Friday, 30 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Sandpiper Affair

Here's an excerpt from Sandpiper Affair. Leave a comment on the excerpt this weekend and on Monday I'll pick a name out of the hat to win a PDF copy of Janis' Sanpiper Affair. Thanks so much for supporting Janis during her spotlight week.
Moderator Steph


The park ranger, with a decidedly masculine voice filled with a hint of laughter, questioned, “Why are you in this restricted area, miss?”

Abby sat up and brushed the clinging grains of sand from her bare legs and hiking shorts. Her hands reached in a futile gesture to tidy loose curls blowing wildly in the gusty March winds. She fiddled more as she stalled for an excuse, wondering briefly if he would believe she came here out of ignorance, and decided regretfully not.

“I’m photographing the crane chicks,” she admitted ruefully. “Okay, I knew it was restricted, but I was very careful not to disturb them. Honest, they never knew I was here.”

The too-good-looking-for-his-own-good, giant Florida State Park Ranger rubbed his jaw while he gazed down at her speculatively. Looking up at him from her nest in the sand Abby wondered if he would mind if she shot a few poses, thinking he would make a very good subject to study in her spare time—long, tanned fingers, sturdy legs. Definitely eye candy. She wondered how he felt about calendars. She sized him up and decided she could get very artistic with this man wearing a uniform, and who doesn’t like a man in a uniform?

Feeling a bit giddy both with tiredness and a kicked-back sense of humor, Abby tried to revise her thinking to a more serious vein. Probably not the best time to ask favors, she thought.

Busted in Bird land. Still…what a calendar he would make with that uniform, that smile, those shoulders. She stifled a sigh of pure visual pleasure.

You had better stop it, Miss Smarty. He has the authority to fine and kick you out of the park permanently if he so chooses. Holy Moly-- love a uniformed hunk!


She stifled a giggle which was riotously rolling around deep inside her, threatening to break out. He continued to loom, gazing thoughtfully while she fidgeted in her warm nest sheltered by the dune. Surrounding them, the sporadic wind blew the smell of something baking in the sun. With her face turned upward and her eyes half-closed against the glare, she awaited her fate

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Author Spotlight _ Janis Lane talks about the fun of bird watching

I have treasured memories I feel free to use in the stories I am writing. My siblings and I once saw very large birds--red tops, gray with long necks and legs--feeding near a swampy pond. One let out a trumpet call that could be heard for miles. Okay, maybe a block or two. Loud in any case.

As we watched, stifling our pre-teen giggles, our eyes widening in amazement, we witnessed the courtship dance of a pair of Sandhill Cranes. They jumped up with wings widely spread, heads thrown back and bumped chests for all the world as if someone had just made a touch down. They intertwined long necks, released, then hugged again. One of them broke away and did a victory dance all on his own. The other watched intently, then followed suit. It looked like so much fun.

As it ended—we knew it was over for they bowed to one another and walked away—one of the birds, heeding some unknown signal, lifted into the air straight up. Another followed suit and then one by one, as if on an elevator, they rose in a spiraling swirl into the clear sky above. Later I understood they were catching an invisible updraft and using it to their advantage. It was an amazing sight to see.

I couldn’t help but think bird-land behavior resembles some of our own. We enjoy eating together, make too much noise occasionally, act silly when we are in love, protect our young, and sometimes we dance with abandonment and joy. I hope you enjoy the courtship of Abby and Adam in my story and the glimpses of other bird-watching adventures and memories of mine.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Janis Lanis about about getting into the mood - to write!

How do you get in the mood for writing? I have a friend who pulls on an old red baseball hat and tucks her hair up to show how serious she is. She has a hidden source of M&M peanuts close by. She locks the door on her “office,” which is a converted guest room. She vows she has no time for guests now anyway. She has too much work to do.

Pretty much I, too, have come to view the second phase of writing as work. That changes the whole perspective for me. When I considered it a hobby, a fun pastime, maybe I was a little impatient with interruptions, but it wasn’t a criminal offense. Now that I’m struggling with guest blog appearances, due dates and the need to get another story out there, I can no longer treat knocks on my door, no matter how soft, as a welcome break. Okay, an occasional friend’s phone call, but not for long, I swear.

Bouncing on my big exercise ball is not a break. It’s an attempt to get the blood flow back in my butt and legs. Otherwise I’m going to wind up in the shape of a large pear. Not that there’s anything wrong with pears, but you understand. Not a desirable shape for humans.

Writing my stories is a pleasure. Everything after that is work and I’ve knuckled down to that fact. (Humming…”you can’t have one without the otherrr…er.”) How do you keep yourself attentive to the second phase of writing? How many chocolates do you have hidden away? Coffee? Tea? Chocolate chip cookies? Are you locking your office door and practicing your don’t-interrupt-me-frown? Do you have a favorite hat you wear?

I ask these questions as I hide my ancient bathrobe which is a most comfortable choice. No one will see me, right?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Janis Lane talks about her passion for characters & setting

Often I think some of my favorite choices of Contemporary books depends on how much I’m enjoying the stage (setting) upon which the actors (characters) perform. Who could not love the Sisters in Birmingham, Ala with Anne George? I still want to see the iron man statue which towers over the city. How about James L. Burke? Sadly a lot of those swampy nooks and crannies along the Louisiana coast are gone now. But the ambience of Burke’s narrative is like a coiled snake sleeping nearby on the muddy banks. Burke’s words can make you live his native state. Susan Albert lets us grow herbs with her in the hot sun of Texas, Evanovich riots in Trenton, NJ, while JD Robb takes us in flying cars into the future NYC.

I grew up in S. Georgia and spend a lot of time there and in Florida. When I wrote SANDPIPER AFFAIR, I knew I wanted to write about nature, birds and even chiggers. The terrain was a natural setting for my wildlife photographer, Abby, and her love interest, Adam. I was happy to be there. I hope you will be too. What are your favorite settings to visit in the world of fiction? Are you ever comfortable with the characters, but uncomfortable with the setting?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Author Spotligh - Q&A with Janis Lane

STEPH: I don’t know much about “Sandpiper Affair.” What’s it about?

JANIS: It’s a modern day romance which should appeal to young married who balance a home and career. Also people who love nature will enjoy. It has suspense and mystery elements, but Abby Naycomb’s internal conflict over her deep attraction to Adam Rawlings is the core of the story. There are tongue-in-cheek peeks at the behaviors of birds and their similarities to humans. There’s only a brief glimpse of a beach so don’t think this is a sand/surf story. Put that bikini away; get on your jeans and don’t forget your camera, sun screen and bug spray.

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

JANIS: Oh, I confess I invented Abby so I could follow her around on her “shoots.” Central Florida teems with creatures of all sorts, including but not limited to chiggers, gnats and handsome state park rangers.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JANIS: I write a novel in around a month to six weeks. That’s a rough draft. It might be a year until I’m satisfied with revision after revision. I spend time plotting before ever touching the keyboard. Once I sit down to write I pretty much know the story.

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

JANIS: Umm, not sure how to answer that. I have spent a lot of time researching nature, but that’s my hobby, my avocation. For “Sandpiper Affair” I think most of the facts were already inside my head just waiting to plug into a pair of characters, Abby and Adam.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a pantster?

JANIS: Both. I plot, but I allow my characters to take the lead if they decide to do so. I only create them. Once they have their personalities, they have their own minds. You know how it is; I keep a pretty loose rein.

STEPH: Any tips for aspiring authors?

JANIS: Write what you love. Enjoy every single minute of the task, but learn the trade.

STEPH: What was the last book you read?

JANIS: You mean besides Nancy Kay’s “Deadly Reflection?” I recommend it btw. I have open a G. Heyer, J.D. Robb, Evanovich, Jane Austen, an Anne George, Lee Childs. Love the character, Reacher. Who reads just one book at a time? Gloria Clover is on my TBR list. I won “Washed Under the Waves” and “Deadly Reflection!”

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state/country you live in.

JANIS: I live in small town America located in Western NY. We enjoy velvet days until ten at night with leaves in the Fall so colorful and beautiful it brings tears to your eyes. Geographic anomalies here are enough for the most curious traveler. When parts of the country have tornadoes, we feel bad for them. When hurricanes come, we pray for the victims. Drought hardly ever happens here. And summers mostly are comfortable. What’s a little snow a couple of months a year?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Except from Landed by a Flyboy

May Williams is sharing an excerpt from her latest DB release, "Landed by a Flyboy" today. Leave a post after reading the excerpt with your name and email, Fri, Sat, & Sun, and one lucky winner will receive a PDF copy of May's World War II Romance, "Landed by a Flyboy."

Moderator Steph


"Lodging a complaint about me already, Miss Stevens?" the masculine voice that had been stuck in her head since this morning said very close to her ear in the base's parking lot. "I thought I behaved pretty well this morning."

Bertie turned her head a fraction to see Captain Marsh's cool blue eyes. "Aren't you supposed to be flying planes, Captain, or are you all talk?"

"I'm headed for my pre-flight meeting right now. Care to join me?"

"Me? No thanks."


"Don't be ridiculous. I'm busy. And somehow I think your one-day tenure on this base wouldn't allow you to fly guests."
"I'll still say you're chicken until you fly with me. I promise to behave for most of the flight." His intoxicating smile nearly convinced her to accept.

"I need to get back. Elsie will be expecting me."

"Ah, Elsie. Wonderful woman." He patted his stomach. "So kind, too."

Bertie took the obvious bait. "Captain Marsh, perhaps we got off on the wrong foot yesterday, so why don't we pretend we met this morning?"

"Fine by me, lady." Captain Marsh repeated his phrase from the previous day, but now it sounded friendly and just a little teasing.

"Don't call me lady. It makes me feel old." Bertie opened the door of her car and slid onto the seat.

"Sweetheart, any man who saw you in that swimsuit today would never make that mistake." He closed the car's door and stuck his head in the open window. His eyes, intensified by the dimmed light, focused on her face. For a second, Bertie thought he meant to kiss her. An appealing idea, but not a smart one.

"I'll see you later, Captain," Bertie collected herself enough to say. If she was lucky, the interior of the car hid her deep blush.

Contact and Buy links:

May Williams on Facebook

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Author Spotlight - May Williams discusses "mood" in writing

Mood. Are you in a good mood? Are you in a bad mood? (I've learned over the years to never ask that question. Asking only magnifies a bad mood.) Mood determines almost everything we do and our reaction to events. A few weeks ago when I sat with my children to watch the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony, I thought about the mood of the nation. I recall the mood of the actual 9/11 - fear, paranoia, sadness. The fear has faded to be replaced by a profound sorrow ten years later. Yet, on September 12, 2011, we all went to work, played ball in the yard, and watched for the first signs of autumn. Life goes on, we go on.

I often thought about mood when I was writing Landed by a Flyboy. What was the mood of the nation at the height of WWII? The mood of the people after seeing war or waiting to hear news from loved ones? Through it all, life went on and that's what I have always admired about the WWII generation. I love reading about WWII, but not the battles. I leave those books to my husband. I read about the women who joined the service in the Wacs, Waves, Wasps, or Spars. I read about Rosie the Riveter. I read about the housewives who grew Victory Gardens and figured out how to feed and cloth their kids when supplies were rationed.

I think in the post 9/11 world we are more like the WWII generation than we realize. We've struggled with the somber mood of tragedy, but tucked in and made the best out of the last ten difficult years. I worry about the nation's mood because I've got two kids. They don't know any America but the post 9/11 version. I worry and then I remember that the WWII generation is considered the greatest generation. Maybe our kids' generation will be great, too.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Author Spotlight - May Williams shares her favorite film

As I mentioned in the Q and A from Monday, I love vintage film so I thought I would talk about one of my favorites today. The film that I could watch over and over is Desk Set (1957). This film from 20th Century Fox stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. I don't think there has even been a Hollywood couple with more chemistry than these two.

In the movie, Hepburn (ironically named Bunny) works in the research department of a major TV network. Tracy plays one of the first computer experts who is supposed to be designing a computer to do the work of the research department. As he finds out (and we already know here in the 21st century), the computer can only do so much. People have more value and more knowledge than machines. In the process of figuring this out, Hepburn and Tracy fall in love.

Although I enjoy the spunk of Hepburn in all of her films, I think she is particularly savvy and witty in Desk Set. The three ladies she works with are equally smart plus they all wear some fabulous 1950s dresses. My favorite scene is the Christmas party that roams through the different departments at the network. I've never been to a party quite like that, but it sure looks like fun.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Author Spotlight - May Williams talks about her passion for historicals

I love history. I come from a long line of serious history buffs. I think the WWII setting that I use in Flyboy really comes from my experiences as a kid. I remember reading William Manchester’s The Glory and the Dream when I was in about the sixth grade. In a nutshell, Manchester’s book is the history of America from 1932-1972. I got an official foundation about WWII from that book, but many personal stories from the people in the small town where I grew up. Whether they were veterans or housewives, they all had a story to tell about life during the war.

My interest in history isn’t only 20th century. I love to look back to time periods when women wore beautiful gowns, everyone had polished manners, and rakes could be reformed. My next book by Desert Breeze is a regency romance called Enchanted by a Lily which is due out on March 15, 2012. Regardless of the time period, history and romance go hand and hand for me. I love the depth that history can give to a story, but a book isn’t a satisfying read for me unless romance blossoms into a happy ending.

Contact and Buy links:

May Williams on Facebook

Monday, 19 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with May Williams

STEPH: I don't know much about "Landed by a Flyboy." What's it about?

MAY: Flyboy is the story of Bertie Stevens who runs a little summer resort in Cape May, NJ during WWII. Her brother has been MIA in the war in Europe, and she’s struggling with the bank who is threatening to foreclose on her property. Captain Greg Marsh, an injured Naval Pilot, comes to quarter at her resort and romantic sparks soon fly.

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

MAY: A few summers ago, we took a family vacation to Cape May. It was my first time on the Jersey Shore and I was amazed at how beautiful it was. My husband and I are both history buffs so we took a look at the remains of WWII in the Cape May area. There’s an old bunker on the beach, two watch towers (one of them inside a hotel), and an airbase (now occupied by the Coast Guard).

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MAY: I wrote the original story in about a month, but it bears no resemblance to what Flyboy is now. That happened over a period of two years and a ton of revisions.

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

MAY: Setting is key. I’ve always been fascinated by WWII on the home front. The way people came together and helped each other is a wonderful lesson for us today. Toss that in with the beauty of Cape May and a handsome flyboy and romance was bound to happen.

STEPH: Did you do a lot of research for it?

MAY: I did some research into the history of Cape May and the military activity that took place there during WWII. Because of its location at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, Cape May was pivotal in forming a defense for the mid-Atlantic region.

STEPH: Hollywood just told you they want to make a movie of your novel. Cast the leads!

MAY: Yikes. I’m terrible at contemporary Hollywood. I’m better at vintage films. I think Betty Grable and Rory Calhoun as they appear in How to Marry a Millionaire would be my idea of the perfect cast.

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

MAY: I love a novel that I can escape into and I wrote Flyboy with that in mind. I want readers to be entertained and enjoy the story.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

MAY: I’m a plotter or at least I try to be. I do think about all the chapters in advance, but frequently wander off the plot chart into new territory.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MAY: Flyboy was written during the summer months when I’m stealing moments in between entertaining my kids. Really I write anywhere in or around the house. I do have a little office, but I’m just as often at the dining room table. When the weather is nice, I take my laptop to the front porch. I live directly across the street from a police station and fire station. I like the constant hum of activity.

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

MAY: I live in northern Ohio very near Lake Erie. Summers are beautiful, and we have so much to do. There are islands in the lake to visit and the world famous Cedar Point Amusement Park is about a 20 minute drive. Still, my favorite season is fall. The lake keeps us warm through the end of October extending the season. Unfortunately, in the spring, the lake has the opposite effect and we freeze into April. And don’t even ask me about lake effect snow. I can’t think about that yet.

Contact and Buy links:

May Williams on Facebook

Friday, 16 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Moving On

Enjoy this excerpt from June's Desert Breeze Release, "Moving on." June is offering a PDF copy of her novel to one lucky poster. Leave a comment between now and Sunday along with your email so we can get a hold of you. One lucky poster will be chosen on 19 Sep and announced here on the blog and on the DB Yahoo Group, Connections.
Moderator Steph


His death would have been easier. Laura Barron avoided looking at the burgundy leather armchair as she slipped her mother's crocheted afghan off her shoulders and placed another log on the fire. Laura glanced out the front window as the snow swirled against the window panes and inched its way up the stone steps, already covering the front porch of her nineteenth century Chester County farmhouse outside of Philadelphia. With a sigh, she returned to the sofa vaguely aware of Vivaldi playing softly in the background and opened the editorial section of the Sunday paper. It was already history since it was now Tuesday evening, but between working and caring for her teenage daughter, Kim, she usually found herself behind on reading. It still felt strange to be sitting there alone.

She pictured Dave across from her in his chair reading his latest medical journal. Funny, she thought they were happy -- at least as happy as most of her friends after a marriage of nearly twenty years. Laura looked up as Kim came down the stairs two at a time. Everything her daughter did and said was quick. Her tongue was as agile as her one hundred-and-ten pound body. She had inherited Dave's dark brown hair and expressive eyes and Laura's fair complexion and slender curves. It was no wonder boys called her all the time. Sixteen was an exciting age, the transition from child to woman.

"Mom, the hem's coming out of my slacks, and I have to wear them tomorrow. Would you be a sweetheart and fix them for me?"
"Mmm, I suppose so, but why can't you wear something else?"

"I have to wear these. They go the best with my new sweater, and I told Lisa I was wearing red so she's planning to wear her red sweater, too." Kim's eyes sparkled with anticipation.

Logical explanation. Laura smiled at her daughter. "I'll do it this time, but I've warned you that you should learn to sew. I'm not always going to be around to do it for you."

"You have to be around, at least till you're ancient. Who else will teach me how to take care of kids and all that stuff?"

Laura laughed and went over to the dry sink where she kept her sewing box. Kim went on chatting about her friends and the upcoming weekend. She told of her plans to go to an indoor skating rink on Saturday with her best friend, Lisa, plus five other girls from school. Lisa was in her class, and they attended the same small non-denominational church in West Chester, where Lisa's father was the pastor.

Kim and Laura had joined the church after the separation, since Dave had remained at their old church as part of the missions committee. Seeing him every week was too much of a strain, and people seemed to treat her differently once they were separated.

Laura watched as her daughter exclaimed over the all-night skate, expressing herself with her hands. She was entertaining and exuberant. That's what kept Laura going after Dave left.

Kim ran upstairs to answer her phone, and Laura's mind wandered again to the past. Why hadn't she seen it coming? Certainly the signs were all there. Perhaps she couldn't admit to herself that she had failed. Failed as a wife, anyhow. Her job was going well, and she'd been promoted two months before they broke up to assistant vice president. It was a small local bank, but it pleased her that she was rewarded for her efforts.

She should have seen it coming. Dave had joined the gym and went religiously every other morning to work out before heading for the hospital. Then there were the new suits and casual designer clothes. In the past she had to beg him to buy clothes for himself. He even changed from his childhood barber to a 'hair stylist.' She had figured it to be a midlife crisis though he was only forty-four.

Laura first saw Dave during her sophomore year in high school when she and her friends went to the football games. Dave Barron was the star running back, and all the girls had crushes on him. It was five years later that she and Dave officially met. She was home between semesters from Penn State, and he was on his break as a first year medical student at the University of
Pennsylvania. They were introduced at a Christmas party of a mutual friend. During school breaks they dated frequently, but their relationship did not develop into romance until her senior year of college.

She recalled the Christmas Eve when he promised to love her forever and placed a solitaire diamond on her hand. Not wanting to be apart any longer, they married the following December during his final year of medical school.

Dave was the only man she ever loved. She'd had crushes, but never knew the real thing until he came into her life. He also became her best friend.

As she hemmed the slacks, she thought back to the months before he left. He began staying late at the hospital, sometimes not arriving home until midnight. She never questioned him because there had always been trust between them.

Kim called down the stairs and shook Laura from her thoughts.

"No emergency on those slacks, Mom. School's going to be closed tomorrow because of the storm. I'm so mad."

"I'll finish them anyway, so you'll have them when you need them. How much snow do they predict?"

Kim came back down and plopped herself on the sofa across from Laura, folding her arms. "They thought it might be a foot or more by morning."

"It's nearly a foot already. It's so beautiful. Have you looked out?

"Yeah." Kim frowned and shook her head. "I had my whole day planned, and Lisa and I wanted to go shopping after school. Nothing ever works out."

"It will probably be over by Thursday. Maybe you can go shopping then."

"The sales are only for tomorrow, and I desperately need new jeans."

"Honey, you have at least five pairs in your drawer."

"They're way too big for me. You know I lost five pounds on my diet."

"I know and you're way too thin now. I wish you hadn't done that."

"Thin is in, Mom. You know that. Maybe that's one reason..." Her voice trailed off, and she looked away from her mother. "I have to call Lisa and tell her about school."

Laura knotted the thread and handed the finished slacks over to her daughter without a word.

"Sorry, Mom. I don't mean you're fat or anything."

"It's okay. I know what you mean. Deb is much thinner...and younger." She tried to keep the bitterness out of her tone as she mentioned Dave's fiancé. She wondered why the long engagement. After all, the divorce had been finalized for six months now.
Kim leaned over and kissed her mother goodnight and took the slacks as she went back upstairs.

Any mention of Deb or Dave brought back painful memories that Laura couldn't erase, though she thought she had trained her mind to avoid reverting to that difficult time in her life.

Maybe it was the smell of the burning wood and the memories of intimate evenings spent together that continued to haunt her.
Deb was thinner. Life was kind to her. She had beauty, youth, talent, and now -- Dave. And me? What do I have? Immediately the face of her beloved daughter filled Laura's mind. Some day she, too, will be gone and then what?

Her job filled her days, but not her nights. Not her weekends either, though as soon as it was warm enough, she planned to take some tennis lessons. Her backhand needed work. She played in a round robin every year at a local club. It was a good way to tone up.

Laura had friends, but most were married, and she never wanted to be a tagalong. It was time to develop more single friends who were as available as she. The one opportunity she had to date a man, she had ignored. No one appealed to her. It would always be Dave even if he never gave her a second thought.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Author Spotlight - June Bryan Belfie talks about her favorite authors

Author CS Lewis

Everyone has favorite authors. Mine vary with my stage of life and my mood. I was re-cuperating from an appendectomy when I was sixteen and Tennyson was my favorite. I remember sitting on our family's veranda reading aloud to my father. He was quite the romantic and encouraged my choice of authors. In fact my father read to me every night as a child. We went through the Doolittle series, Mary Poppins, Treasure Island, Winnie the Pooh, and Wind in the Willows together. I believe he enjoyed them as much as I did.

There are times when Dickens fulfills some need in my life. When I was pregnant with my first child I read every one of his books.

Then I discovered C.S. Lewis through Mere Christianity. What an original mind that man was given. Also Watchman Lee became important in my reading life.

Since writing romance literature, I switched over to that genre and discovered Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, (one of my favorites), Lauraine Snelling, Lynn Austin, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Beverly Lewis. There are a lot of talented writers out there and each one brings their own voice and life experiences to their writing. I read a book every three or four days and have to write down the names or I find myself re-reading some!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Author Spotlight - June Bryan Belfie talks about her favorite movies

Movies played a large role in my childhood. Growing up in the forties and fifties, there was little else. Sunday nights the family sat and listened to the radio before television entered the scene. I kept a diary from age ten to thirteen and it's amazing how often I did go to the movie theatre. We even had double features on Saturdays.

The first movie I remember loving was Brief Encounter, which looking back seems like an odd choice for a ten-year-old girl. It was a love story. The music is what drew me in. When we left the theatre I raved about it and my father informed me that we had the recording at home. It was Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto and to this day it is my favorite piece of music. When I was in high school I purchased the piano score and attempted to play a few pages. It was over my head, but it was still a thrill to be able to play some of the brief passages that meant so much to me.

Later, I fell in love with Mary Poppins. I was a mother by then and used my young daughter as an excuse to see it three times! Having read it as a child, it had special meaning to me and Dick Van Dyke? Amazing dancer!

If I look back in the last few years, Slumdog Millionaire stands out as one of the best movies of all time. I was riveted to my seat. Of course, The Passion was also spell-binding in its portrayal of Christ's crucifixion. I will not watch it again, though it will stay with me for my lifetime.

Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and some of the old Danny Kaye movies are still fun to watch.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Author Spotlight - June Bryan Belfie talks about writing inspirational romance

When asked why I enjoy writing inspirational novels, I have to admit I'm not certain. I don't have extra qualifications such as a divinity degree or a mission background. This I do have though -- a love for Christ and a desire to serve him. Since writing doesn't require heavy back-breaking physical work and it is something I desire to do, I pray for inspiration and guidance. He has brought people into my life who have encouraged me to write.

Perhaps having been divorced myself, spending six months in bed with herniated discs and suffering countless illnesses, (non life-threatening, but disabling temporarily), and experiencing problems with loved ones and friends, I've stored enough experience to feel qualified to write about life's challenges. And always, the Lord has given me the strength, the patience and the hope that has brought me through. In Stephen's Ministry I worked with individuals suffering serious personal problems. I did not advise, but merely stood alongside them, encouraging them to seek His counsel.

I write not only of the critical times, but also the joys we have in life -- observing a new birth, a laughing child, tenderness, love in its many forms. Each of us experiences different events, but some things surpass ethnicity, geography, even gender, so we can empathize with others - even fictional 'others.' My characters become very real to me and I hope to my readers as well.

I pray that my books will offer encouragement to others at times in their lives when a friend is what they need.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Author June Bryan Belfie

STEPH: I don't know much about "Moving On." What's it about?

JUNE: Moving On tells the story of a divorcee, Laura, who has a teenage daughter, and her struggle to deal with rejection and loneliness. She learns to move-on in her life and develops a close friendship with a widower, Len, who is unable to free himself of his wife's memory. Was Dave, her ex-husband, planning to return to try again or did Laura discover her feelings for Len were more than friendship?

STEPH:Did you do a lot of research for the novel?

JUNE: Since the setting was a place I'd lived in, and I'd gone through a divorce myself, there was not much to research. When something comes up that I'm unsure of, I 'Google' or call a friend.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

JUNE: The first draft took about two or three months, but then with re-writes, add another six months or so. I'm never satisfied though and do many edits before I submit a manuscript. I asked a prolific writer once when he knew his book was finished. "When my publisher calls and says 'now'."

STEPH: What's the theme of the novel?

JUNE: Forgiveness. Without it, none of us can grow. And the only way to learn to forgive is through loving God and realizing how much he loves us and has forgiven us of all our sinfulness, when we are His children. As Laura learns to forgive Dave, she finds she can reach out to others.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling! Cast the main characters.

JUNE: Tough question. I see very few movies today. I find even the PG-13 movies are offensive sometimes. I do think John Hamm would make a good Len. (Friends with Kids) and Kristen Wiig (played Annie in Bridesmaids) would make a good Laura. She'd have to have the blonde hair, though. Easy to fix!

STEPH: How important is the setting to the novel?

JUNE: Actually, not that important, since the struggles of a single mom take place in all locations. Loneliness, sorrow, grief, and then joy and love are part of being human.
It was just easier for me to place my story in a setting that was familiar to me.

STEPH: What do you want readers to take away after reading the novel?

JUNE: I'd like them to realize that there is always hope. As long as we trust in God, He will be faithful to find someone or something to fulfill us. Laura was able to function without a husband since she had God. And who knows? Maybe she ends up with more!

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

JUNE: Definitely, a panster. I think about my plot and characters long before I put my hands to the computer. I know the beginning and the end, but then I let my characters take over and decide how we accomplish the eventual ending.

STEPH: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

JUNE: I think if I've learned anything it is this. Don't send your first manuscript out until you have edited, re-edited, many times. Then, set it aside and write something fresh. I have the first four manuscripts sitting in my flash drive. I still love my characters and the general plots, but I know I'll probably end up re-writing most of the books. Don't be impatient - write because you love to write - and don't even think about the money end of it. If money is your goal - go get a job.

STEPH: Tell us about the state you live in.

JUNE: I've spent all of my married life in Pennsylvania and love it. It's lush in the summer, colorful in the fall, crisp and white in the winter, (though I admit to preferring the warmth and sun of Florida in the winter now that we're retired), and bursting with color and new life in the spring. The people are friendly, and living in a small town, we don't deal with heavy traffic or much crime. If we get bored, which isn't often, we can head to Philadelphia or Harrisburg for some excitement.

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

JUNE: Yes, I purchased a Kindle and enjoy using it, though it will never replace the pleasure of paper. Since I read before going to sleep, 500 page books are impossible to hold, but I even have War and Peace on my flat little reader.

Come visit me on the web at or

Friday, 9 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Arrow That Flies

Enjoy this excerpt from "Arrow That Flies." Sadie & Sophie are giving away a basket full of Maine goodies. Items include a jar of blueberry jam, some maple drop candy (yum!), a sachet that smells like Christmas trees, and other promotional goodie. All you have to do is read the excerpt and leave a comment between now, Sat & Sun. I'll pull a name out of the hat on Monday 12 SEP and announce the winner here on the blog in this thread and on the Connections Yahoo Group. Don't forget to leave a good email so we can get in contact with you.

Moderator Steph


Jackie closed the door of Brad's office and let the roar of the rain on her helmet swallow up his angry voice. She looked over the hazy mass of charred boards and blackened equipment to where RJ leaned on a tall twisted spruce at the periphery of the lumberyard.

As she watched, a sheet of smoke and rain blew across and obscured the man. "Not this time," she muttered. She flung herself down the stairs, nearly falling as one heel of the big boots fetched on the bottom step. She slewed in the mud and sawdust but kept her head down and fought forward toward her objective. She thought she heard someone shout her name, but she kept moving.

She squinted ahead at the now-empty space underneath the trees. "Jackie!" a familiar voice called through the downpour as a hand touched her shoulder. She spun around to face RJ Adams. Hunched under a hooded poncho, his face and eyes looked out at her, graver than a tombstone. His cold finger stroked the curve of her cheekbone. His feather light touch lingered at the corner of her eye. "I thought you weren't going to get into the thick of things," he said. "Your face tells me you got too close."

Jackie backed away from the tender voice. She swallowed hard before she launched into her confession. "Look at you," she began. Her voice trembled, whether from emotional or physical stress, she didn't have the strength to examine the cause. "You don't have a bit of soot on you."

He held up his finger, the tip as black as sin from where it traced its way across her grimy cheek. "They used to call me the Teflon man," he said. He stepped close, put his arm around her shoulders and propelled them back toward the emergency vehicles with his purposeful stride.

Teflon man -- nothing sticks. But that was yesterday. Today was a different story. She stopped short and he immediately looked down into her eyes. "I saw you this morning," she said, in a voice husky from too much smoke and unshed tears. "Here, near the planer's shed. There'll be an investigation. I have to tell the Fire Marshal what I saw, but I--"

"It's okay," he murmured.

The words tumbled out faster. "I wanted to give you a chance to tell me what happened first," she continued.

RJ gave her a somber smile. "I've already talked to the cops. It'll be okay. Trust me."

How she wanted to do just that, but...

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Character interview by S Cuffe, featuring Jackie Duncan & RJ Adams

SC: What brought you to the town of Stellar 's Ford?

RJA: Ladies first, I insist.

JD: Thanks so much. I volunteered to be the forester on this logging project because I have connections to this place. When I was a kid, my dad and I came every fall and helped shut down Grania Mountain State Park for the winter.

RJA: That's funny, I don't remember you. My family always vacationed in our mountain cabin. The word is you're here to take my family's land and cabin to clinch this "lumber deal". I'm here to see that doesn't happen.

JD: That's not true, I have other priorities.

RJA: That's an interesting phrase.

SC: Excuse me, Guys. Let's keep this about information, not about your feelings for each other. You both love these mountains, but you're obviously on opposite sides. There was an incident by East Pond. Can you tell us about it?

JD: I was marking trees with the mill boss when we found someone had spiked a pine.

RJA: Hey, you ought to warn your victim -- you could start a bonfire with that look. Yes, I was there, but I had nothing to do with the tree spiking. It was amateurish sabotage. I'm more concerned about the arrow that nearly hit you.

JD: It was just a hunter with poor aim.

RJA: You can try to brush it off, but that wound on your cheek is real enough. These woods aren't safe anymore.

JD: You'd know more about that than I would. I hear you're organizing an environmental protest. I won't allow anyone to hurt this community.

RJA: Neither will I.

SC: Unfortunately, we're out of time, but we'll open it up to your readers. Is there anything you'd like to ask our hero and heroine?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Author Spotlight - On Writing & Sisterhood by Sophie Cuffe

On being a sister. I was six years old, smack in the middle of two brothers, when Sadie was born. She immediately became my best friend and, lo these many years later, she still is. She's such a cheerleader! She actually started writing before I did (professionally, that is. Technically I could write before she was born, LOL), and encouraged me to give it a try. We both wrote for God's World Publications for a few years in the 90's before they closed their doors to freelancers. And we've had separate newspaper columns, so it was a natural to put our heads together when we decided to write fiction. It's great having a writing partner who shares your brain, so when she says, "give me a word that means all the same color," and I say, "monochromatic," it's actually the right word. And when I need a slam-bang finish for my column, she's got the perfect ending. She tells me if I have something stuck in my teeth; I tell her when her hair's standing up straight. That's what teamwork and sisterhood is all about. And she lets me have the blue flash drive. It's that good.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Author Spotlight -Writing Inspirational Fiction by Sadie Cuffe

An editor once told us in no uncertain terms (wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley), we don't write romance. So we hedge a little bit on our genre ID and usually call it Inspirational Women's Fiction. We like to write what we know and, hopefully, give our characters an authentic voice. We also like to write about women who aren't drop-dead gorgeous, or a size 2, or who can dismantle a car and fix it in the morning and put on an LBD and host an intimate dinner party with homemade French cuisine that night. (We wouldn't know about that!) We like to create ordinary places, characters, and storylines that not only reflect our roots but give voice to all the other rural gals out there who are living their own stories. Most real women don't wilt and swoon when a guy takes our hand. We can think for ourselves in a crisis and pack a verbal punch when necessary. Real life is stranger than fiction, if you can only capture it on paper.

We also like the freedom that comes with creating Christian characters who struggle to do the right thing and who don't have a pat, saccharine answer to all of life's challenges, but never give up their faith and never give up period. What do you think makes a great story? Check out our website at, or drop us a line at We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Sadie & Sophie Cuffe

The Cuffe Sisters

STEPH: I don't much about "Arrow That Flies." What's it about?

SOPHIE & SADIE: "Arrow That Flies" is an inspirational romantic suspense novel. The heroine, Jackie Duncan, is a forester and an undercover officer in the state environmental task force. Her mission: to take down environmental eco-terrorist, Rand Adams. The hero, Robbie Adams, thwarts her investigation at every turn because he's also looking for his brother, Rand, who's been kidnapped. Forced to think quick, Robbie assumes the identity of his identical twin brother and sparks fly when his type-A personality collides with Jackie's type-Z ride-by-the-seat-of-her-pants nature. Robbie and Jackie get into some scrapes and tight spots, including protests, fire, and an unknown predator archer who stalks them both.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

SOPHIE & SADIE: We've always lived in rural areas in a blue collar world and our writing reflects that background. Some of our manuscripts have been rejected by editors for being non-authentic in terms of small town culture and happenings. Our inspiration came from wanting to portray rural people as the smart, funny, hard working, strong individualist, and believers they are, true to themselves, regardless of the current fashions and fads of NYC or Paris. We also wanted to create a heroine who could be both feminine and rural woods-smart, and that inspiration came from generations of rural women across the country.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

SOPHIE & SADIE: The initial manuscript was written in probably a three month period. It's hard to pinpoint the exact timeline as we both sandwich our novel writing time in between other tasks. Also, "Arrow That Flies" wasn't an instant darling with publishers, so the rewrites took years! (Years to whittle and hone, and years off our life doing it!)

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

SOPHIE & SADIE: The setting of the northern woods is essential to the novel because it takes place in a small community dependent on logging for its survival. That way of life is quickly disappearing from our national landscape, so we hope we've captured this fragile moment in time.

5. Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel?
For many years we lived in a county with more trees than people. There were wood turning mills, shingle mills, and small lumber mills around every corner and at the foot of every hill. When we got the idea for the story, we researched the changing face of wood harvesting, collected local and state newspaper articles on the subject, and witnessed firsthand in our community the passing of an era as the wood turning mills shut down and workers with chainsaws and peaveys were replaced with big harvesting machinery.

STEPH: Hollywood just told you they want to make a movie of your novel. Cast the leads!

SOPHIE & SADIE: We're going to show our age here because we don't know that many younger stars, but if we suspend the Hollywood age stigma, we'd pick Lorraine Bracco for our heroine and Jack Scalia as our hero.

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

SOPHIE & SADIE: We'd like them to take away a satisfied feeling from a compelling story with a good ending. And we hope we've passed on the knowledge that faith makes a difference -- in giving you the confidence to live life to the fullest and succeed at being the unique, gifted individual God designed you to be.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

SOPHIE & SADIE: Sophie's a plotter. Sadie's a panster. Because we come from opposite ends of the personality spectrum, we work well together. Occasionally we try to shift roles and it's never pretty!

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

SADIE: Chaos, I'm ashamed to admit, not even organized chaos. I have stacks of research, snippets of paper with ideas and bits of dialog on every flat surface and in every cubbyhole. Notes are crammed onto old envelopes and there's a computer here somewhere on a tiny oasis in the middle. I also have a photo collage of Sophie and me through the years -- the wrinkles have set in but some things never change. Our office is compact and Sophie's desk backs mine so we can pass off flash drives in seconds, confer about anything and everything, wheel over the sleeping dog, and occasionally whack each other.

SOPHIE: Organized chaos. My files are alphabetized (and yes, even the subfiles). My pencils are all sharp and handy in a "No.1 Mom" mug on my desk. I have a messy stack of papers I'm working my way through, but they're in a semblance of order, too. My wall is peppered with photos of my kids and grandkids, and a motivational Garfield poster that reads "My office, my rules." Kinda true, at least on my half. LOL. We're surrounded with beautifully hand-crafted wooden bookshelves and desks, compliments of our father and grandfather. We have a way-cool office.

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

SOPHIE & SADIE: Other than our perpetual state of confusion? LOL Maine is unique. We have impenetrable forests, rugged mountains, blueberry barrens, family farms, black bears, moose, loons, bald eagles, whales, seals, thundering surf, and secluded coves. The end (or the beginning) of the Appalachian Trail is located here on Katahdin, a rocky peak just shy of a mile high. It's a great place to hike. We have a million lakes and rivers, some very remote and pristine. We also have over 3,000 miles of coastline with small fishing villages, lighthouses, and rugged cliffs. There are islands and island communities off the coast, accessible by ferry and they're fun places to bike. Acadia National Park is located on the Downeast coast and brings together mountains, coastal terrain, and islands in one place. The southern part of the state is more populated and mainstream. The rest of the state is rural with vast stretches of uninhabited territory, but you won't find a more caring people anywhere on earth.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Washed Under the Waves

I hope you've enjoyed Gloria's week on the blog. Gloria's giving away a copy of "Washed Under the Waves." All you have to do is read the excerpt and leave a comment for Gloria today, Sat, & Sun on the blog. On Monday, a name will be pulled out of a hat as the lucky winner. Be sure to leave your email addy so we can get in contact with you.

Moderator Steph
Athan grasped her elbow. "Come, Lady. I will escort you to your chamber."

How formal. How unlike the day they had shared. Tayte felt a quick sting of tears.

Alone with him in the hall, she gulped and asked before she lost her nerve. "I know everything is so mixed up that it must seem we’ll never be ready for the prince, and I cannot see how he would want me if he were here, anyway, but must you stay so distant and—"


Though he snapped the word softly it held enough force to clamp her jaws. Stupidly, more tears slipped onto her cheeks.
"Tayte ... Lady ... please."

His warm palm traveled from her elbow to her shoulder, across to the bare curve of her neck, and he stepped closer into her space.

Tayte swallowed.

His thumb delved into the hollow of her throat.

More tears crashed onto her cheeks. Why was she crying? Could he feel her confusion?

"Oh, Tayte." His hand slid higher, under her hair. His thumb caught her jaw and drew her face upward.

She stared into his sweet, angular features. She could feel his eyes, hidden in the darkness of the hall, scanning her face, searching.

With his other hand, he traced her eyebrow with the tips of his fingers. She could feel his tremors even though he barely brushed across her cheekbone. Quivers unsteadied her as well, and she swayed on her feet.

His hold at her neck tightened.

"Athan." She didn’t recognize her voice, soft, aching, needing him in ways she couldn’t put into words.

"Don’t, please." He cupped her cheeks in the warm curve of his fingers and lifted her onto her toes and into his chest.

Her palms connected and the heat beneath his soft velte shirt surged up her arms and into her heart. Wide-eyed, she stared up at his face now digiti from her own.

He swallowed hard.

She licked her lower lip.

His gaze dropped and his fingers flexed, digging into her skin.

She gathered the velte, seeking a touch of stability, drawing herself closer. "Make it all better, Athan." She hadn’t realized the cry of her heart until it hung in the air between them.

"I cannot." He released her abruptly and turned, nearly ramming his head into the wall of the hallway. "I cannot at this time, Princess."

Rejection stabbed through her. Then pain, brilliant and sapping. Her knees buckled and she dropped to the floor. Who were they kidding? She wasn’t a princess. There wasn’t one royal thing about her. She couldn’t protect her cousins. She couldn’t teach her island. And she couldn’t attract a tutor, let alone a prince.

The thought seared through her mind, and she gasped. Really? Had she just attempted to get Athan to kiss her? After the debacle with Crystal and Decus? After meeting the King!

Horrified, Tayte couldn’t catch her breath. She needed air, but she couldn’t find it, couldn’t draw it in. Drowning. She was drowning without water. Where was the King?

She struggled to find her medallion.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Author Spotlight - Gloria Clover shares her favorite authors

I don't know if it defeats my promotional purposes to toot some other authors' horns during my spotlight, but the truth is I like to read just as much as I like to write, and other authors put together a good story too. So I'll tell you a little about some of my favorite speculative romances, though I don't know if the authors even call them that.

The most recent I've read is Jill Williamson's series that starts with From Darkness Hid. It has great characters, moving plot, and some of my all time favorite plot devices. Particularly character in disguise. (Yes, I used that in Washed Under the Waves.) In a later book in the series, Jill uses some amnesia (which I've used in two different contemporary romances I've written). In fact, I think the only plot device that I adore that Jill didn't put in her series was identical twins. :-)

Another favorite is Sharon Hinck's The Restorer, also the first in a three book series. This one starts in our world and moves into a speculative dimension. This series also has great characters and a plot that keeps thickening rather than melting as the stories progress. Sharon shows how putting your theme/God truths in a different world helps distance it from your readers so they can grasp them more easily. For example, I remember being convicted of the importance of praise even in tough times while reading this book. (I tried that with the theme of entertainment in Washed Under the Waves -- the approach, not the importance of praise.)

Another good speculative romance, if you are in the mood, is Linda Wichman's Legend of the Emerald Rose. The hero and heroine are descendants of King Arthur and Merlin. And I don't really know what more needs to be said because that in itself is pretty cool.

I suspect speculative romance in the Christian market will become more popular as the secular market tires of vampires, werewolves, demons, and immortals, because I truly believe that there is something in every human God created that hungers for Him and hungers for Truth and isn't satisfied with lesser tastes. That's one of the reasons that I chose to put my speculative fiction into this world. We aren't speculating on the Truth.

What's one truth you've learned or been reminded of that came from a novel you read recently?