Beginning January 1, 2013

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Monday, September 24, 2012

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: REBECCA ROGERS MAHER

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes back Rebecca Rogers Maher, who visited with us back in May when Snowbound with a Stranger, the second book in her Recovery Trilogy from Carina Press, was released. Today she's with us to talk about Fault Lines, the third and final installment of the trilogy.

Fault Lines is a realistic and quite painful story about a woman recovering from childhood sexual abuse. Ultimately, however, it's a story of courage and personal triumph with a strong romance at the core.

Rebecca was inspired to write because of frustration. She had wanted to be a writer when she was a child, but somehow she got sidetracked.

"I think I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, or I didn’t feel entitled to put myself forward as a creative person. I felt a lot more comfortable doing community and service work, where I could stay behind the scenes and help other people. The problem was, I still had all this creative energy inside, and after fifteen years or so of tamping it down, I started feeling overwhelmed," she said. "I began writing again just to give myself an outlet, and then once I started I couldn’t seem to stop. It just felt…better."

She really wasn't prepared for how good it would feel, however. Before she started writing, she knew she felt kind of thwarted, but wasn't sure why.

"To paint a visual picture, I was kind of like a fire hydrant with the cap off, with all this pressure and energy gushing out. Except that I was always trying to hold a cap over that energy, to hold it in, because I felt like it would drown everyone close to me if I let it out. I didn’t realize how exhausting that was, and frankly, how sad it made me. When I started writing I was able to take the cap off for real and just let it fly, and that felt so incredibly good, like such a relief, that now I can’t stop," she told me. "I often wonder how many woman feel like this. We spend so much of our time taking care of other people and not even asking ourselves what we want and need, and we end up with a great deal of sadness and frustration. I hope all of us can find an outlet for our creative/emotional/intellectual energy, because it’s just a happier, saner way to live."

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

"This has been said before, but what matters most to me is how much I care about the characters. They don’t have to perfect or even likeable—in fact, the best characters are not—but they do have to be deeply drawn. You could have the most original plot in the world, but if I don’t care what happens to the person who’s being dragged through that plot, it’s just not worth reading. Think of Tyrion in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I would follow that guy anywhere. I’ve followed him through thousands of pages of story so far, and I still want more. To me, good writing goes deep into the human heart. That’s just endlessly fascinating and worth reading about."

Rebecca's favorite fictional character is Jane Eyre. She's read the book once a year since she was sixteen and every time, she learns something new about Jane—about her trauma, her faith, her courage, her many faults and incredible dignity.

"She is a real and living person for me, and that is magical," she explained.

It's also one of the books that has influenced her thinking, along with Moby Dick, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, The Grapes of Wrath, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and all the work of Margaret Atwood.

"Also, strangely, a book called Collapse by Jared Diamond, about what causes civilizations to fall apart," she added. "In the romance world, I feel most inspired by Lisa Kleypas and Loretta Chase. Again, I don’t write like any of these wonderful authors, but the ideas in these books have really shaped my way of seeing the world, and that has had a big influence on the way I write."

"How do you do research for your books?" I wondered.

"It depends on how much I know about a topic and whether I can find out what I don’t know online or if I need to talk to a human being. For Snowbound with a Stranger, I could easily find what I needed to know about bears and the Adirondacks on the internet. For I’ll Become the Sea, I interviewed some wonderful people from the Maryland Parole Commission. In my latest release, Fault Lines, I interviewed a wedding planner to learn more about what that job entails. Sometimes it’s specific details that I need, but more often it’s an overall tone or feeling, and I just keep digging around until I think I’ve got a sense of it."

Rebecca tends to write short and to write about deeply emotional issues that hopefully end with healing. She keeps her writing unique by staying true to her own vice and dealing with issues that personally move or interest her. She reads a lot outside the genre she writes in—all of that, coupled with her academic background, keeps her voice different from other romance writers.

"Have you ever eaten a crayon?" I asked.

"I have never eaten a crayon, but when I was in elementary school I did hatch a plan to eat my school bus. Every day I’d take another tiny bite of rubber off the back of the seat in front of me and then calculate how long it would take to consume the entire bus that way. I figured it would take a long time. But it was a decent strategy that I still use today in many areas of my life. One bite at a time." About the Author:
Rebecca Rogers Maher is the author of Snowbound with a Stranger, the second book in the Recovery series (Carina Press). The first—I’ll Become the Sea—was released in 2010, and the final installment—Fault Lines—comes out on September 24, 2012. Rebecca lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and children.

Find the author online at:

www.RebeccaRogersMaher.com
www.twitter.com/RebeccaRMaher
www.facebook.com/AuthorRebeccaRogersMaher



Sarah Murphy plans other people's weddings. She's gorgeous and successful, but she also carries a dark secret.

At one of her events, she meets Joe Sullivan, a sexy photographer with a difficult past of his own. When he snaps a rare unguarded photograph of her and captures the real person hiding behind the facade, she feels exposed. To restore the upper hand, she tries to do what she always does: use sex to defuse the situation.

While Joe is eager to deepen his relationship with Sarah, he's aware of her emotional shield and the way she disconnects from her body. Seeing her at her most vulnerable doesn't scare him off, but he needs to know what she's hiding.

Sarah has a tough decision to make. Does she want to go on living a lonely, emotionally frozen life? Or can she finally risk revealing the truth and move forward with Joe?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

INTERVIEW: STEVEN MANCHESTER

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Steven Manchester whose newest book Twelve Months is now available. He will be giving one random commenter on today's interview a paperback copy of the book.

His next book, Goodnight, Brian, is scheduled for release in December. A healthy baby is poisoned with toxic soy formula, causing permanent brain damage. When the doctors say that he’ll never develop normally, his grandmother sets out to prove them wrong…and does. Faith and unconditional love are what make the difference. What she doesn’t expect, however, is that her grandson will return the favor. Mama always said that, “Love can move mountains, make miracles – but it has to be a pure love, unconditional and driven.” And, as she always knew, the doctors were wrong. Love expected miracles.

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

"It was 1991 and I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, 'The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?' He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, 'There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.' He smiled again and dropped the bomb. 'If you’re so smart,' he said, 'why don’t you write it?' Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer."

The characters always come first to Steven when he's working on a book.

"If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you," he told me. "Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I’ve grown to love and hate. And if you don’t feel that for your characters, then your readers won’t, either. When I'm completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters. Again, beware that you don't lose touch with reality."

The hardest part of writing for Steven is time. First and foremost, he's a dad and his children always come first. Then there are other responsibilities that need his attention. However, his passion for writing always gnawed at his soul.

"To overcome the obstacle of time, I made writing a priority over watching TV and sometimes even sleeping," he said. "Once my family is taken care of and the world closes its eyes, I’m up for a few more hours each day – chasing my dreams on paper."

Some of the writers who have influenced his writing are Stephen King (his discipline). Nicholas Sparks, Nicholas Evans, Mitch Albom, Harper Lee (who he thinks penned perfection when she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I asked.

"Honestly, I don’t believe in writer’s blocks—though I understand that they’re quite real when perceived as such. True story: I have a friend—let’s call him Jack. Anyway, he phoned me one night complaining that he was agonizing over a terrible writer’s block. 'How does your story end?' I asked him and he went on to explain the ending in detail. 'Good,' I said, 'so write the ending and then all you have to do is fill in the middle.' He did just that. The lesson is this: Most books aren’t written from point A to point Z. If you get stuck at a certain crossroad, begin to write a passage from a different point in the book. This maintains momentum and confidence (if lost, the two causes of a perceived block). Again, I write novels like creating complicated word puzzles—only to put it all together in the end in order to paint the grandest picture I can. Do whatever works for you, but keep moving. The last thing you want is for a story to go cold on you. You could risk losing the passion, if you wait too long to finish it. "

"Do you hear from your readers much?" I asked.

"I do--and I love it. Most want to share their reaction to my work, and let me know how the book moved them. The very best fan letter I ever received was from a teenager in lock-up who read some of my work and said that he was inspired to turn his life around. I'm still hopeful."

When Steven is writing, he puts on a CD of soft rock and loops it, so it plays over and over in the background like white noise, because he finds it helps drown out distractions.

Finally I asked, "What advice do you have for a new writer just starting out?"

"Be true to yourself, always. Write constantly. Keep the faith!!! And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done. Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness. "

About the Author:
Steven Manchester is the published author of Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. Visit Steven at his website, www.StevenManchester.com

or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/AuthorStevenManchester



Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full. A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, Twelve Months is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.
Buy the book:

Paperback & Kindle:http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Months-Steven-Manchester/dp/161188053X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343826594&sr=1-1&keywords=twelve+months+manchester
Nook:http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twelve-months-steven-manchester/1111526739?ean=9781611880533
eBook: http://www.booku.com/Twelve-Months/Steven-Manchester/ebook_989303.htm

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

SHORT STORY: ALWAYS A DAY AWAY

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Always a Day Away
By
Nancy Goldberg Levine


“Dear Dad:
It’s September 11, and I’m up early. I’m going to take the dog for a walk. So much has happened since that day when you and Mom were killed in the Twin Towers in New York. I guess you know that Aunt Maddy married Ty Lowenstein (so now he’s Uncle Ty) and that I graduated with honors from Walnut Hills High School, then UC, and am now gainfully employed as a substitute teacher at my alma mater, Walnut Hills. They’re having a memorial concert there later and I’m singing 'Tomorrow,' from the musical Annie because I know how much Mom loved that show. I know you loved the Beatles, but I couldn’t think of the right song to sing and I didn’t want to remind everyone of the song I sang the last time I was on the Walnut Hills High stage…”

I stopped writing the latest of the letters I’d been writing to my dad since he’d died in the 9/11 attacks. Sidney, my French bulldog, was already waiting at the front door. When Sydney and I got outside, I shivered with the chill in the air. I inhaled the cool scent of fall in the inner city as North Avondale in Cincinnati slowly started to wake up. Eleven years ago, I was a sophomore in high school in New York, and suddenly, that whole life was swept away in an instant. My Aunt Maddy got custody of me, and I came to live in Cincinnati. I hadn’t exactly made her life easy, acting out by singing a song with curse words in at a high school concert, shoplifting, stealing one of my aunt’s funeral home limos and driving it, and ending up in a sanitarium for almost a year while I straightened out all the grief and loss issues about my parents. But I’d turned out all right. I had a few more hours before I had to get ready for the remembrance and concert. I would meet Aunt Maddy and Uncle Ty at the high school later, so I walked down the streets and looked at the huge, old houses that lined them. I was so intent on my walk that I didn’t pay attention and almost collided with a man.

“I’m sorry,” I said, as Sidney bounded up to inspect the stranger. “I wasn’t watching where I was going…” My words trailed off as I realized that this man was no stranger. “Hey, Joss.”

“Brie? Brie Jackson?”

“Yep -- it’s me.”

“What are you doing in this neck of the woods?” he asked.

“I live here,” I said, nodding my head toward the courtyard across the street, that was surrounded by condos.

“This is your aunt’s old place, right?”

“Yeah. She got married, and I’m renting the place from her. What are you doing here?”

“I was just going to have breakfast at Sugar ’n Spice,” Joss said. “I live in St. Bernard, and I was taking a walk, like you and…want to have breakfast with me? We can catch up on old times.”

“Okay, as soon as I drop Sidney off at the condo.”

Interesting, I thought, as I let Sidney in, and went back outside to see Joss. He’d been my boyfriend when we were at Walnut Hills, but we’d lost touch when he’d gone off to college, and I’d stayed in Cincinnati. Long distance romances were hard, and at the time, I hadn’t really been too thrilled with making any kind of effort toward love, long-distance or not. I still hadn’t forgotten the crazy stuff I’d done over my major crush, Chad Preston, and I did not want that to happen to me again. Ever.

I’d forgotten how soulful those grey-green eyes were. His hair was wavy, and the color of midnight. I’d forgotten how good-looking he was, but I remembered fast when I followed him into the restaurant. He was tall, and so was I, so we’d been a good fit.

Sugar ’n Spice was a diner-type restaurant that had been in Cincinnati for about a hundred years. Surprisingly, I was starving. I guess Joss was, too. We both got omelets and pancakes. He remembered how I’d lost my parents in the 9/11 attacks. He caught me up on his own life, and I learned that he’d gone to the Culinary Institute of New York, and was now a chef at Cincinnati’s Chops and Chocolate, downtown. I remember that he’d always been a pretty good cook. He’d made his own lunches when we were in school and they were always special. If he had a peanut butter sandwich, it was on bread he’d made himself. And there were always great desserts, like dark chocolate brownies.

“I always wanted to e-mail you or something,” I said. “I thought about getting your e-mail address from your mom, but I…”

“I know,” Joss said, covering my hand with mine. “Those high school relationships never work out anyway.”

I told him about teaching at my alma mater and about the concert today.

“I was invited to the remembrance in New York,” I said. “But I just couldn’t go there. The concert is going to be hard enough. I’m afraid I’ll cry all through the song I’m singing. I guess that’s better than singing a song with curse words all through it.”

“You did that?” Joss said, leaning closer as if he wanted to hear the story.

“Yes,” I muttered, looking down at Sugar ’n Spice’s tile floor. “My dad used to play a song when he was mad by the group The Headcoatees. I sang it in the talent show, and my life took a downward turn from there.”

“ ‘Nuff said.” We sat there in that booth for a few minutes, not saying a word. Then he smiled at me, and I realized that he got me. He’d gotten me in high school, and he got me now.

“:Listen, Brie,“ he said. “Would you like an old friend to go to the concert with you? I’d love to hear you sing, and maybe it would be easier to get through the songs?”
,br> I’d been thinking that I’d like that, but I hadn’t said anything. If I asked him, he might have said “no.” But he was the one doing to asking. Like I said, he got me. “That would be great.”

“Okay. What time does the concert start?”

I told him and he said he’d pick me up in an hour.

We arrived at Walnut Hills, and I greeted my Aunt Maddy and Uncle Ty. After introductions, Aunt Maddy hugged me and told me how proud my mom and dad would be of everything I’d done.

I wanted to cry, but not in front of Joss. Besides, he’d promised to keep me from crying.

“I guess I’d better get backstage.”

I went back to the familiar auditorium, where I’d made my short-lived “debut” ten years ago. I heard Joss’s footsteps behind me. “Just thought I’d give you some moral support.”

“Thanks,” I said, taking his hand when he offered it. It was a simple gesture; nothing romantic, but it made me feel so much better. I saw Aunt Maddy’s friend, Dina, who would be playing the piano for some of the singers in the program, including me.

Several grads sang “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” and the choir sang a song from Annie about New York. Then it was my turn.

The song went by fast, but I heard Joss and Dina applauding like crazy. Much different from the last time I’d sung on this stage.

“You’ve got a great voice!” Joss said. Aunt Maddy and Uncle Ty were threading through the crowd to congratulate me, but I was trying to concentrate on Joss, and thinking about my mom and dad. “I know this day’s all about remembering the past,” he said. “but I’d like to be part of your future again…if you don’t mind.”

“This time I think I’m ready,” I said. “If you don’t mind dating somebody who sings songs with curse words in them, and who stole a limo, and …”

“Brie,” Joss said. “I get you. I like you. And I want to get to know you better.”

About the Author:Nancy Goldberg Levine is the author of one contemporary romance and more than sixty short stories. She is also the author of “Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny,” which tells the story of how Jay and Reese met, and “Mr. Tall, Tan…& Tasteless,” the story of Jay’s sister and his best friend (based on Nancy and her husband, the late Jonathan Andrew Levine). Hopefully, these books will be available as e-books later this fall. Visit this website for more information: http://fantasiafrogdesigns.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/latest-design-nancy-goldberg-levine/

Monday, September 10, 2012

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: RAQUEL BYRNES

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Raquel Byrnes, whose latest book Bayou Blue, the third book in the Shades of Hope series, was released August 31st. Raquel will be giving a paperback copy of this book to one randomly drawn commenter on this interview.

I asked her to tell us something about the book we wouldn't learn from the blurb.

"Riley Drake, the heroine in Bayou Blue, drives Jake crazy. Not only in the sense that she’s beautiful and smart, but she is also making decisions that defy logic in his mind. He thinks she’s the strongest person he’s ever met and that’s saying a lot in his world," she answered.

Raquel was determined to get the cuisine right for this story—it's set in the snaking waterways of Louisiana and takes place in a few local cafes and home kitchens. To make sure she got the food spot on, she sought out and ate meals that included alligator hush puppies and crawfish gumbo.

"Both of which are quite yummy, by the way," she assured me.

Raquel is working on a new Gothic romance series that she admits has been a lot of fun to write. In the series, The Noble Island Mysteries, the setting and characters are edgier and darker than some of her other works, with unexplained happenings that add to the suspense. The first book in the series, Whispers of Shadow Bay is scheduled for release in January 2013.

"How long have you been writing?" I asked.

"I’ve been writing for about a decade now. I started off with scenes scribbled in a black and white composition book when I should have been taking Biology notes. From that I took creative writing courses in college, workshops at conferences, and whatever else I could do to learn more about the craft of storytelling."

In addition to being a writer, Raquel is a homeschooling mom, so most of her day is taken up with, she said, "sugar cube pyramid projects and spelling tests. I start to write when the kids go to bed around 8:30 and write until 1:30 or so. It worked out well for me that I am a night owl."

She's a plotter, through and through, she admitted, as well as being a list maker, outline lover, and a plot block constructor. She starts out with a legal pad of paper and ends up with a filled three-ring binder.

To develop her plots and characters, she tends to use the Snow Flake method.

"One sentence to one paragraph and so on to pull the initial idea out to a complete story," she explained. "After I have an idea of what is going to happen, I try to think of the worst type of personality to deal with the situation I’ve created. If I have a circumstance that requires finesse, then my main character may end up being someone that struggles with a temper or who is terrified of being made to look foolish. Usually the plot and the characters push each other along. A plot point might tweak a character in an unexpected direction, whose reaction changes the course of the story from where I thought it was going. The two are intertwined from the beginning."

The characters are very important—they must resonate with the reader, she told me.

"As a reader myself, if I really care about the character or am just morbidly curious, I’ll go along for the ride of the entire book," she said. "To that end, I have to see some sort of change or growth in the main guy or girl. There has to be a reason for everything that happened in the story for me."

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

"When writer’s block hits me, I usually go straight to movie trailers. I know that may seem strange, but I find it works wonders for me. There’s something about the drama and music thrown together to hook an audience in just a few seconds. On top of that, trailers are perfect packages of the who, what, and what will happen if…Those are the three questions I usually try to have down cold before I begin a book. When I get stuck, I try to imagine what my book’s movie trailer might look like."

She also likes to listen to movie soundtracks that have the right ambience for whatever scene she's writing.

"For instance, I love my chase scenes to have a techno drive, while my more suspenseful ones to roll along with the deep string sounds of bayou music from a scary movie," she explained. "I also have special 'romantic' music from my favorite films to inspire my writing."

She was very influenced by mystery authors Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime novels, and Dashiell Hammett. Another favorite is John Sandford .

"He takes up much too much room in my Kindle," she told me. "His Prey novels are a great mix of complex characters and powder keg situations. His dialogue gets me cracking up all the time. I’ve learned a lot from reading his cop dramas. Their cat and mouse finesse can be suited for a number of genres and he’s never disappointing."

"How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in the romance genre?" I wondered.

"Well, I think we all have something special to bring to the tables because our individual experiences color our work. For me, I started out writing action thrillers and I still have a taste for that edge of your seat feel. My romances are fast paced with lots of exciting twists and turns. I guess you can’t take the car chase out of the writer after all."

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

"I think I would be less frantic about it. I was under the impression that time was slipping away when I really should have just enjoyed the journey. Meeting with other people that have a passion for the written word has been a huge blessing whether they were fellow writers or readers. I’d stop and smell the literary roses as it were."

About the Author:
Raquel has written books for more than a decade. She loves to do research and has taken private detective courses, gun classes, and underground tours to get every detail right for her novels. She writes romantic suspense with an edge-of-your-seat pace. Stories filled with faith, love, and adventure.

Raquel married her college sweetheart seventeen years ago and you can still find them spending time together chatting over a cup of coffee like when they were first dating. Her husband is her biggest fan and most ardent supporter. He encourages her to take time for writing as often as he can. He regularly gives her gift cards to her favorite coffee house so that she can go there to write and relax. He has been known to whip up his famous chicken quesadillas complete with guacamole and brownies for dessert.

Raquel has six children ranging from 15 to 4 years old, with her youngest two barely 9 months apart. She has said that adopting was the most amazing blessing she could have ever hoped for. She homeschools her children and finds herself working amid sugar cube pyramid projects and science fair experiments. When she isn't foraging her kitchen for project parts or giving spelling tests, she is writing or researching her novels. Raquel calls it controlled chaos and she loves it.

Find Raquel online at

Twitter: @raquelbyrnes
Blog: http://nitewriter6.blogspot.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/RaquelByrnes



Caught between revenge and redemption...

Sheriff Jake Ayers wants his parish to heal from the tragic bombing that left his town in mourning, but with Riley Drake back in town, that’s not going to happen. Jake cares for the beautiful, determined reporter, but Riley is causing no end of trouble. Most of the people want her dead. Emotions run deep in the bayou, and Jake’s are no exception. Keeping a level head and an indifferent heart is going to be as difficult as keeping Riley alive.

With her family shamed, and her faith shaken, Riley carries a heavy burden. She returns to Bayou La Foudre Parish to clear her brother’s name, but her mission is difficult. The people of the town are convinced of his guilt, and her only ally is Jake Ayers. Both frustrated and fascinated by the parish’s brooding sheriff, Riley hopes she's found someone to trust with her burden…and her heart.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: RACHEL BRIMBLE

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Rachel Brimble whose latest Victorian romance Love's Debt has just been released. Rachel will give one randomly drawn commenter on today's interview a copy of the book.

Rachel has written ten novels and two novellas, stretching over three genres of mainstream contemporary, contemporary romantic suspense, and Victorian historical.

"My characters dictate where and when their story will be told – I have no control over that! For a long time, my favorite was The Arrival of Lily Curtis because it was my first historical and my best received book. Plus an absolute joy to write! Lily came to me fully formed; she’s fantastic. Having said that, my new favorite is the romantic suspense that I recently signed with Harlequin Superromance – this book gave me SUCH trouble when I was writing it but clearly the angst paid off!"

Rachel has just finished book two in what she hopes will follow her recent signing with Harlequin and is now working on book three. It's a romantic suspense trilogy which is set in a fictional UK seaside town called Templetopn Grove.

The second book was inspired by Rachel's own life—when she and her family were caught up in the French floods in 2010—they were rescued by helicopter from a hotel roof.

Rachel always wanted to be a writer. Her first influence was Enid Blyton whose books she devoured, then she moved on to Judy Blume.

"I wrote lots of stories that were abandoned and forgotten and then when I was sixteen I thought I would be a journalist but I just never committed myself to it as I should have. Oh, the regrets!," she exclaimed. "I moved on to work in a bank for the next ten years until I married and got pregnant with my eldest daughter. When daughter number two came along, that’s when I decided to get serious. By the time she started school in 2006, I had finished Searching For Sophie and it was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2007. The rest is history!"

She's a stay-at-home mom so she has to work around the kids, but as they are getting older she has more and more time to call her own. She's at the computer by 9 AM, Monday to Friday, and works straight through with lunch at her desk until 2:30 PM. After she picks up the kids from school, her time is spent on chores and running the kids places before she starts dinner.

"I tend to sneak back and forth to the computer in between and until 7pm, then I switch off. Family time is reserved for the evenings," she told me. "How much I work on the weekends depends on the kids and any plans we have as a family – if nothing is planned, hubby and the kids know where to find me!"

Rachel's favorite author is Nora Roberts.

"I know some say her books are very much alike but I don’t agree with that at all. Every time I pick up one of her books I know I am in for a great story and memorable characters. Her style is what I love and the fact her characters feel so real – no matter how many I read, I still can’t work out how she brings everything together so well and seemingly effortlessly. She is a huge inspiration to me—and so damn prolific!"

In her own writing, Rachel usually starts with a premise—an idea, or more often then not, she'll hear a character's voice in her head.

"They tell me their problem or I imagine a situation and I go from there. The first thing I do is write a two to three page synopsis to get the idea clear in my head. Then I write character sketches for my hero and heroine – that usually establishes the plot conflict and the romantic conflict. Then I write! The first draft is written from start to finish – draft two is sorting out the problems and inconsistencies. The initial synopsis is tweaked throughout draft one so when I finish the novel, my synopsis is pretty much ready. It works for me!"

It's very hard for Rachel to come up with her titles, and it always surprises when she's complimented on them because they are such a struggle for her. She's only had two of her titles changed by her publisher out of eight releases--Searching for Sophie was originally "Saving Sophie" and Reluctant Witness was "Witnesses to Murder"—her first two novels.

"What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?" I wondered.

"That it’s hard to write books," she answered with a laugh. "I’m serious. Lots of people say they want to write but never actually finish a novel…or even a novella. Every story is a challenge. For me, it doesn’t get any easier the more I write. Plotting is my weakness and I usually hit the ‘sagging middle’ around 35,000 words and wondered what I’m going to do because the whole story seems rubbish! Writing is hard – that’s what I’ve discovered BUT I have to do it. Writing is a compulsion. I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else." When it comes to research, for her contemporary novels there's not much involved.

"I think the advantage of writing romance over other genres like crime, is the stories are based in emotion. As a writer, I only need to dig deep inside myself to get that emotion the romance reader expects onto the page," she explained. "We’ve all experienced heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal or helplessness, just as we have joy, hope, love and happiness. The plots tend to come from something I need to say or something I have seen or heard that I know will touch people."

For her historical, she uses the internet and her ever-growing shelf of Victorian non-fiction to get ideas flowing. She's fortunate enough to live in the UK, so for her Victorian romances, she sets them in Bath, Bristol, or—for her next one—the Cotswolds.

"I live within an hour drive of all of these gorgeous, richly historical places and take huge advantage that they are right on my doorstep. As I write for the US market, a lot of my fellow romance writers have to use internet/book research for their settings and its history – whereas I can take a notebook and pen, disappear for the day and the time be completely validated. I hope that I’ve actually been to the places comes across in my stories. I’m a lucky girl!" she admitted with a smile.

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

"Write—and keep writing! The only way to learn this craft is by practice and discovering what you love and what works for you. Join as many of the fabulous online groups as you can and talk to other writers. Money is tight for everyone, so choose one or two online courses every six months or so and learn an aspect of the craft. Point of view, plot, dialogue – they all need to be studied because until you master these things, you are going to receive rejections no matter how good your idea. Most important of all – believe in yourself! So many people view writing as ‘a hobby’ or ‘a dream’. If you want this, treat it as a job and put the hours in – there is no other way."

About the Author:
Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. She started writing short stories about eight years ago but once her children were at school, she embarked on her first novel. It was published in 2007. Since then, she’s had several books published with The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press and Lyrical Press. She acquired a US agent in March 2011. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, Rachel hopes to have a further three novels, one mainstream contemporary, one romantic suspense and one Victorian contracted in 2012.

When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England. And in the evening? Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused…

Find Rachel online at

www.RachelBrimble.com
http://rachelbrimble.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Brimble/181873201887441
Twitter: @rachelbrimble



To keep herself from the depths of poverty, Milly Shepherd needs to be appointed manager of the Red Lion Tavern. The elderly owner is in failing health and has promised her the job permanently if no one more suitable applies. Milly will fight with her entire being to make the job her own.

Joseph Jacobs needs to supplement his income to pay off his father’s creditors and save him from debtor’s prison. Though the job as manager of the local tavern looks promising, Milly is favored by both the owner and customers. Instead, Joseph swallows his pride and agrees to tend bar.

As they work together, their attraction grows, their goals cross, and both Millie and Joseph find they must face their fears …the question is whether they face them alone or together?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

INTERVIEW: NORAH WILSON

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Norah Wilson whose latest book Every Breath She Takes releases today. Norah will give one lucky commenter the choice between an electronic box set of her Serve and Protect series (3 books) or her Vampire Romances (2 books) in the e-format of their choice. If the winner prefers print, they can received their choice of a print copy of the first book of either series.

Every Breath She Takes is actually a reissue of her award-winning Lauren's Eyes, a western-set, sensual romantic suspense with paranormal elements. Norah had set out, quite cynically, to write a cowboy story after her police detective romantic suspense novels couldn't find a buyer.

"At the time, the collective wisdom was that cowboys, babies and brides sold. Well, I couldn’t write babies or brides if I had a gun to my head, so I settled on cowboys. Looking back, it makes my laugh how cynical I was about the decision. You know what’s coming next, right? As I started to research my subject, I fell in love with cowboys, and in particular, my hero. It may have started as a calculating exercise, but it finished as a labor of love," she admitted. "Here’s something else you won’t read elsewhere. I tried selling this story to the category market. I got a nice rejection that praised the writing, but highlighted a number of reasons why it wasn’t right for that market, including sexual elements they found 'disturbing'. Wha? My nice vanilla romance? After I had time to absorb that, I decided I had to go after the single title market. And I took those 'disturbing' sexual elements and ran with them. If that element made it 'wrong' for the category market, perhaps it would make it 'right' for the ST market. It did."

Norah literally grew up reading romances. She was reading at an early age and after she had consumed all the Nancy Drew books and the boy's adventure books, there wasn't anything left in her house to read except romances.

"I don’t think anyone realized I could actually read and thought it was cute," she said with a laugh. "I can’t tell you how many words I came to understand from the context but had no idea how to pronounce (impetuous, arrogant, etc.). I continued reading romance through adulthood, although I turned to spicier stuff than my mother read. Finally, at about age 30, after another particularly disappointing read, I decided that Icould write a better romance than that author. I then set about trying. What I learned was that it took a whole lot more skill than I then possessed to write even a bad romance. I think my apprenticeship was about 10 years long!"

She admits that those first ten years could almost be thrown out because she made every mistake in the book.

"A good romance is practically seamless. When you’re immersed in it, you should barely be able to see the author at work. My early efforts were Frankenstein-ish," she admitted, shuddering.

Norah is currently working on a romantic suspense proposal, but she wanted to keep that under wraps for right now. She preparing to release, however, a number of YA paranormal titles with her writing partner Heather Doherty.

"This series (The Casters) is so amazing! We believe in it so much, we splashed out for PhatPuppy covers for the whole series. We also have a third installment to our self-published Dix Dodd Mystery ready to go, but our agent is shopping it to a few key publishers. I cannot wait to get it out there! It’s so funny! I hate to keep Dix fans waiting."

Norah's favorite author is Anne Stuart. Not only did reading her books give Norah great pleasure, but they also taught Norah a lot and influenced her own writing.

"Whether it’s historical or contemporary romantic suspense, she does it so freakin’ well!" Norah told me. "I think I’ve hunted down and read everything on her backlist, which is pretty substantial after the long career she’s had. I actually met Anne in Halifax where she did a bull session for the RWA chapter there (Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada) where we got to ask absolutely anything about the publishing industry. Her frank answers were very educational. She also talked about how she approaches writing romantic suspense. I must have absorbed a lot of her philosophy through osmosis, because I recognized some of her techniques as ones that I use."

Other authors she's been influenced by are Linda Howard and her approach to romantic suspense, Tami Hoag, and Suzanne Brockmann.

"Those are the influences that were swimming around in my head when I sort of solidified my approach to RS," she said. "I do read thrillers and mysteries and the occasional police procedural, but when it comes down to it, I’m all about the romantic suspense."

"Do you hear from your readers much?" I asked. "What do they say?"

"I do hear from readers a fair amount. (But never enough! WRITE ME!) What they say depends on the genre, of course. I’ve had people write to tell me that they read one of my romances while sitting at their mother’s sick bed in hospital, and how it saved their sanity to be able to escape completely into the world I created. Sometimes they email me to say that my romances give them hope that there might be a hero like that out there for them. Sometimes they just say they love the smexy and to keep it coming. With the YA, it tends to be young budding writers with questions. And with the Dix Dodd mysteries, it tends to be accounts about laughing out loud on the subway or go-train or, drawing sidelong glances from their fellow passengers," she said with a big grin.

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

"I think the advice I’d give now is quite different than the advice I would have given just two years ago. Today, I think the biggest risk for new authors is rushing their stuff to market. It’s incredibly easy for anyone to self-publish. It’s a viable, vibrant, wonderful, game-changing option, and authors of every stripe – unknowns, mid-listers and bestsellers – are taking advantage of it. But it’s almost too easy. In my day (and doesn’t that make me sound like a dinosaur?), we cut our teeth by submitting our stuff to contests and editors and agents, and we honed our skills from the feedback, which was sometimes kindly and sometimes brutal. But today, if I wanted to, I could write a 10K short story in a day (with lots of espresso), buy a pre-made cover, and slap it up on all the available platforms by nightfall. The question is, should I? Even with 20 years of writing under my belt, my answer is an emphatic no! I need critical feedback. I need an editor. I need a copy editor. For a work of that length, I might be lucky enough to find a pre-made cover that’s close enough, but normally I would commission a cover. And I would pay a formatter to format it to display to the best advantage. To the new writer I would say, find a critique group. Read how-to books. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Study the craft. Even if you don’t want to court a traditional publisher, enter contests. Refine your work based on feedback. When you reach the level that you finalling in contests or getting near misses from agents and editors, that’s when you should start thinking about self-publishing your work, not the day after you typed The End. "

About the Author:
The 10th of 11 children, Norah had to do something to distinguish herself. That something was writing. She currently writes romantic suspense and paranormal romance. With writing partner Heather Doherty, she also writes the laugh-out-loud Dix Dodd Mysteries under the name N.L. Wilson. With the same writing partner, she writes YA paranormal as Wilson Doherty. Norah lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, with her husband, two adult children, a Rotti-Lab mix named Chloe and a new addition, a stray cat her daughter has aptly named Ruckus.

Find Norah online at

Website: http://norahwilsonwrites.com
Blog: http://norahwilsonwrites.com/wordpress
Twitter: http://twitter.com/norah_wilson
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NorahWilsonWrites
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1361508.Norah_Wilson



Veterinarian Lauren Townsend’s psychic ability didn’t just earn her pariah status in her hometown; her “freakishness” cost her a fiancĂ© and her faith in love. But after foreseeing a murder – through the killer’s eyes – she is compelled to trace the victim to a sprawling ranch, never imagining what waits for her there...

Cal Taggart’s life doesn’t need any more complications. His stubborn determination ruined his marriage and now it just may cost him his ranch. But then beautiful Lauren enters his corral – and Cal wants nothing more than to protect her. They can’t deny their intense attraction. Nor do they want to. What begins as a fling with no strings attached become a fight for survival – and for true love.