Monday, 28 February 2011

My Writing Space by Stephanie Burkhart

My muse, Juliet, loves my writing space. She just hops on the top edge of my Macbook's display screen and settles in with a cup of tea and her nail file and it's time for her to go work. She's easy. I wish I had it as easy as she did. –wink-

I need to be centrally located in the house so I can keep an eye and ear out on my kids – especially Joe, my 4 year old. Strike 1 – I'm within earshot of a 4 year old.

My dining room fits the bill. I flip open my Macbook and put my coffee down next to it. Mind you, coffee is fuel for the soul. (Juliet would argue green tea is.)

Right above my mousepad is a calendar of events for the month. It helps to keep me on track. To the right of my Macbook, I have my notes and handwritten pages, which I'm going to type up. 80% of my writing is done longhand and I just have to come to the computer and type it up. Juliet likes that. She treats herself to manicures, pedicures, and massages. I'm stuck typing. My fingers are dying for a manicure.

20% of my writing is done at the computer. Those are the rare occasions were both kids are at school and I have peace and quiet in the house, or both kids are upstairs playing Wii.

Just in back of the Computer is a book on my TBR pile, my kindle, or my working copy of my WIP. Currently, I'm working on a a contemporary romantic suspence, "The Fabrege Secret," and edits for The Wolf's Torment. I try to be neat and organized at the buffet table. My WIP has a notebook with a working cover, folders with my notes on Brattleboro, VT and St. Petersburg, Russia as well as Russian Christmas traditions. I usually don't listen to music or background noise when I'm at the computer. I like peace and quiet. When the kids are home, I channel out the "background noise." (Listening up for the important cries of "Mommmm, Joe is bugging me again," or "Mommmm, Andrew won't share.")

My Macbook is new to me, but I am learning. I really like the keyboard. It's easy to type on it with a backlight. Safari is a great web browser, but I'm still trying to feel my away around the nooks and crannies of the computer. I have a secret confession: If it wasn't for my black gig stick, I'd be lost. Shhh… don't tell Juliet. –wink-


Friday, 18 February 2011

Author Introduction - Meet Jude Urbanski

STEPH: Jude, welcome to Desert Breeze. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?

JUDE: Steph, I was born in Tennessee, grew up in Indiana, but will always have a passion for the South.

STEPH: Who were some of your favorite authors growing up?

JUDE: I read many of the classics growing up and those have remained everlasting favorites. I was also passionate about James Mitchner for many years. Can't remember the authors, but the series was about Mary Carlson, MD. Those got me through grade school. I enjoyed poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the memoir by Kahil Gabran. Have to say, my most treasured book in the Holy Bible.

STEPH: What genre do you write?

JUDE: I call it women's fiction with inspirational romance elements. I also write non-fiction. My favorite genre to read though is historical fiction. I use Jude Urbanski as my pen name.

STEPH: You have an upcoming release with Desert Breeze. Can you tell us when, the title, and let us know what it's about?

JUDE: I'm happy to announce that in November DB will release my debut novel, Joy Restored. It's about a widowed young mother who becomes strong in broken places, but in the process almost misses incredible love offered by a rich, Christian widower.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

JUDE: The kids gave me a Kindle for Christmas! Confess I like it even better than I thought I would. Speaking of kids-my husband and I have a blended family of 8 children!

STEPH: Do you have any other books that are available?

JUDE: My non-fiction book, I Can't Remember Me, is available even though it is a few years ago. We keep selling copies. It is the story of my daughter's miraculous recovery from traumatic brain injury.
I have a second novel on my computer. That novel is for sale too!

STEPH: Can you tell us a little about the state you live in?

JUE: I live in Indiana, which is known for the Indy 500, Hoosier Basketball Hysteria, Kurt Vonnegut, James Whitcomb Riley and my famous alma mater, Indiana University.

STEPH: Just for fun: pick your favorite: Monet, Picasso, or Renoir?

JUDE: I'd say Monet. Wasn't he an impressionist? I like his use of varied and muted color.

STEPH: Do you belong to any writing groups? Have they been helpful in allowing you to grow as a writer?

JUDE: Yes. To a local fiction critique group. National and state ACFW groups and National and local groups of the National League of American Pen Women. Hands down, ACFW has taught me sooooo much. It's the best $50 you'll ever spend on your craft. I still consider myself a beginner after 5-6 years of writing..

STEPH: If you could offer one piece of advice for aspiring authors, what would it be?

JUDE: Give yourself to the gifts you are given and never, never, never give up. Gotta work though. Also, pay it forward or give back-mentor someone.

STEPH: Where can we find you on the web?

JUDE: Coming!-under reconstruction: and
Facebook Twitter Linked In

Thank you, Miss Stephanie, for doing this interview. Let me know if you need anything more and also when you'll post.

Author Spotlight week - Excerpt from Unwilling Accomplice

The steady pounding in Joe Riso's head beat in time with his aching heart. Sharp pangs stabbed his temples. He groaned and rolled onto his back. No way was he opening his eyes. He never slept anymore unless he was exhausted or on a bender, and it might be morning already -- which meant the shock of light would simply hurt too much.

He scrubbed his hands over his face. Why was the pounding getting louder? Usually it ebbed once he woke up. With a bitter curse, he rocked onto his side and cracked his eyelids. The living room was still dark, except for the milky gray light from the TV.

It was the middle of the night, and the infernal pounding continued. His stomach swirled. He put his hand flat on the carpet and tried to focus on the monotone murmur of the World Poker Tour announcer, but it was impossible to hear over the cacophony inside his head.

"Joe?" a woman's voice called from far away.
He lifted his head. Was he hallucinating?
"Joe, please open the door. It's an emergency."

He frowned and groggily sat up. The light hurt his eyes. With a wince, he tried to shake the cobwebs out of his brain. After a few slow shakes, he finally registered the voice's cryptic words. Open the door. Emergency.

So the pounding wasn't inside his head after all, but was caused by a woman standing on his front porch beating the heck out of his front door. He cranked his eyes open again and peered hard at the clock over the TV. Two a.m. Son of a--

"Joe, please!" The woman hesitated. "I know you're in there. Wake up!"

With great effort, he hoisted himself off the floor. The room tilted. He lurched into the side of the recliner and hung onto it for dear life until the floor leveled out.

Another series of knocks pounded dull nails into his temples.

"Cut it out," he snarled, half to himself. "For just one freaking minute."

No luck. The only way to make the noise stop was for him to open the door. He took a deep breath, let go of the recliner, and caught sight of himself in the mirror on the foyer wall. His hair stood on end, his chin was dark with stubble, and his wrinkled white tee shirt rode up his flat stomach. He yanked it down and lumbered across the sea of carpet. His fingers fumbled with the chain, but he finally got it off and unlocked the deadbolt.

He opened the door and reeled backwards. His former sister-in-law, Marcy Moretti, and her little beanpole of a kid stood on the mat.

"Whoa," he said, meeting Marcy's frantic eyes in startled shock. "It's two a.m. What do you guys want?"

"We need to come inside. Right now." She whirled and raked the street with her terrified gaze. Turned back. "Please, Joe. I'll explain once we're in and the door is locked."

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Melanie Atkins shares her favorite authors

I have a lot of favorite authors, but if I must pick one that I admire above the others, it has to be Lisa Gardner. She really knows her craft. Her first book, the Perfect Husband, made me realize I wanted to write edgy, romantic thrillers, and I’m still hooked many books later. Her FBI series has me mesmerized. I also enjoy reading John Sandford, Linda Howard, Linda Castillo, Karen Rose, S.J. Rozan, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, Linda Fairstein, and Kate Brady--all of whom write either mystery or dark, kickin’ suspense.
I love authors who keep me on the edge of my seat and make me fall in love with their characters. Great dialogue, a plot that flows, and in intriguing premise… all parts of a great story.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Melanie Atkins shares her favorite movie

My favorite movie is Silence of the Lambs. No, it's not a romance (not by a long shot), but it contains plenty of suspense, darkness, and psychological thrills… and watching Clarice Starling match wits with the disturbed Dr. Hannibal Lector never fails to make my skin crawl. I love the dance between Clarice and Lector as she prods him for insight into the mind of another sick killer, Buffalo Bill. Evil assessing evil. Both men are psychopaths, and Clarice teeters on the brink as she struggles to keep Lector from getting inside her head. What a fabulous movie. I love to be scared -- not by grisly horror flicks, but by genuine psycho thrillers like this one.

A close second is The Last of the Mohicans. Yes, I know… the two movies are as different as night and day. I love the scenery, hotness, music, characters, and history in the Mohicans. I mean, seriously… Daniel Day Lewis risking all to save his love? Fabulous story.

Give me suspense, romance, or a combination of the two, and I’m happy. Those are my kinds of movies.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Melanie Atkins shares her passion for Romantic Suspense

Suspense is my genre of choice because I like being on the edge of my seat. I love mysteries, and the intricate puzzles detectives must put together in order to solve their cases. Cops, serial killers, danger… if any of those elements are in a book, a TV show, or a movie, I'm there. My favorite shows are cops shows: Castle, Law & Order SVU, In Plain Sight, Rizzoli & Isles, Memphis Beat, The Glades, and so on. And my favorite authors are Lisa Gardner, John Sanford, Tess Gerritsen, Karen Rose, Linda Castillo, Erica Spindler… do you sense a trend here? Scare me, make the hair stand up on my arms, make me grit my teeth. I like reading books that are gritty and dark, with a heaping helping of emotion.

I love to read and watch suspense, and it's what I write. I try to get my facts correct by talking with law enforcement professionals and doing plenty of research on my own. I used to be married to a cop, and I've attended two civilian police academies and Forensic University. Later this month, I'm scheduled to attend the Writers' Police Academy in North Carolina. I can't wait. So look for more cop stories -- along with a little romance -- from me in the future. Those stories get my blood pumping and keep me putting words on the page. Nothing is more motivating than plotting crime fiction.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Author Spotlight week -Q&A with Melanie Atkins

STEPH: I don't know much about Unwilling Accomplice. What's it about?

MELANIE: Unwilling Accomplice is the fifth book in my New Orleans Detective series. In this book, Marcy Moretti believes that anyone can be redeemed, until she witnesses a murder at the hands of her ex-husband and is forced to go on the run with her young son in order to survive. The only person who can help her is Joe Riso, her former brother-in-law, a detective staggered by the loss of his wife and daughter. If he's going to protect both Marcy and her boy, he must first find a way to unfreeze his icy heart -- and along the way find his own redemption.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration come from?

MELANIE: Joe Riso. I introduced his character in Beloved Captive, the book before this one, and he just took on a life of his own.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MELANIE: About six weeks, give or take a day or two.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MELANIE: Much neater and more organized than it used to be! I write in a corner of my room in a recliner with my laptop and a cat on my lap. It’s cozy and used to be quite cluttered with notes and such, but I went on a rampage not long ago and organized them all. I’m much more at ease now.

STEPH: If you could cast the movie, who would play the leads?

MELANIE: Gerard Butler and Jennifer Lopez. In a perfect world.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the place you live in.

MELANIE: I live smack in the middle of the Deep South in Mississippi’s newest city—Byram, a town with a lapsed charter thanks to the Depression. We fought the capitol city of Jackson for years in our quest for sovereignty and finally became a city again on June 30, 2009. Wahoo! Byram is a small but growing city, with small town values. I like that.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? Which one?

MELANIE: I have a Nook, and I love it. It takes almost any format, has adjustable fonts, and the screen isn’t backlit, so it doesn’t hurt my eyes.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

MELANIE: I’ve been writing all my life, but got serious about it and started my quest for publication in 2001.

STEPH: What's the latest book you read?

MELANIE: Lying Eyes by Amy Atwell, a romantic suspense from Carina Press. It’s a great book! I highly recommend it.

STEPH:Fun question: Which country would you like to visit that you haven't yet?

MELANIE: Italy. My dad was stationed there during WWII, and I’ve always wanted to see the places he told me about. One day, I hope to make that trip as part of a Mediterranean cruise. Why not shoot for the best trip out there?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The History of Valentines Day

By Stephanie Burkhart

Ah, February, the month of love dedicated to St. Valentine. Yet Valentine's story is mired in myth and legend. No one knows the definitive background of this romantic Saint, but we do know he existed – and inspired long ago.I thought I'd share what I dug up on Valentines Day.

What we do know isn't much. Archaelogists have uncovered a tomb in the Old Roman catacombs dedicated to the Saint. In 496 A.D., 14 February was declared a day of honor to the Saint by Pope Gelassius.

There are three prevailing myths surrounding Valentine. The first one dates back to when Claudius II was Emperor of Rome, in the 3rd Century A.D. (270 A.D., to be exact) Claudius determined single men made better soldiers and forbid the Roman soldiers to marry. Valentine, a priest, defied Claudius and married the soldiers. When Claudius found out what Valentine was doing, he had him put to death.

The second myth, which could easily blend into the first, had Valentine in jail. (Probably awaiting his fate that Claudius had decreed) While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailor's daughter. Before he was put to death, he sent her a letter and signed it, "From Your Valentine," thus, staring an expression that you can still find on Valentine cards today.

The third myth, which again, could easily blend into the first and second, making this all one myth, involves the pagan Roman celebration called Lupercalia. The Romans considered February the start of spring and with the onset of spring, they found it a time for purification. Houses were cleaned and swept. Salt and wheat were sprinkled throughout their home as part of their custom of purification. Lupercalia began on the Ides of February (15 February) and dedicated t the Roman god of fertility as well as the Roman founders of Romulus and Remus.

The church had a habit of taking pagan Roman celebrations and fitting them into the calendar to make them more "politically correct." It was Pope Gelassius who outlawed Lupercalia, and it was believe St. Valentine's feast day replaced it in order to "Christianize" the pagan ritual.

While the official reason has been lost to history, I don't see why all three of these myths can't be melded together to found the basis of the day we celebrate now.

Interestingly, different cultures have different takes on the 14th of February. In the Western world, cards, flowers, and chocolates are traditional gifts. In Finland, it's known as Friend's Day and it extends to friends as well as loved one.

In Turkey, the day is known as Sweetheart's Day. Interesting since most of Turkey follows Islam. In most Asian countries, notably Japan, the only recognition of St. Valentine's Day is a custom where only the women give men chocolate. There is a reply day for the men to return the favor to the women.

Countries like India, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan try to have the holiday banned. At a minimum, the governments in those countries discourage participation, but there is a thriving black market of roses and wrapping paper.

Does anyone want to share how they spend Valentines Day or if they have a special Valentine's Day you remember?

Information taken from Online Soures including Wikipedia.

Image from:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Author Spotlight week -Excerpt from Firesong

After Tommy finished his routine, amid waves of laughter, the music resumed and couples moved out onto the floor to try a few waltzes and slow dances. Dani sighed. It would be nice to dance, she admitted, but she didn't know how. She had hated square dancing in elementary school gym class, because back then boys were icky. Ever since then, she had been too busy. Besides, why need to know how to dance when she never went anywhere, never did anything, never dated?

Tom came over and claimed his wife, promising her she was safe, because how could anyone, even the inexperienced, mess up a slow waltz? Stephanie laughed and let him lead her away, in her stocking feet. Xander came over to claim Hannah -- saying they had to practice for their own wedding, if she would ever set a date. To which she retorted that he hadn't put a ring on her finger yet, and he still had two months to go on their agreement. Dani didn't think she wanted to know what agreement they were talking about, but it was nice to know Xander and Hannah were thinking marriage. Two people who looked as in love as they did had to eventually get married, didn't they? Jeannette and Claire took BJ out with them and made a trio, spinning slowly around in a corner, out of everyone's way. The little boy laughed, black curly head tilted back, mouth wide in a bright grin that made everyone else in the room smile too.

BJ put an aching hunger inside Dani's heart, sometimes. Jeannette had been widowed just after she found out she was pregnant. The thought of having a little boy like BJ made Dani wish she could have it all -- and vow never to have children, because the life of a musician meant too much time away from home. Thinking about Jeannette's estrangement from her vicious in-laws had long ago prompted Dani to vow she would never marry unless the man was an orphan.

Or he had really great relatives. Like Kurt did.
Stop that! she scolded herself.

"So this is where you've been hiding," Kurt said from behind her.

Dani glanced up at him, then around the table. Her face burned when she realized how stupid that was -- she was alone.
"Don't give me that innocent look. You've been hiding from me all day, haven't you? Don't you know it's tradition for the bride's cousin to dance with the maid of honor?" He held out his hand. Dani shrank back in her chair, making it creak.

"I can't dance -- I never learned how -- I'm clumsy."

"I've seen you on stage, Dani. You're not clumsy," he said, his voice thickening with a warmth that made her face hotter.
Dani was very glad there was no one else there to hear that particular note in his voice, or see her reaction. For several seconds, she could only stare into his warm, deep eyes. She had to clutch at the seat of her chair to fight a momentary sensation of falling. Falling into his eyes?

That idea created an oddly compelling, yet ridiculous image in her mind. Smiling, she shook her head.

"Come on." Kurt grinned, breaking the spell he had cast over her. "I mean, you've never fallen off, right? Let me teach you. Just one song." He moved closer, his hand only inches from her face, and Dani knew he wasn't going to leave until she relented or she gave him a good reason why she wouldn't dance with him.

"How would it look--"

"I already talked to Pastor Glenn. Special dispensation. Once a year deal." He gestured across the room to the table where Pastor Glenn and Rita sat chatting with Stephanie's parents. Dani glanced their way unwillingly. Pastor Glenn looked over at them at that precise moment. He waved to her -- and winked.
"We'll go outside, okay? We can still hear the music with the windows open, but nobody'll see you."

"It's raining." She smiled as she said it, somehow knowing Kurt wouldn't let something like rain stop him.

"I happen to know there's one humongous porch out there, with plenty of room and no witnesses. Now, are you coming or do I throw you over my shoulder and carry you outside, kicking and screaming?"

"Cave man," Dani muttered. She leaped to her feet -- then snatched up her discarded slippers when Kurt reached for her hand. He muttered under his breath, but the scowl he wore as he herded her toward the door couldn't hide the sparkle in his eyes.
The chairs on the porch were all pushed up against the wall and stacked, leaving plenty of room on the redwood-stained boards. Dani sighed and looked around and considered for several seconds the damage to her bridesmaid dress if she made a dash through the raindrops to the front door, around the other side of the building. She grinned and shook her head, and knew Kurt wouldn't give up that easily.

Besides, she really did want to know what it would be like to dance with someone, period. The fact that it was Kurt Green didn't have anything to do with it. She hoped.

"When I stomp all over your feet, don't say I didn't warn you," she said, when he took hold of both her hands and backed her into the cleared center of the porch.

In response, the rain drummed harder on the roof. They could barely hear the music coming through the open windows in the reception hall.

"I've seen you on stage, Dani. You can dance just fine." That note of rough warmth returned to his voice.

"You've seen -- you've really watched me?" The dropping sensation in her stomach was pleasant, yet terrifying.

Kurt just smiled a little wider and nodded. He adjusted his hands, holding hers so their fingers were interlaced. She flinched a little when an electric sensation ran up her spine at the innocent yet intimate touch.

They danced that way, slowly turning around the porch floor, with six inches of empty air between their bodies. Dani found it hard to find some place to focus her eyes. Kurt's chin and lips were on the level with her eyes and looking at that soft, satisfied, slightly smirking smile made her sway between laughter and discomfort. She knew his lips would be warm and soft -- but there was no way she would ever let him kiss her.

Would Kurt want to?
No. We haven't even gone on a date yet.
Not that she had ever let him take her out.
This is a test, right, Lord?

Dani focused her gaze on Kurt's shoulder, just the right height to rest her head. But when would she ever get a chance?
Stop it! she scolded herself. She flinched back a little, and Kurt let her move away without letting go of her hands. That made it easier to look into his eyes. The laughter had faded, though he still smiled. That warmth, that glow she had seen during her walk down the aisle, filled his gaze now, and Dani felt her knees starting to get wobbly.

The funny thing was, she liked it.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Michelle Levigne shares her favorite authors

Author CS Lewis

C.S. Lewis. Tolkein. Pratchett. Robb/Roberts. Macomber. Tang. Sinclair. Estep. McCaffrey. Crispin. Barron. Kenner. Kipling. Bujold. Duane. Alexander. Lackey. Evanovich. Those are the ones just off the top of my head. There are probably a dozen or so more that I should list, but I'm drawing a blank after answering all these questions!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Michelle Levigne shares her favorite 80's TV show

You honestly expect me to remember back that far?


Let's see, M*A*S*H went off the air when I was in college, and that was '83, so .... There were so many I liked, but they would die after one season -- I sometimes felt like a jinx, you know? If I loved a show, it was bound to die!

I'm going to have to say Stingray, just because it's one show that when it came out on DVD, I actually bought it. Of course, it's been sitting on my desk, waiting to be watched for ... not going to say how long. Essentially, Ray is a man of mystery, no known background, man of many faces, who moves around helping the downtrodden and helpless in exchange for "favors" -- when he needs their special talent to help someone else, they have to repay the favor. And he's Italian, wears a black leather jacket, and drives a vintage black Stingray. How can you miss?!?!?!

I have to admit that the Stingray influence has pervaded a number of my books. I have a humorous romantic suspense series with another publisher that can be directly attributed to a Stingray fanzine story I wrote. The characters would not die, and they launched a whole story line.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Michelle Levigne shares her passion for Inspirationals/Contemporaries

Hmmmm, more along the lines of I had these people and places in my head and they wouldn't shut up until I wrote them down! Then I kind of got hooked on them, and of course, when you create a place that starts to feel real, you meet other people inhabiting this place and they have friends, and you start putting together more stories, imagining other things happening in other lives. Kind of a geometric progression. Or maybe it's more along the lines of a batch of sourdough that just keeps growing, and growing, and growing, and ....

I like the chance to work out questions and issues, and have my characters do some things that I would like to try, or never got to do -- like Dani being in a real, functioning CCM band. The closest I ever got to having a singing group was a youth ensemble in high school at church, school choir, and the traveling choir with CBNU.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Author Spotlight week -Q&A with Michelle Levigne

STEPH: I don't know much about Firesong. What's it about?

MICHELLE: Firesong is a contemporary Christian band, started by cousins -- the Gibson brothers and their cousins, Andy and Dani Paul. Dani is the heroine. She's chosen music and her ministry over marriage, and honestly believes that's where God has called her. Then Kurt Green comes back to town, to prepare for a crusade taking place that summer, and also for the wedding of his cousin Katie, to Andy Paul. Katie also happens to be Dani's best friend. Kurt is also of the persuasion that marriage isn't for him -- mostly because a girl at crusade headquarters is doggedly pursuing him, to get him to trade in his life on the road for 9-5 domestication. Then Kurt sees Dani singing and remembers the feisty girl he knew 9 years ago, and realizes she's the perfect partner, in ministry and marriage -- but how does he persuade her of that?

STEPH: Where did the inspiration come from?

MICHELLE: Honestly, I can't remember. But I do know that for a long time, in junior high and senior high, I wanted to be in a traveling singing group. I had my records that I would sing along with constantly, and I tried writing music, and my friend Lynn and I invested in songbooks and would try to create harmony and ... somewhere along the way, we got distracted with life and college and dating and ... Then I was in the first choir at CBN University, and we had a week-long tour, which was fine, but I realized I did NOT like life on the road, a different bed every night, and spending long hours on the bus.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MICHELLE: Years. Remember, all my Tabor Heights books (so far, anyway) have been rough drafted for years, sitting in my files, and every once in a while I take them out and revise, then put them away. I think Firesong was probably only in the second or third draft when I took it out to revise and polish for publication at DBP.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MICHELLE: I'm lucky -- I have what used to be my bedroom, in our finished basement. I have lots of space for bookshelves and inspirational/writing posters, and big maps I've created of the various towns or countries I'm writing in. I have this big sheet of spaces marked off by hexagons, with graphics of planets and "space events" that I created when I was making a game to tie into my SF universe, the Commonwealth. It kind of stalled out after the first test run of playing. Needs lots of work! I usually have a couple projects scattered on the floor, being sorted or organized. I have a drafting table I inherited from my father, that my "working" computer sits on, with notebooks and DVDs waiting to be watched, snacks, pens, tea mug. Then on the other wall directly behind me, I have my computer desk, with my old desktop computer -- I mostly use it for my bookkeeping for my editing business and the files for my web site. And tucked in among the bookshelves, which stick out into the room in little islands because I ran out of wall space, is a NordicTrack, to try to get at least one session of exercise in every day. I emphasize "try."

STEPH: If you could cast the movie, who would play the leads?

MICHELLE: You know, I never honestly thought about it.
If I could use a time machine .... maybe Antonio Sabato Jr. when he was in Earth 2, to play Kurt. And Amy Grant when she was in college -- and dye her hair of course. Or maybe Rebecca St. James -- she's getting into acting now, I've heard.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? Which one?

MICHELLE: Palm Tungsten -- it still works, after taking a "sabbatical" for about 9 months. It died on me, just froze up, wouldn't let me access the screen, about 2 days before my Nook showed up. Now it works fine and I'm still reading on it, when I think about it. I have it open to the movie novelization of Serenity right now.

Nook -- I've had it for a year. A little peeved with it right now. It won't acknowledge all the books I loaded onto it in the My Documents folder -- it will only show me the books I bought from B&N. The thing is, it used to let me load other books onto it, until the last software upgrade. I'll figure it out. Eventually.

And of course, my iPod Touch. Love it. I actually have 6 e-reader programs loaded on it -- Kindle, Stanza, Ereader, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks. Plus I have Docs to Go, which lets me read PDFs. You know how convenient it is to have it in your pocket, and you're standing in line at the PO or somewhere, and you can pull it out and read without having to wait for it to boot up like the Nook and other proprietary readers? The only downside is the 3-hour battery life, say if I was on a plane or stuck somewhere with no access to electrical power to recharge ..... *sigh*

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

MICHELLE: Seriously writing for publication? Since my sophomore year of high school. Let's leave it at 30+ years, okay?
I was dabbling with stories and ideas and daydreaming for years before that, but never finished anything until then.

STEPH: What's the latest book you read?

MICHELLE: Carpe Demon, by Julie Kenner. Kind of a "Buffy retired, got married, had kids, and now she's been called back into action" kind of story. I think the sub-title is something like "confessions of a demon-hunting soccer mom." Told in first person. Actually, I had this one on my Palm, and stopped reading it about halfway through when my Palm died, then loaded it on my Nook, got distracted by lots of other projects and books, and finally opened it up and finished it. I loved Kenner's Aphrodite books, so I figured this would be fun, too. And it was.

STEPH:Fun question: Which country would you like to visit that you haven't yet?

MICHELLE: Toss-up between England -- to see where C.S. Lewis lived -- and Greece, most specifically, the area where Ithaca probably was. I wrote a book some years ago about Penelope's side of the Odyssey, and I'd love to walk Ithaca and see if I imagined the setting anywhere close to the "reality" that the people listening to Homer tell the poem would have known.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Author Spotlight week -Excerpt from The Count's Lair

Anton stood next to the tree, picking out the perfect spot to begin cutting. After sizing it up, he swung his axe and sank it halfway into the trunk. With one more swing, the tree fell over.

Amelia spun around. "That was quick. I just picked out my tree."

With a laugh, Anton walked over to her and used the axe to carve a small line at the base of the tree. "Well, I've chopped trees all my life."

"You have?"

"My father thought it would build character."

She rubbed her gloved hands together. Anton thought she might be catching a chill.

"Did you like chopping trees?" she asked.

"I found it to be boring, tedious work. I didn't understand why he sent me to do it when we had servants. In hindsight, however, I do think I benefited from it, but not in the way I think he wanted me to."

"I don't understand. Why didn't he have the servants chop the wood?"

Anton took a breath, steadied himself, and looked directly at her. "Perhaps he wanted me to feel more like a servant than a noble man's son."

Her face fell. "If that was his reason, it was cruel."

He did want to be honest with her about his father, but he didn't want to weigh down the fun they were having with such a heavy anchor. Instead, he stepped into her personal space. Her cheeks were raw from the cold. He cupped them and pressed the length of his body against hers. Again, her aura sparkled to life. Her soft curves fit snugly against his muscled physique. "I don't want to talk about him right now. He's depressing. You're cold."

"I am a little cold," she replied.
"Does this warm you up?"

"Yes," she replied. Her eyes trapped his, and he found himself drowning in those simmering pools of azure blue.

He lowered his head and took her lips with his. The glow of their auras blinded him. She closed her eyes. His heart beat wildly in his chest. She pressed against him, sending his senses into a pool of delight. He trailed his lips over her jaw line to her neck. She moaned as he stoked the embers smoldering deep inside them.

She placed her hands on his chest and gently disengaged from him. "That was some kiss."

"I just wanted to keep you warm until we got back to the auto."

"That will do."

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Stephanie Burkhart shares her favorite authors

Author JK Rowling

I would be remise if I didn't give a shout out to those authors who I have enjoyed including: Anne Rice, Judith McNaught, VC Andrews, Victoria Holt and Rebecca Brandewyne. Each of these authors have resonated with me. Rice, for her horror, VC Andrews for her gothic influence (I'm talking the original VC Andrews and Flowers in the Attic) Holt for her gothic romance, McNaught and Brandewyne for their romantic historicals.

I adore Jillian Hunter. Her Boscastle series is pitch perfect historical romance. Her novels are sharp, witty, and the plot is smooth, never dragging.

My favorite author is JK Rowling. The story is compelling. Harry is a young boy who is challenged to grow into a heroic young man. There's witches and wolves, magic and friendship, love and heartbreak. Rowling brings a rich humanity to her paranormal characters. That's what I want to do as well.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Stephanie Burkhart shares her passions for paranormals

People at work often ask me "What are you writing?" and I usually reply: "My novel." They raise an eyebrow. "How do you come up with ideas for your writing?" I usually tap my temple with my finger and smile. "You'd be surprised by what goes on up here."

I grew up watching Creature Double Feature in the 1970's as a young girl. They had zombies, godzilla, vampires, werewolves, Frankensteins, and all of them gave me a good scare. Those creepy characters resonated with me growing up.

As a young adult, I loved Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches and vampire books. In the 1990's, Gary Oldman's Dracula spooked me out.

I took to writing seriously for publication in 2001 and wrote a sweet military romance and a pair of contemporaries. Then I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabhan in the movie theatre and it rekindled the flame I had for paranormals. I wanted to write my own paranormal stories. The Budapest Moon series is the outgrowth. It's set in an exotic locale and focuses on the man and his humanity despite his condition.

Imagination can drive you wild on occasion, can't it? Wink.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Q&A with Stephanie Burkhart

#1 – What's "The Count's Lair" about?

STEPH: It's a paranormal romance set in Budapest, Hungary during Christmas 1901. Count Anton Varga and Lady Amelia Andrássy have experienced the painful depths of loniliness and are now willing to embark on a courtship. Anton, however, has a dark secret. He'll give Amelia 3 clues. Will she discover his secret and can she accept him for the man he is?

#2 – "The Count's Lair" is book two in the Budapest Moon series. How does it fit into Book one, "The Hungarian?"

STEPH: Toward the end of "The Hungarian" Amelia faints in the Duma's bookstore and its Anton who catches her. A spark of attraction passes between them. In "The Count's Lair," Anton and Amelia dare to fan that spark into a flame.

#3 – Why did you choose Budapest, Hungary for the novel's setting?

STEPH: Budapest is in Central Europe. The country has a rich history. The architecture is unique – and blend of old and new. Budapest hints at mystery. You just might believe a paranormal creature exists in Budapest.

#4 – If you could cast the movie, who would you have play the characters?

STEPH: A young looking Ralph Fiennes for Anton and Amy Adams as Amelia. Emmy Rossum would make a great Esmé. Christopher Plummer for Georg. Daniel Radcliff would be Tomas and Geoffrey Rush as Bryant.

#5 – Have you been to Budapest?

STEPH: Yes, in Sept 1997. It was truly an international city, and there was a lot to do and much to see. I loved walking through Fisherman's Bastian. It's a ½ mile long and on Buda Hill overlooking the Danube and Parliament Building. The 7 towers represent the 7 Magyar tribes that settled in Hungary.

#6 – How long did it take you to write "The Count's Lair?"

STEPH: Approximately 4 months. I wrote during Dec 2009 which is not a month where I get much writing done. I began in NOV 2009. The novel was my 2009 NaNoWriMo project and is dedicated to my NaNoWriMo writing buddy, Jenifer Ranieri, who I just adore. Her laughter, thoughts, and feedback is food for the soul for the writer in me. I finished in FEB 2010.

#7 – Did you do a lot of research for the novel?

STEPH: I did research some of the history of Budapest and werewolf myths. I researched what life was like in 1901. They had autos and it would be common for the nobility to have them. They had phonographs, but no radios. The Austrian-Hungarian Empire was still in existence. It was an interesting time, full of modernization and growth.

#8 – Are you a plotter or a panster?
STEPH: A little of both. First I research my topic, my setting, my genre, and draw inspiration form that. I draw up characters, work up bios, and print off pictures for visual reference. Then I come up with a rough plot – outlining the first 3 chapters and the ending, leaving for flexibility in the middle. I try to stay true to the plot.

#9 – Do you have an ebook reader?

STEPH: Yes, I have a Kindle 2 and I love it. I especially enjoy using the text to speech feature on it.

#10 – What was the last movie you saw?

STEPH: Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, Part 1