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Monday, April 30, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes back Jenny Twist, who has a new book scheduled for release this fall—so be on the lookout for it! The title is All in the Mind, and I asked Jenny to tell us a little about it.

Tilly wakes up in the dark, alone and very frightened. She finds she is in a strange room inexplicably furnished in 1940s style. However did she get here? Has she somehow slipped into the past? Has she been kidnapped? Of one thing she is absolutely certain, she has never seen this place in her life before.

All in the Mind is a fascinating tale exploring the human capacity to overcome any obstacle, no matter how great, as long as you believe you can.

Tilly is part of an experiment working on a cure for Alzheimer's disease. She and most of the other patients taking part in the experiment seem to make a full recovery, but there is a strange side effect.

Tilly and her fellow experimental subjects appear to be getting younger.

Can the same experiment be repeated for Tilly's beloved husband so that he can recover from a stroke? Tilly thinks it can and she will move heaven and earth to make sure it happens.

A charming and thought-provoking story full of reminiscences of a bygone age, All in the Mind also deals with the dilemmas posed by new developments in a society whose culture is geared to the idea that the natural span of a human life is three-score years and ten.
Jenny's favorite author is Stephen King.

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

Before she came across Stephen King, her favorite author was John Wyndham.

"I have all his books and have read them over and over again. My son, incidentally, thinks this is really weird. He asked me how I could keep reading the same thing again when there are so many books in the world to read. I don't see how that is any different from listening to the same music over and over again. If it is beautiful and satisfying, why shouldn't you enjoy it more than once?" she asked.

With other authors, such as John Steinbeck, Robert B Parker, Louis de Bernières, have also influenced her own writing ("if we're talking individual books rather than authors, I think I might vote Captain Corelli's Mandolin the best of all time," she told me) and just recently she discovered Kate Atkinson and loves everything she's written.

For Jenny, the most important part of good writing is the language. She wants it to flow; she wants it to be right.

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

The second most important thing is the characterization. If the characters are not well drawn or if she cannot empathise with them, she soon loses interest in a story. She likes the plot to be believable and hang together well, but it's less important than the characterization and the language.

In her own writing, the idea for a story comes first and she keeps thinking it over at odd moments in the day, especially during that period between sleeping and waking.

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

Jenny shared with me that she often thinks of good titles and keeps a record of them, but have never used any of them. The stories she writes never seem to correspond to the titles she's saved, so she always has to think of a new title. Take One at Bedtime was suggested by her brother-in-law, along with the idea of putting: Warning: Do not exceed the stated dose in the blurb.

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

When Jenny's not writing, she and her husband enjoy going for a drive and exploring places—they live in a very interesting area, and there is always somewhere new for them to visit.

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

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

"I’m not convinced I have grown up. I know as a small child I wanted to be Doris Day and I used to practice singing and dancing for hours, using a hairbrush as a substitute for a microphone. But I think I also expected to be a writer. I did work as a professional singer for many years but the dancing never really took off. I don't really have the physique for it. And now, of course, I have at last achieved the other ambition of writing. I am having such a good time. Like Terry Pratchett, I can't help feeling that somebody will find out how much I'm enjoying myself and stop me."

Jenny admitted to me that she's become addicted to her Kindle, because for day-to-day reading it's so convenient. However, she did admit there's nothing like the feel and smell of a real book.

"I used to work for a recruitment agency and I once went on a client visit to a printers. I almost fainted with delight at the smell of new books - paper, ink and glue. And old books smell just as wonderful. I can rarely pass a second-hand bookshop. All those rows of dusty books, maybe containing some gem that I have never read, or an old friend I thought I would never see again. And, of course, if you have written a book yourself, an e book is no substitute for holding your own baby in your hand. Also, you can give an e book away, but you can't sign it. Oh, and something else. I don't think e books can ever replace print books entirely because some types of books just won't work as e books Maps, for instance. A map needs to be huge, so you can spread it out on the table and trace the route for the benefit of your friends. No atlas or guide book will be half as satisfactory in e form. And what about children's books? They have to be big and bright with pictures and pop-ups and tabs to pull through. How could you reproduce that in an e book?"

"What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?" I wondered.

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

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

She had a list:

  • Read Stephen King's On Writing.
  • Write about what you know.
  • Keep your paragraphs short and don't get carried away with purple prose.
  • DO write in grammatically correct English. Spell check everything and get other people to proof-read/edit your work before you send it anywhere.
  • DON'T listen to anyone who tells you you should: A) Stick to only one point of view. The whole point of writing in the third person is so that you can tell the story from more that one viewpoint or B) The story should be told through the thoughts/speech of the characters. This advice has resulted in some dreadful passages where the author either makes the character talk to himself incessantly or writes reams of conversations where the characters tell each other vast chunks of information that they must already know. For example, a character telling his best friend whom he has known for years that he has a daughter.
  • Before you even begin to send your story to publishers and agents, join author groups on the web. Other authors are incredibly supportive and helpful. They will tell you who the good publishers are, how to set up a website, how to promote. Some will even give you a critique or review.
  • A lot of publishers put out submission calls on these sites and when you submit in response to these, the chances are your story will actually be read. If I had known about them before I got published, I would have joined the sites before I even began to approach publishers and agents.
  • And finally, don't give up. Most publishers and agents don't even read your stories, so getting rejected doesn't say anything about how good they are. Stephen King, who is surely one of the best-selling authors of all time, papered his wall with rejection slips when he was just starting. I've just used all mine for scrap paper for my grandchildren to scribble on.
About the Author:
Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family. She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.

She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic. In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.

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

Find Jenny online at:


Facebook Author Page:

Goodreads Blog:

Amazon Author Page:



When Angela turns up in a remote Spanish mountain village, she is so tall and so thin and so pale that everyone thinks she is a ghost or a fairy or the dreadful mantequero that comes in the night and sucks the fat from your bones.

But Domingo knows better. “Soy Angela,” she said to him when they met – “I am an angel.” Only later did he realise that she was telling him her name and by then it was too late and everyone knew her as Domingo’s Angel.

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2012



Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Jane Toombs. Taken In came out in January from Champagne Books. It's the first book in her Dacon House Trilogy. Each of the three books in the series features Dagon House and it's ghastly history, although each book in the series are very different. In February, she released Terror from Before, the third book in her Dangerous Darkness series, published by Red Rose Publishing. Each of the books in this series features one of the Special Op guys that was introduced in the first book of the series, Shadow on the Floor, and what happens to them when they return to civilian life. Each of the first three believe the fourth, their leader, is dead. His is the fourth book.

She's currently working on the third book in her Underworld series for Eternal Press, Uncanny. In the beginning of the book, a midwife brings a dead monster of a baby she's just delivered and has exposed on Wolfen Ridge. These people believe if you bury a dead newborn, its spirit will haunt you forever. When they are left on Wolfen Ridge, the wild animals eat them. However, before she leaves, she hears a baby cry. Nobody is supposed to leave a live baby on Wolfen Ridge, so the midwife investigates and finds a live, seemingly perfect baby girl. She brings the child back to replace the monster that was born, since nobody else knows of the nature of the original birth.

"And, of course, we all know about good intentions," Jane told me.

In 2009, Jane made a New Year's Resolution that she had to finish the first book in every series she'd ever created before she could even think about creating a new series.

"I’ve renewed that resolution every year since and have finished one trilogy, am one book away from finishing another series, have one book done in yet another, and still have more first books to finish in already created series. My series tend to be paranormal suspense romance."

Why did she decide to add paranormal to the romance and suspense?

"That's a hard question to answer. In the case of Taken In, the first book in my Dagon House Trilogy, I think it’s because the ghosts add a special quality to this trilogy. Also their story runs concurrently through the series and is resolved in the final book in a positive way. Thought I do leave the reader hanging about whether or not the cat is a ghost--on purpose," she said. "I like setting stories in old houses , especially isolated old houses. Places like that have a certain ambience that seems almost ghostly all by itself. I find myself asking: Who were the people who once lived and loved and maybe died in this house? What happened to them? Suspense and, yes, romance comes in when I combine the answers with what’s happening to the people living there today. Each book in the trilogy has a new set of current lovers who are forced to interact with ghosts they don’t want to believe in, along with having to deal with their own turbulent pasts. It’s fun to tell dual stories."

Jane told me she couldn't narrow her favorite authors down to one, because she always have more than that in each genre I like to read. For example, in murder mysteries I equally enjoy Lee Childs with his Jack Reacher stories and Michael Connelly with his Harry Bosch ones. Recently I sent a friend of mine who is a beginning writer one of each of those books and she says she‘s learning so much from seeing how these guys handle suspense. . I don’t have a favorite romance writer unless we’re talking gothic. It still amazes me the way Phyllis Whitney, for example, handled her suspense. I met her once in New York after she gave a talk, and it still is one of the highlights in my life."

I asked her how she came up with the titles to her books.

"I always ask myself what kind of title would intrigue me. And sometimes the title is obvious when I do series books. In my Dangerous Darkness series, the first two books were Shadow on the Floor and Watcher at the Door, so I knew the end word had to rhyme The third is Terror from Before and so the last is Stranger on the Shore. And he really is strange."

It surprised Jane to learn that if she didn't have a synopsis she would lose track of where she was going.

"No pantsering for me, I’m a confirmed plotter," she admitted. "But that doesn’t mean my characters never surprise me or that scenes that fit in don’t occur to me when I‘m writing."

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

"You’re not going to believe this could happen . I’m at a restaurant in New York City with my agent and a packager I’d already done one book for. What my agent had discussed with me the previous week over the phone was an historical romance I’d outlined . The first book I did was historical so it seemed natural. Well, no one mentions business at these luncheons until drinks are served and orders are taken. My agent begins it by saying, 'Jane has something entirely new for you that I know you will love.' I’m staring blankly at him thinking what the hell is he talking about? He then starts off with a tale of sex and danger in the High Sierras . Well, yeah, I do live in California at this time--but the mountains? I have never before heard one word of this tale he’s spinning. The other guy is nodding, looking interested and I want to sink right through the floor and disappear. There is no way I can discuss such a book, one I don’t know if I can even write. I wanted to kill my agent right then and there. So what happened? I tried to write the damn thing. The research was not too hard since my step-daughter was an enthusiastic rappeler. But the book just wouldn’t come together for me. The guy turned it down , but added a clause that I couldn’t sell it anywhere in the US.. Before I could fire my agent, he died. Did the book ever sell? Yes, when I quit the New York scene., I discovered some of the indie epubs were in Canada, so after a drastic revision, I sent High Risk to Champagne Books, thus getting around the clause. I got a great cover and the book did well, both in print and electronic."

Jane had never wanted to use a pen name, but an editor named Carolyn Fireside told her that her name was far too depressing for a romance author, so she renamed her Diana Stuart.

"This turned out to be a problem since both Anne Stuart sand I lived in upstate New York and had the same agent," she said. "We suffered through getting the wrong books from the agent and finally sorted things out so I just forwarded her books on to her and she to me. I couldn’t get rid of the name at H/S until the Shadows line came along and Silhouette let me use my own name with they agreed was absolutely right for the line."

"What was the scariest moment of your life?" I wondered.

"I am not a all a 'sensitive' as people are called who sense paranormal incidents. But just once in my life I had a real scare. I was alone at my brother’s cottage as a teen, because everyone except me went somewhere. Being alone never bothered me, and I decided to take a walk along the beach to the river. Since I couldn’t cross it because that wasn’t safe, I’d them turn around and come back. There were no otter cottages anywhere near my brother’s so it was pretty isolated. I’m ambling along the sand , looking for agates when all of a sudden the hair rose on my nape and I stopped, looking around. Nobody was in sight. No animal, either. I turned and ran back to the cottage and locked myself inside . I never had felt that sensation before, the feeling that something dangerous and unknown was watching me . Nor have I ever had it since. It was truly an eerie experience."

About the Author:
Jane Toombs, the Viking from her past and their calico grandcat, Kinko, live across the road from Lake Superior’s south shore in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula wilderness. Jane’s published books, including novels and novellas, have reached ninety. She’s aiming for one hundred.

Gail Sarandon flees New York City after seeing the murder of a man she knows--with both the hit man and Jason Tregarth, a Special Agent following her trail. Jason finds her first, but the hit man arrives before he can get her to safety. Gail with him, Jason manages to elude the hit man, only to crash on a lonely mountain road, totaling the car. He's injured, but Gail’s able to get him to the only shelter around--Dagon House. She believes they're safe, but she's wrong...

Thursday, April 26, 2012



Leave a comment to win one of two print copies of The Wolf Who Loved Me--US and Canada only please. Please make sure we have a way to contact you. Long and Short Reviews welcomes Tammy Falkner and Ava Stone of North Carolina, also known as Lydia Dare, whose newest book The Wolf Who Loved Me was released this month. They are currently working on the tenth book in their series—the story of Archer Hadley (one of Dashiel Thorpe's younger half-brothers), Viscount Radbourne, and Lady Sophia Cole. Each of the authors are also working on their individual series. Tammy is writing the second installment in her Unpardonable Errors series, which will begin with A Lady and her Magic in September, and Ava is writing The English Lieutenant's Lady, the second installment in her Heroes Returned series, which will be out this summer.

They told me that coming up with their pen name was worse than naming a child. First, they had to agree. Then it had to be something that wasn't too close to any other author, porn stars, or criminals. The domain name also had to be available. They finally decided on Lydia Dare and it stuck.

Tammy told me she didn't want to commute to and from work after her youngest child was born—she wanted to enjoy those early years. She gave up her corporate job to stay home and began to read voraciously. Characters began to appear to her, so she wrote their stories. She sold the first book she ever wrote and has been writing ever since.

She also told me she's never suffered from writer's block—that as long as she can get her "butt in the chair," the rest follows.

"Sure, sometimes I don’t know what my characters want to do or where they won’t to go, but that’s not writer’s block," she admitted, "it’s me being unorganized."

They don't plan much when they are working on the Lydia Dare books. They come up with a general topic as well as a hero and a heroine. It's important for them to cast the characters first, so they both "see" the same people. Ava does a big family tree for the characters, because she has to know where they came from before they can figure out where the characters are going. They decide what their main conflict is and then they start writing, 1500 words at a time. Neither of them know what the other will come up with when it's her time with the pages, so they just go with the flow.

The titles are usually old movie titles with a paranormal twist, because Ava is a big movie buff.

Ava told me that whichever book she is working on at the time is her favorite, because she has to connect so closely with the characters.

"With that said, there is something I love about my solo book A Scandalous Pursuit," she admitted. "I think it’s the devilish hero."

Tammy said the hardest part about writing for her is keeping all the other stories out of her head long enough to finish the one she's working on at the time.

"I have characters knocking on the door to my mind all the time, and, if I let them, they would move in and refuse to leave until I get their stories on paper," she explained.

When Tammy's not writing, she admitted that she's the ultimate sports mom.

"I enjoy nothing more than following my teenager from place to place so I embarrass him from the stands. And my youngest who is eight just started gymnastics, so I get to learn a brand new sport and follow him around for at least the next ten years. I can’t wait!"

"Have either one of you ever eaten a crayon?" I asked.

" No, not that I am aware of," Tammy said. "But when my son was small, we had a cocker spaniel that devoured box after box of crayons. She went around snarfing them up like a vacuum cleaner. And pooped rainbows. It never hurt her and she really did love them. She also loved chewing up garden hoses into one inch bits. Crazy dog."

Tammy admitted to being both a plotter and a pantser. Ava is very character driven, and Tammy is very plot driven. However, they can't plot too much or they will stifle one another. When they trade pages, they have to know that the story is going to go where it's going and they can't control it.

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

"I have a sister who is five years younger than me. We look nothing alike now and we didn’t growing up either," Ava said. "But for some reason, my mother always made us dress in matching clothes. We would end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins. I was mortified half the time I left the house."

Ava was the yearbook sports editor while she was in high school and thought it was perfect.

"I wasn’t necessarily in any cliques. But everyone was nice to me, especially the athletes," she said. "They all wanted to be in the yearbook after all."

"What would we find under your bed?" I asked.

Tammy told me, " Most of the time, you’d find a cat under my bed. But only when I’m in the room. Any other time, they like to wallow all over my bed and spread hair around. When I come in the room, they dive under the bed, particularly the feral one we just inherited when my mother in law died a few months ago. I’d rather have inherited furniture. But she’s growing on me. I just wish she’d grow on our other cats as quickly."

She also told me that her family is what makes her happy.

"I don’t know where I would be without them. My husband, even after 19 years, still gives me that Tender-Sweet-Sense-of-Belonging. My boys are amazing and there are 9 years between them. (Let me tell you – you do it differently when you’re older!). My parents are a huge part of my life and that of my children. And the memories of those who have passed on support me, even in their absence. Life is like a book you can open again and again and read no matter the time or day, even after someone has left us."

About the Author:
Lydia Dare is the writing team of Tammy Falkner and Ava Stone, who have written two paranormal historical romance series. Both Tammy and Ava are active members of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and live near Raleigh, North Carolina. Together they are working on the next book in their new paranormal historical series as Lydia Dare, tentatively titled Wolfishly Yours, set to release in November 2012. For more information, please visit

Find the author online at:

Regency England Has Gone to the Wolves!

Lady Madeline Hayburn Has Money Problems...

Specifically, she has so much of it that she's dogged by fortune hunters, including her bewilderingly attractive, penniless neighbor, with his wild nature and uncouth manners...

Weston Hadley Has An Identity Crisis...

Specifically, he's just turned into a wolf while Madeline was watching. Now it's up to the regal lady to tame the wild beast... if she can...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Mackenzie Crowne, who is currently running a scavenger hunt on her website to celebrate the release of her debut novel Gift of the Realm today! Click on her name to go to her website and find a question. Then…come back here to find the answer. The visitor with the most correct answers will win an ecopy of her debut release Gift of the Realm and a $25 Amazon gift card. ***Scavenger Hunt Question.***

"Gift of the Realm is a contemporary fantasy, for lack of a better term. Personally, I consider it a love story with mystical elements," Mackenzie told me. "Keely O’Brian is a modern day woman, haunted by dreams of an ancient stone ring and Colin Quinn, the handsome Irishman she’s loved since a trip to visit her grandmother when she was seventeen. Returning to Ireland, Keely is determined to discover the source behind the dreams and end them once and for all. What she finds is a fairie heritage, a three hundred year-old curse, and a love for the charming Halfling whose denial of their combined fate threatens to doom her for eternity."

Mackenzie's second book, scheduled for release this summer, is a far different book than Gift of the Realm. That Dating Thing is a fun contemporary.

The daughter of Wall Street’s most notorious stock swindler, dog trainer, Rylee Pierce has perfected the art of flying beneath society’s radar. Prosecutor, Cooper Reed is a threat to her carefully hidden truths, but how is a woman supposed to resist a man capable of handling a psychotic Great Dane while charming her out of her panties before she has the chance to blink?
Mackenzie wrote her first book when she was ten, "bowing to the pressure from the voices in my head," she said.

"Do you still have your first story?" I wondered.

"I have no idea where that first attempt to put the voices on paper went. I’m not that organized. Heck, I can’t find my cell phone most of the time," she confessed.

For Mackenzie, the most important element is story, story, story.

"There are a gazillion books out there for a voracious reader to choose from, some exceptional, some horrible! For me, exceptional means the story itself keeps me turning pages. Anyone can write a love/sex scene," she said, then paused. "Okay, that’s not quite true, but you know what I mean. If all I wanted in my reading experience was steamy sex, I’d pick up a porn magazine. I want the meat. I want to be taken on an adventure of the heart. Give me a heroine with whom I’d like to have a martini. Make me care where she’s heading, laughing while she muddles her way to happily-ever-after, and crying over the scars on her heart. Do that and you have yourself a fan."

Although she's a pantser at heart, the plot comes first. She considers herself a storyteller first and a romance author second. Once she has the basic story solid in her head, the characters jump in and take it from there.

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

"You know, that’s a really good question and one I’m not really sure how to answer. Sometimes the title just jumps out at me. Bam, here I am! Other times I’m putting the finishing touches on a story and still referring to it by my working title, which inevitably is the heroine’s name. The title is important, however. Like a three or four word tag line, the title should convey the theme to the reader. I often pick up a book because the title snags my attention or whimsy."

She will also choose anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, because when she finds the time to sit back and read, Mackenzie wants to be entertained.

"While a historical adventure or a romantic suspense will keep my interest, I’m a romantic comedy kind of girl. SEP never fails to make me laugh amid the sighs," she said.

Mackenzie admitted that while, in her head, she knows publishing two titles qualifies her to claim the title of "writer," she's still working on considering herself one.

"When you jump into a pool of talented swimmers, while still wearing floaties, it’s impossible to claim victory with a straight face. Don’t get me wrong. I am a writer, but I’m also a work in progress, and consider that a good thing. I want to be on par with all those talented authors I love. So, I’ll continue to write and keep my eye on the prize," she told me.

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

"Oh, you know, the typical things little girls dream of. Zookeeper, writer, Grammy award winning singer, writer, supermodel (Hah!), writer, international spy…writer. "

Growing up was in a small town just north of Boston. She loved the history of the area, and she and her dad would haunt all the historical sites throughout her growing up years. However, when she was eighteen, she and her boyfriend at the time (now her husband) took a trip to Arizona.

"I took one look out the window when we landed in Phoenix and I knew I was home. The southwestern desert feeds my soul," she told me. "Hubby and I have lived here, raising our two sons, for 23 years now. I can’t imagine living anywhere else."

"Speaking of growing up," I said, "what is the most embarrassing thing your mother ever did to you?"

"Ugh. Sorry, Mom, but it has to be said. I have really thick, curly hair. My wild hair bugged the hell out of my mother when I was growing up and she used to instruct the hairdresser to ‘thin’ it out with thinning shears. Like a sheep, I tell you! The last time it happened, I was sixteen. Hello, high school! When I got home from the appointment, my siblings got a good laugh out of my ‘see-through’ hair, but I was horrified. I promptly found my own hairdresser and cut my hair boy-short. And mom never mentioned my wild hair again."

She and her four sisters are all hair-twirlers.

"My best friend’s daughter used to stop by my house occasionally when she was a young girl," she remembered, "and when she went home and my friend asked her what I was doing, she’d say, ‘Twirling her hair and reading, of course.’"

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

" I…plead the fifth."

If Mackenzie had to start her journey to getting published all over again, she would begin learning the ins and outs of digital promotion as soon as possible—long before signing her first contract.

"As a technically challenged author, I am scrambling to earn an education in the world of e-books, facebook and twitter, which takes time away from what I want to be doing - writing."

"What was the scariest moment of your life?"

"I am a four year breast cancer survivor. To beat this cruel disease, I faced double mastectomies, chemotherapy, and radiation, along with several other forms of treatment. I would have to say the scariest moment I have ever faced happened four days after my first chemo treatment. I can’t tell you how incredibly horrible I felt that morning - it’s indescribable. Because I had only endured one treatment so far, I didn’t know if I’d reached the extent of discomfort or if I would continue to spiral downward until I lost my mind. I finally picked up the phone and called one of my sisters. I was so distraught, I couldn’t speak. She understood without my having to say a word. We prayed together that morning, and I survived that and seven more debilitating visits to toxic hell, but that lowest point of my life is something I will never forget."

About the Author:
I'm a wife, mother, and grandmother. I married my high school sweetheart and together we live in the beautiful desert city of Phoenix AZ. Blessed with two rambunctious little boys, we somehow managed to raise them into warm and wonderful–though still a bit rambunctious-men, without any disfiguring mishaps. Dirt bikes and ESPN are the order around our house, and life at the 'Testosterone Ranch' more closely resembles one of today’s wacky reality shows, than yesterday’s ‘Leave It To Beaver’. The story-telling voices in my head have been there as long as I can remember. I penned my first tale when I was ten, but it took a bout with breast cancer to sharpen my resolve to see my stories shared with others. As of today, I am a four-year survivor, living her dream.

Find the author online at:!/MacCrowne

Beneath the fairie mound of Dunhaven's Door, two dreamers meet their destiny…

After a decade of trying to outrun her debilitating dreams, Keely returns to Ireland to face the ancient ring of stones and the man haunting them. Within the stones, she embraces her fairie heritage and her mystical gifts. But can she trust the handsome Halfling who shares her dreams and holds her heart?

When Keely reappears in his life, Colin’s fairie blood threatens to gain the upper hand. Compelled to assist the lovely Halfling, he agrees to help her break the three-hundred-year-old curse on their families, but he'll do it on his terms—as a black wolf.

Together, two Halflings can stand against any power, but only love can break the bonds of bitterness. Will Colin’s arrogant plan to outwit the King of the Fairies doom Keely for eternity? Or is their love enough to break the curse?

Monday, April 23, 2012



One random commenter will win a copy of When Dreams Come True (US and Canada only please)


Cathy Maxwell talks about how Daphne du Maurier helped her write WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE, her upcoming THE CHATTAN CURSE trilogy, and the fun of escaping to another world...

Cathy, thanks for joining us and congratulations on the republication of WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE.

First, when was WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE published? And why does a publisher “re-release” a book?

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE was first published in 1998, almost fifteen years ago. Publishers re-release because the public is interested in the author and want to read those classics. It’s a wonderful compliment.

The novel is set in the Regency era—your specialty!—but it’s far from the ballrooms of London. Why did you choose a remote village and estate as a setting? Where is Cornwall, anyway?

Cornwall is a peninsula located in the most western part of England. Eden would not be able to hide her past if she was in London, but here, surrounded by kind village people, she can be whomever she wishes. I also like the dynamic of country life. It truly is the heart and soul of England, even today.

The village, Hobbles Moor, and Penhollow Hall are a world onto its own, with most of the story taking place there. What is it about stories set in this sort of microcosm that appeals so much to so many readers? Is it that it can be so entertaining to read about characters such as villagers, servants and the “local gentry” can be so entertaining to read—as well as a change of pace?

Don’t we all love escaping to another world? Leaving the bills, the cares, the car pools? We all have our “villages” in real life. Our peeps. And I think recognizing them in literature is grand fun.

There’s a bit of magic in WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE as the villagers cast a spell to bring the Earl of Penhollow a bride. Do you believe in magic? Is this something you’ve used as a plot device in other books? Which ones?

I believe that when people come together for one shared purpose, great forces are set to work. Is that magic? Do we have the ability to will what we desire? Or is it Higher Power answering prayers? I’m open to everything. That being said, I’ll be using the mysteries of life again in my upcoming The Chattan Curse trilogy. The first book is LYON’S BRIDE and it will be released tomorrow.

Trained as a courtesan, the beautiful and innocent heroine, Eden, is destined to be part of a harem. Did her blend of knowledge and innocence make her a difficult character to write?

Eden wasn’t any more difficult than the others. And perhaps easier. After all, she had a secret. She isn’t innocent . . . whereas Pierce was more complex. He is the character with a decision to make.

Was including the harem a tip of the hat to the breakout romances of the late 70s from authors such as Johanna Lindsey, Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss?

I wasn’t thinking of them at all. Actually, I wanted to turn the tables. Eden is the one with “experience.” In many ways, Pierce is the innocent and I liked that thought of a “pure” knight.

Which, if any, of your other novels is similar to WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE in terms of being set outside of London and the immediate concerns of the ton?

Many of them—BECAUSE OF YOU, TEMPTATION OF A PROPER GOVERNESS, THE SEDUCTION OF AN ENGLISH LADY, IN THE HIGHLANDER’S BED, FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN . . . titled people for titled people’s sakes are not interesting to me. I like the dynamic of a society.

It’s been fourteen years since Pierce and Eden got together. Surely one of their children will be old enough in a few years to have a romance of his or her own. Do you think you’ll ever return to Penhollow Hall?

I don’t know about revisiting Penhollow Hall, although I suspect I’ll be returning to Cornwall again. For the research on this book, I read Daphne du Maurier’s Vanishing Cornwall. Cornwall was the setting for many of her books and her travelogue is wonderful reading for an armchair traveler.

How can readers get in touch with you with questions and comments? And are you on Facebook?

I have a website at Yes, I’m on Facebook. Isn’t everyone? Readers can find me at if they want to yak at me. To sign up for my mailing list or just post a quick comment, I have a fan page at

What have you got in store for us next?

This is a Maxwell packed spring! The first of The Chattan Curse books is out tomorrow, LYON’S BRIDE. Then, in June, Avon Impulse is releasing an e-anthology titled FOR LOVE AND HONOR. Lynne Hinton and Candis Terry are the book’s other two authors. We were each given the theme of “a soldier” and turned loose from there. I adore my contribution "The Bookish Miss Nelson". It is set during the Peninsula Wars in the early 1800’s.

Then, Pocket Books will be re-e-releasing (did you catch all of that?) a novella I wrote for them a decade ago titled, In a Moonlit Garden. It will be out in July. Long time fans will know this is from the TEA FOR TWO anthology I did with Liz Carlyle.

Finally, the second book of The Chattan Curse trilogy, THE SCOTTISH WITCH, will be out in November of this year. The third book, THE DEVIL’S CURSE, should be out next spring.

I have my nose to the grindstone!

Thanks again, Cathy!


An Avon Books Mass Market Reprint/Fiction

April 2012/On Sale: 3-27-12/$7.99 (Canada $9.50)/978-0061755880 ● 0380797097

Friday, April 20, 2012



The Eraser Effect


Tony Wayne Brown

As she sat in the upper level of a bar where her friends were the karaoke DJs, Andrea wondered what in the world had possessed her to come out that night. With the way her ex-husband had treated her while she was being treated for cancer, she certainly had no interest in meeting a man, and the idea of getting in front of strangers to sing herself was foreign to her. Suddenly, though, the smile of a man who sat at the table on the lower level caught her eye.

“Excuse me, sir, could you sing a song for me?” she said hesitantly. Luckily, he hadn’t heard her. What are you thinking of? What about all those bad memories? Andrea again let her gaze wander toward the table below. Her chin tilted up; her eyes closed; wispy clouds being chased through her mind by a dove mystically shot through by radiant sunbeams.

A slight shake of her head cleared the clouds away; her head swiveling to the left in the direction of the stage where her friends were, but even so, the corner of her right eye kept a vigil for any sign of movement below. The sound of rap music made her almost long for the 70s disco days and white-suited Denny Terio from the Dance Fever TV show.

Well, almost, anyway.

Her sentry eyes alerted like a wine connoisseur spying a vintage chardonnay tucked into a row of two-liter Pepsi bottles. The inspiration for her fleeting daydream stood and looked in her direction, scratching the side of his head just below the purple and gold East Carolina University cap he was wearing. Taking a couple of steps, he rested his elbows on the railing next to her.

“Are you putting in a slip, I hope,” the man said, eyebrows risingand a more than pleasant smile lighting his face.

Brown eyes it seemed he had, maybe hazel. Too dark in the place to really tell. Whatever the color of his eyes were, the enlarged pupils, along with the tone of his voice, fired a shot across her bow. His attention was obviously prompted by more than any casual interest in her vocal stylizing possibilities.

“I’m just here because my friends are running the karaoke.”

“Oh,” he said, sighing. His head sank a bit, furrows appearing on his forehead. In an “I gave it a shot” tone he noted, “There’s not many people here tonight, huh.”

It seemed he was turning away, but something, something, was threatening to pierce the self-imposed coat of armor she had installed after her divorce when she’d decided there’s no good man to be found who was worth any effort at all. Not only had her husband spent their mortgage money on another woman, he’d wined and dined her with their Greenville Utilities payment, too! Surviving without electricity for a week until she came up with enough cash to pay the bill was an experience she'd never thought would happen.

With her undergoing chemotherapy at that same time, it’d been too much to bear.

Andrea was not going to fall into that trap again, no way, no how, and that was that. She was just beginning to recover from both her physical and relationship problems. Her life was full, and getting involved with another man so soon wasn’t on her agenda; the path of her life didn’t need to lead there at all. Nobody thought that was where it should go, not now, anyway. Her best friend Jill had even threatened to “lambaste” her with a skillet for just looking at a guy in the supermarket. Still, she felt a strange connection to someone she hadn’t even met, even if he weren’t all that handsome—and the past three years of battling cancer to remission had been mighty lonesome despite her circle of female friends.

“I’d like to hear you sing,” she heard herself saying, her voice sparkling like vocal diamonds. “I bet you’re good.”

The man refocused on her as he re-established his position at the railing and broke into a wide grin, lightly brushing her shoulder with his hand. He was back on the hunt. “Oh, I’m good all right. I’m so good the tooth fairy brings me two quarters instead of one.” He hesitated a moment, then mischievously smiled.

“Oh! You were talking about karaoke! Well, let me tell ya. Dogs howl and mamas cry when I sing. Songbirds fly away, and the drunks just ain’t drunk enough. When I sing, they say, ‘Elvis has definitely left the building.’”

She chuckled. “You can’t be that bad. So when are you singing?”

“As soon as the coast is clear, I guess,” he replied, shrugging as he scanned the stage.

“I don’t even know your name.”

“Tommy.” He extended his hand. “They call me ‘Tommy G’.”

She felt a completely unexpected tingle as her hand touched his, secretly admiring his well-toned torso. “I’m Andrea. Sometimes my friends call me Princess Ann.”

“Glad to meet you, your highness, Princess Ann,” he said, bowing lavishly. “Your every wish is my command. I live from this moment on only to serve you as your most humble servant.”

She laughed and said, “You are a smart man!”

“Smarter than a whiplash on a bare behind, my dear.” He patted his rear end; then scratched his head as he pondered. “The minute I laid eyes on you I knew you reminded me of someone beautiful and I just remembered who…that woman who was on The Rockford Files several times. Oh, yeah… Mariette Hartley.”

“I’ve been told that before,” Andrea said, appreciating the compliment, anyway.

“I bet you have. I love Mariette Hartley. You look just like her!”

Andrea felt another tingle at his obvious interest. “You’re cute, Tommy G. I thought that the first time I saw you.” She felt his hand grasping hers and didn’t mind at all, to her amazement. “You never told me what the ‘G’ stands for.”

“It stands for ‘Gun,’ like Tommy Gun. They say I sing until I completely run out of bullets.”

Another chuckle was interrupted by her friend, Mary, tapping Tommy on the shoulder. “The number’s wrong in the book for your song. Can you pick another one?”

Tommy scanned the karaoke song list she proffered and pointed at one as he showed it to Andrea, who nodded in response to his quizzical look.

“Okay, you’re next,” Mary said.

In a moment, Laymond announced, “Tommy G’s coming up here to do his first song for us tonight. Let’s hear it for Tommy!”

“Good luck!” Andrea said.

“Just don’t throw anything harder than a rotten tomato. I bruise easily.”

A ragingly unenthusiastic scattering of applause from the sparse crowd greeted the news as Tommy strode to the stage, looking so manly to Andrea in his jeans and tight purple ECU T-shirt.

Hmmm… but can he sing? Andrea kidded herself as she admired his physique. Her hand scolded her cheek as she felt heat rushing through her face, but yet a smile appeared despite her own reproval.

Tommy was not more than five-seven, but still she found herself examining him as he took his position at the mike. Momentarily, she allowed herself to think that maybe all men weren’t rats after all.

Just maybe, though.

The rap music mercifully finally ended, and the strains of a much-more to her liking style of music began emanating from the speakers. Tommy began to sing, quite pleasingly, to her delight.

“Who wants to buy-y-y, this diamond ri-ing-ing-ing. She took it off her finger now, it doesn’t mean a thi-ing-ing.”

Her thoughts turned to her long years of marriage all shot to pieces, but as the song continued, her blue-sky reverie raced through her mind again. Too bad she’d written off the male species in its entirety.

With the ending of “This Diamond Ring” came another smattering of applause, scarcely larger than the earlier one, but Andrea clapped enthusiastically. “Bravo! Bravo!” she cried as he left the stage. “That was good,” she said as he neared her. Tommy leaned farther over the railing than he had earlier and smiled the most infectious smile.

"Thanks, Princess Ann. It was really nice to meet you, but I guess I need to head on home. I need to get some shuteye because I'm working tomorrow."

Before he could leave, though, Andrea put her hand around the back of his neck and pulled his head to hers.

Oh, what the heck, she thought as her lips began erasing bad memories.

About the Author: USAF veteran Tony Brown, who hails from Greenville, N.C., has won Union Writers and Art Forum contests and received honorable mentions in Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Journal. In 2012 his work has appeared in/been accepted by Notes Magazine, In Between Altered States, Leodegraunce, Bartleby Snopes, and Sleeping Cat Books. Earlier he was published by Whortleberry Press, The Write Place At the Write Time, Short-Story Me, Blink Ink, The Storyteller, One Forty Fiction, Postcard Shorts, Down in the Dirt, Gemini, and elsewhere.

Thursday, April 19, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose newest book Letter From A Stranger was released on March 27. It is a book about three generations of women, and a pair of incredible family secrets.

"I can't give away the main secret, but I will say that the first one involves a lie that was told by a mother to her children about the supposed death of their grandmother," she said. "When this secret is discovered in a letter from a complete stranger, it leads the protagonist on a chase to find out the truth about her grandmother and her family history. It takes her to the enchanted city of Istanbul, where she discovers more than she could have ever envisioned, and a potential love interest."

She is currently working on a new book called Secrets from the Past, another stand-alone novel. She's halfway through the manuscript and wants to get it into the hands of her UK publisher sometime next month.

"It has a timely theme that I'd prefer not to reveal at this moment," she said.

The best advice Barbara had ever read from an author came from legendary British writer Graham Greene in an interview with Time magazine. He said, "Character is plot."

That resonated with her, because up until that point, she had been trying—unsuccessfully- to write stories and fit the characters into her plot. After taking Greene's advice to heart, she created a character called Emma Harte, and Emma's character became the plot for her novel A Woman of Substance, which was published in 1979.

"From that point forward, I knew exactly what was required for each additional novel," she told me. "A strong protagonist would be the catalyst for the story."

She has seen a lot of changes in the publishing world since she first broke in with A Woman of Substance.

"In 1979, there weren't yet audio books. No one had even dreamed of eBooks. It was just hardback and paperback. The hardback was your calling card. And if the book sold well, more attention would be paid to the launch of the paperback," she explained. "I was really lucky that the American edition of the hardback completely sold out. Doubleday, my original publisher, came out with new hardcover editions with different covers, which allows me to make the distinction from the first edition copies. Later, Avon, my original paperback publisher made a HUGE effort to promote the paperback and it became an all-time bestseller. The book was on the NY Times paperback list for about 60 consecutive weeks. These days, even the most successful authors are lucky to stay on the bestseller list for more than two weeks at a time. There is very little staying power anymore. All of the marketing efforts are geared to hitting the list in the first week or so. Also, back in 1979, the booksellers were all brick-and-mortar stores. Today, such a huge portion of book sales are done online. It's a very different publishing world than the one I broke into back in '79."

She also used to get called a lot by interviewers, but now since so many interviews are done via email, she has the time to really sit back and think about the questions.

"This is good for me when I need more time to look up something for a specific answer. On the other hand, it does take away some of the spontaneity, which can also be fun," she said.

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

"My first reaction would be to tell them not to choose writing as a profession. The chances of success these days are incredibly small, even for excellent writers," she told me. "If they still insist on pursuing a writing career, the next thing they need to be told is that a thick-skin in a MUST. Rejection is inevitable. Lots of rejection. I know of authors who sent out hundreds of query letters to agents before finally landing representation. This is not an easy process. It's painful and the odds are long. Would-be authors need to realize that the chances of making a living in this business... well, let's just say that having a back-up plan is in order. I should also add here that authors of today must also be good promoters. If you are fortunate enough to land an agent and then a publisher, you also need to be skillful in getting the word out about your book. Not even the most successful authors of today can afford to sit back and expect the publisher to do all the promoting."

The hardest part of writing for Barbara is fighting off distraction. She's an early riser and tries to be at her desk by 6 AM—sometimes 5:30 AM if she's trying to meet a deadline. Once the day gets going, there are so many things that can take her focus away from the book.

"I'm involved in a number of charities, and I often get requests from the various boards to participate in conference calls, or to attend meetings," she explained. "I hate to say no, but when I'm on a deadline I've really got to focus on the task at hand.I'm not always typing away. I often need time to think and plot out a strategy to complete a particular chapter. I also spend time reading over my work from the previous days to make corrections, or to pick up the flow from earlier scenes. I will generally work until noon, maybe 12:30, take a short lunch break, then resume writing until around 3pm. I don't love to go much later than this, as I have my best ideas and energy in the earlier part of the day."

One of the charities she's involved in is called Literacy Partners, a group that sets up reading centers around New York and teaches people how to read. She and her husband, Bob, are both passionate about what they do. Another one is the Police Athletic League of NY (PAL), which helps to build playgrounds in inner-cities and keeps kids busy with athletics instead of getting mixed up in activities that could be potentially negative.

Her apartment in Manhatten has a lovely view of the East River and the 59th Street Bridge. Her office is a converted bedroom that faces out to the river and a wonderful Art Deco Pepsi-Cola sign on the Queens side of the river.

"In my office is a large, antique desk with a computer, a phone and a typewriter. This desk is where I do much of my research for my novels. Underneath the desk is a little bed for our Bijon, Chammi. I have a smaller typing table with an IBM Lexmark typewriter that faces a plain wall. This is where I sit and type each of my novels. I prefer to work at a typewriter, as this is my comfort zone for my creative process going back to the beginning. All along the walls of my office are framed covers of each of my 27 novels to date. Actually, it's not just my American book covers, but also the UK jackets and quite a few foreign jackets as well. It's good motivation for me to complete whichever new book I happen to be working on."

While she's working at the home office, her husband, Bob, goes into an office in midtown and runs the business side of things. Barbara told me that's one of the secrets to their long life together—next year they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

"The time apart gives us breathing space and makes his arrival home an event to look forward to each day. I can't imagine either of us being successful if we were constantly in each other's way," she said. "You also have to really like one another and enjoy being with each other. Bob and I share so many of the same goals and interests. We love to travel together to explore new destinations, or to re-visit places that we both loved seeing in the past. It's crucial to evolve together as a couple and make every effort to stay interested in the things that your partner enjoys."

Barbara has written 27 novels to date, and she's halfway complete with her 28th.

"A Woman Of Substance is certainly my most enduring novel. It is one of the top-ten bestselling books of all-time, so I know that the story and characters still resonate with new generations of readers. My most personally satisfying novel might be one called The Women in His Life. It is loosely based on my husband's childhood and his escape from Nazi Germany. This was such an emotional story to write."

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

"Now there's a question that I've never been asked before! I surely can't remember eating one as an adult. Not too appetizing. Probably not as a child either. My mother would never have stood for such behavior. However, if I had to eat any crayon, I'd probably pick the blue one."

Barbara was born in a town called Armley in the North of England in Yorkshire.

"The city of Leeds is the biggest town in the area. I love that there are so many historic places to visit, including the ruins of castles and estates, such as Fountains Abbey. The Bronte sisters were and are legends, particularly in Yorkshire, Leeds and Haworth (where they lived). My mother used to take me on day-trips to the Bronte museum to visit the house where they wrote their classics. I was smitten by their genius. I still am to this day. When I go back home, I try to visit my favorite attraction—a shop called Bettys, which sells my favorite tea and baked goods," she told me. "I still love Fish and Chips with a bit of vinegar. There's nothing like a plate of fish and chips to take me back to my youth in Yorkshire."

About the Author:
Barbara Taylor Bradford was born and brought up in England, and started her writing career as a journalist. She has written twenty-six international bestsellers. This is her twenty-seventh novel. In 2007 Queen Elizabeth awarded her the OBE for her literary achievements. She currently lives in New York with her husband, TV and film producer Robert Bradford.

Find the author online at:


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Justine Nolan is a documentary film maker who lost her beloved grandmother a decade ago—the person who was the only source of love and comfort in her life. Her own mother Deborah had always been distant and uninvolved, following her own agenda in pursuit of her career as an interior designer. But when Justine inadvertently opens a letter addressed to her mother, she discovers that not only is her grandmother Gabri alive, but that Deborah has deliberately estranged the family from her for all these years. Justine’s search for her grandmother takes her to Istanbul where she begins to uncover the family’s secrets that stretch all the way back to World War II. As the layers of deception peel away, Justine begins to understand a woman she never really knew…and she begins to ask questions about the true desires of her own heart.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kathryn Meyer Griffith whose Blood Forge-Revises Author's Edition was released from Damnation Books/Eternal Press last month. It's available in print and, for the first time ever, e-format as well. Blood Forge was her third published novel, originally released in 1989 from Leisure Books.

Her working title was With This Gun and centered around a scandalous love triangle/murder that had taken place in the small town she had lived in years before. Kathryn's first husband was a police officer there, so some of the people involved had been her friends. The police force, as well as their wives and family, were a close-knit group, so the murder was a great shock to them. One of the police officers had been seeing another police officer's wife and the two of them were thinking about splitting up the families (both of which had children) to be with each other. Not unexpectedly, the betrayed husband wasn't happy about it when he heard the news from his wife—he shot and killed the other police officer in his home.

After a decade, Kathryn decided to use the story as a basis for a book, in part to help free her from the bad memories. She decided to use a possessed gun as a device to explain the killings the gun would be responsible for.

"Now I wasn’t exactly a lover of guns, but I was married to a cop. Guns were part of our lives. Always in the back of my mind was what I’d say to people who didn’t like the idea of me writing about a gun or hated guns: It isn’t a gun that kills people…it’s the person using the gun. In this book, I gave an even better motivation. The gun made people kill because it was evil," she explained. "This theme was what made it a supernatural story. A Colt Python would be possessed by an ancient demon; that the weapon had been forged from tainted iron or metal from the bowels of the earth centuries ago connected to that ancient demon-god. So the title Leisure eventually came up with was: Blood Forge (though I begged the editor to call it With This Gun or at least,Blood Forged, which made more sense), but—no, the publisher was determined to call it Blood Forge and in those days the author didn’t have any say so on that or the cover."

In the book, she followed the gun after its creation from unfortunate human to human as it made people crazy and murderous, creating havoc in everyone's life it touched. Evenatually, two people deeply in love have faith that they can defeat it…with the help of a mysterious priest (who may or may not be a priest at all).

"That plot about following a gun on its deadly rampage has been used many times since in television shows and stories, but I’d began thinking about the book as early as 1983, so, perhaps, I was the first," she mused. "Who knows?"

Leisure Books had published her second book, The Heart of the Rose, about a suspected witch in 15th century England amidst the War of the Roses political intrigues and her editor there, Jane Thornton, asked her if she had another novel to show them. The gun story was similar to her first book with Leisure (which Jane had also edited), Evil Stalks the Night, another romantic horror. Once Jane read it, however, she refused to edit it –guns scared her; she despised them; they killed people and were bad. Instead, another editor, John Littel, liked the book and Leisure offered her a contract for it.

Not only was Kathryn not thrilled with the title the publisher chose, she didn't care for the cover either.

"Embossed or not, it was too dark. A snake coiling around the barrel of a menacing gun on a black background. Along with the title, I felt it didn’t portray what the book was entirely about," she explained." The novel was a love story, a survival against great odds, a parable of faith, tale. A story of a man’s fight with alcoholism and how his wife’s love helps him beat the insidious influence of the alcohol as well as the gun. It was about cops, their lives and their families. But, as with the title, I had no choice on the cover and had to take what they gave me. That’s just the way it was back then. I still feel that’s part of the reason the book never did well in its first incarnation. I was still an unknown writer and when that’s the case I’ve found that the cover and title–how compelling they are–makes a difference in the sales.
"At this point, I must admit, after having just finished rewriting it…it was a very dark book written at a very dark time of my life. The darkest, I think, of all my books. I had gone through a divorce, remarriage and was juggling a full time job and a family. Trying to write at night. It was actually difficult for me to relive most of it. I was still in that early part of my career, still young without enough life experience, where I’d embed what I’d lived through and saw around me into my stories. I didn’t have the maturity yet to write anything too layered."
With the re-release of the book, she wishes she could change the title, but didn't think that would be fair to people who had already read the original book. However, she loves the new cover which was designed by Dawne Dominique. Dawne has also designed eleven of the other new covers for the books Damnation is re-releasing. Kathryn's first novel, Evil Stalks the Night, will be out again for the first time in 29 years, revised and updated, on July 1.

Blood Forge didn't do as well as her first two books, and Kathryn noticed that the publisher turned a little cool towards her.

"Seeing the way the wind was blowing, I went on to get an agent and she helped me jump up another rung of the ladder when she sold my next four books to a bigger publisher, Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing)," she told me. "And I left Leisure behind; and my three books there went out of print long ago. When the last old book from 1984, Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition comes out in July, my forty year writing career will have come full circle. It’s amazing. I guess a book never dies, huh?"

Kathryn is thinking of self-publishing her fifteenth novel, Dinosaur Lake, offering it at an attractively low price through Kindle.

"Sort of like a bait hook," she explained, "to lure people to my other books."

Dinosaur Lake is about a ferociously clever and hungry mutant dinosaur that lives in Crater Lake, Oregon and the park ranger that, with the help of his loving reporter wife and friends, has to fight the bloodthirsty creature. It’s a blend of science fiction, romance and horror.

" Hopefully, after the last of my old 14 novels are rereleased on July 1, I can finish the book and get it out there. Funny thing about this particular novel is it was supposed to originally have been a 1994 Zebra paperback (called, of all things, Predator, a title I hated for obvious reasons…and it had a boring cover of an empty boat on a lake) but when I lost my editor at Zebra in 1994 the new editor (stupidly, I angrily thought at the time) dumped it six weeks before it was to go to the book shelves–after all the covers had been printed and editing had been done–saying: No one wants to read about a dinosaur. What? Because a few months later the Jurassic Park book came out and did quite well. At the time I’d thought that the dinosaur book was my best one so far. My breakout bestseller. I believed in it. When it was so unceremoniously cut, disgusted and hurt, I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and forgot about it. Until now. Strange thing is the old Predator book (which never came out) still exists in the computers of the World Wide Web like some ghost book that won’t die. I always laugh when I see it, or someone asks where they can get it, because, really, it never came out. Now it will."

About the Author: Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21, over forty years ago now, and have had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel and two murder mysteries) previous novels and eight short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.

I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-three years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha and live cat Cleo, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die.

Find the author online at: (to see all my book trailers with original music by my singer/songwriter brother JS Meyer)


Blood Forge-Revised Author’s Edition (originally a 1989 Leisure paperback). An ancient snake-demon lays trapped behind the stone walls of an Incan prison, for centuries demanding blood sacrifices and scheming to escape. Then it discovers a pathway into the world of men, forging itself into a malevolent 357 Colt Python, and making itself capable of incomparable destruction and misery. Through decades it torments, decimates, the unfortunate people whose lives it comes into until a loving married couple, Emily and Sam Walters, have enough love and faith–and the help of a mysterious priest who’s much more than he appears to be–to fight against and destroy its evil forever…and to send it back to hell where it belongs.

Friday, April 13, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes M.K. (Marty) Chester, whose latest book Surrender to the Roman has just been released by Carina Press.

She's written several books, and Surrender to the Roman is the third published. Of all her published books, All in Good Time is special to her because, in many ways, it mirrors how she met her husband and his son, even though she met them long after she'd written the story. She thinks, however, that this last one is the most well-written story she's produced, with solid characters and plotting, as well as a voice that helps draw the reader into the era.

"It’s not like anything else I’ve done," she told me.

Her current WIP is set in ancient Syria, under Roman rule, that tells the story of an attendant in the temple of Anath and a Roman centurion who make an unlikely pact to stop a rebellion—one in an attempt at freedom, the other for advancement—and end up falling in love.

"With two books set in ancient times," I said, "how do you do the research needed for your stories?."

"This may come as a shock, but I do very little research before I write. I need the basics in setting, and in the case of Surrender to the Roman, dates, locations, and personalities. I leave gaps in the text where I need to do some research, and I’ll go back and do that when the 'research bug' bites. I enjoy research—I majored in history—and would spend a huge chunk of time doing it to the detriment of the story. I have to rein myself in, and when considering the story itself, realize how much or little detail I need. I’m writing a romance novel, not a history textbook."

Her stories tend to have unusual settings—her earlier works are set in the early 1900s and she's currently entrenched in the ancient world.

"I didn’t consciously choose these settings, but found my voice for these eras came more naturally than for others, so I followed it, and will continue to follow it," she explained.

Marty told me she's been writing since before she had words—she used to take her brother's books and draw pictures in the front and back pages to tell a story, mostly involving Ronald McDonald, Grimace, and Hamburgler.

"But I guess it was about fourth grade that, when I’d finished reading a book, I first throught, 'I could do that.' And I started writing stories to entertain myself. I still write to entertain myself—and hope I entertain others as well."

The characters always come first for Marty—it might be in an unusual name, an article of clothing, a photograph, a song lyric—something will make her wonder about this particular person. Then she puts them in a time and place, followed closely by a situation.

Once she has these things, there are a couple of tried and true methods she uses to further develop the story.

"For characterization, I slip into first person and dive into a character’s head. I’ll write my character’s backstory in a narrative. They surprise me—I may think I know where they come from and how they got to the story, but be totally off base. Once I have the personalities nailed down, I like to use Deb Dixon’s GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict) to help me see the plot in more detail. I use the charts to show me not just the overriding concerns of each character, but to highlight the areas of conflict that build the plot. If I don’t have enough conflict, I’ll go back and tweak things so the tension builds, and the character and plot growth is believable."

"Do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser?" I asked.

"UGH! I am a total pantser. And I’m a character-driven pantser, which is worse! I had to learn through experience that I need to plot things out. I have plotted out an entire story, but then I didn’t write it because I felt like I already had. So, after writing myself into numerous corners, I now plot three chapters ahead. It gives me enough structure to move forward, but allows me to feel like I can still change things."

I asked Marty to tell us a little bit about her family.

"I have an unusual family—maybe a lot of people can say that these days, or maybe not. I am married, and my husband has a daughter and a son. His daughter is in college and lives in Orlando. His son lives with us, and has two half-brothers, so at any time we can have four 'kids' in the house. My husband is also the youngest of seven children, so they have (really) large family gatherings. My parents are now moving closer to us, and my brother just married last year, and lives in Washington state."

The hardest thing about writing for her is putting her butt in the chair.

"I’m not a procrastinator, but when you have a full time job and a family, priorities change," she told me. "I got married about four years ago, moved to a new state, started a new job, and became a single parent when my husband was deployed to Iraq. I finished Surrender to the Roman while he was gone, but finding a solid routine has been really difficult."

She loves spending time with the family, however. Her son is an excellent young basketball player, and she likes to shoot in the driveway with him, watch his games, or head out to her in-laws for a big meal with their "ginormous" family. She also enjoys loves their three dogs, Stewie and Angus (the Scottish Terrorists) and Girl (a Golden/Chow mix).

"What is one thing your readers might be surprised to learn about you?" I wondered.

"That I’m a total sports nut! I have been since I was a kid. I’ve played and coached college basketball, and spent most of March watching the NCAA basketball tournament. I take it as a good omen that my book released the same day as the NCAA men’s basketball championship game."

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

"My most embarrassing moment came with my family…I was home on spring break from college, and I’d been working on a series of papers for my senior project about Hong Kong and China. This was the early 1990’s. So I typed this paper and was so pround of it. I printed out a copy and my dad asked to see it. I handed it to him and he just busted out laughing. I meant to title the paper 'Is Hong Kong Long Gone?' but it came out 'Is Hong Kong Long Dong?' Maybe I was always meant to write romance!"

About the Author:
M.K. Chester is an award-winning, multi-published romance author who likes complex characters, off-beat eras, and happy endings. Hats include: wife, mom, history geek, organizational genius, lover of sports, and owned by two beastly Scottish Terriers named Stewie and Angus. A member of Romance Writers of America, she previously published vintage-era romances under her maiden name, Marty Kindall.

Find the author online at:




As the Romans storm the last stronghold of Dacia, Princess Ademeni awaits her fate. Taken as a slave, she is deposited into General Marcus Cordovis's home as a gift.

Driven to avenge her family, Ademeni plots to kill her captor and escape. Though not the cruel victor she expects, Marcus keeps her too close to make escape easy--so close that Ademeni is soon tormented by an unbidden, traitorous attraction. In a moment of weakness, a passionate kiss almost undoes them both.

But the handsome, widowed general has another surprise for Ademeni: a young daughter. Marcus dares ask Ademeni to help him bridge the gap between him and his little girl. And now, Ademeni is growing too fond of those she is supposed to despise. As Marcus prepares for the triumphal march and the opening of the gladiatorial games--where captives of her homeland will be sacrificed--Ademeni readies for her own battle between revenge and love.

Thursday, April 12, 2012



Love is Blooming

Mary Manners

Bailey Cameron sipped sweet tea garnished with a fat lemon wedge as she leaned against the porch rail of her small, whitewashed house overlooking the ocean and tilted her face toward warm, late-afternoon sun. Jonquils bloomed cheerfully along the deck edge and flaming-yellow forsythia lined a neat concrete walk. Though her heart felt light with the thought of mild spring days ahead, Bailey fought the urge to cry.

Oh, how she missed the mountains of East Tennessee…and Nick Connor. Snagging the job of her dreams with Magnitude Engineering in Southern California was a great boost to her ego, but at what cost? She was here…alone, and the very idea felt like an anchor tugging at her heart. She’d hurt the person she loved more than anyone in the world—Nick.

Bailey couldn’t nudge Nick’s look of utter disbelief from her memory as she recalled how she’d explained to him she’d be leaving Knoxville—and him—following their graduation from the University of Tennessee. His blue eyes, round and so full of love for her, had grown dark and shadowed with disappointment.

“If you have to go, Bailey, I understand,” he’d murmured as he brushed a callused knuckle across her cheek, though his gaze told her otherwise. His breath was warm on her neck as he leaned across the dinner table and the scent of him—clean soap and smooth, sandalwood aftershave—consumed her as he drew her close. She pressed her face to his soft cotton T-shirt and sighed.

“But, I’m going to miss you. I don’t know if I can stand it.”

“You’ll be fine.” Nick stroked the tender underside of her wrist, and Bailey knew he must feel her trembling.

“Can’t you come with, Nick…even if only for a little while?”

“You know I can’t.” He shook his head slightly, sighing, and sat back in his chair. “I’m needed here. The business…”

“I understand.” Bailey knew his dad was counting on him to help out at the family’s construction firm, and now that Nick had earned his business degree, there was no excuse not to give one-hundred percent.

“I can’t let my dad down, Bailey. I promised him…” Nick drew her close once more, and Bailey felt safe and sheltered in his arms as he murmured, “I know you worked hard for this opportunity, Bay, and you have to take it.”

Now Bailey wondered…did she really have to take this particular job? Was leaving East Tennessee—and Nick—the only choice she had? Should she have waited for something better in Knoxville? She’d prayed about the choice at every turn, and still waited for an answer that would satisfy. But, none came. So she plodded on, doing the best she could at Magnitude and eating frozen dinners alone, with the soft murmur of ocean waves her only company.

Long months had passed, yet her love for Nick remained strong despite the distance between them. They spoke every night, and sometimes in the mornings, too. He seemed happy as he talked about the progress he and his dad were making with the construction company…or was he just as good at hiding his loneliness as she was?

Sure, she’d flourished at her job as a computer programmer while Nick took over his family’s construction business. And, yes, she excelled at her dream job. But Bailey felt empty inside—like a gaping hole had been punched right through her chest where her heart belonged. She wrapped her arms around herself and brushed a tear from her cheek as a sob escaped her lips. She wondered what Nick was feeling right now. Did he miss her as much as she missed him, or was he slowly beginning to move on—away from her and the memories they shared?

The slam of a car door drew Bailey’s gaze from the sun-kissed ocean beyond, and she turned to find a delivery truck in the driveway. She set her tea glass on the porch rail and swiped the wet from her face as she rushed to meet the skinny, teenaged boy who leapt from the driver’s seat.

“May I help you?”

“Bailey Cameron?” He checked a note attached to his clipboard.

“That’s right.” She nodded, cupping a hand over her eyes to shield them from the glare of the sun.

He removed the ball cap from his head and scratched disheveled dark hair. “I think I have a delivery for you.”

“But you’re not sure?”

He shook his head and then repositioned the cap, tugging it low over his eyes. “Our computer crashed, but the boss sent me out here anyway. I know you’re supposed to get something, but I’m not sure which package is for you.”

“How many are there to choose from?” Bailey peeked over his shoulder and into the cargo area of the truck. Cartons in a variety of sizes were stacked floor to ceiling. A few had toppled in a heap of battered cardboard.

“Oh, just two.”

“So I have a fifty-fifty chance?”

“Uh huh.” He shrugged scrawny shoulders and scratched a hint of stubble across his pointed chin. “I guess you could say that.”

“Well, I suppose I should take a look.”

“Let’s see, then.” He climbed into the truck and fumbled around while Bailey kept her distance, waiting. A moment later he hopped down from the cargo area, a flat, rectangular-shaped box in his hands. “What about this?”

The box held chocolate-covered cherries wrapped in shimmery gold and pink foil. Bailey quickly shook her head.

“Uh uh. It can’t be those. I’m allergic to cherries.” She crossed her arms over her belly, frowning. Her blonde ponytail swept the nape of her neck as she shook her head. “And, I’m still trying to lose my freshman twenty…five years later. What else do you have?”

“Let’s take another look-see.” The boy turned from her to reach into the truck again. Boxes tumbled and clattered against the metal floor as he hauled out a crate. “It’s gotta be this one, then. Be careful…it’s fragile.”

Bailey’s heart raced at the sight of brilliant long-stemmed red roses arranged in a delicate emerald vase. A sunshine-yellow bow fluttered in the slight breeze. “Oh, my…”

The boy gaped at her, his mouth tilting into a grin. “I take that as a yes.”

“Oh, yes.” The roses had to be from Nick—they just had to be. Bailey remembered what he’d whispered to her the last day they were together, as he carefully loaded her belongings into her car and she slid into the driver’s seat to crank the engine, her eyes swimming with tears.

“Don’t cry, Bay. You have to take this chance.” He’d leaned into the window and kissed her cheek, then each tear-dampened eyelid, gently. “But when it gets too much, Bailey—when I miss you so much I can’t stand to be away from you another minute—I’ll send you the most beautiful red roses you’ve ever seen, to let you know I’m on my way to you.”

“Oh, Nick…” Bailey gasped and scanned the length of the quiet, tree-shaded boulevard. Widow Robbins and Sara Hunter were both busy in their yards across the street, pruning flowerbeds blooming with an explosion of wave petunias. Mr. Reynolds rocked in his whitewashed porch rocker, a folded newspaper in his hands. Two yards down, the Taylors’s dog whined to be let into the house.

Bailey sighed and tilted her face toward the warm sunshine as her pulse began to dance. Soon Nick would be here to enjoy the wonderful sights and sounds. Together they’d make a life…an adventure they’d share together. The thought made Bailey tremble with longing.

“I’ll sign for these.” Bailey took the roses from the boy and pressed her nose to the petals. The sweet fragrance of love surrounded her—love in full bloom.

About the Author: Mary Manners is an award-winning author of inspirational romance who lives in the beautiful foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband and teen-aged daughter. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Smoky Mountain Romance Writers. In her free time, she likes to garden, take long walks with her husband, and read romance novels in a hammock beneath century-old shade trees.