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Thursday, December 31, 2009

GUEST BLOG: KEENA KINCAID

If you write Romance inevitably you hear: “Why do you write that fluff? It’s all happy endings. You could do better.”

I typically laugh it off and say, “Well, I started out writing a murder mystery, but then my hero met the heroine.”

Despite the cheerful reply, though, the implication that writing happy endings somehow requires less effort or less talent grates on me like stop-and-go traffic. I can’t speak for every author, but sometimes finding a HEA that is believable and true to the characters is a huge, exciting challenge.

For example, my current book TIES THAT BIND could just as easily been a tragedy.

The hero, AEDAN ap OWEN, idles at angry, tends to act-out rather than think through his actions, and misuses his magical abilities for his own gain. Each time he fails to think through his actions, the reactions pull him deeper into a quagmire of treason and murder. I wasn’t sure that even I—the author—had the ability to save him.

My heroine, TESS, LADY of BRIDSWELL, also makes choices that put her on the divide between gain and loss, happiness and heartache.

And it’s this divide—the knowledge that the story could go either way—that makes writing romance such a challenge and so much fun. The Happy Ever After has to make sense. It has to come from the characters and the plot in a natural, logical way that readers accept. Otherwise, they hurl the book against the wall.

The happy ever after in TIES THAT BIND happened because my characters managed to grow and change. The story’s tension is created by mistakes, thoughtless actions and genuine personality differences. It’s not obvious how the conflict will be resolved—and it shouldn’t be.

The tension, conflict and unknown are what make a good book good.

So with each book, I set myself a challenge. Make the conflict deeper, the stakes higher, the HEA more impossible—and then find a way to get my characters there in a natural, logical way that makes everyone happy.


Back of book blurb:

A druid who denies himself nothing desires the only woman who believes magic and love don't mix.

Out of place in the Plantagenet court, minstrel AEDAN ap OWEN misuses his Sidhe gifts for the king's dark business. Sent north to investigate rumors of treason and dispatch the troublemakers, Aedan discovers someone is murdering monks and stealing saints’ relics. And all clues point to Carlisle.

TESS, LADY of BRIDSWELL, refuses to rekindle her relationship with Aedan. She knows his reputation as a secret stealer—and she has a secret that must be kept. But her resolve falters when her uncle promises her hand to a man she despises and Aedan hounds her steps.

A would-be king uses the stolen relics to amplify his power, wielding it like a weapon. Meeting the traitor's magic with magic will prevent war, but it will also destroy Aedan’s chance to show Tess he has at last mastered the temptation of the ancient wisdom. Can Aedan renounce his magic to win Tess' heart anew or will he choose magic over love?


Excerpt:

“Tess.”

It was a single word, four letters, yet Aedan somehow imbued her name with the importance of a royal decree. He knows words, she reminded herself, quickening her steps. Life in the king's court had no doubt honed to perfection his raw talent for finding the phrase to start a quarrel or arouse passion. By now, he could likely start a war¾or stop one¾with a single syllable.

Chilled by the thought, she turned into a niche in the wall and discovered escape ended at an oak door as wide as she was tall. She fumbled for a latch. Finding only smooth boards beneath her hand, she pressed her palm against the door, prayed it would miraculously open. The steps behind her stopped. She closed her eyes. He had bathed. He smelled of Saracen soap, spicy and exotic, mixed with the brisk, earthy scent of old trees that had clung to her for days after he’d left.

“Tess.”

A tremor ran down her spine. Saints, she still loved the way he said her name. Rather than giving it a shortened, clipped feel like everyone else, he elongated it, adding depth and weight as if it were her true name.

“Tess, look at me.”

Unable to move forward or backward, she pressed her forehead against the door. Go away. Just go away, she prayed, and then hands, warm and steady, settled on her shoulders.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GUEST BLOG: MARIANNE ARKINS

All of my novels, and many of my short stories include animals in some way. Why? The answer is simple. I think it’s a basic truth: the way people treat animals indicates the kind of person they are underneath any false polish they’ve managed to create.

That’s not to say that you must be an animal lover to be a good person. One of my best friends is terrified of dogs, and barely tolerates other fur-people. BUT… if she saw an injured creature in front of her house, she wouldn’t walk past it (though, she’d probably call me to help instead of actually handling it herself – still, she would feel sympathy and take action). Nor would she go out of her way to run down a dog (or chipmunk or frog or whatever) in the road. She would, in fact, make every effort to avoid it. She became a vegetarian as a teenager because of the way the meat industry treated animals raised for slaughter. I believe all these quirks indicate her basic character.

On the other hand, it’s been clearly proven that many of the most horrific serial killers started out their “trade” on animals and worked their way up. A general disregard for life, especially life that is relatively helpless, indicates the type of people they are. In her San Francisco Chronicle article “Cruelty to Animals: A Warning of Possible Violence to Come” Dr. Margo DeMello says, “Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Andrew Cunanan, David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz, and Albert ‘Boston Strangler’ DeSalvo were ALL cruel to animals before they started hurting people.”

I had a former neighbor who owned a pit bull puppy. He also had two children, one of whom was a boy of about five years. Once, the puppy came running out of their yard to greet me and my dog as we walked past, leaping about and wanting to play. The boy came to fetch it, and—using a tight fist—punched the dog in the ribs for being naughty. This one action told me more than I really wanted to know about his family life.

Domestic animals are dependent upon us for their care. They’re much like children, with the exception that they never stop depending on us. This makes our character’s behavior toward animals a way to amplify certain characteristics.

In my book, One Love For Liv (available in print and eBook formats from Samhain Publishing), my heroine dislikes animals of all kinds. Witness her introduction to Spike, a bull mastiff and important secondary character in this story:

Something warm and wet swiped her face, both reviving and disgusting her. She kept her eyes closed and limply swatted at it. Her hand hit fur. “Ugh.”
“Spike, back off.”

Spike? What was going on?

She gave a low moan and tried again to force her eyelids to obey her will, finally succeeding after a Herculean effort. A tanned face covered in five o’clock shadow and smears of black grease swam in front of her. Next to him, its neck surrounded by a studded black leather collar, sat the biggest brown dog she’d ever seen. The creature had drool suspended from its mouth and it looked as if it had swallowed a sneaker with the laces hanging out. Dear heavens, was that what had licked her?

A moment later, she turns to our hero and says:

“I’ll sit on the curb. Just get your ugly dog away from me.”

“Spike? C’mon, he’s gorgeous.” He gave the monster a vigorous scratch all up and down its body. “And he’s not my dog, but don’t worry, he’s a marshmallow.”

“I don’t like dogs.”

This isn’t a very flattering picture of our heroine, in my opinion, and it wasn’t meant to be. She’s a snob, and more than a little bit selfish. Hopefully this comes across in how she feels about this overly friendly dog.

In one of my as-yet-unpublished novels, The Possibility of Forever, the heroine begins to fall for the hero because of how he treats her pet rat, Maynard.

Just inside the doorway, she stopped, surprised to see Jed rubbing Maynard gently with the cloth placemat, crooning to him under his voice.

Oh, she sighed silently, her heart doing a little flip-flop in her chest.

Without the impetuous of Jed’s treatment of an animal most people would be disgusted by, it would have taken far longer for our heroine to see him as a love interest. It also showed us another side of an otherwise “tough guy”.

I love stories that include animals. It’s a great way to show (not tell) a lot about the characters… don’t you agree?

*********************
About the Author: Marianne was born in California, met her husband in Colorado, got a puppy and got pregnant, then moved with the group of them to the frozen north of New Hampshire where her thin blood keeps her indoors six months of the year. It's the perfect scenario for writing!

She has a novel, "One Love For Liv" available in print and eBook from Samahain Publishing, and a novella "Kitchen Matches" available in eBook format from Samhain Publishing. She also has eight published stories with The Wild Rose Press. Check out her website (http://www.mariannearkins.com/ ) or blog (http://www.reading-writing.blogspot.com/ ) for more information or to see what's going on inside her brain. If you dare.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GUEST BLOG: VALERIE PATTERSON

Tis the Season to be…Kissed?

When I sat down to write my guest blog, I was at a loss as to what to write that would interest folks. Should I go with the standard writing piece, expounding on the wonderful techniques I use as a writer? Should I stick with tips on marketing, characterization, or promotional tools? Would it catch the reader’s eye if I did an interview with one or two of my characters? Blah. Blah. Blah! Nothing seemed to spark the creativity in me, then I took a long look at my Christmas tree all lit up with tiny, multicolored bulbs twinkling against the crystal hearts suspended by red velvet ribbons so slender and delicate they look as though they could barely hold anything to a tree limb. And then my eyes drifted upward and slightly to left and landed on the sprig of mistletoe hanging in the archway and it all came rushing to me. Tis the season to be kissed!

Different things inspire different writers. For me, the changing of the seasons inspires me, and that’s a good thing if you’re a character! As I sit and watch the tree lights, I picture the two leading characters from my new series: Myerson Mysteries and I instantly imagine them at home in their spacious living room, snuggling on their white-as-snow leather sofa before a crackling fire, the only light coming both from the flames in the fireplace and the twinkling lights on their nine foot Blue Spruce. Sean and Ashlynn Myerson are no longer newlyweds, but they act like they are as they cuddle close—Sean lying on his back, his lovely wife Ashlynn stretched out beside him. His right hand holds the stem of his wine glass while his left hand is tenderly stroking her long auburn hair. One kiss leads to another and another, which leads to more heat being generated on the sofa than in the fireplace!

Ah, I love when something as simple and elegant as a Christmas tree can inspire a quaint setting that leads to a love scene!

Every season—whether it is the holiday season or one of nature’s four seasons—lends itself to inspiration for me. Where I live in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we have four honest-to-goodness seasons, and I feel most creatively charged at the beginning and ending of each one. Each one seems to be perfectly suited to either falling in love, rekindling a love, or deepening the feelings of a couple already in love and committed to one another. When I look around me as a new season comes in or goes out, I can easily put my characters into the setting and find the romance that’s hidden there for them.

Let’s go back to the Myersons—Ashlynn and Sean. It’s October—Columbus Day weekend—and Sean has taken Ashlynn on a trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York. Keuka Lake is partially surrounded by thick copses of trees all dressed in fabulous, brilliant fall colors. Ashlynn walks beside Sean, he reaches for her hand. They pause by a small inlet and turn into each other as they listen to the waves gently lap the bank.

“Thank you,” she says softly.

“For what?”

She looks up, meeting his eyes. “Being here with me in all this beauty. For bringing me here.”

He smiles, drawing her further into his embrace. His lips teasingly touch hers in feather light kisses before he pulls back slightly, meets her eyes, and smooths back a strand of her hair from her face. “You’re welcome.”

His voice is barely above a whisper and the warmth of his touch lingers on her skin. “I love you,” she says.

His mouth covers hers. His kiss is no longer teasing, but hot and consuming and passionate. She presses against him and wishes with all her might to be alone on the bank with him. To make love to him there in the splendor of fall.

Tis the season to be kissed…no matter the time of year!

I hope you find inspiration in the changing of the seasons, but—more importantly—I hope all your seasons are full of hot, passionate kisses!



Valerie J. Patterson resides in Southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband, Steven. She’s the author of a hot new romantic mystery series centering around husband and wife duo: Sean and Ashlynn Myerson. The Myerson Mystery series can be found exclusively at BookStrand.com. Valerie also has books published by Eternal Press and Asylett Press. Her work can be found at each publisher’s website, on Fictionwise, and several online bookstores.

Valerie’s blog: http://valeriejpatterson.wordpress.com

Valerie’s books with Asylett Press: https://www.asylett.com/HTML/pages/dir/ValeriePatterson.htm

Valerie’s books with Eternal Press: http://www.eternalpress.ca/Patterson.html

Monday, December 28, 2009

GUEST BLOG: VICTORIA RODER

The Misadventures of Tucker

Anytime I see a missing pet poster at the grocery store my heart cringes. One day I was faced with printing up my own posters for my missing one-year-old German shepard named, Tucker.

Our three legged husky Rocky suffered from separation anxiety after our senior dog, Rigs passed away. Rocky’s anxiety was so severe that he would have a tantrum resulting in a destructive rampage when left alone. My husband and I arrived home from work one afternoon and it appeared as if it had snowed in our living room. Rocky had chewed our futon into countless pieces. We decided it was time to find a friend for Rocky. We went to an area farm and visited puppies. Out of the three dogs left on the farm, the runt of the litter followed us to our truck and would not return to the barn. So, I would have to say the fuzzy butterball we named Tucker picked us.

With only three legs, Rocky appeared apprehensive about jumping over obstacles, but after following Tucker he was able to conquer his fears. Since the first day we brought Tucker home the two dogs became inseparable; on one particular day while working out in the yard, I called for the dogs and only Rocky appeared. He was anxious and visibly frightened. We walked the emerging cornfields and called for Tucker, with no avail. As evening fell, I could not suppress the fear churning like a cement mixer in my stomach.

Questions about Tucker’s whereabouts stalked me. Did someone steal him? Was our puppy wondering around hungry and lost? For the next few days, every spare minute I had was filled searching each street of our town. I called the local shelters and the police, and as darkness surrounded us on the third day my hopes of ever seeing him again began to dwindle.

Rocky once again appeared to suffer from separation anxiety; he sulked around and whined, which only served to make my heartache more severe. It had been four days since Tucker’s disappearance and in my depression I didn’t feel like attending church, but I forced myself go. I decided to drive the long way home and traveling along the county road I scanned the fields, and five miles from home, as I arrived on the outskirts of town my prayers were answered. In a field, which appeared similar to ours stood a muddy, soaked, thinner Tucker. In my desperate desire to find my beloved dog I questioned my eyesight. Was it possible the mangy dog in the field was my Tucker?

I stopped my car in the middle of the county road, opened the car door, and hopped out. Before I could even call his name, Tucker locked eyes with mine and began sprinting toward me. His usual color of silver and black fur glistened in the sun. I held out my hand to signal to the car approaching behind me to stop. I glanced at my own car and realized in my excitement that I never put the car in park. It began to creep down the road without us. I’m certain Tucker and I were a strange sight to the people I halted. Rushing to my car with the door still open, Tucker dashed past me and jumped inside. I hopped along beside my rolling car, placing one leg in and then scooting into the driver’s seat.

He positioned his mud-caked self in the passenger seat as if he were a king on his throne. I pulled over to the side of the road to let the other car pass me, and to have the opportunity to hug my dearly missed friend. Five minutes earlier, it was an opportunity I believed I would never have. Injured, soaked, shaking, and hungry, the first thing Tucker did when we arrived home was to wrestle with his friend Rocky. Rocky appeared as relieved and overjoyed as I had been.

Tucker was unable to tell me about his haphazard adventures, so as a precaution I took him to our veterinarian. The vet believed a raccoon had attacked Tucker and bit his tail multiple times. Even more disheartening than the raccoon attack, the vet removed multiple BB pellets from his tail. In four days Tucker had managed to survive a raccoon attack, maneuver through our nearby town, cross two highways, and with his collar and tags still intact he endured a run-in with an individual with a BB gun. We are thankful to be reunited, but when I see those dreaded posters I certainly can sympathize with countless families that haven’t been as fortunate.

Please stop by my website to learn more about me and read an excerpt from The Dream House Visions And Nightmares and Bolt Action.

Victoria Roder Bio:

I am a camping, hiking, 3D bow shooting, snowshoeing, and motorcycle riding kind of girl. I enjoy spending time with my family, which includes my husband, two cats, three dogs, and a lizard. I have three grown sons, each making their own way in the world.

Novels: The Dream House Visions And Nightmares, Asylett Press June 2009. Bolt Action, Champagne Books April 2010.

Short stories: "Why I Believe In Angels", A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, June 2009 and "A Gift Among Sisters", Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover’s Soul in 2007. REAL Canadian Kids Magazine will feature my article on Savannah Monitors, one on Sled Dogs, and one on Steam Engine Trains, and my short story, "Snowday" in 2010. I have had two articles published in Farm Life Magazine, one in Lifelines, one in One Way Street, and one in The Highground. I have puzzles published in Guide Magazine and Pockets Magazine, and an article in The Little Lutheran and The Little Christian.

Friday, December 25, 2009

GUEST BLOG: CYNTHIA OWENS

If You Ever Go Across the Sea To Ireland …

Those words from the song "Galway Bay" evoke a yearning to be by that lovely, salt-sprayed seaside. Having visited Galway this past summer, I can fully understand why.

The west of Ireland is filled with charm, and nowhere more than in Galway, where each year, on a Sunday in mid-August near the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, a crowd gathers at the Claddagh pier for the ancient ceremonial blessing of Galway Bay and its fishermen.

It’s the start of the herring season, and it's traditional for the fisherfolk to ask the Lord’s blessing for a plentiful harvest, and ask His help in bringing them safely home after each voyage.

The ceremony itself is a simple one. Early in the morning, a fleet of boats gather in the Bay - currachs and the traditional Galway hookers - and at the pealing of a church bell, they form a circle around a boat carrying altar boys, a choir from the Galway Church, and a Dominican priest.

A passage from the Gospel of St. John is read:

'And he said unto them, cast your nets on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. And they cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. And Simon went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three, and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.'

Following this, the Benedictite calls on all creation to give glory to God. Another gospel, this time from St. Luke, recalls the weariness and frustration of St. Peter:

'Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships.’

Another blessing asks God's mercy on the fisherfolk:

'We ask, O Lord, your mercy on us. Even as you multiplied five loaves and two fish to satisfy the hunger of five thousand, so now multiply for the use of the men the fish that are generated in these waters that we, experiencing your benevolence, may give thanks and praise in your Holy Name.'

At the end of the blessing, the white-robed priest calls on Mary, Star of the Sea:

'Mary, Star of the Sea, intercede for your children, and when they are tossed about among the storms and tempests of life, look to the star, and call upon Mary.'

The Magnificat is sung, and the sea is sprayed with holy water. The last action of this charming ceremony is a Sign of the Cross over the fishing fields, an appeal to God to bless them and the men who fish in them, as well as their boats, tackle, and their labors.

The blessing over, the boats will make a short circuit of the bay before heading homeward. While on the outward journey, hymns and the singing of the Rosary can be heard, on the way home group songs sound a lighter note, always including the singing of "Galway Bay."

Today, trawlers have replaced the black, brown-sailed hookers in the bay, but the traditional Galway fishing boats still play an important part of the pageantry of the blessing of the Bay.

I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17th Century “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France as brides for the settlers there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried creating sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris in WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. My first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, set in post-Famine Ireland, is still available from Highland Press. Its sequel, Coming Home, will be released from HP soon.


I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. I am a lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, where I still live with my own Celtic hero and my two school-aged children.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

GUEST BLOG: ADELLE LAUDAN

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Christmas is the perfect season to help those less fortunate. There are many, many ways to do so. Give to Santa or The Salvation Army on the street corners ( a little goes a long way) Then there’s Toys for Tots, a program run by the US Marine Corp Reserve which donates toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them Christmas gifts. Angel Tree is a ministry of Prison Fellowship, delivering love in the form of Christmas gifts and a message of hope to children of prisoners. Operation Christmas Child invites you to pack a shoe box with small toys, school supplies, other gifts, and a personal note to be delivered to needy children overseas. My Two Front Teeth offers a personalized online gift-giving experience to aid underprivileged children. These children are selected through community organizations and allowed to individually pick their one holiday wish. The child's wish profile is entered into the online database where donors then choose an online sponsorship.



Of course, my list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning there is a Toy Run in practically every city, put on by Bikers / Motorcycle Enthusiasts. Watch this video and you’ll see what a difference can be made to a child at Christmas time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSzIYomUxF8 Hundreds of thousands of toys are collected every year from all over the world.



I want to share with you one of my most treasured Christmas memories.



Quite a few years back, it was the first time I had to spend Christmas without my kids, so I was feeling very lost. I had the opportunity to participate in a dinner put on to feed the homeless. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning to put turkeys in the oven and manage the steady flow of food donated anonymously. We peeled at least 100 or more pounds of potatoes, cooked Eight HUGE turkeys. Peeled carrots, made cheese and pickle trays. There were bags and bags of bread and rolls, cranberry sauce and stuffing. Desserts of every kind were given—enough to fill a whole table in desserts alone.



The feeling of anticipation mounted with each hour that passed until finally it was time to open the doors. A slow, agonizing trickle of people came through the doors. In fact by the time designated for the dinner to start, we were lucky if 20 people were scattered throughout the hall. We all tried to hold our chins up and be grateful we helped anyone, but truth be known, we were all terribly disappointed.



The M C stood up on stage and thanked those who helped and welcomed those who came. Just as he was going to close, the doors opened and one after another, women and children, fathers and grandfathers, young and old alike filled the hall.



We all stood back with tears in our eyes as we watched the hall fill, every seat taken. The M C stood up there the whole time, speechless—watching in amazement, microphone dangling at his side. I think it took every ounce of strength for him to pick up that microphone and speak. With tears streaming down his face unchecked....



“May we all join hands in thanks for the food we are about to receive. ‘Our father, who art in ....”



From my family to yours, I want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. May you all be surrounded by those you hold near and dear to your heart. Let us not forget those who have gone before us, and treasure each and every memory of Christmas’s past.



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Wishing you Miles of Smiles this holiday season.



~Adelle ‘Legs’ Laudan.



Sml Christmas Magic.



Available now at Red Rose Publishing



I’ll pick a name from all who respond to win an awesome tote bag with a few goodies tucked inside. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

GUEST BLOG: DENYSE BRIDGER

A Roman Christmas

Welcome to Part Three of the Christmas in Italy trio that I’m doing this month! Once again, there is a video attached, a familiar song, but sung in Italian. If anyone wants to locate the other blogs in this set, feel free to drop me a quick note, or come by my personal blog and I’ll leave the links there! So, on to the holiday in Italia...


Picture Rome at Christmas, and what it would mean to spend the holiday there… the crowds at St. Peter's for Midnight Mass, the chance to see the countless churches with their presepi (Nativity scenes), and perhaps some of the world-famous monuments glimmering under holiday lights. Then there is the festive Christmas market in Piazza Navona.



A walk through Campo dei Fiori toward the piazza brings you into a colourful holiday wonderland. It is, I am told, an incredible sight, with stands and stalls covered in thousands of lights, and offering Christmas candy, small games, and toys such as stuffed reindeer-being sold by Santas! The scene brings back that almost child-like sense of wonder that we all used to feel around the holidays.

Rarely is Christmas cold in the sense that North Americans understand cold, but occasionally there is a cool Winter. The Italian Press tends to refer to such events as Natale Polare or “Polar Christmas”.

For Italians, Christmas represents family… and food. (Shocked, aren’t you? :-) ) And, while the shops are full of wonderful gifts, there is far less emphasis on the commercial aspect of Christmas than in other places. The streets and shops of Rome are crowded on Christmas Eve–but the shoppers' arms aren't full of shopping bags with the latest clothes or toys, they are loaded down with the foods of the season–fresh fish as well as sweets like panettone, pandoro and torrone.

Also, the decorations don't go up very early… usually only a week or so before Christmas because they stay up until the Epiphany on January 6th.

One of the joys of shopping in Italy is the great attention the shopkeepers pay to each purchase and especially at Christmas. Whether you choose a gift that costs a small fortune or something as simple as a pastry to enjoy yourself, your purchase is given loving attention and treated with care. There is a magic that is purely Italian in every breath you take while in Italy, but it is never more in evidence than during this Holy holiday.

If you have the pleasure of spending the Holiday in Rome, rest assured you will not need to struggle with tradition – a visit to many restaurants will ensure that you will be treated to a purely Italian holiday meal. The owner will often tell tourists to close the menus and will then serve the meal that every visitor has dreamed about... usually ending it with a slice from a giant panettone, the traditional cake that originated in Milan and is served throughout the holidays; it's a bit like fruit cake, only much better!

Buon Natale!



Special thanks to the following sites and people for their help in preparing my Christmas Posts: News From Italy, The Italian Notebook, Dream of Italy, and my wonderful friend Stefano Testatonda.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

GUEST BLOG: ROWENA CHERRY

"Lightning Strikes My Hero And Other Cruel Tricks of Fact, Fate and Fiction"

I'm always on the lookout for unusual, but plausible tricks to play on my heroes, although I balk equally at doing permanent damage, and at torments that result from stupidity.

Above all else, I require my heroes and villains to be intelligent, effective and competent. Therefore, if my hero is going to suffer, it has to be a richly deserved come-uppance for his own arrogance, vanity, over-confidence, bad habits, or sexism. More often than not, I will strike him creatively below the belt, but my heroines… won't.

I love to start with a scientific fact, and weave it into an intelligent but humorous, character-driven science fiction Romance plot. For instance:

"Males are struck by lightning four times more than women."

Why is that? Scientists suggest this might be because males spend far more time in the great outdoors, swinging metal objects: swords, axes, hay forks, shotguns, rods (fishing rods), golfclubs… and thereby inviting disaster.

My own opinion is that men bring Nature's wrath upon themselves owing to their size, physique, nature, and inclinations. They tend to whip out their whizzers and attempt to kill trees and offend dryads when Nature calls.

They do this standing up, creating a grounding arc of conductible matter, standing under trees (which is known to be ill-advised when a storm is brewing.) Ladies with a going problem on a golf course usually squat, if they cannot wait, which is considered a much safer attitude.

However… being of an inquiring mind, I have just Googled [Men struck by lightning while urinating]. My search was highly satisfactory, not to confirm or refute my theory (which it didn't, at least on the first two pages), but because my search led me to some fascinating bits of esoterica.

The burning question (more specific than mine) Has a man been struck by lightning while urinating off a cliff... went unanswered. I'm sure that was asking for too much information, anyway!

Apparently, a child "was struck by lightning while urinating on an electric cattle fence in rural Texas". And the same happened to a man in Montana. Then, there are men who mow the lawn during a storm, while listening to their ipods, and when struck, sue Apple.

Now, that's conduct unbecoming of a compellingly attractive Romance hero (or Romance villain.)

I came across several eminently sensible Navajo Taboos about appropriate behavior during thunderstorms, and also about poetic justice for those who are cruel to very small animals.

http://www.navajocentral.org/navajotaboos/taboos_nature.html

"Do not do a rain dance during a rainstorm because you will be struck by lightning."

In fact, I am working on a twist to this one for "Grand Fork". My heroine does the equivalent of a rain dance. The hero is struck.

"Do not urinate on an anthill because you will have trouble going to the bathroom."

If there were any truth to that, maybe as part of Health Care reform, patients might be required to wash away a few anthills before their treatment could be escalated to a prescription for Flowmax (or whatever it is called!)

PETA might object. So might the EPA…. Imagine! Perhaps you can see why my imagination has been described as Monty Pythonesque on more than one occasion.

Even more to my taste is this site:

http://www.thenewz.com/weird-people.htm

WISCONSIN – "A man will spend 20 days in jail for urinating on an ATM machine. Apparently [the gentleman] became frustrated when the machine wouldn't give him any money and proceeded to pee all over the machine. Unfortunately, for [the gentleman], a security camera recorded the whole thing...."

He was lucky. A skinny dipper in New York State came away with less than a whole "thing" when

"… a giant snapping turtle used part of [the gentleman's] anatomy as a meal. [The victim] later stated, "I felt this excruciating pain in my groin and when I got my bearings, I realized a turtle had bitten my testicles and swam away with them…."

Of course, I cannot introduce a successful snapping turtle into a Romance novel, because his happiness would tend to interfere with the traditional HEA of a Romance, which ought to involve marriage and the prospect of children.

However, there was a dangling bait element in Insufficient Mating Material (my second novel in the god-Princes of Tigron series).

I'd been intrigued by Discovery Channel documentaries about canderu (a bloodthirsty little fish from the Amazon river) being attracted to urea and mistaking a man's equipment for the gills of its normal prey.

The true science inspired me to write the "a fish nibbled me" scene. Now, I don't approve of doing permanent harm to my heroes, so I might as well tell you that the teeny weeny willie fish was a plot device, dreamed up by the hero because he wanted the heroine to take a close look at his wedding tackle… He had a very good reason for that.

Djetth, hero of Insufficient Mating Material, faced a lot of challenges, including a broken jaw at the beginning of the book, and being marooned with the heroine on an island without running water or toiletries, and being hunted by a swat team of assassins. His story was immense fun to write, and although the book was categorized as a fantasy, there's a great deal of hard (well, sound) science in it.

Tarrant-Arragon led pretty much a charmed life, but he did experience an unpleasant moment, thanks to an alien version of the "Teddy Bear" cactus, which I learned about on a corporate team-building trip to Arizona. (I also discovered on that trip that I am a fantastic shot with a six-gun.)

The cactus's fruits have papery spines that are attracted to liquid, and it can kill a rabbit or any other animal by sinking deeper and deeper into the flesh. If you remove the spines and peel the cactus –which our guide did—it tastes a bit like kiwi, and is a very good source of Vitamin C. We were also told (after I'd been the group member who volunteered to sample it) that it was simultaneously a powerful aphrodisiac and laxative.

Since I cannot possibly leave you on a low note, I shall end with a phobia.

Keraunophobia : an abnormal fear of being struck by lightning.

NOTE FROM JUDY: You never did say whether the powers of the cactus were as described to you ;-).




ABOUT ROWENA CHERRY

My goal as a Romance author is to give good value. I expect to provide my readers with six to eight hours of amusement, a couple of really good laughs, a romantic frisson or two from the sensual scenes, a thoroughly satisfying Happy-Ever-After, and something to think –or talk-- about when the book is finished.

Rowena's books should be read in the following order:

Forced Mate

Mating Net ( a short prequel, optional)

Insufficient Mating Material

Knight's Fork

Visit Rowena's Preditors and Editors "Author's Site Of Excellence" award winning website for excerpts, reviews, interactive family tree, interactive jigsaw puzzles of barechested hunks, tips for writers, research tips, and more

http://www.rowenacherry.com

Value Buy: Get the electronic version of Forced Mate for only $1.85

https://www.jexbo.com/items/108

Monday, December 21, 2009

GUEST BLOG: AUTUMN PIPER

Sweet Traditions, Sweeter Deal


I’d like to talk about holiday traditions—romantic ones. Not “Norman Rockwell” romantic family type stuff, but little things lovers make a ritual of. You know, private, possibly silly things. Think of those funny guys’ underwear at lingerie shops, a holiday teddy or bustier… something done under the Christmas tree each year, home-printed “coupons” for certain favors…

Leave us a cmment and share either a romantic holiday tradition of your “friends” (uh-huh) or even a one-time memorable romantic deed.

Now here’s my special holiday deal for you. My novel, Waiting for Revenge, takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Mandy and her soon-to-be-ex have two holiday traditions. If you send me an email at Piper.Autumn@gmail.com naming one of them by January 15, 2010, I’ll send you a digital copy of Lone Star Trouble. If you email me with both holiday traditions, I’ll send you a copy of both Lone Star Trouble and my upcoming Trouble Under Venus (releases February 1, 2010).

Happy holidays!

Autumn Piper

I write contemporary romance and women's fiction/mom-lit. My stories often have a high heat index to match their American southwest settings. Known by my writing buddies as "Angst", I have a penchant for making my characters suffer. My novels may be tributes to the old saying, "No pain, no gain", but my Hero and Heroine always get the happily-ever-after they so deserve.

I love sunny days, hot bread, the ocean, and that fluttery feeling I get inside at the first spark of a great romance. In between being a wife, mom of two adolescents, and writer, I like to read, take morning walks, make people laugh (this probably happens when I break into a jog!), garden, and conquer the beast that is Sudoku. Working as a substitute teacher (or Teacher Stunt Double) keeps me on my toes and makes me hope to become a very successful writer!

For me, an excellent book has characters you can sympathize with or hate (sometimes both at once), a story you simply must see through to the end, and realistic dialogue. Give me those key elements, and I'll read any genre or time period, any author.

www.autumnpiper.com

http://piperpatter.blogspot.com

Piper.Autumn@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Welcome to our Brand New Promotional Opportunity

Marianne and Judy here! We are kicking off the new promotional opportunity we're offering -- guest blogging! -- by introducing you to a couple of new things going on in the next few weeks.

The Long and the Short of It is growing! On January 4 we will include under its umbrella not only romance (LASR)and erotic romance (WC) sites, but also a Young Adult / Middle Grade fiction site.

We're very excited about beginning to promote the YA/MG genre and hope you'll join us in our launch of the Aurora site for YA/MG fiction. Aurora can be found at http://www.longandshortreviews.com/AURORA/index.htm

Be sure and check out the reviews and interviews on the new site, and if you have any ideas about what types of things you'd like to see, let us know. We have high hopes for expanding into a few other areas at some point in the future. Let us know what you think.

In order to give us time to finish the preparations for that launch and to give Marianne and Judy a much needed break from the daily chores associated with owning an incredibly busy website, The Long and the Short of It is "closed" for the Christmas holidays. But WAIT! Before you think nothing will be going on here, for the next two weeks you have the chance to hear from some authors who have agreed to guest blog here. AND.. yes, there is more (just like Ginsu Knives!): We're giving stuff away to people who comment on the blogs. WHAT prizes, you ask?

We're giving away two prize packages to two randomly drawn lucky winners (one to a commenter on the LASR guest blogs, and one to a commenter on the WC guest blog).

Each Prize Package includes:
  • A hardback copy of "The Christmas Secret" by Donna VanLiere
    (leave a comment on the review, and earn an additional entry!)

  • A LASR/WC ceramic coffee mug

  • A PDF copy of "Now That We've Found You" by Marianne Arkins

  • A $10 Amazon.com Gift Certificate



  • And remember: beginning January 4, check back here on every Monday and Wednesday for new guest blogs (if you want to make sure you remember, why don't you follow the blog -- the link to do so is over there in the sidebar). Beginning 1/4/10, comments on the guest blogs earn you an entry into our weekly contest. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

    and...Merry Christmas.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Stay Tuned

    Guest Blogs coming soon!

    Interested in being a guest blogger? Contact us at lasreviews@gmail.com -- thanks!