Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Anne Clinard Barnhill
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (365 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Peppermint

From the author of At the Mercy of the Queen comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court.

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

The author weaved fact and fiction, blending it seamlessly to create one truly entertaining story. The fact that the story was based around Queen Elizabeth I was what initially intrigued me, and I must say I was not disappointed.

Mary is the queen’s ward from a young age, and as such the Queen has raised her as if she was her own child. From the very beginning I was interested and entertained by Mary. She clearly lived a life of privilege, and had no real idea of what commoners were experiencing during this period, yet she never seemed to forget how lucky she was to be viewed as one of the Queen’s favored. Though she may not always agree with the Queen, it is clear her love for her never truly waivers.

Sir John, on the other hand, had lived the life of a commoner. While he was not poor he knew what life struggles are about, especially when left a widower with five children. Yet, he still sees what even the Queen can recognize: Mary is someone special who should be cherished. When she starts to show him favor it is clear he does not take that attention lightly and will do whatever it takes to win her heart and keep her safe above all others.

The love story is entertaining in this, but it more of a coming of age story than a romance. Mary and her relationships, including the ones with the Queen, Sir John and other suitors is a key in the plot. While this only follows a few short years in Mary’s life, it is clear these are the most influential years in her life. It also gave me a glimpse of the time in which Mary lived.

This story has some historically accurate portrayals including people and events. Religion during this period is a driving force behind many in the story, and plays a key role in everyone including Mary’s life. I really enjoyed that the author really tried to keep the story as accurate as possible while still entertaining. I could tell from the very beginning that some of the events took place, even if the timeframes may have changed a bit to make it more entertaining. I has truly impressed by the amount of knowledge the author was able to incorporate, and it left me wanting more. While I have not read the author’s previous story about this time period I most certainly plan on picking it up. This is a story I believe anyone would enjoy no matter if they enjoy history or just want an entertaining story.

Author Interview and Giveaway : Enid Harlow

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Enid Harlow, whose newest release Good to Her is a historical literary novel set against the backdrop of the famous New York City restaurant, Dinty Moore’s, which stood at the corner of 46th Street just off Broadway for some 50 years. Enid’s father was a regular at Dinty Moore’s and as a child she often went there with for dinner with him.
“I was thrilled to see famous theatre and sports people such as Jason Robards Jr., Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Joe DiMaggio walk in,” she told me. “I was also dazzled by the walls of sparkling mirrors and the constant the room. I loved seeing people who looked important come up and slap my father on the back.”
Enid was born and reared in New York City and never lived anywhere else except when she was at college– a year at Smith in Northampton, MA and a year and a half at the University of Michigan. She finished at NYU, then spent a year in Greece.
“I love the diversity found on the streets of New York, the fact that those streets are never empty, and I love its water towers,” she explained.
She’s been writing, in one way or another, all her life. As a child, she made up little stories in her head and–more often than not–wrote them down. She continued as a teenager, but it wasn’t until she got to college that she began keeping a notebook and physically writing in earnest.
She doesn’t write genre fiction— focusing on literary fiction. Good to Her is her first attempt at historical fiction and she may try that again, but always within the context of literary fiction. She’s always working on short stories and is very excited whenever one is accepted for publication by a literary journal. She’s trying to get a collection published. In fact, she first considered herself a writer when her first short story was published in the Ontario Review, which was edited by Raymond Smith, and received a lovely comment about the story from Smith and his wife, Joyce Carol Oates.
Joyce Carol Oates are among the authors that have influenced Enid’s own work–along with Henry James and William Faulkner.
“I love them for their long narrative lines and the psychological truth of their characters,” she explained.
She’s currently going back and re-reading some old favorites–she’s just picked up Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and told me that she was thoroughly enjoying it.

“If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again,” I asked, “what would you do differently?”
“I might make a more concerted attempt at networking, although, being an essentially private person, this does not come naturally to me. I don’t much like talking about myself.”
Finally, I asked, “What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?”
“Only do it so long as you feel passionate about it. Stop when it tires you, take it up again at another time. Always try to look at what you’re writing from an opposite perspective.”
If you would like a copy of Good to You, please leave a comment. Two random commenters will win copies of the book.
About the Author:10_8 author photo (2)Enid Harlow is the author of three novels: GOOD TO HER, Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co. (Houston, TX); A BETTER MAN, van Neste Press (Midlothian, VA); and CRASHING, St. Martin’s Press (NY).
Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals of national distinction including TriQuarterly, Boulevard, Nimrod, The Ontario Review, Notre Dame Review, North Atlantic Review, Southwest Review, American Fiction, Quarterly West, The American Voice, and The Southern Review, among others.
Enid Harlow was awarded an Artists’ Fellowship in Fiction by the New York Foundation for the Arts and has received two PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards. She earned her B.A. at New York University, College of Arts & Sciences, and her M.A. at NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She lives and writes in New York, the city of her birth.
Find the author at Facebook and www.EnidHarlow.com

A Bit of New York City History Comes Alive in Dinty Moore Novel
For over 50 years, Dinty Moore’s restaurant was a Manhattan legend before it finally closed in the early 1970s. Through its doors on West 46th Street passed such luminaries as Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, Walter Winchell and Damon Runyan.
The owner was James “Dinty” Moore, who gained earlier fame for thumbing his nose at the police during Prohibition. GOOD TO HER is a historical literary novel set against the backdrop of the famed eatery. The story takes readers back to the days of Prohibition and the police raids on Moore’s establishment, often resulting in his compulsory appearance in court. Having fled the confines of a small town in Indiana, 20-year-old Sallie comes to New York with dreams of becoming an actress. She meets Nate, a 46-year-old successful New York businessman and Dinty Moore regular, who is instantly smitten with her.
Sallie often tells Nate how Good to Her he is. But Nate wonders about their relationship and their age difference. This exquisitely written period novel tells of a romance that seems to be too good to be true. Is it?

Buy the book at Amazon.


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Leslie Lehr whose latest book What a Mother Knows was recently released.  Leave a comment on this interview and you might win an autographed print copy of What a Mother Knows.

Leslie published a poem in fourth grade and had a newspaper column in junior high.

“I was a bit of a bookworm until high school,” she admitted. “Even then, I wrote newspaper columns and TV scripts for school projects, but only as a way to vent or have an opinion.”

Leslie wanted to be a surgeon for a while and even wore a white lab coat to work for a while.

“That’s embarrassing to think about now, but I wanted to know how people work,” she explained. “Then I got involved with the school TV station in high school and wanted to produce music videos. After film school, when I was actually making music videos, I realized it was a horrible job – long hours and low money. I worked on staff at a big commercial movie production company like Michelle does in this book, then I hit the glass ceiling, making 30% of what men were making, so I left to work freelance on TV shows and movies. I still wanted to know how people worked, but in their minds rather than their bodies.  So I explored that while writing scripts between jobs in Hollywood. Then, when I had my first baby, motherhood was such a shocker that I stayed home and took my writing more seriously. I didn’t consider myself a writer until I sold my first book to Random House. Then I was brave enough to claim an entire bedroom as my office. I shared it with my daughter’s school desk, but still. There was no bed in it.”

She’s a beach girl, but loves her current office so much she’s hesitating on making a move closer to the ocean. I asked her to describe it.

“Almost the entire wall is a window facing out over a yard that looks like a park with towering trees and flower bushes and the blue sky beyond. I work at a huge white desk with antique glass knobs and dozens of photos of my daughters beneath a piece of glass that covers the desktop. Behind me are overstuffed white-slipcovered chairs, plus more photographs and images of mermaids and crates of scrapbooks. There is too much stuff in one room, but I’m always looking at my computer and the yard beyond. The only better view would be the ocean.”

Leslie lives in Santa Monica, but grew up in Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.  I asked her what the best part of growing up there was.

“The Fourth of July. Every neighborhood has a float for the parade and a van goes around in the morning with a loud speaker waking everyone up in time. Then there are neighborhood BBQs and town swimming races and ice cream socials, and, of course, fireworks. When my dad was in charge of our neighborhood float and party, my sister and I used to walk door to door for hours, handing our flyers. I always wanted to move to LA, but I’m sorry my daughters missed that small town experience of growing up.”

What A Mother Knows is Leslie’s sixth and favorite book.

“It’s the culmination of all my work, in terms of writing about women and being a mom and daughter and both how scary it can be and how fun,” she said. “You can see it in the progression of some of the titles: Welcome to Club MomNestingMommy WarsWife Goes OnWhat A Mother Knows.”

Leslie’s characters drive the plot, so first she starts out with someone like herself and how she might respond to a certain situation. She calls it the “what ifs.”

“What if this happened, then what would I do?” she explained. “Real life is challenging in its random-ness, but in fiction you get a chance to solve problems in a more exciting manner.  Since the character’s reaction to events, and her backstory causes her to take action – well, that’s just like real life. Except in fiction, the character can do things I might not dare to do. For instance, like in What A Mother Knows, if my daughter was missing, would I go to the ends of the earth to find her? Yes.  But I might not be as brave.”

When Leslie’s not writing, she enjoys collecting sand dollars.

“I don’t like getting up at dawn, but when you walk on the beach in the quiet morning and find a whole sand dollar just sitting there after being whirled about in the tides from who knows where, no matter what bad things are happening in the world, it feels like the there is even more goodness. Sand dollars are proof.  Sometimes I find them on beach walks in the middle of the day, like a special gift. I have sand dollars all over the house, in crystal bowls and straw baskets and in picture frames and on the counters. I love them.”

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

“I hear from readers often and out of the blue. I still get letters from my essay in Mommy Wars, called ‘I Hate Everybody’ about how hard it is to be a working-at-home mom. And the letters about my last novel, Wife Goes On, are truly heartfelt, about how the book made them laugh and cry and get through a really rough time and how they appreciate that friends can help  — and they consider me a friend.  I love that. As much as I like to entertain, I love knowing that my words touch people,  that I can help. That we are not alone. We are friends.”

When it comes to research for her books, Leslie travels, reads a lot, and calls experts. She visited her aunt’s Curry Mansion Inn in Key West and knew she had to use it.

“A family vacation, snorkeling with turtles in Hawaii, inspired another scene,” she said.  “Being a writer also gives you the excuse to ask anyone anything, so I always make a note of what my creative writing students in the Writers Program at UCLA Extension do for a living. They are usually professionals, with an abundance of lawyers. When I started this book, one was a psychiatrist at the UCLA Medical Center.  I asked him for a referral to a neurologist and ended up having long telephone conversations with this brilliant doctor who runs the entire center for Traumatic Brain Injury. Fortunately, consulting with a novelist was unusual enough to make it fun for him. For me it was an honor.”

“What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?” I wondered.

“‘Write every day’” is the worst, because it’s impossible. I wrote a blog about that on my website called ‘Why I Hate Stephen King.’  The best advice was instead of writing what you know, write what you want to know. That’s what I do: I write to answer a question I have about real life.”

Leslie’s favorite book is A Wrinkle In Time.

“It had this wonderful adventure and a misfit daughter searching for her little brother  – plus a cute boyfriend, brilliant parents, friendly witches, and flying unicorns. When she finds her brother on the dark planet in the clutches of the evil It, only love can break the spell,” she explained. “I read it to my daughter’s classes in middle school, one chapter per week. When I read that line, ‘I love you Charles Wallace!’ I could barely get out the words, because I was crying so hard. My daughter was horrified. I tried to do better with my younger daughter’s class, but the same thing happened. Fortunately, she knew what was coming and warned her classmates. I cried right on cue. They laughed, but they all wanted me to go on and read the end. Who doesn’t want to be loved? And save the world?”

Her own most embarrassing moment didn’t have to do with her mom crying in front of classmates; she fell down the stairs in her new mini-dress and platform heels in front of her first date’s hunky big brother–who was driving them to the freshman dance.

The scariest moment of her life, aside from family illness, was the Northridge earthquake. Leslie was alone with a baby and a toddler.  This, as well, was included in this novel.


About the Author:  Megan Stark PhotographyLeslie Lehr is the award-winning author of the novels 66 Laps and Wife Goes On. Her essays about mothering and parenthood have been featured on The Today Show and were excerpted in Arianna Huffington’s bestseller, On Becoming Fearless. A screenwriter and graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Lehr teaches creative writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband and two daughters.





5_14 Book Cover

Michelle Mason can’t remember the day that changed her life: that drive, that horrible crash that left her in a coma for months. All she knows is that she’s being held responsible for killing the other person in her car: Noah Butler, a rising rock star who she barely knew. Not only has Michelle lost her memory, her daughter, 16-year-old Nikki, has disappeared since the accident.

Michelle throws herself into searching for Nikki. But she deeper she digs, the more she begins to question the innocence of everyone, even herself. Who was Noah, and why was he in her car? What caused the crash? Where is Nikki—and could she hold the key to what really happened that day?

Recalling S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Juliette Fay’s Shelter MeWhat a Mother Knows is a thrilling portrayal of the fragile skin of memory. Set against the glittering lights of Hollywood, it hurtles toward a shattering revelation that reflects just how far we go to protect the ones we love.


“Dark and unsettling, but with a ray of hope like a splash of light, and a knockout ending you won’t see coming”

– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You


“A fast-paced and gripping exploration of a mother’s love. A powerfully affecting novel.”

– Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence and One Breath Away



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Olga Godim, whose debut novel Lost and Found in Russia was published in February by Eternal Press.

Amanda, the mother in Lost and Found in Russia, is a scholar, a professor of Slavic languages and literature. Sonya, her birth daughter in Russia, is a former character dancer. Not many people know what character dance is, so I asked Olga to tell us about it.

“Character dance is a variation of folk dance, but there is a huge difference. Folk dance is simple. In the past, people danced it in villages during celebrations. Folk dance was more about participation than skills,” she explained. “Character dance is a stage dance, a show, like ballet – think Riverdance, only better. Character dance uses folk tunes and some steps of the genuine folk dances, but it also uses the entire range of ballet pas. Character dance is always choreographed and performed by dancers trained in classical ballet. Sonya trained at the MoscowBalletAcademy before she joined her character dance ensemble. Here is an example of a character dance, performed by the world-famous Russian character dance troupe – Moiseyev Ballet. It’s a Spanish dance called Aragonese Jota: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppiq0N2yQf8

She did some research for the book, but it mostly came from her daydreams, her personal experience, and people she met.  When Olga was young and poor, she often daydreamed about someone showing up at her door and telling her she had been switched at birth–and her birth family was rich.  What would she do? What would her mother do? And–the tricky question–what would the other mother do?  Would she want and love Olga as much as the mother who had raised her?

“From that daydream sprouted the idea for one half of the book – the story of Amanda, a mother who discovers after 34 years that her daughter was switched at birth, by mistake. Amanda loves the daughter she’s raised but she wants to find her biological daughter too. Her search takes her around the globe, first to Russia, then to Israel,” Olga said. “The second part of this novel is about Amanda’s birth daughter Sonya. Sonya’s story unfolded in my mind after I met Irina in Montreal. An immigrant from Russia, like Sonya, Irina is a fascinating woman. She came to Canada with nothing and accomplished so much. I was inspired by her optimism and determination. She told me about her life and her struggles to find her own place in a new country. Awed by her courage, her indomitable spirit, and her lovely soul, I adopted her as a model for my Sonya. After my meeting with Irina, the novel practically wrote itself.”

Olga is currently working on a novel that’s part of a fantasy series.

“The heroine is a young and very powerful magician. In the story, she finds herself in a foreign kingdom, where female magic is anathema. The acolytes of the local god, all men, confine any witch or sorceress they can find to a ‘nunnery’, where they suck the magic out of the women with a special spell and use that magic for their own purposes,” she told me. “My heroine is in this kingdom in secret, at the request of her queen. She is not in danger from the local god or his monks, but she is very angry at the plight of the local female mages. Should she interfere? Try to help the poor, abused women? Or should she maintain her incognito status, complete her assignment for the queen, and leave. If she interferes, she might cause a diplomatic incident, maybe even a war, between their two kingdoms. If she does nothing, the imprisoned female witches will continue to suffer. The choice she faces isn’t nice or easy.”

She rarely researchs her fantasy novels, which is one reason she enjoys writing fantasy–she can make up everything in her imaginary worlds–her world, she gets to make the rules.

“As long as I’m consistent, and the rules don’t change from chapter to chapter, no research is required,” she explained. “Occasionally, I research specifics. For example, when I wrote about a swordsman, I got books on fencing from the library, checked Wikipedia, learned terminology. I found that for most stories, the research necessary to seem knowledgeable is on the level of middle school books or even elementary school books. I once wrote a story about a Native American girl and her time travels. It was one of my earlier epistolary efforts, not a good story at all, and it has never been published, but I showed it to my writing group. The other members complemented me on my research, but I only got picture books for grade one and two from our local library and used a couple special terms from those books. I fudged it, but it worked.”

Olga became a writer pretty late in life. She was educated as a computer programmer and worked with computers for decades. She’s also a daydreamer and, as long as she can remember, she’s made up stories and played them in her head. However, she never told anyone about her daydreams.

“They were my secret and I didn’t write them down. To tell the truth, I was a bit embarrassed, afraid of ridicule,” she confessed.  “I was a serious professional woman, a single mom with two children. I never thought I could be a writer but I couldn’t get rid of my daydreams. They felt like a vestige from my childhood. And like a child, I loved my dream-world’s heroes and heroines. Sometimes, they felt more alive and precious to me than the living people around me.

“As my children grew up, I grew dissatisfied with my computer job. Then, 10 years ago, I got breast cancer. Obviously, my case was successful, but during the long recovery months, my daydreams became more persistent. They swarmed me, they wanted to be told. So I decided to be brave, stop resisting, and at last let my daydreams out. Cancer has that effect on some people. I started writing a story, the first writing I did since high school.

“Everyone in my family was flabbergasted: they hadn’t known about my daydreams. But I didn’t care. Writing liberated me. I felt like I finally woke up from a long hibernation, free to explore my stories and myself. I felt happy.

“I also discovered that I didn’t know how to write, how to translate my daydreams into the written words, plot, conflict, and characters. It took me years to learn: I read writing textbooks, took classes, enrolled in workshops. I’m still in the process, still learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop: there is so much to learn.”

For Olga, the characters always come first, becuase she can’t even think about a plot until she knows who it all happened to.

“I need to know how they look, their names, their families. I have dozens of plot twists in my ‘Ideas’ folder, but they all are just raw material. Until I see my characters in my mind, I can’t write about them. Besides, in any plot situation, different characters react differently,” she said.

I asked Olga what the hardest part of writing was for her and she told me writing the villain.

“Fantasy plots usually require a baddy of some sort, or at least a strong antagonist; and I always have trouble with these guys. I don’t understand their thought process,” she told me. “Villains traditionally hanker for power, or world domination, or some such nonsense. But why would anyone want to rule the world, or even a village, is beyond me. It’s so much hassle.”

Then she admitted, “On a more serious note: I’d say conflict is the hardest for me. I like my heroes. I don’t want them to suffer, but conflict is essential for fiction, so I have to go against my nature to create problems for my characters, pit them against wicked odds. ”

“Do you use a pen name?” I wondered. “If so, how did you come up with it?”

“I use a pen name for fiction – Olga Godim. When I started submitting my first fantasy stories to magazines, I was still working at my computer job and I felt slightly embarrassed by my fantastic tales. Women of my age and profession didn’t entertain themselves with magic and fairy tales. Or so I thought. So I decided to use a pseudonym. Olga is my real name, and Godim was my father’s first name. He died before I published my first piece, before I even started thinking about writing, but I wanted him to be a part of my writing life, so I chose his name as my nom de plume.  Now, he’s always with me, a witness to my successes and failures as a writer. And I think the name sounds good, like a small cheerful bell.”

About the Author:  4_26 Olga3_SmallOlga Godim is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Her articles appear regularly in a local newspaper, but her passion is fiction. Her short stories have been published in several internet magazines, including Lorelei Signal, Sorcerous Signals, Aoife’s Kiss, Silver Blade, Perihelion Science Fiction, Gypsy Shadow and other publications. In her free time, she writes novels, collects toy monkeys, and posts book reviews on GoodReads. You can find her there: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6471587.Olga_Godim




Newborn babiesAfter the shocking revelation that her daughter was switched at birth 34 years ago, Canadian scholar Amanda embarks on a trip to Russia and Israel to find her biological daughter. Intertwined with the account of Amanda’s journey is the story of Sonya, a 34-year-old Russian immigrant and a former dancer, currently living in Canada. While Amanda wades through the mires of foreign bureaucracy, Sonya struggles with her daughter’s teenage rebellion. While Amanda rediscovers her femininity, Sonya dreams of dancing. Both mothers are searching: for their daughters and for themselves.


INTERVIEW and giveaway: Anthony Diesso

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Anthony Diesso, whose debut novel The Haunted Spring was released last fall. Leave a comment for a chance to win a download of the book.

The Haunted Spring is a tragical-comical novel that came out of Anthony and his wife’s experiences when their son was born nearly three months premature. Anthony had driven her to the emergency room, thinking her stomach pains were nothing significant. However, when he returned from parking the car, he found her lying in a bed, pale, with nurses bustling around her. Her water had broken and the surgeon was preparing to deliver the baby.

“Less than forty five minutes later, my son was brought to the NICU ward, while I sat waiting for news. The doctor from the NICU finally came to meet me and reported, ‘He’s stable, and we expect him to survive.’ Her words were meant to be reassuring, but I’ve never been so frightened as I was by the word “survive”, the one word I had to put my hope in. That was the scariest moment of my life,” he told me. “By the way, my boy is almost five now, and so spunky that it’s sometimes easy to forget how he fought his way into  the world and how he fought to stay there.  But opening an old box and picking up an extra pair of diapers we had but never used, seeing how they fit snugly around three of my fingers, reminds me of where he was, where my wife and I were, and where so many people–parents, doctors, nurses–were fighting and are still fighting. ”

For titles, Anthony tries for something short and evocative. He’s usually well into the writing process before he starts seriously thinking about a title that will eventually stick.  The title for The Haunted Spring came to him when he was almost finished with the first draft and was suggested by a childhood memory.

“When I was young, my folks took me to the movies to see a revival of Bambi, and the death of Bambi’s mother affected me deeply: I remember that his suddenly being without her in the snowfall was followed by an efflorescent view of spring, so that the two moods merged in a peculiar but poignant way. To be in mourning while all the world was indifferently filled with beauty and new life, suggested to me the title of The Haunted Spring.”

“What inspired you to start writing?” I asked.

“Music, like the kind I heard sitting in the choir loft at church when I was small: the swell of the organ, the fervent and almost harmonious voices. I wanted somehow to imbue my writing with that intensity of feeling. This may seem counterproductive, but I think good writing begins with the need to express something that can’t be put into words. The day you’re able to find the right word or phrase for every circumstance is the day your technique has probably outstripped your capacity to feel.”

I wondered what, in Anthony’s opinion, are the most important elements of good writing.

“Okay, here goes. Good writing is like stuffing sausage, with the filling as inspiration, and the casing representing technical ability. If the filling is too bitter or sweet, or if it’s gritty, or if there’s not enough of it, then the casing really won’t help much. However, if the casing is too thin, then the filling will never hold together; or if it’s too thick, calling too much attention to itself, you won’t be able to appreciate the inner quality. So good writing is about sensitively matching the right filling with the right casing. It’s also nicely complimented with a dry wine that…what were we talking about again?”

Anthony told me that the best way for him to deal with writer’s block–in fact, most things relative to writing– is in an irrational way. He finds being lazy a big help in getting the job done.

“If I’m struggling to make plot points meet, or trying to come up with a good way to describe a character, I’ll go take a nap, and while drifting off to sleep, my thoughts will unloosen, and ideas will often start suggesting themselves,” he said. “Outside of that, it can help to read something in a genre completely different from the one you’re working on, since the contrast can stir you out of a more linear frame of mind. I also think that writer’s block can be beneficial, in spite of its frustration: writing is often improved and intensified in the face of resistance, and it sometimes happens that writers are at their best fighting for their freedom and not as good once they get it.”

“How do you develop your plot and character?”

“I think the term that most accurately describes the process would be schizophrenia. One me is coming up with all sorts of ideas, while the other me is telling the first me how they’re not any good and won’t work. It’s all about struggle. Outside of that, I think most of the characters and plots I come up with have had an unconscious gestation, so that by the time I’m actually writing them, they’ve been going through a process of solidification, often for a number of years.”

Anthony’s writing space can best be described, he said, as messy, disorganized, and full of books, papers, and little plastic animals his children have left scattered about.

“Now, that’s the den, the external space,” he explained. “If you’re referring to the internal, mental space, then it’s…messy, disorganized, full of books, papers, and more plastic animals.”

Finally, I asked, “What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?”

“Strangely enough, I find certain places and events from my childhood crop into my thoughts while I’m writing. There doesn’t seem to be an immediate connection: I could be writing about King Arthur, and suddenly a yellow toolshed and a sandbox from the house I lived in when I was small will appear in my imagination. Even more strangely, it doesn’t usually interfere with what I’m doing; instead, it’s an impression lingering behind the scene. So I guess you can regain your childhood, as long as you’re thinking of something else.”


4_25 ADiesso copyAbout the Author: My name is Anthony Diesso, and I live in Northern California with my wife, Robin, our son, Christopher, who’s almost five, and our daughter, Aria, who’s two and a half now. As far as my favorite pastimes go, I enjoy writing (because I can talk with my mouth full), playing the piano (because I’m usually guaranteed a place to sit at gatherings), reading (because I like the word “effulgent” and am always on the lookout), and spending time with my family (because they’re my kind of people).

Website: anthonydeaso.webs.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anthony.diesso



4_15 TheHauntedSpring9-72dpiJay Bennett, a comfortably maladjusted man in his early 20’s, finds Anna LaMonica knocking on his apartment door, looking for a friend in a nearby apartment. The more he sees Anna, her shy but earnest glances, the way she listens and smiles, and the delicate emotion in her voice, the more he finds himself falling in love. Charmed by his humor and the child-like warmth beneath his stabs at good behavior, she follows suit. And after overcoming hostile family and friends, they marry and begin a new life together.

Anna’s sudden death during childbirth leave Jay to watch over their infant, born premature and requiring an extensive hospital stay. Grief-stricken, helpless, and alone, he is tormented by apparitions of her, recalling his love and ruined hopes. These apparitions, at times horrifying, at others pathetic, yet others darkly alluring, drive him to the edge of madness. Attempting to overcome the terrifying occurrences, he struggles to piece together his life, to pull some sanity and hope out of the world around him, and to become a good father to his newborn son.




Long and Short Reviews welcomes Steven Manchester whose latest book Goodnight, Brian has recently been released. Leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of this book.

He’s currently working on a novel entitled,The Rockin’ Chair, scheduled for release this summer. I asked him to tell us a little bit about it.

“A compassionate farmer loses his lifelong love to Alzheimer’s. Deciding that she was cheated a lifetime of memories, he sits in his chair and remembers for them both. Before he can join her in eternal rest, though, he must tend to a few final chores and heal his family.”

Steven has been writing since 1991—once he made it home safely from Operation Desert Storm.

“Operation Desert Storm was a brutal experience,” Steven shared with me. “I promised myself that if I made it home alive, I would pursue my dream of being a published author. I began writing in 1991—upon my safe return—and have been writing ever since. Since then—and today—the thing that inspires me most is my children. I’ve always taught them that they should chase their dreams because dreams come true. However, we don’t get what we wish for; we get what we work for. Every time I put pen to paper and pursue my lifelong dream, I’m inspired to teach them to reach for the stars.”

Steven doesn’t believe in writer’s blocks, although he does understand that they’re quite real when other authors perceive them as such. He shared a story with me about a friend of his.

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

The hardest part of writing for Steven is time. First and foremost, he assured me that he’s a father, and his children come first. After that, there are other responsibilities that require his attention. His passion to write constantly gnaws on him, though.

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

In Steven’s writing, the plot always comes first.

“In my estimation, the first decision in the writing process is also the toughest decision of all. You have to honestly ask yourself: What idea is good enough, or worthy enough to cost you the next year of your life?” he told me. “If you can sincerely say that you have one, then get started right away. Some writers spend months working out a concept before they ever put pen to paper (so when someone asks you how long it took you to write a book, there is no true way to answer this. It happens in the mind long before it ever appears between two covers).”

Once he has his plot, the characters come next. He encourages writers to learn and know their characters.

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

Writing is as much a discipline, for Steven, as it is a passion. When he’s involved in a project, he write every day except for Sundays and holidays—those are reserved for family). He uses a mini-tape recorder to capture his initial thoughts and ideas and always carries it with him. Then, he transcribes the work onto his laptop, where it starts to take on life. His writing space is everywhere—he dictates into his recorder while he’s in the car driving or he’ll jot something down in his Blackberry while he’s at his daughter’s dance rehearsal.

“In the end, I’m actually most comfortable putting the puzzle together in our dining room,” he admitted. “Peculiar, I know, but it’s a comfortable place for me.”

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

“Now that I have nearly two decades of writing and getting published under my belt, here are a few tips on being a writer I wish I had known at the beginning of my career. I enjoy trying to help new writers break in. My advice is always the same:

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

About the Author:1_18 Manchester_Author_Photo Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 best seller, Twelve Months, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), the heart-warming prequel to Goodnight, Brian (release date, January 8, 2013). His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. Visit: www.StevenManchester.com or http://www.facebook.com/#!/AuthorStevenManchester.
1_18 GoodnightBrian

Fate was working against little Brian Mauretti. The food that was meant to nourish him was poisoning him instead, and the doctors said the damage was devastating and absolute. Fate had written off Brian. But fate didn’t count on a woman as determined as Brian’s grandmother, Angela DiMartino – who everyone knew as Mama. Loving her grandson with everything she had, Mama endeavored to battle fate. Fate had no idea what it was in for.

An emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love, and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we receive, Goodnight, Brian is an uplifting tribute to what happens when giving up is not an option.