Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Plot and character

Been reading an old book of essays by well known writers and finding interesting tidbits. Today's was by Ken Follett. "The object is to have the plot and character fit together like ball and socket." Hard to do but with care it can be done.

I started looking at they way I write. I find the seeds of the plot often help me make choices as to the kind of character I will use for the story. What about you? Or does your choice of character make the decision about the direction of the plot?

For me, it's a combination of the two. The idea for the plot gives me a kick start and I may have some ideas about the direction I choose to go. Then I begin to build the character who might play a rose in the story. As the character takes shape, elements of the plot come into view and there are some changes. Why?

Always my characters become real to me and the plot changes because the character wouldn't do that or go there. Before long, at least for me the plot and the character have joined hands and are off on an adventure seeking a goal they will either reach or not. Though I like happy endings when I write, some stories don't end happily but they do have to reach a satisfactory ending.

So when you're writing, look at your characters and also your plot. Do they fit together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle?

Monday, January 30, 2012

30 January - Week Behind and week ahead - Sold - Contest winner

SOLD - The Chosen of Horu contract arrived and I even received a mock up of the new cover and the first round of edits. Book should be out in February.

The winner of Shortcut To Love is Christy. I'll be sending her an email later today for more information. I do hope she doesn't mind that the book isn't self-published.

Last week found me tearing up the first two chapters of my current WIP. The story, not the idea, seemed to be going nowhere. What to do? Putting those chapters away, I spent a day just not doing much writing and a lot of reading. Then the problem unraveled. I had started the story with the wrong character in the lead role. Since this is a novella starting in the right place with the right person is important. Once solved, I started with the heroine. She has the most to gain and the most to lose during the story. While the hero has both gains and losses possible in the story why didn't starting with him work? I'm not sure. All I know is it didn't. The upshot of this is that with the heroine in the start I was able to rough draft the first four chapters. There will need to be revisions and re-writing done to flesh out the story but that will happen in further drafts.

During the coming week I hope to be able to do at least 4 more chapters and there is the possibility that I will manage to complete the rough draft of the story. That would feel amazing. It's short, spicy and fun. The Surprising Seduction is a lot about assumptions. Heard that two of my poems will be in a promo ebook from my publisher - Vanilla Heart.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

3 Blog Visit Sunday

http://janiceseagraves.org/2012/01/23/affect-or-is-it-effect/ This is a good lesson but the Aussie slang also was of interest.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday's Chapter -- Blood on the Roses Robert Hays

Blood on the Roses


Robert Hays

Vanilla Heart Publishing

Copyright 2011 Robert Hay

One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit,and mean actions to fear.
—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche


THE TENNESSEE BEND Motel squatted on a level strip of land carved into the side of a steep Appalachian ridge like a thin slice pared from a luscious apple. All around it, the trees were well into their September colors, leaves on the tall oaks and hickories ranging from dull browns to brilliant reds and oranges mixed with scattered splotches of lingering summer green. There was a busy highway in front, but it was at the bottom of the slope, some hundred yards distant. It carried traffic heading north from Knoxville and south from Kingsport and was an everyday path for the constant comings and goings of locals.

The ample grounds of the Tennessee Bend posed a stark contrast to its surroundings. There was no formal landscaping. Shortleaf pine and black oak trees appeared to have been planted haphazardly to provide shade for chosen areas of the parking lot, and the only touch of elegance was a rose garden that stretched across the crown of the incline, along the edge of parking spaces adjacent to the front row of motel rooms. The summer roses that welcomed visitors were still vibrant and from inside the lobby, looking down the slope toward the east, the garden made an appealing foreground in a picture-postcard view of Cherokee Lake.

Although only a narrow neck of the lake was visible, the scene was a stunning sample of the region’s ubiquitous natural beauty. The Bays Mountains and the foothills of the Great Smokys lay in the distance, while to the west the forested hills rising behind the motel gave way to the razor-spined, peakless pleats of the picturesque Clinch Mountains, which stretched northward toward the Cumberlands.

Rachel Feigen was tired when she checked into the Tennessee Bend, after the long drive from Baltimore, and unsure where to begin. She already had a deep emotional attachment to this assignment and had come to face it with a sense of dread. This one did not hold much prospect for a pleasant outcome.

Not that Feigen was accustomed to happy endings. She had just spent a grueling three weeks piecing together a story on the effects of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and was left discouraged if not downright despondent by what she’d found. In the several months since the court had struck down “separate but equal” as a legal basis for racial segregation in the schools, little had been done to implement the court’s decree. This was not what she had hoped to find.

Her disappointment in the investigation’s outcome pleased Bill Skyles, her editor at the Associated Press. Skyles demanded absolute impartiality when his reporters’ work went to print, but he wanted them to understand and feel the impact of their stories.

Her editor was sufficiently impressed with Feigen’s performance on the story to hand her a new assignment that he called the most important one he had. He said it could be her biggest challenge since joining the AP national reporting team and she’d dug into the story just deep enough to see that he was right.

Feigen had barely managed to get three days off. Skyles wanted her to get onto the story immediately. She was eager to tackle this new project, but she had an accumulation of personal things to attend to and she wanted at least one day when she could sleep in and have nothing to do. Reluctantly, Skyles gave in.

Friday was the first of her precious days of freedom. She slept late, took a long, luxurious shower, and had breakfast at lunchtime. Then she called her father in New York. As usual, Judge Max Feigen skipped the pleasantries and got straight to the point.

“Your series on school integration was very perceptive,” he told her. “I’m proud of you, Rachel. But not surprised. I knew you’d make a good journalist.”

“I owe it all to you, Daddy. We grew up thinking the New York Times was the gospel and journalists were the last best hope for the world—after the law, of course. You never even finished your first cup of coffee until you’d read every word of the front section of the Times.”

Her father chuckled. “I still do pretty much the same thing, but it takes me quite a while longer. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. That’s one of the prices of old age, I’m afraid.”

“You can’t imagine how hard it is for me to associate old age with you,” she said. “To me you’re still that stern, uncompromising judge that must have scared the hell out of evil-doers when you wore your robes and then turned into a loveable old softy when you got home to Morrie and me.”

“That was the happiest time of my life, Rachel, but we have to live in the present. It seems like I’ve been retired forever. Your mother and I just rattle around now in this big old empty house.”

There was a clear note of melancholy in his voice. It had been one of her biggest worries that after all the years when he’d put in endless hours to keep up with the law, insisting there was no margin for error in his determination to hand out justice in his courtroom, her father would find retirement difficult. He had told her once that retirement was nothing less than a fast track to senility and he didn’t look forward to it.

“But now you have time to read all those books you never could get to before,” she said, hoping to give him at least a modest shot of encouragement.

“Yes, of course. And I do more reading than these old eyes are up to. But bring me up to date on you. What kind of story are you off on now? Something in-depth like the school integration story?”

“That’s exactly why I called you,” she told him. “Have you heard anything about a missing man from Baltimore named Guy Saillot?”

“I don’t think so. Who is he?”

“Nobody who’s very important, as far as I can tell. But his family is.”

“And so what’s your story?”

“Saillot’s been missing for more than two weeks. He left Baltimore to visit a friend at the University of Tennessee, as I understand it, but he never showed up there. His family is prominent here and the Sun has run a couple of stories on it, but the authorities don’t seem to be pushing it very hard. Anyway, my editor is sending me to look for him.”

“His name sounds French.”

“Yes. His father’s a big shot with the Franco-American Transatlantic Company’s Baltimore office.”

“The University of Tennessee, that’s in Knoxville?”


Now there was concern in his voice: “There’s a lot going on in the South these days, Rachel. This isn’t going to be dangerous, is it?”

“I don’t see how it could be,” she answered, trying her best to sound confident. “But I’ll call you every few days and let you know what’s happening. Okay?”

“You be sure and do that, angel. And take good care of yourself.”

Feigen felt guilty for not having told her father what she already knew about the Guy Saillot case. But she still held out some slight hope that she was mistaken in her first impressions of Anton Schuler, the FBI agent in charge. There was no way she could have said much without getting into what Schuler had told her, and being as perceptive as he was her father would have picked up on her doubts in an instant.

She also had deliberately avoided mentioning another big thing coming up in her life, one that was much more pleasant. It had been a mantra of the Feigen family for as long as anyone could remember that pride in personal possessions, no matter what they were, was selfish. She would have been embarrassed to let her father know that she was as excited as a little girl at a birthday party because she was about to get her first new car.
Feigen had set her heart on one of the new 1955 Chevrolets the instant she saw the line introduced in a Life magazine advertisement. Her old Plymouth was just about done for and Skyles had recommended she see Mike Sodeman, a salesman he said wouldn’t talk down to her just because she was a woman.

Mike turned out to be an agreeable young man and, true to Skyles’s promise, he began at the outset to talk about things like V-8 engines and horsepower and transmissions and not colors and upholstery fabrics. He helped make her purchase easier than she expected and the car would be ready for her to pick up first thing in the morning.

For now, though, she needed to push aside all thoughts of the new car and her father and Feigen family mantras and whatever, and force herself to refocus on the Guy Saillot story. This meant going back over her notes and looking for any detail she might have missed. Agent Anton Schuler had irritated her to the level that she felt lucky to have any information at all.

It had been clear from the minute she walked into his office that Agent Schuler was not especially concerned about finding this particular missing person. “The FBI has a lot of important things to do,” he told her flatly, “and I’ll give it to you straight. Looking for a queer little Frenchman who probably found a boyfriend and decided to hide out for a while and have fun isn’t real high on our list.”

His attitude had taken Feigen by surprise. It took her a moment to recover and get back on track with the questions she wanted to ask.

“Who was he visiting in Knoxville?”

“We haven’t released that information,” Agent Schuler said matter-of-factly. “It wouldn’t do you any good anyway. He says Frenchie never got there.”

“He called him ‘Frenchie’?”

“He may have called him ‘Darling’ for all I know. The point is, we’ve checked him out and his story holds up. He’s not involved.”

Feigen’s patience was at an end. “If Guy Saillot weren’t homosexual, would you assume he’d found a girlfriend and was shacked up somewhere, not worth your time to look for? That’s a pathetic way to operate, Mister Schuler. I’d expect more from the FBI.”

She had left Schuler’s office more angry than she’d been in a very long time.

It took only a few minutes for her to go over her skimpy notes. Guy Saillot was twenty years old. He was a slight man, barely five feet, four inches tall and weighing about a hundred and thirty pounds. He had a sallow complexion, green eyes, and black hair. Nothing on what he might have been wearing, nothing about his habits—except his sexuality. The FBI wasn’t even sure how long the young Frenchman had been missing.

Feigen had no intention of working on her free time, and she had two more days off before she left for Tennessee. But she couldn’t get Guy Saillot out of her mind. When she couldn’t stand it any longer she picked up the phone and dialed the number of the Saillot home for probably the twentieth time. This time there was an answer.

“This is the Saillot residence. Hello.”

Surprised finally to have someone pick up the phone, Feigen fumbled for words. “I’m sorry,” she said, “may I ask who I’m speaking with?”

“This is Marie Saillot.”

“Miss Saillot, or missus, my name is Rachel Feigen. I work for the Associated Press and I’m doing a story about Guy. Are you a member of the family?”

There was a lengthy pause. “I’m Guy’s mother,” the woman said then. “How can I help you, Miss Feigen?”

Feigen was nearly breathless with anticipation. “Missus Saillot, would it be possible for me to come and talk with you? Anything you can tell me about Guy might help us find him. Anything at all. I’ve talked with the police and the FBI, and my editor is sending me to Tennessee to see if I can track down something they may be missing. I truly apologize for intruding on your privacy, but you could be very helpful to us if I could have just a few minutes of your time.”

After another pause, but this time a shorter one, Guy Saillot’s mother consented. Could Feigen come by her house tomorrow afternoon? And please don’t bring a photographer.

Feigen skipped dinner and made a list of questions for tomorrow. There was so much she didn’t know. Marie Saillot obviously was her best hope, yet she felt guilty for invading a mother’s private grief. Surely to have a son missing, a son who apparently had never been in the least bit of trouble, would be as difficult as anything a mother could face. The uncertainty must be terrible. On the one hand Feigen was eager to learn more about Guy Saillot, the person, but on the other she dreaded looking into the eyes of Marie.

She hardly slept that night. She had interviewed people faced with tragedy before, and it always left her with a hurt inside that sometimes lasted for days. This one might be the worst.

In the morning she got up early, eager for her meeting with Marie Saillot and mildly excited about picking up her new car. She had a quick breakfast, then got into her old Plymouth for the last time and drove to Coastal Chevrolet, a much-advertised suburban dealership where it looked like there were dozens of new automobiles on a spacious lot bounded by red and white pennants on tall poles. She was determined to keep her composure and act as if this was all routine and not her first time.

Mike Sodeman hurried out to meet her, welcomed her with a big smile, and said her car was waiting. They went directly to the gleaming BelAir hardtop faux convertible Mike had ordered for her.

On her first visit to the dealer, Feigen had looked at a car like this except that it was two-toned. It had a cream-colored top and red bottom and she told Mike she wanted one just like it except all cream. She’d paid no attention to the interior. When her car came it was bright red inside and she had been very much put out with herself for such a foolish oversight. But now she liked it. Others might find it gaudy, but she preferred to think of it as a flamboyant expression of her good taste.

Mike handed her the keys. She managed to stay calm until she drove off the lot, back onto the highway. In a final gesture of good salesmanship, Mike had tuned the car radio to her favorite station and the metallic notes of Perez Prado’s melodic and cheerful instrumental, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” drifted from the speaker. She pumped her fist in the air and shouted, “Yes, Rachel, it’s yours!” So much for the Feigen mantra.

When it came time for her to meet Marie Saillot she was still in high spirits, although it was no longer because of the car. She was at last going to learn more about Guy. Not merely Guy Saillot the missing person, but Guy Saillot the individual human being—this mother’s son. She was barely aware that she was driving a new Chevrolet as she set out for her appointment

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday - How He Does It - Robert Hays

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

I agree in general, but with a slight difference. In my years as a newspaper reporter and even more years teaching journalism, I’ve always emphasized the so-called “five Ws and an H.” When we report news—factual information—we often are describing events that already have happened. The city passed a stiff zoning ordinance. There was an accident and someone was hurt. These are the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where.” The “why” and “how” may be unknown or they may be obvious. In either case, this leaves the emphasis on the first four elements. We strive to tell the reader these, clearly and concisely, right at the beginning. News reports often are one-time stories, so that we never come back to the “why” and “how.” We move on to new stories.

In writing fiction, on the other hand, we have ample time to develop characters and setting. These are the “who” (characters), the “when” and “where” (setting). The “what” could be part of either the setting or the plot, and the “why” and “how” are likely to be integral to the plot. The plot is how we get from the beginning to the end of our story, so that what happens to our characters and why, and how events affect their lives become the story.

1.How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

This is an excellent question, and one I never really thought about before. I don’t have a specific process. I usually have the principal characters in mind when I start writing, then develop them as seems appropriate. I usually do not try to model a character on an actual person or persons, though they may be composites of more than one person I’ve known. The first real exception to this is a character in Blood on the Roses, FBI Agent Charlie Monroe. I wanted him to be a true Southern gentleman and I modeled him after my wife’s great uncle from Columbia, South Carolina. Everything Agent Wilson says or does, I hope, is reasonably close to the way Uncle Frank would have said it or done it and his physical description fits Uncle Frank (who passed away a good many years ago but is still remembered fondly).

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

For me, characters and plot come hand-in-hand. That is, I know when I begin a story who the principal characters are and how the story is going to play out. Sometimes I find I need to add additional characters to help carry the story and flesh out the plot, but I normally expect these to be minor characters. I have been surprised, though, when a “minor” character I like becomes more significant than I had planned. For example, the character Mack Brown in Circles in the Water was added merely to facilitate the plot but became one of my favorite characters.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

I usually know precisely how the story will end. I write a beginning and an ending, then bring the two together. In my four novels, the only exception to this is The Baby River Angel. I knew in a general way how it would end, but I was well into the story before I decided to make Baby Angel a real angel. The alternative—because I wanted her to stay with her new family—would have required some sort of tragedy that separated her from her biological family and I wanted this to be a light-hearted story all the way.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I’m more comfortable working in settings I know. But this often means researching a place that I haven’t visited for a long while to see how it’s changed. Or I may transport a detailed setting—a house or a room, for example—to a different location. I feel safe in generalizing settings like a cheap motel room or a school classroom, which I can assume will be pretty much the same wherever it is located. I want the reader to be able to “see” the setting very much as I see it. A friend who wrote in-depth personality profiles for the Washington Post carried a camera when he did his interviewing and snapped photos of the setting, then looked back at the pictures when he wrote to make sure he was describing the setting in accurate detail. My hope is to accomplish the same realism.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Both. The Internet is a wonderful resource that allows us to visualize places virtually in a way that is almost as good as visiting them in person. I can get a street view of Paris or a bird’s-eye view of the Alps on my computer screen. However, when it comes to factual data, we have to be careful using Internet sources because we know they often are not reliable. Also, to get a true “feel,” I’m not comfortable until I read about a place or thing. This probably is essential if you are writing an historical novel, in which case I prefer contemporary sources as my reference. When I wanted authentic World War II combat detail for The Life and Death of Lizzie Morris, I turned to actual military battle reports from the U.S. Seventh Army invasion of Sicily and official U.S. Marine Corps histories of the war in Vietnam. As a former newspaper reporter, I enjoy getting into the newspaper library and studying contemporary accounts of events that may fit into my storylines.

Thanks very much for your great questions, and for giving me this opportunity.
Cheers, Robert

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Story Behind - Shortcut To Love - Contest

Beginning a new and soon to be weekly event on the blog. Usually this is a day of interviews but today's guest never sent her interview and I was looking to start something new there so I thought I'd start with putting up a book each week or in the case of a series and give away an autographed print copy of each book, starting with the publisher with the fewest books.

How did this book come apart. I wanted to write something funny. Not realizing how difficult this was I began with the premise of Zelda who loved Michael who seemed to be going through the alphabet. Where does she fall, at the very end. Then at that time, all my stories were set in the medical world in some fashion I devised the situation. Their childhood encounters were fraught with events that put Michael on the receiving end. I decided Zelda would be the one or most of the time. I was off and running.

Unfortunately the publishers I was trying looked on him as a womanizer and never read much beyond the opening pages. Then I discovered epublishing and somehow I now have maybe the only romance at Clocktower. They're really into science fiction. But they have kept the book and it turned out that what I've really written is a farce. a tongue and cheek look at Medical romances.

Zelda has loved Michael for most of her life, but he seems to be working through the alphabet in his search for a wife. She's a Z and it will be years before he reaches her. Besides, when they're together, strange things happen, usually to him. How can this nurse show the doctor, she's what he ordered to make him complete? The author calls this a "doctor nurse spoof" and we think you'll really enjoy it!

Shortcut To Love by Janet Lane Walters is the best romance novel I’ve read in a long time. Why? Because it has everything I crave when I sit down to read a romance.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday - About Plot - Puzzles

A puzzle plot or a device used in writing a book means mystery. Who done it? Who's going to do it? Why did it happen? What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? How did it happen?

One of the tricks is to hide the evidence in plain sight. This means clues given to the readers to solve the mystery. The writer is challenging the reader. Can they solve the puzzle before the hero or heroine in the story does? If not can they have one of those "of course" moments and wonder why they didn't see the solution first.

Begin with introducing the characters, and all that goes with this. Let the reader see what they think will happen. Perhaps it will or maybe it won't. From there go into the action of the story, showing the main characters finding clues, some may be true and some false. Following a false lead will add tension. This story can end with the mystery solved, the criminal punished or with an open end leaving the reader to speculate.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Muse or Not

Reading through an old Writer's Handbook I came upon a short piece by Sidney Sheldon. One part caught my attention. The importance of having a schedule and to sit down and write even if the muse was absent. This calls for organization and setting a certain time to write. This led me to thoughts of the "Muse." I think I'm a writer without one. The story ideas come and I sit down to write. There is no creature on my shoulder telling me what to put down on the paper. I write even on those days when I would rather not.

I do wish I could understand what role a muse played in a writer's career. Waiting for some inspiration and writing only when this inspiration is hot wouldn't get much writing done. I've found at times forcing myself to face a segment in a story when I don't feel like writing brings some very good segments.

Yesterday, I began typing in the first chapter of a story and suddenly I realized it was, not all wrong but that the story had begun in the wrong place for the kind of story I intended to tell. Not all of the chapter is lost work, some pieces will be saved and worked into the new beginning. The point here is that I didn't wait to be inspired by a mythical muse but by my knowledge of the characters and the way the story should be told. I also know if I wait for a Muse, I'd never get any writing done.

What about you? Do you write every day or sit and wait for the "Muse" to tap you on the shoulder?

Monday, January 23, 2012

23 January - Week Behind and Week Ahead

Finished the edits for The Chosen of Horu and sent it off. What really psyched me was the note from the publisher saying she'd revised her schedule so she could read the book. Hopefully I'll hear something soon about it being publishable. That project took the whole week and hopefully I found all the typos etc.

This week I'll be doing the rough draft of a Surprising Seduction. So far the story is blocked in and I'm typing the first chapter in now. Going amazingly well but who knows what will happen next.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

3 Blog Visit Sunday




Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Defending Glory - Anne K. Albert

DEFENDING GLORY, book one of the Piedmont Island Trilogy series by Anne K. Albert is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Glory-ebook/dp/tags-on-product/B0045JL61E/

Chapter One

Aidan “Mac” McKeown palmed the bullets doctors removed from his right thigh and stared out his office window. Daffodils, tulips, and marsh marigolds lined garden paths beyond the alleyway at the back of the building. The fragrant scent of lilacs sweetened the air. Robins chirped on their endless hunt for worms. It was a perfect Thursday morning in northern Minnesota. The kind his partner would have cherished.

If he were alive.

A true hero and all around good guy, Ben should have been the one to survive the ambush. He had every reason to live. A loving wife. Two adorable children.

Mac’s fist tightened around the spent ammo. If only he could remember what went wrong that day. He had snippets of blurred images, fragments of shouted warnings, but nothing concrete. He woke up in the hospital two days later, and at the grand old age of thirty one learned a valuable lesson. There was no grand scheme. No master plan. And most certainly, no merciful God in heaven.

He tossed the bullets into the middle drawer of his desk. Why rehash the past? If Ben were alive, he’d order Mac to snap out of it and focus on the here and now.

“Pay attention,” Ben would say. “Never let your heart rule your head. It’ll get you every time.”

Exhaling slowly, Mac began to sort through a stack of bills. He divided them into two piles. Those he could pay and those he could not. Topping the former was the rent for the century old, red brick building that housed his office on the ground floor and a small two-bedroom apartment he called home on the second. After that he could pay the minimum amount required on the electric and telephone bills. The rest would have to wait until next month.

Or the month after that.

The recent downturn in the economy affected everyone. The good news was he did not have the added responsibility of a family to take care of, but many of his creditors, local entrepreneurs like himself, did. That bothered Mac. His bills were more than just a bunch of numbers or tallies of services rendered. They were mouths to feed and bodies to clothe. He had to find a solution to his cash flow problem before it became their problem, too.

A warm breeze whooshed through the open office window, whipping the items he’d pinned to a cork bulletin board on the wall opposite his desk. One photograph and accompanying article snipped from the local newspaper caught his attention. Written less than a year earlier to coincide with the grand opening of McKeown General Contracting, it told readers how as a young boy he had worked with his grandfather, a master tradesman in Minneapolis. Fond memories of their fishing trips to Piedmont Island spurred Mac to move north and open his own business.

He had felt so confident then. So certain he’d made the right decision. But with few construction projects on the horizon, and cash so tight he could not afford to paint his company’s name or phone number on the side of his truck to attract future clients, it was doubtful he’d still be in business by the end of summer.

Then what?

The buzzer inside his shop blared. A quick glance at the wall clock provided a spark of hope. 8:00 A.M. on the dot. Someone must need his services to come by so early in the morning. Reaching for his cane, he pushed himself up from the chair, and headed to the front of the building. A couple stood near the counter with their backs toward him.

“Good morning,” he said. “How may I help you?”

They turned to face him and his optimism fizzled. Although he did not recognize the woman, he was acquainted with the man. The pastor’s appearance inside his shop could mean only one thing. They had no desire to save his business. Their only concern was his soul.

* * *

To read more of chapter one of DEFENDING GLORY visit Anne’s website www.AnneKAlbert.com.

Book two of the series, PROTECTING HOPE, will be released by Vanilla Heart Publishing this spring. Serene Piedmont Island seems the perfect place for a workaholic accountant to kill five weeks until she realizes someone’s trying to kill her.

* * *

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday - How She Does It Anne K. Albert

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

The how of a story is indeed a sum of the five Ws. An author tells the story by showing the first five elements, which in turn allows the reader to see, understand and appreciate the how.

How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I wish I did! I’m a pantser so I begin with an inkling of an idea. It’s never larger than a grain of sand and it’s always clouded in mist! When I begin a story I have no idea who these characters are. It’s very much like meeting a person for the first time. You get a sense you either like them or not, but as to who they really are deep inside, you haven’t a clue. By the end of the first draft, I know a great deal more about the characters. It’s in the revisions and edits that I expand and add layers to their personalities.

Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

Sometimes a character appears first, but usually it’s an event or inciting incident that will forever change this particular person’s life that pops into my head. As I mentioned above, I’m a pantser. I never know from one sentence to the next what is going to happen, so plotting even a scene in advance let alone an entire book is not for me.

However, midway through the first draft I will sometimes complete a GMC chart.

It’s important to me that every character has a reason for being in this book. Whether primary or secondary characters, everyone must have a Goal. It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the story question, but they have to want to possess or achieve something. This something doesn’t need to be earth shattering. It just has to be of importance to this character. It’s not just enough for them to want something. They have to have a reason for wanting it. This is their Motivation, and that often tells me something about their personality. In fiction as in life, of course, no one achieves what they want without a struggle or having to work for it, and that’s where Conflict comes in. When I understand each person’s GMC, I have a much better idea of how they will react in any situation.

Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

This is a tough question, Janet! I guess my answer would be general because I know in advance that I want all of the loose ends tied up. I also know I want a satisfying ending. It has to feel right to me and to the reader.

Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I rarely choose settings I personally know, because I sense each story needs a specific locale before I begin to write. Plus, I’ve traveled enough to understand that so many places around the world have similarities and it’s these commonalities that I use when I write.

As for house plans, no. When my characters walk into a building, I see it for the first time through their eyes. I notice the layout, the furniture, the personal details they notice. It’s all very voyeuristic, but it works.

Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

These days it’s all online. If I can’t find it on Google or in Wikipedia or wherever, it’s probably not worth worrying about!

Thanks for featuring me today, Janet. It’s been such fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday's Interview - E. Ayers

Anyone who leaves a comment and emails me (e.ayers at ayersbooks dot com - no spaces) with Ask Me Again in the subject line will be placed in a drawing for a free copy of my upcoming novella Ask Me Again when it is released.

Thank you so much for having me, Janet. It is such an honor to be on your blog. I've always considered you to be a very special mentor and a wonderful author friend.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I write contemporary romance with strong mainstream elements. Life is what influences us and I bring that into my writing. It's very slice-of-life, the romantic slice. But I'm toying with the idea of writing some historical novellas.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

It must have chosen me, about the same way that my characters choose me. Once I started writing contemporary romance, I was hooked.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

I love to read historical, but I'm panicked about writing it. I'm trying to write a few historical novellas to go with my River City novels.

I admire people like Roberta Gellis. She set the bar so high for today's writers by being accurate, yet she writes wonderful stories. History in school would have been much more fun if we'd been allowed to read Roberta Gellis instead of boring textbooks.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I love a cozy mystery, but I don't stick to one genre. I read to relax and enjoy a little escape from my life. As long as I'm entertained, I'll keep reading the book.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.

Seems like I've always been writing. But about twenty years ago, I got serious about writing novels and wrote several manuscripts for young readers who are good readers. I had no clue how to publish them or even how to submit to a publisher.

A friend's daughter is a romance writer and she convinced me to write romance. After her arm twisting, I wrote one and submitted it to a publisher. That book was rejected, but the editor loved the story. I got the nicest rejection letter. I wasn't certain if I wanted to cry or dance on the ceiling. Then I got to meet that editor-in-chief about a week later in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She spent almost an hour talking to me about my manuscript. I had violated every romance rule. (There were rules for writing romance?) So she marches me over to the wonderful Janet Lane Walters and says, "Teach her to write it correctly because she's very good with the tale."

One treasured, autographed How to be Your Own Critique Partner, a few online classes with the authors of that book, several more classes, lots of workshops, and what feels like a million rewrites of that first rejected manuscript, and Wanting is now a real book and the first in my River City series. It's been a marvelous journey, and I've learned so much along the way.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

That's a tough question. I think we always fall in love with our characters as we write them. I adore Ari. He's my hero in A Challenge. He works hard to be an alpha, but he's more of a beta. In my mind, he's my best-looking and so far, my warmest and most loving hero.

My favorite heroine is Dallas from A New Beginning. Her blue-streaked hair and odd style show her uniqueness, but it's her personality and perseverance that I admire. She has a fresh quality about her and a vivaciousness that shines through. Talented and intelligent, she needed her hero to set her free.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

This is a tough question. I'm going to have to say yes. When I started writing, I didn't think about the fact that I had a villain or villains. And since I don't write suspense, I want to say no, but … a villain is a villain. None of them are tying Pauline to the railroad tracks, but a villain can make the hero or heroine's life miserable. We all have one in our life. Either we work with one, live in the neighborhood with one, or worse, he or she is a family member!

I believe that most people are good people. But there are people who don't care about anything other than themselves. They don't care who they hurt to get what they want. And I can't keep them out of my novels.

8. What are you working on now?

Ask Me Again is a novella which will be released before the end of the month. It's undergoing all those last minute things. I'm also polishing my still untitled wounded hero/recluse story which should be released in late February or early March. Plus I have two River City characters begging for keyboard time. My muse so wants to write that story.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming was released in Nov. and I used the knowledge that I had of a blizzard that hit a friend's ranch in Colorado. That family's daily struggle stayed in my head and came out in A Snowy Christmas in Wyoming. It's not just a Christmas story. It's a tale of finding love, saving a herd, sharing the same family values, and small town prejudices.

10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Include the opening of the book.

Ask Me Again is a product of my normal matchmaking. I never think in exact terms when characters form. It's all very foggy at first, but then it takes shape. So what would bring a grown man home and force him to telecommute? What kind of a job would he have that would allow him to do such a thing? Why would he come home and not another sibling? All these things roll through my mind until they settle into a realistic, cohesive storyline.

Every family has its own dynamics, every family has its problems, and parents have secrets, too. Unfortunately, most all of us will cope with a dying parent during our lifetime. As we face these kinds of life altering events, our perspectives on our own lives tend to change and it forces us to think about what is important.

Rob Miller's life is on overload! His business is thriving and his life was in fast forward until he is called home to deal with a family crisis. The last thing on his mind is romance, but when he bumps into Torrey Timberlake, he has to re-evaluate his priorities. She might be the best thing to happen to him at the worst of times. Will she be the one to help him pick up the pieces?

Here's the unpolished sneak preview!

~~Chapter One~~

"Mom, I need to stretch my legs. Do you need me to pick up anything from the grocery store?"

"Oh, Robbie, I do need several things. Let me make a list for you," Marion Miller said to her son as she grabbed a sheet of paper from a magnetic pad that hung on the refrigerator door. A minute later, she handed him the list. "I put your favorite cereal on here."

He looked at the name of the chocolate and marshmallow cereal and shook his head. He couldn't believe they still made the sugar-laden puffs that he once ate. "Mom, are you going to eat this? Because I don't eat it anymore."

"Well, son, if you want something else go right ahead and buy it. I want you to be happy while you're here. Let me give you some money for this."

"Don't worry about it, Mom, I've got it covered."

Kissing his mother on the cheek, he strode out the back door, and headed for his car. Rob wanted to tell her exactly what would make him happy, but there was no point, it would only upset her, and she didn't need more stress in her life.

When he reached the supermarket, he grabbed a cart, and examined his mom's list. He intended to do some serious shopping. He went through the produce section picking out a variety of fruits and vegetables.

His mom's list contained several basic items such as coffee and he easily found most of them as he wandered through the aisles. He grinned as he picked the box with the large K that his mother had listed, and then turned his attention to the top shelf where the whole grain cereals were lined up. One promised great taste. He read the list of ingredients and added it to his cart. Squirrel food.

He should have done this when he had first arrived home and not waited three weeks, but he hadn't wanted to hurt his mom's feelings. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy a home-cooked meal, but he tried to eat healthy foods, and his mom was feeding him like a growing teen.

Just as he turned to the next aisle, he caught a glimpse of a slender blonde about his age. She looked familiar, but he hadn't even attended a high school reunion, and the names of classmates were escaping him. T...uh. T-T, it begins with a T. It isn't Tammy. Darn it! Why can't I remember?

He told himself to stop worrying about it. Most of the women his age were married with kids. What would he say anyway? 'Hi, remember me? Remember Mrs. Fisch? Wasn't she the worst math teacher?'

He pushed the cart along at a steady clip looking for pasta. I've seen Dan, Bill, and Butt a few times over the years. Who would name their son Butler? Wouldn't they know it would be shortened to Butt when he got to school? And where are they hiding whole grain pasta in this store? Deep in thought, he almost plowed into the blonde.

"Robbie? Robbie Miller?" the woman asked.

"Yes, and I'm very sorry, but I can't remember your name. It starts with a T?"

"Torrey Timberlake. Well, it changed to Snyder, but I changed it back to Timberlake after the divorce. I'm sorry. That's way too much information." She blushed as she stared at him.

Torrey Timberlake? "No, not at all. I guess I haven't seen you since graduation. You look wonderful." Oh, have you changed!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday - Looking at Revenge

Revenge plots are intense. Think of Medea or Hamlet. Sometimes just a taste can be used to intensify the story you're telling. Revenge can be an element in a mystery or a suspense story.

For a Revenge plot, a hero and a villain are needed. Plus a victim. Unlike the Rescue kind of plot, the victim is dead. The hero wants to see the villain as dead as the victim. There can also be an act taken by the villain against the hero or heroine. This event can be real or imagined.

When there is a death often the hero is visited by the victim in a dream calling for the hero to avenge him. The focus of this kind of story is on the revenge and not on developing the character or having the character change.

Often this begins with the hero going to the authorities and finding nothing can be done. The villain will get away with what he or she has planned. The hero or heroine then decides to take justice into their own hands.

The hero or heroine must have a moral justification for seeking the revengand must equal the act they are seeking to avenge.

This story ends with a confrontation where the hero or heroine succeeds or fails. Though in the past in Revenge stories, both the hero and the villain are dead, today the hero may remain alive.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Write What You Know

When I first heard this bit of advice I was puzzled. I thought this would tie me into writing just about the career I was part of. I was a nurse and yes, I began my career writing nurse romances but then I decided to expand my horizons. I wasn't sure that bit of advice would allow me to write mysteries or fantasy, two of the areas I enjoyed reading. So I sat down to think about what it really meant.

What sort of things did I know? One area was that of emotions. I knew about love and hate and myriad other emotions I'd experienced. So the emotions became a way to explore the other areas of writing I wanted to explore.

Because I had been a nurse I understood how other people reacted to news good and bad. I was also a people watcher. It's not that I knew everything about people, their actions and interactions but I knew wnough to expand on these areas.

I had lived in various places and these became part of what I was able to write about. New Your, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas. Small towns, cities, rural areas. I learned I could transplant these to the area where I wanted to write about.

Another place where I knew things was in the use of the senses. Visual effects, tastes, smells, sounds and touch. I could use things I remembered to add to my stories.

So, write what you know but first sit down and think about all the things you know. Write about the things you can change about what you know by expanding or subtracting.

Monday, January 16, 2012

16 January Week Behind and Week Ahead

Busy week last one with doing the final revisions on The Chosen of Horu. Have done 24 chapters and have a few more to go. Sometimes the small errors make one want to scream and even careful typing doesn't pick them up. Those are words where the letters are the same but the words have such different meanings. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible even with many eyes to catch them all.

This week, I intend to finish the read-through and then get the changes made so I can send this mss. off and begin a new one. Hopefully that will go well especially since I'm aiming at 25,000 to 30,000 words. Then I must begin planning another Mrs. Miller story.

There's been a lot of discussion about SOPA. Though what's being offered in the bill isn't perfect it's better than what we have now. Sure I'd like to see some changes, but I really get tired of finding illegal copies of my books on foreign sites and having the letters asking for them to be taken down ignored.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

3 Blog visit Sunday




Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - The Traitors Among Us -- SR Claridge

The Traitors Among Us - SR Claridge


Angel slid slowly out from under the sheet and lifted herself off his double bed, trying not to make any sudden movements that might wake him. She tiptoed across the hardwood floor, scanning the room for her clothes and pausing each time the floorboards creaked. Last night must have been wilder than she remembered because her clothes were strewn across the room. She was wearing one of his black t-shirts that hung almost to her knees, and her bra was missing in action. She bent down and peeked under the bed. It was possible it could have been kicked under there during their romp. Angel didn‟t remember taking it off, though she was certain it wasn‟t forced off. She‟d been here before, many times, and there was no question she was a willing participant.

Too willing, she scolded herself.

She had been carrying on with Grayson for the past year, and though their relationship was unconventional and probably even unhealthy, she couldn‟t resist him. From the first time he strutted into Tetterbaum‟s pub, which she owned, she was putty in his hands. Thereafter, each time he showed up she followed him home like a bouncing puppy. He was mysterious, alluring and rendered her defenses inoperable with a mere glance from his big brown eyes and dimpled cheeks.

Making it to the bathroom without waking him, Angel exhaled a sigh of relief. She splashed cold water on her face and blotted at the mascara smudged on her cheek. Her brown eyes looked glassy, like she tied one on last night, which was only fair considering she had. Her shoulder length, dark brown hair lay flattened against her head and she ran her fingers through it just above the ears, trying to add volume. It didn‟t work. She finally opted to tuck it behind her ears and let the rest fall messily over her shoulders. Standing back Angel took in her reflection and sighed. “I hope I can sneak out before he sees me,” she mumbled to herself. “Talk about a turn off.”

Angel was certain Grayson would wake up just as good looking as when he went to sleep, though she never stuck around long enough to find out. It wasn‟t because she didn‟t want to behold his manly glory at sunrise; it was because she didn‟t want the awkwardness that comes with the morning after. Everything felt easier at night when inhibitions were compromised by alcohol, expressions were hidden in darkness and there was no particular pressure to talk. At night, in Grayson‟s arms, Angel felt she could become anyone she wanted. She was free and open and that spontaneous excitement was different than anything she‟d ever experienced.

Tiptoeing around the bed she was able to locate her black converse tennis shoes but her bra and black t-shirt that read Tetterbaum‟s Pub were still MIA. She stared at the covers wadded up at the foot of the bed and surmised that her bra and shirt were probably buried in them. Deciding to attempt a quick search and rescue, she knelt down and slid her arm under the black comforter, careful not to touch his legs. Moving to the other side, she slid her arm in again, still nothing.

I’ll have to go home braless and borrow his shirt, she concluded. There were no other feasible options.

As she withdrew her arm, the sheet pulled back slightly and something on his right hip caught her eye. It was a tattoo. She hadn‟t noticed it before, though that wasn‟t hard to believe since she‟d never seen him naked in the light of day. Carefully she lifted the corner of the sheet just enough to view the entire tattoo. It was about two inches long and looked like a scar, like it had been burned into the skin, leaving grooves in his flesh. She‟d never seen anything like it. Angel fought the temptation to let her fingertips explore the grooves. She didn‟t like tattoos, but this one intrigued her and she shuttered, as the possibility it had been branded into his flesh filled her with waves of nausea. Cocking her head to the side, Angel narrowed her eyes and studied it. It was the letter M, but the slanted line on the left that made up the middle of the M contained tiny letters. Angel leaned closer, and silently read the letters engraved down the side. “AVGC.” She repeated the letters in her mind, trying to assign significance to the acronym, but had no idea what it meant.

When Grayson began to stir, Angel froze, holding her breath. Please don’t wake up. Please don’t wake up. Her mind chanted and her heart raced. She really didn‟t want him to see how horrible she looked in the morning, not to mention how weird it would be if he opened his eyes and saw her looming over him. When she was certain he was back asleep, she slowly rocked back on her heels, scooted away from the bed and made a beeline for the door.
Their relationship was perfect, she told herself as she drove to her apartment. He didn‟t know where she lived so she didn‟t have to worry about unannounced drop-ins. They‟d never exchanged phone numbers so she didn‟t have to obsess over whether he‟d call the day after sex; nor did she have to carry her phone around hoping for a text. She didn‟t even know his last name. In fact, they knew very little about each other outside of the bedroom. There were no strings, which was exactly what she wanted, or exactly what she tried to convince herself she wanted. The truth was Angel was lonesome. She turned twenty-nine last month and besides the ticking of her biological clock, her heart longed to feel loved.

Angel had experienced her share of typical teenage crushes that lasted a few months, but had only been in love once and it ended badly. His name was Tony and they met as journalism students at the University of Missouri. It was love at first sight. They dated all through school, and after graduation, moved into an apartment together upon returning to Chicago. Shortly after they announced their engagement, Tony changed. As if overnight he grew distant and began to drag his feet about setting an actual wedding date. Finally one night, he dropped the bomb.

The memory of that day was something Angel would like to forget, but it haunted her. He drove her to a place that had become their favorite spot outside the city. The property belonged to a friend of his parents, and Tony was allowed to use it whenever he liked, as long as he cleaned up and locked up. A gravel road led up to the enormous house, which sat a hundred yards from a small lake. The lake was surrounded by trees on all sides and Tony and Angel had gone there many times for romantic getaways, picnics, making-love under the stars and the occasional spontaneous bout of skinny dipping. It was quite possibly Angel‟s favorite place in the entire world, though in all fairness she hadn‟t seen much of the world. Her travels were limited to Illinois and parts of Missouri, with the exception of one trip to New York City when she was five. Tony drove her to this special place to break the news and her heart in one fail swoop. Then he was gone.

She clung to the hope of his return for six months before denial slipped into depression. Angel‟s Great Aunt Olga came to her rescue, forcing her to get out of bed, to eat and shower, to go to work and to find a way to live without him. What made the breakup so painful for Angel was that she never understood why Tony left. All he said was, “we can‟t be together.” He never explained. He never said he didn‟t love her anymore or that she had done something wrong. He just vanished completely from her life.

Getting over Tony had been a long, painful journey that left her heart guarded and unable to risk desertion again.

Since then most nights in Angel‟s life were uneventful. She‟d close up the pub and head home to her apartment in Lincoln Park. When the weather was nice, she walked since it was only a few blocks; but on stormy or snowy days, she was thankful to have her own car, even though owning a car in Chicago was actually more of a hassle and ate up a lot of money in lot fees. Still, it gave her a sense of independence, like she could hop in her car and go anywhere anytime she wanted.

Every night after work, Angel would join her two cats, Midnight and Mo, on the couch for left-over bar food and a round of TV‟s best re-runs. Midnight was solid black and liked to lurk in small, dark places; like under the couch or in a closet. Mo was a social Calico who liked to snuggle. He had a purr so loud it sounded like a motorcycle humming in the distance. After feeding herself and the cats, she‟d fall asleep on the couch, usually thinking about Grayson and wondering when he would show up again.

“Next time he shows up,” she would tell Mo, “I‟m not following him home. I‟m going to play hard-to-get.” She could see Mo didn‟t believe her anymore than she believed herself. He‟d look up with slits of mockery in his eyes, as if to say “who are you kidding,” then go back to bathing himself with his sandpaper tongue. Angel knew Grayson was part of the reason there was no love interest in her life; but she resolved herself to the fact that some form of love, albeit just a physical thing, was better than none at all.

Angel pulled her silver Camry onto the lot and into her reserved spot which cost almost as much monthly rent as her apartment. Turning off the ignition, she sat for a moment, thinking about Grayson‟s tattoo and his nakedness. Her face flushed. How can I date someone else, she interrogated herself, when I know the minute Grayson shows up I’ll dump the other guy for a mere night in Grayson’s bed? It was a fair question. She was stuck.

The aroma of cinnamon pancakes and maple syrup greeted her as she opened her apartment door, momentarily taking her mind off Grayson. She made her way to the kitchen and found great aunt Olga in front of the stove with big pot holder gloves on both hands. Aunt Olga stood four foot ten and was almost as round as she was tall. She had dark gray hair that sat on top her head in little poufy lumps like storm clouds and light brown eyes that sparkled when she smiled. She was seventy but you‟d never know it because her chubby cheeks stretched out her wrinkles and she was as spry as ever; something she attributed to her daily glass of Jack Daniels. “Keeps my mind keen and my intestines clean,” she always said.

Aunt Olga had her own house in the city but showed up at Angels at least three times a week, usually with a bottle of Jack and always with a hidden agenda. For some people the frequent visits may have been invasive, but Angel didn‟t mind. The truth was she didn‟t have many friends of her own. Over the years she had lost touch with high school friends and in college Tony had been her whole life. Now that he was gone she had no one; well, no one except Olga.

Angel gave Aunt Olga a hug from behind. “Mmmm, you make the best cinnamon pancakes in the world,” she said, inhaling in a big whiff.

“You eat up now,” Olga answered, carrying a plate over to the table, “you‟ve got a busy day ahead.”

Angel sat and shoveled in a fork full. “No I don‟t.”

“Angel May,” Olga gasped, “no wonder you don‟t have a man.”

Uh-oh. It was always bad when Olga used her middle name. “What?” She moaned.

“Don‟t talk with your mouth full. No man wants to see that. Close your lips when you chew. You don‟t want him to think you‟re disgusting do you?”

“Who?” Angel blurted, half-chewed pancakes mashing around in clear view.
Olga shook her head in disgust. “Harvey Milligan.”

Angel froze with another fork full half way to her mouth. “Harvey who?”

Aunt Olga snatched the plate from in front of Angel and stormed across the kitchen, to the sink. “I‟m not done with that,” Angel grabbed at the plate.

“You gonna go out with Harvey Milligan this morning?” Olga‟s question was an ultimatum in disguise. Angel watched in wide-eyed horror as she tilted the plate ever so slightly and the pancakes slid towards the disposal.

Olga was a feisty old broad and she didn‟t mind sticking her nose into other people‟s business, no matter the cost. This wasn‟t the first man she‟d found for Angel and she was certain it wouldn‟t be the last. Olga‟s matchmaking skills were sub-par, despite the fact that each time she met a single man she swore to Angel it was fate.

Rodney, the fireman, was the first act of fate. Olga met Rodney when she set her kitchen curtains aflame with an out of control fondue. The oil splattered on the burner and flames shot up three feet high, singeing Olga‟s eyebrows and disintegrating the lace curtains altogether. Rodney was big, strong and not bad looking but he had more muscles than brains. When Angel looked into his eyes it was clear that not only were the lights on and nobody home, but nobody was ever coming home.

The next victim of fate was poor „old Stanley, the dentist. It took the first five minutes of their date for Angel to realize he had the personality of a doorknob.

“I don‟t understand,” Olga wailed when Angel described what a dud Stanley was. “He‟s so witty when he‟s working on my teeth.”

“That‟s not his wit,” Angel explained, “its laughing gas.”

While on one of her exercise kicks, Olga met Manuel, the yoga instructor.

At first, Angel thought Manuel had potential. He had a great body, tan skin, chocolate brown eyes and dark hair that sat perfectly in place. He looked perfect, too perfect, which made perfect sense when Angel found out he was gay.

“No,” Olga gasped at the news, “but he ogles all the ladies.”

“He smiles at the ladies because you‟re all in your seventies and you pay him.”

Olga wasn‟t convinced. “Maybe he didn‟t like you and it was easier to lie than be up front?”

“He‟s not an up front guy. Believe me, he goes in the backdoor.” Angel waited for the metaphor to sink in, and then grinned as Olga giggled like a little girl.

“Oh, that‟s a good one. I‟m gonna have to remember to tell that to Elsa at the hair salon,” Olga snickered.

Then there was Clyde. Angel referred to him as a sweaty clod. He was nice enough, but he took Angel dancing and she had yet to recover from the haunting images of him on the dance floor. He fancied himself an erotic dancer, but his five foot eight, stocky body with a beer gut bouncing up and down, and wet smelly arm pits spoke otherwise. Not to mention the profusion of sweat that dripped from his hairline onto her shoulders. Angel fought her gag reflex when he came off the floor and draped his sweaty pit around her shoulder. She let him have one goodnight kiss, out of sheer pity, then ran inside and brushed her teeth.

Angel watched as Olga tilted the plate slightly higher and one piece of pancake slopped into the sink. “Okay,” she moaned, “you win. I‟ll go out with Harvey Milligan if you give me back my pancakes.”

Olga grinned a big, rounded smile of victory. She waddled over and put the plate back down in front of Angel. “You‟re a mean old sphinx,” Angel said, stuffing pancakes in her mouth.

“How do you think I‟ve lived this long?” She sat down next to Angel and watched her eat. “Hurry. You need to shower and go.”

“Where am I going and who is this Harvey guy?” Angel rolled her eyes, showing how annoyed she was by Olga‟s tactics. She knew Angel couldn‟t resist cinnamon pancakes. It wasn‟t a fair fight.

“Don‟t roll your eyes at your old aunt, it isn‟t proper.” Angel looked over at Olga and crossed her eyes, which made Olga giggle. “You‟re meeting him at the Art Museum at 9:00am.”

“So he‟s another geek.” Angel wasn‟t surprised. Every man Olga lined up for her was a flop. They‟d all been nice, but who wants nice? None of them were manly and strong. Unfortunately, they all had one thing in common, none were Grayson.

“He‟s an accountant dear, very smart with the numbers and loves art. When I told him you used to work at the museum his face lit right up.”

“I haven‟t worked at the museum for years, and I quit that job because I was bored out of my freaking mind.” Angel shoveled in the last bit of pancakes right before Olga snatched her plate and took it to the sink.

“You can‟t be that stranger‟s ho forever,” Olga snapped. Angel didn‟t know whether to laugh at the fact that Olga just used the word ho, or feel offended that she called her one. “You‟re not getting any younger and it‟s time you settle down with a real man.”

Angel rolled her eyes. Here we go again, she thought, the real man speech. What constituted a real man anyway? Olga disapproved of Grayson because his ways were unconventional. He wasn‟t a come home and meet the family sort of guy; but he was more of a real man than any of the men Olga picked out.

“How do you think it looks being a single lady running a pub in the city all by yourself? You don‟t want a reputation you can‟t live down.”
She hadn‟t thought about her reputation as a single female pub owner.

True, most the night spots were owned by men, but that didn‟t mean a woman couldn‟t run a successful bar business alone. Besides, Tetterbaum‟s Pub was a local icon on the North Side with a fabulous reputation. It was a small pub, but had a quaint charm that drew in both locals and tourists.

The Tetterbaum family opened the pub in 1936, shortly after the end of prohibition, and it has been in the same free-standing, corner brick building ever since. Though the building had undergone several renovations through the years, it had never lost its historic allure. There were rumors that Al Capone himself had a table at Tetterbaum‟s though there were no pictures to confirm the tale, just a plaque that hung over the back booth which read “Capone‟s Corner.” Angel was certain it was all hype to bring in tourists.

“You never should have started working at the old, nasty pub. It‟s no place for a woman.” Olga ranted.

“It‟s one of the classiest pubs in the city and you know it.” Angel scolded and Olga threw up her hands.

Angel wasn‟t backing down because she knew she was right. Tetterbaum‟s Pub served the highest quality bar food on the north side and you couldn‟t find a more unique ambiance.

The walls were red brick with dark wooden beams running up and across the ceiling. The floors were dark wood with a natural gleam that reflected the lights from the tiny yellow lamps that sat on each table. The bar ran the entire length of the dining area and the front of it was over-laid in red brick to match the walls. The top was deep brown mahogany, surrounded by a dark brown leather bumper and tiny inset lights illumed the overhang on the outside of the bar. Each stool was covered in dark brown leather to match the bar bumper and the booths throughout the restaurant; and the stool rungs were shiny gold plated.

Mr. Tetterbaum didn‟t believe in neon bar signs advertising alcohol products. He said, “The liquor speaks for itself and doesn‟t need a flashy sign.” So the back of the bar was simply a large mirror, surrounded by shelves made out of the same mahogany as the bar top. Bottles of every size, shape and color adorned the shelves and tiny yellow spotlights from the ceiling were intricately aimed at each shelf, highlighting their offering. It was a beautiful design, with the dim lighting creating an aura of romance and sophistication. It was unlike any pub Angel had ever seen.

“It‟s still no place for a single woman.” Olga sputtered.

Angel sighed from the mental exhaustion of arguing with Olga. It wasn‟t like running a pub was her dream job. She had wanted to be a journalist, but like so many other things in her life, she just sort of stumbled into owning the pub. After Tony left, Angel started waitressing at Tetterbaum‟s Pub, not because she needed the money but because she needed something to force her out of her apartment every day and keep her mind off Tony. She especially liked working the evening shift because night time hours spent at home by herself were the loneliest. After a few months Mr. Tetterbaum had Andrew train her to become a bartender, a challenge she found fulfilling. It somehow gave her a feeling of control, at least over one tiny aspect of her life.

“They shouldn‟t have sold the pub to you. They should have sold it to a man.” Olga waddled from the sink to the stove to the table, mumbling under her breath.

“That‟s sexist,” Angel argued, raising an eyebrow. “There‟s no reason a woman can‟t run a pub in the city. Besides, the Tetterbaum‟s didn‟t have anyone else to sell it to.”

“Rubbish,” Olga spat. “You mark my words missy,” she shook her finger at Angel, “that pub is bad news.”

“It is a great investment and it gives me a sense of purpose. I was lucky to get it.”

Less than a year after Angel started waitressing at Tetterbaum‟s, Ernest Tetterbaum died of a sudden heart attack and his wife, Mable, offered the pub to Angel.

“I‟ll sell it to you for under half of what it‟s worth,” Mable told Angel with her eyes darting around the pub in frantic bursts, and wringing her hands.

“I‟ve never owned a restaurant before,” Angel told her, but Mable insisted.

“I don‟t want anyone else to have her,” she said of the pub, “you were like the daughter we never had and it should be yours.” She patted Angel on the side of the cheek. “If I didn‟t need the money I‟d give it to you for free.”

Angel used some of the inheritance money from her dad to purchase Tetterbaum‟s. Though he left her a substantial amount, she rarely touched her dad‟s money. She used it to pay for college and to buy her car, but everything else was paid for by income she earned herself. It was important for her to feel independent and self-sufficient. She didn‟t like relying on other people because if fate had taught her anything it was that people inevitably leave. Using her dad‟s money to buy the pub was an investment that she felt would have met with her dad‟s approval. In fact, Angel felt certain that he‟d have made Mable an offer on it had he still been alive.

After Angel purchased the pub, Mable wished her good luck and left. Angel hadn‟t seen or heard from her since.

“Humph,” Olga snorted. “It isn‟t right.”

“That pub has been nothing but good for me.” Angel grinned, thinking about how she met Grayson one week after she officially became the new owner of Tetterbaum‟s. In her mind that was icing on the cake, like a tiny kiss from fate.

“People are starting to talk,” Olga said in a half-whisper.

“Wait a second,” Angel blurted, catching up on the conversation, “Did you call me a ho? I‟m not anyone‟s ho.”

“Well, sure you are dear,” Olga argued. “Whenever he comes to call you go, that‟s a ho. He probably has a ho in every bar across town.” Angel hadn‟t thought about that and it made the hair on the back of her neck stand up from sheer irritation.

“He does not,” she scowled.

“How do you know?” Olga stood with her feet squared and her hands on her round, chubby hips. She gawked at Angel, waiting for an answer.

This was getting out of hand. Maybe Olga was right and Grayson did have a girl in every bar across town, but that didn‟t make her a ho. That would make him a ho.

“You‟re wrong about him.” Angel sputtered defensively, all the while searching her vocabulary for a definitive term that would paint her relationship with Grayson in a more positive light. “We‟re friends with benefits.” Olga threw up her hands and Angel felt infuriated. “Maybe he‟s MY ho,” she blurted, raising her right eyebrow slightly. “Did you ever think of that?”

Olga stopped futzing around the kitchen and gasped, “A man ho, now that‟s a different story all together.”

“Yep,” Angel chimed in, feeling vindicated, “he‟s my boy toy and I keep him around to pleasure me until Mr. Right comes along.”

Olga chuckled a raspy laugh; one only years of smoking could produce. “I can‟t wait to tell Elsa you have a man ho.” Olga shuffled around the kitchen. “Maybe I should get me a man ho?”

Angel buried her face in her arms and let them drop onto the kitchen table, exhaling an exasperated sigh. “You‟re killing me.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

How She Does It -- S.R. Claridge

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

I agree. I usually know the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE right off the bat… the WHY and the HOW are the creative part, where I get to dive into the deep, dark corners of my mind and see what scary things I can find. 

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I usually begin with a basic idea of each character and paint an overall visual image; but my characters don’t really come alive until the story progresses. I spend a great deal of time during the re-writing process going back and adding in character traits and overall depth.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

My main characters are always alive before the plot… but the plot brings out their idiosyncrasies in persona. I may have an idea of where the story will lead, but I never outline it or plot its course. It is more natural for me to allow the characters themselves to play out the scene. Sometimes I am amazed at where it leads and I have to take my fingers off the keyboard and ask myself, “Is that where I really want the story to go?”

In the “Just Call Me Angel” series, which currently consists of three novels (Tetterbaum’s Truth, Traitors Among Us, Russian Uprising), there are many moments when I gasp at what I have just typed and think, “Wow, I did not see that coming!” It is my hope that my readers feel the same.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin?

In a general way or a specific one? I usually have no idea where the story will end. Sometimes I have a general thought about where the story is headed, but it always ends up twisting and turning… so now, I just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

Thus far, I have chosen settings that are familiar to me. Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and Chicago. I find it is easier to visualize the places I have been, thus, lending itself to a deeper, more real description for the reader.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Almost all my research is done on-line or in actually visiting a location and taking pictures of it. I rarely use books for research.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday's Interview - Rose Anderson

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

First off Janet let me say thank you for having me today. I appreciate your allowing me to introduce myself to your site’s visitors.

At this time, my erotic romances are my books in print. I write across genres or combine elements of several and often have more than one story going at the same time. Occasionally I’ll hop from one to another and back again in the same day. :)

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

Erotic romance most definitely chose me! I’ve spent the past four years writing a rather cerebral contemporary series.

Life changed for me about a year and a half ago when my grown daughter got me thinking about publishing again. Ambient Income was the phrase she’d used after reading about a very successful ebook author who now lives solely on his royalties. It caught my imagination, I liked the idea of Ambient Income. Ambient is such an evocative word. It means to come from all sides. I like the thought of good things coming from all sides!

The time fame for all this mind shift was kind of crazy -- no more than a full week all told. Shortly after my conversation with my daughter, I came across a magazine article stating eReaders were becoming affordable and ebook sales were on the rise. The very next day, I read online that romance was the fastest growing genre, the sub-genre of erotic romance was even more so. That very same week, I heard that many New York Times bestsellers started out in romance. Unbelievably, one morning just a few days later, I got an email from C. Hope Clark, who does Funds for Writers, and read a comment on erotic romance. I threw my hands in the air and surrendered. The Muse spoke to me. In fact, once I understood this inspiration for what it was, I realized she’d been hitting me on the nose for a week!

I figured I’d write erotic romance to break into this business, learn the ropes, and have some idea what the heck I was doing by the time I finished my series. I made a plan, wrote a book, and two books and a full year later I’m about to submit my next erotic romance to my current publisher. Yes, I’ll get back to that series eventually…

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

Because I’m comfortable using words to create worlds, I’d likely try just about all of them. There is one I wouldn’t touch though because it’s just not in me, and that is Horror. I can write chilling, I can write suspense. In a mood, I can write maniacal or matter of fact evil. But I can’t write the depth of cruelty, fear, and suffering found in the Horror genre. Hats off to those authors who can paint with the dark paints. It takes a lot to go outside of yourself, write for the sake of the art, and do so convincingly.

I have touched upon horror in my writing, but I don’t see me doing a whole book of it because I’m an emotional marshmallow. I’m far too sensitive a person who cries at weddings, births, funerals, and occasionally TV commercials. It simply wouldn’t sound believable.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I’m an informational reader for the most part. Oddball that I am, I read encyclopedias like other people read magazines. Once a year I’ll binge, and I mean binge, on fiction -- romance mostly, but I’ll do a run of historical fiction too. My yearly pilgrimage could include titles by the likes of Diana Gabaldon, JK Rowling, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. When the binge ends, I go back to reading information.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing

I’ve been writing for more than twenty years on and off, but seriously knuckling down for about five. I’m a person who loves learning all kinds of things. You might say my childlike wonder is still pretty much intact. My interest(s) du jour often direct where my mind goes when the Muse says it’s time to write. That being the case, any given day catches me writing across a wide range from one end the spectrum to the other -- everything from early readers and childrens literature to erotic romance (not under the same name!).

After an unrealized bid for the New York publishing houses for my childrens stories more than twenty years ago, life got busy and I really didn’t pursuit getting published after that. I have plans for my other completed books now that I have a better understanding of how this business works. 2012 may see me in print in several genres. Now if I could just figure out how to produce an eight-day week to get my stack to print!

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

My series, the unnamed 5-book, 4-year in the making, as-yet-unfinished, Magnum Opus (affectionately called the MO), has a fabulous family of men and I adore all of them. By far, of all the men who’ve come out of my subconscious to introduce themselves, these guys stay front and center as the best.

Were I to pick from my published works, I’d have to say it would have to be S from Hermes Online. That is one smooth-talking, sensual, sexy man. S and I took part in a character interview a few months ago and he told me even more about himself. I found I liked him even more than when I dreamed him up! That man’s a keeper. On the other hand, it’s so easy to fall in love with these perfect specimens of manhood that rise fully formed from my imagination, I’m sure the hero in my next novel will end up stealing my heart as well. He’s certainly trying to!

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

Ooh. I’ve never really given any thought as to how my bad guys were created. That’s something to think about. To be honest, they kind of sprung from my head like Athena!

My aforementioned series has a villain to remember. This bad guy could be Voldemort’s younger brother. That story’s villain was so developed before I even put him to pen, that I even surprised myself. He’s given me goosebumps on several occasions because he’s not really bad, he’s just being himself.

I suppose in the end, my bad guys are me on some level because if you think about it they’d have to be. How else could I write them into being? Muahahahahaaa! ;)

8. What are you working on now?

I’m finishing the self-editing of book one in a shape-shifter story. I’m less for forty-five pages from writing my pitch letter. Yea! All I’ll say about the topic for now, is it’s based upon a local legend. That in itself is a very curious thing considering it’s about a shape-shifter!

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

Dreamscape is my most recent novel. I got into a conversation with an online friend one day about impossible love stories and that was the spark for this particular story. One of my favorite old black and white movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. In it, Lucy Muir, a nearly destitute widow at the turn of the last century, comes to live seaside in a house that once belonged to a cantankerous old sea dog named Captain Daniel Gregg. He tries to scare her off, but as a woman with few options, she stands firm and holds her ground.

As the story unfolds, the two form an unlikely friendship and tiptoe around an impossible love that culminates at the end of her life when he returns, takes her by the hand, and walks with her into the mist. How romantic is that? To this day I love that story. As a girl, I wanted Mrs. Muir to love Daniel Gregg without thinking twice. I also knew there really was no future in it. When I wrote Dreamscape, I held that unfortunate fact in mind. But the thing is, I like bending scenarios and making them work somehow. :)

10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

And just as in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Dreamscape too has a haunted house. But where Mrs. Muir and Captain Gregg sidestepped the love issue because of the poor logistics of loving a ghost, Dr. Jason Bowen and Dr. Elaine O’Keefe’s relationship takes a different turn. I suppose it’s my own way of rewriting the story that so captivated me as a child. I think the best way to sum it up would be to offer the blurb:

Unable to deny his own translucence, Dr. Jason Bowen determines his lack of physical substance could only mean one thing—he’s a ghost. Murdered more than a century before, Jason haunts his house and ponders the treachery that took his life. When Lanie O’Keefe arrives with plans to renovate her newly purchased Victorian mansion, Jason discovers, ghost or not, he’s still very much a man. Despite its derelict condition and haunted reputation, Lanie couldn’t be happier with her new home, but then she has no idea a spirit follows her every move throughout the day and shares her captivating warmth at night. Jason soon discovers he can travel through Lanie’s dreams and finds himself reliving the days before his murder with Lanie by his side. It took one hundred and twenty years for love to find them, but there’s that insurmountable little matter of Jason being dead.
Here’s a bit from the first chapter:

"I"m so excited, Ben, look!” Lanie held out her trembling hand. “I’m shaking all over. I’ve never been inside the gate before.”

Looking up at the massive house with its several boarded windows and shutters barely attached, Ben Danowski turned to her in surprise. “Lanie, are you sayin’ you bought this place without looking inside?”

She laughed lightly. “Pretty reckless, huh?” She went on to explain how she’d loved the old place ever since she was a little girl. While other children called it haunted and broke windows, she’d dreamt it was her house, and now it was. She had yet to go inside but knew by the realtor’s paperwork the house was filled with whatever furnishings Margaret Mason, the last of her family, had left when she died.

What she didn’t mention was she felt she already knew every
inch of the place because her dreams often took her here. She’d seen enough in those dreams that she didn’t need to see the inside before she signed the contract. As both tried to unload the property for nearly twenty-four years, her sight-unseen purchase had surprised and delighted the realtor and the bank president. It didn’t matter if the antiques of her dreams filled the house or if the rooms were empty. All that mattered was the house was hers.

Ben knew while old lady Mason lived, the house had been in pretty good condition and was closed up tight after she died. He told her, “I think you’re going to find the Bowen house is basically sound. Had it been any other house you were buying sight unseen, I’d say you’d bought a Pandora’s Box of trouble.” His father’s good friend Frank Wurley kept an eye on the house through all the years it had sat vacant. Living across the street like he did, Frank made a daily check for broken windows and most often was able to get them replaced within twenty-four hours. He gave up trying to keep up with the regularly vandalized atrium. But more than Lanie’s neighbor, Frank was the president at the First National Bank, which held the Bowen title in trust. They’d discussed the three unusual stipulations in Margaret Mason’s will. The house was never to be rented, and the bank was to use whatever monies necessary from the estate to keep it in livable condition for the next owner, whoever that turned out to be, and for however long it took to sell.

Thanks again for having me Janet. I enjoyed your thought-provoking questions.

My books can be found in ebook and paperback just about anywhere. Here are my links:
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday - The Great Escape

When looking at action plots, there's an escape plot. How does this differ from other action plots. The main reason is that the prisoner is no innocent waiting for a rescue. This person who is imprisoned either falsely or not, plans and executes his or her own escape.

Any moral issues are black and white. Shades of gray can muddy the plot and turn it into something different from what the writer intends.

The things that need to be addressed early are the imprisonment and the reasons for this. Perhaps for a crime not committed or the villain putting the main character in confinement. The difference from the rescue sort of plot is that this hero or heroine will plan and execute their own escape. Therefore this character must be a strong one and even a clever one.

There must be several attempts that fail but remember this doesn't make the hero or heroine down. He or she will try again.

These stories end with the escape allowing the hero or heroine to gain control and thwart the villain.

Remember when using this as the basic plot of the story that the two main characters must be strong. If either is weak the story will fall flat.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Ideas

While thinking about what to inspire me today I stumbled across a comment in a writing book by Meredith andFitzgerald that brought to mind my latest WIP. "All traditional novels begin with an idea that inspires the author to write it."

Ideas so often come before the characters or the plot, at least for me. These ideas aren't very specific and definitely not earth-shattering. I have to look at the ideas and examine them. Sometimes they come in the form of what it. What if there were stones or gems the color of the flames in a fire? Here was the triggering offer for The Temple of Fyre.

Other ideas have come from something read in a book and are mulled around for a long time with a bit added here and there until the story is ready to write. The heroine throws the murder weapon in the Hudson River. This idea rolled around in my head for a long time with bits and pieces coming into view. A house with apartments emerged. Suddenly I knew the owner lived on the second floor, not the ground floor. I had to explore why this happened. Then an incident occurred involving a neighbor and suddenly I was off and running.

Do you begin your stories with ideas. Can you express this idea in a single line. A line that sends your imagination off and running. That's happening to me now.

A man and woman suddenly through a tragedy become joint guardians to an infant. That's the idea and now I must be off to write a story that will be my story. This idea has occurred to me before but in a different form where only the man inherits a pair of babies. So this story will have its differences. I'm off to find those differences and write the story. Now I'll delve into the Who, What, When, Why, Where and the How of this story. To reach this point I needed that rather general idea.

Monday, January 9, 2012

9 January - Behind and Ahead

Last week was back to normal week and no resolutions made. Did set some goals and am moving forward with them. Have about 20 chapters to finish cleaning up and The Chosen of Horu will be off to the publisher. Did a lot of toying around with A Surprising Seduction and finally think I've got it on the right track. What I brainstormed with a friend has changed in many ways. No surprise there.

This week I'll continue with work on The Chosen and that's a slow progress and the ruler rule. Prited out the chapters and am going over them for those dreaded words that are words but not the right word because of letter reversal. I'll have a sort of chapter synopsis for Surprising and will start blocking in the scenes.

About brain-storming. Always a good thing to do with a friend or two, especially one who knows how your mind works. I've been thinking about how I write and it's not necessarily the character who comes first. Usually more vague than that. What I had was a character's name. Since he's mentioned in one of the other Seduction stories, his name must remain. I also knew he was an attorney. Suddenly and surprisingly I learned his brother and wife had died and left him in joint guardianship of a small child. The child started out to be 18 months but had now become 9 months. Who knows what happens. Did the brainstorming work. Yes, because it set my mind to work on finding the story behind the few details I knew and managed to make this a simpler story to tell.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

3 Blog Visit Sunday




Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday's Chapter - Once A Good Girl. Wendy S. Marcus

Back for day 2! Below is an excerpt from my second Harlequin Medical Romance, Once a Good Girl… available now.


With a few adept keystrokes, 5E Head nurse Victoria Forley shot next week’s schedule off to the nursing office and closed down her computer. Today she would leave on time. She straightened her already neat desk then scanned her tiny utilitarian office to make sure everything was in its place. The memory of her son’s tear-filled eyes made her heart ache. “Why am I always the last kid picked up from afterschool program?” Jake had asked last night at dinner. “My teacher gets so mad when you’re late.”

Mad enough to put Victoria on parental probation. Three more late pick-ups and Jake would be kicked out of the program. Then what would she do?

Victoria hated that the promotion she’d fought so hard for, a bullet-point in her ten-year plan to provide her son a future filled with opportunities rather than financial constraints, significantly impacted the wide-awake hours they spent together. Although, to be honest, it wasn’t actually the job that was the problem; it was her obsessive compulsive need to achieve perfection at it. To show everyone at Madrin Memorial Hospital who thought a twenty-five-year-old wasn’t experienced enough to be the hospital’s newest head nurse that she was up to the task.

She grabbed her lab coat from the hanger hooked to the back of her door and slipped it on. A final check of her H-shaped unit and she’d be ready to go. Exiting her office, Victoria inhaled the familiar, disinfectant fresh odor of pine and scanned the white walls and floors to assure they were in pristine condition. She closed the lid on a laundry hamper and rolled two unused IV pumps into the clean utility room.

When she crossed over to the hallway of odd-numbered rooms she saw it, sitting quietly outside room 517. A shedding, allergy-inducing, pee-whenever-the-urge-hits golden retriever with a bright red bandana tied around its neck.

So, the elusive Dr. K, oncology rehabilitation specialist extraordinaire finally deigned to put in an appearance on 5E, two hours late for their scheduled meeting. Well, now he’d have to wait for her to make herself available. And she was in no hurry to listen to him spout the merits of his program and, she was sure, begin lobbying for her support to make his dog’s position permanent.

Not likely.

While she was all for an in-house staff member coordinating a multidisciplinary approach to the rehabilitation of cancer patients and administering daily bedside PT to chemo patients too exhausted or too immunosuppressed to attend therapy down in the department, she didn’t see why Dr. K. needed a four-legged companion to do it. Victoria walked past the animal, who didn’t budge from his position, the slight wag of his tail the only indication he’d noticed her. Ok. So it obviously wasn’t a threat to visitors. Still. She was not a fan of unsanitary animals besmirching her unit. Unless it benefited her patients, which is why she’d agreed to hold off on casting her negative vote until after the four-week trial.

“We’ll swing by tomorrow morning,” a male voice said from inside the room. The rich, deep timbre and his words ‘swing by’ caused a jolt of recognition.

Unease sauntered up her spine. It couldn’t be. She looked into the room anyway, had to catch a glimpse to be sure.

A man stood at the foot of the bed two. The blinds closed and the lights off, she could just make out was his height: Tall. Shoulders: Full. Arms: Big. Longish, dark hair curled haphazardly over the tops of his ears, reaching the collar of his lab coat in the back. As if he felt her eyes on him, he turned to face her. An unruly swag of bangs hung on an angle obscuring part of his forehead. Despite his unkempt appearance he was handsome in a rugged, untamed sort of way.

Great. He’d caught her staring.

“Victoria?” the man asked, and started to walk toward her.

That voice. His stride. Please, God. Not him. Victoria felt flash frozen in place. When he emerged from the darkened room into the well-lit hallway, her eyes, the only body part capable of movement, met his. A blue so pale they’d look almost colorless if not for an outer ring of deep ocean blue. Eyes she’d loved and hated in equal measure, familiar eyes in an unfamiliar face, a man’s face with a slightly crooked nose, obviously broken at some point, and strong cheek bones. A scar bisected his right eyebrow another spliced the center of his chin.

But she’d know him anywhere.

Kyle Karlinsky.

Before she could stop it, concern flitted across her mind. What’d happened to him in the nine years he’d been gone? She mentally slapped it back. It didn’t matter, couldn’t have been worse than what she’d been through because of his irresponsible carelessness.

“Victoria?” he asked. “What are you doing here?” He scanned the nametag clipped to the breast pocket of her lab coat. “You’re a nurse?” He hesitated, digested his discovery and with narrowed, taunting eyes asked, “What happened? Couldn’t hack it at Harvard?”

If the above excerpt leaves you with a hankering for more – like I hope it will – a continuation and links for purchase are available on my website http://WendySMarcus.com. One lucky visitor who comments today will win a copy of my book, so be sure to let me know you were here!