Monday, December 31, 2012

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters

Today is the end of 2012 and the year has been an eventful one. From joy to grief but most years are like that. As far as my writing went, the year was profitable and also slow. Only had three new releases but several re-releases. That's always a good feeling. The new sales are thrilling. No matter how many books out thereeach new one makes me want to shout. I'm sure that's true for most writers. Some of my friends have sold for the first time and some have sold after a hiatus. There are two good writers I know who are still dragging their feet and I'm not sure if they're afraid of success or failure. My dad used to tell me to aim for the stars but if I only hit the garden fence at least I tried.

For the coming year, I'm not making resolutions but I am having goals. I'd like to finish the book I found a complete mss of done on carbon paper on my old typewriter. I would also like to finish four novellas, three belonging to a new series titled Moon Child's something. I'd also like to start the second of the Guild House series. One will see what happens at the end of the year. I usually bite off more than I can chew but it's fun trying.

So what about you? Do you make resolutions or just have goals to shoot for? Are you aiming for the stars and happy when you hthe garden fence? I know I am.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday's Chapter featuring Lines of Fire by Janet Lane Walters #fantasy #romance

The Guild House Series

Defenders Hall

Lines of Fire


Whispers of the grief to come slithered through Alric’s thoughts. He knelt beside his father’s bed and brushed the older man’s hand. The lines of fire on his father’s skin, once bright scarlet, had faded to pale pink. Thought the end approached, Alric wasn’t ready to see his father pass from life into the abyss of death.

“Papa,” he whispered. "The men of the Guild Houses and their bondmates arrive in just five days to test me for admission into the Defenders Hall.” His words were a plea for his father to remain with him for that time.

The older man’s eyes opened. The pain Alric saw brought wetness to his eyes. When his father died, there would be no relative to witness the acceptance as a Defender trainee. From the moment his father had given Alric a wooden sword and shown him the ways one could be used, he had desired to leave the village and pursue more training.

With fierce determination, Alric sought to infuse some of his vitality into his father. As always, the attempt failed. Why could the lines of fire be used to halt the flow of blood and to not achieve a return to vitality? Alric groaned. If he had been on the wood-cutting trip into the forest, he could have helped his father and the other man. A boar had gored and broken their bodies. The other lumberman had died. Alric’s father had lingered and suffered.


The harsh whisper startled Alric. His father hadn’t spoken once in the ten days since his shattered body had been carried to the village.


“Listen. Be Defender.”

“I promise.”

“Swordmaster. Enemy. Lines of fire. Not all can see,”

Alric frowned. What die his father mean? Was the Swordmaster the reason his father’s bond had been broken and he had been banished to this distant village? Why should the lines remain a secret? Before he had a chance to ask his father spoke again.

“Find sibs.”

Alric’s head jerked up. “Sibs. I have none.”

“One boy. One girl. Too young to steal away. Just you.”

This new information rocked Alric’s thoughts. “I will find them.”

“Bracelet. Take. Use. True mate.”

New ideas and new demands swamped Alric. Questions rattled like nuts falling from the trees in autumn.

“Save. Defenders. Restore old ways. Promise.”

“I will.” Alric wasn’t sure what he had promised but his father’s words flowed through his thoughts the way the lines of fire flowed over his skin. He pressed his forehead against his father’s hand and slammed shut the gates of grief.

The rattled breathing slowed and began again. Each stop and start brought a welling of tears closer to the surface. The sound stopped. Alric waited. He raised his head. The lines of fire on his father’s skin vanished.

Gut churning sobs began and wracked Alric’s body. When the storm of tears stopped Alric rose. With leaden steps he walked to the cabin door to summon the village women to care for his father’s corpse.

* * *

On the day of testing, Alric waited with the other youths on the village commons. He had his father’s knife, sword and bonding bracelet. As he stared down the road, he recited the names of the four Guilds and their colors.

“Healers, blue. Justicars, black. Artisans, motley in red, purple and yellow. Defenders green.”

Around him whispers rose until they became a steady buzz like swarming bees. “Here they come.”

He studied the riders and their mounts. Four men and four women approached the village. The twin horns of the steeds had been polished until they gleamed. The coats of the bihorns varied in color from cream to sable.

By the end of the day, Alric bristled with pride. He had fulfilled one of the promises made to his father. He was the only one of the boys chosen to train as a Defender. Two girls had been tapped to become Defenders. He wondered why they had been chosen. Neither had any weapon skills.

Before leaving the village with the youths selected for the four guilds, he slipped away from the celebration to visit his father’s grave. Silent tears fell. He dashed them away. “In five years I’ll wear Defender’s green. I will keep the promises I made.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday - Release coming - Janet Lane Walters - Lines of Fire #fantasy #romance

Since the person who should have done the How She Does It feature never sent her material, I'm taking over at least today with news about my uncoming release that will arrive sometime in January.

Lines of Fire is a fantasy romance that was fun to do and is an imaginative adventure that is a bit different, at least I hope so. Fearful of being forced by the sorcerers, the four Guilds of Investia have crossed the mists to a new world. They have erected a large structure known as the Guild House. The Guilds are Healers, Defenders, Artisans and Justicars. Not all of their people have the talents in the four areas and live in villages and farms.

Lines of Fire is the first of a trilogy about the Defenders Guild. Alric, the hero has promised his father a banished Defender to return the Defenders Guild to the ways of old and to find his missing siblings. Alric is chosen to train as a Defender and the story opens when after a duel with a Desert Rider, he learns his second bondmate will not make the bond permanent. According to rules established by the family who has ruled the Defenders for generations, a third failed bond will banish him. The current Swordmaster wants this to happen even though Alric is the best dueler among the group. Alric also sees the lines of fire that flow over people's skin and uses them when he duels.

Kalia, the Swordmaster's older daughter has no wish to bond or to be a Defender.  She also sees the lines of fire but wishes to use them to heal. She has halted the flow of blood following injuries many times. Once, she managed to dissolve a blood clot that threatened someone's life. The Swordmaster has decided she will marry his favored Defender and Kalia would rather flee than bond to Petan.

Petan and the Swordmaster's lines of fire are dark and turgid rather than the vivid red of the others. Petan wants Kalia for taking from her lines will allow him to continue to function.

The hero and heroine must learn how to clear the lines and to defeat those who wish them harm as well as learn that love is the answer to many problems.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday #amreading - What Janet Lane Walters Has Been Reading

Still re-reading books and stories by my friends and browsing through what books I want to load into my Kindle. Have been reading a lot of blurbs and searching to see if my favorite authors have put out new books.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas Read this to granddaughters. Grandson slept through the reading. Felt very fortunate I can recite most of the poem since the selected book had black letters printed on a dark blue background for the first few lines. Up to On the roof I heard such a clatter. Memory saved the day.

Re-read Cabin Fever by Sheila Claydon - Romance on a cruise. Always interesting learning new things and especially British bits. Still have no idea what treacle is. It's a color, That much I got.

Also Reluctant Date re-read. Learned a bit about Florida in this story. Both books gave me that little jolt when the hero and heroine got together.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - First Lines #amwriting #amlearning

When I was re-reading How To Write Mysteries by Shannon OCork I came across a quote by Mickey Spillane. While he was talking about mysteries I believe the quote applies to most genre fiction,

"The first page sells a mystery and the last page sells the next one."

To me this makes sense for all stories. I've often read a book by an author never read before and the first page draws me in and the last page makes me want to read the author's next book. Sometimes the author's back list is sought. This has happened to my with romance, fantasy, science fiction, action adventure, mysteries, You name it. I've often found these books by accident when looking for another book.

So what does that first page need to do to pull a reader forward? These sentences set the tone of the story, establish the time period, define the setting, and introduce a character that makes the reader want to learn what is happening in this world you have created. Have you ever read a story and been fooled by perhaps the blurb, the cover or something else and when you start reading learn this story isn't what you signed on to read? I have and that makes me not want to read any more words of the story. hat first page is very important. This is the bait.

Now about that last page. The last page needs to end where the story does, needs to satisfy the reader in an emotional way, and be something to remember since you want your readers to buy your next book. I've read books where the story ends. I have that emotional reaction but the writer goes on and on to explain what happened or to show the characters having their happy or satisfactory ending continue into the future. Sometimes this is a chapter or an epilogue. So often that makes me go ho hum. Not something you want your reader to feel.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday's Inpiration by Janet Lane Walters #aminspired

Today it'll be a very different inspiration. First Happy Holidays to all.

Inspiration number one - Just enough snow to cover the brown grass and light up the trees. That's what I found last night when I left son's house after watching grandchildren while their parents sang at church.

Inspiration number 2 - Those grandchildren who were on their best behavior even letting Grandma watch Jeopardy. Then came the test. To read to them The Night Before Christmas. Book chosen had the first page printed black letters on dark blue background. Fortunately I can recite the first part of the powm, even more than I thought I could.

Inspiration number three - Having the courage to trash an entire chapter of my new work in progress because I muddied the high point of the chapter with talk instead of with reactions.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amwriting

Christmas Eve and preparations are nearly done. I've been thinking about Christmas pasts and how my father really loved the holiday. He was a steelworker and often was on strike for the holidays but he always made sure his children had a good Christmas. The tree usually went up on Christmas Eve until my younger brother stopped believing in Santa Claus. The last year this happened was one of those strike years. After my brother was in bed, my father sent me and a friend out to buy the tree. Money was very short and I had two dollars. The police and firemen held a joint tree place so that's where my friend and I headed with a large wagon. I had a dollar and a half. Most of the men running the stand knew my father and mother so I managed to buy a nine foot tree for my money. If you would have seen my friend and I hauling this on a Red Flyer wagon clear across town, and up steps that went under the railroad tracks. When we arrived home, my father laughed. Since there weren't enough decorations for the entire tree he put it in a corner and we decorated the sides and the front. Fortunately the ceilings were higs so the tree fit. Was a really great Christmas. I got a chemistry set and stunk up the house with my concoctions.

Here's another meander. When I buy a book I intend to read it all. I won't name titles or anything else but I just finished a book where not only was the heroine too stupid to live, the writer seemed to feel the reader belonged in the same category. Was supposed to be a romantic suspense. There was little romance until the last page. The suspense was/s accomplished. There was nothing wrong with the writing. The sentences flowed long and smooth but in suspense the tension must be there. Also as soon as the bad guy made an appearance I knew who the killer was. Took about 200 more pages for the police and the heroine to figure this out.

Enough meandering. Right now I've started a new story that will be part of a 12 story set of novellas and I'm also working on the Goddesses of Er. Now reclaining the first 2 chapters that were lost somewhere in the ether.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday's Excerpt from Irons In The Fire by Penny Marzec #amreading

Except from Irons in the Fire, by Penelope Marzec

Published by Crescent Moon Press (

ISBN-13: 978-0981848457

She gave him a quizzical stare. “Detective Jamison said you did foolhardy stunts.”

He rolled his eyes. They weren't foolhardy. He'd gotten some damn good stories. Okay, maybe hanging over the bridge while trying to talk that drunk out of jumping was a bit risky. Especially when the drunk slipped.

He glanced at the three-inch scar on his right arm. That was from the time he tried to reason with a real loony holding a hysterical woman hostage. When the guy lunged at him, the woman got away. It had made a terrific headline. But hell, it had hurt, too. “Jamison thinks doing thirty-six in a 35 mile per hour zone is foolhardy,” he mumbled.

She reached out to run her finger along the jagged scar. Her touch held the warmth of a healing salve. “This came from a knife.”

He jerked his arm away and narrowed his eyes, until he remembered the Associated Press had picked up the story and sent it over the wire.

She sank into the chair. “Your omelet's stone cold.”

A puddle of congealed butter surrounded the omelet. He carried the plate to the microwave oven. “You're eating half of this.”

She shrugged wearily but didn't argue. While the omelet warmed, he tossed instant coffee into two mugs and added water. “Your aunt isn't home most of the time.”

“She's searching for the fountain of youth.” A frown etched into her smooth forehead as she stared out the window toward the Taylor home.

“Mike never seemed particularly lonely whenever Evelyn went away.”

Catherine swung her head around and glared at him. “Uncle Mike was busy. His realty office took up most of his time.”

He took the omelet out of the microwave and replaced it with the mugs. “It would be understandable if your uncle sought out some companionship when Evelyn wasn't around.”

“Uncle Mike would never be unfaithful. He worshipped Evelyn. He would have given her the moon if she’d asked for it.”

He slid a portion of the egg dish onto another plate. Her cheeks were rosy and her eyes had turned to blue fire. Anger only made her more beautiful. Damn. If she was a witch, she ought to have a few warts.

He tore his gaze away from her and sat. “Evelyn has always craved the finer things in life. What if she believed the endless fountain of cash was about to turn into a trickle because her husband might leave her for another woman?”

Catherine gasped. “H-how can you say such an evil thing?”

“Hey. It happens everyday. Don't you read the papers?” He picked up his fork and dug in. From the first bite, he decided it was the best omelet he had ever eaten.

“Uncle Mike would never go out with another woman. Never.” Her lips pressed together in a grim line.

“So why was he out in his boat at two in the morning?”

She stood, her fists clenched at her sides. “I don't know, but he wasn't out with another woman. He loved Evelyn.”

He savored another morsel as he watched Catherine pace across the floor. Loving Evelyn would be like loving the Ice Queen, but loving Catherine would be like diving into a volcano. The air around her almost crackled with energy. If he touched her, would his own skin sizzle? A hunger that had nothing to do with food made him put down his fork.

“Uncle Mike has been--had been--depressed lately,” she blurted out. “The real estate market is slow right now. He was afraid he might have to let some people go. Cruising in the boat always made him feel better. It gave him a new perspective, he said.”

She looked out the back window at the channel. Britt came up behind her, and together they watched as the marine police anchored three boats at regular intervals along the waterway. On the decks, black-suited divers prepared to begin their search.

Britt tried to hold back, but couldn't resist the temptation to touch her. He rested his hands lightly on her shoulders. She stiffened as he turned her to face him.

“Did Evelyn love Mike?” He slid his hand under her chin, catching the flicker of doubt in her eyes before she tried to hide it. Her eyelids came down, lashes fanning against her cheeks. He wanted to kiss those cheeks, those tender eyelids. And taste her lips. Could she hear his heart pounding with the force of a pile driver?

“Evelyn isn't a demonstrative person,” she said with a ragged sigh. “But when Uncle Mike had his hernia operation, she sat beside him night and day.”

Britt wished his nagging conscience would desert him. His thumb massaged her cheek, softer than the ripest fruit and begging to be plucked.

His retort came out sounding husky. “Of course she pretended to care, because she’s a manipulative bitch.”

Her hand shot out and she shoved him away, her eyes narrowing to angry slits. “I don't have to listen to your insinuations. Enjoy your omelet, Mr. Jenkins.” With that she charged into the living room to pick up her suitcase and handbag.

He jammed his hands into his pockets, though he felt like putting a fist right through his freshly painted wall. He felt rotten. No, worse than rotten. He felt like a high school kid who couldn't even make it to first base with a girl.

She stormed back through the kitchen, heading for the back door. “Thanks for your hospitality.” The parting shot dripped with sarcasm as the door slammed.

From the window, he watched her race across the driveway, the wind whipping her hair in a mad dance. Outside the Taylor home she stopped abruptly and tugged at something around her neck. She stood, facing the door for a full minute, before finally going inside.

He frowned as he stared at the Taylor’s relentless gothic, and a chill wound its way up his spine. What if Evelyn had murdered her husband?

When her aunt came back, Catherine would be under the same roof as a cold-blooded killer.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday's How She Does It with Penny Marzec #amlearning

Penny and I belong to 2 organizations and we have met and talked a number of times.

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?

Since my father spent his career in journalism, I am very familiar with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. My father is still peppering his conversations with interminable questions. :^) I agree with you that plot originates from the answers to the first five questions. The "How" is the fun part, the part where all the action takes place in a book.

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

Most often, my characters simply wander into my thoughts, sparked by a memory, a scene, an incident, or sometimes a news story. Then I have to round them out and give them a history, though some of that occurs as I am writing the story while I'm delving into what makes them tick.

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 characters and their goals are the most important part of the story for me. The plot centers on the characters getting what they want. I do have a general outline before I start, but it is subject to change. My characters sometimes go off in their own direction to get to the end, but the end rarely changes. I know the ending before I begin writing.

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

Yes, I always have the ending in mind as I'm writing. It's always very specific. I know where my characters are headed and while they may take a few detours, the ending is inevitable.

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

Most often, I choose settings I know. Settings are a very important part of my stories and I need to feel comfortable in each setting so that my characters can move around freely.

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

I research online, from books, and at historic sites. I love to go to used book sales and flea markets to buy out of print history books, cookbooks, songbooks, or catalogs. Historic sites are great for details about specific eras of time. The details are always fascinating to me.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I usually revise as I go along so my process is sort of back and forth and back and forth. It works for me. If there's something I forgot along the way, I have to fix it. I cannot simply make a note and add it later. The omission bothers me too much. Once I remedy the situation, I continue along until it occurs to me that I need to add some important point in the beginning, so I do. I know eventually it will all be complete so backtracking does not bother me. I must have all my plot points in order and that's the way I do it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday's What Janet Lane Walters Has Been Reading #amreading

Once again the contest struck but reading 5 entries didn't take away my all time for re-reading books and cleaning out my Lindle. Not that the books are ever really gone, all I have to do is pull them up again. But here goes.

Dragon's Stone by Jane Toombs. Jane is a friend and is a neat writer. This is one of her paranormals. Of course in the past, she was a critique partner and actually is responsible for my return to writing after a 10 year hiatus while I worked as a nurse. I've read many of her books and have even written books with her. This story is part of a series of paranormal romances. Hope to read more soon.

Dominic by Hazel Statham - A romance set in the Georgian era of history and an enjoyable read. The sexual tension between the hero and the heroine is really great and I'll be reading more of hers. She is a fellow Books We Love author. I'll be searching for more of her stories.

That's it for today.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Choosing the right viewpoint #amwriting

All books have viewpoints and choosing the right thing depends on a number of things. There is first person, third person and multi-person. I mostly write in 3rd person more than one character telling the story.
The question is why one is chosen over the other.

First person is limiting the story to the viewpoint of one character. I find this brings an intimacy to the story and have used it in my Mrs.Miller mysteries. While this gives the reader a way into the character's head, they can only know what the I character knows. I've seen authors use the I viewpoint featuring more than one I character. Sometimes this works and sometimes not. Part of the reason is reader identification with the character or characters. Taking a reader from a character can confuse them. One of the faults of this kind of viewpoint is that the character can get off track and begin to drift from the story. I've read a few romances in the first person and find I don't like them. Intimate, yes but I find myself not wanting to identify with the character. Instead of drawing me in, they drive me out. This is just my own opinion. Others might disagree.

Third person can have pluses and minuses. This means a number of things. The writer can dip into every character's mind, actions and reactions and sometimes can work. But it can bring head-hopping to confuse the reader as to who they want to identify with. Romance often uses a two person viewpoint between the hero and the heroine. Sometimes the villain is thrown in if it's suspense of mystery with heavy romantic influences. Then there is the third person when more than one character tells the story and the viewpoints move through a succession of characters. I've probably used them all.

The real trick with viewpoint choice is to select the one that allows your story to draw the reader in and to achieve what you've wanted to tell.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration taken from an essay by Kaatje Hurlbut #amwriting #amrewriting

While I don't know this author, I fnd an interesting quote in her essay. She didn't identifu the source by name but it was from a teacher of writing. So here goes. "You know, a good story is not written, but rewritten."

This resonated with me this morning since I'm in the process of rewriting a story that was completed around 40 years ago. I've rewritten a number of books that when I began writing nearly sold. One Quest For The White Jewel was written during a time when few fantasies were being written and was rejected. The second was Murder and Mint Tea which didn't sell because the publisher had just accepted three series from other writers. The third is now called The Goddesses of Er and was rejected when the publisher decided to publish only non-fiction. All three lingered in the file cabinet for years.

When rewriting each of the books I realized a number of things. During those years, my writing had grown by leaps and bounds. Though the meat of the stories, the plot and the characters were good, the writing needed help. So I rewrote and they are now good stories and have earned a bit of money.

I rewrite constantly. That's because I'm a draft writer and each draft pays attention to one factor of the sto, Plot, Setting, Characters and Language. For me rewriting is the way the stories become complete with added elements with each rewrite.

How about you? Do you rewrite whether on paper or in your head?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters

My meander today isn't as much about me as it is about what's going on around us. I'm a mother and grandmother and I can't imagine the grief that's rocking the country because of the event on Friday. The death of so many children in their school where they come to learn sickened me. I'm not much for politics. I'm not sure the average person has much clout in this area. I believe guns should be used by the military and by the police. I'm not into hunting and guns have been forbidden in my house. My children never had toy guns. I'm not sure about my grandchildren but I don't think guns have been part of their toy array. Something has to change in this country and assault weapons should never be in the hands of anyone but the police and the military. I hear it often that guns don't kill. People do. This is wrong thinking in my opinion. People with guns kill people. So do people with other weapons but seldom is there a massacre with other weapons.

In my writing I sometimes use weapons but they're mostly swords and knives. Only once have I used guns in a story but they weren't assault weapons. Who is to blame for what happened at Sandy Hook on Friday? I believe we all are and it's up to us to find solutions no matter who it upsets.

As to my writing, I've learned Lines of Fire will be released in January. I'm finally back to work on The Goddesses of Er, I'm also starting to work on a sort of series of short, hot stories, probably novella length using my love for Astrology. I'll see what happens with them and where I'll submit them.

So it's back to work.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday's Chapter featuring Clumsy Girl's Guide to Falling in Love by Karen Wiesner

Karen is a friend I've met once and an incredible writer, sort of like the energizer bunny. She is also the leader of the Jewels of the Quill and maintains a fantastic website for the Jewels. I'm Dame Amber and really appreciate all she does for me ant the other Jewels.
Clumsy Girl’s Guide to Falling in Love

Book 1 of the Friendship Heirlooms Series

by Karen Wiesner

Inspirational Contemporary Romance/Chick-Lit

978-1-105-20122-6 (trade paperback) from

978-1-61160-274-6 (electronic) from

Whiskey Creek Press

Return to the quaint little town of Peaceful, Wisconsin, from Karen Wiesner’s award-winning Family Heirloom Series, where you first met and fell in love with these colorful, lovable friends. Now you can read the stories of those secondary characters in an all-new spin-off series. Nuggets of faith can be passed down as heirlooms from friend to friend, heart to heart, soul-mate to soul-mate.

Book One Friendship Heirloom: Persistence

Zoë Rossdale is the clumsy girl who always has her elbows, feet, eyes, and brass-red hair going in the wrong directions. She floats around in her own world, comfortable there alone, only to be jarred back into the real one when her obliviousness gets her in trouble again. After a lifetime of being evaluated critically—first by her own father, and then by everyone around her—and found wanting, she’s trying to change…for her own good. She’s reaffirmed her commitment to Christ and vowed not to do any of the stupid, possibly illegal, things she’d done for years on the pitiful excuse of surviving. After nearly being fired from the only job she could get to keep her from starving and living on the streets, she’s going to school once more and trying to do better for her über-patient boss. And she’s allowed her best friends to talk her into getting contacts, some new clothes, and a more flattering hairstyle. They tell her she looks beautiful, but she feels more like a dodo bird than ever before—until she literally runs into the only man she’s ever gone loopy over.

Curt Bertoletti has spent years trying to forget the seriously messed-up Zoë and her embarrassing ways. The only person who’d ever approved of the ditzy klutz was his mother, and his mother has become relentless in her cause to get him married and settled down. Surely that’s what conjured the appearance of Zoë... Zoë, who looks so little like the girl he remembers. Even as he vows that he won’t stray again—out of weakness or whatever it was that had him stone-gone over her before—he can’t help remembering how well he and Zoë fit together. They’d truly been two abnormal peas in an even stranger pod. But no other woman had ever gotten that misty look in her eyes when she looked at him, or kissed him like she’d forgotten anyone or anything else existed. No other woman made him so happy, so mad, so sad, and so content. Though he’s walking stronger in the Lord than he ever has before and he finally knows what he wants in life, he’s convinced Zoë Rossdale is not it—matchmaking mother or no matchmaking mother. So why can’t he forget her and be done with it?

For better or worse, Zoë will always be Zoë—the clumsy girl with her dress tucked into her pantyhose, toilet paper stuck to her shoe and trailing in her wake, the girl whose idea of falling in love is to stand at the edge of the precipice, throw out her arms and confidently jump into a free-fall. If Zoë will always be Zoë, the only question left is, can they both live with that fact? Forever?

Find out more about this book and series:

Excerpt © Karen Wiesner

Chapter 1

“This is like déjà vu all over again.”

~Yogi Berra

I never could come up with a good response right away. Sometimes days went by while I obsessed over what I should have said and didn’t before I thought of a decent reply. When Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling had finished “permanently” straightening my nest of brass-red, frizzy hair and proclaimed her painstaking labor a success, she’d stared at me in the mirror I was sitting before and demanded triumphantly, “Who are you now, sweetie pie?” in that adorable, Japanese baby voice of hers.

Maybe she hadn’t expected an answer. At the time, I’d simply blinked at her—and myself. After all, I’d never imagined my hair looking like anything other than something a rat would love to take up residence in. For the first time, my hair was normal: Long, straight, silky, soft, and presentable! I was afraid to touch it and dissolve what had to be an illusion.

Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling certainly hadn’t waited for my answer before she spun me dizzily in the salon chair so my friends could survey what they’d paid for.

From the time she’d uttered the question on Monday, I’d thought about it. Now, on Thursday, early evening—after waiting the requisite seventy-two hours so my new hair could avoid the humidity of a steamy shower (and exercise, if you can believe that), my three best friends had gathered for our usual girls’ night and allowed me to get cleaned up properly for the first time in as many days. They’d dolled me up like their own personal Barbie and sent me off into town on a manhunt. Oh, they didn’t call it that, of course, but I knew that was what they intended after all their hard work.

So here I was, taking my Maine Coon cat (a feline easily the size of the average dog), Nutmeg, for a walk in Peaceful’s Pet Park. I was dressed and made up as if I was off to some party and feeling pretty uncomfortable and ridiculous. Suddenly, the answer to Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling’s question came to me. Who am I? I’m Zoë Rossdale, the clumsy girl who always has elbows, feet, eyes, and hair going in the wrong directions. I’m the clumsy girl with my dress tucked into my pantyhose, toilet paper stuck to my shoe and trailing in my wake. I’m the clumsy girl who unfathomably ended up with three, gorgeous best friends—all of whom are positively perfect with steady guys who worship the ground they walk on. I’m the awkward, clumsy misfit in the group and they all wish they could find a nice guy to all but worship me…

At the moment of belated revelation, it occurred to me why I’d avoided this park for so long…precisely at the instant my reason for keeping a wide berth appeared directly in my path in flesh and blood. Curt Bertoletti was the jerk who’d turned out not to be my perfect prince three and a half years ago, which was when he’d dropped me without blinking an eye for someone drop-dead gorgeous, rich, sophisticated, and graceful—everything I wasn’t and couldn’t possibly ever be.

I’d never forgotten how much I’d invested in him and in the foolish hope that he’d loved me as much as I’d loved him. At final tally, the damage came out to everything I was, everything I might someday be, everything I possessed. These things had all gone whole-hog into my relationship with him. When it was over, I was left with nothing. Actually, to be more exact, what little remained, I lost. My entire world had seemed to collapse from the inside out.

I’d never doubted that Curt hadn’t given me a second thought when he walked away. But here he was again, just when I’d gotten myself to believe that sometime in the next century I might actually heal from what he’d done to me and to us. His Maine Coon, Cayenne (we’d called our cats sugar and spice), must have recognized his old flame Nutmeg from the distance and took off at a dead run straight for her.

Nutmeg, in turn, also seemed to have scented the male that, as far as she knew, had abandoned her. Fortunately, she’d always been forgiving. But this one time, I wished she wasn’t. She suddenly jerked and yanked me into a similar dead run. Without time to recover from the shock, I ended up flying behind her something like a balloon at the end of a leash instead of a string.

Ahead, Curt was trying to control Cayenne, shouting at him to heel, and I couldn’t do anything but hold on. I could see the outcome from a figurative mile away, and it seemed to happen in slow motion. Nutmeg met up with her true love and abruptly halted only inches before him. Unlucky for me, I was still in flight, an ungainly dodo, as I crashed at full speed right into a flabbergasted Curt. He let go of Cayenne’s leash. I realized at that instant that I should have let go of Nutmeg’s long ago. Now there was no need since my cat had arrived at her destination—namely, by her hero’s side.

With a mighty thud, I sprawled over Curt like an upended bowl of spaghetti over a toddler’s all too willing head. Curt was far from being ecstatic at being knocked over like this. He lay beneath me spluttering while I tried to gain my balance. I’d like to tell you this had never happened to me, that I’d never crashed into someone and ended up in a tangle on the ground, but unfortunately I’m Zoë Rossdale, and this was a common occurrence for an über-clumsy girl.

Without warning, our eyes met. I acknowledged then that Curt hadn’t recognized me in advance, the way I had him from the distance. He was blinking at me, resembling a big, goofy, adorable dope. And then he muttered hoarsely in clear shock, “Zoë? Zoë Rossdale?”

I removed my knee from his stomach—the hard way. He expelled an “Oof!” and then, together, we tried to right ourselves. Only he kept trying to help me get to my feet, and I was abruptly and enormously furious with him. I didn’t want him to look at me, talk to me, or touch me. He was dead to me! As dead as I’d been to him seconds after he’d shoved me off into the lonely stratosphere of One, a place I’d never wanted to be again after I’d met him. He’d probably figured I’d be like the tagline of one of his favorite movies: In space, no one can hear you scream. Sometimes I would lock up tight and wouldn’t utter a word, but other times I let loose with all the restraint of a wild animal. Now was one of those “scream” times. Oh, now he would hear what he hadn’t wanted to back when he decided he no longer had a use for me in his life.

“Zoë…let me… What are you…”

“Get away from me! I’ll kill you, fool!”

Somehow we were both standing upright again, facing each other, and the Italian Stallion Chub started laughing.

“Don’t you dare laugh at me, Curt Bertoletti! You lost that right when you checked out…” Wait a minute. Lost the right to what? Laugh at me? No, that’s not what I meant to say…

“You’re gonna kill me, Zoë? What are you? A hundred pounds soaking wet, and you’re gonna kill me?”

I grabbed Nutmeg’s leash again. “Get out of my way!” I demanded shrilly, trying to stalk around him, but he was talking again and I was too mad to listen until I realized the hard way that Nutmeg and Cayenne’s leashes were so completely tangled up, it would take a dedicated effort to free them.

“Zoë, would you just stop or this knot is gonna get worse!”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

He bent to the task once more, muttering, “What’s gotten into you anyway?”

Oh, he had nerve. I was about to tell him so when it occurred to me that he looked vastly different than the last time I’d seen him. My Curt had been a big Italian chub. Not when we’d first met actually, but he’d started gaining weight rapidly when we became a couple. And I’d loved him that way. Loved that he’d come from this huge Italian family where everyone was constantly bickering and playing mean jokes on each other, and maddeningly in each other’s business every second of every day. Yet none of them would have had it any other way. I loved that they all worked together in their grandfather’s legacy to the family—at the restaurant where food was always available and flowing, and where his Mamma Cara unceasingly pestered everyone to “Eat! Eat!” I’d never had to be told twice. I’d loved that Curt was as imperfect as I was. But now…now he was a hunk and it made me feel even more inferior than usual. He was tall and slim and muscular, his beloved face carved out of stone instead of dough.

My anger unexpectedly fizzled, seeing him like this. I remembered how intimidated I’d been by his good looks when we met. He’d had such thick, black, wavy hair, that dark olive skin I’d coveted all my life instead of my milk-white opposite, and the most beautiful, deep brown eyes complete with thick eyebrows and long, plentiful eyelashes. I found myself tentatively answering the question I thought he’d asked me: What happened to you? Because I was wondering what had happened to him. “I got my hair straightened. On Monday. My friends’ idea of a good birthday present. A makeover—one that says, “You’re so pathetic that we had to spend gobs of our pooled money to make you look presentable if we can’t get you to look good.” Actually, I think they got a massive discount because Zsa-Zsa Wu Ling wanted to have some guinea pig heads to try out thermal straightening on in her salon. So I got a discount for life on the procedure because I was the first pig to be volunteered, albeit by my friends.”

Curt looked up at me from trying to free our cats and broke into laughter again. My spine went ramrod straight. Why was he laughing? Because of what I’d said or how I looked?

I didn’t trust him when he said, “It looks really good, Zoë.” He put out his hand. “Let me have your leash. Maybe I can get this fixed.”

Stubbornly, I held it away from him, and he gave me that same look he’d worn when he’d muttered, “What’s gotten into you?” I realized that was what he’d been asking me in the first place, not what had happened to my hair. I didn’t pause to get my breath after my last outburst. “Gotten into me? Is that what you have the nerve to ask me, Curt Bertoletti? What’s gotten into me? Gee, let me think about this for a millisecond. How’s Bon Bon Magnífico?”

Curt looked away, shaking his head. “Bonnie Magnoli. That’s… We… It’s…” As he shook his head a second time, he wore a look of humiliation.

I wouldn’t relieve him of that emotion for anything in the world! “What?” I asked, mockingly sweet. “Did she drop you on your head the way you dropped me on mine?”

“It wasn’t like that, Zoë. You know it wasn’t. You must have realized just like I did that… I… Well, that it just wasn’t working between us.”

Hearing this was the ultimate betrayal. The pain I couldn’t seem to leave behind, not totally, flared. I stared at him, my mouth no doubt gaping without an ounce of the prettiness other girls achieved in the same situation. “How can you say that? I’d never been happier! I’d never been happy period. I loved you, you jerk. I tried to make you happy and satisfied…”

He looked positively mortified now by words I couldn’t have held back if I tried…and probably because of the tears filling my eyes and making my new contacts feel like they were swimming. I hated how obvious it became to me—like a ginormous elephant suddenly plopping down between us and our cats—that our time together had meant nothing to him. Nothing…when I still wasn’t over him, still thought about and missed him every single day.

My mind chose that instant to serve up the most treacherous memories: How my whole world used to align perfectly whenever he came into view and I knew we’d be together for the day—and sometimes the night (both of us being such backslidden Christians at that time). I remembered how we used to laugh and do everything as one. Sometimes I truly thought we were two halves of a whole. We seemed to have the exact thoughts at the exact times.

But now I needed to accept that I’d been alone in all that, in all that I’d wanted for him, for me, for our love. He’d been my entire life. Nothing else had mattered to me—literally. But whatever he’d felt for me, if anything, he’d obviously gotten over in a stalled heartbeat when someone better came along and made his cheating heart go pitter-patter.

With the tears spilling over in my eyes, I shouted at him, “Well, I hope Bon Bon Magnífico taught you what it’s like to be on the other side of the drop, Flat Top!” I stomped on his foot and tried to walk away haughtily. Only Nutmeg refused to cooperate and give me my justified, graceful exit. She stood her ground next to her chosen beau. At about eighteen pounds of solid cat, she was strong, and I really had to yell at her, something I’d never done before, to get her to budge. Reluctantly, she finally conceded and did what I wanted her to, all the while doing what I wouldn’t give the Italian Stallion Chub the satisfaction of doing: She looked back longingly until Curt and Cayenne were out of sight.

I hated myself for not having the strength to fight my own heart because I already knew I’d be coming back to Pet Park with my treacherous cat tomorrow night.

* * * *

“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later.”

~Lewis Carroll

Zoë Rossdale.

Curt Bertoletti stared after her and her cat, feeling almost numb with a kind of shock that had a guilty edge to it. If he didn’t know his mother was a Christian, he would have assumed she’d gone to some black magic conjurer to bring Zoë Rossdale back into his life. But you know you’ve been waiting for this moment for the past month—since Bonnie made it loud and clear how she really feels about you. You’ve been waiting and going out of your way to make it happen.


Curt let out a sigh that was nowhere as unequivocal as he would have liked it to be. He’d spent years trying to forget the seriously messed up Zoë and all her embarrassing ways. The only person who’d ever approved of the ditzy klutz was his mother, and Mamma had become relentless lately in her cause to get him married and settled down like the rest of his brothers and sisters. Surely her constant harping was what had conjured the appearance of Zoë… The rest was just coincidence. He wanted to believe that anyway.

Zoë, who looked so little like the girl he remembered. Instead of frizzy, fire-engine red hair that stuck out every-which-way—worse when she’d spent hours chewing on the ends—her hair tonight had been soft and smooth-looking, lying flat and straight for the first time ever, as the silken strands curved around her thin, strangely lovely face. The mass was still flaming red, but he wouldn’t kid himself that he’d always loved her hair color, even when her head looked like she’d had the shock of her life. Tonight she’d looked sophisticated, feminine, not frazzled to a pulp. And she hadn’t been wearing those ridiculous, oval-shaped, mile-thick, tortoise shell frames on her adorably bumpy nose, a bump that did nothing to keep the glasses from slipping down, in constant danger of falling right off her face…

Curt had spent years steeling himself against the slightest memory of affection for that woman. He’d put his time with Zoë out of his mind, convinced that he’d done the right thing dumping her so unceremoniously. She’d been too annoying, too embarrassing… But that thought made him feel guilty, and he didn’t want to. Even after more than a month, the horrific situation that had changed his life and his whole way of thinking still had the power to scald him.

“Come on, Cayenne,” he said forcefully, tugging on the leash to get his ultra-strong, classic red and white tabby to go along with him—in the opposite direction as Zoë and Nutmeg. Cayenne protested with his loud, unhappy yowl and looked back yet again. Curt knew he had to get as far from Zoë Rossdale as he could, and fast. He was not going down that road again. No way.

Even still, on the final of his three-times-a-day walks back to his apartment over the family restaurant, he vowed that he wouldn’t stray again out of weakness or whatever had him stone-gone over Zoë before. His life had been a mess back then, trying to find his place in the family business, not wanting to simply do what was expected of him but something bigger and more influential. Something the rest of them won’t consider a joke. He could cook as well as any of his brothers and sisters, but that part had never interested him as much as the business end. But he was the baby of the family, and none of his six siblings took his efforts seriously. Three years ago, he’d realized they wouldn’t until he gave them a reason to. So he’d made a series of decisions to bring their change of heart about. He’d altered his major in college with the purpose of taking over the business side of the restaurant. Ciatti’s Italiano, named after his grandfather Ciatti Bertoletti, who’d started the business and had worked hard to earn two Michelin stars for it, would someday become a three-star chain if Curt could get his hand in the process.

His mother had been doing the administrative business duties since his father died almost four years ago, but the work filled practically every minute of her day. She insisted often that she loved keeping busy, but Curt suspected the truth was that she saw what needed to be done and so she did it.

Since he’d graduated with his business degree, he’d been taking over a little bit from her at a time, and she’d let him without complaint or restraint. Still, she stayed around the restaurant most of the day, as if not knowing what to do with herself and unable to conceive of a life outside of the family business. Despite a huge family of kids and grandkids, she seemed lonely and Curt and his siblings had talked about how worried they were about her.

In addition to pursuing his desire to be taken seriously by his family, possibly with more optimism than warranted, Curt had been regimentally determined to get on with his life, improve his health, and stay on the straight and narrow. He’d lost seventy-five pounds by exercising and cutting down on portions and the snacks his mother was constantly pushing on all of them. When he’d been with Zoë, he’d never possessed her insane metabolism. As thin as she’d probably always be, she could put away three times more food than a normal man. In fact, that’d been how they met. When his family had taken a booth at the annual local fair one summer and offered an eating contest, Zoë had won over a guy who’d been close to three hundred pounds. The prize had been a month of free lunches at Ciatti Bertoletti. She’d never missed a single day they were open. Maybe part of that had been because she’d realized they attended the same college and things had begun to get romantic between them.

In any case, being with Zoë had further spurred his love of food. All his life, Mamma had been forcing food on everyone, and he’d eaten more than his fair share. Despite that, until he’d met Zoë, he’d managed to keep his weight under control. Those few months they’d been together, he’d steadily packed on the pounds to keep up with her. Zoë never seemed to mind, even while his siblings teased him and called him Panzone (fatty), Pallone (big belly), or Botte (barrel) relentlessly. But Curt had become ultra-sensitive to the teasing, mostly because Bonnie Magnoli— Zoë’s Bon Bon Magnífico in that comic strip she wrote and drew like a diary—had begun sending him signals that she was interested in him. Bonnie was the daughter of the owner of an Italian bakery in La Crosse, about an hour from his hometown of Peaceful, Wisconsin, and their families had been old friends. Bonnie attended the same college he did and shared his class schedule almost exactly.

At the time, he hadn’t made the connection between Bonnie’s sudden interest in him and their similar career goals. He now knew that her goal in life had been to take the easy way out of everything. Without the slightest protest, he’d let her copy his homework whenever she asked, peek at his answers during tests. Basically whatever she needed, he’d been willing to do because she’d led him to believe she wanted to be with him. Maybe he’d imagined her outrageous flirtations and what had sounded like promises to him. But she’d used him the whole time. No more kidding himself about that.

In large part, he’d dumped Zoë because Bonnie was an Italian beauty without compare, her body enough to turn him to stone at the mere glimpse of its perfection. She’d been nothing like Zoë, and maybe that explained why his mother had never liked Bonnie, despite their family connections. Mamma loved Zoë from the first time she’d met her as Curt’s girlfriend.

His brothers and sisters hadn’t shared his mother’s zeal for her. They’d pounded it into him that Bonnie was the only woman of the two worth pursuing. Their selfish encouragement had led him to believe he had a chance with Bonnie. Their efforts had been rewarded when he broke up with Zoë, and it’d taken years for Curt to realize the ramifications of what he’d done.

Once he’d scraped up an ounce of his pride from the floor, he’d put all his energy into getting over what Bonnie had done to him when she’d made it brutally clear she’d never had the slightest interest in being with him or seeing him as a serious boyfriend. The sting of her cruelty hadn’t quite left him in the time since The Incident, but he was determined to forget her.

Was it worth it? Duping myself into believing Bonnie had any interest in anything but cheating off me in school? Zoë hadn’t been far off in her estimation tonight of why he’d dumped her as abruptly as he had. All that time together, she’d shown her jealousy only through her comics, and he’d denied any merit in her worries whenever he read them. But she’d known the truth better than he did. Just like Zoë had pointed out, women like Bonnie loved themselves alone, end of story.

Women like Zoë…

Curt let himself into his apartment and unhooked his cat from the leash, his mind on the past. Why couldn’t he stop remembering how well he and Zoë had fit together? They’d truly been two abnormal peas in an even stranger pod. He couldn’t deny that any more than he could refute that no woman had ever gotten such a misty look in her eyes when she gazed at him, or kissed him like she’d forgotten anyone or anything else existed. I don’t like to remember it, but no other woman made me so happy, so mad, so sad, and so content.

Thinking like this was stupid. He couldn’t call to mind the good times. He’d escaped what could have been a fate worse than death, hadn’t he? He was walking stronger in the Lord than ever before and he knew what he wanted in life now. Zoë Rossdale was absolutely not it, and that was true, matchmaking mother or no matchmaking mother. He wouldn’t tell Mamma he’d even seen Zoë again. She’d be a dog on a bone then, and he’d never get loose from her gnawing.

I have to forget Zoë and be done with that whole crazy thing. The biggest reason to forget is that I know she’ll never forgive me for what I did to her. She’s not the forgiving type, remember? She’ll put me through sheer and utter hell and then she might not even decide I’m worthy of her precious forgiveness. How often did she say, “Good intentions do not equal effort or outcome” whenever I failed her, which was more often than not? Worse than that, she hates men. Her opinion of my “species” is so bad…

Curt groaned in realization. If her opinion of men had been monumentally horrible before, he’d tripled it with the way he’d dumped her for a “bon bon” like Bonnie. No, Zoë wouldn’t forgive. She wouldn’t forget. Why put himself through that torture? What could ever make that worth doing? Nothing. Finito!

Stripping off his clothes, he stepped into the shower, trying to convince himself through the whole task that he wouldn’t go there, into that place he and Zoë had created together, ever again—if he knew what was good for him. But the desire to see her again was so strong, he couldn’t shake it and kept coming up with alternatives to avoiding her like the plague for the rest of his life. Could they be friends? He had to be crazy to even consider it. But then he recalled her fury at him tonight. “Get away from me! I’ll kill you, fool!”

Against his will, he found himself grinning…and scheming in his plans for their next encounter.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday's How She Does It With Karen Wiesner #amlearning

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 with this, though I’ve never put it in these terms before. I usually put it this way (arrows mean “leads to”):

Introduction of Character and Plot à Change à Conflicts

à Choices à Crisis à Resolutions

I believe all authors should simplify these elements into a single sentence (or a very few short sentences) before they write a book because this is really the jumping off point of the book. At the core, this is the main theme of the entire project, and if the author neglects to lock these elements down before writing the book, she may miss the mark and readers will end up confused and uncertain.

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

Through brainstorming, outlining, writing and revising. These are four crucial layers that make characters real and believable.

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?

I always outline every single book, regardless of the size. Characters develop through the process of outlining, but I believe that characters themselves also develop the plot. While I like to say I’m a character-driven author, in truth the ideal author is character, plot, and setting driven. Without the cohesion of those three, your books can never be truly fulfilling to readers.

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

I only know because I outline the book in advance of writing it. Generally a book comes to life as I brainstorm and outline and then further as I write.

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

I have a tendency to make up my own settings, especially in mysteries, where sometimes a writer can get herself in hot water if she messes up some law or details specific to a state. I love creating my own loveable little towns and filling them with my characters.

5. Where do you do your research? Online or from books?

Both, depending on the research involved. I’ve also been known to interview someone in a particular field to get the inside scoop.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

Never, never, never. That’s like a cardinal sin to me. Until you give yourself distance from a project, you can’t see it clearly. If you’re revising constantly, you’ll never get distance and therefore you can’t come into a project from that necessary distance.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday's What Janet Lane Walters Is Reading #amreading

Still in re-read mode and checking books on Kindle to see which ones remain but am also re-reading print books. So a bit about these.

Just finished Kat Attalla's Sex and Key Lime Pie - still love the book since I heard parts of the story in critique group. A nice sensual read and the secret baby plot with a troubled hero and some snappy dialogue which is Kat's special forte. Highly recommended.

Re-read Charmaine Gordon's Reconstructing Charlie - Remember this from critique, too. The opening line will stun you. This is a sort of coming of age story and introduces some characters who deserve their own stories. My favorite guy wasn't the hero and I wish he had been but I think Charmaine is working on his story.

Am re-reading Leslie Roy Carter and Margaret L. Carter's Adept series. Have finished the first book. Wild Sorceress and truly admire the way they have woven magic and army life. There are n the series and they're on my next list. Loy and this is one of the best.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Voice and Tone #amwriting

Much is said about the "wrtier's voice" and often confuses new writers and some old ones. This can be confused with the Tone of a particular work. They are at the same time, similar and dissimilar. Voice is the writer's choice of words and their style of writing. Tone is the particular flavor the writer infuses to a piece of writing. How can a writer who writes in several genres or sub-genres retain their voice while infusing a tone into the story.

Tone is created by the choice of words, sentence length and amount of descriptive passages and dialogue in the story. Tone lets the reader know what kind of story they're reading. Think of the difference between a historical romance and a contemporary one. Giving a mixed signal by using the more lush opening paragraphs for a contemporary could confuse the reader. Or writing a romantic suspense and using long and convoluted sentences might make the reader scratch their head or better yet, make them put the book aside. Even in a genre like mysteries, there's a difference in the type. Starting a cozy with the kind of language used by a hard-boiled detective and the reader is confused.

So tone is what a writer needs to establish with the opening words and maintain the tone throughout the story. The writer's voice is not something that happens overnight. This cones from writing story after story and the writer will come to find their voice or their style. There are some writers whose voice is so distinctive you can without seeing their name on the cover know who write the story.

So the point of this is don't worry about your writer's voice but concentrate on letting your readers know by using tone to establish the kind of story they're going to read.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration based on a quote by Eric Ambler #aminspired

 Someone asked Eric Ambler how he felt when he finished a book. "Relief that the job is done and hope that the next book would be both easier and better."

Those words resonated with me today since I just finished writing a book and filling out those wonderful forms for the publisher. Do I hope the next one will be better. That gets a YES. Each time  I write a new book I try to apply the things I learned with the last one into the new. What's so wonderful about writing is that with each story you tell, something is learned, a trick is mastered and the prose flows better.

But the easier part isn't happening. Every story written comes with its own problems that one must solve. The new story I'm working on was first written 40 plus years ago. Looking back on the mistakes as a beginning writer I made amazes me. For some reason, I was writing third person from only one character and this left blanks in the story. It also left out emotion. Then I discovered about 5 chapters in I changed the viewpoint character and that made me sit up and say this is odd. Now I'm making the story a 2 person one, and I hope I don't find when I hit another chapter ahead that I threw in a third or a fourth person's viewpoint. So the story won't be easier but it will be better than the one I wrote all those years ago and will be better, I hope, that the one I just sent in.

Growing as a writer is important. Sometimes when I'm reading a writer who has been a favorite for years, and I do like to read all of a writer's past works when I find a new one by them. Sometimes I'm disappointed because the new story seems to be a repeat of one they've already written.

I'll leave you with this thought. Make each book better. Easier isn't the way to go.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amwriting #amreading #fantasy

I'm preparing a talk on Building Worlds for all genres. Think I'll call it Building Worlds, Building Dreams. Thinking about what we do as fiction writers and that's build dreams for the readers. Some dreams turn out better than others. Some become nightmares and that's sad. I do a lot of reading as well as writing. Not every book I buy or discover is worth a second read. That's my criteria for a good book. If I want to read it again, for me it's a good book. If I read it multiple times, it's a great book.  But back to my idea on Building Worlds. This is a must for the writers of every genre. If you don't know all the facets of the world where you place your characters the book will fall flat for the reader. What you're doing is shattering their dreams. I've recently read 2 romantic suspenses. One book built the world so I felt as though I was there. The second failed and the reason was the world didn't make me feel as if I was in that world. I found I couldn't continue reading that book and for me, that's strange since I've stuck with some books no one loved, even me but I hung in until the end. So my meander today is about creating your dream world and pulling the reader into the story.

Speaking of dream worlds. I have finished Lines of Fire and am planning to get it ready to send. Now if I can remember how to format the thing, I will get onto this very soon. I'm now heading into the world of the Goddesses of Er and haven't done much on it for almost a week. A few hundred words but that's not enough to help me find the rhythm but I will.

Also have ideas for some short spicy novellas based on my love for Astrology. I also want to start on them and that will mean dividing myself into more than one dream at a time. I think I can. Now all I must do is know I can.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday's Excerpt - Tanya Goodwin - An Evergreen Christmas

Dr. Holly Green hasn't celebrated Christmas since age thirteen when her parents were killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve. An intense surgeon but a social wallflower, Holly successfully dodges the hospital holiday party every year, except this year when she meets Dr. Noel Shepherd, sexy new surgeon on the block who's determined to end her absenteeism.

The polar opposite of Holly, Noel revels in the Christmas spirit, sporting a penguin print necktie and Santa sticker on his beeper.

From the moment Holly bumps into Noel in the operating room, she can't deny her attraction to him. Noel likewise lights up around Holly.

When their relationship heats up over the holiday season, Noel purchases an evergreen tree that he and Holly could decorate. But his surprise quickly sours when Holly refuses to have anything to do with the tree. Has Noel crossed the line, catapulting Holly into a Christmas she isn't ready to celebrate?


Holly took a healthy bite of her burger.

“Glad to see you’re enjoying your dinner. It’s not Chez Jacques, but Callahan’s has the best burgers in New England. And I’ve downed a lot of hamburgers in my days.” Noel arched his brow. “I guess as a surgeon, I shouldn’t admit that.”

She patted her lips with a paper napkin. “I’ll forgive you this one time.”

Noel stuffed a French fry in his mouth. He chewed it with happy vigor and swallowed. “After tonight, I’m switching to salads.”

“It’s the holidays, Noel.” She waggled her finger at him. “And who brought me cookies?”

“Okay. After the holidays, I’ll make it my New Year’s resolution.” Noel chomped on his deluxe burger. After swallowing, he leaned across the booth’s table toward Holly. “So, what resolutions are you going to make?”

She hesitated. “I don’t believe in resolutions.”

“I know you’re not keen on Christmas, but New Year’s too?”

Holly bit into a French fry. “Yep.”

Noel propped his elbow onto the table and plunked his chin into his palm. “That’s tragic. Who am I going to kiss at midnight?”

She grinned and shrugged.

He leaned closer. “There’s always mistletoe. You better be careful where you step.”

“I’ll be safe. I’ll be at the hospital on call.”

Noel stole one of her fries and waved it in front of her. “I wouldn’t count on that because I’ll be on call also.” He bit into the fry.

Holly plucked a fry from his plate. “Then I’ll have to be extra careful.” She snapped the potato slice in two, eating one half and feeding the other half to him.

“Boy, it’s going to be tough giving up fries.”

The door to Callahan’s Pub squeaked open ushering a burst of winter air. The pub buzzed with the boisterous chatter of the gaggle of Granite State Medical Center staff. Holly peered from the booth’s edge. Nurses and doctors she knew hugged and high-fived one another.

“Hey, look. There’s Noel and…uh Holly Green?” The gossipy nurse from the locker room yelled above the crowd.

Holly sank in her seat. Oh, no. Not tonight.

The nurse tottered over to them. Every clop of her high-heeled boots jabbed at Holly, but she smiled over gritted teeth as the nurse leaned over and hugged Noel. Ashley stood behind her fellow nurse and shrugged.

Noel stiffened at her dramatic hug. “Hi. Good to see you.”

She whipped around to face Holly. “Dr. Green. What a surprise? I’ve never seen you here at Callahan’s.”

“Noel and I were just grabbing a quick dinner before going off for the rest of the evening.”

The nurse tilted her shoulders towards Noel. “Oh, you have to stay. The gang’s all here. I’m so happy you took us up on the invite to Callahan’s. You’ll have a great time.”

Noel reached for Holly’s hand. “I am having a great time, but we already have plans for the evening.”

“Well okay.” She shot her finger at him. “But come back again…soon.”

Ashley tugged at her friend’s sweater sleeve. “Let’s go.” She smiled at Holly. “It is nice seeing you. I hope you and Noel will come back.”

“Thanks, Ashley. And I’m glad your brother will be home for Christmas.”

“Me too.” She waved to Holly and Noel and then dragged her friend away.

Noel squeezed her hands. “Sorry about that.”

Holly shook her head. “Don’t be. I avoided coming to Callahan’s, and I did have my reservations, but I’m actually thankful you’ve brought me here. The burgers are indeed the best.”

“You’re welcome.”

The waitress cleared their plates. Both passing on dessert, Noel paid the bill. He stood up and rounded the table. Grabbing Holly’s hand, he slid her across the wooden bench seat, grinning the whole time.

Holly laughed. “You have me skating before I hit the ice.”

Noel pulled Holly to her feet and yanked her to his chest, wrapping his arms around her, his embrace firm but not restraining. Noel pressed his lips to hers. Heat shot from her lips to her toes, enough to keep her toasty on the ice the rest of the night.

When they eased apart, patrons pounded their fists on the pub’s bar counter and cheered, “Mistletoe! Mistletoe! Mistletoe!”

Noel pulled Holly past the Callahan’s Christmas tree and halted her beneath the doorway’s mistletoe.

“Not so safe now, are you?” He teased.

Holly tilted her head back. The tree’s twinkling lights flickering behind Noel, her breathing rose to a crescendo, waiting for his kiss. And at this moment, she didn’t care whose eyes were upon them. The warmth of his breath caressed her cheeks as he leaned towards her, closer, and closer, her heart beating faster in tandem to the blinking Christmas lights. He rested his mouth upon hers and then pulled her in closer. She pressed harder galvanized by the revelry of the crowd, their pounding whirring in her ears.

“Longer. Longer. Longer,” they yelled.

They froze in their embrace, her arms swaddled about his broad shoulders, and his palms cupping her hips. His neck pulsed beneath her fingertips. Not since her parents had she felt that same soft comfort.

Holly blinked and widened her eyes when they parted. Adrenalin rushed through her. Grabbing his hand, she yanked him through the door of Callahan’s and into the snow covered parking lot.

“Anxious, aren’t we?”

She twirled around, tasting every snowflake on her tongue, before clutching the car door handle. She jerked it. Pulled on it again, thinking her fingers had not gotten an adequate purchase. Nothing.

Noel snickered and pressed the remote on his key ring. After two beeps and a flash of headlights, Holly swung the car door open and bounced into the seat.

Noel got into the car, buckled his seat belt, and slid the key into the ignition. He glanced at Holly.

She clicked her seatbelt closed and gave him a grin that tapped her cheekbones. “I’m going to skate circles around you!”

“Hmm.” He smiled. “Is that a challenge?”

“Yes, it is Dr. Shepherd.”

He pointed at her. “I accept, Dr. Green.”


Giddy from dinner and ooh, those two kisses, she hadn’t given thought to where they’d whirl about on the ice until Noel pulled up at Putney’s Pond, parking on the side of the road in full view of frolicking skaters. Her smile melted. Lips pressed tight, she gazed at a mother pulling her little girl up from the ice, dusting off her bottom, and then hugging her. They skated away, mitten to mitten.

Panic whirred in Holly’s chest. “Noel, I can’t.”

She turned to face him but he wasn’t there. The tap on her window made her jerk back into the seat.

Noel waved to her and held up her mother’s skates. “Come on. Give me everything you’ve got, Green!”

She couldn’t disappoint him. He had planned such a wonderful evening for them. Why ruin it? Holly took a deep breath and opened her door. Noel grasped her hand, and mitten-to-mitten, he pulled her to him and kissed her. With his skates slung over one of his shoulders and Holly’s skates over the other, they crunched over the snow holding hands all the way to the red wooden shed, the same place her mother would sit her down on a bench and lace up her skates before putting hers on.

The night before Christmas Eve and kids on holiday recess from school, the rural rink was packed with families, and teenagers snaking around them. Holly sat on a bench next to Noel who was furiously lacing up his skates.

“I’m going to beat you to the ice,” he teased.

She hesitated but then grabbed her skates. “No you’re not!”

Holly and Noel knotted their skates in synchrony and popped up from the bench at the same time.

“Go,” Holly yelled.

They “duck walked” from the shed to the ice, the silver blades of their skates chopping into the snow and glided onto the frozen pond. Noel gripped Holly’s hand and whipped her ahead of him. She whipped him around her. They split from one another and half raced around the rink, careful of others stumbling about. After three laps, she raised her arms in victory.

“I win,” she shouted with glee.

Noel skated up to her, shearing a small fountain of ice with his hockey stop.

“Here’s your consolation prize.” She glided towards him, performing a perfect T-stop in front of him, and kissed him.

He smiled. “I like second place.”

Holly skated away from him. “Watch this. I hope I can still do it.”

She veered to her right, her right foot catching an outside edge and then an inside one. Hugging her arms to her chest, she spun, spinning faster and faster the tighter she held them in, lost in a blissful blur, her mother whispering in her ear, “Spin. Spin. Spin. My darling.”

Stabbing the ice with her toe pick, she stopped and held out her arms. “Ta da!”

Noel clapped. “Bravo! Bravo!”

Holly did it. She’d made her mother proud.

Their racing competition completed, Holly and Noel skated holding hands for a few more laps around the rink. An older couple passed them.

“That’s so sweet,” Holly cooed.

“I think it’s sad.”

She cocked her head up towards him, her mouth open. “Why would you think that?”

“Because they passed us,” he said, curtly nodding. “We can’t have that.” He tugged her hand. “Come on.”

They picked up pace and snuck by the couple. Noel spun around and skated backwards while holding both her hands. She pulled one hand away and smacked him on his shoulder. “You are so bad.”

“Yes, I’m absolutely wicked.” He peeled off her mitten and kissed her hand, his warm breath wafting in clouds above them.

Her fingers tingled, cradled in his touch.

“I’m sorry. Your hand must be cold.” He blew on her fingers and then slipped her mitten back onto her hand.

Her stomach fluttered and gooseflesh popped onto her skin beneath her red sweater, not the frigid kind, but the prickly, tiny bumps that nudge every hair on your neck to exhilarating attention.

“Noel, You’ve totally surprised me tonight. I can’t remember the last time I’ve…”

He hugged her and whispered in her ear, “Let go?”

“Yes,” she whispered back.

He pulled her off the rink. “Let’s get these skates off. The finale of surprises is yet to come.”

“Where to now?”

“You’ll see.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday - How She Does It - Tanya Goodwin

Tanya Goodwin is a member of Hudson Valley Romance Writers and is a newly published author,

I’m so glad Janet has invited me to guest blog. I’m Tanya Goodwin and I write under the same name. My debut novel, If Memory Serves, a romantic suspense with police procedural and medical elements, was released in September 2012 by Mitchell Morris Publishing. I enjoy writing suspense and mystery, always with a medical edge, which comes in handy because I’m also a physician. My new venture is holiday medical romances. An Evergreen Christmas is the first one in this series. You can find me at and

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?

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

First, I think about whom I’m going to throw into situations. My basic plot outline drives me to create characters. I assign them an occupation and this in turn gives them an appropriate age range. I think about what their day is like, who and how they interact with others and their environment, their strengths and weaknesses, and decisions they make and the consequences that follow. I consider what they like, love, dislike, or outright hate. I have no particular formula. Sometimes I write character profiles, and sometimes I keep them tucked in my head. It’s different with each book I write.

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?

I first start with a premise and basic plot. I let these simmer in my head. Then I decide whom I’m going to place in this framework. I make some basic notes about my plot/subplot. Sometimes I write a brief synopsis to keep me on track. The characters then interact in my plot, growing and changing as the plot develops. Editing and revisions further mold my characters.

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

For my suspense and mystery novels, I need to know how these stories end. I need to know, in general, where I’m going to weave in twists or clues. That’s not to say that I’ve never added to the plot or even removed elements that didn’t work.

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

Many settings just come to me. Most are places that I’m familiar with, and if not, I really enjoy the process of learning about other places, both in location and in time.

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

I’ve done research from both. For online research, I make sure that other sources agree. I also interview professionals or people like my characters. In If Memory Serves, I spoke to police officers and detectives regarding police procedures. I’ve read biographies and historical books when writing about a time period and historical people that appear in my book.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I write a draft, but everyday that I start off fresh in my writing, I reread what I wrote and revise mainly for grammar or any glaring inconsistencies. This, however, is no substitute for several rounds of revision after the draft is complete.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Janet Lane Walters Has Been Reading #amreading

Only two books last week but both are keepers. With the approach of the holiday season life tends to become hectic.

Take Me Home by Nancy Herkness - Met Nancy at NJRW and bought her book there. Enjoyed and I do hope Claire's sister, Willow will have a happy ending.

When Claire Parker left Sanctuary, West Virginia, she thought it was for good. But now she’s back, reeling from an ugly divorce. Readjusting to small-town life is harder than Claire expected, so she’s surprised, and grateful, to find companionship in Willow, an abused Thoroughbred mare. Willow is Claire’s “whisper horse,” and they share a special, rare bond. Except Willow isn’t the only one helping Claire heal; Willow’s ruggedly handsome veterinarian, Dr. Tim Arbuckle, is sympathetic…and secretive.

Devastated by his wife’s death, Tim thought he’d never find love again. The stoic, sexy doctor was sure he’d left his heart behind when he came to Sanctuary. But Claire stirs up emotions he thought he’d buried long ago. For the first time, the doctor can see past his grief…until Willow falls gravely ill. Tim and Claire must save Willow’s life and, surrounded by the majestic mountains of West Virginia, believe in a love so encompassing, so intimately intense, their lives will never be the same again.

A Just Deception by Adrienne Giordano  Romantic suspense Tension both sexual and otherwise, but well spiced with moments of humor.

The protector: Peter Jessup, former Navy SEAL, currently employed by Taylor Security. He likes being the hero—in charge and in control.

His client: Lawyer Isabelle DeRosa. The sexy brunette is the personification of Peter's fantasies. She's willing to get physical but nothing more serious.

The assignment: When Isabelle becomes the prime suspect in the murder of her cousin, Peter is there to protect her and help her find the real killer. Their investigation leads to a big-name charity that seems to draw cultlike followers. Isabelle manages to infiltrate the group and become close to their leader, leaving Peter both jealous and worried for her.

As their search leads to danger, Peter realizes he's falling in love with Isabelle. He wants all of her, but she's too used to guarding herself to let him in…

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - #amwriting, Atmosphere, Inspired by How To Write Mysteries

Atmosphere, just what does this mean? Whether you're writing a mystery or some other genre the reader needs to know what to expect when they pick up a book. In mysteries if you're writing a cozy and you start out with words that evoke hard-boiled detective, the reader isn't going to enjoy the book. They'll probably toss it aside and not pick up your stories again. This holds true to other genres.

I judge several contests where unpublished writers are competing for various things. Sometimes I can't be sure just what kind of story they are writing. The opening sentence or paragraph don't reflect where the story is heading. Imagine yourself as the reader of what the opening sentence makes you think you're in today's wrold in a large city, only to discover this is a science fiction story centuries from now or a story that takes place in the past.

The atmosphere of a story doesn't stop after that first sentence but continues to the last one. So when you're revising make sure you look at the words you've written to see if any are out of place. These are the words, phrases and sentences that will jar the reader out of the story you've written and may keep them from reading more of your works.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday's Inspiration - Quote from an essay by Catherine Gavin

While I don't know the author's work, this quote from her essay in The Writer's Handbook set me off. She speaks of an interview she had when the interviewer asked "Does it give you a sense of power to know you can manipulate the characters in your novels and move them about exactly as you please?" This set me to wondering if this is what happens when I write.

What about you? Do you manipulate your characters?

For me when I write it's not about manipulating the characters to make them fit the story. It's a matter of getting to know the people I write about, just like getting to know the people I meet. Yes, these characters are products of my imagination rather than living, breathing people but the process of writing involves knowing a character. I use Astrology when I'm creating characters so I have an idea about their inner nature, their emotional reactions and the face they show the world. Using these things brings me to the situations I have created for the characters to face.

As the story develops I have more ideas of how the people I've created will act in a given situation. Not always the way I thought when I began the story. The character doesn't take over as much as I have learned more about them and how they will react to what is happening in the story I've created. It's not a matter of manipulation, it's a matter of knowing the characters.

How about you? Do your characters evolve as you write the story and you learn more about who they are and how they would react and act?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Meandering on Monday with Janet Lane Walters #amwriting #amreading

Another week. Meander today is about the wierd comments sometimes found on the blog. All are written by Anonymous. At least it's easy to get rid of them. Just hit Spam and delete. They're there for as long as I need to find them. Leaving one's name is easy. Though I do have some followers who are anonymous. Would like to know who they are if I should decide to give away something in a contest.

Second meander is about the approaching holidays. Writing always slows down when that happens and I feel frustrated. One would think after all the years of writing I would accept that there is a time when the writing slows down. I know of at least one other writer who is suffering from the same slowdown. How about the rest of you. Do the holidays impede output?

As for my writing. Have learned The Micro-Manager Murder will be out in March. Can't wait. Releases have been a bit slow but that will change. In January I'll be able to reoved another book from a publisher that I was a wrong fit for. Not my problem or theirs. Was just like a marriage that didn't work. Sure wish I could retrieve the third book in the series.

Am still doing edits to Lines of Fire and working on The Goddesses of Er. They will see some progress this week. Hope to finish the edits and do at least two chapters on the other. Had an idea for a series of short hot pieces. Must work the idea out and then decide what to do with them. So n work and to baking cookies.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday's Excerpt - Under The Sheets by Shirley Hailstock

Under the Sheets - Excerpt

By Shirley Hailstock

This was certainly a better place to work than the Assassination Bureau. Robyn Warren stood back¬stage, a three-pound headdress of pink fur balanced on her head. In moments, she’d be on stage for the second time in her twenty-five years. The first time had been two hours ago. She rubbed sweaty hands down her hips and waited. The curtain went up, and the lights rose, bathing sixteen scantly clad women in a blinding white light.

With a smile plastered to her face, Robyn listened to the music and counted the beats, as she performed the newly memorized steps. A single sound of tapping feet worked in unison to the music of 42nd Street. It was exhilarating. Blood pumped through her system, mix¬ing with adrenaline, restoring the energy her afternoon of rehearsal had depleted.

She felt her nervousness leave her. She could tell by the twinkle in the eyes of the other dancers when they passed each other forming a set of four circles that blended into one larger circle and finally opening into a straight line that she was a part of the group. The audience applauded in the middle of the routine. The sound was deafening to her ears. For the first time she looked beyond the footlights, wondering if the man from the pool was somewhere out there. It was hard to see anyone with the lights in her eyes. Besides she didn’t know anyone here, except Susan, who was dancing on her left. Robyn had only been in Las Vegas two days. The man by the pool was a stranger. They hadn’t even said hello.

The dance ended much too soon, and she followed the line of bobbing fur backstage to change for the next number. There wasn’t much time for musings. As soon as they had switched from pink to white lace, she heard the call of five minutes. It meant they were to line up backstage, according to a preset sys¬tem. She stood between Vera and Susan, the three of them were the same height.

The second outing on the stage seemed shorter than her first visit. She was breathless from the exhilaration and excitement. Susan had been right, she loved being out there. Almost before she knew it, she was back in the dressing room. The noise level was high as every¬one tried to get dressed for their dates. Robyn moved aside. Susan had quickly dressed and was the first to leave the room. Smiling at Robyn and telling her she’d see her back at the apartment. She disappeared through the door. Her dress changed and her face re¬made without the heavy greasepaint worn against the harsh lights of the stage, she looked happy and beautiful.

By the time Robyn was dressed, the room was clear. She flipped the switch, throwing the room into darkness and leaving behind the smell of sweat, perfume, and makeup. From the top of the stairs, she saw him— the man from the pool. While there were people mov¬ing around him, carrying scenery and lights, he stood still. His black suit, distinctive against the surround¬ings, made his presence commanding. His white shirt made his skin darker by contrast. Robyn smiled when he looked up at her.

"You must be lost," she said, as she came down the steps.

"I don’t think so." His voice was deep and dark like a warm night.

"If you’re waiting for one of the dancers, I’m afraid you’ve been stood up." She could not imagine anyone forgetting about a guy whose brown eyes were so warm they could melt ice. They followed her all the way to the bottom step.

"I’m waiting for you," he said quietly.

"Me!" She didn’t know this man, although she wouldn’t mind getting to know him. From the distance she had to look up, she confirmed his height to be just over six feet. His hair was short and neat. While she hadn’t seen him in a hat, the uniform told her there was one. yet no defining bank marred his hair or skin.

"I saw you by the pool. . .and on the stage, both times," he said.

She smiled, pleased that someone had come to see her one and only performance

"We were staring at each other," she said directly.

"My name is Grant Richards." He stood up slightly straighter, as if he were coming to attention.


"Robyn Warren," he finished for her. "I asked one of the other dancers," he explained to her questioning look.

"We don’t know each other." It was a statement. She’d remember him and not because of any training or her ability to remember almost anything she’d seen.

"A situation I’d like to remedy." His smile exuded charm.

He took her arm and locked it through his elbow. Several minutes later, Robyn found herself sitting in the casino’s restaurant and having a late dinner with one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever met. He told her he’d been a copilot for Trans-Global for nearly four years. By the time dessert and coffee were served, she’d learned he’d grown up in a series of foster homes, before going to stay with an aunt. He and his friend, David, were here for a few days before they had another flight. She told him she worked for the government.

"I didn’t know the government had a need for long-legged girls in bejeweled pink tights."

Robyn laughed. "They weren’t bejeweled. They were sequined." She explained how Susan had con¬vinced her to replace a sick dancer in tonight’s show.

"Well, since you don’t dance for a living, what do you do for the government?"

Robyn dropped her head. "I’m nobody important. I’m an analyst in a small Washington department." She was deliberately vague. She’d been taught to re¬veal as little as possible about her true purpose at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Washington, D.C.!" Grant seized the word. A large smile displayed his even teeth.

"Yes," she nodded, lifting her coffee cup. The liquid was lukewarm.

"I live in D.C., too. My home route is between DC and Reagan National Airport.

The thrill that shimmied up Robyn"s spine couldn’t be stopped. She’d only met Grant a few hours ago, yet she was sure she could fall in love with him.

"So where’s Susan, now?" he asked.

"She had a date." Robyn came back from her musings. "And where’s David now?" she asked, as the waiter served more coffee.

"He had a date. I lost him when I went to the sec¬ond show."

"Why did you stay?"

He leaned forward, taking her hand in his. "After I saw you, I was devastated. How could I leave?" His eyes twinkled with mischief.

Robyn blushed, knowing he was teasing. "How could you tell us apart. Up there, we all look the same." It was a common complaint of the dancers. With the makeup and costumes, it was difficult to tell one from the other. And with her coloring, she blended in easily with Susan’s complexion. "I could argue that." This time there was no teasing in his tone. It was deadly serious.

Robyn’s throat constricted, and pulling her hand free, she picked up her water glass. The cool water helped only slightly, for Grant’s eyes were fixed on her. She felt as if he was setting her on fire. It was all around her, defining her shape, and any effort to break free would cause the flames to incinerate her. But the overwhelming emotion that rocked her more than the thought of burning was that she didn’t want to break free. She wanted this new sensation to con¬tinue.

"Why don’t we go to the lounge and dance?" he suggested.

They had finished eating long ago, but lingered over the coffee to talk. Now, they rose and went to the small lounge. Soft music played by a combo filled the room, and couples crowded on the dance floor.

The hostess led them to a table, and Grant ordered drinks. Without waiting he pulled her into his arms, and began circling the floor to the slow beat of the music. Robyn held her breathe. Her heart hammered. She couldn’t describe her feelings. She was light and happy, feeling as if she was floating.

He smelled good, of lemon soap and aftershave. She raised her hand to the back of his head and touched his soft hair. His arm tightened around her waist, pulling her closer to his body. They moved in perfect rhythm, each matching the steps of the other as if they had always danced to¬gether. She didn’t think, after the grueling afternoon she’d had learning the steps to the routine, she’d ever want to dance again. Yet, now resting in Grant’s arms, her feet were light and responsive.

They spent the evening there. When most of the other couples had opted for the casino and thoughts of striking it rich, Robyn had found her fortune. She swirled in Grant’s arms to the sexy sound of a saxo¬phone that played on and on into the small hours of the morning. When he took her back to Susan’s apart¬ment on the outskirts of the city, light was just break¬ing behind the distant hills.

Robyn didn’t move when he pulled the rental car to a stop in front of Susan’s building. It was one of the best days she’d ever had, and she was reluctant to have it end.

"It’ll be daylight soon," she said, prolonging his de¬parture.

Grant looked at the pink color spreading in the sky. “It reminds me of an early morning horizon when I’m flying.”

"It’s going to be a beautiful day." He knew that, even without the clear sky. Robyn had entered his life, and for some unexplained reason, he knew all his days would be beautiful.

Robyn turned to him and smiled. His arms snaked around her and pulled her unresisting body closer to his. He kissed her slowly, something he’d wanted to do since seeing her asleep in the sun. She moaned slightly in his embrace as she circled his neck with her arms. She played with his hair, her soft fingers combing through to his scalp. Sensation rocked him. He’d never known anyone to make him feel the way she did. He’d loved having her in his arms when they had danced, and now, his body strained for her. When the kiss ended, he kept her close, hugging her tightly to him.

"Do you suppose it’s true that you can find anything open in this town at any hour?"

Robyn leaned back to look at him, her eyes dazed. "Is there something you need right now?" Her voice was thick with emotion.

"I know we only met today. All I know about you is that you work for the government, live in Washing¬ton, and like to dance. But I was wondering if we could find an open chapel. We could be married by sunrise?