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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GUEST BLOG: HELEN RAVELL

Cougars, Mustangs and Labels

Cougars are in the headlines. People talk about them, Cougar Town has hit our television screens, there are even Cougar Pride meetings…seriously. I saw a report on one on the news. Big meeting—lots of well-presented older women eyeing off the suspiciously gorgeous male wait staff. I think it was a set up, but who knows?

Just the other day I found myself in traffic reading the Cougar and Proud of It bumper sticker on the car in front of me. I’m still not sure whether I am more shocked or impressed by the fact that the woman driving the car had to be at least eighty years old. All you seventy year old guys out there watch out!

Cougars seem to be the next big thing, and yet, the whole idea has me worried. Not the older woman younger male thing, I wrote a book, Use by Date, about that and I loved doing it, it’s the label that has me bothered. Cougars are vicious, they bite and to me the term is just another example of the double standard.

I’m not sure why we need a term at all. What is the word for a man who wants a younger woman? Umm…I think the word we are looking for is man. No additions, no changes, just man. You might come up with something like sugar daddy but that’s a different scenario, isn’t it?

Do men bother with labels or expectations when they set out to attract a woman a few years younger than themselves? I don’t think so. They certainly don’t go to any great pains to tart themselves up. A shower and a shave seems to be the limit of it. Yet a woman who wants to attract a younger man has to ensure that she doesn’t look even close to her age. Look at Courtney Cox, who is pretending to be looking for a younger man; and Madonna and Demi Moore who have found one. The effort that must go into being so perfectly groomed, so immaculate and so self-consciously sexually enticing makes me tired just thinking about it.

Instead of cougars, perhaps women would be better referred to as Mustangs. You know, the classic American sports car? Doesn’t matter how old the model is, the Mustang is the kind of machine that makes men’s jaws drop open as she zooms past. In fact some enthusiasts would swear a bit of age adds to the value. A sixties model has still got power under the hood, and classic lines. The exterior paintwork needs to be cut and polished regularly, the interior needs to be waxed and it is certainly better if she can be garaged out of the sun, but it is and always will be an object of desire. A classic Mustang never pretends to be something it’s not.

A Mustang makes demands of the driver. She needs someone with experience and skill to handle her high performance qualities, someone who will appreciate the unique characteristics that makes a classic car what it is.

Mustang would be a label with positive connotations, not one that sounds mean and feral.

No, forget that, I don’t want to be labeled at all. I want to be free to be who I am, as eccentric, as individual and as unpredictable as you and everyone else who lives on this planet of ours. Save the labels for things that need them.

Helen Ravell lives on the East Coast of Australia with her husband and two children, overlooking Lake Macquarie and the ocean. A keen sailor , her love of the water is a constant source of inspiration as long as she can drag her eyes away from the view and back to her computer. She reads as much as she can between bouts of writing, and her long term goal is to find the perfect diet...not one that lets her lose weight...but one that will let her lose twenty years. http://www.helenravell.com

Monday, April 26, 2010

GUEST BLOG: FRAN SHAFF

Drama Loving

Drama entices us--in stories, that is. Whether we are watching a movie or reading a book, it is conflict which holds our attention. As readers we seek it, as writers we must incorporate it into our stories if we want people to read our books.

Naturally, levels of drama are going to vary, depending on the seriousness or light- heartedness of the story.

If we’re watching an episode of “Seinfeld,” the conflict will be playful. For example, when George’s fiancée Susan befriends Elaine who is merely a friend to him, his “two worlds” begin to collide. He doesn’t want his “couple relationship” to intermix with his “friends relationships.” He’s got a problem to resolve if he wants to maintain a status quo in his everyday life. Fans of “Seinfeld” find such drama very funny, but, to the characters, their conflicts are quite serious. Without drama, even comedy would be less compelling.

Like most writers I use drama in a plethora of ways, varying the intensity as required by the story line. For example, in “Stolen Son,” due to be released in paperback for the first time and re-released in e-book in May, conflict runs high. In this contemporary romance, a widower discovers that his late wife had stolen a baby and arranged for an illegal adoption. Being a man of integrity he wants to set things right, but he can’t just turn his five-year-old son over to a woman he doesn’t know. Before he does anything, he must get to know her and make sure she’s a good woman. He falls in love with her in the process, so now what is he going to do? If he tells her the truth, he could lose everyone he loves. Drama--from here it only increases.

In my other May release, “Kelly and the Candidate” the basic conflict is at lower level.

Kelly, a reporter who intensely dislikes politicians, finds Brett, a candidate for governor whom she is writing about, very attractive. Brett, who intensely dislikes reporters, finds Kelly quite irresistible. However, the complications in their relationship reach very high points of drama at several places throughout the story. In one case, Kelly’s goal is to do everything she can to find a major front-page story on squeaky-clean, boring, third-party candidate Brett. Once she finally discovers her high-concept scandal, she’s in love with him, and she must choose between hurting him and doing her job.

Well-written stories, comedic or dramatic, maintain a level of drama throughout. Once one conflict is resolved, another ensues.

Follow the continuing drama in this episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” Watch conflict build with each decision the character makes.

Beaver’s father gives him money to get a hair cut so he’ll look nice for the Christmas pageant. He’s made a habit of losing money recently, and his father warns him not to lose it. Beaver loses the money. If he doesn’t get the haircut, his father will find out. He gives himself a haircut to cover his mistake. It looks pretty bad so his brother Wally tries to improve it. He makes it worse. They wear stocking hats, thus expanding the cover up. Drama builds as one bad decision leads to another throughout this episode. Viewers enjoy a hilarious half hour, but the poor characters are really suffering. The boys don’t want their parents to be upset with them, and the parents, upon learning what has happened, face great embarrassment by their “angel” in the Christmas pageant. Conflict moves this story from one scene to the next.

Most of us would rather do without drama in our daily lives. Boring is better for our blood pressure. :-)

But the last thing we want when we read, watch movies or television is boredom. Writers, no matter the seriousness or light-heartedness of the story line, we readers ask you to give us drama, lots of it.

Viva conflict, long live drama, but only in our fantasies…

Fran Shaff is the author of contemporary and historical sweet romance, young peoples’ novels and short stories. Her novels are available in hardcover, paperback and e-formats. Her short stories have appeared in such places as Woman’s World magazine and Amazon.com in the Amazon Shorts program. Awards Fran has won include Write Touch Readers’ Award, More than Magic Award, Herbert W. Blakely Award, Golden Rose Award, EPPIE nomination for children’s literature, two Recommended Read Awards from Fallen Angel Reviews, Top Pick Award from Romance Reader at Heart, E-book of the Month Award from MyShelf.com, and two CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards, one nomination.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GUEST POST: ELAINE CANTRELL

Return Engagement

It’s the high moments that make a life and the flat ones that fill the years.

From Dara’s Gift by Ellen Glasgow

“How did you think of a think like that?”

“Where do you get your ideas?”

People I meet always ask me one of those questions. Sometimes answering is easy. I wrote one of my favorite books, the sequel to Return Engagement, when I was taking a shower. I had just finished reading a book about German secret codes in World War II, and as I showered I was thinking about the code. I decided on the spot that I’d write a book with a secret code as the centerpiece of the work. And so I wrote Blue 52.

I have another book ready to send out titled The Captain and the Cheerleader. It’s about a football coach who’s a former football player and an English teacher who’s a former cheerleader. Since I’m a teacher myself that one is pretty obvious.

But then there’s my Lacheis Publishing work Kara’s Change of Heart. The book is supposed to release in June, but I have no idea where the idea came from.

I can’t tell you where the idea for Return Engagement came from either. I only know that I had a hero in mind. I wanted someone who just oozed sex appeal, was drop dead gorgeous, and might be a little dangerous. So, I created Richard Lovinggood. Richard is the son of Senator Henry Lovinggood, one of the most powerful men in Washington. He’s grooming Richard to be the president one day, but Richard makes the mistake of falling for an inappropriate woman. Elizabeth Lane is older than Richard, her family is a disgrace, and she’s an actress! The senator is sure she only wants Richard’s money so he pays a little visit to Elizabeth and convinces her to break up with Richard.

Ten years go by before the two meet again. This time Elizabeth vows not to let anyone scare her away, a decision that will ultimately lead to kidnapping and attempted murder and might separate her and Richard forever.

Getting Return Engagement published is one of the high points in my life. I invested years writing the book and changed it about a million times before I was happy with it. I couldn’t let the Lovinggoods go, though. I wrote Blue 52 and now I’m working on the third and final book in the trilogy. It doesn’t really have a name yet, but like both other Lovinggood books it’s full of betrayal, adventure, danger, and intrigue.

I’d like to share an excerpt from the book. It hasn’t been edited yet, so forgive me if you see errors. Return Engagement is coming in July from Whiskey Creek Press.

Excerpt: In this excerpt Richard and Elizabeth have met on the beach after a ten year separation.


“Look at the moon, Richard. Have you ever seen anything so big and beautiful? Isn’t it lovely the way it’s reflecting off the water?”

“Yes, but not as lovely as you are.” Richard made a sound of disgust. “That is so trite. You’d think I could do better, but all evening I’ve had trouble saying what I mean.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Maybe it’s because you’re trying too hard, but for the record, I think you’re doing just fine.” She shivered and hunched her shoulders as she hugged herself. “That wind is cold.”

Richard immediately removed his jacket and handed it to her. “Here, put this on.”

“Won’t you be cold?”

“I’m fine. I’ve got on long sleeves and that’s enough.” His eyes twinkled in the moonlight. “In fact, I kind of like the idea of you wearing my clothes. Sounds like high school, huh?”

The chilly wind that blew across the moon-drenched water snatched Elizabeth’s laughter away. “Who cares? Sometimes it’s nice to be as irresponsible as a teenager.”

Richard tugged on her hand. “Let’s sit down and watch the moon awhile.”

Elizabeth willingly sank into the damp sand and cuddled close beside him. My gosh, the man had muscles she hadn’t known even existed!

“Richard, about this evening….”

“Elizabeth, about Alex….”

“You go first,” Elizabeth urged. Her shoulders marginally relaxed. She wasn’t looking forward to telling him she couldn’t see him again.

“All right, I will.” Richard turned slightly, an almost angry look on his face. “What the hell do you think you’re doing getting yourself engaged to Alex Crawford? It’s obvious to a blind man that you don’t love him. You’ve been teasing me and flirting with me all evening. You’ve even kissed me.” He stirred up the butterflies in her stomach when he gently caressed her shoulder. “Right now your body language makes me think if I wanted to take this snuggling any further you’d be willing.”

“Wha…” Elizabeth sputtered.

“You don’t strike me as the type of woman who’d pick a man for a night of sex and then go back to her fiancé like nothing had happened. If that’s true I don’t think you love Alex as much as you think you do. The question is: what are you going to do about it?”

Elizabeth moaned and hid her face in her hands. Richard expected this surprise meeting to lead to something more that a hot dog on the beach, a casual meeting between two old…friends. I’ve done enough damage for one evening; I’m going home before I cause any more trouble. I’ve betrayed Alex and given Richard hope for a relationship with me when there is no hope.

She tried to jump up, but Richard grabbed her and held her close. “The wind is cold, and you can think just as well, no better, in my arms.”

Elizabeth gave up the effort to get away from him. There was no way she could argue with those hard, muscled arms. “Yeah, right. Being in your arms clarifies everything! I’m so confused I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” she cried. “I do love Alex. I do! That’s why I agreed to marry him, but with you I feel like a different person.

“I know I shouldn’t have flirted with you and kissed you, but I couldn’t help myself.” Her eyes misted with tears. “I didn’t want to help myself. It’s like it was ten years ago only better because now nobody can accuse me of corrupting a minor. You asked me what I’m going to do, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t think I can stand it if you walk away again.”

Elizabeth threw her hands over her burning face again. “What kind of woman am I? I haven’t seen you in ten years, yet here I am leading you on and encouraging you to… What’s wrong with me!”

Richard jerked her hand away from her face and kissed it. “From my point of view things have finally taken a turn for the better.” Satisfaction oozed from his voice.
“You’re willing to admit you don’t want to lose me. It’s taken ten years, but we’re back where we belong-together. Everything I ever felt for you came back the minute you spoke to me.” His voice lowered and became husky and persuasive. “Don’t tell me you didn’t feel it too.”

“I…” Elizabeth fell silent. After all; what could she say?

“Let me help you make up your mind about what you want to do.” Richard pushed her back into the sand and kissed her, a delicate, brushing of lips that deepened as hearts caught fire. Elizabeth imagined she could feel the thudding of his heart against her own and shivered against him. She didn’t really notice when his hand slipped under her blouse, but when she felt its warmth on her breast she cried aloud and shoved him away.

“I want to finish this in private,” Richard whispered, eyes blazing. “We’ve waited ten years, and we deserve this night. Ask me to go home with you.”


Thanks for reading!

Elaine Cantrell

Hope. Dreams… Life… Love

http://www.elainecantrell.com

http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.com

Return Engagement is coming in July from Whiskey Creek Press.

Monday, April 19, 2010

GUEST BLOG: SILVER JAMES

April 19, 1995. In the long heartbeat between 9:02 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., fate irrevocably changed my life. At the time, I was a forensic fire photographer attached to the airport fire department. That morning, I was home. A day off. A day to relax, do some housework, and to noodle around with a story floating in my imagination.

I've written my whole life. In my twenties, I tried a few magazine contests, wrote some dreadful novels, and worked on other careers. In my thirties, I wrote several novels that weren't bad at all and I actively pursued publication. Those novels weren't quite good enough. Marriage. Motherhood. A change in careers. I still wrote fiction—some finished, some not—but most of my writing veered into the technical realms of fire and law enforcement. In the back of my mind, I figured I'd pursue publication again. Sometime. Later. In the future. Time and The Future seemed so nebulous. I had all the time in the world.

Time. Time metered out by heartbeats. Tick-tock. Time clicking by in seconds.

The TV droned in the den as I poured another cup of coffee. Morning news switched to daytime programming. 9:00 a.m. The washing machine chugged, the swish of clothes a comforting sound. My two dogs, a Siberian Husky and a retired Search-and-Rescue Rottweiler, jumped to attention, staring out the back sliding glass door. I stared at them. A heartbeat. Two. More. The air boomed around me, actually rattling the glass in my house. I abandoned my coffee cup, sprinted to the bedroom and pulled on my work uniform—dark blue BDUs and boots. As I darted back through the house, I caught the breaking news report. I truly believed an airliner had crashed. I almost wish it had. The helicopter for one of the local news channels circled downtown Oklahoma City. The Murrah Federal Building looked like a giant had carved out a section of it. I was in my car and halfway there when my pager went off. My department was assigned to triage at the nearest hospital. I was ordered to the scene.

For the next two weeks, I did my job. I photographed. I documented. I shut off emotions and thought, relying completely on instinct. Later, the stories emerged. Those who lived and those who died were separated by a heartbeat.

Thump. Thump. Thumpity-thump. Blood pumping through a racing heart. Life. Death a heartbeat away.

My beloved father-in-law should have been in that building for a meeting with US-DOT—United States Department of Transportation. A phone call from the director of ODOT kept him at his desk ten minutes longer. His colleague, already in the US-DOT conference room, sat down facing the windows. The meeting started at 8:55.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Minutes slip away.

At 9:02, the front of the building disappeared. The difference between life and death depended on the choice of seats. Those with their backs to the windows disappeared in a wave of dust and destruction. Wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters said goodbye that morning for the last time. Forever, in the space of sixty heartbeats, turned to never.

Later, when I could deal with the enormity of the event, could sort through the overwhelming emotions locked in my chest, I knew I didn't have forever. Dreams died in the sweep of a second hand on a clock that day. Fifteen years ago. Today. Fifteen years ago, I determined to make my dream come true. I would be a published author. Ten days ago, my debut novel, FAERIE FATE, released from The Wild Rose Press. Don't let your dreams lie fallow. Don't believe there's always tomorrow. Don't ever let those you care about leave without expressing your love for them. Those are the lessons I learned from April 19th.

In FAERIE FATE, both time and fate have their place. In FAERIE FATE, a woman and a man get the opportunity to do it over again, to get it right. In the real world, we don't always have that chance. Love and laugh and live to your fullest.


Available now from The Wild Rose Press: FAERIE FATE by Silver James

If you could go back, do it over again, would you take a chance to find true love? What if you had no choice?

On her fiftieth birthday, the faerie catapult Rebecca Miller a thousand years into the past to find her happily ever after with Ciaran MacDermot, Chief of Clann MacDermot, the last Fenian warrior in his line. In the twenty-first century, Becca is old enough to be Ciaran’s mother. In the tenth, she’s young enough to be his bride.

The fae forgot to mention one slight stipulation. The lovers must be bound before the Festival of Light, or Becca will forever disappear into Tir Nan Óg, the faerie Land of the Ever Young. Will they discover the binding words before time runs out and they’re torn apart forever? Or will their eternal love defeat their Faerie Fate?

Without the words, history is doomed to repeat itself.

EXCERPT FROM FAERIE FATE:

The little clock she’d received as a present on her twenty-fifth birthday whirred and chimed the time. One small, tinkling chime. Two. Finally, twelve in all. Midnight between March twentieth and March twenty-first. The vernal equinox. The day when light and dark, good and evil, love and hate all balanced on the finely tuned axis of mother earth.

Voices, strange with lilting accents, whispered somewhere in the darkness of her dream.

****

“She sleeps,” said a soft voice, feminine, one Becca didn’t recognize.

“Aye.” The second voice was deep, male, arrogant.

“Will she remember?”

“Nay, she’ll not.”

“How then will she know what to do?”

“She’ll know.” He sounded confident.

“What of him?”

“Aye, he’ll definitely know now. He should have known the last time, but she was too afraid, and he was too full of himself.”

“What is so different this time?” She was skeptical.

“She was young then, not matched well to him. Now, she’s no young soul. She’s had all those lives without him, the lonely nights, and the ache in her heart for all time. This time, she has courage born in the fires of suffering. She’ll know not to run from him, but to him.”

“You’re sure with the knowing of it this time?”

“Aye.”

“And, if it doesn’t work?”

“Ciaran dies. Again.”

A sharp intake of breath came from the woman. “That cannot happen. Too much went wrong the first time.”


****

Be sure to come visit me at www.silverjames.com

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GUEST BLOG: CHARLOTTE McCLAIN

While it seems like writing a book should be a solo experience, a good writer, like a good NASCAR driver, or a good rock band, has to have a solid support network. Before I started writing romance, I dabbled in fantasy and science fiction, but didn't want to tell anyone what I was doing because, what if I failed? What kind of a snook would I look like? At the time I set about writing my first romance, Three Alarm Tenant, I knew going it alone wasn't working. I was working as the magazine clerk at Borders Books and Music #63 in Fairlawn, Ohio. Bookstore people can be really snobby about what they read so admitting to them that I was writing a romance was a calculated risk. Boy, did I sell those folks short when I hesitated. The entire staff was incredibly supportive and I have to credit them with not only the first Arden FD book, but the second one as well. The bookstore even appeared as a setting in both those first two books and I pulled a Hitchcock and put myself and another staff member in as a secondary characters. Several other secondary characters are drawn from people I worked with at the store without being complete rip-offs. I may have even written part of the book on scrap paper leaning on that info desk. (And if any of my managers are reading this – I never did that. I never goofed off at work. Nope, not me. Those pieces of scrap paper in my pockets were, um, lists of things for customers.)

With that store playing such a big part in the creation of those first two books I developed this fantasy. I wanted to have a picture of myself standing on the information desk holding one of my books. Totally unrealistic. Consider the composition. A five foot three woman standing on a three and a half foot tall information desk holding a five inch book? The book would get lost in the shot. Sitting on the desk would be acceptable though. And I could do that easier.

In January, I found out that Spark Of Desire was going to be released in print May 1st.

In January, I found out that Borders #63 was going to close March 14th.

Was I devastated? Heck, yeah. While this info photograph had been a fantasy, it had been a strong enough one that I knew what it was going to feel like/smell like/sound like to be on that desk holding my book. (Probably because it wouldn't be the first time I'd sat on that desk holding somebody's book.) And really, the timing was the kicker. Six weeks? A lousy month and a half? I'd written the book eight years earlier and the universe couldn't give me that little bit more?

But I'm a resilient soul. If it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. I went back to my regularly scheduled round of writing, pursuing a teaching job in Abu Dhabi, going to school, working and not losing my mind in the process.

Tuesday March 9th my author copy arrived in the mail. I was house sitting for a friend so I didn't lay hands on it until 11 that night. And it was, what we referred to in the lingo, a QP or quality paperback. A very nice eight inches tall. With a gorgeous cover, because Lyrical Press has the best covers. I was doing the Dance Of Joy that night, my friend. But the real question was, would I get my picture?

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, were crazy busy. I was also reluctant to go to the store because I figured I'd burst into tears. Hey, I worked there for 10 years, met most of my adult friends there and used it as a setting for the book I'd just gotten in print. Who wouldn't grieve a little?

Saturday, I headed out to the store, camera and book in hand and hope in my heart. The few people I knew who still worked there from when I wrote the book were thrilled to see it. The floor manager, who shall remain nameless, was more than willing to indulge me by taking a picture of me sitting on the info desk holding my book. The general manager and another manager were there so we needed to do it quick.

I was poised to hop on the desk when the other manager came out of the back room. She was there when I wrote the book too, but she wasn't part of the pit crew. In fact, she resented me because she thought I flirted with her girlfriend. Okay, I don't know this for sure, but, as the Magic 8 Ball would say, all signs point to yes. For the record, I never flirted with her girlfriend. Her girlfriend wasn't my type in many ways, but as an ER nurse she did have lots of great stories. So I did talk to the woman, but I never flirted. With evil manager lurking around info, my shoot was off. Indulgent Manager sidled over and said he was going to be closing the next day so come by after four and he would take the picture.

The next day was Sunday March 14th, the very last day the store would be open. I primped for my photo and arrived at the store at 5:30. Indulgent Manager was nowhere to be seen. Neither were any of my old cronies. It was like a movie where just when things can't get worse, they do. All I needed was to have zombies attack and it would have been perfect.

I had to circle the store a couple of times getting a bit more verclempt all the time. That was my pride and joy magazine section where I toiled for 5 years. There was where history was shelved when I first started, then it became the computer section. At the end it was travel though on that last day it looked more like a ragtag dumping ground. Over here was where the art section used to be before they took down the wall. When I shelved it, I was teamed up with a really great guy who asked his now wife to marry him when we worked together and tested out his proposal on me. This was where genre fiction used to be. We used to sort books for shelving by tossing them down the appropriate row and trying to land them in front of the shelf they went on. I have killer aim in those days. Across the middle of the store was where travel used to be shelved. We were straightening it one night and one of my co-workers made a joke about the sheik of Djbouti that had us all rolling on the floor laughing. Then there was the year I was trainer and one of my friends confided in me that she thought one of my trainees was really cute. They have a little boy now.

And I wasn't wearing waterproof make-up.

Fortunately, I found Indulgent Manager who said that the general manager was in the office, but we could do it if we were quick. I stripped off my coat and hopped on the desk. He snapped 2 shots of me with the yellow and black going out of business signs in the background. I took one more turn around the store and went home.

A couple of hours later Borders Books and Music #63 closed forever.

Monday, April 12, 2010

GUEST BLOG: JOANNA AISLINN

Dig Deep and Trust the Process

Several years ago my husband and I were putting our boys to bed. It was at least 10:15 one of those nights when I was stone exhausted after a full day of work; dinner, dishes, homework, showers, reading a bedtime story. All I could think about was getting prayers said and winding down for the night.

Of course, that’s when I heard a tiny crack. Nobody could miss the crash that followed or the obvious sound of glass shattering in the bathroom.

No way. With a groan (and maybe a word or two I shouldn’t have thought, especially during prayers), I lifted myself off the edge of my son’s bed and dragged my feet into the bathroom.

Remember those corner shelves that you’d twist underneath and two nails (and tension, I guess) defy gravity to hold it up against the wall? Word of experience: the holes those little nails make eventually wear open and the shelf will fall at the exact moment you are most wiped out and drained of your life’s blood, taking with it that tall green bottle of bath oil your sister-in-law was kind enough to give you for Christmas. It looked so pretty up on that shelf, along with a few other ceramic tchotchkes.

Even before I made it into the bathroom though, I was convinced of one thing. One of the pieces had survived. I knew exactly which one.

I dug deep, especially once I saw the mess that awaited me: shards of green glass and porcelain in God-knows-how-many-sized-pieces, all swimming in bath oil around the base of the toilet on the polished, black-absolute granite my brother the tile-man insisted would give me a ‘classic black and white bathroom’, a great selling point for a house I can’t get out of after fifteen years. (My husband jumped right on that bandwagon. And did I tell you dirt and dust aren’t black? They’re shades of gray, and every speck shows up on the equivalent of a black mirror laid horizontally under your bathroom fixtures.)

So now what? It’s not like I could have left the glass on the floor and closed the door for the night. (Not to mention the next day was a workday, too.) I had to plow into my deepest reserves of will to do what had to be done.

I started with trying to find one positive thing about the situation. The best I could do was be grateful it was bath oil and not olive oil on that floor—can you imagine how long that would take to clean? So one piece at a time, while Dad finished putting the boys to bed, I picked up glass and wiped bath oil off the jet-black reflective surface.

I came across that one piece I knew had survived (sort of), a tealite holder whose tealite holder had snapped off. The faceplate had made it through. Guess what it read? From the New Testament, “ I can do all things through Christ.” (Phillipians 4:13)

Is this a religious lesson? Not necessarily. Do I consider myself spiritual and believe God gives me what I need exactly when I need it? Without a doubt. Chances are, whatever skills or talent I need to get through each experience I face I already have anyway. This became one more opportunity to reach into my arsenal and learn to use what’s there in another way. (Sort of what my most recently completed manuscript is about, now that I think of it.)

By the way, that faceplate still has a home in my bathroom. Like that night, I still dig deep,usually for the mental energy to swing all that needs to be done on a daily basis, especially at my busiest time of the work year. The boys are a little older and pretty self-sufficient but they still keep me busy. (They bring lots of friends now, too, and keep my home hopping and anything but quiet.) Then there’s the day job; writing, and everything that goes along with it. Waiting for a response to that partial that just went out; the patience to sort out the jumbled ideas that are supposed to be the spinoff to that partial. What to do with that polished first draft that should have been next in a series but no longer fits where I thought it would.

Choice is a factor, too. That night I could have gone negative, decided my life was too overwhelming to live and shut down (I certainly felt that way). By looking for that one positive thing, though, I found the strength to rise to the occasion and did what had to be done. (Made that floor look good for a short while too! :-) ) Like inspiration (or bills and taxes, lol) those pesky life lessons are everywhere I look. I may not like all of them but hanging on to them, turning to them when I’m most insane or caught up in day-to-day chaos grounds me somehow. Helps me get centered and make that next best decision, do the next right thing. A little vague? Maybe, but without those unexpected moments of hope and gratitude, where would I be? It’s all part of trusting a process, something I hopefully do a little more each day, as one more experience falls into place and gives me yet another perspective. I add that to the storehouse of life lessons then trust a little more.

In case you didn’t already know:

I’m an avid reader whose writing roots stretch back to my early teenage days. Life got in the way until ten years ago, when the story playing out in my head insisted I put it down on virtual paper. I’ve been writing and honing my craft ever since. No Matter Why (The Wild Rose Press),my debut novel, hit the virtual shelves on January 15, 2010. (A blurb is posted below—don’t miss it!) At present, I’m busy revising its sequel, learning all I can about promo, building my web presence and finding time to work a day job and manage a home along with everything else!

Learn more about me (and find a great recipe or six) at my website: www.joannaaislinn.com.

Find more of my mental meanderings at www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com and lately, at different blogs; anyone who so desires can follow my growing blog trail! Check my blog for a list of appearances.

Here’s that blurb:

Trust and stability became empty words the day motherless, sixteen-year-old Carrie Norwell came home to find her brothers murdered. Within moments, her father arrived and his heart gave out at the scene. Five years later, is it any wonder the walls with which she's barricaded her heart are virtually impenetrable to anyone looking to get close and offer what she wants more than anything? The security only a loving family can give? Or someone with whom to build her own?

Billy Jay Eldridge wants to offer exactly that to the right girl. Operating on a heart and spirit rivaled only by his looks, he’s two years out of college and where he thought he wanted to be, managing a store at the assistant level and on his way up PharmSmart’s chain of command. He never counted on not synching with the corporate/retail atmosphere—enough to toy daily with the idea of a major career move that promises to make nobler use of his God-given talents. Neither did he think he’d blur the fine line between supervisor and peer to the young ladies in his charge—that is, until shy, quiet Carrie joins his crew. Intrigued and charmed by the girl’s haunted eyes and withdrawn ways he sets out to know her better, clueless that his life’s calling will be the biggest setback to getting her to accept from him what she wants and needs most.

Want a little more? Read an excerpt! http://www.joannaaislinn.com/Readanexerpt.html

My heartfelt thanks to Marianne and Judy (and anyone else involved) for welcoming me and allowing me the opportunity to share with this readership!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

GUEST BLOG: TONYA LAMPLEY

Women’s Day

I woke up this morning thinking about the power and strength of a woman. Don’t get me wrong, we love our men and we’ll praise them on another blog (my newest release, A Taste of Love, has yummy strong men of character), but women, in my eyes, are nothing short of a miracle.

Take childbirth for example. The fact that this precious creature called woman can actually (with a little help from hubby) create a person. Stop and think about that for a moment. A woman can actually grow another human being inside her body. Although, I never had children, I am still completely awestruck by that process. It’s absolutely amazing!

Everyday women make sure families run smoothly and husbands’ needs are being met—all of them. It takes time, energy, craftiness and wisdom. And she does it with a smile on her face and usually without a thank you. She gives selflessly everyday so that her little ones can find peace and comfort on their journey. All the while dealing with raging hormones and PMS. And many of my friends do this while holding down a demanding job.

I have a friend whose typical day begins something like this—she’s up before dawn, putting the final touches on her presentation. She’s got coffee on, oatmeal in the bowl, a baby on the hip, and curlers in her hair. She helps her husband find his blue socks (since he’s color blind), rescues Spiderman from behind the sofa, and gets everyone ready before rushing upstairs to shower. She shaves her entire body in record time (little Jimmy will sneak in the bathroom and play in the toilet if she doesn’t) and gets dressed. She slips on her clothes and places her feet in high heeled shoes and hopes she’ll make it back home before they start to hurt. Then, she kisses her husband good bye before rushing out the door to the childcare provider and off to work.

And that’s just the start of her day.

It pains me when I see women who don’t understand who they are and what they’re capable of. No respect for themselves, no self-love, not realizing the gift they are to the world. TV reality shows are filled with these sleeping beauties. You can recognize them by their crying jags, abusive language, and self-objectification. It’s heart breaking. I hope one day they will come to know the value of the treasure within them.

Ladies, I celebrate your power and beauty, today. From the laundry room to the board room, you get the job done, every time.

It is a woman who nurtures children, takes care of the needs of others, and gives the world much needed insight and wisdom. It is a woman who submits the project on time. It is a woman who miraculously makes the family budget stretch again this month.

It is a woman’s love and dedication that makes the world a much better place.

Tonya Lampley is a Cincinnati based author. Her debut release is titled A Taste of Love. For more information please visit www.tonyalampley.com.

Monday, April 5, 2010

GUEST BLOG: EMMA LAI

I signed up to do a guest blog with Long and Short Romance before I knew what I would write. Seeking inspiration, I checked out my horoscope on January 31, 2010 at http://my.horoscope.com/astrology/free-daily-horoscope-virgo.html.

Now, I’m not claiming to be a believer in astrology, though I think truths can be found in many places. Take a look at the Virgo personality… http://my.horoscope.com/astrology/horoscope-sign-profile-virgo.html

Under Virgo Key Words, I found the following…

Strengths: Practical (I’m always thinking of everything that needs to be brought along on a trip just in case.)

Weakesses: Worry (It’s amazing I don’t have an ulcer. I worry about everything.)

Likes: Books (Oh, baby, do I!)

Dislikes: Taking center stage (Makes promo as an author difficult.)

My favorite by far is

Best environment. Virgo likes power and enjoys being the sidekick or indispensible assistant. (In a previous life (work life that is), I was a project manager…talk about power and when you only answer to one boss, you are the indispensible assistant.)

So what did my horoscope say?

Remember that there is a spirit in everything around you, Virgo. Just because we can't perceive something with our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or fingers doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Pay respect to the force field that surrounds us, and to the animate and inanimate forms that exist in our everyday life.

I thought the horoscope was rather appropriate for the first book in my Mates of the Guardian series, His Ship, Her Fantasy, available from The Wild Rose Press.

Blurb:
Ellie Woods is in love…with a ship. When an argument with the ship results in a bump on the head, she finds herself in the strong arms of Alastair. But, who is he, and where did he come from?

Alastair has loved Ellie from afar for years, but duty has kept him from revealing himself to her. When a grave threat reveals his true identity, he hopes that Ellie will choose reality over fantasy.

A woman in love with a ship? At first glance, you might reject the notion that inanimate objects have spirit, but don’t you remember when your toys had lives? My Raggedy Ann doll was my best friend for a long time. Then, it was a child-size, stuffed toy fox my dad got for me. I also had a blanket I wouldn’t go anywhere without. Even as an adult, I have things I’m attached to. The quilt my favorite aunt had made for me. The quilt my grandmother made. Journals my husband and I kept for each other while we were apart.

I leave you with the following thought.

Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to everything around you. You never know where you’ll find inspiration or love.



Emma likes nothing more than a challenge. First,she tackled the male-dominated field of engineering. Next, she expanded her understanding of the world by studying international relations. Finally, her husband dared her to use her experience and knowledge and devote herself to writing. She accepted his challenge and has been writing ever since.

Writing keeps Emma sane. Her characters demand their stories be told and nag her incessantly until she complies. The characters are very insistent about her remaining faithful to their individual adventures. As a result, Emma writes a range of genres and levels of heat. She never knows what the next set of characters will demand!