The Long and the Short of It is very pleased to welcome Nan D. Arnold with us today. Nan is the author of Hitting the High Notes and its sequel Pesto Packing Mama, as well as the mystery Merry Acres Widows Waltz, which was released in March of this year. She also has a new book scheduled for release, Garnet Gale Gets Her Man.

Her favorite is her first book, Hitting the High Notes, with Merry Acres Widows Waltz being a close second.

I asked her to tell us a bit about her latest release, Merry Acres Widows Waltz.

They say retirement kills. And it looks that way in MERRY ACRES, a planned community in South Florida for the over-fifty-five crowd. Husbands are dropping fast. Georgiana Duncan wonders who will next wear the black veil of widowhood. Should she be worried....or happy about such dire prospects? Perhaps, like Georgiana, other wives in Merry Acres have secrets, too. Skeletons rattling around personal closets that so mar the gloss of happily-ever-after that only murder can make amends.
I also asked her to tell us a little bit about her upcoming release.

"Think a girl, a guy, and a ghost, circa 1830s New England," she told me.

Nan writes both romance/women's fiction ("think chick lit for the over-40 crowd," she said) and mysteries, and no matter the genre, the most important elements of good writing are being able to create a powerful question in the reader's mind.

Nan comes up with her titles first, because she believes in starting at the very beginning. Then an idea for a plot forms, and finally characters to run with the plot line. She will dream up a situation she'd enjoy getting into (or out of), then she visualizes characters to act out the resolution.

"After a few obstacles, naturally," she elaborated.

She had one mystery, however, that gave her fits. It was the first books she'd attempted without a synopsis, trying the totally organic method. She has written herself into corners and tried everything: channeling her inner Sherlock, zen mantras, walking around the dining room table fifty times. Ask her in the chat tomorrow what the outcome of these ploys were.

One of the secondary characters from Hitting the High Notes, Brenda Baxter, is on the back burner for a story of her own. Brenda is Maggie's best friend and is based on three women Nan knew. The title Nan is thinking about for that is The Dahli Mamas Ride Again and will feature Brenda and her biker babes.

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I wondered.

"I wanted to be a lion tamer. Didn’t happen. Darn. No circus or Vegas connections, truthfully, and the courage factor was a minus. But, see, I was writing fiction in my head even as a tweener."

She said it was a good thing she didn't have her heart set on a modeling career, because she hates how she looks in pictures, with her driver's license photo being the worse.

"Even pro photogs have their work cut out when they work for me, and the older I get, the harder for them it is," she said. "Isn’t that odd?"

The strangest thing Nan has ever eaten was on a dare—a chocolate covered ant. She's never eaten a crayon, however, but told me, "It's a thought. Any fiber in wax?"

Her favorite animal is a cat and she would love to come back as one—especially if she can be a house cat in a house like hers where she would be pampered and worshiped 24/7.

"Have you ever cried during a movie?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. Love Story, anyone? Back in the day, we wore false eyelashes to add glam. Not a good move for that movie, believe me."

When discussing whether she preferred Pepsi or Coke, she responded, "Oh, please, honey. I'm a southern girl. Coke all the way."

"If you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?"

"Here’s one of those toughies," she said. "Do you wish for something for the world at large or for yourself? Okay, truthfully? I’d like a contract with St Martins, uh, while we’re waving the magic wand around, make that with six figure advance attached….and Jen Enderlin as editor."

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

"Read, read, read. Peruse craft books. Don’t quit your day job; join every community group you can for networking purposes; ditto writer’s groups….and say goodbye to a neat orderly desk (and/or life)."
You can keep up with Nan on her website,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Grace Greene

Beach Rental released on July 11. Kincaid's Hope releases on January 23, 2012.

Both stories have themes of trust and faith. But in Beach Rental Juli is without resources. With a little help, she learns another way to live – with dreams and hope. Juli channels her self-reliance into the ability to depend upon others without losing her sense of self and what she wants for the future.

Beth in Kincaid's Hope turns her back on everything she’s ever known because she can’t forgive – not her family and not herself. She’d rather remove emotion from her life than risk more hurt. Beth thinks she can build a life free of messy emotionalism, but the life she crafts doesn’t fit her. One day, her temper blows and it all falls apart. She’s forced back to the small town in which she grew up, and into the small-town memories she ran away from, and face-to-face with the unfinished business she tried to forget, including the almost-sweetheart waiting for her back in Preston, Virginia.

Kincaid's Hope takes place in southwestern Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beth Kincaid must face the person she really is – the girl with the Kincaid legacy – a hot-tempered redhead who came from a family rife with bad choices. She runs into the (almost) old flame – and they learn some life lessons together, but no spoilers here. I hope you’ll read the whole story in January 2012.

Beach Rental is available now in trade paperback and e-formats. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Join me at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Grace Greene

Romance writers write about romance. We throw other stuff in – suspense, grief, attraction, peril, faith elements – and create sub-genres, but, bottom line, it’s romance. Beach Rental is published as Women’s Fiction because, ultimately, Beach Rentalis Juli’s story. But it’s also romance. And suspense. And a touch of Inspirational.

I’ve heard there are a limited number of story types in romance. Let’s take a look at a few:

One of the concepts in Beach Rental deals with marriage as a business arrangement that leads to love, versus the love-at-first-sight falling head-over-heels kind of love. Marriage of convenience (or as a business arrangement) is an old idea well-used many times by authors through the centuries, and never gets old.

The next concept in Beach Rental is unrequited love – somebody loves someone who loves somebody else. Unrequited love is something most of us have experienced, painfully, often as a crush in school - or even more painfully as an adult when our hearts are less quick to mend.

In the end, Beach Rental becomes the story of two people, widely separated by circumstance, background and economics, who grow toward each other, finding in each other something they lack and, together, they are now whole – a theme similar to Pride and Prejudice. This is also the concept we hope is true for every relationship – we see in each other something we lack in ourselves. Two become one.
Human beings want to love and be loved and the Romance genre embodies that basic need and explores it in endless variations on the theme. The fictional characters in Beach Rental also suffer deceit, grief and danger, but my characters forgive me because I always give them a romantic, happily-ever-after ending.

Here are some places to read more about Romance as a genre:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Grace Greene

Beach Rental opens in Beaufort, but it really begins in Morehead City when Ben tracks down Juli.

Some people are born to luck, some aren’t. Juli Cooke knows she's one of the latter. She’s a cashier in a grocery store in Morehead City and works second jobs where she can find them. She’s a hard worker and proud of her self-reliance, but more and more she feels like she’s getting nowhere. She meets Ben Bradshaw while moonlighting for a caterer at a fancy party in Beaufort, but it’s in Morehead City where Ben finds her again and meets her for lunch at Cox’s Family Restaurant. The grocery store is fictional, but not the restaurant. I’ve eaten there and they have fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches and lots of other good food at great prices.

Juli and Ben stroll down the road to a vacant lot that overlooks Bogue Sound and, in the shade of the huge Live Oak trees Ben proposes the ‘business arrangement.’

Morehead City is a sound-side mainland seaport. It was officially incorporated as a town in 1860. It’s known for its sport fishing, but in Beach Rental, it’s the annual Carolina Chocolate Festival that gets the attention. The Carolina Chocolate Festival, ‘Celebrating Charity & Chocolate,’ benefits a number of local charities – check it out here:

For more information about Morehead City, try this link:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Grace Greene

Beaufort, North Carolina is one of the three key locations in Beach Rental. It’s where my hero, Luke Winters, owns an art gallery. His gallery is as fictional as he is, but Beaufort is a charming town – no fiction there.

Important to know if you go there – it’s pronounced bo-furt.

Beaufort is on the Inner Banks and is North Carolina’s third oldest town. It’s a natural treasure trove for romance writers. Blackbeard hung out here. In 1718, he ran his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge aground in Beaufort. The ship was found in 1996 in the Beaufort Inlet. You can see the recovered artifacts at the Maritime Museum. The Old Burying Ground has been around since the early 1700’s and is worth a visit. Some of the shipwrecked crew members of the Crissie Wright who froze to death in 1886 are buried here in a common grave, as is the little girl who died at sea, but was brought home by her father to be buried – in a rum barrel.

Walk along Front Street with its charming storefronts and the long, gorgeous waterfront on Back Sound. Enjoy the marinas, galleries, gift shops, bookstore, antiques, boutiques and a wide variety of restaurants and you’ll get a fine Carolina welcome in all of them. Tour the restored sites and Victorian homes and the B&Bs. There’s something here for the history buff, the romantic, and the shopper. I hear there’s fishing, too.

In the summer, you can get a boat ride over to Shackleford Banks to look for those elusive wild horses or to find sea shells – and those you’ll find in abundance. Be warned – there’s no cover from the sun and no facilities!

Here a few links in case you’d like to know more about Beaufort and Front Street – without which Beach Rental would be missing a lot!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Grace Greene

Beach Rental released on July 11. Summertime. Toes in the sand time. Time for a trip to the beach. Take a book with you!

What’s your favorite east coast beach?

Ocean City, Maryland has wide, clean sandy beaches and a horizon reaching into forever. We visited there last summer and had a grand time. I hear the Jersey shore is beautiful, but I’ve never been there. Maybe someday soon! Miami Beach, Daytona Beach – marvelous. Virginia Beach, Virginia, where I first wet my toes in the Atlantic Ocean, has impressive beaches and is my heart’s favorite. But the Bogue Banks…

Never heard of the Bogue Banks? Put your pointer finger on the famous Outer Banks of North Carolina. Duck, Nags Head, Hatteras, Ocracoke and so on. Trace the line of beaches and barrier islands until it curves west and then west again.

See Shackleford Banks where the wild horses run? And where you’ll find a world class shelling beach? Then skip over the inlet and you’ll be at Bogue Banks – the barrier island shared by Atlantic Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, Salter Path, Indian Beach – and last, Emerald Isle, altogether twenty-one miles of sand and waves.

In Emerald Isle, and the other towns on the Bogue Banks, you walk to the sunrise in the morning and to the sunset in the evening. You can enjoy the timeless beauty of the Atlantic Ocean or cross to the sound side for a more serene water experience.
I love to walk to the rhythm of the waves. The timelessness, the eternity of it, echoes deep inside and restores me.

Just don’t forget the sunscreen. And don’t forget Beach Rental.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Author Interview: Grace Elliot

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Grace Elliot, who leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night.

She told me that she can remember the exact moment when the urge to write found her.

"It was at a school reunion. Friends I hadn’t seen for twenty years where there and it was great to catch up. Strangely the question I was asked the most was; ‘Do you still write those fantastic stories?’

"This puzzled me until I remembered my teenage years – the dog eared exercise books crammed with stories, hours spent writing by torchlight, English homework read out to a silent class, …

"By the time I got home that evening I had a sketchy idea for a novel… an addiction was born that still has me firmly in its grip."

Even though Grace lives near Londo, she was born up North in Yorkshire. Her mother's family worked in the steel works that thrived in the early 20th century around Sheffield. Her grandmother's surname was Farrell, which was an Irish name.

"With my fair skin and dark hair, I often wonder about my Irish heritage on that side," she told me.

Her father's father originated from Humberside, and family legend has it that his forebears were wealthy ship owners in the days of sail.

"Apparently they did very well importing tea and spices," she said. "Whether it's true or not, my father loves to recall how it was his family that the 1970’s BBC TV series ‘The Onedin Line’ was based on. Sadly it all went wrong when steam replace sail; they invested poorly and lost all their money."

" When did you first consider yourself a writer?" I asked.

"A writer is just that – someone who writes.

"You don’t have to be published to be a writer but it is a watershed moment – seeing your name in print that first time. The thrill of a large brown envelope flopping through the letter box, open it and there inside…a magazine containing your article! Historical non-fiction was my first success – an article marking the 800th anniversary of the death of Eleanor of Aquitaine, published in The Lady magazine. I think between me and my mum we must have caused a sales spike that week, with copies bought for friends and family, not to mention spending more on them than I was paid for the article!"

For Grace, her characters come before the plot—and even before that, the character's name.

"I keep a notebook of interesting names and when I need a new character the first thing I do is chose a name," she explained. "I find the right name can summon up a character, almost giving birth to them fully formed from hair color to personality type…the writer’s equivalent of a photographic memory if you like!"

Grace feels the most important element of good writing is engrossing the reader in the story so much they lose track of time. It might sound simple, but she said, "It takes skill to create a world without the reader being aware a scene is being set and then to maintain the illusion without reminding the reader these are fictional characters. This means consistency in the simple things like not forgetting your hero’s eye color and not mentioning electricity in a medieval romance."

I asked her to describe her writing space for us.

"My writing space is an old sofa in the converted garage that doubles our dining room. There is no TV in the room, which is a major plus since I get distracted easily, and I sit below a large window that harvests the light even on dull days.

"The sofa is very long and I sit in the middle with my research to my left and Widget, one of my cats, curled to my right closest to the radiator. Widget heartily approves of my writing addiction because she gets to rest her paws and sleep. She is conscientious in the extreme and very concerned for my productivity - has been known to complain when I get up, hence encouraging to stay at the keyboard longer than I would otherwise have done. If she wasn’t a writer’s cat then she’d belong to a James Bond style master criminal, so that she could sit on a lap all day being stroked!"

Cats are Grace's favorite animal and own (or, as she said, "is housekeeping staff to") five moggies: Wallace, Gromit, Pilchard, Widget and her daughter Noni.

"I just adore how cats are independent creatures, how they won't come to you unless they want to," she said. "I love how we fool ourselves into thinking they sleep on the bed for love, when really it's for the warmth. I love their furry faces and pruups of pleasure, the chin rubs and bunting against legs. I love how they think I can change the weather, then look at me with disgust when it’s the same out the front as the back…was there ever such a self-indulgent, perfectly delightful creature as a cat?"

She would also like to have a dog, but right now that's not something she can manage.

"It takes time to look after a dog; training, walks in all weather, feeing and grooming," she explained. "If you can't do it properly, you shouldn't own a dog.

"Way off in the future, my perfect life would be to live in a little house a few minutes walk from the sea. Me and my dog, a black Labrador, or something smaller like a Border Terrier if the house was tiny, and we’d walk along the beach watching the sail ships at bobbing at anchor. In the summer I’d throw balls into the shallow water and Jason…oh, see he has a name now…would bounce over the waves to fetch it. In the winter we’d huddle behind the sea wall, drinking hot tea from a flask and watching the white horses…"

I asked Grace about the strangest thing she'd ever eaten.

"Well this is exactly answering the question, but it put me in mind of my eldest son, his mobile phone and a story I’d love to share with you.

"My son’s girlfriend lives some distance away and they spend a lot of time texting and phoning each other. One day, Thomas came downstairs beaming with happiness. Apparently his girlfriend had sent him a very special text; a beautifully composed poem in French, comparing him to her most precious and favorite things and declaring her undying love.

"Thomas settled down to write an appropriate reply, but five minutes later I heard hysterical laughter coming from his room. The reason? Whilst waiting for inspiration he wondered if his mobile phone would fit sideways in his mouth. He then accidentally bit down on the keyboard sending a random string of letters in reply to her carefully chosen words! The gender gap is alive and well!"

Finally, I asked Grace for any advice she had for a new writer.

"The best thing any writer can do is …wait for it…write. If you need guidance join a local writer’s group or enroll on an online creative writing course. Don’t expect friends and family to give you unbiased and honest appraisals – they won't want to hurt your feelings and this doesn’t help you to learn from mistakes and grow in your craft."
You can keep up with Grace on her blog,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Spotlight: PG Forte

There are Two Kinds of People in the World

It’s a basic fact of life. The world is made up of two kinds of people. Dog people and cat people. All my life I’ve been a cat person. Oh, sure, I liked dogs as well. I like most animals, after all. But cats were always the clear-cut favorite. I liked them for their independence, their self-sufficiency and their don’t-give-a-damn attitude. I admired their cunning, their patience, their physical prowess—their abilities to leap and climb, to survive see in the dark, etc—all the things that proved that, IMO, they were in every way imaginable superior to dogs.

Lately, however, things have changed. And it all started with the dog my son brought home.

He's certainly not the first dog I've had (and, yes, btw, even though I continue to refer to him as my grandpuppy, I think we all know who he really belongs to) but he's the first with whom I've fallen so completely in love. I don't know how it happened. Maybe he simply came along at just the right time to fill my soon-to-be-empty nests, or the space left by my old cat's death. I guess I should count myself lucky he doesn't try and take a nap on the back of my chair as I work the way my cat used to.

Give how much I like animals, it's not so surprising how many of them end up in my books. Most of my characters have at least one pet...some have quite a few. Cats, dogs and parrots seem to be the most popular. What about you? Are you a cat person, a dog person...or does some other type of critter get your vote?


Originally a Jersey Girl, PG Forte currently resides on the extreme left coast with her husband and soulmate, their two adult children and a random and fluctuating assortment of animal companions. At present, the nine-part Oberon series makes up half of her published works.

There's something magical about the little coast town of Oberon, California—something that transcends explanation and defies description. But living in 'Psychic Central' is not all white light and fairy dust. Anything could happen here and all too often it does. It's a place filled with mystery, intrigue, mysticism and romance and while the location is fictional, the people populating it can seem all-too real.

You can read more about the Oberon series at Also, this summer, you can find the Oberon books on sale at Amazon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: PG Forte

Serenading the Muse

Let’s discuss muses. Mine has the attention span of a gnat. Luckily, she likes music. Even more luckily, I figured that out early on. While I was writing the Oberon series, there were always go-to songs I could count on to lull my muse into compliance. They were an eclectic mix—old and new, borrowed (mostly from my kids) and yes, even blue—because, let’s face it, there’s a certain amount of angst in every love story.

Here’s a Thursday Thirteen list of some of the songs (or albums) I listened to while writing Oberon. I think of it as music to write to but, who knows, they might be music to read by as well.

#1 David Arkenstone, The Celtic Book of Days. Oberon is famous for its festivals, and this album always seemed to have the right music for them.

#2 Lonestar, Lonely Grill. So many of these songs seemed so right for Scout and Nick, that made it a natural for Scent of the Roses.

#3. The Cranberries, Everybody Else is doing it, so why can’t we? When I think Marsha, I think Irish. When I think Irish, I think Cranberries. It’s really as simple as that.

#4. Sarah McLachlan, Song for a Winter’s Night. Another song that seemed to have Marsha’s name on it.

#5. Sting, Brand New Day. I don’t know, something about the first couple of songs makes me think of rain. Rain makes my think Sound of a Voice That is Still. It’s moody and wintery sounding. Perfect, really.

#6. O-Town, All or Nothing. I don’t know why this song always made me think of Ryan, but it did.

#7. Sara Evans, Born to Fly. This album reminds me of summer fairs and that reminds me of book number five, Touch of a Vanished Hand.

#8. Deana Carter, Carol of the Bells. The Spirit of the Place was set at Christmas. Nuff said.

#9. Mana’o Company, Drop Baby Drop/Who Loves You Pretty Baby. Yes, it’s Hawaiian. And, yes, that goes with Book Number Six as well.

#10. Golana, Moon of the First Snow. Native American flute music, because Visions Before Midnight is all about the Chay and Chay is all about Native American flutes.

#11. Sheryl Crow, Tuesday Night Music Club. I Shall Believe was one of the songs that really seemed to sum up Cara’s vulnerability and the trust she placed in Liam

#12. Sister Hazel, Chasing Daylight. I could never decide whether Sword and Shield reminded me more of Liam or Seth. It was a good song for both of them.

#13. Dashboard Confessional, A Mark A Mission A Brand A Scar. Okay, the album title is awful, but Hands Down was another of Seth’s anthems. The boy had quite a few, now that I’m thinking about it.


Originally a Jersey Girl, PG Forte currently resides on the extreme left coast with her husband and soulmate, their two adult children and a random and fluctuating assortment of animal companions. At present, the nine-part Oberon series makes up half of her published works.

There's something magical about the little coast town of Oberon, California—something that transcends explanation and defies description. But living in 'Psychic Central' is not all white light and fairy dust. Anything could happen here and all too often it does. It's a place filled with mystery, intrigue, mysticism and romance and while the location is fictional, the people populating it can seem all-too real.

You can read more about the Oberon series at Also, this summer, you can find the Oberon books on sale at Amazon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: PG Forte

Summer Reading

I’ve always loved books and series that I could get lost in. The longer, the better. And summer was always the perfect time to indulge in that passion, especially when I was a kid. Back then, my summers were always full of books. Fiction, non-fiction, it didn’t matter. I was one of those kids who had to be kicked outside to play because, usually, the world I was reading about was vastly more entertaining than real life. I was like that most of the rest of the year too, of course, but summer meant more time to read, and fewer interruptions. To this day, certain books and certain summers are inextricably linked in my mind. Rereading them now, can transport me right back to where I was then.

My favorite summer reads have always been the kind of books that are so vivid and descriptive that reading them is like being immersed in a foreign culture. My reading habits really haven't changed much over the years either. If I like something I tend to obsess; I want the whole series now; I want to read everything else the author has out there. I'm sure my parents were very grateful to be able to send mo off to the library to feed my habit!

Summer still seems like the perfect time to get time to get some extra reading in--even without the promise of a long vacation or less interruptions! This summer, my reading plans include finally getting caught up on all the backlists of al lmy fellow Naughty least that's the plan.

What are your summer reading plans? Is there anything in particular you're looking forward to reading this summer? Do you have any memorable summer reads from years past?


Originally a Jersey Girl, PG Forte currently resides on the extreme left coast with her husband and soulmate, their two adult children and a random and fluctuating assortment of animal companions. At present, the nine-part Oberon series makes up half of her published works.

There's something magical about the little coast town of Oberon, California—something that transcends explanation and defies description. But living in 'Psychic Central' is not all white light and fairy dust. Anything could happen here and all too often it does. It's a place filled with mystery, intrigue, mysticism and romance and while the location is fictional, the people populating it can seem all-too real.

You can read more about the Oberon series at Also, this summer, you can find the Oberon books on sale at Amazon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: PG Forte

Food Snobs Anonymous

Among the Nine Naughty Novelists I’m known as the wine snob. Oh, but they don’t know the half of it! Really, it’s not just the wine. I’m picky about a lot of the thing. Let’s take a look:

#1. Well, since it's already been mentioned, I might as well start with wine. My primary issue here has more to do with provenance and delivery than it does the actual product. If it comes from a California winery, I'm predisposed to like it. But, sorry I don't do boxed wine. Some people prefer watching movies on a big screen. Some people prefer reading books in print. Me, I expect my wine to come in a bottle and be sealed with a cork. I really don't think that's too much to ask.

#2. California Produce. What can I say? When you live in California, there's really no excuse for not eating locally. When it comes to produce--fresh and dried fruit, nuts, veggies, and all the rest--California produce really can't be beat. It's a statistical fact. We lead the world in agriculture. We produce more crops and more kinds of crops than anywhere else. But, don't just take my word for it: HTTP://WWW.CDFA.CA.GOV/STATISTICS/

#3. Chocolate. Okay, it's true we don't grow chocolate in California. Or coffee either, hmm. I guess nowhere is completely perfect, after all. Still we've got Ghirardelli's and Scharfenberger and, my absolute favorite, Chocolatier Blue, which has some of the prettiest damn candies you're ever going to see, IMO. And they're as delicious as they are pretty, too: HTTP://WWW.CHOCOLATIERBLUE.COM/

#4. Coffee. To be honest, I used to be even more snobby about my coffee than I am now. In my early twenties, I insisted on buying freshly roasted beans and grinding them myself. I favored Kenya for taste, Kona for smell, and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee above anything else--but only if it was freshly roasted and freshly breweed. Like, say, in Jamaica.

Nowadays, I'm much less fussy. Sure, I'd prefer to buy organic, fair-trade and shade-grown coffee... I did mention the whole "Living in California" thing--right? But, in practice, as long as it's decently (and relatively recently) dark-roasted and it doesn't come from a can, I'm good.

#5. Beer. Need I say it? Bottles. End of discussion. Also, the darker the better--Guinness, anyone?--and microbreweries are proof that God loves us...I think Benjamin Franklin said that.

I'm sure there's much more that I'm fussy about--including cheese, olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar...the list is endless. But it's mostly tongue in cheek. Sort of. And when I was writing the Oberon series I had a lot of fun sharing my fussy opinions with several of my characters. Adam's a wine snob, Lauren's a chocolate snob and Lucy...well, she's pretty much picky about everything. I really love that woman!

Here's a little bit about Lucy (and her husband, Dan) taken from the blurb of "their" book, A Taste of Honey.




Sometimes you get exactly what you wish for. And it's more than you'd ever dreamed.


Originally a Jersey Girl, PG Forte currently resides on the extreme left coast with her husband and soulmate, their two adult children and a random and fluctuating assortment of animal companions. At present, the nine-part Oberon series makes up half of her published works.

There's something magical about the little coast town of Oberon, California—something that transcends explanation and defies description. But living in 'Psychic Central' is not all white light and fairy dust. Anything could happen here and all too often it does. It's a place filled with mystery, intrigue, mysticism and romance and while the location is fictional, the people populating it can seem all-too real.

You can read more about the Oberon series at Also, this summer, you can find the Oberon books on sale at Amazon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Spotlight: PG Forte

A More Congenial Spot

“In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.”

Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

My parents had been to see Camelot (the original production with Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and Robert Goulet) when it played on Broadway and, needless to say, fell in love with it. As a result, I grew up listening to the soundtrack. At a very young age, I knew almost all the lyrics of almost all the songs by heart although I still recall having to ask my mother about several words that I hadn’t come across before and whose meanings I didn’t understand. Words such as vivisect, convivial, philanthropic, libelous, not to mention a handful of French phrases—I learned them all from listening to that soundtrack.

Of course, Camelot is not particularly a happy story and that aspect bothered me a lot. Even as a child I knew that love stories should have happy endings. Still, it influenced me enough that I think I have to credit it with helping to ensure that I would eventually end up living in California.

Okay, bear with me here. That’s really not as far-fetched as it sounds.

While I know that for many people (perhaps most) paradise is a remote tropical island, for me there’s nothing prettier than the soft, rolling hills you’ll find along the coast here. The grass bleached blonde by the sunshine, dark-green, moss-encrusted live oaks scattered across the hillsides; all of it leading down to a sheer cliff, a rocky shore a shining sea... Oh, and the redwood groves and vineyards aren’t exactly eyesores either.

But, most of all, I love the weather here. And, with its climate that verges on perpetual springtime, I think the Golden State bears a striking resemblance to the Camelot Arthur describes...even if the morning fog here does occasionally linger past 8 AM. So, it was pretty much a given that when I grew up I would end up moving from one coast to the other. And, when I was plotting my first series and searching for the ideal, enchanted-seeming place to locate my own mythical town of Oberon, it’s not so surprising that I really didn’t need to look any further than right outside my front door to find my inspiration.

Like Camelot, Oberon, California has a hint of magic to it. It combines everything I love about my adopted home state, all that’s best about the weather and the culture, the gorgeous scenery, etc, into one perfect package. Oberon is a small town, very quaint and picturesque, very popular with tourists, very much like you might realistically expect to find anywhere along Highway 1. Beneath that shiny surface, however, lies a darker layer of mystery and intrigue. There’s a sense that anything can happen here—but most especially happy endings.

To me, the setting for the Oberon series was always as important as any of the characters. I’m so in love with this little town that it actually depresses me that I’m not to be able to go and live there full-time. Sad to say, not all of Oberon’s inhabitants are as pleased with the town as I am. Some find the town’s metaphysical reputation a little hard to handle and have even gone so far as to begin referring to the place as Psychic Central or the Capital of Coincidence. But I guess there’s just no pleasing some people! Personally, I love Oberon’s quirky side. I’d be just fine if real-life was a touch more whimsical, mystical and inexplicable. A little more like...well, Camelot.


Originally a Jersey Girl, PG Forte currently resides on the extreme left coast with her husband and soulmate, their two adult children and a random and fluctuating assortment of animal companions. At present, the nine-part Oberon series makes up half of her published works.

There's something magical about the little coast town of Oberon, California—something that transcends explanation and defies description. But living in 'Psychic Central' is not all white light and fairy dust. Anything could happen here and all too often it does. It's a place filled with mystery, intrigue, mysticism and romance and while the location is fictional, the people populating it can seem all-too real.

You can read more about the Oberon series at Also, this summer, you can find the Oberon books on sale at Amazon.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Oceanside Affirmation by F. B. Wood

“You gotta see this.” Sid wrapped his massive hand around his wife’s dainty wrist.

“I just sat down, Sid. Let me get some knitting done first.” Caroline tried to pull away. Sid didn’t let go. He was grinning ear to ear--an invitation she could never say no to. He led her out onto the back porch of their retirement bungalow, just blocks from the Wrightsville beach bridge. It had been Sid’s first choice; Caroline had never wanted to retire anywhere near the coast. The cool salty autumn air filled their lungs. Sid pointed out at the night sky.

“There,” he said enthusiastically.

“What am I looking at… that firework?!”

Sid chuckled at his wife’s question. “That’s the moon.”

It had completely passed the horizon with an explosive maroon and had been fragmented by the bare oak branches in their neighbor’s yard. Caroline moved her hand to her breast in an attempt to catch her breath.

Caroline began to descend the stairs of the back porch wearing only her plaid bathrobe and slippers. Her full attention transfixed by what had caught her eye. Sid curiously waited to see if she had left something in the car. She walked by the vehicle and out towards the end of the driveway. With wonder fading to concern Sid rushed down the stairs in his pajamas. He raced after her as fast as his aging legs would carry him. By the time he caught up to her she was three houses down the street and he was out of breath. Sid didn’t think a walk was a bad idea, but they hadn’t had one at night for more than twenty years. It was a cool August night after all. After the day’s heat he didn’t ask any questions. He took her hand, admiring her porcelain skin bathed in lover’s red moon light. They quietly shuffled their way to the end of the street. There Caroline paused for a moment and her attention turned to the right. Instead of moving in the direction she was looking, her feet took her to the left--in the direction of the moon and the bridge that would inevitable lead them across the ocean.

The moon ascended to a fiery orange glow as they stood in front of the aging metal structure. The only circumstances under which Caroline would ever cross the bridge were in a car with her eyes tightly closed.

“We can go back for the car.” Sid’s words were lost to Caroline’s ears as she took her first step out onto the metal grate. Sid offered his hand to his wife. Ignoring it she reached out for the hand rail.

“We wouldn’t make it back in time,” she said to herself. It was an unusually quiet night for the only bridge on or off the island. The lack of cars made Sid wonder and Caroline thankful. They were more than halfway across when the first vehicle drove past them. It was moving fast enough to whip the tails of Caroline’s robe. The bridge’s vibrations set her into a panic. She quickly grabbed onto the hand rail with her other hand. She stood there several seconds leaning on the rail breathing heavily. She found herself staring into the abyss of moving water through the grated walk way. The sound of the breaking waves became deafening. The thoughts of the bottomless water and what it might contain began to tug at her feet. She stepped once or twice trying to free herself. She tried to focus on her breathing. Her panic overwhelmed her as she began to feel herself fall. Sid rushed to offer his assistance. His wife lifted her terrified eyes to meet his. She quickly looked away and all he could do was wish. Wish that he were fifty years younger. Wish that he had the muscle that would effortlessly sweep her off her feet. Wish that he could comfort her in his arms and carry her all the way back to the house. He could no longer hold back his shame that wishing brought. Sid began to silently cry. Amongst the chaos of fear, Caroline made out what she thought was a sniffle. She looked once again at the man she had spent her life with. She looked into his face and saw he wanted nothing more than to help her. She met his gaze, only this time it was gratitude that washed over her. She gently reached for his cheek and wiped away only the second tear she had ever seen Sid shed.

Shades of orange had ascended through flaming yellows. The colors reflected in her husband’s glasses made Caroline gasp as her feet began to move once more towards the beach, only this time she walked hand in hand with her husband. Sid’s eyes never left his wife’s face waiting for the slightest signal to say they would go back. He saw only determination as her focus remained on the orb that had brought them this far.

They sighed together as they crossed the street, making their way past the shops and houses and finally up beach path number four. Caroline came to a stop just the other side of the sand dunes. The moon had risen into a vibrant golden globe. She took of her slippers and wiggled her toes taking root in the sand.

Her eyes maintained their vigil. She let go of Sid’s hand and wrapped her arms around herself. Sid placed his hands in his pockets and smiled.

“It sure is pretty.” His words were barely audible over the oceanic winds. Sid joined his wife transfixed by the landscape. Then after a moment he leaned toward her right ear. “Looks like a golden bridge.”

He pointed out the moon’s reflection that stretched across the breaking tide, over the windswept sand, and came to end right at their feet. The image made them both smile. Sid took a seat first. He took a moment to slowly stretch out his legs. Then he reclined on his arms. Caroline tucked her robe under her knees as they came to rest next to her husband. She used his right shoulder as her pillow. She wrapped both her arms around his torso and gave it a squeeze.

“That walk was easier than I thought. I think it might be the off season.” Caroline’s words carried softly into Sid’s ears. “All that water,” she said dreamily. Sid acknowledged his wife’s fear with a slight nod.

“You did it beautifully.” He kissed the side of her head and nodded towards the ocean. “You know when it’s time to cross that bridge the depth of water won’t matter.” Caroline squeezed tighter on her husband’s torso. They took in the moon’s changing colors once more as it highlighted itself to a brilliant white. Their heads turned almost in unison. Their gaze met and there at the foot of the lunar walkway, the world faded out of focus.

“You’ll cross it with me?” He would forever remember how serenely her mouth moved with these words. The look of innocence as she quickly brushed a few strands of her gray streaked auburn hair out of her face Sid scooped up his wife and they fell back in the sand. Caroline nestled up close to her husband’s ear. She whispered, “Then this is where I’ll be.” Sid closed his eyes, listening to the sound of her breath as it came to match the waves.

It was a fond memory. It was one that always made Sid swell up with pride. It had been Caroline’s last greatest achievement before the cancer took her. Sid opened his eyes knowing it would be the last time he would recount the memory for anyone. When he was younger he had hoped, at this point, that it would be Caroline’s hand in his. His children’s hands turned out to be very comforting alternatives. His weary eyes took one final look around at the generations that stood close to him. Sid closed his contented eyes and exhaled for the final time. His soul left behind a smile for those in the hospital room. He wanted them to know he was going to keep his promise.

About the Author: I currently reside in Greenville, SC with my wife, Joy, and daughter, Phoebe. This particular short story was inspired by an actual moon rise my family and I got to witness on a vacation to the beach. Only I asked if the moon was a firework.

Author Interview: Linda Swift

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Linda Swift, whose latest book This Time Forever was just released by Champagne Books.

Linda credits her love for reading and writing by being read to when she was very young. Her father and his mother, both teachers, introduced her to the classics at an early age and, as soon as she could read well enough, she continued reading them on her own. She remembers writing poems when she was ten and being asked to read them to grownups. Once she was asked to write a poem and read it in church at the main worship service during a children's program.

"I remember yet the struggle to write something appropriate for the occasion," she told me. "I suppose I can say that I've been writing most of my life."

She first considered herself a writer when her first short story was accepted by a university literary magazine. Then, when Zebra/Kensington accepted her first book, she felt validated as a writer of books, which had always been her goal.

"Little did I realize that by reaching this goal I had not reached the pinnacle but was at the beginning of a long journey toward other goals," she said.

She has completed sixteen books to date, with seven of them already published and five more contracted, including one book of poetry.

"I have others that have not been submitted and I don't plan to ever submit 2 of those," she told me. "I also have a few incompletes that I may never get around to finishing."

Her favorite is her newest release and it's also her longest book. It will be released in print next month, just in time for the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Civil War.

I asked her to tell us a bit about it. "This book spans the entire war, depicting some of the major battles," she said. "The characters represent both North and South and the love of a Yankee surgeon and a southern belle who becomes his medical assistant in an antebellum mansion turned makeshift hospital. He has a fiancee waiting for him and she has a husband who is a Rebel soldier." Before Linda puts anything on paper, she thinks through quite a bit of her plot. "It's harder for me to shift things around once I have it in readable form," she explained. "And I try to get acquainted with my characters before I make them visible, too. This includes naming them which I consider a very important part of their personalities. Once I get my characters talking with each other, I often learn things about them I hadn't known before. And when they take on lives of their own, they often change the direction of the story. So I suppose I would be considered a pantster more than a plotter." Sometimes she will get a story idea first, and she will create characters to tell it; still other times, the characters will come to her first and she creates the story around them.

"Characters or plots will often float around in my subconscious for months or years before I give them their books," she said.

She doesn't worry a lot about titles, however.

"They usually come of their own volition while I write the story, frequently from a character's words. The character says something and I think Aha. That phrase is my title. I've had only one book that I've renamed about four times before I was satisfied with the title--This Time Forever," she shared with me.

Reading is Linda's second greatest pleasure. Unfortunately, she doesn't find enough time to read all she would like to. She also enjoys ballroom dancing with her husband and spending time with her adult children. She lives in Florida during the winter months, so she gets to enjoy the beach.

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I wondered.

"Like most little girls, I wanted to be a movie star and when I outgrew that I wanted to be a writer like Louisa May Alcott. (I could never decide if I pictured myself as Jo or Amy in Little Women for I loved both characters. And it was many years before I forgave Miss Alcott for giving Laurie to Amy instead of Jo.)"

On a more personal note, Linda is an evening person and frequently burns the midnight oil. Mornings are not very productive for her.

Dogs are her favorite animal, but with her lifestyle owning one would be very inconvenient right now—she and her husband own homes in Kentucky and Florida and split their time between them, stopping in Tennessee to visit their children who live there. Sheep come a close second ever since the time she lived in England and saw all the placid sheep grazing on the green hillsides.

She felt right "at home" when she lived there and she's traveled over many parts of the British Isles. It's not suprising—she's a mixture of English and Welch on her maternal side and English, Scottish, and Irish on her paternal.

"You can erase any horrible experience from your past," I said. "What will it be?"

"My daughter was involved in a car accident fourteen years ago that was almost fatal. So many things could have resulted in loss of her life but with her determined spirit and excellent therapy, she survived and leads a normal life. She is God's miracle for our family and we are forever grateful."

She doesn't want to know what the future holds, however.

"I have heard it said that if we could know the future, not one of us would want to live another minute," she told me. "And unless all of it was happy, I don't think I'd want to know what is yet to come. Another quote comes to mind: 'I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.' I think that says it all."

"Have you ever cried during a movie?" I asked.

"Oh, goodness, yes. Love Story comes to mind first. I cried from almost the beginning to the end and left the theater with a swollen face. Gone With the Wind comes a close second. And all World War II movies make me tear up."

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

"Don't be discouraged if at first you don't succeed. As the old adage goes, 'Try, try, again.' And don't try to write whatever is in vogue at the moment. Write the stories you feel deeply about or you can't expect others to care about them either."
You can keep up with Linda on her website,,

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

Princess Caraboo - one of the inspirations for my heroine, Edith.

Lindsay Townsend

In my newly-published To Touch The Knight, my heroine Edith pretends to be an exotic eastern princess, The Lady of Lilies, to save herself and her fellow villagers from starvation after the pestilence (the Black Death, which struck England in 1348). Edith is a peasant woman and blacksmith and I speak about a typical day in the life of a medieval peasant woman here at Unusual Historicals.

In my novel, however, Edith presents herself as a strange princess with her own seductive costumes, language and customs. One of my inspirations for this particular desperate deception was a real-life fake from the eighteenth century, the Princess Caraboo.

This ‘princess’ was a young woman who appeared in a Gloucestershire village in 1817, dressed in unusual clothes and speaking a strange language. Upon investigation by the local magistrate, it was discovered she called herself Caraboo and later a sailor claimed he knew her language and translated her story. Caraboo claimed to be a princess from an island in the Indian ocean, who had escaped after being captured by pirates.

The magistrate, Stephen Worrall, and his wife, took in Princess Caraboo. She lived with them for several weeks, famous and fêted by the local community.

In reality Princess Caraboo turned out to be Mary Baker, the daughter of an English cobbler. When the hoax was revealed due to her picture in the 'Bristol Journal' being recognized, the Worralls arranged for Mary to leave for Philadelphia.

Mary did go to America but returned later to England and died there. It was the story of her unusual deception that inspired a 1994 film, Princess Caraboo and partly inspired my own novel, To Touch The Knight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

Cliff-Hangers in Romantic Fiction
Lindsay Townsend

The cliff-hanger is a favourite device of popular genre fiction writers. It is a moment of mini-climax, usually involving high stakes, that leaves the reader wondering how it will be resolved. This trick of leaving the reader hanging is one used in films and soaps, too. After all, we are curious and want to know -

1. What happened next?
2. How did the situation resolve itself?
3. How does the hero/heroine get out of that mess?
4. What will so-and-so say now they know that? How will so-and-so react?

Cliff-hangers come in various forms, but the one I'm writing about today is the relationship cliff-hanger.

Does X love me? How do I feel about X? Will my step-child/real child/adopted child/newly-found child love me? These relationship cliff-hangers are all about feelings. Characters are strongly drawn and their feelings shown in great detail and depth, to help readers identify with them and feel an investment in their stories. A relationship cliff-hanger can be a quarrel, a disappearance, a break of some kind, or a moment of revelation - 'Yes I love so-and-so!' - and then what next? Does the character tell the person of their love? How it will be received? This is the stuff of all romance and relationship stories.

In wider relationship stories it may be more than boy and girl - it may be family issues, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and so on. But the emotions and the relationships, that final decision to either go forward with the relationship or give up on it, is what drives the story.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

Music I write by – Lindsay Townsend

I love music. I think to music and write to music. My first published novel, my romantic suspense, Voices in the Dark was set in the world of Italian opera and the hero and heroine were opera singers. Remember the Puccini Tosca set on location in Rome, with Placido Domingo? That was shown during my research for that book, and I still have the video.

In my English Daughter, the villain had an obsession with the arresting music of the tortured (and all-round weird) Gesualdo, renaissance madrigal composer. I know the hero I'm writing about now, Sir Magnus, has a fine singing voice. In my A Knight’s Vow my hero Guillelm de la Rochelle courts his love Alyson by playing a small harp and singing to her. I sometimes listen to the real medieval music of Guillaume de Machaut, to my classically-nurtured ear full of exotic, Eastern-sounding harmonies. I also enjoy Thomas Tallis, a slightly later composer, especially his Mass for Four Voices.

To me certain composers have certain associations. Beethoven with his energy and sublime slow movements makes me think of that state of shimmering, contented joy of those in love. Schubert makes me think of Gothic romance, dark romance - the knock at the door at midnight....but who is outside? Brahms and Schumann are passion and energy. I listen to them and think of heroes with dark, secret, wounded pasts.

Geral Finzi means the essence of 'English' landscape to me, that slightly fey element, even more so than my other favourite, Vaughan Williams.

I can happily tap along to music - a bit of a rush and many mistakes in the quick movements, but I love it. Music somehow opens my mind and imagination, my emotions. It 'sits' firmly on my most niggling critic - my inner editor - and allows me to make music in my own way - on the page.

What music do you enjoy to read to or to write to?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

Why the Middle Ages fascinate me.
Lindsay Townsend

I write historical romances set in the ancient world and the Middle Ages, especially the Middle Ages. Why then?

The Middle Ages covers a huge period of time in the western world, from AD 300 - the rise of the Roman emperor Constantine and the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire - until the 14th century. This gives lots of scope.

It was a time when religion played a crucial part in people’s lives. The clash of the spiritual and practical was very real. That clash is shown most clearly in the history of the Crusades, when men, women and even children left their homes to travel to the Near East to ‘win’ the holy city of Jerusalem. The motives of such people were mixed and varied, so that mix of emotions - the profound, the greedy, the opportunistic, the generous - fascinate me as a writer. I touch upon the impact that the Crusades and contact with the Arab world had on men and women in A Knight’s Vow.

The Middle Ages was a time very different to our own, with different beliefs: a pig could be put on trial for witchcraft, a man would be made to prove his innocence by clasping a red-hot iron bar, a woman would be told by the church that she was inferior to her husband and yet still be expected to defend his castle. Alchemy and chemistry were one and the same. The contrast in ideas between then and now fascinate me and I like to show them at work in my romances. In A Knight’s Enchantment I have a woman alchemist and she uses her skills to help the hero save his brother.

This was the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine's court of love, of Geoffroi de Charny’s A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry - a how-to book for knights - and Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies - a defense by a woman writer of her own sex. It was a time of the Viking sagas, of troubadours and the chronicles, of many rich and varied sources of information. It was a time of jousts and tournaments, where ladies gave favours and knights vied for honour - jousts I describe in my A Knight’s Enchantment and To Touch The Knight.

But the Black Death came, too, a plague - or series of plagues - that killed almost a third of Europe. The survivors were traumatized but also had new chances to prosper, something I explore in To Touch The Knight.

The Middle Ages had many decisive battles that changed the course of history - Hastings, Agincourt, Poitiers, Crécy amongst them. I explore the changes the Battle of Hastings made in my A Knight’s Captive.

I write romances in which the history serves the hero and heroine and the impact of that history is shown through their lives. The Middle Ages gives me a wonderful backdrop for adventure, high stakes, courtly knights and beastly ones, generous ladies and cruel damsels, peril, good and horrible manners and amazing costumes.

I love the Middle Ages.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Lindsay Townsend

A Medieval Summer

My latest historical romance, To Touch The Knight, takes place in summer, a tense summer just after the outbreak of plague in 1348, when people are trying to return to normal.

In more usual years, summer for people in the Middle Ages was both very busy and a time of relaxation and pleasure. After the hard graft of winter and spring, May was a holiday month in early summer, with few tasks in the agricultural calendar. May Day, a blend of Christian and older pagan traditions, was celebrated by everyone, with dancing, revels and drink.

Later summer was a harder task-master: if a peasant worked on the land, later summer was when the sheep were sheared, then the hay and wheat harvests were gathered in. Summer, too, was often the prime time for military activity, when knights might be called to fight for their overlord or king on campaign. However, even in these months there was merry-making. Midsummer was marked by bonfires, a pagan ‘left-over’ from the earlier festival of Beltane and celebrated in the Middle Ages as the saint’s day of St John. Young couples would sometimes leap over the midsummer bonfire for luck. Wells could also be dressed with flowers around this time – a relic of earlier water-spirit worship.

July was marked by St Swithin’s day, when the strewings in the churches would be changed from the winter rushes and straw to the summer hay and sedges, and August saw the feast time of Lammas – loaf mass – to give thanks for the hard-won harvest.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Falling in Love Again by Claire Matthews

As she walked to the front closet to put on her coat, Rachel bowed her head sadly. Thinking back, she realized that their fight had involved no screaming, no tears, no drama—it hadn't even been a fight. She had simply walked into his apartment and found him on the couch with Kristin Rhodes. They were sitting, facing each other, with their legs criss-crossed, like kids. They were laughing. Rachel stared at them, wide-eyed, her feelings of shock and embarrassment and hurt freezing her in place.

Kristen was his high school crush. She and Josh were still friends, and Rachel was fine with that. On a normal day, when she wasn't feeling tired, and beat down by work and the never-ending chill of winter, and suffocated by a lingering head cold that wouldn't go away, she probably would have joined them. Had a drink. Been friendly.

But not tonight.

"Rachel!" Josh called, looking surprised to see her. Why was he surprised? She had told him that she would stop by after work. He unfolded his legs and moved towards her, but she turned quickly and walked out the front door. He quickened his pace and started after her. "Rachel, wait…" he called, but she was already halfway down the stairs, her head tucked low, her feet moving swiftly. "I have to go," she muttered into her chest, turning the corner and catching a glimpse of his bare feet as they continued down the stairs, chasing her. "Please don't follow me!" she called breathlessly over her shoulder, and her voice sounded weird, high and shrill, in her ears.

She continued out to her car, and by the time she climbed in and closed the door, she was weak with relief. Her cell phone rang four times on her drive home, and when it rang once more after she entered her condo, she reached into her purse and turned the damn thing off. Let him have his night with Kristin, she thought morosely. Two hours and three glasses of wine later, she fell asleep on the couch, her head resting on the side cushion awkwardly.

When she woke, her neck was stiff and her temples were pounding. She padded slowly to the kitchen and looked at the clock on the stove-12:15 am. Wow, had she actually passed out? She'd only had a few glasses of wine…and no dinner…and a bit of an emotional breakdown.

Her mind started working, and she wasn't happy with where it was going. Had she over-reacted? It's wasn't like she caught them in a steamy embrace. There was just something about Kristen that brought out the worst in her. She was so pretty, and so animated, and shared such a long history with Josh. Somehow she took Rachel's confidence, which was normally in plentiful supply, and poured it down the drain.

Rachel put on her coat, thinking about Josh, and Kristin, and wine, as she grabbed the trash bag from the kitchen and made her way out in the frigid midnight air to the dumpster. She hated the dumpster, and preferred to take her trash out at night, when she didn't have to actually see the heaps of garbage in the huge metal container. As she trudged along in the half-melted snow, she lost her bearings and her foot slipped out from under her. She landed hard on one knee, her palms outstretched to break her fall.


She lifted herself up unsteadily, and dragged the trash quickly to the bin, limping back to her front door. In the light of the apartment, she looked closely at the gash in her knee, wincing at the blood dripping slowly down her shin. She washed the grime and gravel off her hands, gathered some bandages and peroxide from the bathroom, and trudged slowly towards the couch, feeling sad and tired and sorry for herself.

She was still applying pressure to her knee when she heard a knock at the front door. She jumped in surprise, her heart pounding. Oh gosh, it had to be Josh…who else would be knocking on her door in the middle of the night? She went to the door and opened it slowly.

Josh just looked at her, taking in her disheveled hair and clothes, the bloody gauze in her hand, the seeping wound on her leg.

"Oh my God, Rachel, what happened?" he gasped, finding his voice and moving towards her, concern in his eyes. She backed away quickly.

"Nothing, I'm fine…I just tripped when I was taking out the trash," she murmured through clenched teeth, looking away quickly, crossing her arms over her chest.

"You're bleeding," he said softly, moving closer and placing his hands gently on her shoulders. She buried her chin in her chest, refusing to meet his gaze. She needed him to stop talking so sweetly, stop rubbing her shoulders so gently.

"Josh, why are you here? It's the middle of the night," she asked wearily, twisting out of his grasp and walking from the dimness of the hallway to the bright lights of the kitchen, to regain her bearings.

"You wouldn't answer my calls, or my texts…I wanted to make sure you were okay," he said, keeping his distance, wary of her mood.

"Well, I'm alive and well, and it's late, so…" she raised her eyebrows at him, a silent invitation to leave. He just stared at her, his eyes wide. She sighed heavily, and he moved towards her, his steps tentative. When he reached her, he said "C'mon, let me see this," and he grabbed her gently under the arms and lifted her to sit on the edge of the counter. He put his hand gently behind her calf and lifted her leg for a closer look.

"It won't stop bleeding," she whispered, staring at the curls on the back of his head as he leaned over her knee.

"It'll stop in a minute, you've just got to be still and hold some pressure on it," he said softly, taking the gauze from her hand and holding it firmly over the cut. "Here, put your hand over this…" he murmured, and she held the gauze in place as reached for a clean hand towel and ran it under some cool water. He began to run it down her leg gently, wiping the drying blood from her skin. "You know," he began, talking to her leg instead of to her, "Kristin came by tonight to tell me that she's moving to Los Angeles. Apparently she met some guy who owns a bunch of sporting goods stores, and she's moving out there to be with him." He brushed his lips over her knee, right above her cut, and then stood up straight. Rachel nodded silently, and stared at her hand as he reached for it and began running the cool towel over the cuts on her palm. He blew lightly on the scrapes, then kissed each of her fingertips slowly, gently. Rachel's eyelids felt heavy, Josh's closeness and warm scent making her suddenly drowsy.

"I'm going to put a bandage on your knee, but then you have to be still for awhile, okay?" he instructed, lifting her off the counter and walking her slowly to her bedroom. He laid her back on her bed and straightened her legs across the mattress, covering her cut with a few clean gauze strips and some tape. He began to talk softly, still aiming his words at her leg as he worked.

"Rachel, you don't really believe there's anything going on between me and Kristin, do you." It was a statement, not a question. Rachel brought her hand to her eyes and covered them, embarrassed.

"Josh, I don't know…I guess, when I saw you with her…laughing and being silly with her," Rachel paused, took a deep breath. "You're such good friends, and it seems so easy between the two of you. I'm just—I'm not that girl…" she signed wearily. She felt Josh slide up the mattress, until his face was even with hers.

"But I don't want that girl," he whispered, moving her hand from her eyes. "The girl I want is sweet, and kind, and a little shy," he kissed the tip of her nose quickly. "And funny, and smart…and sexy, even if she doesn't know it," he continued, grinning a bit as she rolled her eyes. "And every time I look at her, my stomach does a little flip, because I'm stupid-crazy in love with her…" he mumbled as he leaned into her lips, kissing her softly. Rachel's breath caught in her throat, and she reached for his face, feeling the rough stubble of his beard on her sore palms.

And as he continued to kiss her—soft, wet, warm kisses—Rachel's stomach did a little flip, and she fell in love with him again.

About the Author: Claire Matthews currently lives in Houston, Texas, where she has taught political science at a local community college for the last 15 years. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and one anti-social dog, and enjoys reading, writing, and all kinds of social media.

She's published stories at, and has an upcoming release with Evernight Publishing. Website: