Beginning January 1, 2013

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

INTERVIEW: GRACE GREENE

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Grace Greene, whose new release, Kincaid's Hope, was just released. In 2009, it was a 2nd place Golden Pen award winner. I asked Grace to tell us a bit about how she came to write the book.



"I was intrigued by the idea of family dysfunction and how someone might respond by going too far in the other direction - for instance, building a life free from emotionalism and chaos," she said. "An artificial life is bound to fail. What happens when it does? The primary theme is - You can't move forward until you forgive the past."



When Grace was young, she made up stories for her younger brother and sister, as well as stories she and her friends would act out in her backyard. She would watch TV and think, "What if this had happened instead of that?" She is still inspired by stories and characters in her head. Every newspaper headline or snippet of news online makes her wonder and imagine what lies behind the story?



"The story that gets reported is only the tip of the iceberg," she explained, "only a brief glimpse into a bigger, gnarlier story and my curiosity stirs."



She's written on and off her entire life, even though the earlier books were mostly crayon drawings. Until recent years, however, she didn't try very hard to find publication—just writing mostly for her own enjoyment. The few times she did submit, she was too easily discouraged.



"The writing community and educational resources online have made a tremendous difference," she said. "Exchanging information and learning from the experience of others has given me great encouragement."



I asked her if she ever suffered from writer's block and, if so, how she handled it.



"From time to time, forward progress seems blocked. Sometimes it’s an issue in the plot or character action that requires me to back up and try again – for instance, the story may be taking off in a direction that isn’t working or I may be trying to force a plot point that should be changed or discarded. When that happens, I back up past the point where it went wrong. When the writing flows again, I know I've backed up far enough. Sometimes, the best way to break writer’s block is to remove yourself, the writer, from the equation. Writer's block is often us, our brains, trying to protect us from our fears and failures by preventing us from stepping into risky territory."



Grace enjoys many of Karen White's books, like The House on Tradd Street and The Girl from Legare Street, because she loves the flavor of "Southern." When it comes to her favorite all-time author, however, she said it was hard to pare it down. For historical fiction, she decided on Roberta Gellis (The Roselynde Chronicles). For mainstream fiction, it was Larry McMurty (Lonesome Dove).



"For general fun and comfort reading – all of the gothic romance and romantic suspense authors from the 1960s – 1980s," she said. "My total favorite is Victoria Holt’s The Devil on Horseback. Lastly, I’m a huge Dean Koontz and Stephen King fan."
Grace's books are usually character-driven, so it's natural that her characters develop first, before the plot.



"A funny habit I've adopted is to give my characters generic names," she told me. "After I get to know them better - perhaps as late as the end of the first draft - I'll learn their names. I'm very much a pantser - or maybe more accurately, an organic writer - and the characters slowly reveal who they are as the story goes along."



When she's developing her story, a concept, a theme, or maybe an event will capture her imagination. The next question is what could lead to such an event occurring or what might happen within a concept or theme? After that, if the setting wasn't determined as a result of answering the other questions, that's the next to be determined.



Grace's primary writing space is her morning room which looks out on her backyard and garden, but she moves around. She's found when she gets stuck, she'll change scenery, moving from the morning room to another room of the house.



"Because I work a fulltime day job, I have to maximize my evenings and weekends for the second full-time job – writing," she said. "I write every evening and weekend. If we take a trip, I write on the plane or in the car—when I'm not driving, of course."



Grace has written several books ("the earlier ones are not ready for primetime," she assured me). Beach Rental was her debut novel, with Kincaid's Hope being the second to be published. She started hearing from readers after Beach Rental was published, and she loves hearing from her readers.



"One reader actually owns a rental house in Emerald Isle and loved the book so much that she's stocking it in the small library she keeps in the rental unit," she said. "I heard from another reader who was reading it sitting in a rocker on a porch at her beach rental. How wonderful is that?"



"What is the hardest part about writing for you?" I wondered.



"Sometimes the hardest part of writing is facing the empty screen, but more often the hardest part hits near the end of the first third of the book - after the initial inspiration cools - and then, again, about two-thirds through when all that has gone before gets murky and timelines get confused. That's when I pull out the whiteboard and markers and draw timelines and rough outlines so I can get back on track."



When it comes to choosing between e-books and print for her own work, Grace says she doesn't see why she can't do both.



"I love print. I love to hold that book in my hand - the feel of it, the smell of it - and to save the books I particularly enjoy all in a row in my bookcases. I also enjoy being able to carry my Kindle in my purse. When I have an unexpected wait, my reading material is always at hand," she explained. "What will the future bring for ebooks and print? I don't know, but I believe there must be both. For me, personally, when my first book, Beach Rental, was published in 2011, it was important to me that the print version be available. When I accepted the contract from Turquoise Morning Press, I did so because they offered print in addition to e-format. Small press print doesn't get the bookstore distribution that the large publishers do, but it was satisfying to be able to hold that book, to be able to autograph it for readers, and so on."



"If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?"



"I would've stuck with it when I first tried to find publication so long ago. I was too easily discouraged. This time, I was determined to keep at it until it happened."




Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"



"I advise getting connected with other writers and industry professionals (editors, bloggers, aspiring and published authors) – there’s a wealth of talent and knowledge out there. But beware losing your focus on the Internet – that same vehicle of knowledge and community can offer tempting opportunities for distraction. When staring at the blank page, or whirling in self-doubt – the temptations to do other things can be compelling."




You can keep up with Grace online at www.gracegreeneauthor.com, http://www.facebook.com/GraceGreeneBooks, or contact her via her website www.GraceGreeneAuthor.com.

Monday, January 30, 2012

INTERVIEW: SUZANNE BARRETT

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Suzanne Barrett, whose latest contemporary An Irish Rogue was released in December.


Suzanne has always written: essays, letters to pen pals, etc. Her earliest example of actual fiction writing was in the eighth grade. Her family had recently moved to Oregon and a requirement for graduation was to write an essay about the Oregon trail. Suzanne, instead, wrote a short story about a young girl's adventure as her family traveled west. She also later wrote several short stories that were published in local papers, and one that was published in an Irish magazine. However, it was LaVyrle Spencer's Hummingbird actually got her started writing books.


"I purchased a used computer and began my first book in January 1989 and haven't looked back," she explained. "I'd been corresponding with an Irish pen pal and had developed a burning interest in Ireland. I began the book shortly after purchasing my computer. Within three months, I had the opportunity to visit Ireland, gather material for my book and meet the pen pal. Back home I wrote about what I had seen, loosely inserted in a Harlequin Presents type of plot. I titled the book THE LEGACY, but a more apt title would have been SUZANNE'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE IN IRELAND." She grinned. "This manuscript still lives on my computer but will never see the light of day. It was, however, a good learning experience and stands as testimony to the adage that a writer need to write half a million words before he or she learns enough to become published.


"I love stories that feature unusual settings, characters or jobs, and I particularly like a tortured hero and a strong heroine who rescues him. Some of this comes from my own background, having moved frequently as a child when my father was transferred to a new city or state. So many new things to see and experience."


"What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?" I wondered.


"I like a character-driven story with a strong and fast-paced plot. Characters with empathy and who have room for growth appeal to me because I feel a reader always wants to cheer her hero and heroine on to their deserved happy ending. Thus, it's important to make them worthy. Also fast pacing is essential. Don't get bogged down with too much description, use just enough to convey the setting. Rely on getting into your characters' heads and share their thoughts so the reader is also feeling what they're feeling. Watch jerky transitions and the overuse of adverbs. Be direct and descriptive. 'Blackness swirled around her' is a lot more descriptive than 'she felt like she was going to faint'."


In Suzanne's own writing, normally she'll get a plot idea and it will germinate. She'll ruminate on the type of character that is needed for the plot.


For example, she told me, "In one book, I saw a twisted dirt road leading to....





"I kept thinking about that road and began doing a few what if's: what if the road led to a dilapidated old Victorian house desperately in need of repair? What if an Irishman desperately needing a Green Card and with ICE agents in hot pursuit needed a place to hide? What if the house were occupied by three quirky females, and what if the Irishman was presented as the answer to their carpentry prayers...but he know almost nothing about carpentry? Then, what if, in order to keep the hero from being deported, the heroine suggests a marriage in name only? I pitched this idea to my editor who bought the book on a one paragraph email."



That book is An Irish Rogue.



She's currently working on a romantic suspense set in a winery in the Santa Cruz mountains. The winemaker has just died and ownership passes to his daughter who knows little about running a winery because she's been educated in Europe and works at restoring stained glass windows. But what she understands well is that her family does things in the traditional way which proves difficult when she learns her father had brought in a brash wine consolidator out to make a quick profit, never mind the quality. Then, when accidents begin to happen at the winery, the heroine and hero must put aside their animosity and work together to find out who wants the winery to fail.



Suzanne told me that she's lucky enough to have an office of her own. I asked her to describe it to me.


"Two six-foot tables against a wall for my desktop, printer, backup drives, etc. One tall oak file cabinet, one short two-drawer file, a floor-to-ceiling wall of bookshelves to house my research books and about 20 feet of shelves above my workstation. I also have a storage closet, a coffee table with storage and a sofa for when I don't feel like sitting at my workstation. A sliding glass door leads out to a deck with a pergola, and beyond that is our meadow and orchard. It's not hard to feel creative in such an environment."


She has a number of hobbies she enjoys when she's not writing. She's a voracious reader (romantic suspense, the occasional thriller, contemporary and historical fiction, nonfiction); she's a certified aqua aerobics instructor and teaches at a local club. She also loves to garden and struggles to maintain a cottage garden under way too many woodland trees.


"Sometimes I sit on one of the garden benches with a cup of tea and write in longhand. My garden is a never-ending source of inspiration for plot ideas," she said. "Over the past few years, I've taught myself the art of wire wrapping for pendants, bracelets and other jewelry that I sell online and at local art and wine festivals. Finally, cooking is another passion as my expanding waistline will attest."


"What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?" I asked.


"Persevere. Study the craft. Read, read, read. Attend workshops. Join a critique group or find a critique partner, preferably with more experience than you. Most important: do not feel your prose is so golden it cannot be improved. I look back at some of my early writing and cringe. Once I belonged to a critique group where one of the members brought excerpts to read, but informed us that she wasn't going to change a thing. Other than showering us with her unforgettable words, I can't imagine what value she got out of the group if she wasn't there to try to improve her story."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

INTERVIEW: BARBARA WHITE DAILLE

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Barbara White Daille whose latest book, The Rodeo Man's Daughter, comes out next month. I asked her to tell us a little bit about it.

"The book is set in Flagman's Folly, New Mexico, the same small town as in my previous title, A Rancher's Pride, and tells the story of ex-rodeo star Caleb Cantrell.

After growing up dirt-poor and looked down upon by folks in town, Caleb took off while he was still a teen, headed for fame and fortune. A near-fatal injury destroys his rodeo dreams, and he returns to his hometown with the goal of settling scores with the folks who’d done him wrong and then leaving them all behind for good. Despite his rocky reunion with his high-school sweetheart, he finds his interest in her still going strong. All of sudden, he's got a hankering to hang around.

When he rents a room in her mother's bed-and-breakfast, Tess LaSalle's stuck with him day and night. She wants only to see the back of him as he leaves town, the way he left her years before. Though she's fighting attraction, too, those feelings are nothing compared to the memory of their bitter separation. When her rodeo-crazy nine-year-old discovers the great Caleb Cantrell has returned to Flagman's Folly, Tess is ten times more desperate to get rid of him—before Caleb and her daughter learn the secret she's kept from them all these years."

Barbara is finishing up her next book , also set in Flagman's Folly, which will be out in August. Honorable Rancher is the story of Ben Sawyer, who long ago lost the woman he loved from afar to his own best friend. When that friend dies a military hero, Ben has to keep the promise he's made to watch over the man's family—and to keep his hands off his best friend's wife.

A widow with three small children, Dana Wright will do anything to protect her children and to safeguard her secrets. Of all the folks in town, Ben would be the person most devastated by what she's trying to hide. Unfortunately, he's also the one determined to make her reveal what she knows.

"What inspired you to start writing?" I asked.

"I fell in love with stories. One of the most exciting moments for me as a child was having my mom take me to the local branch library to get my own library card. I had to wait until I could write, because in our town, a patron had to be able to sign (or print) his or her own name to get a library card. Even then, I was barely tall enough to see over the librarian's desk to hand her my application," she remembered. "Once I got that little card with my name on it, I started with the shelves in the children's section and never looked back. That love of reading stimulated my creativity and led me to writing stories of my own."

Sometimes Barbara will start her books with the character, as in The Rodeo Man's Daughter, where the hero came from a bad background and takes off as a teenager to find fame and fortune. He succeeds but almost loses his life in the process and is forced to return to the hometown he despises. Other times, she will begin with plot, as in Court Me, Cowboy, where she knew the hero and heroine had a whirlwind courtship and a marriage that ended in divorce almost as soon as it had begun. A few months later, the heroine returns, and the hero discovers he's still married—and about to become a daddy.

She's a character-driven writer, though, so even when she starts with the plot, it doesn't take her long to get involved with the people in the story.

"In no time, plot and character become so intertwined that there's no way to separate them again, and the development goes hand-in-hand," she explained. "I also ask a lot of questions, often multiple times. Some examples, in random order: Why are these two people so wrong for each other? Why do they have to stay together, anyway? What happens next? Why? Why? Why? And always important for the conflict: Why not?"

The hardest part of writing, for Barbara, is letting go after the book is done.

"Of course, I say that as a reader, too," she said with a smile. "I can live with some of my characters for weeks or months—or even years, in the case of a series, where characters from previous books make repeat appearances later on. It's hard not to get attached to these folks, though they're not real and come straight from my imagination.

"One of the many good things about writing category romance is that the readers love series. They also love a good epilogue, that little window into the future at the end of a book that lets us know what happened to the characters after the story ended. I'll admit, writing those epilogues gives me satisfaction, too...and makes it a little easier to let go."

"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I asked. "If so, what do you do about it?"

"Yes, once in a while, I do deal with writer's block. Or maybe I should call it story block. If it hits when I'm in the middle of a book, it's usually because the characters are refusing to do what I want them to do. They can be contrary that way!

"When that happens, it means the story has taken a wrong turn somewhere. So I back up a chapter or two, or sometimes even return to page one, and read forward. Along the way, I either find out where the story went off-track or I figure out what the characters have been trying to tell me."

On a more personal note, I asked Barbara, "What is your favorite meal?"

She smiled. "You ask some tough questions! When I'm just hanging out—pizza, every time. Absolute best is pepperoni, but since I'm trying to be more diet-conscience, we've been ordering it with spinach. That's a favorite of mine, too, so it's not much of a sacrifice.

"When we're celebrating something special, such as a book release or a birthday—Alaskan King Crab legs. With lots and lots of hot, melted butter. And a deliberate ignorance of the fact that it's blowing my diet."

There are a lot of things that make Barbara happy—

"Great books that make me worry about the characters. Laughing babies. Long bubble baths. Having something to be grateful for every day. Chocolate. Finishing a chapter in my own manuscript. Writing The End in my own book. Chocolate. Waking up before the alarm clock. Curling up on the couch with my husband. Curling up on the couch with a good book. Dark chocolate. Reading positive stories in the news. Going out to dinner. Hearing from my readers. Going to sleep knowing I've accomplished my goals for the day.

"The list goes on and on—and on!"

Finally, I asked, "Do you have a favorite quote or saying?"

"Yes, and it's funny that you ask. I'm the Queen of Quotes. I collect them, keep them, and rotate them on my bulletin boards, computer desktop, and in places all over the house.

"At this time of year, of course, I've just made a new list of resolutions. And I mentioned them in a post at my own blog just after New Year's, which goes into more detail than I will with you now. In the post I say that, for various reasons, one of the mantras I'm going to be using this year is the Nike Shoes slogan, Just Do It. Short, simple, to the point—and so far, very effective.

"Please wish me luck that effectiveness continues through the rest of my year!

"I've enjoyed chatting with you and look forward to visiting with your readers and responding to comments and questions!"

About the Author: Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest, where they love the lizards in the front yard but could do without the scorpions in the bathroom.



From the time she was a toddler, Barbara found herself fascinated by those things her mom called "books." Once she learned the words between the covers held the magic of storytelling, she wanted to see her words in print so she could weave that spell for others.



Barbara hopes you will enjoy reading her stories and will find your own storytelling magic in them!

www.BarbaraWhiteDaille.com
http://www.facebook.com/barbarawhitedaille
https://twitter.com/BarbaraWDaille

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

INTERVIEW: LORENA BATHEY

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Lorena Bathey, whose newest book House on Plunkett Street is now available. It's Lorena's second novel—her first being Beatrice Munson which was released last March.


The theme of women going through change seems to central to each of her books. Beatrice Munson is about a woman in suburbia finding her way after her divorce. It's about how women lose themselves in roles and forget that being happy and finding their bliss is as important as everything else they do in life. House on Plunkett Street is about change, overcoming fears, and really deciding to live your life instead of just existing.


"It has three ghosts, so people ask if it's like A Christmas Carol. The similarities stop with the fact that there are three ghosts," she said. "This book is about a girl who really is lost in her life. She's come from a home where she was mostly overlooked so her expectations for life are not really high. But somewhere in her she knows she should want more. That's when the Universe, God...whatever you want to call the powers that be begins to work in her favor. She is forced to make changes and in that action she meets three women ghosts from other eras in time that show her what they've learned. It's a great story of change and transformation. Even better, there's friendship, love, and fun twists and turns along the way."


I asked Lorena, "Who is your favorite author and why?"


"I am really entranced with Stephen King. One, because he truly is a master of his craft. He is probably one of the best at character development, in my opinion. His book, The Stand, is like the pinnacle of what good characters and plot development can be. But the other thing I love about his writing is the ease with which he writes. I know that is years of development , but I have read his book on writing and I love the way he incorporates all that he is as an individual in his writing style.


"Of course, most authors write about what they know, which is a scary concept with a lot of Mr. King's books, but it takes more than just having a story. You have to get into a character's mind and make him real enough that those reading care about him/her. Mr. King is a pro at doing that. From his books The Green Mile toIt (which is one I couldn't read...too darn scary for me) he is able to make you believe that these people are living and breathing in some small Maine town.


"I hold him up as the type of author I want to be like."


For Lorena, both characters and plot seem to develop at the same time. She will either see a character or think of a plot and the other comes right after.


"I'll give you an example," she said. "Recently I was on vacation and the location we were at inspired a book. Immediately I saw the characters as they went through the process of the book. That's how it works. They kinda morph together.


"But the characters know who they are and why they are there. There's a not a whole lot of ambiguity to my characters. They come out of the box with their looks, personalities, and background stories. I usually get the title of the book and the cover design right away too. It's like my inspiration does a download. So I write everything down they give me right away. And in that I usually have the book pretty much defined in my head. Then I file it away until the book is ready to be written. That may mean that the character won't leave my head or the plot just keeps calling me back."


Lorena told me that it's easy for authors to get caught up writing and forget that reading is also an important aspect of their work.


"When I read I see things differently and it makes my writing better," she explained. "I see things from a reader's perspective which makes me pay attention to that aspect even more in my own writing."


She has just finished reading The Night Circus and I asked her what she thought about it.


"It was wonderful. It was such a cleverly written novel. The characters were quirky, but interesting. The entire idea behind the book was truly new and exciting and I found myself completely satisfied by the end of the book. That's not always the case."


Lorena's first book was a memoir, Happy Beginnings: How I Became My Own Fairy Godmother, written after she lost her mom to cancer and her husband left her. She started chronicling the changes that occur when a person takes a hard look at herself. She thought many women were going through what she went through, but no one was writing about it. She gave an honest look at finding the strength that exists inside.


"It was a bit easier to write because everything happened to me and they were my thoughts and ideas. But when I got the finished book, printed, with the perfect cover design I remember the feeling that washed over me. I opened the box and saw my books sitting there and I remember kinda catching my breath. It was a physical form and definitely real," she told me. "But it wasn't until I was standing up in front of over seventy people reading an excerpt and they were laughing that I realized, I was a writer. My writing was affecting others. They were responding to my words. They were feeling. They were laughing. That made it real. It also cemented in that I wanted to do this work. I wanted to use words to create stories and ideas that could not only inspire, but help people. So I guess that's what started the spark of my writing."


She started writing Beatrice Munson during the same time she was speaking and promoting Happy Beginnings. She only wrote half before the story started falling apart. She put it aside and only picked it up again after she met the love of her life. He asked her what she really wanted to do with her life. She answered writing, ideas started flooding in, and she finished Beatrice Munson in about six months.


Her next novel is coming out next year and is called The X. It's the story of a housewife whose husband divorces her and steals her sons away. She must dig deep in herself to find out why and face the fact that you often don't know the person you love. It's a suspense and, like her other books, shows a female character finding her inner strength, power, and place in her own world.


I asked her to describe her writing space and she told me she writes the best at Panera, a chain of sandwich shops.


"I don't know if it's the warm baking bread or the soft hum of people coming in and out that creates a writing cocoon for me. It was at Panera that I finished my first novel, Beatrice Munson, in a nine-hour writing session. Seriously, I could barely see when I left. I kept thinking the staff was going to throw me out after being there that long, but they didn't. I not only love their stores but their bread is just short of spectacular. It's a win-win since I get to write and eat yummy food."


Once a week she meets there with a friend, also an author, who she's known since the second grade, and they spend the day writing, helping each other, editing each other's work, and eating luscious bread and sandwiches.


When she's not writing, there are a lot of other things she loves to do with her family being her biggest enjoyment. She also just got engaged on New Year's Eve and she and her fiancé spends a lot of time together sharing their thoughts and ideas and having a great time.


"Through our blended family we have six kids and three grandchildren. They are the light of our life," she said. "Having everyone over to watch movies or for dinner is a great time and we always end up laughing so much drinks come out of our noses."


She also loves photography.


"I am not much of an artist in the drawing/painting sense. In fact, I can only draw a fuzzy kitty and a worm," she confessed. "But with photography, I can show art through my lenses. I love to walk around San Francisco and take pictures from odd angles and show some amazing things people may not have looked at before. I have also become the photographer for our business, www.TheDrumDoktor.com and did all the model shoots for our upcoming marketing campaign."


"I love traveling. Whether it's a jaunt on the motorcycle with my fiancée, or going to Italy for ten days," she told me, "I love the adventure and the opportunities that travel affords you. It's during travel that you not only get to meet some of the most interesting people, but you see things that are historic and astounding. It opens your eyes to your own world and makes you realize how small your world can get. I think travel is the best way to find yourself too. In my first book, Happy Beginnings: How I Became My Own Fairy Godmother, I traveled to Italy for ten days to really learn not only how to be alone but to find out who I really was."


About the Author: Growing up in Northern California, Lorena Bathey attended St. Mary’s College in Moraga graduating with a degree in English. Then she traveled, learned about life, and developed great fodder for books. Losing her mother to cancer and her own marriage’s demise pushed her to find herself. She wrote Happy Beginnings: How I Became My Own Fairy Godmother about her journey to unleash her inner fairy godmother.



Lorena found after writing her first book that characters were visiting her mind and wouldn't leave. She met Marissa, Andrea, Lily, Deidre and Beatrice and her first novel, Beatrice Munson, came to life. After finishing the book she knew that pursuing her passion was the best way to live her life, so a writer she became.



After meeting the love of her life, they decided to follow their dreams blending their families. Today Lorena has nine novels in her writing queue. But writing isn't the only muse that inspires Lorena. She has become a passionate photographer and likes to push the envelope taking shots. Travel, walking, enjoying new restaurants, and Italy are other loves and things she makes sure she has time for.



Find her at Lorena@LorenaBBooks.com or at www.LorenaBBooks.com, www.facebook.com/pages/Lorena-B-Books/1138014032926011 and at www.twitter.com/lorenabbooks



Phoebe Bertram is boring, bland, and unexciting. She works a job that is inadequate of her abilities. She has a boyfriend that is a dud. She is on the treadmill of her life and doesn’t know how to get off.



With changes in her job and her apartment going condo, she must find a new place to live. Her friend Meghan brings her to the perfect apartment and the moment Phoebe steps in the door she knows there is something atypical about this perspective residence.



What she never expects are the three ghosts that arrive on her couch to teach her how life is really meant to be lived.



Author of Beatrice Munson, Lorena Bathey, has brought us another great example of character study combined with a moral at the end of the story. This book will make you laugh, cry, and look at your world with new eyes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

INTERVIEW: JENNY TWIST

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Jenny Twist, whose latest release is Domingo's Angel. I asked her to tell us a little bit about the story.


"It's about an English woman who travels to Franco’s Spain in the early 1950s. Tourism has barely touched the country yet and the people are only now beginning to recover from the deprivations of the civil war. She arrives in a remote mountain village and causes some consternation amongst the inhabitants, who have never met a foreigner before. But Domingo, the goatherd, falls in love with her. When she introduces herself, he believes she is saying she is an angel (‘Soy Ángela’ in Spanish can either mean ‘I am Angela’ or ‘I am an angel’).


"This is the story of their love affair. But it is also the story of the people of the tiny mountain village – the indomitable Rosalba - shopkeeper, doctor, midwife and wise woman, who makes it her business to know everything that goes on in the village; Guillermo, the mayor, whose delusions of grandeur are rooted in his impoverished childhood; and Salva the Baker, who risked his life and liberty to give bread to the starving children.


"The events in this story are based on the real experiences of the people of the White Villages in Southern Spain and their struggle to keep their communities alive through the years of war and the oppression of Franco’s rule.


"Some of these events are bloodthirsty and shocking, but there is a lot of love in the book too. I hope that I have succeeded in portraying for my readers the cheerfulness, humour and exuberance of the Andalusian people. And it would be nice to think that it might do something to dispel some of the ignorance about this fascinating period of Spanish history."



Jenny has had stories in her head for her whole life and even occasionally would write them down, but she didn't start writing seriously until she retired.


"Life continually got in the way," she explained. "I was the main breadwinner for my family for most of my life and I always had very demanding jobs. I used to wonder how on earth anyone found the time to write the first book, naively assuming that once you had written a book, the money would start pouring in and then you could afford to write full-time.


"We came to live in Spain in 2001 and I started writing then – all the stories that had been in my head all those years and a lot of new ones. I sent them to a local magazine for ex-pats living on the Costa del Sol and they commissioned me to write a piece every month; articles alternating with stories."



For Jenny, the most important thing about writing is the language. She wants it to flow, and she wants it to be right.



"Beautiful prose is such a joy to read. I hate it when poor grammar makes me lose the gist of the story, but I never mind pausing to appreciate a piece of superb prose," she assured me.



The next most important thing is characterization.



"I soon lose interest in a story if the characters are not well-drawn and I cannot empathise with them," she said. "The plot is less important for me, but I like it to be believable and hang together well. I particularly like thrillers, mysteries and ghost stories, but I read all genres except erotica."



Her favorite author is Stephen King.



"He uses language beautifully with no horrible grammatical errors. His characters live and breathe and I really care about them. He knows how to terrify without being gory and revolting. He knows how to portray human love without resorting to torrid, tasteless, explicit sex. And he knows how to take his readers into that other world where you lose all sense of self and surroundings and just live in the story," she explained. " He has also done something for me that no other author has done. Hundreds of authors have taught me to love stories, but only Stephen King taught me how to write my own. On Writing takes you through the process step by step. My story, "Waiting for Daddy" in Take One At Bedtime, was my first attempt at writing by the Stephen King method and I am still pleased with it, especially the twist at the end."



The title for Take One at Bedtime was suggested by her brother-in-law, along with the idea of putting: Warning: Do not exceed the stated dose in the blurb.



"I must say this was absolutely inspired," she said. "Virtually every reviewer has picked up on this and commented on failing to stick to the stated dose. Thank you, Nick."



For Jenny, the idea for a story comes first—she keeps thinking it over at odd moments, particularly during that time between sleeping and waking.



"Sometimes it doesn't go anywhere, but more often than not it starts to take shape almost of its own accord. I regularly wake up in the morning with the whole plot sorted out. The characters seem to come from nowhere," she said. "I suppose they must ultimately be based on people I have known but I have never in my life made a conscious attempt to develop a character. They just walk into the story apparently full-developed and then proceed to behave in their own way, Long before I start writing a story down I know exactly how each character will act in a given situation and from that point on they virtually write themselves. Maybe muses really exist and I've got one."



Jenny is currently doing the rewrites for another novel about an old woman who wakes up in a strange room inexplicably furnished in 1940s style. At first she thinks she has somehow slipped into the past, but it is even stranger than that. She is part of an experiment working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease. It seems to be succeeding, but it has a strange side effect. Tilly and her fellow experimental subjects appear to be getting younger.



She told me that researching, these days, was a piece of cake—with just about anything you can desire available on the web.



"I can usually find what I want by Googling it. Of course, some stuff just isn't on there," she admitted. "For example, when I was writing Domingo's Angel, much of which is set in the Spanish Civil War and Franco's subsequent dictatorship, I could find nothing about life in the mountain villages, although there was plenty about the major battles and life in the cities.



"I gleaned some information from my own neighbours, but it was very hard to get anyone to talk to me about what had been a very painful time for them. I subsequently discovered a definitive book on life in the white village of Frigiliana, Between Two Fires, by David Baird, which reassured me that I had substantially got the right picture. But I am still surprised at what I don't know. A couple of years ago there was a commemorative march between Málaga and Almería. Until then I had been unaware that thousands of Republican refugees, mainly women, children and old men, had walked the coast road from Málaga, trying to escape from the Fascist army. Some of them made it, but many were gunned down, strafed from the air by Franco's friends, the Luftwaffe, and bombarded from the sea by Spanish and Italian ships. How could such an earth-shattering event occur in a European country and go virtually unnoticed?"



For the full story about this episode, see this link: http://www.andalucia.com/history/civilwarandalucia.htm.



"What do you like to do when you are not writing?" I asked.



"I love going out for a drive with my husband and exploring places. We live in a very interesting area and there is always somewhere to new to visit. There are hundreds of little villages, each with its own personality and special history. An example is Acebuchal, which became a ghost town during Franco's rule. Franco decided the villagers were helping the freedom fighters in the mountains and he had the village evacuated. Since these people were peasant farmers who made their living from the land, this amounted to a death sentence for those who had no relatives in other villages to support them. It was still a ghost town when we first came to Spain, but it has been slowly repopulated, mostly by foreigners, and restored very tastefully to something resembling its original condition. Although I suspect it is now much cleaner and tidier than it was in the past."



"What is one thing readers would be most surprised to learn about you?"



"If they were new readers, they might be surprised to learn that I used to be an escapologist’s assistant. I was the lovely Tanya. All Tommy James' assistants were called the lovely Tanya, so he didn't have to change any of the advertising. The first time we rehearsed he hired a concert hall to set up the equipment, but the ceiling wasn't high enough to accommodate his full-size guillotine. Consequently, I felt very insecure on our first performance. After chopping a cabbage in half to demonstrate that it was a real guillotine, I hauled the blade back up to the top, using a rope on a pulley, secured it, locked him in the stocks, pulled a curtain in front of him to conceal him from the audience, and counted down thirty seconds on a stop-watch before letting go the blade. Unfortunately, the curtain also concealed him from me. I couldn't tell whether he had managed to escape in time! There was a sickening thud, then..... silence. I stood in front of several hundred people, still holding the end of the rope, convinced I had killed him. After an unconscionably long time, he threw the curtain aside and came out bowing and smiling, whilst saying between his teeth, 'Got you there, didn't I?' My reply, also between my teeth, whilst smiling at the audience, is unfortunately not fit for a mixed readership."



"What was the scariest moment of your life?"



"My sons and I used to live in a really creepy house near Oxford. The wardrobe door used to creak open of its own accord and you frequently felt as if there was a malign presence there. We used to fantasise that the last tenant had murdered his wife and put her body in the cesspit. The house was on top of a hill and very exposed, so damp that we had to rotate the clothes in the wardrobe or they would develop mould and so draughty that the carpet used to billow up in waves when the wind blew. One night there was a terrific storm and the big window in the kitchen began bowing in and out.We were terrified that it would smash, and up-ended the kitchen table against it. We weren't just afraid of the glass breaking, we were afraid of whatever was out there. The wind was making a noise like human screams and was rattling at the doors and windows like some manic nightmare figure trying to break in. We huddled together in abject terror in the living room, incapable of doing anything else, just waiting for whatever it was to come and get us. I hated that house. It was like living in Amityville Horror. Nothing actually came to get us. So it must have been just the wind. Mustn't it?"




About the Author: Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.


She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.


She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.


In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.


Her first book, Take One at Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second, Domingo’s Angel, was published in July 2011. Her novella "Doppelganger" was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, "Uncle Vernon" was published in Spellbound, in November 2011, "Jamey and the Alien" was published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011 and "Mantequero" was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011.



Facebook Author Page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenny-Twist-Author/291166404240446

Goodreads Blog
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4848320.Jenny_Twist/blog

Amazon Author Page
amazon.com/author/jennytwist

Melange: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/jennytwist/jennytwist.html

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JennyTwist1

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

INTERVIEW: LORELEI CONFER

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to have Lorelei Confer, author of Deadly Deliverance, which was released January 3. Deadly Deliverance is the third book in the Deadly series about human trafficking, told from the investigator's perspective and set primarily in Washington DC.


Things get personal for Sam Brower, undercover task force detective for human trafficking, when his niece, Autumn, goes missing. To make matters worse, he’s forced to work with his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Conover, former DC cop, when she’s assigned to a cold case involving his long lost brother.


After infiltrating the gang responsible for the multiple abductions, Sam and Lisa try to unravel the stories behind the kidnapping of Autumn and the disappearance of Luke before their cover is blown.


Undercover work doesn’t lend well to trust. Even if they work together like a fine tuned instrument, will Lisa and Sam be able to salvage their love for each other after all they’ve been through?
Even though Lorelei has been writing since the fourth grade (she wrote a play, "Going to the Doctor," that her teacher liked so much she produced it and invited parents to come to the school to see), she didn't start writing seriously until four or five years ago.


"When I read an article in my local paper about a sting operation at a brothel in a nearby community I wanted to write about it," she told me. "I did a lot of research and wrote my first book, Deadly Deception. But I still had so much fodder left I kept writing my second book Deadly Revenge, which is set in the North Carolina mountains. North Carolina is the eighth likely state for human trafficking due to their interstate going north and south and east and west. Who knew?"


Human trafficking is a prolific "business" that keeps growing every day, Lorelei shared. Her books in the Deadly series points out the signs of others who may have been abducted and who are unable to get out of their current situation.


"I met with a detective on the local Human Trafficking Task Force for Human Trafficking who advised me about the seriousness and integrity of my fiction stories as well as actual past cases he’d worked on," she explained. "It’s a very heinous crime and needs to be controlled. Since then I attend all quarterly meetings of the task force for updates and fodder for future books."


"What was the hardest part of writing the Deadly series?" I asked.


"The hours of research. Not necessarily hard, but there was so much I had to learn about human trafficking, the crime, the pain, etc. that it became the hardest part."


Occasionally, Lorelei will get stuck, but normally when she's working on a book she's already thinking about the next book—a spin-off, of sorts. If she still gets blocked once she starts a new book, she'll step away and work on something else entirely, like a short story for Christmas.


Lorelei starts with a thought, then the character emerges and is given a name. The character is sometimes given many names until Lorelei really likes who her characters have become by the end of the book.


"I’m a ‘writing by the seat of my pants’ kind of gal," she admitted. "Many times my characters take control of where the plot is going."


She's currently working on a book, Lost and Found, about two young boys who raised themselves after their father left for Desert Storm and their mother passed away. The father never got over the death of his wife and never came back for them. So they track him down and work for him as handymen around his house during the summer, without him acknowledging who they are. They grow up and the oldest becomes a lawyer who takes on the case of a female colleague in search of her missing sister who has been abducted; however, someone from inside the police department doesn't want the sister found. As they dig deeper, they find out why.


I asked Lorelei how she came up with her titles.


"Sometimes I can put a title to it from the beginning and it changes throughout the writing process. Other times the titles don’t work for me until the very end. In the Deadly series, the last one was named ‘Aah’ until I finished it and titled it Deadly Deliverance. My current WIP was titled ‘Two Lost Boys’ until I got into it more and now its titled Lost and Found. We’ll have to see if that title sticks."


Lorelei writes in a bedroom they converted into an office with a wooden cherry desk, credenza and numerous bookshelves. She's always been into scrapbooking and genealogy, so their family history surrounds her on the bookshelves. There's also a large window that opens to the back yard and she can daydream while watching the birds and squirrels and their funny escapades.


When she's in her office, people know not to bother her, because she's working just as if she had a real job. She writes every day except on the weekends when she does household chores, laundry, and spends time with her husband. She also enjoys reading and scrapbooking in her down time.


"I have a grandchild now, four years old, and I want to capture his life in pictures just as I did my two boys," she explained.


On a more personal note, Lorelei had never wanted a dog until her son and his wife gave her one for Christmas five years ago.


"His name is AJ (Apple Jack of Aces) and he is a long-haired Chihuahua," she told me. "He weighs five pounds and can be found at my feet, on my desk or chair with me at all times. He has brought so much joy to me. I can talk to him and he doesn’t talk back. Man, has he heard some stories."


Other than AJ, she has a love for horses. Her sister lives on a horse ranch in Tennessee, and Lorelei tries to get there to ride every year. She loves the smell of horse and fine leather.


"I have often thought about writing a modern day ranch/western and still may do it," she told me.



About the Author: Good morning! This is my first time being interviewed so I’d better introduce myself. I’m Lorelei Confer and I write romantic suspense.



An author of romantic suspense I love reading almost as much as writing. I have filled my book shelves with my favorites, i.e. Harlan Colban, Eliza March, Johanna Lindsey, Kathy Carmichael, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Andrew Gross, Terri Garey, Karen Rose, LuAnn Rice, and Bobbi Smith just to mention a few, as well as all the classics.



I live on a peninsula in the mid west coast of Florida with my husband, two cats, and AJ, my long haired Chihuahua.



I love hearing from readers so please visit my website: www.LoreleiConfer or blog at www.LoreleiConfer.blogspot.com.

Monday, January 16, 2012

INTERVIEW: LAURI OWEN

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Lauri Owen who is currently working on book three of the Ember Series, which starts at the very moment book two ends.


"Will this third book end the series?" I asked.


"I think not," she said.


Lauri's been researching and writing nonfiction since high school, telling me, "I was forced to produce more nonfiction prose than in humane throughout college."


She also writes a lot as a lawyer, but never tried her hand at writing fiction until a few years ago.


"The first night I sat down to write, I tapped out a little more than 9,000 words. I wish my next sentence was, 'And I was shocked at how great I was at fiction writing!' However, the truth is that I sucked. Bad," she said with a laugh. "I loved my story, though, and I kept at it, and after about 300,000 edits, I got it where I liked it. I’ve never looked back."


Lauri has two favorite authors: Terry Pratchett and Katharine Kerr.


"Mr. Pratchett writes the Discworld series, and his books are some of the best written books ever put to paper. Their humor will lull you, the innate sweetness will comfort you, but their intellectual depth will shock you, but not in a bad way. His characters are so well turned that you feel like you know them. I’ve never seen a better character creator," she explained. "Ms. Kerr writes the Deverry series, a fantasy kingdom based on ancient Wales, and her writing so ensnares me that I’ve missed train stops (and even once flunked a test because I missed my stop – lost in a scene -- and had to take a train back, and then was late to class), and every single time I reread a passage in any of her books to try and deconstruct how she created such a compelling scene, I get lost in the plot and forget. Every time."


The most important thing about good writing, Lauri told me, is being able to make the characters come alive.


"Don’t write your story from a tower, or from some idea in your head: live your book," she urged. "See every act happening through your own eyes – feel every emotion your characters feel – when you write. It’s easy to write from the head, but it creates a distance your reader cannot breach. If you live your characters’ lives, so will your readers, and just as you can’t forget their pain, and their joy, neither will your readers."


Charlaine Harris' books have heavily influenced Lauri's own style. She loves the one character POV, the way things are hidden, and how challenging it is to lead her main character to find all she needs to learn.


"Some things she never knows, just like real life, and that is both good and bad," Lauri said. "Jim Butcher is another author I struggle to emulate in some ways. His writing is so flawless, and so fun."


Lauri sits on a barstool next to the wall at her kitchen bar and types on a tradition keyboard attached by a USB to her laptop. She hangs maps she creates and pictures of people who look like her characters around her, then she will put on her headphones, listens to a writing soundtrack she specially made, and types for hours…and hours…and hours.


"What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?" I wondered.


“'What are the main messages that you want readers to take from you books?' And the answers, should someone ask, will be these: (1) Heroes aren’t born, and they aren’t always forged in fire. Heroes are ordinary people, people like you and me, who are faced with difficult circumstances, and make the right choices and stick to them, even though it would be easier to do something less difficult, and less right. Heroes are defined by ethics, and courage, and by one more thing that we don’t often think about anymore, despite that it’s no less important now than it was in past millennia. What is it? Honor. (2) Compassion and kindness do not equal weakness. In fact, the opposite is true. It takes a lot of strength to reach out again, to keep loving, after you’ve been hurt. (3) Beauty is a social construct, and not an independent fact. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and we need to start thinking about how we’ve been manipulated to believe in just a very few, and often impossible, ideals for both women and men, and then create space for the beauty existent all around us – in every person."


On a personal note, I asked her if she wanted a dog.


"What I really, really want is for no more dogs, and no more cats, to be euthanized at animal shelters. I am a huge rescue advocate, and donate all the proceeds from my books (plus lots more) to no-kill animal rescue. I am also owned by several rescued kitty companions. Spay and neuter your pets! Don't buy from breeders! Adopt from a shelter and save a life!"


"Have you ever cried during a movie?"


"This is a great question. Most people who know me see me as a tough, no-nonsense person, someone who’s considerably further on the strong side than the sensitive side. The truth, however, is that I am more than a little bit sentimental, and I cry every single time I read books or watch movies that touch me – like Feet of Clay and Mulan. "


Lauri told me that she was both a nerd and geek at time, while at other times she'd openly label herself a thug.


"At yet other times, I’d say I’m an intellectual," she continued. "Like Walt Whitman, I am vast and contain contradictions."


Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"


"First, writing is hard, heart wrenching work. Have you found your computer, or Xbox games, steal quality time from your family? Writing is worse. Writing – well, writing well – requires an enormous commitment, a lot of work, and sacrifices by you and all who love you, or at least love your time. Know this before you start. And if you do start, read. Read, read, read. Read every book you can get your hands on. I learn something from every single writer. Practice free writing. Write scenes. Dialogue. Listen to conversations around you, and then go write them down. You will probably suck at first. I sure did. But keep at it. Don’t give up. Be prepared to do fifty (or more) edits to your first manuscript. And when you’re ready to write, do some background preparation first. Sketch out your world. The overarching plot. Your characters. Then research. Write an outline, because if you don’t, your writing will meander and end up in places it shouldn’t be. Work on developing a better vocabulary. Stop using adverbs. Stick with it. Have faith that you’ll get better. Never give up."



They have won. With help from Kiera, Fire Mage, the shapeshifting slaves of Fairbanks have broken their chains, and then lifted her to govern their city. But Kiera and her co-rulers struggle to integrate the former slaves and the remaining mages.



A worse threat outside Fairbanks waits to fracture the fragile peace. Governor Vrishka, the Skani Water Mage of Barrow, has marched an army from the North, and sends terms: Surrender Fairbanks and restore the Skani mages to rule, or he will raze the city and kill all the shifters. He gifts them ten turns of the sun to make their decision.



Halfway through the armistice a devastating blow steals all hope for Fairbanks’ victory, and crushes Kiera’s heart. Can she summon the strength to transcend her grief and find a way to defeat Vrishka? If so, what price is she willing to pay? Five days—and a city—await her decision.



Welcome to the Alternate Alaska, where those born with the power to control the elements rule as nobility over those who cannot. For now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

INTERVIEW: ROCHELLE WEBER

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Rochelle Weber, author of the Moon Rock series, Rock Bound and Rock Crazy.


When I asked Rochelle what got her interested in writing, she told me, "I don't know that I ever actually became 'interested' in writing. When I was about seven, I had chicken pox and I read all of my Little Golden Books, got tired of coloring and wrote a story. I was adopted, but when I would try to read to my granddaughter, she would take the book, look at the pictures and make up stories to match, so I think it’s in our blood. In high school, I wrote Cherry Ames into The Rat Patrol.”


Rochelle tends to start with the plot first. She shared with me how she came up with the plot for Rock Crazy.


"I found myself divorced in a town where the only other person I really knew was the woman my husband left me for. When he dumped her before I even knew they were together, she convinced me he was going to disappear with my kids and that I had to do so first. Like Scott in Rock Crazy, he was a rent-a-tech who worked outages at various nuclear power plants. He could pick up the phone and have a job across country in five minutes, so I believed her. After we got the kidnapping and custody thing worked out, I went back to school and majored in writing. And the book I started was partly autobiographical, working out my angst about the divorce. That book evolved into Rock Crazy some twenty years after college.


"Then, I decided to write a bit of back-story about some of the secondary characters and they took over and became Rock Bound. Come to think of it, I had a plot there, too. Katie looked down her nose at the prisoners who settled Rockton, the city on the Moon in which she finds herself abandoned by her husband, Scott. In their case, she’s bi-polar and he divorces her to convince her to have brain surgery. At any rate, the plot for Rock Bound was how these prisoners got arrested and settled the Moon. Since it pre-dated Rock Crazy, I published it first.


"In my WIP, Crystal Lady, the plot again came first. I thought about writing a third Moon Rock book, but the characters aren’t speaking to me, and I don’t have a good plot idea."


She's also struggling with a good conflict for Crystal Lady, but someone suggested she write about her eating disorder and weight loss. She might make the happenings in Crystal Lady the character's reward for losing over 100 pounds. Rochelle herself is about 2/3 or maybe even ¾ of the way to her goal. She started at 296 pounds and her goal is to get to 130/140.


"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I wondered.


"I think the title sort of comes with that first glimmer of the plot. When I lived in Hawaii, I lost both of my parents and gave birth to both of my children. Everything was ridiculously expensive and the Hawaiians have no love for the military. Hawaii is paradise if you’re a tourist with plenty of money, not if you’re a young, pregnant, military wife who knows your father is dying back in Chicago with a nine-hour flight and a five-hour time change between you and home. I referred to it as 'this God-forsaken rock.' The Moon became 'that God-forsaken rock' and Rock Crazy came from there. Katie is going crazy on it. Annie and Jake were bound for the Moon in the first half of Rock Bound, and then bound to it as indentured slaves in the second half."


Rochelle thinks of Rock Bound and Rock Crazy as parts of the same story, even though they can each stay alone.


"I think I’ve lived with Annie and Jake (Rock Bound) longer than I lived with Katie and Scott, since Rock Bound went through Inara Press and Red Rose, and I finally self-published last Spring," she told me.


Rochelle confesses to being a TV junkie and said she needed to get better at turning the laptop on and doing evening chats with the TV on.


"I reach a saturation point with the computer and turn on the tube. I also get tired when the chat loops end up talking about sex. There’s some sex in my books, but they’re more about feelings," she explained. "In Rock Bound, Annie’s a sex slave and the scene where she’s with a client is more about her feelings than the mechanics of what’s going on. But, I also love playing Buzztime Trivia and Tuesday nights are trivia nights. I sing karaoke, as well—even when I’m sober. Like Katie, I’m bi-polar so I don’t drink. Besides not mixing well with my meds, alcohol metabolizes as sugar so it’s not part of my food plan."


I asked her to tell us a little bit about her latest book.


Katie McGowan is bi-polar, and she’s run the gamut of medications, but nothing works anymore. Everyone says her she should have a microchip implanted in her brain that can regulate her mood swings. But Katie doesn’t want to be a robot. In a tough love move, her husband, Scott takes her to the Moon—and dumps her. Katie’s stuck on that God-forsaken “rock,” and thinks she’s space sick. But she’s wrong; she’s pregnant. Now the surgery’s too dangerous and she has to go off her meds until the baby’s born.


Scott’s elated that he’s going to be a father and assumes Katie will take him back. He has no clue how badly he’s hurt her, how thoroughly he’s broken her trust—or that he may not get her back at all.
"If you went to the Moon, what would you take with you?"


"My Kindle and my laptop. Yesterday was a disaster. My granddaughter asked me to take her and her friends to Great America. We left the house around 1:30 or so, but by the time we went to her friend’s house and got passes for some of the kids (not all), and I took a road that veered south and added a good twenty minutes to the ride, it was about 3:15 when I dropped the kids off. I didn’t realize Great America closed at 6:00. I left my laptop at home. If I’d had it with me, I’d have answered these questions at the mall while I was waiting for the kids. If I’d had my Kindle, I’d have spent about $3.00 at a food court and read while I waited for the kids. I forgot both. I ended up going to a movie and spending way more than I planned. And I’m getting these questions out a day later than I planned as well. I am never leaving home without at least Kindle and probably my laptop again."


"You can erase any horrible experience from your past," I told her. "What will it be?"


"I realize that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and the alternative timeline might have gotten me mixed up in the Enron hassle, but in 1997 I was temping at Arthur Andersen Accounting and they asked if I would like to go permanent. I gave them my resume and was quite happy about it.


"Then my world fell apart with a phone call to my daughter. My eighteen-month-old grandson, Alex, was in the hospital. He had e-coli. I wanted to rush down to Mattoon, Illinois, to be there with them but she said not to come. It was December 17, so I went Christmas shopping. The next morning I called the hospital to see how he was and they said he wasn’t a patient there. I thought he’d gone home so I called my daughter’s apartment and her roommate said his kidneys had failed and they’d transferred him to the Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. I ran out of Arthur Andersen crying, and lost my job there. Although my co-workers did leave a Christmas card with a generous gift with my temp agency.


"E-coli destroys blood cells. They couldn’t put Alex on hemo-dialysis so they had to resort to a less-effective method called peritoneal dialysis. The peritoneum is the membrane that encloses the abdominal cavity. It is the most permeable membrane in the body. They fill the abdominal cavity with fluid that draws toxins out of the peritoneum and leave it in for about an hour, and then drain it. As I said, it’s not as efficient as hemo-dialysis. Toxins still built up in his blood.


"Before it was over, Alex spent a day in a vegetative state. His eyes were open, but he clearly was not there. That night (December 22), he had a grand-mall seizure and cardiac/respiratory arrest. They revived him and put him into a medically-induced coma. Over the next two days they replaced all of the plasma in his blood twice. On Christmas Eve they took him off the ventilator and he breathed on his home and on Christmas Day he gave us a teaspoon of urine. That turned out to be his only output for four months. I think it’s because I sat by his bed singing 'I’m Dreaming of a Wet Diaper,' and 'All I Want for Christmas is a Wet Diaper.'


"It is extremely rare for babies that age to survive hemolytic-uremic syndrome brought on by exposure to e-coli. They figured someone at Alex’s daycare didn’t wash their hands after they changed a dirty diaper, but they couldn’t prove it. Alex is fifteen now and still on medication and a restricted diet. He may still need a kidney transplant. If I could erase anything from my life, I would spare my grandson and our family that trauma."


Finally, I asked Rochelle, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"


"Don’t quit. Keep writing; keep honing your craft. Take courses and listen to your beta readers and your editors. PLEASE listen to your editors. No one’s baby is too precious to benefit from the advice of more experienced, wiser heads. If you really think your editor is off, get a second opinion. I recently reviewed a book in which every use of the plu-perfect tense had been removed. The author said her editor made her remove the word 'had' everywhere it occurred. I think that editor was a bit confused about the difference between legitimately using plu-perfect tense and passive voice. Meanwhile, she missed major continuity issues such as the sun setting about an hour after breakfast."


About the Author:Rochelle Weber is a Navy veteran and holds a BA in Communications from Columbia College in Chicago with an emphasis on creative writing. Her first novel, Rock Bound, is available at Create Space, Smashwords, Amazon and BN.com and the second book in the series Rock Crazy is available from MuseItUp Publishing. She edits the Marketing for Romance Writers Newsletter. Rochelle fights her own battle with bi-polar disorder, quipping, “You haven’t lived until you’ve been the only woman on the locked ward at the VA.” Her song, It’s Not My Fault, won a gold medal in the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition.


www.RochelleWeber.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

INTERVIEW: ANGELA ADAMS

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Angela Adams, whose short story "Burgers and Hot Chocolate" appears in Whimsical Publications anthology Winter Wonders. Angela Adams is actually her pen name—well, one of them.



"I have two pen names," she confessed. "I started using a pen name to write book reviews. Then I took a second name for fiction to separate the two. I was looking for something that was easy to say and remember, so I became Angela Adams."



Angela told me that she's kept a journal for as long as she can remember.



"English/Composition, now known in schools as Language Arts, was always my favorite subject," she remembered. "As far as starting to write to be published, I was a Liberal Arts major in college with a lot of English classes. I started submitting stories that I wrote for class to the small, literary magazines."



So, she admits she's been writing "many, many years." It's not so much a matter of what inspired her to write, it was a matter of who inspired—as in encouraged—her grandmother.



"At ten years old, I was writing short stories that were about two copybook pages long. There were no computers back then. I showed my grandmother a hand-written story about a young woman waiting to go to Hollywood to be an actress, and after the typical grandmotherly sentiments, she added, 'You need a typewriter.' She got me one that Christmas."



"When did you first consider yourself a writer?" I asked.



"Before transferring to the university in Vermont, I started classes at a local community college. The college had a writing contest each semester. My second year attending, I won for short fiction. So along with the accolades from friends, family, and professors came a check, all of which made me feel like a writer. I went on to sell that story several years later, but it was that initial recognition of winning the award that made me feel like a writer."



In recent years, Angela told me that she's become a big Robyn Carr and Susan Mallery fan, because she's all for that Happy Ever After ending.



"Plus, both these authors write characters who endear themselves to the reader," she explained. "I love Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, mostly because the place, Virgin River, leaves me nostalgic for the small town in Vermont where I went to college. This summer, after I read in a trade magazine that she had just signed to write nine more books in the series, I sat down and read each Virgin River book again, back to back. There was no waiting for the next book to be released since I only had to grab it off my shelf. I read all fifteen books in about two weeks. It was great, like watching a mini-series on television.



"Susan Mallery is another author who writes series. I love her Fool’s Gold series. Especially her third book, Finding Perfect, since we got to see the teenager from a previous series, Raoul Moreno, as an adult male/hero."



For Angela, the most important elements of good writing center around the central characters, or in romance—the hero and heroine.



"If the hero isn’t someone I can fall in love with and the heroine, not the co-worker I want to meet for lunch and swap stories about our lousy work day, then I’m not really interested in what happens to them in the story," she said. "I feel strongly that if readers care about the characters, they want to know what happens with them.



"And I’m not saying that I have to identify with the characters or their dilemmas. I have friends whose point of view I can’t understand. But they have other qualities that I admire. They’re supportive, honest, compassionate. Those are the traits I look for in my characters, both those I read and those I create."



Because of this, in her own writing, the characters always come first. She will figure out who they are, give them qualities and traits, then will say to herself, "Okay, if this should happen, what would he/she do?" In "Burgers and Hot Chocolate," Kelly was created first, then Will, and Theresa was last. Then, Angela mused over a situation that could bring them together.



I asked her to tell us a little bit about this latest project.



"I kind of have The Long and Short Reviews to thank for being involved with Whimsical Publications and this project. I view LASR and Whipped Cream websites weekly, always checking out the Thrifty Thursday Short Story and Author Interview. One week, I was clicking on the banner ads, and I saw Whimsical Publications’ notice that they were looking for short stories for a winter anthology.



"A collection of nine stories, Winter Wonders, was released on December 12th. Authors like Janet Durbin ("If Only"), Sharon Donovan ("Christmas Angel"), Regina Puckett ("Hearts of Fire"), and Melissa Hosack ("Saving Santa") have previous books with Whimsical. Also included in the anthology are S.M. Senden ("Till Death Do Us Part"), Paul McDermott, ("Long Winter"), Jenny Twist ("Mantequero"), Jane Wakely ("Christmas Hope"). The unique feature of this book is the variety. There’s a mixture of contemporary romance along with a melancholy tone and a bit of the paranormal.



"If I had to describe my story, "Burgers and Hot Chocolate", in one word, that word would be 'heartwarming'. Set during the holiday season, in the small coastal village of Magic Lake Island (I combined my fondness for small town Vermont with my love of the New Jersey shore), "Burgers and Hot Chocolate", is the story of a widower, his five-year-old daughter, and a volunteer in the elementary school’s After School Program.



"Will Keegan just doesn’t know how to let Theresa Reynolds know he’s interested in her. At the school’s holiday concert, little Kelly does her part to get her father’s message across."



Angela likes to listen to the radio when she's writing. Sometimes, a song she hears, the title, a line from the song, or whoever is singing will give her an idea for a story title. The radio is also useful in coming up with the names of her characters.



"I’m a big baseball fan, and several times while I’ve been listening to a game, the first name of the player who came up to bat became the name of my character," she shared.



She also listens to a lot of classic rock and the oldies.


"I was writing part of "Burgers and Hot Chocolate" when the Four Tops started singing and they ended up in my story (along with a few other of my favorites like The Supremes and The Beatles). I typed a line and said to myself, 'that works,'" she told me.



I asked her to tell us about her favorite character.



"My grandmother was a big reader and she would pass her paperbacks on to me. She gave me a book, when I was maybe 12 or 13, titled Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Published in the 1960s and set in pre-depression era New York, the heroine Annie McGairy Brown, comes to New York to be with her law student husband, Carl. They have little money, no friends, and are pretty much ostracized from their families for getting married so young. She also gets pregnant. Annie is a strong person who faces every challenge thrown her way with a positive disposition and confident outlook.



"Although this book was written over fifty years ago, Annie is exactly the type of heroine a writer wants to write and a reader wants to read no matter what the time period."

Monday, January 9, 2012

INTERVIEW: LAURA BRIGGS

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Laura Briggs here to talk with us about her latest releases, Ghosts of Romances Past, an inspirational romance from White Rose Publishing, Dear Miss Darcy, publishedand The Fairy Godmother's Apprentice, the third installment in Laura's The Dark Woods series.



"Ghosts of Romances Past is about a young woman whose imagination seems to be haunting her in the form of three dynamic women from her past– all of whom have opinions on why her love life is imperfect. As an indie author, my latest release is Dear Miss Darcy, a novel about a modern-day descendant of the Bennet-Darcy alliance who works as a love columnist at a London newspaper– and is hiding a secret about her own love life from everyone around her, including the playboy antagonist whose personal life may make or break her career. It's the first full-length romantic novel I've published as well as my first salute to Regency-themed literature."



Laura started loving books around junior high and checked out tons from the library, mostly mysteries like The Spotlight Club and the Brillstone books. A few years later, she started reading classics like Jane Eyre and The Last of the Mohicans because they seemed like books everyone should read.



"I ended up loving and re-reading most of them," she told me. "I wanted to write a story that had the same effect on someone else, the kind of book that invites a reader to come back to it again and again."



It's a tossup between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens for her favorite author.



"I love their intricate plots and the color and attention given to even the smallest characters," she explained. "And I really enjoy the thread of humor that runs through Austen’s novels and the fiery wit of the heroines. I also love the way she makes you think the story couldn’t possibly have a happy ending and then, somehow, she manages to pull it all together at the last moment."



In her own writing, Laura tends to lean towards popular story lines or scenarios that are "classics" in romance, but the ultimate criteria is how effective it sounds as a simple, one-line scenario. She likes to bounce ideas of close friends and family members.



"If the mere mention of a scenario produces the right reaction– such as a laugh or a smile– then I know this is a story I probably want to write," she said.



In nine out of ten cases, the plot will come first with her. She starts with a "what if" scenario—an adventurous proposition, an alternate path, a simple mistake– then she builds the story bigger. She's noticed that, for her, in most cases the characters will fall automatically into place, then she fleshes them out through plot development.



"If a role doesn't fill itself naturally, I often picture actors or characters from my favorite stories and try them out as possibilities who could be molded or cast as the part," she said.


She has recently read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King.



"It’s a fun take on Sherlock Holmes’s retirement period, with a spunky teenage girl replacing Watson as the sidekick. I spent last summer reading the bulk of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and since then I’ve gotten hooked on some of the new adaptations, like the BBC’s Sherlock and the Robert Downey Jr. Film," she told me. "I love classic crime and mystery books, including Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. In fact, I’d love to branch into the mystery genre for future works, though romance is primarily on the schedule for now."



"When did you first consider yourself a writer?" I wondered.



"That’s kind of hard to say, since I did a LOT of writing before I ever got a contract from a publishing company. While I was still in college, I worked on a few ideas for Contemporary Romances, submitting partials to contests for feedback. In between, I wrote freelance articles for different websites. Getting the contract for Only in Novels was a new kind of thrill, though. Even though it was only available in eBook format, it was so incredible to see its cover art and product page, and to know that it was for sale, competing with so many other books."



Only in Novels is set in a bookstore, as the heroine struggles to save her floundering business. And the hero– a famous adventure novelist– gets booked for a signing by mistake and ends up helping her.



"Of course, there are a ton of references to my favorite books and literary characters," Laura shared.



When she's not writing, Laura likes to read books ("lots of them," she admitted), and rewatch her favorite films. She also likes hunting antique or vintage copies of her favorite books at flea markets and spends some time doing "necessary" landscaping projects.



"A lot of my non-writing time is spent paving the way for other writing-related projects, such as book trailers, promotional ideas, drafting submission letters, etc.," she said.



Most of the readers she hears from come in the form of reviews on Amazon or other sites, but she does have a blog and a Facebook page for fans to visit, www.paperdollwrites.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/authorlaurabriggs, where she posts book trailers, deleted scenes, and interactive things like polls or giveaways. She also creates fan pages for current book series.



On a personal note, Laura told me that her strangest habit is probably her tendency to clean things when she's frustrated--scrubbing sinks, sweeping floors, tackling mold and mildew.



"Strange, I know, since most people feel less enthusiasm for cleaning when they're upset," she said, "but it's the first habit I turn to when I'm feeling stressed."



Her favorite animal is probably cats.


"I’ve had a lot of them through the years, and I find that they’re just as affectionate as dogs, but in a low-key sort of way. They have such unique personalities and little quirks too. And I love their strong sense of independence."



Finally, I asked, "Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke? If so, which do you prefer?"



"I’ve always thought that Pepsi tasted a lot stickier and sweeter than Coke. I love a good, ice cold Coke on summer days or with a juicy hamburger on the side. Although, I don’t really drink sodas all that often, " she admitted with a laugh. "I probably don’t even have one per week now that I’m no longer a college student with an endless supply from the cafeteria soda dispenser."



About the Author: Laura Briggs graduated from a small liberal arts college in Missouri with a degree in English. She is an author of both indie and traditionally published fiction, including the CAPA award nominated Only in Novels.



http://www.paperdollwrites.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 6, 2012

INTERVIEW: LAURA PEDERSEN

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Laura Pedersen, who is with us to promote her newest release Fool's Mate, which was published in October 2011. Laura lives in New York City and teaches at the Booker T. Washington Learning Center in East Harlem.


Set in the adrenaline-pumping world of television journalism, Fool's Mate introduces readers to Josie Kincaid, a 28-year old talented, aggressive and street-smart journalist at a cable news network. Laura told me that it's "a newsroom rom-com. This genre is not unknown to us, but in the past I always found that a man played the clever, witty, rogue reporter who knows what's really going on and is prepared to use unorthodox methods to prove it. I thought it would be fun to let a woman have that role, and also include more emphasis on politics versus morality."


She's always enjoyed telling stories in an attempt to make people laugh (in the process, disrupting class was a secondary plus), so writing them down was a logical progression. She won a number of essay contests in middle-school and high school. A number of her stories have also won contests run by magazines and literary journals, but her first book was published when she was 24.


"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I wondered. "If so, what do you do about it?"


"Usually it's because I'm facing a problem of getting characters from A to B, or working out the ending of a book, and in that case I try to muscle through the trouble spot. However, I think sometimes that writer's block means the project isn't viable or else your heart isn't in it and you should reconsider."


When she is stuck on a plot problem or title, she has a unique way of solving it—she goes rollerblading.


Laura has a book of humorous travel essays on India coming out next July, called Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws. Her particular area of interest was how women and children are faring with all the social economic changes underway as opposed to the usual yoga and meditation route.


"I'm too hyper for that," she admitted. "Maybe a toe ring would work."


In her own reading, Laura's usually in the middle of more than one book. Recently she was reading Will Rogers by Richard E. White, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson, The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove, Must You Go? by Antonia Fraser, and Rome by Robert Hughes. Her favorite author is Nora Ephron because her work is smart, funny, and well-crafted. She also enjoys humor based on experiences so she's been encouraged by the popularity of work by Bill Bryson, P.J. O'Rourke, Erma Bombeck, Betty MacDonald, and Carol Batrus. You can find a list of her favorite funny books by women at http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com/Funny-Books-Written-by-Women/643.


"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked.


"A good title is difficult to find and I'm not good at coming up with them. The hardest thing is knowing that you don't have it yet and to just keep trying. Johnny Carson once said about having a talk show that you'll eventually use everything you've ever knew. The same is true of wracking your brain for a title -- take the Bible, poetry, expressions, cliches, song lyrics, Shakespeare, etc., dump it all in the mind blender and turn to high."


On a more personal note, Laura told me that she always wants more dogs—she currently has three, but said, "It's not nearly enough, but I can't find a larger bed than a king."


"Do you have any strange handwriting habits?"


"I'm a lefty, what they like to call a 'pusher' (as opposed to a 'hooker'), so my handwriting is basically a mess and I just aim for legibility," she explained. "I tend to mix cursive and print from word to word or even letter to letter, which is strange and probably means I'm repressing some horrific childhood memories. On the bright side, had I been born ten years earlier the nuns would've tied my left hand behind a chair and I'd be a damaged righty right now."


She wouldn't want to erase any horrible experience from her past because, as she told me, " In the writing biz every bad experience is more material."


Laura's heritage is Danish and Black Irish—"The two reasons I've never had a drink of alcohol," she told me. In fact, she only drinks water.


Sayings that she uses a lot include "See you on the ice" (she's from Buffalo) and "Stir your stumps" (when she tells the kids she teaches when they need to get up and get moving).


"Also, we Irish like to say, 'Give us the tune you sang at your mother's wedding,'" she told me, and her dad's favorite saying when asked "How are you?" was to respond, "I got up this morning."


"If you could wish for anything, what would it be?" I asked.


"Don't we all wish for the same --- world peace and a TV channel devoted to rhythmic gymnastics?"


Finally, I asked Laura, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"


"Many people ask for writing info and since I really do want to offer the best advice I have to offer I've collected the info on my web site at http://www.laurapedersenbooks.com/author/interview6.asp."




About the Author: Laura Pedersen grew up Buffalo, New York; she now lives in New York City. Laura's first novel, Going Away Party, won the Three Oaks Prize for Fiction and her second novel, Beginner's Luck, was selected for Barnes & Noble's "Discover Great New Writers" program. Best-known for her award-winning series featuring Hallie Palmer (Beginner's Luck, et. al.) and nonfiction books about Buffalo from Fulcrum Publishing (Buffalo Gal and Buffalo Unbound), Pedersen’s trademark wit and colorful characters are front and center in her latest novel, Fool's Mate. To read more about the author, visit www.LauraPedersenBooks.com.