Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Starting Stories With Action Can Be Hit Or Miss

It's our pleasure to welcome Isis Rushdan with a timely topic on story beginnings. If you like this post, please leave a comment by answering Isis's question at the end of the post.

By Isis Rushdan

On the first or second page of a book, or as the movie opens, you’re thrown into a scene as something significant happens.

There’s enormous pressure on new writers to grab the reader, an editor, or agent on the first page. Otherwise it’s too easy to set the book back on the shelf. It’s even easier for a professional in the publishing industry to send out a form rejection letter.

Movies have a huge advantage over a published novel. They can lure an audience in with a gripping trailer and once the person has paid for their ticket—cha-ching. It’s also unlikely that someone will walk out of a movie or warn others not to see it if it had a slow start but later picked up, entertaining the audience in a satisfying way.

Regardless of the medium, there's an effective way to execute in media res. There's also a clumsy way that should be avoided unless under duress.

 Marvel missed the mark in the opening scenes of Thor. The movie begins with astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) out in the middle of the New Mexico desert with her quirky team waiting for an aurora. Lights blaze in the sky and Thor appears in a swirling cloud of sand right in her path. Then the story the audience is engrossed in comes to a head-jerking halt and rewinds eons to dump the backstory of the Asgardian war with the Frost Giants. After the film, my husband (not immediately after because we were both caught up in our disappointment over the villain, Loki) turned to me and said, “The beginning was terrible. Didn’t flow smoothly at all.” I’m inclined to agree. The beginning was terribly, horribly disjointed.

Two solid examples of how to start in the middle of action, filling in the background information along the journey: the movie Cowboys & Aliens (a science fiction Western) and Kelly Meding’s Three Days to Dead (an urban fantasy).

Cowboys and Aliens

In Cowboys & Aliens, the film opens to Daniel Craig’s    character—a loner—waking up in the wilderness, dirty, barefoot, with a bizarre, futuristic bracelet locked on his wrist, and no memory of how he ended up there or even who he is. Before the unknown loner utters a single word, he kills three men, swipes a change of clothes from a dead body, armors up, steals a horse and gets a cute dog as a new BFF. Was the audience lost? Far from it. The audience was hooked.

I recently read Three Days to Dead. Kelly Meding does a fantastic job of opening the story in the crux of the heroine’s problem. She just died, is now in a new, strange body of another person, and has to figure out who killed her and why. 

Oh yeah, and she’s in a morgue, naked. Backstory is filled in piece by piece as we go on an adventure starting on the first page.

When done well, opening in media res can be a compelling and unforgettable experience. Done poorly, readers may never buy the book. Even worse, a writer may never have the chance to see their “baby” on the shelves of stores.

What type of beginning in a book or movie do you prefer? Dropped in the middle of action or with a little grounding in the main character(s) right before the inciting incident that sets the story in full motion?

Isis Rushdan was born in New York City.  Fresh out of high school at sixteen and to the horror of her family, she turned down a college scholarship and tried to join the U.S. Army. She did join when she became of age. After her tour, she went on to graduate with a B.A. in Psychology from Ohio State University and parlayed her degree into an active duty commission as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.  In 2005, she joined the reserves, where she is still a member of the Armed Forces. She currently resides in the United Kingdom.She is a Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy writer and is represented by Helen Breitwieser of Cornerstone Literary Agency. You may visit her on her website and blog at and

Monday, August 29, 2011

Believability and Research in Fantasy & Science Fiction

Please welcome GFW Writer member Mary Morgan, who is currently working on a Fantasy/Science Fiction novel with a unique perspective on research.

I'm someone passionate about research, even when it becomes an exhausting effort. Primarily I'm drawn to subject matters related to travel, ancient world history, mythology, animals, and mysteries of earth, time and space.

 Because there's no limit to information on the internet it's the first place I go, the second place is the library or a bookstore, third is a human source who may or may not have the knowledge I seek.

Believability is often something that writers lack an understanding of, most especially when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. There are important rules in world building that are essential to a creative story and if a writer doesn't take time to share reasoning as to why things are the way they are in their universe, it can be a serious turn off to readers.

The Twilight books and The Southern Vampires Mysteries are just two of the most popular series right now. However, depending on the reader's opinion, one has clever world building and character development, the other lacks detail yet still has a strong following. One is aimed toward teens and/or young adults, the other is aimed for adults. One is highly successful as a TV show, the other draws large audiences at the movie theatre.

It's true that not everyone will care about the importance of suspension of disbelief, some even find it annoying. But the results not only differ in the quality of a book, they differ in how the story flows.
I currently struggle with finding historic facts about traveling caravans during biblical times, or even before then. I've read how gladiators were either locked away in wagon cages and how slaves were occasionally made to walk alongside carts. But what about children? They were slaves too. So how did they travel? What was their treatment like? What happened if they were disobedient?
I haven't been successful in finding the detailed information I want and need. But  I've discovered a helpful link which has benefical information about the biblical era. I plan to continue my research for as long as it takes because I care about believability in stories. Even if my book is fiction, historical facts make it all the more interesting.
These are sites I found helpful.

What are your techniques for historical research? I'd love to hear how you approach research.

Mary Morgan

Mary is a professional voice over with a love of writing fiction. A few other interests include traveling, reading, Krav Maga, networking, photography, and video games. Every two months she contributes an article to Charisma + 2, a girl gaming e-zine and is the official blogger for the website. Sometimes a busy schedule prevents her from dedicating time to keeping up with her stories but she returns to them eventually and will finish them when she can, no matter how long it takes.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Welcome Kari Lee Townsend with Tempest in The Tea Leaves And A Giveaway!

What Kari Is Saying...
Kari Lee Townsend lives in Central New York with her very understanding husband, her three busy boys, and her oh-so-dramatic daughter, who keep her grounded and make everything she does worthwhile…not to mention provide her with loads of material for her books. Kari is a longtime lover of reading and writing, with a masters in English education, who spends her days trying to figure out whodunit. Funny how no one at home will confess any more than the characters in her mysteries!
Kari writes fun and exciting stories for any age, set in small towns, with mystical elements and quirky characters. You can find out more about her on her website  here and also on the group mystery blog she cohosts.

What Others Are Saying...
"Fun and fortune telling await readers in this first-rate debut mystery featuring a young and feisty psychic. Mitch is the perfect adversary for Sunny, and their constant bantering provies plenty of madcap situations to entertain readers. Great pacing, characters and a surprisingly good conclusion make this new series absolute fun!"--Sandra Martin, RT Book Reviews

"My tea leaves and my tarot cards agree--Kari Lee Townsend is riding a bullet-train straight to the top. I predict this vivacious, talented author will soon join the ranks of the superstars. Tempest in the Tea Leaves is a stellar launch for the Fortune Teller Mysteries, and every one of them is destined to become a classic. The author herself--well, she already is. And soon the whole world will know it!"--NY Times Bestselling Author of Twilight Prophecy, Maggie Shayne

"You don't need a crystal ball to predict a bright future for Townsend's Fortune Teller mystery series!"--Author of Clutches and Curses, Dorothy Howell

Back Cover Copy
Sunny is a big city psychic who moves to the quaint town of Divinity, NY to open her fortune-telling business in an ancient Victorian house, inheriting the strange cat residing within. Sunny gives her first reading to the frazzled librarian and discovers the woman is going to die. When the woman flees in terror, Sunny calls the police, only she’s too late. The ruggedly handsome, hard-nosed detective is a ”non-believer.” He finds the librarian dead, and Sunny becomes his number one suspect, forcing her to prove her innocence before the real killer can put an end to the psychic’s future.

Excerpt: Tempest In The Tea Leaves: A Fortune Telling Mystery

Detective "Grumpy Pants" Stone rubbed his whiskered jaw, looking like he didn't have a clue what to do with me. Well, he wouldn't be the first, that was for sure. "I'd heard you were some fortune-teller from the Big Apple, but come on," he finally said. "You don't really believe in all that hocus-pocus, do you?"

I jerked my shoulder back. "As a matter of fact, I do. I'm psychic, Detective. Tools like tea leaves simply help me interpret my visions more clearly."

"Then why don't you clear a few things up for me. When is this murder supposed to take place, and who is supposed to commit the heinous act?"
"I don't know," I said sheepishly.

"Well, that's crystal clear, now isn't it?" The detective stood, closing the book on this case...on me.

I rushed forward and blocked his path to the door. "Look, I might not know when it's going to happen, but I do know if you don't do something quickly, that poor little librarian is going to die."
"I saw Ms. Robbins this morning, and she was fine."

"Um, hello, hence the words 'it hasn't happened, yet.'" I looked at my watch. "Clock is ticking, Detective."

He sighed, grumbling, "Fine. I'll check on the librarian, but that's as far as I'm prepared to go. I don't like playing games, Miss Meadows."

"I'm not playing games. I'm telling you the truth." I opened the door for him. "Thank you, Detective. You won't be sorry."

He turned and strode out the door into the frosty night mumbling, "I'm already sorry, Tink," and then he was gone.

Twenty minutes later, I heard sirens wailing and screeching in the distance. My heart started pounding, and all I could do was pray it wasn't the librarian. Or if it was, then maybe they'd gotten to her in time and caught the bad guy before he could hurt her. Either way, justice must be done.

The siren was so loud now, it sounded like it was right outside. I went to peer out the window, and jumped back when someone pounded on my door.

"Who is it?"

"Detective Stone, Miss Meadows. Open up."

I scruncehed up my face. What on earth was the detective doing back at my house? Exhausted and weary, I wanted this day to be over. I opened the door wide to a pair of handcuffs dangling from his fingertips.

"W-What exactly do you plan to do with those?" My voice hitched.

"Nothing if you come along peacefully." His eyes studied me as he finished with, "I'm taking you in."

I pushed my fear aside and allowed my outrage to consume me. "Taking me in for what? I haven't done anything wrong."

He simply stared me in the eye with that stern unreadable expression of his. "Just doing my job," he answered, his deep voice devoid of any emotion. "Sunshine Meadows, you're wanted for questioning about the murder of Amanda Robbins."
Kari is excited to offer a free copy to one lucky person who comments. Sorry, but this giveaway is offered only to US readers.

Kari's book may be purchased at Walmart, Amazon, Barnes&Noble and many other book stores.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

And The Winner Is Marlena Cassidy!

Cindy Carrol has picked a winner of her lecture packet. Marlena Cassidy please stand up and contact us at with  Blog Winner in the subject line and your email address in the body so that we can forward it to Cindy.
Thanks for commenting on our blog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


#links cozy mystery at its best.

Debut Author Kari Lee Townsend: It Only Takes One Yes

Kari Lee Townsend
Kari Lee Townsend lives in Central New York. She says her very understanding husband, her three busy boys, and her oh-so-dramatic daughter keep her grounded and make everything she does worthwhile…not to mention provide her with loads of material for her books. Kari is a longtime lover of reading and writing, with a masters in English education, who spends her days trying to figure out whodunit.  According to Kari, it's funny how no one at home will confess any more than the characters in her mysteries!

Kari, thank you for visiting our blog to talk about writing. You’ve been busy so we’re especially happy you could join us. First congratulations on the publication of Tempest in the Tea Leaves: a fortune teller’s mystery and for making it to #11 on the Barnes &Noble mass market list within a week and now a national bestselling author . Given this is your first book and with all the great reviews, you should be proud of your accomplishment. Now, on to the questions.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”.  How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?

Kari: When my editor informed me that I am "officially" a National Bestselling Author, I could have cried. If a newbie like me can make it, anyone can. It took me 14 years to sell! Times are tough, but there are still readers out there.
I kept writing what I really wanted and kept hearing they loved my voice, but didn’t have a spot on their list for that kind of book. What else did I have? Then I got smart. You don’t have to write to the market, but be aware of it, and don’t be afraid to try something new. With both of my book deals, the books we pitched didn’t sell. But I had backup plans. Always be ready with something else in case the first doesn’t work but they like your voice. That’s huge. Don’t waste those opportunities. And in Berkley’s case, I came up with something specifically for them that I knew would fit their needs. It’s all about how badly you want it, and what you are willing to do to get it.

What has this journey been like for you? Agent? Queries?

Kari: I signed with my agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, back in November of 2006 and she is amazing! I will never have another agent. We just have that kind of relationship. These are tough times. It took her 3 years to land me a deal, but then she landed me two 3-book deals at two different houses just 5 months apart. Persistence really is the key. You have to go through a whole lot of no’s, but it only takes one yes to get the ball rolling. And these days it takes being unique. Do your homework. What’s out there? What’s already on your dream publisher’s list? Most importantly…what’s not? Then give them something they can use. This is a business. Be smart.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?

Kari: I think being a writer is who we are, not just what we do. I have always written in some form, because creating stories has always been a part of who I am. I love coming up with a great idea, and then creating fun characters with quirks, and telling their stories. It keeps me smiling all day long, especially when things go well. And even when they don’t, the excitement I get when I brainstorm with my CP, Barbie Jo Mahoney, and the perfect solution comes to me, is thrilling. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Not to mention I get to stay in my PJ’s all day if I want 

Could you share a bit about your book and characters?

Kari: Sunshine Meadows is this big city psychic who moves upstate to the quaint small town of Divinity NY to open her fortune-telling business in the ancient Victorian house that is rumored to be haunted. She finds a big white cat living here, and after several clues, she thinks he’s immortal, names him Morty for short, and suspects he’s the one doing the haunting. During her first reading for a frazzled librarian, she predicts murder. When the woman winds up dead, Detective Mitch Stone, aka Grumpy Pants, names Sunny his number one suspect. She must clear her name and vows to make the cynic a true believer. While the detective is just as determined to prove she’s a quack.

What inspired you to write cozy mysteries?

Kari: It’s like I said. It’s all about being aware of the market, stepping out of your box, and trying something new. I knew cozies were doing well, especially light fun paranormal cozies. So I scoured their website, wrote down all the themes, and then came up with a topic I didn’t see, aka fortune telling. My editor, Faith Black, loved the proposal and bought the first three books. Turns out I love writing cozies, and I think I might be good at it  I have always loved romance and humor and my books have always had some sort of mystery, so it really was a perfect fit. Cozies are all about small towns, quirky characters, and an interesting mystery for readers to try to solve. The romance and the humor were added bits I threw in, but those are the kinds of cozies I like best.

Your book is humorous. Is there some technique you could share with readers and writers on how to write humor?

Kari: Humor is tricky. You’re either funny or you’re not. And not everyone will like my sense of humor. I get that, and I’m okay with that. I think if you “try” to be funny, it won’t work. Write what tickles you, and it will often make others laugh. Real life is hilarious. Pay attention to funny situations you see people in, funny reactions you see people do, and funny lines or comebacks you hear people make. It can also be fun to have a running joke, so to speak. Like in book two, Corpse in the Crystal Ball, I introduce a new character. Sunny’s Granny Gert. She’s a hoot and loves to bake all kinds of cookies. Her favorite saying is, “There’s a cookie for that.” The line itself is not funny, but when she pops up out of nowhere and says it at just the right time, it winds up being funny. Timing is everything in humor. Even when you’re building up to something. Make sure you do just that. Build up the joke and then wait to deliver the punch line at just the right time. That’s when you get your biggest chuckles.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on?

Kari: I love, love, LOVE characterization. Great characters come from all the details you add to them. Don’t just describe them, but “how” you describe them makes all the difference and tells us so much more about who they are as people without having to resort to info dump. Goes back to show don’t tell. Someone who wears no makeup, a flowy skirt, and a peace sign T-shirt is going to be different from someone who is perfectly made up, has highlights and artfully styled hair, and a designer suit on. And then give them quirks. Character A could say the same thing as Character B, but real people don’t say it the same way. What kinds of words or phrases does each of your characters use. And quirks. What fun habits, gestures, etc. can you give your characters? Think outside the box, and use a secondary character as your comic relief so your hero or heroine doesn’t come off as a flake.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?

Kari: This goes back to characterization. If you’ve done your job right, they will be three dimensional human beings with flaws and weaknesses. Giving your characters weaknesses makes them human. Which is great. But then those weaknesses sometimes interfere with allowing them to connect emotionally and form real relationships.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part you struggle with.

Kari: Since these characters are like human beings, they should change and grow. Allow them to have ups and downs. Moments of being strong and stubborn and sticking to their guns. But then throw something at them that taps into those weaknesses and makes them vulnerable. That’s when they will allow another character in and the reader sees that sweet emotional bond between them….until the author throws another wrench in the story, and the walls go back up. That chemistry and tension is what keeps readers reading.

Which is more important in your stories character or plot or are your stories mostly character driven?

Kari: Cozy mysteries really are all about the great cast of characters. You still have to have a solid mystery, but if you don’t have great characters, then no one will be invested or care. I think that’s true in any genre. If you love the characters, chances are you will forgive a lot of flaws in the plot. Yet if the plot is fascinating, but the characters fall flat, then it’s hard to truly root for them or care. A reader’s much more apt to put a book down because of flat boring characters rather than a so-so plot. If you have to best of both worlds, then you just might have a best seller 

If this is a series, how do you determine which secondary character will be the next main character in the series?

Kari: Cozy mysteries series are not like romance series where each book is based on a cast of characters and with each new book, you have a new hero and heroine. Cozies will always revolve around the same hero or heroine and his or her adventures in trying to solve murders. In my case, that’s Sunny. So for me, I have to choose a new murder victim, and then choose a new person to be the main suspect. For Sunny and Mitch, their chemistry and connection will continue to build and grow with ups and downs, as well as her relationship with the towns people. Think of it as a TV series. There is no true happily ever after until the end of the series!

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?

Kari: I absolutely love when I hear from readers who’ve read and love my books! Tempest has only been out for a week, but already I’ve received a lot of fan mail. It makes my day and reminds me of why I do this. Sharing my stories with others is an amazing feeling. As far as disappointing, I haven’t really been disappointed. What I find most difficult, however, is balancing my time between writing a new book and promoting a book that is out. Promotion is a lot of work but necessary to get the word out and buzz going about a book. Buzz is the key to sales. And good sales numbers is the key to the publisher buying more books in the series  I’m having so much fun with this series, I don’t want it to end anytime soon.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?

Kari: Don’t give up, do your homework, step out of your comfort zone and try something new, and be prepared with a backup book in case an editor loves your voice and wants to know what else you have. Take chances, come up with something unique, and keep looking around that corner…you never know what’s ahead!

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

Kari: Spending way too long on one book, insisting it will sell. I did that for sooooo long and wasted so much time. Also, writing what we want to write, period, even if there’s no market for it. You can be the most amazing writer, but if there isn’t a need for what you wrote, then chances are it won’t sell. An editor might love you, but these days it often takes a team of people to say yes. Yet you can be a pretty good writer, but if you have an amazing idea, chances are an editor will take a chance on you. Be smart and do your homework. I can’t say that enough. I repeat, it’s a business. You have to give them a product they need. So find out what they need and get writing.


What book are you reading right now?

Kari: Several. I just love funny authors. I’m reading Donna Andrews, Tamar Myers, Annette Blair, Peggy Webb, and Janet Evanovich of course. There are too many to list, really.

If you could have a beer, coffee, or tea with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?

Kari: It would be wine, actually, and it would be Janet Evanovich. She is the one who first turned me on to Cozy mysteries. I just love her Stephanie Plum series, and I am dying for the movie! Her characters are amazing and her humor is in a class by itself. And if Janet was busy, I’d choose Annette Blair. I just love everything she’s ever written.

What’s next for you?

Kari: Well, I just finished book two, Corpse in the Crystal Ball, which comes out in June 2012. So now it’s time to start book three, Trouble in the Tarot, which won’t come out until March 2013.


Where can we buy your books and find you on the web?

Kari: My books are at a bookstore near you, or online. Even Walmart carries them, and if it’s not in a store near you, you can always order it and have it shipped to your nearest Walmart for free. Or to your home from Amazon or B&N. To find out more about me all my books you can go to my website at and my group mystery blog at Follow me on Twitter at Like my Facebook Author page at Thanks so much for having me. It’s been fun:)

Do you read cozy mysteries? What aspects of the books attract you and keep you coming back for more?
Leave an answer with your email address for a chance at a free book on Friday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sequels And The Emergence of Prequels In Hollywood

Cindy Carrol
I want to thank Ruby for letting me blog here with the Greater Fort Worth Writers.
Hollywood loves the sequel. They love sequels because the franchise has a track record. If a movie does reasonably well you can almost guarantee it will have a sequel or ten. I have to admit I enjoy a sequel. As long as they don’t go overboard and have half a dozen sequels or more. There should be a limit. I’ve lost count how many Friday the 13th sequels there are now. And we all know that the sequel is very rarely as good as or better than the original. So why do we still watch them? Because we either like the characters or the premise so we want to see more of it. Hollywood counts on that.

Of course it’s not just Hollywood that has sequels. I love books with sequels. But I also feel that there should be a limit. After twenty books of the same characters I know I want to see some new characters. Maybe I haven’t found the right series yet, one that I would read no matter how many books there are. I look forward to finding characters I love THAT much.

The Scream movies were great. The first one brought back the horror movie genre with a twist. It was one of the best horror movies I had seen in years after suffering through a decade of bad slasher films. With that franchise I thought the third one was actually the best movie of the three. I haven’t seen the fourth one and have to admit I rolled my eyes when I found out another movie in the franchise was being released.

But what about prequels? They are becoming more popular in Hollywood. The belief is that audiences want to see what happens before that first movie. Gain some insight into the story and characters. One upcoming prequel to look forward to, at least for me, is the 2012 The Hobbit - a prequel to Lord of the Rings. One prequel I’m skeptical about is the prequel to Alien. I’m not sure if they can pull that one off.

I recently saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Really good prequel to the original movie. There were a lot of nods to the original which I loved. Watching that made me want to watch the original all over again. It also made me want another remake of Planet of the Apes but one that was actually good.

There’s another prequel out now in theatres but I won’t give away the title because I don’t want to spoil it for people who might want to see the movie.

What’s your favourite prequel or sequel?

I talk about the differences and similarities between novels and scripts in my workshop Is That Hollywood Calling? - How Thinking Like a Screenwriter Can Improve Your Novel. Comment here to be entered to win a lecture packet. If you don’t win, don’t worry! There’s still time to register for the class at:

Contact Cindy

Friday, August 19, 2011

Debut Harlequin Author Wendy S Marcus Shares When One Night Isn't Enough

What We Are Saying...

Wendy S. Marcus
 Luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it. – Denzel Washington

The above inspirational quote could  be the story of Wendy Marcus's life. She became interested in writing when she found herself reading novels and wanting to change the story or plot. She saw an opportunity to write for Mills and Boon when they were looking for new writers for their medical romance line. Her novel was about a doctor and nurse and  she was prepared for submissions with a full manuscript.  Of course, she  will tell you, she was in the right place at the right time. However, she had a story idea that stood out from the pack and the talent necessary to win a contest, attract an agent and editor. Please join me in welcoming Wendy back with an excerpt of her new novel When One Night Isn't Enough.

What Wendy is Saying...
Wendy S. Marcus tells us she lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York with her husband, two of her three children, and a much loved Bichon Frise named Buddy. A registered nurse, Wendy has her master’s degree in health care administration.  After years of working in the medical profession, she has taken a radical turn to writing hot contemporary romance with strong heroes, feisty heroines, and lots of laughs. When she’s not writing, she says she enjoys spending time with her family and blogging/e-mailing/tweeting with her online friends.
Back Cover Copy...  
Nurse Ali Forshay has found the perfect man for her. Dependable. Routine. Boring. Exactly what she wants to ensure a quiet stable and anonymous life. Then his friend, Dr. Jared Padget, shows up and goodbye fairytale ending. The man's a schmoozer. A womanizer. A woo-a-woman-into-bed-using-any means-necessary kind of man just like her father. And Ali wants nothing to do with him. But he's so tempting. Thank goodness his temporary assignment at Madrin Memorial is over, and he's heading out of town. If only he hadn't shown up at girls' night out on the eve of his departure. If only he hadn't taken her up on her drunken one-time offer. If only he hadn't come back when he'd promised to stay away..                         
When One Night Isn't Enough
Float nurse Allison Forshay glanced at the clock on the institutional white wall of the staff lounge in the emergency room, wishing she could accelerate time with the snap of her fingers. Then the eight hours and six minutes that remained of Dr. Jared Padget's last shift would vanish in seconds.
Along with him.

The chorus of sopranos belting out a private concert in her head came to an abrupt halt when the door opened and chatter from the busy outside hallway overpowered her glee.

Ali cringed, keeping her eyes on the patient chart open on the round table in front of her, struggling to maintain focus on her documentation for little Molly Dawkins, her first patient of the night. The three-year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed terror had tried to bite the triage nurse and kicked at Ali when she'd attempted to expose the girl's infected big toe. Then Dr. Padget had arrived, complimented the pink polish on Molly's tiny toenails, the delicate gold bracelets on her ankle and wrist, and the princess tattoo on her hand. In less than three minutes he'd charmed that little girl right out of her sandal, confirming Ali's suspicions. Women of all ages were susceptible to the man's charisma.

If there was a vaccine to protect against it, Ali would have opted for a double dose.

The subtle change in the air gave him away, some type of electrostatic attraction that caused the tiny hairs on her arms to rise and lean in his direction, her heart rate to accelerate and her breath to hitch whenever he found her alone.

His blue scrub-covered legs and red rubber clogs entered her peripheral vision. He pulled out the chair beside her and sat down, brushing his arm against hers. No doubt on purpose, the rat.

"You've been avoiding me," Dr. Jared Padget said.

"You're hardly worth the effort it would take to avoid you." Although, in truth, she was.

"I'm leaving on Monday."

Yes! Finally! His arrival three months ago had thrown her life into a state of flux. Now, his temporary assignment over, his departure meant she could finally settle back into a normal routine free from his constant badgering at work and "coincidental" encounters on her days off. With a flippant wave of her hand she said, "Here. Gone. Alive. Dead. Makes no difference to me."

"Come on, Ali Kitten." He snatched her pen. "You know you're going to miss me."

"About as much as I'd miss a painful hemorrhoid," she said, glaring at him from the corners of her eyes. "And you know I don't like it when you call me that."

"Yeah," he said with a playful twinkle in his peridot-green eyes and that sexy smile, complete with bilateral dimples that tormented her in her sleep. He leaned back in his chair and clasped his long fingers, and her pen, behind his head. "That's what makes it so much fun."

Ali grabbed at her pen, making sure to mess up his neatly styled dark hair. He raised his hand over his head and back out of reach, his expression daring her to come closer.

She didn't.

He chucked the pen onto the table.

"I hear a bunch of you are going out tonight to celebrate my departure," he said, making no mention of the fact he hadn't been invited.

She shrugged, tamping down the other, less joyful, reason for the night out. "It's as good as any other excuse for the girls to get together. And it's easier and less fuss than burning you in effigy."

He moved forward, rested his elbows on the table and leaned in close. "Was that supposed to hurt my feelings, Kitten?" His voice, soft and deep, vibrated through her.

Four hours into a busy twelve-hour night shift, and he had the nerve to still smell fresh from the shower. A picture of him naked, water sluicing down his tall, firm body, slick with suds, forced its way into her mind. It took immense self-control not to pound her fists against her head to get rid of it.

"What's going on in that pretty little head, I wonder?" he teased, staring at her face as if trying to see behind what she hoped was a disinterested expression.

Heaven help her if he could. For months she'd fought this attraction. First she couldn't act on it. Now she wouldn't.

Distance was the only thing that worked so she gathered her charts and stood.

Jared rose to stand directly in front of her, so close she noticed a tiny freckle on the skin exposed by the V-neck of his scrub top, a minuscule droplet of chocolate she wanted to lick clean. He smelled so good, his scent an intoxicant that impaired rational thought.

She stared straight ahead at his clavicle, wouldn't meet his eyes for fear the way he affected her would show. "Please, move."

"I think you don't want me to move, you like me right here."

"Now you can read minds?" She took a step back. Distance. What she wanted was distance between them. Preferably a continent, but the opposite side of New York State, the site of his next temporary assignment, would have to do.

"Yes, I can." He tilted his face in front of hers. "And you are thinking some very naughty thoughts, Nurse Forshay."

"Only if you consider me beating you with the bell of my stethoscope naughty. Now get out of my way." She pushed his arm. "I've got to get back to work, and so do you."

He turned serious for a change. "Are you ever going to forgive me? "

"To forgive you I would have to care about you." She looked up and locked eyes with him. "And I don't. Not one bit."

"You could if you'd try."

It was the same old argument. "Why on earth would I want to? From day one of your assignment here, an assignment that your friend, my boyfriend, recommended you for, might I add, you've been hell-bent on coming between us."

"Not at first." Jared held up his index finger. "Not until I realized neither one of you were happy."

More like until he'd decided she wasn't good enough for his friend. "I was happy." Maybe comfortable was a better word. "And so was Michael. Our relationship was just fine until you showed up." Wasn't it? She'd worked so hard to be the type of woman she thought Michael wanted.

"You didn't love him," Jared pointed out.

No, she hadn't. But Dr. Michael Shefford had been perfect for her. Stable. Dependable. Predictable. And in his quiet, unassuming way, he'd treated her well. Maybe she could have fallen in love with him if she'd had more time. Right, Ali, she chided herself. A year wasn't long enough?

"How I felt about Michael is irrelevant." She slammed her files onto the table and turned from him. "You took him out, got him drunk and sent him home with Wanda from Pediatrics. You knew she had a thing for him."

"I didn't force him into the car, Ali. I didn't strip off his clothes and push him into her bed, either."

Heck, there was a visual she could have done without.

"And you most certainly didn't try to stop him. What kind of friend are you?"

Not hers, that's for sure. She could have had a nice, stable life with Michael, who, until Jared had come to town, never stayed up past eleven unless he was working, never went out drinking with the boys and never showed an interest in any woman but her. She'd have done her best to make him happy, to have the quiet, anonymous life she'd dreamed of since childhood.

"Over the past month we have beat this to death." With an uncharacteristic disregard for his appearance, Jared ran his fingers through his hair. "If I thought Michael was making a terrible mistake, by all means I would have stopped him. But he and Wanda are good together."

A point Michael had made four weeks ago, during what was supposed to be his apology for cheating. The one thing Ali would not forgive. Usually sedate, Michael hadn't been able to tamp down his new-romance exuberance as he'd extolled all the attributes that made Wanda perfect for him, inadvertently identifying all the areas he'd found Ali lacking. No breakup remorse there.

"They're happy together," Jared said.
Yeah. The only one not happy was her.

"Michael was a great study partner in medical school," Jared went on. "He's a good friend. But he's the most boring person I have ever met. He's plain old vanilla ice cream, and you're chocolate fudge ripple with rainbow sprinkles. He's high-fiber cereal and skim milk for breakfast. You're blueberry pancakes with warm maple syrup. You lost your spark when he came around. He's so dull, he tarnished your shine. Are you so desperate to get married you'd settle for a lackluster, routine, boring life?"

"I am not desperate to get married." Holy cow. She'd actually stomped her foot. Well, she wasn't desperate. Really. But after all her unstable mother had put her through, bringing a lineup of losers into their home, dozens and dozens of destined-for-failure relationships, new-romance euphoria followed by bitter breakup histrionics that enticed nosy neighbors out to gawk and brought the police around several times a year; a stable life, free from drama, with one trustworthy, committed man, held great appeal. "And my life is none of your concern."

"Over time he would have made you miserable. In return you would have made his life a living hell. I've seen it happen. Hell, I've lived it."

"The only one around here who's making me miserable is you, Dr. Padget."

"You need a real man, Ali. Someone as passionate as you are, not Mr. missionary position, lights off, once a week on Wednesday night Shefford."

Ali gasped, couldn't believe Michael had shared that with his friend.

"Let me show you what it's like to be with a real man," he said with the cocky confidence that made him so appealing. He lowered his voice, adding, "And you will never again settle for mediocre."

God help her, she wanted to take him up on his offer. Every cell in her nervous system tingled with frenetic energy at the thought of spending the night in his strong arms, allowing his experienced fingers full rein over her body. Damn him! She refused to belittle herself for one night of pleasure, to allow him to assuage his lust with her, when any woman would do. "That hey-baby-I-want-to-fill-your-cannoli-with-my-cream personality get you a lot of dates?"

Jared laughed.

Ali plowed on. "If you ruined my relationship with Michael so you could have a crack at me, you've wasted your time. Because as wrong as you think Michael was for me, no man is more wrong for me than you." A man like her philandering father. A flirt. A schmooze. A woo-a-woman-into-bed-using-any-means-necessary man.

The door to the lounge opened, ending their private conversation. Tani, the E.R.'s unit secretary, popped her head in, her jet-black hair an interesting configuration of twirls and curls, in staunch contrast to her pale complexion. "Ambulance on the way. Forty-seven-year-old male, three hundred plus pounds, full cardiac arrest, CPR in progress, paramedics unable to intubate. ETA—four minutes."

Jared transformed back into a dedicated professional in an instant. "Clear—"

"I'll clear out Trauma Room One," Ali finished for him.

"I'll need—"

"ET tubes, assorted sizes on the tray by the head of Bed One, two pediatric, just in case, IV primed and the crash cart open and ready."


"Respiratory Therapy and Radiology to let them know what's coming." Ali scooped up her charts and headed for the door. "I'm on it." Their differences aside, they made a great team at work.

Forty minutes later, Jared stood on the stoop in front of the E.R., arms crossed over his ribs, staring out into the dark parking lot, down the tree-lined hill to the distant lights on Main Street. The crisp November air cleared his head, the quiet calmed him. Slowly, his tension began to ease.

"You were supposed to save him!" an irate male teenager yelled, disrupting Jared's solitude. "It's your job to save people!"

Jared turned to his left. The fifteen-year-old son of the man he'd pronounced dead five minutes earlier stomped toward him. Baggy pants, long hair and pierced eyebrow aside, the kid looked ready to commit murder.

Jared pushed off the pillar he'd been leaning against, thankful the blame game would be played outside rather than in the crowded E.R. corridor. Through the electronic glass doors he saw Ali with the boy's distraught mother under one arm and his hysterical little sister under the other, trying to calm them.

"I'm sorry," Jared said.

"You're sorry?" the boy screamed, his voice cracking, tears streaming down his enraged face. "What good does that do me? My dad is dead because you…" he stopped in front of Jared and poked him in the chest with his index finger "…didn't do your job."

Jared took a deep breath, channeling calm, understanding it was easier to blame the doctor, knowing that pointing out the obvious—his patient had been at least one hundred and fifty pounds overweight, smoked two packs of cigarettes per day and led a sedentary lifestyle—wouldn't negate the fact that a forty-seven-year-old husband and father was dead.

And, despite his best efforts, Jared had been unable to resuscitate him.

"Sometimes," Jared said, looking down into watery brown eyes, working hard to keep his voice calm so his own anger and frustration didn't show, "no matter how hard we try, things don't turn out the way we want them to." Put those words to a nifty jingle, and they could be the theme song to Jared's life. "I did everything within my power to save your dad."

As if someone had stuck him with a pin, the tough teen deflated against him. "I don't want him to be dead. What am I going to do without him?"

Jared grabbed the boy in a tight hug, holding him upright, which took a good amount of strength. "I've been where you are," Jared said, agonizing over what the kid would go through in the next few days, weeks and months. "You're going to get through this." But it wouldn't be easy, and he'd never forget this day.

"He yelled at me to turn off my music," the boy said in between sobs. "I didn't listen. If only I had, maybe I would have heard him call for me. Maybe he'd be alive right now."

Jared remembered the "if only" scenarios that had run through his head when, at the same age, he'd been alone to deal with his own father's heart attack. If only his mom hadn't gone to the store to buy antacids, leaving him in charge of his sick father. If only he hadn't listened when his dad had told him not to dial 911, the delay the reason the ambulance had arrived too late to save him. If only he'd taken the CPR elective offered the first quarter of his sophomore year of high school. If only he'd run next door to see if Mrs. Alvarez, a nurse, was home, instead of staying by his dad's side, holding his hand, watching him take his last breath.

"Your dad was not a healthy man," Jared said, patting the boy's back. "He suffered a massive heart attack. There's nothing you or I or anyone could have done to save him."

"What do I do now?" the boy asked in a small voice.

Jared placed both hands on the kid's shoulders and took a step back so he could look him in the eye. "You go back into the E.R. You pick up your little sister and reassure her you're still here, and you'll look after her just as well as your dad would have. You kiss your mom on the cheek and tell her you love her, and you're there for her, and you'll do whatever you can to help her." Jared shook the kid to make sure he had his full attention. "Don't just say the words. Mean them. Live them. And no matter what happens, do not let your mother push you away." If only Jared hadn't, maybe things wouldn't have fallen apart.

Maybe he'd have been able to honor his father's final plea: "Take care of your mother."

"There you are." Ali walked over to them. He hadn't heard the electronic doors open. How long had she been standing there? How much had she heard? "Are you Jimmy?" she asked the boy, who nodded. "Your mother's looking for you."

Jimmy turned away from Ali, inhaled a shaky breath and wiped his eyes.

"I'm so sorry about your dad," Ali said, placing a caring hand on Jimmy's shoulder.

"Me, too," he replied, and, with a composed look that earned Jared's respect he took a deep breath, straightened his spine and walked into the E.R.

Jared turned back to the parking lot, needing a few minutes to regain his own composure, remembering the ride home from the hospital, his mother's anger, her harsh accusations and the years of being treated as if he didn't exist that followed.

To quell the painful memories trying to escape the remote part of his brain where he'd locked them, Jared contemplated his favorite topic of recent weeks. Nurse Ali Forshay..
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