Beginning January 1, 2013

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Christine DePetrillo whose latest release Abra Cadaver is available from The Wild Rose Press.

Christine told me that Abra Cadaver was her attempt at being "dark," because she's been accused of having characters that smile a lot.

"Hey, what can I say? I like happy people," she countered. "In an attempt to be multi-layered, however, I decided to write something that was less sunshine and fuzzy kittens. It’s the story of Holly Brimmer who gets a second chance at life after dying, but has to do deal with the consequences of getting that second chance. One consequence is ancient Celtic warrior, Keane Malson. Tall, dark, and cursed, Keane is making Holly’s summer vacation unlike any she’s had in the past."

I asked her what inspired her to start writing.

"Reading," she answered. "I love to read books and just got to a point where I said, “Hey, I want to try writing my own.” I put finger to keyboard and got cracking on a manuscript. My first one was actually a middle-grade book for children. I had fun writing it, but noticed that I was far more interested in the love story between the main character’s uncle and a mermaid than I was in the main character. I switched to writing romance and don’t want to write anything else."

Characters usually come to Christine in the form of a job. She'll read about an interesting job or think about one she would like to try on for a while.

"That’s part of what I love about writing—that I get to give different occupations a spin during the course of composing a manuscript," she explained.

The next thing she does is figure out the characters' names—she shared that many of the last names are shared by towns in New England along Route 91.

"On one ride to Vermont, I kept my notebook out and jotted down all the interesting town names," she told me. "For first names, I try out different ones with a last name until I hear a combination I like. Once I have the job and the name, I move on to physical appearance, personality, goals, motivation, and conflict. I throw notes on all of this either in my writer’s notebook or in a Word document for future reference."

When it comes to plot, Christine maps it out in calendar format because she tends to lose track of time in her stories when she's writing them. With the calendar, it helps her keep organized.

"Of course, events change on this calendar all the time, but I like to have a general blueprint when I start out. I expect characters to change things up on me, but having a direction to head in always helps," she said.

"Where are you from?" I wondered. "What do you like best about your hometown?"

"I’m from Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States, where I still live. What I love best about my hometown is that I no longer live in it. It’s not exciting. It’s not particularly picturesque. Its local government is corrupt. I moved to a new town four minutes away which isn’t much better, but I escape to the coast every now and again, which totally makes living in RI worth it. Fortunately, I also have some property in Vermont where I can be one with the woods and dream about getting lost amongst the trees."

Christine also likes getting lost in a good book—in fact, it's that ability that she considers the most important element of good writing. If she reads a book and forgets where she is, who she is, what else she should be doing, then she will label a book a complete success.

"This is why I read—to be transported into another time, to another place, into another person’s shoes. I get to be me all the time, which is fun, but it’s also a blast to step into someone else’s life and see how they deal with situations."

When it comes to her writing space, she has two areas she consistently uses. The space she uses most is the reclining couch in her living room.

"That couch is comfy and conducive to nighttime writing. By the end of the day, my body is tired, so writing on the couch allows my physical being to get some relaxation, while my mind is free to think, write, think, write," she told me. "I usually have a blanket on my lap, my computer on top of that, and a cup of green tea with a splash of cold orange juice by my side. My patio in my backyard is my summer writing retreat. I can spend nearly all day in the sunshine and warm temperatures writing away to the tune of birds at my feeders and birdbath. I find nature very inspiring and there’s never a shortage of words when I’m outside."

Christine teaches during the day, so her writing takes place primarily in the evenings between 7 and 11. She sets a four-page goal for each night, which seems to keep her moving along. She writes on weekends whenever she wants to, not really taking a "day off" from writing.

"I like to check in with my story every day to keep the flow going," she explained. "In the summer, I usually write from noon to 4 p.m. and can generate double what I do during the school year." She sighed. "I love summer and wish it were now."

She's written fifteen stories (a combination of novellas and novels), published ten, and doesn't have any plans for stopping anytime soon. She couldn't really pick one book that's her favorite, because she falls in love with all her characters as she works with them and writes their stories.

"What is the most embarrassing thing your mother ever did to you?" I wondered.

"Dress me in a Winnie the Pooh dress in kindergarten. Sounds harmless enough, right? No. That dress was absolutely hideous, and I’ve hated Winnie the Pooh ever since. I was clearly a Snoopy gal. Not a fan of a stupid, anxious bear who always said, Oh, bother."

Finally, I asked, "If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?"

"One, a lighter. I’m not wasting my time rubbing sticks together to make fire. Two, a notebook and pen. A girl will have plenty of time to write on a deserted island. Three, my Kindle. Must have books on this island. Once I fashion a hammock out of natural items, I’ll need some great stories to read when I have time to relax. I’ll download a bunch before arriving at the deserted island. Four, a shower. I have a lot of hair that really wouldn’t do well with only an ocean water rinse every now and again. And, five, a super deluxe tent. I love being outdoors, but don’t want to get eaten alive by bugs while I sleep."

About the Author:
Christine DePetrillo teaches by day and writes by night. She writes stories meant to make you laugh, maybe make you sweat, and definitely make you believe in the magic of love.

Find the author online:

Personal website

Group blog

Abba Cadaver

Holly Brimmer never expected to be brought back from the dead. After a fatal car crash, a mysterious stranger gives her a second chance at life—but it comes with a price. To stay alive she must pay it forward, accomplish an important deed, thus making her mark in the world. Until she does, her savior is bound to her. Now she has a backyard full of dead bodies and one unwanted houseguest.

Keane Malson kills bad guys to keep the innocent alive, but he’s still a monster. Cursed by a witch moments before an honorable death on the battlefield, he’s lived thousands of years, roaming from place to place with no end in sight. It’s a lonely life…until he meets Holly.

When a wanted man targets Holly, Keane will do anything to protect her, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.
Download from Amazon here.
Dowload from The Wild Rose Press here.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Charmaine Gordon, whose latest release is Haven, a novella just out in eformat. Haven is the sequel to Reconstructing Haven. I asked her to tell us a little bit about Haven.

Jimmy Costigan gets more than he expected when his sister Charlie asks him to make a delivery to her new project, Haven. Her best friend Shelley Jackson is now a psychiatric social worker about to handle the first case to arrive at this respite. A mother and three children held hostage by a strange assailant have just come in and Shelley is alone, in need of another pair of hands.

One look at the amazing woman he's admired from a distance and Jimmy is a goner. He has no hope of a relationship with the brilliant Shelley but stays to help out. Just for a night. Until the children reveal that the bad man disappeared and is on the loose. The family is in danger. The police are called but Jimmy, a sucker for anyone in peril, is compelled to stay and protect those he cares for.
When she completed Haven, she knew another sequel was needed.

"And so it continues," she said, "keeping me out of mischief."

I asked Charmaine how she developed her plots and characters.

"Some people sleep walk. I sleep write," she explained. "A story comes in the night with a beginning and end. In the morning, I write."

Charmaine got the idea for her first book, Once Again, Now, while she was standing backstage between Acts 1 and 2 of an off Broadway play The Fourth Commandment, where she played the lead character, Grace. The idea didn’t leave and, once the run of The Fourth Commandment ended, she began to write the story. Once a contract was offered and signed for the book and a month later, she had a book with her name on the cover, she felt like an author.

"What a glorious feeling!" she assured me.

She's written six books, five of them published with Vanilla Heart Publishing. Her favorite is Now What?.

"It's a story close to my heart with all the ingredients," she said. "Love, loss, new beginning, friendships, family and yes, after sadness comes a happy ending."

Charmaine loves hearing from her readers and shared one of her favorite fan letters with us.

Charmaine Gordon's books are a "must read" for those who have experienced a loss in their lives, whether through death, abandonment or divorce. The reader will so identify with the women in her books, who struggle through their shock and trauma to find the courage and an inner strength they never knew they had, to face the future and to create a meaningful life, as the much stronger person they had never known they were. Her books are written with so much color, so much spiritual and emotional intensity, that you'll never look at life in the same way again. I am eagerly awaiting the publication of her next book.
Kate S.
Charmaine shared with me that she had a sweet life.

"As a small child, I was a triple threat, singing and dancing my way into everyone’s heart. An actress I had to be. Instead I married my high school sweetie, lived the Air Force life for a while, had a batch of kids and much later became a professional actor in NYC."

Charmaine does her writing in a small room with a wrap around computer desk.

"It's cluttered, of course, but it's my space," she explained. "The rest of the room once contained a crib for my granddaughter now 3 and a half. Filled with stuffed animals, books, toy chest and mini computers. That’s my double life: Granny/author."

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

"If someone named Pierre agreed to walk said pooch and maybe a massage, yes another dog would be welcome. Past dogs and cats have all been hand-me-ups from my daughter."

Charmaine told me that every day when she gets up and looks in the mirror, thankful to have woken up, she says to herself, "It's show time, old girl. Time to do the day." Then she does her make-up, including lashes, and—camera ready—she begins.
"Does anyone recall when movies were called picture shows?" she asked. "Pictures--the joy of being caught with spinach between the teeth or on a bad hair day. My past experience in movies taught me to enjoy the huge reflection of my thin face and pointed chin on the big screen."

"What is a favorite saying you have?" I asked her.

"Not to worry is a definite favorite. To me it means, get over yourself and move on. Take one step and then another. Make your life work."

Finally, Charmaine tells me that she eats an apple a day; however, she eats it very carefully. I asked her why.

"As a kid, my brother and I coveted the last red apple. He cut it in half. I bit in and chewed and looked at my half. A piece of a worm dangled down. Brother laughed. I threw up."
Charmaine shared with us that a good link to her books is If you scroll down the list of authors and click on Charmaine's name, you can read chapters from her books. She would also like to offer to one lucky commenter a digital copy of Now What?, a contemporary romance suspense wit a touch of paranormal. Just leave a comment.


Monday, February 27, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome inspirational authorPamela Thibodeaux whose newest book The Visionary was released in November from Five Star Expressions. It deals openly and candidly with adult survivors of extreme child abuse and the pain they endure to find healing and wholeness.

A Visionary is someone who sees into the future Taylor Forrestier sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disgustingly prevalent in today’s society. Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives? Find out in…The Visionary ~Where the awesome power of God's love heals the most wounded of souls.
"The hardest part of writing The Visionary was depicting the gruesome abuse the twins suffered as children," she said, "and then realistically portraying the healing available through the awesome power of God's love and their struggle for relief from a past too horrendous to live with any longer."

"What comes first," I asked, "the plot or the characters?"

She laughed. "If I had the answer to that I'd be much more prolific! Seriously, each story is different. Sometimes a character will come to me and start talking about his or her life. Other times a plot will come to me from a thought, song, news report, or merely a word. And yet others, I may have a dream or vision of some incident and just start writing. Many folks get ideas and plot out everything with character sketches and/or interviews, etc - I envy them. I am 100% SOTP writer."

Titles, for her, are about as elusive as plot and characters. Occasionally she will get the title first and then develop the story around it, but more often the title will come from something one of the characters say.

"For instance, in one novel, the hero's grandfather makes the comment, Only when hearts are tempered, minds are open and wills are softened can man discern the will of God for his life—hence the title, Tempered Hearts," she explained. "In my latest novel it came to light that the heroine, Taylor Forrestier, is hailed by her peers as a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique and from that came my title The Visionary."

When Pamela's not writing, she likes to read.

"We all have our vices. Some folks go on eating binges, others drinking binges and then there's gambling and other forms of entertainment or maybe compulsive behavior. My main vice is reading, and please, don't turn me loose in a book store with any substantial amount of cash or open credit card," she said with a laugh. "Depending on the size of the book, I'll read a novel a day several days in a row until the need is satiated."

Pamela told me she absolutely loves the creative process.

"Nothing delights me more than to watch a story unfold and the twists and turns a plot can take when the characters invite (or sometimes drag me along) on the adventure that comprises their life," she said.

She admitted that she's not strictly disciplined when it comes to her writing, even though she feels like she needs to because she's not written anything new in a while.

"I've completed a couple WIP's and edited existing projects, but nothing brand new—and how I long to just throw everything out and start fresh," she told me with a laugh. "However, when I am actively writing, I write—very little editing, or working on other projects, limited time online, not much networking or blogging, sleep comes only in snatches, meals are scarce and light, and definitely no playing! Many writers have a routine or schedule and the perfect music to aid their creative process. For me, a little background noise (TV or radio in the other room) is OK but mostly I have to have quiet when I'm writing otherwise I get sidetracked way too easily."

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

"Horses are by far my favorite animal. Nothing is more soothing to a battered spirit than being on horseback with God's glorious creation all around."

Other favorites include pizza, especially if it's loaded with mushrooms or spinach, and ice-cold Coke.

"Nothing beats the taste of an ice cold Coke," she explained to me, "especially when you don't keep them in the house and dream about one all night long." She laughed. "Once I met my husband for coffee and breakfast and ordered a Coke first."

Unfortunately, her husband died in 2009 and, if she could, that's the one experience she would erase from her past.

"Have you ever cried during a movie?" I wanted to know.

"I think the proper question would be have you ever not cried during a movie!" She laughed. "Depending on the type of movie I'm either shedding tears of sorrow, joy, or just plain awe."

Finally, I asked, "To what or whom do you credit your success?"

"Many people have a love/hate relationship with their muse. My muse is the Holy Spirit and I accredit every ounce of success to the grace of God because without HIM I seriously doubt I could write a single word, much less stories that bring hope and healing to so many."

About the Author:
Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

Buy the book at:


Find the author online at:

Website address:


Bayou Writers Group:



Friday, February 24, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Heide Katros, whose latest release is Mystical Viking, a paranormal historical novel. This is not Heide's first foray into the paranormal, however. In fact, she doesn't view things as paranormal—ESP runs in her family and, in the early 1700s, one of her family members was burned at the stake as a witch.

"She was all of seventeen years old. My guess is that she saw things that were about to happen and maybe they were bad and they declared her a witch," she explained. "After I met my husband and before I came to America I had this vivid dream of a blonde woman threatening to kill me. She said, 'If I can’t have him, you can’t either.' It was weird. I knew she spoke in a different language and my English was non-existent at the time, but I understood her threat. I remembered her pointing a pistol at me and she was standing on a lush lawn, something quite foreign to me. I woke up before the dream continued and thought nothing more of it. A year later, after I had come to America, I was at a fraternity dance with my husband and I saw her. So as we danced past her, I said, 'That’s her.' Mitch paled. He thought one of his friends had ratted him out, but when I told him I had seen her in a dream, he almost freaked. The woman did try to make my life miserable just as my dream predicted. She started to call our house and play soft music. So one day I just said, 'If you want to talk to my husband just ask.' She never called back."

Heide is a pantser and was once told by a well-known author she could never write that way. She written twenty novels "that way" with twelve of them being published.

"You could call me the Taylor Swift of romance and suspense," she said. "You cross me or cross my path you will be in my novels. You may not recognize yourself, but I know you. "

That brings us to her favorite TV show. Right now, she's enthralled with Person of Interest.

"I like the whole premise and don’t we all know that big brother is watching us in some way?" she asked rhetorically. "I also like The Big Bang. What’s not to like about four nerds who forever strike out with the ladies? Dancing With The Stars is also a favorite of mine, though I don’t think the judging is always fair. And I love to watch college football and basketball. I am also a big tennis fan, though I rather play than watch."

"What five modern conveniences would you want to have with you if you were stranded on an island?" I wondered.

"Actually, I am thinking here along the lines of Robinson Crusoe, which would leave me without electricity. Books would be my first choice. I know it’s not a convenience, but I can’t imagine my life without reading. Instead of conveniences, I’d rather have a boy Friday, well muscled, good looking with a shock of dark hair. He could do all those things and more than the four convenience choices left to me."

At the time of this interview, Heide was reading a novel by Cindy Gerard, With No Remorse.

"She is an excellent writer who bases most of her novels on all branches of the Armed Forces and her heroes are very yummy. I would say, however, that Judith McNaught is my favorite author, though I have not seen anything of hers in recent years," she told me. "McNaught has a natural gift of drawing the reader into her stories. She writes very sensuously and ever so heart warming."

Heide writes at a hand-carved desk her French grandmother used over 120 years ago. She, too, was gifted with second sight and was an amazing business woman.

"I have one of her photos next to me on the wall and have her smiling down on me," she said.

Heide never thought she would become a writer, however. She saw a headline in a Sunday newspaper that said, "So you think you can write a novel?" She thought she could and created Bewitching Angel which placed in the 1999 Indiana Low Country Golden Opportunity Contest.

"I had an opportunity to get a contract with Zebra at the time, but I didn’t know how to type. I had written it in long hand. By the time I found someone to type it for me Zebra had lost interest and I was too much of a beginner to know what to do," she told me.

Heide gets ideas from the news and incorporates them into her stories, never quite knowing what she will write on any particular day. She might start a conversation between two characters and the story will take an unexpected turn that surprises her.

"My characters evolve as I begin to plot. Their names seem to pop into my head out of nowhere," she explained. "My titles come to me the same way. I am just finishing a contemporary romantic suspense story about a jilted bride, but that is hardly the gist of the story. Make Me No Promises is loaded with twists and turns. I know this may sound weird, but I start to write and once I have finished a scene, I will go back and research the particulars for authenticity."

She already has a sequel in mind for Make Me No Promises titled Sweet Redemption, a take-off on one of the characters in the previous book.

"Before I start the sequel, I promised my good friend and fellow writer Kate Hofman a short novel for an anthology she is planning to put together. I already have a few pages and a definite idea where it will go and the title will be Snow Roses."

Unlike most authors who like to write when they are fresh, Heide told me her mind is too active in the mornings and translates everything into either German or French, which makes it difficult to focus. So, she waits until she's a little tired, and the Muse can flow.

"I like complete silence, though I can tune out anything, if conversation goes on behind me. I don’t have the luxury of a set time to write. Whenever my husband needs help or my grandchildren need me, I set my writing aside," she said. "But the story will continue to develop in my head and when I can sit down to write, it will flow without interruption."

About the Author:
I grew up in a small town near the French border. My dad was an old-fashioned country doctor, and no, he didn’t drive a horse and buggy, he always drove a snazzy car. I guess I inherited the love for nice vehicles and fast driving from him.

Living in a small town like that forces you to grow up fast, because patients don’t care whether you are a kid, if they need help. They expect you to get it for them.

My father passed away just after I’d turned thirteen. It turned our lives upside down, but the saving grace came in the form of a guardian, who told my mother to move to a large city, so we could be exposed to theater and a better education.

After the move to Heidelberg on the Neckar River my mother started to take exotic vacations with us. One such trip took us to the Island of Rhodes, Greece. I met my husband during that trip. We were married two years later and have two grown sons and two grandchildren.

Find the author online at:


FB: Heide Katros

Twitter: @hasele

When Britta Viborgh gets her first look at the carnage that had once been her village, one warrior stands out among the rubble. She knows he is responsible for the massacre and swears that she will hunt him down and avenge her clan.

Ulf Sorensen is sick at heart. His second sight has let him down and brought him too late to help his friend. The last and only honor he can bestow upon Swen Viborgh and his clan is to send them in a cloud of smoke to Valhalla. While he waits for the pyre to catch flame, he is assailed by the eerie feeling of being watched. He shakes the sensation off and rides away with his men.

But Britta and Ulf are destined to meet again, and Britta finds herself at the mercy of her sworn enemy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012



Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Alison Henderson, whose latest book A Man Like That is available. It is a sequel to Harvest of Dreams.

Alison told me that she wasn't one of those writers who always knew she wanted to write. She was an avid reader, however, and when she found herself at home with a newborn after ten years in an office, she decided to try to write the type of stories she enjoyed reading.

"I started my first manuscript twenty-two years ago and completed three books before life intervened (as it will), and I returned to work full time," she said. "For the next several years, I kept polishing my manuscripts, entering contests, and submitting. Finally, when the time was right, I sold my first book, Harvest of Dreams, which was published in October of 2010, followed by A Man Like That in June of 2011."

She normally starts with a premise, which then determines the characters who drive the plot.

"For example, Harvest of Dreams begins with a young woman alone, in labor, on Christmas Eve. A handsome stranger arrives to help her, and the plot develops from there," she explained. "A Man Like That follows two of the secondary characters from Harvest of Dreams on a soul-searching journey. I started with the premise that the hero has left the heroine waiting at the altar and then let the two of them battle it out until they’ve learned enough about themselves and each other to find lasting happiness."

Alison is currently finishing up her first novella about a female paleontologist in 1879 Wyoming who discovers an unconscious stranger with a letter and a locket containing what appears to be her photograph.

"The shorter length has been a challenge," she admitted, "but I’m happy with the way it’s coming together."

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

"Oh, titles, titles, titles. Sometimes they’re so easy, so perfect, and sometimes they stay just out of reach until it’s almost too late. Harvest of Dreams was easy. The heroine lives on a farm with an apple orchard, and I wanted a title that would suggest the fulfillment of her happily-ever-after. The title of A Man Like That was given to me by the heroine’s mother. She’s the oh-so-proper wife of the town judge and not a bit pleased by her daughter taking up with an ex-outlaw. How can she be expected to accept 'a man like that'?"

Alison has written four books: three historical and a contemporary. She confessed that the first book she wrote was a learning experience.

"I learned I could organize and write a 100,000 word novel. I also learned I’m capable of including every cliché in the romance genre if I’m not careful. That book, thankfully, will never see the light of day," she assured me. "The second and third books have been published, and I’m currently shopping the fourth, a snappy contemporary about an all-female bodyguard agency. As for a favorite, it’s impossible to say. I get so deeply involved in the creative process that each book is my favorite while I’m writing it."

The hardest part about writing for Alison is finding the time and discipline to do it. She doesn't work well with distractions around, so she needs long quiet blocks of time—not easy to find with a full time job and, she said, "a husband who claims to enjoy my company from time to time."

I asked her how she fits her writing in.

"I come home from work, exercise, fix dinner, and try to fit in at least two hours of writing each evening. On weekends, I try to write for two or three hours in the afternoon. I’d love to be one of those super-writers who gets up at three or four o’clock each morning and writes before work, too, but my brain isn’t wired to function at that hour."

Alison grew up in suburban Kansas City and has always loved the history of the area.

"The numerous ante-bellum and Civil War-era buildings that still exist in the city and surrounding small towns piqued my imagination and inspired the settings for my first two books," she told me. "Kansas and Missouri were 'border states' during the war, with numerous battles and skirmishes fought between both the regular armies and bands of guerilla fighters, and in the chaos following the war several outlaw bands roamed the area. Morgan Bingham, the hero of A Man Like That, was a product of those lawless times."

Her books are categorized as Western historical because they are set west of the Mississippi River and after the Civil War, but they are not typical cowboy stories. Instead of the challenges for the frontier, her books deal with the aftermath of war.

"In A Man Like That, Morgan returns to his family homestead in the Ozark Mountains scarred in body and spirit by the war and his time as a member of the Jesse James Gang," she said. "It’s up to the heroine to teach him to forgive (especially himself) and ultimately heal."

"Are you a plotter or a pantser?" I wondered.

"I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’m a plotter because it sounds so much less creative, but I’m incapable of writing a whole book by simply letting it flow. Writing the outline is one of my favorite parts of the process because that’s when the plot ideas come fast and furious and I just take notes. I used to do much more detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines, but I still start with a 5-page (more or less) narrative of the basic story. I print it off and scribble additional ideas in the margins as they come to me. I’m comfortable making changes as the writing progresses, but at least I know basically what’s going to happen next. I also think working this way is one reason I’ve never had writer’s block."

She admitted that she has procrastinated, though, and gotten stuck occasionally. When she decided to start writing, she bought a copy of Phyllis Whitney's Guide to Fiction Writing.

"She recommended developing a notebook with separate sections for research, characters, plot, setting, etc. That way, whenever you get bogged down with the actual writing, you can go back and work on sections of the notebook until you’re ready to move ahead," Alison said. "It keeps your mind focused on your story and your characters while the problem percolates in your subconscious."

Alison told me that she has several "favorite" authors, but Lavyrle Spencer is the author who introduced her to the joys of romance fiction and inspired her to write.

"She infuses every story with deep and timeless emotions that resonate with the reader," she said. "Jayne Ann Krentz is another 'automatic buy' for me. I love every book she’s written, in every subgenre and under every pseudonym. She advises writers to discover, and then be true to, their 'core story', and her core story obviously works for me."

Finally, I asked, "What was the scariest moment of your life?"

"My husband is a maniacal highway driver in bad weather. His preferred approach is to drive as fast as he can to get away from the trouble as quickly as possible. This proclivity led to the most prolonged white-knuckle moment (at least an hour) of my life.

"The first winter after we moved to Minnesota, we were driving to Kansas City with our three-year-old daughter to see the grandparents for Christmas. Now, there is a reason Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper went down in Clear Lake, Iowa. Northern Iowa in the winter is a veritable hellmouth. The highway was shrouded in a heavy ice fog with visibility reduced to thirty feet. Cars had spun off into the ditches on both sides of the road, and the Highway Patrol was struggling to pull them out one at a time. What was my husband’s response to this perilous situation? Drive straight ahead like a bat out of hell, swerving around any slower traffic even though you couldn’t see another car until it suddenly appeared a few feet in front of you. Again. And again. And again.

"Think Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. The image says it all.

"Providence was watching out for us and we made it unscathed, but it still scares me just thinking about it. Of course, my husband never understood why I was so worried. He was confident he had everything under control. Men are such masters of self-deception."

About the Author:
Alison Henderson is the author of two Western historical romances. For as long as she can remember, her heroes have always been cowboys. She grew up in Kansas City on the edge of the prairie, and one of her favorite memories is of the fringed turquoise cowgirl outfit she received for her fifth Christmas. She went off to New York to study art history at Vassar College but never lost her admiration for the fortitude of the pioneers who settled the American West. She began writing when her daughter entered pre-school and was quickly captivated by the creative process.

Although she has traveled the world from Japan to Tunisia, Alison has never strayed far from her Midwestern roots. She and her husband are empty-nesters living in Minnesota, and their daughter is a graduate student in Chicago.

Find Alison online at:


Group blog:

A Man Like That

Jessamine Randall, fearless crusader and champion of the downtrodden, is not a woman to be left waiting at the altar. When her fiancé disappears hours before the wedding, she hatches a plan to track him down and bring him back where he belongs.

Morgan Bingham knows he’s no good. Never has been. Never will be. A former outlaw is no fit husband for the daughter of the town judge, despite her misguided notions. Besides, after ten long years away from home, it’s time to return to the hills and face his demons.

Ill-prepared, but armed with unshakeable certainty, Jessy follows Morgan to his family’s cabin deep in the Ozark Mountains where she’s sucked into a whirlpool of deep secrets and old hatreds. While she fights to bring light and hope into their dark lives, her greatest challenge is Morgan himself. Can she ever convince him he’s worthy of love?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Vicki Batman, whose latest release Man Theory and Other Stories was released the first of the month. It's a collection of three very short romantic stories Vicki likes to call "quickies." For more about that, see her guest blog from yesterday.

In the eighth grade, there was one book she sees as a huge turning point in her life: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

"I'd given the dreaded, oral book report and the teacher chastised me for not picking something more challenging to read. I was like…what? So I asked my friend in front of me what she'd read, and she said Rebecca. I read it, and the rest is history."

I asked her what inspired her to start writing.

"I was on a girlfriend trip and one friend wanted to play her version of car games. One question was 'pick one: Englebert Humperdink or Tom Jones.' I went with EH because he seemed more romantic. The others picked TJ. Later on, she asked, 'Write the opening paragraph of a book using the word window.' I had nothing. So she said to send something later on. I felt compelled to do this task and two days later sat down and wrote eight chapters. My friend read it and said to keep writing. I have!"

Vicki loves writing short stories and is currently working on one that was inspired by a true life incident. Once upon a time she was Miss Oak Lawn Moped and, when she confessed this in an interview, several people posted they wanted to know that story—her head went "bing!!" and she wrote "Raving Beauty."

"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked.
"That's so funny! I don't always have one at first. Sometimes, I put anything just to have something. Finally, one sticks. 'Man Theory' came about because the hero says, 'I have a theory'," she told me with a laugh.

Vicki's had sixteen stories and one novella published. She loves all her stories for different reasons, but the one she personally finds the funniest is "Drive My Car."

"Who is your favorite author and why?" I asked.

"When my son was a baby, I was casting about for someone new to read. I picked up a book about mysteries. It categorized the authors and said, if you like so and so, you'll like so and so. My so and so became Dick Francis. I adore him. Dick Francis was a jockey, even for the Queen. He moved into writing columns and then mysteries. They centered on the many aspects of the racing world. I am totally captivated like...chocolate."

Vicki is very lucky in her writing space—she converted a small room downstairs into her space. She has five book cases with a cute desk in front of three of them. Across from the desk is a leather loveseat and, above it, Vicki has hung her story covers. Scattered throughout are trinkets, photos, books, CD boxes, and a player.

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

"I honestly believe my writing is better from my other indulgences. I do needlepoint, embroidery and make fun crafts. I am big into yoga and have Jazzercised for twenty-something years."

Having fun with her men, reading a good book, watching TV and doing needlework are the simple things that make her happy.

I asked, "What is your most embarrassing moment?"

"Oh, gee, is this where I confess how I asked seven guys to a dance and got turned down seven times? Or my senior prom date dumping me a week before? Or Miss Oak Lawn Moped?"

I wondered if Vicki was a plotter or a pantser. She told me that a friend of hers developed a new term for what she does: (plot)ter + (pant)ster= plotster.

"I get an idea and run with it. We all know in romance there is an HEA; so that is the ultimate goal. Each story has a black moment. But what happens in between is the fun."

Vicki told me that while she has never eaten a crayon, she has nibbled on an eraser. And, she fed her sister mud-covered ants (remarkably, her sister forgave her.)

"What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?" I asked.

"You know that book I started because of the car game? I kept on writing and writing. Eventually, I needed some criticism and entered contests. But one nearly did me in. A judge wrote, 'Why are you writing?' I took it to mean I was not good at it and to stop. I cried buckets of tears. Called a friend and she calmed me down. Then I determined no one could dictate my life. If I wanted to pursue this career, I would. I kept on writing, and a year and a half later, that story took third," she said with a laugh.

Vicki decided she was going to attend the Citizen's Fire Academy that her local fire department was putting on as research for her writing and the men in her life nearly died laughing. She did it anyway and loved it.
"I rappelled off a building, scaled a big ass ladder, and went in a burning building dressed in gear. Then I did the Citizen's Police Academy."

"Do you use a pen name?" I asked.

"Please! I have the best name ever. No one forgets BATMAN." She laughed. "I married a superhero."

Finally, I asked her if she had a favorite quote or saying she could share with us.

"From Eudora Welty-All serious daring starts from within. And this fun one-Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WooHOO, what a ride!'"

About the Author: Like some of her characters, Vicki has worked a wide variety of jobs including lifeguard, ride attendant at an amusement park; a hardware store, department store, book store, antique store clerk; administrative assistant in an international real estate firm; and a general “do anything gal” at a financial services firm. The list is…endless.

Born in Dallas, a graduate of Texas Tech, she is married to Handsome, has two big boys, an attention-demanding cat, and two adorable poopies.

Writing for several years, she has completed three manuscripts, written essays, and sold many short stories. She is a member of RWA, and the DARA, Elements, and RWA-WF chapters. In 2004 she joined DARA and has served in many capacities, including 2009 President. Recently, she was awarded the 2010 Robin Teer Memorial Service Award.

Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking "What if??"

Find her online at:

Man Theory and Other Stories

"Ouch" - Who knew a yoga class would be so dangerous...and romantic?

"Man Theory" - When a geeky co-worker espouses his theory on love, a friend risks her heart.

"Tommy and the Teacher" - A young boy steals from the school’s book fair causing interesting possibilities to arise.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Suzan Battah whose latest release, Mad About the Boy, was released last year. I asked her to tell us something about it.

"Mad About the Boy is a multicultural contemporary romance with a lot of drama, fun along the bumpy road of relationships. Julia and Christophe meet when one is ready to love and the other one wants no part of it; surprise, Julia is the one commitment phobic and with good reason. Watching her sweetheart suffer from a serious illness and pass away, Julia has been content to live her life through work with no intentions of marrying again. Christophe, on the other hand, is not so cynical; despite his parent's divorce, he believes in happily ever after and the string of girlfriends he's had in the past are meaningless compared to Julia whom he falls for. They are both successful, ambitious people with very different backgrounds, Julia from a boisterous Latino family and Chris having grown up with the suave elegance of a French American background. Complete opposites but so alike, Julia and Christophe fumble through the rocky road of love with dramatic, hilarious and melt your heart moments. Mad About the Boy found its title when I first heard the namesake song by Dinah Washington and fell in love with it. The soulful music is inspiring and speaks quite clearly about Julia's struggles of being so in love even though she really refuses to admit it."

In writing, Suzan has been surprised at how good it feels to hear praise from readers who have really fallen in love with the characters she writes.

"I recently had lunch with the Australian Romance Readers Association group from Sydney and had a ball," she told me. "I was there as a lover of romance books and felt truly blessed when they told me how much they were enjoying my book. I was truly surprised and grateful to be acknowledged. I always ask for honesty and not everyone with love it but many people will."

Suzan has completed two novels--Mad About the Boy, her first contemporary romance, and a YA Urban Fantasy adventure that will be released on April 14. She also wants to work on the second book in the Mad About You series with Benjamin Augustine's story in Mad About the Girl.

"I can't pick any favourites because they all much loved in their own unique ways," she said, "but Mad About the Boy is special because I first wrote it when I was 18 years old."

"What is your most embarrassing moment?" I asked.

"When I was seventeen after watching the Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliette with my younger sister, my brother came to pick us up and take us home. Needless to say the events that followed will haunt me the rest of my life. My sister jumped in the front seat, I opened the back seat but there was stuff everywhere and so I had to move it out of the way. Unfortunately, my brother didn't see if I was in the car and slowly started to drive away but he had the music blaring and was talking to my sister. I did call out to him' I even was holding onto the open door, my heart racing as I kept calling his name to get his attention. People at the cinema carpark were staring at me! I could feel him speed up but he finally looked up to see that I was running alongside the car not wanting to let go (a fear of abandonment perhaps). I was so embarrassed, completely humiliated, said I would never talk about it in any interview, which I've declined to mention it before but here I am confessing all to you fine people! Oh well, the world will eventually know about it. I was, of course, in tears when we got back home because my brother and sister thought it was hilarious; however, I maintain it was the movie that made me cry. I've also accidently walked into a male toilet and was quickly yanked back out by my sister; the little man on the door looked like he had a dress on and I wear glasses."

While talking about embarrassments, I noted that everyone has an "embarrassing mother" story. I asked Suzan to share hers with us.

"She dressed up as a belly dancer for my Book Launch party with my aunty and took a plate around for payment from guests when she had finished dancing. She also included a massive happy birthday sign and balloons in the house," she remembered. "Ggranted all the guests were family and friends and it was my birthday but she may still think I'm five, not thirty-one."

The best piece of writing advice Suzan ever received came in what she calls her "most beloved rejection letter." She received it when she was 16 from the Editor of the Books for Children and Young Adults, Sandy Webster. The encouragement in the letter and her advice has stayed with Suzan.

I’m sorry that we can’t give you a more positive response. However, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your chapters, which have such a fabulous energy… I trust that you will continue to develop your writing, and to read widely. It is important, at this stage, that you continue to enjoy writing rather than worrying too much about the opinions of publishing houses… I hope you keep it up, and I wish you the best of luck.
Depending on the style of scene or book Suzan's working on, she has created a playlist for it.

"I listen to classical, gothic rock, pop, easy listening, rnb, heavy metal - you name it I'm probably listening to it," she explained." I'm currently enjoying Within Temptation their music is what can get my fingers speeding across the keyboard."

Suzan loves to write stories that are fantastical, mythical, or anything open to her imagination, but she admits that all her books will contain one thing: some element of romance.

"I adore writing about relationships and how two people can overcome the minor and major dramas in their lives," she said.

Finally, I asked, "If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?"

"Electricity for my Laptop; paper and pen always come together; Ipod with all my favorite music; my man, because I couldn't live without him and the romance (can't be alone on an island); and my book collection," she answered.

About the Author:
Suzan Battah is a proud Australian born author who has loved to write since her teenage years. In 2011 she published her first novel a contemporary multicultural romance - Mad About the Boy. In her spare time she weaves magical tales to entertain. Suzan writes YA Fiction - Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, Regency Romance and Contemporary Romance. Other fun things you can find her doing is training at the gym and Latin/Ballroom dancing. Suzan is afraid of heights, loves most things that are sweet, has no clue about fashion and one day hopes to speak Spanish fluently.

Find her online at:

Twitter: @suzanbattah

To get rid of an annoying ex-friend, Julia Mendoza begs a complete stranger to pretend he's her boyfriend without recognizing the cheeky surfer as the Augustine Heir. From her first meeting with Christophe Augustine, life takes a sudden detour from her workaholic agenda much to the delight of her boistorous Latino family.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Skyla Dawn Cameron, whose newest book Lineage, the third book in the Demons of Oblivion series, is scheduled for release tomorrow.

"Congratulations on your release," I told her. "Can you tell us a little bit about this book and the previous two in the series?"

"Lineageis about a quarter-demon merc named Persephone Takata, who is out to avenge the murder of her family. This draws her into to the path of the characters from the first two books in the series, Bloodlines and Hunter. Bloodlines is about a snarky vampire assassin who has a rocky path on her first big contract, which is supposed to involve killing a couple of warlocks except she gets pulled into conspiracy theories and end of the world stuff. Also, people keep wrecking her clothes, which really ticks her off. Hunter is about a demon hunting nun, sent to track and kill the vampire who murdered a member of her organization. The series website is located at"

"Do you ever suffer from writer's block?" I wondered.

"I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think days are harder than others to write, and I think it’s necessary to recharge our writing batteries now and again, but anyone sitting around waiting for a muse to arrive and show her the way is going to have a very short career as a professional writer. Most of us can’t afford to get writer’s block."

Skyla told me that she always has several things she's working on. Currently there are the fifth (and final) book in a YA paranormal series in development; the first book in a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy series; a dark comedic paranormal horror story which will likely be the first of a trilogy; and the rest of the series that began with Bloodlines, which currently involves her writing the fifth book, a freebie serial, and short stories.

I asked her to tell me a bit more about the "dark comedic paranormal horror."

"I know, that's a mouthful," she admitted. "It’s sort of like the movie Heathers except set post-graduation, in a haunted Irish castle, with a serial’s random and SO much fun to write."

In Skyla's opinion, voice and character are the two most important elements of good writing.

"You can fix the mechanics if that area is weak (grammar, the writing “rules”, etc), and often you can spruce up a ho-hum plot and work on world building, but if the reader doesn’t care about your characters, it doesn’t matter," she explained. "Likewise, voice is another thing that you either have or you don’t. I’ve seen technically perfect novels that had no voice, no life."

When it comes to titles, sometimes they hit her right away (Asha's Guide to Zombie Dating Etiquette), sometimes she has to struggle for ages to find the right title (Bloodlines), and there are others she never comes up with the perfect title for, so she just names it after the main character (River).

"The file almost always starts with the narrating character’s name in place of a title and I change it either during the book or afterward," she explained. "Usually that’s just the case with the first in a series; by the time I have other books planned, I know their titles."

It never occurred to Skyla that she wasn't a writer, she told me when I asked when she first thought of herself as a writer.

"I was reading by the time I was 2.5 – 3 yrs old and as soon as I could hold a pencil, I was trying to tell stories. I used to act them out with Barbies. Generally I use a word processor now," she said. *hides Barbie dolls under the table*

She was first inspired to write her first book while listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller. She was six or seven and started writing a series of picture books that involves zombies and things.

"I’d written stories before that, but I was really trying to write a longer 'book' by then. I started writing horror novels by the time I was eleven, because all of the young adult horror novels in the school library weren’t violent or gory enough for me (I know, I know, I have issues)," she said. "I finished my first full-length adult novel when I was eighteen; it came about because I’d been reading a lot of fantasy and wanted to try my hand at writing it. I quickly learned I’m not meant to be a fantasy writer."

I asked her to tell me about her writing space.

"It’s a coffee table brought from Peru by friends of the family about thirty years ago or so. Beautiful piece of art, and my monitor sits on it, with me on my couch. I’ve learned to write in very tight spaces over the years (I wrote my first published novel sitting on the end of a bed with my big computer and monitor sitting on a nightstand). I’m near my treadmill so I can get up and run when it’s time to unstick a plot point, and across from my Xbox so I can game when my brain needs a break. For Christmas my mother got me a great big dry-erase board that sits over my couch, where I jot down plot points and revision notes (I call it my murder board). I’m also surrounded by houseplants and cats."

Along with five cats, Skyla also has an eleven-year-old beagle-corgi mix named Sophie who is very smart, very hyper, and suffers from ADD, as well as a rabbit.

Skyla works a day job from home, so she usually gets up around 10 AM, has her coffee/breakfast and answer email, then works until lunch, when she gets to either play around on social networking sites or reads over what she wrote the night before. After lunch, she continues work until seven or eight, then she unwinds by writing until about 3 in the morning or so. She also spends weekends writing.

"Yeah, I know—some twenty-somethings go out partying to have fun. I unplug the internet and get fictional people in trouble in order to relax," she said. "But if I don’t take that time to write, I tend to be quite cranky during the day job."

Skyla makes book covers for whatever she's writing, even if she has no plans of ever seeing it published.

"It seems to be part of my process," she explained. "I need to know what I’m trying to do with the book, and something about visual art helps me refine the story in my head (I also make up music playlists for the same reason). Then I stick them all on my website and people ask when they’ll be available, to which I have to say, 'Um...possibly never?'"

Most of Skyla's downtime/spare time is spent writing—she puts in 40+ hours a week at her day job—so when she's not writing, she games on the Xbox 360 or plays Nancy Drew games on her PC. She also gardens as much as she can in her apartment (she has about seventy houseplants). She goes for walks and jogs with her dog, and practices belly dancing, bollywood dancing, and yoga in her living room.

"When I find myself having in depth conversations with the cats, I pick up the phone and call a friend to hang out," she said.

"What did you want to be when you grew up?" I asked.

"First, a Special Agent with the FBI working in violent crimes, because my favourite show when I was seven was Twin Peaks and I idolized Agent Cooper. I had no idea there wasn’t actually the FBI in Canada. I also wanted to be a cryptozoologist for a lot of years—that’s someone who tries to hunt down lake monsters and other supposedly mythical creatures. Right now I mostly want to be a ninja when I grow up."

Skyla's favorite animal is wolves, because she identifies with the sense of community, the hierarchy, and the sense of loyalty.

"Since I was a child, I’ve found nothing more comforting to hear than wolves howling," she told me. "I’m also very much a cat person—which is why I have five of them. Every so often, one of my newest—a ginger and white short hair named Miss Dinah Fantastico—will stroll over and start meowing at me. I meow back at her until I realize I’m meowing, and promptly feel like an idiot. This is likely why I have few friends."

"What is one thing scientists should invent?" I wondered.

"I’d love to say that it would be nice to have a clone to help me get work done, but I know my clone would be just as ambitious as me, and would try to take over my life. Then I’d have to kill my clone and that never ends well."

Finally I asked her, "Can you unwrap a Starburst with your tongue?"

"Kinky! No, but I think I’m going to try now..."

About the Author:
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her attention deficit disorder.

Skyla lives in Southern Ontario where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. She’s naturally brunette, occasionally a redhead, and currently blonde. If she ever becomes a grown-up, she wants to run her own pub, as well as become world dictator. You can visit her on the web at for free fiction, book news, a community forum, and tons of other totally awesome stuff.

What’s a woman to do when her dad’s the antichrist, her grandma’s the devil, the end of the world is at her doorstep, and she’s out to avenge the murders of her husband and kids?

Kill everything in her way.

Quarter-demon Peri Takata exists with but one goal in mind: annihilate everyone responsible for the death of her family. Then—her need for vengeance quelled—she plans to take her own life.

Her mission brings her to vampire Zara Lain, the only known survivor of the event that destroyed Peri’s family five years ago. Hunting down a secret society of those who don’t want to be found has its challenges, however, especially when forces are working to keep the antichrist’s daughter very much alive. The apocalypse is closing in and Peri may be playing a role in it whether she wants to or not.

And when a heart long-thought dead begins to beat again with love for another, she’s not so sure about anything anymore.

Book 3 of the Demons of Oblivion series

Friday, February 17, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Tina Gayle, whose first book in her new The Executive Wives Club series, The Unwilling Widow, is being released today.

"Congratulations on your release, Tina," I said. "Can you tell us a little bit about the series?"

"The story first came about because of a story in the paper about several executives killed in a car wreck. What would their wives do? The story developed from there. I decided I need four women, but not just any women. They had to be different in age, upbringing, life ambitions. I wanted them to not have much in common, but forced to depend on each other. Each unique, each with their own story, they were drawn together by the disaster and forced to see the world in a new light."

The Unwilling Widow is about Jennifer Larson; the next books in the series each feature on another member of the Executive Wife Club: New Baby, Mr. Fix-It, and the Widow is Brie Sullivan's story; Empty-Nest Widow is Sylvia Donovan’s story; and Reworking the Widow is Marianne Clark’s story.

Tina had read romance novels for years before she started writing, living with the characters, crying, loving, suffering with them until, she told me, "at times I couldn't stand the heartache."

She didn't believe she had the talent to write, even though she had been writing stories in her head for most of her life and she had an active dream life.

"Then when my children started school and I had an hour commute to work, I started reviewing what I really wanted to do," she remembered. "Continue being a programmer? No, though fun, I wanted a new challenge. It came with a move from Atlanta to California. Talk about culture shock; we all suffered, and I told my husband I’d only do the move it I could follow my new dream of being a writer. Oh course, being the wonderful man he is, he said yes and the journey started. That was in 2001 so as you can see I’ve been writing for little over ten years."

When Tina started her first book, Pregnancy Plan, she chose a woman much like herself at that age. She wanted to have kids but didn't have a boyfriend, so she used the pain she went through herself to make the story come alive.

"Did my life follow my characters? No. Jillian had it much harder and suffered more than I did, but the pain is really for anyone wanting a child without the means to have one."

Tina has written around eighteen years, with her favorite being an unpublished series she started right after her mother died called the Family Tree series, with the first book titled Summer's Growth.

"It is a paranormal story about Mattie Winston, who is the keeper of the past generation of the Winston family spirits. She loves her job but the spirits decide it is time for her to get a life," she explained. They invite a distant relative to the regal estate and give Mattie the job of training her. Faced with the challenges of creating a new life for herself, Mattie meets an old flame and love flairs. I'm hoping to get back to it after I finish the Executive Wives Club series."

Tina told me that it took her a while to admit to her friends that she was a writer.

"Yes, I was spending my days in front of my computer, but I questioned whether or not I could call myself a writer. I still question it because I feel I’m more of a storyteller than a writer," she explained. "I guess everyone has a different mean behind the word. Writer to me sounds like something dry and without life. I tend to tell people I’m an author or a storyteller."

Tina converted one of the extra bedrooms into an office. I asked her to describe it for us.

"I have a beautiful desk with my computer, papers, a calendar, a notebook, a candle, a bowl of rocks, and books sitting on it. On one wall sits a bookcase and a file cabinet. A chair stands in another corner, but it’s not very comfortable. I don’t want too many guests. Printouts of my covers that have been framed grace the walls along with Red Skeleton’s picture of 'the Philosopher'.”

She usually spends the morning working on the internet—email, Twitter, Facebook, write her blogs, and check out other sites. In the afternoon, after her husband has gone back to work after lunch, she starts writing.

"That is my current schedule but it can change if I have something schedule for the afternoon," she said. "I try to spend time writing every day; granted it might not be on my book. Blogs, interviews, and other things have to be written too."

Before she started writing full-time, her creativity would come out in redecorating her house regularly.

"I’ve painted rooms, put up wallpaper, just last year I redid my master closet," she said. "In my dining room, I couldn’t find a table cloth in the colors I wanted so I created one. I also try to garden. I put in the plants, water them, feed them, and watch them die. Only to start all over the next spring. My family also claims I hate trees. So not true, I love trees but I don’t want their limbs down too low so I cut them off. Oh, the abuse I get for trimming trees."

Tina told me she's not a picky eater and can eat just about anything. She grew up in Texas near the coast so steak, seafood, and Mexican make the list of favorites for her. She had an uncle in Louisiana, so she enjoys Cajun food. She was introduced to Chinese food in her twenties and likes most of that. Her weakness, however, is fudge with walnuts, carrot cake with walnuts, banana bread with walnuts…

"I think I see a pattern," she told me. "I like veggies. Chocolate is a veggie. A bean, right?"

Finally, I asked Tina if she had a favorite quote or saying.

Don’t walk behind me,
I may not led,
Don’t walk in front of me,
I may not follow,
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

About the Author:
Tina Gayle was born in Texas, the place of her heart and where most of her family still lives there. The youngest of four daughters, she grew up a dreamer.

She worked for years in the business world doing a variety of accounting jobs. Then when her two sons were little she decided to go back to school to get a degree in MIS. Today, she uses her degree to develop and maintain her web sites.

An author of over eighteen books, she spends her days writing and conversing with her characters in her head. No, she’s not insane, just enjoys learning more about the people in her story. Why not give her a read? Warning though, an emotional ride will ensue.

Find the author online at:
The Executive Wives' Club Series

Four women...
One fatal car wreck...
Everyone's lives changes...

Jennifer Larson, having lost her husband, friends and the perfect life she’d had plan, now faces the biggest challenge of her life, moving into an unplanned future. While the rest of the Executive Wife Club is still wallowing in the past, Jen is tempted into the future by a sexy chiropractor, Hagan Chaney.

But does he really love her or is he only after her money like everyone else?

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Jane Beckenham, a "down under" author coming to us from New Zealand. Her latest book Secrets and Seductions is available in digital form from Samhain Publishing. It is also scheduled to be released in print this year as well.

"It’s an emotional journey of grief and desperation and secrets," Jane said.

Jane told me that she started writing about twelve years ago, after meeting writers online in an interior design forum—not writing related at all.

"I'm mad keen on it and we were chatting away and the subject of books came up and the rest… well that’s history," she said with a laugh. "But I have always read, loved reading romance and I suppose like all would be writers I thought 'I can do that'. Ha ha ha, little did I know!"

I asked Jane if she ever suffered from writer's block.

"Oh, yes, at times, and at times I think what I’m writing is a whole load of crap," she admitted. "Anyway, one thing that works for me is to shut my eyes and type whatever comes into my head, don’t worry about spelling, typos, zilch, just write free form. Always works and I always come up with an intriguing line I want to follow."

Jane told me she couldn't pick just one favorite, because she likes to read in different genres, so she picked three:

~For historical fiction, she likes Sophia James, who writes for M&B Historicals—"mainly because she has a beautiful writing style, and I love her heroes," Jane said. "They are so flawed (aren't all men?)"

~Jane discovered Tess Gerritsen after Tess visited the RWNZ conference. "It's a totally new genre for me, but such an easy writing style that I really enjoyed it."

~Sandra Hill for her humor, hunky men, and strong-willed women.

For Jane, her characters and an opening scene usually come first—then names. Once she has those elements lined up, she has to figure out where to go from there. She described herself as "a bit of a pantser with a plotter’s twist (usually my arm behind my back to make me pre-plot more!)" She does like to come up with little scenes, and then work them into the story. Her characters also have the tendency to surprise her along the way and teach her much she didn't already know.

"Are you working on anything at the present you’d like to share with us?" I asked her.

"I’ve just done a major rework of a contemporary (waiting to hear if the publisher likes it!!!!), plus I did Nano last year, so I’ve got to edit that little gem. I’m intending to write two historical novellas this year, along with Abbey MacInnis, in a four book anthology. Got a partial and full out, and like all writers – I’m waiting to hear."

When it comes to titles, Jane told me that "they really honestly just pop into my head, usually before I've even started the book, or in the first few chapters. Seems to work."

I asked her to describe her writing space.

"Oh, please don’t look. We moved house nearly 9 months ago and my office is a WIP at the moment. I’ve just bought new book cases and a desk – love that tax deductable thing, and I’m currently creating an ‘art’ wall – all types of hearts I’ve collected over a few years. Cane, mosaic, willow, wire and embroidered. My office is a bit dark, need some more lighting, but the other day I was writing and looked out the window at a monarch butterfly going past. Doesn’t get any better than that. "

The hardest part of writing her book was the interruptions.

"I am incredibly determined and dedicated," she said, her face blushing, "but over the last year my health has deteriorated and I’m now waiting to go into hospital for surgery. But I still plonk my butt on the chair every day and write. Each book is hard in its own way, a character, a scene, something not working. Then, there are the writer’s insecurities. They play havoc with confidence!"

Jane writes full time now so usually she works between 9 AM and 1 PM, then an hour or so at night.

"I would say I’ve slacked off a tad over the last year," she told me. "I used to write well into the night before, but age is catching up with me."

She loves interior design, so when she's not writing she can often be found reading a decorating magazine. She also admitted, "I'm addicted to DIY decorating blogs. They are such a time waster."

On a personal note, Jane has a Jack Russell/Springer spaniel named Bingo. "He's my baby," she told me.

"Do you hate how you look in pictures?" I asked.

"Oh, God yes. I am sure it’s trick photography – that I’m at least 5 inches taller and about 30lbs slimmer," she said. "I’m sure I am... at least I wish I was. The other day I had a photo taken for a Valentine’s Day article in our national newspaper. I asked if the photographer could use Photoshop – she wasn’t allowed to – so not fair!"

A saying she uses a lot is "let's roll."

"And...two years ago we were in the USA for a family holiday," she told me. "My cousin who lives in Sacramento had this fun button thingy you pushed – it’s said ‘That was easy’ from the Staples Centre in LA so it became a family saying while we were driving on the wrong side of the road – we drive on the left – you drive on the right! Scary experience, believe me."

About the Author:
In books, author Jane Beckenham discovered dreams and hope, stories that inspired in her a love of romance and happy ever after. Years later, after a blind date, Jane found her own true love and married him eleven months later.

Life has been a series of ‘dreams’ for Jane. Dreaming of learning to walk again after spending years in hospital. Dreaming of raising a family and subsequently flying to Russia to bring home her two adopted daughters. And of course, dreaming of writing.

Writing has become Jane’s addiction - and it sure beats housework.

You can contact Jane via her web site or email her at

He wants to hate her, but a little lust wouldn’t hurt…

The only emotion Leah Grainger can muster when thinking of her dead husband is relief. Until she learns his gambling debt threatens her beloved farm and the child she wanted to protect from the rootless existence she grew up with.

The last straw? Her husband’s brother demands a meeting. When she charges into his office to tell him she won’t let another Grainger screw up her life, the startlingly handsome, former oil rig wildcatter goes for the jugular. He’s claimed legal guardianship of her daughter, bought her mortgage…and he’s moving in.

The final email Mac received from his suicidal brother blamed Leah for everything. If it’s the last thing he does, he plans to protect his niece. Even if it means using his millions to gain the upper hand. And hardening his heart against the beautiful Leah’s protests of innocence.

Yet something seems off. Leah is nothing like the uncaring woman his brother described. She’s warm, loving…and when a new threat to her child surfaces and she reaches out to him in need, his body won’t let him say no. Even when her last secret forces him to make a decision that exposes his most closely guarded possession. His heart.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Paula Martin, whose latest book Fragrance of Violets was released this month by Whiskey Creek Press. I asked her to tell us a little bit about the book.

"Fragrance of Violets is set mainly in the English Lake District, an area I know and love. It’s probably my favourite story so far, because the two main characters learn so much about themselves as they re-establish their relationship.

"Abbey Seton distrusts men, especially Jack Tremayne who destroyed their friendship when they were teenagers. Ten years later, they meet again. Can they put the past behind them? Abbey has to forgive not only Jack, but also her father who deserted his family when she was young. Jack holds himself responsible for his fiancée’s death. He’s also hiding another secret which threatens the fragile resumption of his relationship with Abbey. Will Abbey ever forgive him when she finds out the truth?"

Paula's first stories (around the age of eight) were based on the books she read—school, pony, and theatre stories.

"Maybe that was fan-fiction before the word was invented!" she quipped.

Soon, she started to create her own characters and wrote several novel-length stories before her early teens, when she moved on to writing romances.

"Okay, those early romances were cheesy, to say the least," she admitted, "but my friends read them avidly!"

For several years, Paula didn't do anything writing apart from school essays—she was busy getting her degree, starting her teaching career, getting married, and starting a family. When her first daughter was a few months old, she started writing again as an evening escape from baby-talk, brushing off one of her old teenage stories. Originally, it was just for herself, however she was also reading all the romance novels in her small local library and decided her story was as good as those published, if not better.

"So I typed it up (yes, this was in the 1960’s pre-computer days) and sent it off to Mills and Boon, fully expecting it to come back by return of post. Six weeks later, I had a letter signed by Alan Boon himself," she told me. "He wasn’t happy about a couple of chapters, but if I was prepared to revise them, based on his suggestions, they would be interested in publishing my book. If I was prepared to revise? Of course I was! I did the revisions, typed the whole thing out again, and sent it off. A contract for the book, and for two more, arrived about three weeks later, and the book came out six months later, coinciding with the birth of my second daughter. I duly produced two more books for M&B in the next eighteen months, but when I returned to full-time teaching, I had less time for writing. About eight years later, I sent my fourth book to a different publisher as Mills and Boon had changed their ‘format’ completely during the 70’s and I knew my book wouldn’t suit their requirements."

Apart from some short storied published in various magazines, Paula took a break from writing fiction—instead focusing on her teaching career, her daughters, and her involvement with Girl Guiding and the local amateur musical theatre group. She didn't stop writing completely, however, writing several articles with ideas for leading that were published in the Girl Guide national magazine—even having a monthly feature there for several years.

"I didn’t think I would ever write fiction again but, at first to my surprise, came back to it about four years ago, firstly with fan-fiction based on my favourite TV show The West Wing and then with novels again."

I asked Paula when she first considered herself a writer.

"I’ve always been a writer! It comes as naturally to me as breathing. In my teens, as well as writing stories, I kept a diary for several years. Even a ‘page a day’ diary didn’t give me enough space to write, not just the events of the day, but my thoughts and feelings about anything and everything, so I ended up using large files. I also used to write lengthy epistles to friends and penfriends. In that sense, I’ve always considered myself to be a writer," she explained. "Thinking of myself as an ‘author’ is slightly different. Even though I had four books published when I was in my twenties, I didn’t really think of myself as an author. In my mind, I was simply a story-writer who ‘hit lucky’ in the world of publishing. Nearly forty years later, with two more books accepted, I’m finally getting around to thinking of myself as an author. But even if I never had anything else accepted, I would still be a writer."

When Paula was growing up, she always wanted to be a teacher—from the time she first went to school as a five year old.

"When I played games with my 4 year old cousin, I was the teacher and he was the pupil. I taught him to say ‘Present’ when I called out his name from my invented class register. But then he ran crying to his mom, saying ‘I said present but I didn’t get one!’," she remembered. "I eventually became a history teacher, for 25+ years, until I took early retirement. Looking back now, I enjoyed my job despite some of the frustrations. Some classes I loved, others drove me to distraction."

Paula's favorite author is historical novelist, Sharon Kay Penman.

"I’ve read almost all her books but my favourite is The Sunne in Splendor which, to me, is THE definitive novel about Richard III and the Wars of the Roses," Paula told me. "As an historian by profession, I can appreciate how detailed and meticulous Sharon’s research has been. She also brings vividly to life all the characters of that period of history. I was a history teacher for many years, and people often asked me why I don’t write historical novels. My answer is always ‘Because I know I could never do is as superbly well as Sharon Penman has done.’ I simply wouldn’t have the self-discipline (or the patience!) to do all the detailed research."

In Paula's own writing, usually her characters come to her, along with a very basic scenario and one or more potential conflicts (internal or external) between the hero and heroine.

"I tend to know the beginning and the end, but quite often the characters take over," she confessed. "Occasionally I have to haul them back but most times I’m happy to let them lead me. Some of the best scenes in my books have been those where the characters have surprised me. As a result, my planned ending often changes in order to reflect what has happened earlier in the story (which I didn’t know about when I first started writing the story!). "

She has learned in her writing that the characters have a way of surprising you. Either things will "happen" she'd not foreseen or the characters would keep something hidden from her.

"This happened to me in my very first novel," she said. "I decided that I needed a ‘happy ending’ for one of the secondary characters as well as for my hero and heroine, so I thought maybe he had met someone when he was at a conference in New York. I went back to drop a few ‘hints’ about this – but found I didn’t need to. The hints were already there, I didn’t have to change anything. An example of a character knowing something before I did. It’s happened several times since then and I love that moment when you realise your characters have taken charge and ‘done their own thing’. "

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

"My first four published books were based on quotations. I could usually think of a couple of keywords for my books and spent a long time searching for a quotation which would give me the perfect title. For example, one of my heroines was determined to live on her memories and thought she would never love again so 'O Memory, thou fond deceiver' gave me the title Fond Deceiver. One of my heroes was fighting his attraction to the heroine (for various reasons), and my title Against the Stream came from Tennyson’s 'I fought against the stream and all in vain.' More recently, my latest book with Whiskey Creek Press (released this month) has the title Fragrance of Violets. The keyword in this case was forgiveness and this quotation from Mark Twain was perfect: 'Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.' The only exception to my use of quotations was His Leading Lady (released in June, 2011 by Whiskey Creek Press). I decided on this title during the very early days of writing it, and didn’t even try looking for a quotation as it fits the story, with the reader wondering who Kyle’s leading lady is going to be, not just in the show he’s producing but also in his life."

Paula told me that she's fortunate—she has a whole room in her house as her writing space. She lives alone and has converted one of the bedrooms into her study.

"A few years ago, I got rid of a mish-mash of cupboards, shelves and old desk, and invested in some modern office furniture so now I have cupboards and drawer unit around three walls, and two floor to ceiling bookshelves on the fourth wall. A corner desk gives me a view out of the window as I work at my computer although it’s not a very interesting view – just the backs of other houses in the neighbourhood.

"I do TRY to keep the area around my computer tidy but I’m afraid it does tend to get somewhat cluttered at times, particularly with post-it note reminders to myself which I stick to the desk. On my walls, I have various pictures and photographs – my daughters and grandsons, a calendar with photos of Ireland (one of my favourite places), and a framed photo of myself with my all-time favourite actor, Martin Sheen, when I met him last year in Los Angeles."

About the Author:
Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England. She had some early publishing success with four romance novels but had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and pursued her teaching career. After retiring from teaching, she has recently returned to writing and, so far, has had four romance novels accepted. She is currently working on a fifth.

Apart from writing, she enjoys travelling and has visited many places in many parts of Britain, and also in mainland Europe, USA, Canada and the Middle East. Her favourite place is Ireland, especially the west coast.

You can find the author online at: