Saturday, 30 April 2011

Happy 2 years Desert Breeze Publishing!

It's Birthday Time!! Pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine, make a margerita, and enjoy a slice of cake! Post your birthday wishes for Desert Breeze Publishing today and you'll be entered to win the GRAND prize - a $25.00 GC to Amazon, plus 1 of Anne Patrick's books and 2 of Regina Andrews' books! The Winner will be announced tomorrow. Also, everyone who posted comments on the participating author blogs will have their names put in the hat, so the more you've posted on the author blog, the more chances you have to win!

Sit back, Enjoy the wishes and have fun!
Moderator Steph

Here's what a couple of our authors had to say:

"Happy 2nd Birthday Desert Breeze. Hope the terrible twos bring you and your authors health, wealth and happiness - not tears and tantrums." - Sue Perkins, Author of Blitz

"Happy Birthday, Desert Breeze Publishing! Congratulations on this wonderful milestone and best wishes for continued success in the future!" - Regina Andrews, Author of "Light of the Heart"

"Happy Birthday to Desert Breeze Publishing! It's a great company with wonderful owners, awesome writers, cover artists and editors. I wish them many, many, more birthdays!" - Anne Patrick, Author of "Fire and Ash"

"Happy birthday, DBP!! Woohoo!" - Melanie Atkins, Author of "Marked for Murder"

"Hope we'll be celebrating your birthday for many years. Happy birthday to you." - Theresa Stillwagon, Author of "Saving Pale Moon."

"Happy Birthday, Desert Breeze Publishing. May you have many more!" - Stephanie Burkhart, Author of "The Count's Lair."

"Desert Breeze has help me achieve my writing goal: Published Writer.
Thanks." - Toni Noel, Author of "Lawbreakers and Lovemakers"

"It's great to be part of the Desert Breeze Family. Happy birthday to all of us."
Jackie Leigh Allen, Author of "An Officier and a Gigalo."

"Happy birthday, Desert Breeze! Looking forward to many more years of great reads."
Nicole Zoltack, Author of "Woman of Honor."

"Desert Breeze Publishing, I'm thrilled to be celebrating your second Birthday with you! As you know, I'm new around here, but from what I've seen and heard, you've grown tremendously in a short time. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for you though out this next year."
JoAnn Carter, Author of "Paradox."

"Happy Birthday Desert Breeze! May your success know no limit!!!" Nike Chillemi, Author of "Burning Hearts"

The Cuffe Sisters from Maine wish Desert Breeze a wicked happy birthday, with many more to come. Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. God bless you all! - Sophie & Sadie

Friday, 29 April 2011

Author Spotlight week -Excerpt from Marked for Murder

Enjoy this excerpt from "Marked for Murder" Melanie Atkin's latest release.


"He must like you."

"Excuse me?" Ellen turned her aching head and focused on the slight blonde nurse
changing one of her IV bags. She must have just come on, because Ellen didn't remember seeing
her before.

The nurse smiled. "The detective. Jenny said he stayed 'til after midnight, and he just
called to ask about you."

"He probably just wants to question me again."

"I heard someone say they found you on the highway." She checked the tubing and then
picked up the empty bag. "What happened?"

"I don't know." An icy shiver wracked Ellen. Part of her wished she knew how she'd
happened to end up beside Highway 463, but another part simply wanted to forget it. As if a
sinister force lurked inside her head, keeping certain memories at bay. She feared what might
happen once she did remember.

The nurse checked the thermostat. "Where are you from?"

"I'm not sure." She frowned. "The detectives found my license, but--"

"Jenny wrote it on your chart. I'll look it up for you. Your test results might be here
already as well. I'll be right back." She smiled and left the cubicle.

Ellen relaxed against the pillow. She was drowsy, thanks to the pain medication. All she
wanted to do was sleep. Her bones ached, but to her relief the pain was now only a dull throb
instead of the full-blown agony she'd experienced last night when she'd first awakened.

The nurse strode back in carrying a pitcher and a clean disposable cup. "Your chart says
you're from New Orleans," she said. She put the pitcher and cup on the bedside table. "About
forty miles from here."

"Louisiana," Ellen whispered. She didn't remember living in New Orleans. "Where is

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you knew. You're in Hunter's Bayou, Mississippi, in Keller
County. Near the Gulf Coast."

"Detective McKee mentioned the county."

"He moved here from New Orleans about six months ago, I think." The nurse poured her
some water and helped her sip it. "And, dear, you're not pregnant, if that was a concern."

"I see." She frowned. Then why did she have a sonogram image in her purse? She wished
she could remember buying the brown leather bag Jonah had said he'd logged in as evidence --
probably because of the large amount of cash inside. Cash she didn't remember having.

The nurse set the cup on the bedside table. "You're doing so well, we're about to move
you to private room."

"I hope Detective McKee will be able to find me," she whispered. "He probably has more

"I'm sure he'll find you. He left you this," she said, handing Ellen a business card bearing
the handsome detective's name. He'd scribbled what looked like a cell phone number on the
back. Only, the card appeared to have gotten wet and she couldn't read all the numbers. Still, she
clutched it in her fist as if it were her lifeline.

Ellen blinked. She wanted Jonah to visit her again, mainly because he was the only
person she really remembered, and because he'd been so nice. She knew he had questions, but
she didn't know when -- or if -- she'd ever be able to answer them.

She pictured his smiling blue eyes, and an odd sense of longing spread through her. He
had been so kind and gentle, unlike the angry man storming through the shadows inside her head.
Thoughts of him made her cringe, despite not being able to see his face.

"Ms. Jones?" A burly man in light green scrubs poked his head inside her cubicle.
Ellen nodded, even though the name was still foreign to her.

He walked in and examined all the wires and tubes connecting her to the equipment. "I'm
supposed to take you up to the third floor, but they have to unhook you first."

"I'll call the nurse," she offered, pushing the call button. "She's already told me I'm

"Yeah?" He turned and looked at her, and her stomach churned. His dark eyes were flat
and lifeless, and she could have sworn she'd seen him before -- although she had no idea where.

She tensed. "Do I know you?"

"I don't know, honey," he said with a thick drawl. "Do you?"

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Melanie Atkins talks about her favorite "spot"

My favorite spot is right in my own backyard. Yes, at my home. My back porch, to be exact. I live in the Deep South, where winters are relatively mild and summers are blazing hot, and I relish the time I can spend out there before that heat arrives. I have plants, including hanging baskets, scattered around, and I love to sit and write (I bought a small laptop table just for this purpose), and watch my cats aggravate each other. I live on a cul-de-sac, so they are free to roam about the yard. None of them venture too far, thank goodness, and we have fun together. I also have a couple of hummingbirds that venture to my feeder, and they're a blast to watch, too.

So you can find me on my back porch most days that I have time to write and/or edit in the spring, early summer, and fall. But July, August, and the first few weeks of September? Not happening -- and I even have a fan out there. Is it writing time yet?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Melanie Atkins talks about her ebook reader

I have a Nook (Barnes and Nobles' e-reader), and I love it. My favorite feature is the e-reader's ability to increase the font, so I can read on the treadmill and the bike at the gym without going blind. I also love the ease of buying books, turning a page with a flick of my finger, and the quick downloads. My Nook is an older model, but it still works great. When I get a little extra dough, I plan to buy a new Nook so I can download those colorful Dr. Seuss books for my grandbaby. Right now, I have a couple of them on my iPhone, but I'd love to have them on a larger device.

E-readers are here to stay. I write and read e-books... and I hope their popularity continues to grow!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

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

I write suspense because I love to read it. I crave that edge of your seat, heart pounding breathlessness that prickles my skin, ices my blood, and keeps me turning pages. I want my books to affect people like that.

My biggest influences are Lisa Gardner, Linda Howard, and John Sandford. All of them write delicious, in-your-face suspense that effects me deeply. I always snap up their books as soon as they come out. I read them on my Nook now, but still... I love the twists and turns Lisa gives us with her FBI series, Linda's determined heroines, and John's sexy Lucas Davenport. He might be married, but he still pushes my buttons.

A great read always stays with me, and I want people to recall scenes in my stories in just that way. The more suspenseful, the better.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Author Spotlight week -Q&A with Melanie Atkins

STEPH: I don't know much about Marked for Murder. What's it about?

MELANIE: In Marked for Murder, Detective Jonah McKee is forced to juggle caring for his rowdy three year-old son and protecting a beautiful amnesia victim who was targeted by a vicious serial murderer… or was she? Brooke Wilson finally remembers her own name -- and the name of the man trying to kill her -- and the terrifying memory sends her on the run again. Jonah is forced to hide his son and go with her in order to protect her, and along the way they fall in love.

SETPH: Where did the inspiration for the novel come from?

MELANIE: I can honestly say I don't know. I just like writing about hot cops and smart, determined women.

STEPH: Where is set? How important is the setting to the novel?

MELANIE: The setting is important to the series, called Keller County Cops. All of the books take place in Keller County, a fictional county in south Mississippi just across the state line from New Orleans. Keller County is more rural, with one decent sized city called Hunter's Bayou. Much of Marked for Murder takes place off the beaten path as Jonah and Brooke hide from a brutal killer.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research?

MELANIE: I've done a lot of law enforcement research, including attending Lee Lofland's Writers' Police Academy in North Carolina and two local Citizens' Police Academies. Other than that, no. I'm familiar with the area where the book is set, so that part was a breeze -- especially since I fictionalized the location.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MELANIE: About two months

STEPH: Cast the movie. Who are the leads?

MELANIE: James Franco and Jessica Alba.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MELANIE: I write in a corner, in a recliner with my laptop on my lap. Wish I had more space but I really don't need it. My cat sits on my chair with me and keeps me company. She's my furry little muse.

STEPH: Do you prefer ebook, print or both?

MELANIE: I prefer reading ebooks now, thanks to my Nook. Being able to adjust the font and carry so many books with me with so little effort sold me.

STEPH: What was the last movie you saw?

MELANIE: Ack! You would ask me that. Let me think... oh, yeah. No wonder I forgot. It was How Do You Know? A totally forgettable, unsatisfying movie I don't WANT to remember. lol Don't go see it.

STEPH: For Fun: What county would you like to visit that you haven't all ready?

MELANIE: I can name two: Italy and Greece! One day, I want to take a Mediterranean cruise. That would be my dream vacation.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Author Spotlight week -Excerpt from Saving Pale Moon

When Jessie stepped into the old-fashioned kitchen a half hour later, only Abby sat at the table. A half-eaten slice of pie in front of her.

"I didn't mean to be in the shower for so long."

"Don't worry about it." Abby rose and walked to the stove. "I hope you like your chili hot."

"The hotter the better," she said truthfully. "I love spicy food. It used to drive my sisters crazy."

Abby grinned. "I guess I have something in common with your sisters then."

"You don't like it that way?"

"No." Her grinned widened. "But my husband and sons love it."

"Even Blake?"

Abby looked over her shoulder. "Don't let him bother you, Jessie. Blake's never been the trustful type. It comes from thinking he's like his--"

"She doesn't need to know my history."

"Speak of the devil," Jessie mumbled.

"What do you want?" Abby set a bowl of chili onto the table in front of Jessie, dragging a cooled down plate of cornbread near her seat. "I thought you went back to work in the office."

"I did," he said while sinking down in the chair opposite her. The same chair he'd been sitting in at breakfast. It seemed all families had their assigned seats. Where would she fit in here?

"Then why are you back now?" Abby settled into her seat and lifted her coffee cup. "I've never known you to leave that office until everyone was asleep."
He glanced briefly at Jessie before twisting to stare at his mother. "I just wanted to let you know I changed the appointment for tomorrow."
"This late at night?" Jessie asked. "I would think the lab was closed at this time."

"Kelly works there," he said, still not meeting her eye. "I called Kelly and asked her to change it for Thursday. The lab is rarely busy."

"Oh, you go out with her once, and you think she owes you a favor." Jessie groaned as the hard words filtered through the air, and she sighed in regret. She looked toward Abby and watched as her lips formed into a loose smile. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that."

"Don't worry about it."

Jessie would swear she heard a hint of laughter riding in those words. But when she glanced at Abby, the woman's face showed no expression at all.

"I've never heard anyone say anything like that about Blake, though. Now, Nick, that's an entirely different story. The ladies seem to like my eldest son. They'd do anything for him. But Blake is different. Other than Eve's obvious interest in him, that is." Abby glanced at the man. "Blake's not as outgoing as Nick. He's pickier when it comes to women."

"I doubt Jessica wants to hear about that," he said, tightness deepening his gruff voice. Jessie liked his voice. "And, just because I'm picky about who I date, doesn't mean anything. This ranch and the horses keep me way too busy."

"Nick dates," Abby said easily.

Blake seemed angered by her statement. "I just came to let you both know I changed the appointment."

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Author Spotlight week -Theresa Stillwagon shares her favorite authors

Hitler's Eagle Nest circa 1945.

How can a person possible pick just one favorite author? I like so many of them. Right now on my to be read shelf are B. J. Daniels, Lisa Childs, J. D. Robb (but not Nora Roberts), Terry C. Johnston, Susan Anderson, Caron Todd, Linda Style, Heather Graham, and Rennie Airth. Of these I guess my favorite would have to be Heather Graham. But really my favorite is whichever one I'm reading at the time. Unless, of course, I can't stand the book.

Right now I'm not reading a fiction book at all, but a history one. I'm reading a book about the Germans during World War Two. It's a scary one. I have to keep telling myself it has already happened.

I love history.
Don't ask!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Author Spotlight week -Theresa Stillwagon shares her favorite movie

I thought about this subject and couldn't com up with only one. (I love so many movies.) I asked my husband what he thought my favorite movie was and he said Grumpy Old Men. I was thinking The Lord of the Rings.

Then it came to me. My favorite movie isn't known except by my family. It doesn't even have a real name. I only call it 'Dad'. It's a mix-match of old 8mm films of my parents and siblings while I was growing up. My sister put them together into a DVD way back in 1992. My father died a few days after Christmas in 1992. After the funeral my mother and sisters and brothers sat together and watched this 'movie'. My dad loved horses, and in the film he was happy riding one of those horses. I couldn't watch it again for almost a year.

My mother went to be with the Lord a few days after Easter in 2001. This is my favorite 'movie' because they are still alive in it.
I still miss them so much.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Theresa Stillwagon shares her passion for writing contemporary romance

I think I like writing contemporary romance because it's… contemporary. I live in the now, so it's easier for me to write about it. I like history but I don't think I could write in that time period. I don't really like to do research, and historical need to be researched. Research is relatively easy in contemporary. Once I have an ideal of the heroine and hero and know the conflict between them, I can start writing. When I run into the need to research something, I put a comment in the manuscript or I just do the research right then. It stops the flow of my writing and gives me a little break. I don't usually have to do a lot of research stops while writing. It's mostly at the beginning with description and information about one of the character's careers.

I also like to write contemporary because I can use my own experiences and feelings to enhance the story. I know if I'm laughing or crying; the reader will be too. So using my own experiences makes this easier for me. Yes, I know you can do this with all types of romances but to me it's just easier in a contemporary. I can relate to the characters better.

And there's no need to study history or world build. I really like that. I'm basically a lazy writer.

That being said, I'd love to try my hand at an historical romance one day.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Author Spotlight week - Q&A with Theresa Stillwagon

STEPH: I don't know much about Saving Pale Moon. What's it about?

THERESA: Saving Pale Moon is the first story in The Sisters Callaway series. Jessie was adopted by the Callaways as a child. She's been happy until recently. Lately, because of medical and personal problems, she's decided to meet her birth mother. She goes to Texas to find answers; she never expected to find love.

STEPH: Where did you get the inspiration for the story?

THERESA: I've been living with the Callaways for two decades, off and on. I first thought them up in the late 1980s, but I didn't do any thing beyond writing the first book. (I never sold it.) Jessie's story came together in 2006. I wrote it while living in Georgia. It was originally set in that state. When my husband and I spend the winter in Texas, I changed the setting and added the horse. Pale Moon just arrived one day and the story came together.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

THERESA: The first draft took about four months. I've been working on it since 2006. The last rewrite happened while doing my edits. I've never had such intense edits before. It is a much better book.

STEPH: What did you think when you saw the cover?

THERESA: I thought, "Wow, its perfect." I was hoping to have a horse on the cover, but the dawn time is also important. Jessie is starting a new life.

I love it.

STEPH: Cast the movie. Who are the leads?

THERESA: I really don't have any ideal who I would cast.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader?

THERESA: No, but hope springs eternal. My birthday is next month, and my husband knows I want an ebook reader.

STEPH: Tell us about the place you live?

THERESA: Savannah, Georgia. I love the history surrounding the place. Right now, I'm living in a RV, in a campground, with my husband, Mike, and two cats, Fred and Barney.

STEPH: How did you come up with the title?

THERESA: I'm not really sure. This was the fourth or fifth one, and it just stuck. I didn't like it at first, but it grows on you. Pale Moon is important to the story, so I had to put him in the title.

STEPH: Tell us about your writing space.

THERESA: Space? What space? I live in a 31' RV. LOL I use the table.

STEPH: What country would you like to visit that you haven't been to yet?

THERESA: I've never been to any country. I'd like to visit Ireland or Scotland. I love the history and culture of those countries.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Gail Delaney shares her thoughts on this year's RT Convention

Gail Delaney & Jenifier Ranieri at RT 2011

STEPH: As a publisher, what's the appeal of the RT Convention?

GAIL: The beauty of RT is the diversity of attendees. There are conventions
specifically for networking of publishers. There are conventions for writers
to improve their craft. There are conventions for distributors.
RomanticTimes is an all encompassing event for anyone involved in the
industry of romance novels. I can network with other publishers, speak to
distributors and others in support or service industries. I can meet with
potential authors, and meet authors who already write for me. I can talk to
art people (or more to the point, Jenifer can!), and we can draw in new
readers. We can accomplish a lot of goals in one place.

STEPH: How many times have you gone?

GAIL: This marked my sixth RomanticTimes convention. My first was as an author
only, my second and third as both an author and an executive editor for
another publishing house. Then I skipped a year. The last three conventions
have been as owner of Desert Breeze Publishing.

STEPH: Do you meet a lot of romance readers at RT?

GAIL: Very much so, yes. Actually, it surprises me how many pure readers we meet
at RT. I still think of it as very much an industry-oriented event, but
there are people who go purely because they absolutely love romance novels
-- print, ebook, they don't care -- and they want the chance to rub elbows
with the authors and cover models they read and see on their books.

STEPH: How beneficial are the workshops?

GAIL: Sadly, I haven't had much of a chance to get to workshops in the last couple
of years, but when we go we tend to get a nice punch out of them. This year,
Jenifer attended workshops on marketing and hooking the reader. And I was
able to attend a workshop on the genre of Steampunk, something I'm very much
interested in learning more about. I absolutely believe the workshops can be
both beneficial and fun.

STEPH: What's your favorite aspect of the RT Convention? The workshops? The
dance & dinner? Mr. Romance?

GAIL: One of my favorite things is being able to meet authors who already write
for me. This year, I was able to once again see Vijaya Schartz, who I knew
from years past and who came to talk to us at our first RT as DBP. I also
was able to meet Toni Noel and Jackie Leigh Allen -- both newer authors with
us. And although I've known Tamara McHatton for a few years, this year she
was also a DBP author. Getting together with people already with us is

Gail, Jen & Author Katie Charles

STEPH: Did you have any goals you wanted to accomplish at the convention?

GAIL: Expanding on our reputation, getting our name out there to draw quality
authors. And while time will tell, I believe we accomplished that goal.

STEPH: Did you feature any book readers in your display? What one did readers
seem to look at more? What genre appeared to generate the most interest?

GAIL: We had a Nook, a Kindle and two kinds of iPads on display for people to
'play' with. We used to have a Sony, but it went kapoot last year at RT and
hasn't recovered yet. People love to have hands on opportunities to play
with each kind of reader, and to be able to ask us about them. People were
definitely interested in the iPads. J As far as genres, we had a wide
variety of interest. I often ask people who stop "What's your favorite
genre?", and based on their answer I give suggestions based on the postcards
we have on display. A lot of Paranormal and Historical interest. Luckily, we
can offer books that offer both. J

STEPH: What does the Desert Breeze display consist of?

GAIL: This year we had two large racks displaying 24 postcard/cover art cards
each, for a total of 48 options. We also had free sample cds, goodie bags,
raffle items and mugs we gave away to readers. Also, the ereaders to play
with. We pack a lot on a small table.

STEPH: Did you have a lot of opportunities to network?

GAIL: Yes, in a variety of ways. We talk to other publishers, with authors,
publicists, all types of people. Not every mix and mingle results in an
opportunity, but every once in awhile something great happens.

STEPH: What did you enjoy the best about the convention this year?

GAIL: This year, I took my daughter for a day. She's a published author, but I
don't think it's ever really sank in for her. I loved watching her absorb it
all, and the pride in her eyes when she could tell someone she had been
published, and has another book coming out. And I enjoyed the pride I felt
when I could tell someone she was my daughtger. That was the best part of
this year.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Author Spotlight week - Excerpt from Summer Love

Moderator's Note: Leave a comment on today's blog and a winner will be picked on Monday to receive a PDF copy of Linda's release, "Summer Love." Check this post on Monday for the winner. Be sure to leave a good email in case you win so I can get ahold of you.

Moderator Steph


Enjoy this excerpt of "Summer Love" by Linda Swift.

Amy fastened her hair into a neat ponytail as Paula completed her makeup.

"I hope you haven't neglected studying because of me. Everyone but you seemed to be spending an awful lot of time on class assignments."

"Let's just say I planned ahead," Paula said, knowing it was worth whatever it had cost her to have this weekend with her daughter.

"I wish Sharon could have gone with us," Amy said. "She's missing a great opportunity to be with Derek."

"I don't think she's interested in Derek," Paula said mildly.
"Well, she should be. He's a great guy."

"But he's old enough to be her father, honey."

"Well, Dad is dating someone that young."

Paula drew her breath in sharply. "He is?"

"Oh, I thought you knew. Haven't your friends--?"

"I'm not in touch with anyone back home," Paula said quietly and sat down on the closest bed, feeling as though she had just received another blow to her solar plexus. "Do you know -- who she is?"

"No, Mom. I don't know her name, and I don't think she's from Tuscumbia. I'm sure he met her through the band."

"Band? What band?" Paula asked faintly.

"Haven't you talked with Dad lately? The country-western band he plays guitar for."

"I didn't know... about that either."

"Well, neither did I until I went home to get my things. As Dad was driving by our house, he saw Chris' car so he stopped to talk with us." She shook her head. "He looked so... different."

"How do you mean?" Paula asked, dreading the answer.

"He was wearing faded Levis and a tee shirt with the band's logo and gold chains. His hair is a lot longer now, and he's grown a beard."

"I see." And she could see it all in her mind's eye. Quent changed into a man she didn't know, a hip musician who moved in a world that was totally alien to the life they had shared together. "And the... girl?"

"She was sitting in his convertible, and the top was down so we saw her clearly, but we didn't meet her."

What did she look like? Was she pretty? "Convertible?"

"Yes, a red BMW. And Dad just said she was a singer in the band. He seemed sort of embarrassed about it."

"Then maybe they're not--"

"Oh, yes, they are. I asked a couple of my friends who follow the band. And they said Bootsie was about my age, and they'd seen her out with Dad."


"That's her stage name, because her trademark is all the different boots she wears. But they didn't know her real name."

"I... see."

Amy crossed the room, put her arms around her mother. "Don't look so shocked, Mom. Chris says it's just a stage Dad's going through. He said he wouldn't be surprised if Dad came back to you when he gets it all out of his system."

"That isn't going to happen, honey," Paula told her sadly.

"I'm really sorry if I upset you, Mom. But I thought you already knew."

"I didn't. But it's okay." Paula made an effort to sound more cheerful. "And I'm glad I heard this from you instead of someone else. I'm sure the whole town knows about it."

"I guess so. Oh, Mom," Amy's voice was tearful, "I wish everything could be the way it was before..."

"Me, too, honey." Paula hugged her daughter closer. "But it can't be. So we have to make the best of the way things are."

"I know." Amy sniffed and wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. "And I'm proud of you for what you're doing. You have some really nice friends and you're different, too, but not in the silly way Dad is. I could never imagine you going out with a younger man."

Amy's words reminded Paula of Derek. "We should have been downstairs by now. Derek is probably double parked and wondering where we are."

Amy picked up her flight bag. "All set, Mom. Let's go."

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Linda Swift shares her favorite author

Author Maeve Binchy

My favorite author is Maeve Binchy of Ireland and Lavyrle Spencer is a close second. My favorite Binchy books are Tara Road and Circle of Friends. Favorites from Spencer are Bygones and Then Came Heaven. I've tried to analyze why these two authors remain my favorites of all authors I have read, and there are many through the years. I have concluded that it is their style, which defines every book they write.

There is no doubt these authors have found and maintained their "voice." Their stories, no matter the setting, plot, or characters, never disappoint. They write about "real" people whose feelings and problems I can relate to. Their stories are complex but never confusing. The story moves at a slow pace, but never drags. They present a plot and characters in a setting I can see clearly in my mind and when they set the story in motion it will lead to a logical conclusion. The ending may not be happy but it will be the conclusion that was necessary based on all that went before. In other words, it will mirror life which reflects great happiness but also grief. Their books are long for the most part, and I look forward to beginning a new one, and feel bereft when I near the end. For I always come to be a part of the book and I think about it long after I reach the conclusion on the page. So my goal is to write stories like these two authors that will touch a reader's heart the way their books touch mine.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Linda Swift shares her favorite movie

My all-time favorite movie is Gone With The Wind. I love the Civil War period of history and sweeping sagas with many subplots, deep-South settings, and elaborate costumes. I get so caught up in them that I feel a part of them. I can achieve almost this same sense of participation in a good thick book. (or ebook) But the visuals and sound do enrich the story for me. I loved the excitement of the battles, the drama of their struggles, and of course, the passion between Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara. There will never be another Clark Gable.

I am fascinated by the fact that Margaret Mitchell wrote only this book and one other which was destroyed. (I doubt that it would have been another Gone With The Wind.) And what a lasting imprint she made with this one story. I had to write one Civil War book in my lifetime and I did. It is being released this July, in the first year of the Sesquicentennial four-year celebration. But wait, I'm getting off track here talking about books and authors instead of movies made from those books. I have to confess that I have seen few movies do justice to the books they came from. But perhaps that is because I am an author, not an actress and prefer books to movies overall.

Many of today's movies bore me with their shallow plots and loud, jarring music and fast action. Spoken like a person not in tune with the times, right? I'm sure my mother said the same thing about my taste in movies. To each his own.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Linda Swift shares her passion for writing contemporary romance

I began writing contemporary fiction because it was easier to write even though I've always loved reading historicals. As I get older, it becomes more difficult to keep up with the slang words and idioms of our present culture. And if a book isn't published soon after acceptance, the dialogue is outdated anyway.

An example of a story going out of date is the use of names of certain cars. And of course, we are cautioned never to use current news events in the present tense because that will be old news by the time the book is released. Clothing styles, hair styles, and names all have the potential of dating a book. Certain cultures, even within the United States, have customs and dialect that is peculiar to that group only. And these subgroups tend to retain language and custom continuity better than the population as a whole. I am thinking of a rural mountain setting I have used in a book and two short stories several years ago. I visited the area recently and found little changed. The same was true for a small town in the Midwest.

So it's safe to say that I prefer to write vintage or classical fiction, which is not quite contemporary but is not historical either. I like the World War II time period but I have not yet written anything set in that time. I plan to focus on the WWII era and backward from now on unless my muse dictates otherwise. History does require more research, most of which can now be done online. There are also old movies to watch for clothing and dialogue examples. Meanwhile, I have many contemporary books already published for readers to enjoy.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Author Spotlight week - Q&A with Linda Swift

STEPH: I'd like to welcome author, Linda Swift to the Author Spotlight this week. Linda will be talking about her latest Desert Breeze release, Summer Love. I don't know much about Summer Love. What's it about?

LINDA: Summer Love is a story about a woman whose husband, in his mid-life crisis, leaves her to "find himself." Now divorced from Quent, Paula has to make a new life for herself. She enrolls in a large university to prepare to teach. Here she meets Derek, an ex-U.S. Navy officer back in school for the same purpose. And in this book, Paula who has tried to be a good wife, mother, and daughter finally learns to focus on herself and what she wants. So the larger theme of the book is about self-actualization and becoming all you can be.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration for the novel come from?

LINDA: I saw a lot of that happening when couples reached mid-life. You know they say you should write what you know, and I've been married to the same man forever, but I think I can relate to the EMOTIONS an abandoned wife would feel. A divorced teacher I worked with told me I should have asked "some of us" what it's like but I wasn't writing a nonfiction article, I was writing fiction and I wanted it to be my words.

STEPH: Where is set? How important is the setting to the novel?

LINDA: The story takes place in one summer at a large southern university. And the whole story revolves around the setting.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research?

LINDA: A whole summer of it! This is a case in point where I really did write what I knew. But the plot was entirely fiction. I wasn't Paula and there was no Derek. But because I really did spend a summer at the university in the book, I'm sure there was some speculation about this.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

LINDA: I had five chapters finished when I submitted it to Zebra/Kensington after an invitation from a Zebra editor I met at a conference. When the book was accepted, I got busy fast and finished the story in a few months. I also had an agent, acquired from the same conference, and he proofed and made suggestions as I went along. Which was a good thing since the Zebra editor did nothing.

STEPH: Cast the movie. Who are the leads?

LINDA: In my dreams. Sharon Stone would be Paula. And Kevin Costner would be Derek. Of course, if Paul Newman were alive, he'd be the hero as Derek had "Paul Newman eyes."

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

LINDA: My husband and I divide time between a condo in Florida and a patio home in Kentucky. In both homes I have my computer, printer and other needed materials in the guest bedroom. But this works fine because when we have guests, I'm not writing anyway. I don't have filing cabinets as I've always detested them. I put stuff in closets and drawers and when working, use the bed to lay out material I'm using. I call this my "open files" and they are at my fingertips for easy access.

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

LINDA: I have a Kindle, just bought in November. I like it for reading on the sofa in the evenings but still read some books online. The Kindle is like my car, I can start and stop it, put in gas, but when something else needs attention, I call my husband. I admit I'm technically challenged.

STEPH: What was the last book you read?

LINDA: I've just read "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World." My hairdresser loaned it to me because it reminded her of a poem about Mary and Martha that I have in my book, HUMANLY SPEAKING, Conversations With God. I'm also reading chapters from some of the DB authors when I have the time between promoting books out March 1 and April 1.

STEPH: For Fun: What county would you like to visit that you haven't all ready?

LINDA: I'd like to see Ireland but I'd really prefer to include that in a long visit to England, Wales, and Scotland to "revisit" places I enjoyed while living there and would like to see again.

Linda's book, Summer Love is now avail with Desert Breeze.


Friday, 8 April 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Q&A with Connie Chastain

STEPH: I don't know much about Storm Surge. Can you tell us a little about it?

CONNIE: It's the story of a young woman, Briana Farrior, who works for a consumer watchdog agency. Her employer helps her to land a job at an independent adjusting firm owned by a man suspected of insurance fraud. Her job is to find evidence of his wrongdoing and help bring him to justice, but she quickly comes to believe in his innocence. In fact, she falls in love with him, and he with her. But there are obstacles -- her guilt about the deception necessary for her to get the job, his hurt and distrust when he learns of her deceit. There are other obstacles for them to overcome, including a Category Five hurricane. All fictional hurricanes are Category Fives these days.

STEPH: Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

CONNIE: It came from the saying, "Write what you know." I know the upper Gulf Coast, its culture and people, from having lived here for three decades. And I know about the property and casualty insurance industry from having worked in homeowner claims for over ten years.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

CONNIE: I started writing it in July 2008, and finished in June of 2010, but I was writing other fiction during that time frame.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research? If so, what did you do?

CONNIE: I'm pretty familiar with hurricanes and disaster response, so that didn't take a lot of research; but the villain in this story is a criminal and I had to research crimes, prison sentences, while life is like for an ex-con.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

CONNIE: Plotter. I plot scenes and timelines on a calendar; I keep a spreadsheet of scenes as they're written, including word counts. I do genealogy for the main characters and chart their personality, Myers-Briggs-style. I have to know what's going on during the timeframe I'm writing about, whether I reference specific things in the story or not, like the news headlines of the day, fashion, and popular music. I find out everything I can -- for example, in my first novel, I know -- thanks to Sky and Telescope's website -- that when the hero and his wife kiss under the moon on their tenth wedding anniversary, which is June 23, 1983, the moon is full.

STEHP: Cast the movie. Who are the leads?

CONNIE: I honestly don't know. I'm not that familiar with films and televsion, but most actors and actresses seem too sophisticated and worldly for upright Justin and unsophisticated Briana. However, going strictly by appearance, Ryan Carnes, who evidently is a fairly typical Hollywood hedonist, looks very much like Justin.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

CONNIE: I started writing fiction in the 1980s, inspired by Rex Stout, author of the great Nero Wolfe detective novels, a few authors who wrote Star Trek novels, and various romance writers, particularly Dixie Browning. I wrote a behemoth psychological romance back then that was reaching 200,000 words when I quit writing. I started writing fiction again in 2005 or so.

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

CONNIE: No, I just have Kindle emulating software for my computer. When I get one, it will probably be a Kindle.


STEPH: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

CONNIE: Read "How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively" by Rudolph Flesch; I wasn't able to write a thing worth reading before I found that treasure. Join a good crit group, and analyze the crits you get, but more importantly, critique the work of other writers. You will learn a lot about what needs improving in your own writing that way. Pay attention to the rules of writing, but not so much that they rob you of your voice.

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

CONIIE: I live in Pensacola, Florida which is characterized by most of the elements discussed in my first spotlight article about the Gulf Coast. But to be a bit more specific, Pensacola's nickname is the City of Five Flags, which represent the nations that have claimed it during its history -- Spain, Britian, France, the Confederacy and the United States. It is especially -- inordinately -- proud of its Spanish history.

The city also prides itself on being the oldest European settlement in North America, having been colonized by Don Tristan de Luna and a band of settlers in 1559, beating out St. Augustine for that honor by six years. However, the de Luna colonists gave up and sailed back to New Spain after -- you guessed it -- a hurricane devastated the settlement, while St. Augustine has been in continual existance since September of 1565.

Florida's westernmost city is home to the Pensacola Naval Air Station, which is home to the famous Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron. Like it's coastal sister cities, Mobile and New Orleans, Pensacola celebrates Mardi Gras with parades and festivals. And while there's no French Quarter here, it isn't unusual to hear, "Laissez les bon temps roulez." Let the good times roll.

STEPH: Thanks for being here this week, Connie!

Connie's book is avail as a PDF, html, and epub format on the Desert Breeze website:

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Storm Surge

Enjoy this excerpt from Storm Surge by Connie Chastain.

"Is Fay a bad storm?" Briana asked as they neared the apartment. The back porch light had burned out, and they trod carefully through the unaccustomed shadows.

"It's a more-rain-than-wind storm right now--" Justin stopped in his tracks, and Briana looked up at him in surprise. His eyes were fixed on the back door, which stood ajar.

"I closed and locked that," Briana said, "I know I did. How--"

"Hush up and get behind me," he said softly, and Briana did. He carefully pushed the door open and stiffened. He reached inside, flipped a light switch, and the kitchen overhead came on. She tilted her head to see past him and covered her mouth to silence a gasp.

The apartment was in shambles, the contents of drawers and cabinets strewn in heaps on the floor, chairs overturned, sofa cushions tossed about.

Justin took a step back and reached behind him to take Briana's arm. He turned and ushered her to the driveway and tersely ordered her, "Get in the car."

She climbed into the 4Runner while he opened the console and took out a squat, stocky pistol so small his hand swallowed it. He took his keys from his pocket and inserted one of them into the ignition.

"Wait here. Keep the doors locked until I come back."

Too frightened to breathe normally, Briana gripped the door handle as he returned to the back door and disappeared. The lights came on in her bedroom and bath.

Get out, please. Come back. Come back to me.

In a few moments, as if he'd read her mind, his silhouette filled the back door and he walked to the car. She punched the button that unlocked the doors, and he slid behind the wheel. He returned the pistol to the console, opened his cell phone, and dialed 9-1-1.

"My name is Justin Adair. A-D-A-I-R. I need to report a break-in with vandalism of personal property. The address is 604-B Trussell Street. It's a duplex apartment, west side. The tenant is my girlfriend, Briana Farrior. Yes... Yes... We'll be in my vehicle, a blue 4Runner, in the driveway. All right, thanks."

He flipped the phone shut and dropped it into his shirt pocket. "Probably take them forty-five minutes to get here." He looked across at her frightened expression and trembling hands and his terse, take-charge manner evaporated. "Ah, sweetheart." He put his arms around her and pulled her as close as the console allowed. "Gotta get a vehicle without one of these," he muttered as he stroked her hair. "Don't be scared. It'll be all right."

But she couldn't stop her tears, and she moved away from him to avert her face and brush at her eyes. At length, she said, "It was probably Eddie."

He looked at her sharply. "What makes you think that?"

"He was probably looking for something."


"That day we measured your house, I came home and Sylvia was here. She had an envelope for me and told me to keep it until I heard from her. She said it contained evidence against you. I asked her what evidence, but she wouldn't say. I don't think she knew. I was going to burn it because I didn't want to know what was in it. But then I thought maybe you'd want it or need it someday, so I put it in a safe place."

His brows pulled together but he kept his voice calm. "Where'd you put it?"

"In a safe deposit box at Cornerstone Bank in Andalusia. That was where I went the day I took off work."

"Did you read what was in it?"

Justin ran a fist across his lips, unable to completely suppress his exasperation. "Sweetheart, why didn't you tell me about this when we were at your parents' house?"

"You'd already forgiven me for so much. I didn't know if this might... exceed your capacity and make you not love me anymore."

He pursed his lips and blinked a couple of times. "I'm a little put out with you right now," he conceded, "but I'll get over it. Anger's a feeling; feelings come and go. But love is constant and steadfast, and the capacity to forgive is limitless. Oh, come on, don't cry. We need to talk."

She brushed tears off her cheeks, swallowed hard, cleared her throat. "All right."

"Briana, try to understand. Somebody wants to ruin me. Destroy my company, my ability to make a living. Maybe send me to prison. They're trying to use you and people at your old job to do it. I really don't need you to hold out on me anymore."

"Okay, I won't."

He pulled her to him again and kissed her temple. "Here's what's going to happen. After the police get done, I want you to gather a few things, whatever you'll need for a couple of days. We'll lock up your apartment and go to my place for the night. First thing tomorrow, we'll drive to Andalusia and get the envelope. Tonight or tomorrow, I want you to call your landlord, tell him what happened, and ask him to change the locks and install deadbolts."

She nodded.

"And if you remember anything, no matter how insignificant it seems, I want you to tell me."

"Yes, I'll tell you."

She shuddered in his arms, and the remnants of his anger evaporated. "Don't be afraid, Sparky. I won't let anything happen to you."

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Author Spotlight - Connie Chastain talks about the storm in Storm Surge

At one point in Storm Surge, my protagonists, Justin and Briana, are watching television and Justin presses buttons on the remote control....

The Weather Channel came on the screen. Tropical Storm Fay was still far away, down in the Keys.

Justin murmured, "The ECMWF is predicting the storm will cross the state, move into the Atlantic, and then veer westward across the panhandle and into the Gulf. Let's hope not."

"What's ECMWF?"

"The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. They have a reputation as one of the most accurate forecasting bodies on the planet, so we're probably in for a lot of rain and possible flooding in a few days."

No other storms loomed on the horizon, just a tropical wave trying to form off Cape Verde. Justin narrowed his eyes.

"We need to keep an eye on that one, too," he said. "At this time of year, that place, Cape Verde, is where monster storms are born."

The Cape Verde Islands, off the west coast of Africa, are indeed the birthplace of hurricanes that can be come monsters. Wikipedia says about two hurricanes per year originate there.

According to NASA and the NOAA, the reason they can, and frequently do, become monster storms is because they have a long trajectory over warm oceans — which are ideal conditions for hurricane intensification.

Earlier in the story, Justin explains storm surge to Briana and cites Hurricane Camille, a storm with origins off the west coast of Africa.

"Tropical cyclones are areas of low pressure. They pull the water up under them, like when you sip liquid with a straw, only the sides of a storm's low pressure area aren't straight. So the water sucked up is more like a dome beneath the hurricane. Between the dome and the water pushed by wind, a storm surge is a lot higher than sea level usually is. When it reaches shore, it floods low-lying areas. But flooding is only part of the damage. The water is wind-driven, very turbulent and destructive. Smashes buildings and uproots vegetation, and the resulting debris does more damage."

He clicked links that featured photos of coastal damage from storm surge -- smashed buildings, uprooted trees. Briana stared and whispered, "I always thought hurricanes damaged things with wind. Storm surge. That's scary."
"Yeah. It's the deadliest part of a hurricane. The wind's bad. Knocks down trees and power lines, breaks windows. If it's strong enough, it'll rip the roof off a house, but it doesn't smash buildings to rubble, like a tornado. But storm surge can."
"Oh, my," she said softly, and swallowed hard, spooked a little by the gravity in his voice.
"When Camille made landfall, a twenty-four foot storm surge crashed into Biloxi. Smashed everything in its path."

A few weeks later, Justin and his staff are watching the weather forecast in the conference room at his the office. The news is about Hurricane Fay, which is headed for their territory....

"If nothing steers it away from us, we'll get lots of rain over the weekend," Justin added. "Not much wind or storm surge, though. Nobody's expecting us to need policy dumps."

When a hurricane headed for Gulf States claim territory, certain procedures were set in motion by the four major property and casualty insurers that subcontracted claim handling to Justin's company. One of the most crucial procedures was the dumping of all coverage information for policyholders with property in the affected area to Gulf States' server.

Normally, individual policy and coverage information accompanied new claim files downloaded each day, but when long-term, widespread power and communications outages were anticipated, the information was transmitted en masse well ahead of time because without it, not a single claim check could be issued, not even the standard, thousand-dollar emergency advance.

"At least, we won't need them for Fay," Justin added. "But that one -- who knows?"

On the screen, the view had changed to a computerized depiction of the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern portion of North America. The Cape Verde tropical wave from two days ago was now a tropical storm named Kathy churning about a thousand miles east of Tobago. The predicted three-day track had it entering the Caribbean and staying over water. Where it would go from there was anybody's guess.

"I don't like to wish trouble on other folks," Gil Anderson said, "but I think we need to be on our knees praying that that sucker heads for the Yucatan or Texas."

Like Camille, monster 'canes Andrew and Ivan were born off the west coast of Africa. The fictional hurricane in Storm Surge, Kathy, is patterened after Hurricane Ivan, making landfall in the same area and causing much the same damage.

But, interestingly -- for some, perhaps -- the most notorious hurricane to strike in recent years, Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast on August 29, 2005, was not a Cape Verde storm. Katrina formed over the Bahamas August 23.

Photo Caption and credit: Hurricane Ivan entering the Gulf of Mexico between the Florida and Yucatan peninsulas. NOAA

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Author Spotlight - Connie Chastain talks about the food in Storm Surge

In Storm Surge, several days into hurricane season, heroine Briana brings a big batch of homemake chocolate chip cookies to work. Hero Justin ambles out of his office after her offer a snack.

"Have I ever told you," he said, "that chocolate chip cookies are a weakness of mine? My mama controlled me with them when I was a kid."
They laughed together and looked into each other's eyes for a moment, the way it had happened several times before.

The exchange prompts Briana to think, Always over food. Wonder why?

Food -- whether home-cooked or restaurant fare -- plays a ubiquitous role in the lives of the characters in Storm Surge as it does in real life on the upper Gulf Coast and most other areas. It's more than mere sustenance. People play, work, make deals, break up and fall in love over dining tables laden with food, around all-you-can-eat buffets, at drive-throughs and take outs. Food and drink are the lubricant that smooths humanity's social interactions.

On her very first day at work, Justin takes Briana to lunch to "go over a few things" before he leaves town on a business trip.

They went to Nick's Oyster House and took a table on the deck overlooking the Cutter Cove Marina. Canopied by a cloudless blue sky, warmed by a barely-there breeze, they chatted amiably and dined on fried oyster po'boy sandwiches, bowls of tasty gumbo and large glasses of sweet tea.

Although the location of the fictional Nick's Oyster House, a Cajun seafood place, is similar to that of The Fish House ( ), which overlooks Pitts Slip Marina on the shore of Pensacola Bay, the menu more closely resembles that of Jerry's Cajun.Cafe and Catering ( ).

Nick's has a recurring role in the story. So does pizza from Double Jacks, which Justin describes as, "Locally owned pizza place, secret recipe, better than any chain pizza I've ever had." I had no real-life counterpart to Double Jack's in mind when I wrote Storm Surge, although there are any number of pizza places in Pensacola that would suffice, including Hopjacks and Ozone Pizza Pub.

Justin shares two bittersweet last date meals with his somewhat girlfriends -- with Kami at the Rocket Drive-In, patterned after the Sonic Drive In ( ), and with Margo at McGuire's Irish Pub which is patterned after, well, McGuire's Irish Pub on Gregory Street in Pensacola ( ).

But there's plenty of homemade food, too. Adjuster Susan Stinson brings a big dish of homemade lasagne to work for the crew. On the Kemp's sailboat, Kelsey Kemp serves big platters of "...crisp, raw veggies and dip, meat and cheese cubes, ham and sour cream rolls held in shape by toothpicks." And when Justin follows Briana to her parents' house to smooth over a rough spot in their relationship, her mother, Linda, offers Justin lunch:

"Why don't you let me make you a sandwich? Ham and cheese, chips, sweet tea." .... Linda busied herself for a few minutes, and what she put on the table to go with the sandwiches on their plates was more than just a snack -- macaroni salad, cold baked beans, tomato slices. Southern comfort food, the kind Justin had grown up with and still loved.

There are any number of other references to food in Storm Surge. Hmmm, I wonder if I was hungry the whole time I was writing this novel!

Image Credit: Copyright by Ilco and

Monday, 4 April 2011

Author Spotlight - Connie Chastain talks about her upcoming novel, Storm Surge

I'm using my Spotlight week to share the elements that inspired my romantic suspense novel, Storm Surge. I'll start with the location -- the upper Gulf Coast of Florida, which goes by several aliases -- the Panhandle, The Miracle Strip, the Emerald Coast, the Western Gate to the Sunshine State, among others.

My favorite, though, is The Redneck Riviera, a moniker that rightfully belongs to Gulf Shores, Alabama, some 30 miles west of the state line, but which has gradually been spread eastward by the uninformed, all the way to Panama City Beach.

If, as some say, the Gulf of Mexico is America's Mediterranean, the Riviera part makes sense. The Redneck part makes sense, too, when you realize that the upper Gulf Coast has been the traditional vacation destination for working class families from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana for generations. By the way, for Southerners, redneck is one of those terms that's offensive or not depending on who's using it.

What you find here is a beach of blinding white sand of the purest and finest quartz in the Florida. It is the result of millions of years of erosion of the Appalachian Mountains, the second oldest mountain range on earth. In the valleys between dunes feathered with sea oats that turn golden in late summer, motorists catch glimpses of the turquoise Gulf stretching to a lighter blue horizon. Sabal palms and gnarled live oaks draped with garlands of Spanish moss shade the creamy blossoms of spiky yucca filamentosa, the only yucca plant native to the eastern states.

You also find places to eat and play without end -- seafood shacks, surf'n'turf restaurants, Cajun cafes, Goofy Golf, amusement parks, the Gulfarium, para-sailing, deep-sea fishing and sailing charters -- to name but a few.

But it's not totally paradise. This is the sub-tropics. It's hot and humid in the summer. Really hot and really humid, so humid that the beautiful blue sky of spring and fall turns to a white haze in summer. There are lizards, snakes and alligators, and red-tail hawks big enough to snatch up a small dog. The mosquitos are the size of small birds (okay, so that's an exaggeration). There are also sand burrs, fire ants, and cockroaches (called "palmetto bugs" by the more refined ladies of the coast) so big they'll take your breath away.

And there are hurricanes.

The fictional hurricane in my story, Category Five Kathy, is patterned after Ivan, the storm that made landfall just west of Pensacola during the 2004 Hurricane Season from Hell, when a record four storms struck Florida within weeks of each other.
I'll write more about hurricanes later in my spotlight week, along with Southern heroes and sweet, ditzy Southern heroines, coastal cuisine and end up with an excerpt from Storm Surge.

But for now, I'll leave you with this lovely view of the white beach and Gulf of Mexico seen through golden sea oats.


"Photo Copyright by HeidiH and Dreamstime."


Storm Surge will be avail 15 APR from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Author Spotlight week - Excerpt from Beyond Ever After

Hi All - it was great to have Carie on the blog this week. GIVEAWAY: Read this excerpt and leave a comment. You'll be entered to win a PDF copy of "Beyond Ever After". This giveaway will be going on all weekend. Winner will be picked on Monday morning. Please leave a contact email if you post so we can get ahold of you.

Moderator Steph


"I've prayed all week about going to Africa, and I was sure the right answer was to go. I truly believed, and still believe, it's what I am supposed to do. Then, this morning everything changed." Haven picked up her tea, took a quick sip like it was something stronger and set it down. "I was wrong in the way I handled all of it."

She didn't meet Brody’s eyes when she spoke. Those words must have cost her. There was that urge again, to pull her close to him and just hold her until the sadness was gone. But he remained seated, hating the fear that kept him rooted to the couch.
Finally, she blew out a breath and spoke quickly, without emotion, looking at his chest instead of at him. "I would like to go to Africa, but I won't go unless it's okay with you." Then, she met his eyes and finished, "I'm asking for your permission. I'll stay here if it's what you decide. But I really want to go. Eliya... the little girl on the fridge--"

He nodded. Did she really think he didn't know who Eliya was? That Haven sent a check every month to help the girl? That Haven had been there when she arrived at the mission?

"She's hurt and needs my help."

He remembered at that moment how much joy had once been bundled inside Haven, even as a child. She had been quick to smile and tease, soothing away the pain of anyone around her. She had laughed often and openly. Because the memories were so at odds with the woman who sat in front of him, he couldn't deny her. With the realization, the last drop of anger drained out of him.

Of course she could go. How could he deny her helping a child she loved? "I'll go with you." Had he really just said that?
Surprise flashed in her eyes and then acceptance. He desperately hoped happiness would come in its wake. But she closed her eyes again, and when she opened them there was a sad sort of resignation.

It cut deep. She didn't want to spend the summer with him. She wanted to go alone. Letting her go might be easier than spending the summer with her, when she didn't want him. But fear of the infinitely dangerous possibilities overrode his pride.
He couldn't let her go with no one to watch out for her. Despite what she thought, he couldn't imagine a life without Haven.

"Don't look so excited, honey." Anger fired out the words.

"Stop." The single, broken syllable held his tongue better than rage would have. "I can't... I can't do this. Please, Brody. No more." Her dry eyes were empty. "I'll do anything to help Eliya, but I can't spend the summer fighting with you. Not here and not in Africa. I need a break."

Brody sat in silence, staring at the drops of water running down the side of his glass. Maybe they were crying for Haven, because she didn't and wouldn't. Maybe they were crying for him, too, because he couldn't figure out how to make her happy.
There was no way he could let her go alone. He had to either go with her or tell her to stay. Because he couldn't stand the unhappiness he saw on her face, he clutched desperately to the one thing that came to his mind. "A truce."

Her head jerked backward.

He held up a hand of reassurance. "No fighting. We'll go to Africa on your terms. I'll be your bag boy and body guard. I'll do everything I can to help you and not get in your way. I'll have no expectations of you, Haven. If we start arguing, I'll go home and you'll get the break you think you need."

"What do you get in return?"

"I guess I get the satisfaction of knowing if something goes wrong, I'll be there to do what I can." He leaned back, settling in to the idea.

Haven stared for several long minutes in disbelief. It was enough to make him want to withdraw his offer. Instead, he waited. Despite the pain, and it was there, so deep it created a physical ache in his chest. The one person on earth who had ever loved him needed a break from him.