Interview: Charles Prandy

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Charles Prandy, whose newest book in the Jacob Hayden series, The Game of Life and Death, is being released next month.

The main character in his series, Jacob Hayden, is a Washington, D.C. homocide detective and, in the third book of the series, Jacob’s challenge is to find out who killed a family that he’s known since childhood, and also he’ll finally come face to face with the person who’s been sending him threatening letters.

I asked Charles if he’s ever written a book with anyone and, if not, who he would like as a co-author.

“I never have, but I believe I could. There’s a lot of writers I’d like to write with, but I’d choose James Patterson. My detective series is similar to the Alex Cross series in that Jacob Hayden is a Washington, D.C. homicide detective. I think it’d be cool if Jacob and Alex could partner up and solve a case together.”

Charles has been writing most of his life, but the first time he actually sat down and wrote a full length novel was in 2002.

“I wrote a fantasy novel that will probably never see the light of day,” he told me. “It really isn’t that good.”

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

“All of the time. It’s one of the worst things that can happen to a writer.”

“What do you think is the best way to handle it?”

“Just write whatever comes to mind no matter if it makes sense or not. This really does work. The first few paragraphs will look like gibberish, but eventually your brain will start turning and before you know it your writing will start making sense to whatever it was that you were stuck on.”

When Charles thinks of good writing, he thinks of clarity, sentence structure, proper grammar, etc. However, when he thinks of good storytelling, he thinks of how the writer needs to grab the reader’s attention and brings them into a world that is foreign to them.

“I think good storytellers are the types of writers that cause people to forget that it’s way past their bedtime because they’re too caught up in the fantasy world that they’re reading, if that makes sense,” he said.

The hardest part of writing from Charles is creating good suspense and drama that flows throughout the entire story.

“I often think that anyone can be a writer, but not everyone can be a storyteller,” he explained. “To me there’s a distinct difference. I’m still learning the craft, but it’s extremely difficult writing a three hundred page novel with the intention of keeping the reader on wits end up until the last page.”

Charles doesn’t write full time as yet, so when he writes it’s usually late at night after everyone has gone to sleep and the house is quiet. It works for him, because he’s somewhat of a night owl. When he’s not writing or spending time with his family, he’s big into physical fitness and mountain bike riding.

“I always tell people that mountain biking is one of the most fun things to do when you’re in shape,” he said. “If you’re not in shape, it’s miserable. Trust me, I know.”

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

“About four years ago my oldest daughter was diagnosed with cancer. As a parent that’s probably the scariest news to hear. She was only three at the time. Luckily she had the type of cancer that could be treated and taken out of her body. She had to endure chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but the tumour was successfully removed and she’s been cancer free for the past four years.”

About the Author: 3_14 Charles PrandyCharles graduated from the University of Maryland University College with a degree in Legal Studies. He attended Wesley Theological Seminary for two years, and it was there that he got the idea to write his first novel, The Last of the Descendants, which was published in May of 2008. Charles enjoys writing crime thrillers and does extensive research on his topics.

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Author Interview and giveaway: Heather Haven

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Heather Haven, whose third book in the Alvarez Family Mystery series, Death Runs in the Family, was released this year. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the first book in her Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery series, The Dagger Before Me, a Halloween mystery novel.
Death Runs in the Family was a foray into something Heather had never tried before–she wanted to kill off a beloved family member and not be a person that nobody cared about.

“But how can you make a murder revolving around a tragedy like that and still be humorous? There was the challenge,” she told me. “I think I rose to it after I said to myself, ‘Don’t be scared, kiddo, just DO it.’ So I brushed aside the fear, sat down at the computer, and managed to give the characters a depth I hadn’t given them before, while keeping it funny most of the time. I’m very proud of how the book turned out – in fact, I won the Global Gold for Best Mystery Novel 2013 for it. But mostly I’m pleased I took this giant step forward in writing.”
She’s currently writing the fourth book in the Alvarez Family Mysteries, Dead…If Only. The characters go to New Orleans, searching for a man supposedly dead for nine years.

“Mix in voodoo, jazz, Sazerac cocktails and a few dead bodies, and you have the beginnings of a fun time,” she assured me. “I’ve loved doing research for the book, too. I’ve been to New Orleans twice now and absolutely love the place! A wonderful city loaded with history and color.”
The first book Heather remembers reading was Uncle Remus, when she was six or seven. When she was nine, she went to the public library and checked out Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock.
“My life was changed forever. I not only fell in love with reading, big time, I fell in love with mysteries and writing. It’s a love affair that has never waned,” she said. “I went to college on a costume scholarship and studied drama. Ultimately, I went to NYC to become an actress, but I hated it. I hated the life of an actor. It wasn’t for me. All that traveling! Living out of a suitcase! Who needs it? However, I loved writing. I could sit in a room and write for hours, send characters to the far corners of the earth and not have to leave my chair. To make money, I worked in advertising for a while, wrote short stories, one-act plays, and ad copy for humorous ads, and acts for performers. I loved it. I didn’t tackle writing a novel until I came to California, wine country. Chardonnay helped tamp down any jitters I had about taking on 75 thousand words and hoping somebody would read them. Now I write 85K and still hope somebody reads them.”
She’s written as long as she can remember–poems, song lyric, thoughts, articles, plays, etc.

“I love the written word. It just fascinates me. There’s nothing I admire more than someone who writes beautiful imagery that stirs the heart. Remember Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)? The lyrics are absolutely gorgeous. Add that beautiful, haunting music and you have something memorable. If Vincent Van Gogh looks down from time to time, I believe he knows he did something right to evoke such a wondrous song,” she explained.
Heather’s favorite author is P.G. Wodehouse.
“No matter how many times I read Right Ho, Jeeves!, it makes me laugh,” she admitted. “I have read every book of his I can get my hands on and he wrote over 90! He’s most famous for the Jeeves and Bertie Wooster collection of short stories and books but he was a prolific writer of screenplays, plays, novels, short stories, pretty much anything. I’m a big fan. Wait, wait! There’s Agatha Christie, the queen of the mystery, the plot maker, is the one who made crime writing all warm and fuzzy. Let’s not forget Janet Evanovitz, who turned it all into a wonderfully, funny game. Then there’s Earnest Hemmingway, who was a terse writer, if there ever was one. He is credited with writing a 6-word short story, “Baby shoes for sale. Never used.” I mean, come on. The man was a wonder. And he loved cats. He was surrounded by dozens of 6-toed cats when he lived in Key West; many feline descendents still call his estate home. Tugger, the cat in my mysteries, says he dated a sweet little tabby named Mandy who lived over Hemingway’s garage. But I think Tugger’s fibbing; he’s never been to Florida. Back to writers. Have I left anyone out? Hmmmmm, let me think about this!”
When Heather was developing the protagonist for her Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series, she wanted to have a central character that was identifiable but different, off-kilter, and likable–Lee Alvarez.
“She’s not your typical protagonist,” Heather told me. “Yes, she’s in her mid-thirties and divorced but that’s about it. She’s smart, talented, and loves dancing, handbags and a good joke. She knows her own worth but has her moments of self-doubts. They seem to hit her when least expected, like they hit the rest of us. Every day, as she chases down a suspect, she strives to be a better person, knowing nobody’s perfect. Except maybe her mother, Lila-Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day Hamilton Alvarez. And try living in that woman’s designer-clad shadow all your life.
“Lee reads Dashiell Hammett detective stories and watches old black and white movies on TV while searching the web. She loves peanuts and a good, classic martini i.e., gin, vermouth, orange bitters and 3 olives. And serve it icy cold, straight up! I’ve created a real, today kind of PI, California-honed, who’s educated but has her moments of stupidity, who likes to wear Vera Wang clothes, all the while cheerleading for Humphrey Bogart. Her character traits are unique, her relationships with her family quirky, but real and, I hope, well-crafted. A murder mystery should be a well-written novel that just happens to have a dead body or two in it done in by an unknown assailant.
“Developing a plot is different for me. I have no idea where that will come from. For instance, the second book of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, A Wedding to Die For, came about after reading a story – so bazaar I could hardly believe it was true – in the New York Times. Sixty-plus members of an Egyptian family were arrested for pilfering from a lesser known Egyptian king’s tomb and had been doing so for generations!
“This extended family would take one article, sell it on the black market, and spread the wealth, educating and bettering themselves. After several decades, many of them came into positions of importance, in museums and customs, thereby ensuring even greater success. They were caught after years of staying below the radar, when one of them got greedy and substituted a fake for an antiquity in a museum at which he was the assistant curator. It blew the whole thing wide open. I was mesmerized by this story! I transferred the renegade family to Mexico, threw in a wedding gone awry and a falsely accused groom in the States, and was off and away! It was a lot of fun!!”
“How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?” I wondered.
“I try to keep the humor going and sparkly. I try to keep the characters real but larger than life. Shakespeare was a master at that. Also, I try to keep it positive. I wanted The Alvarez Family to like each other, even if they don’t always ‘get’ each other. They enjoy being together as a family, try to be supportive and loving. I read so many books where everyone is antagonistic and nasty to the people they profess to love. How can the reader like them or root for people that dysfunctional? I can’t. I try to write a world I’d like to live in, a family I’d like to live with.”

Finally, I asked, “What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?”
“Write! Sit down and write! You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Don’t put it off until you have the perfect subject, the perfect place, the perfect time i.e., the perfect opportunity. That will never happen. Even if you only write 20-30 minutes a day, every day, you’ll start to accumulate a body of work, YOUR work. Shoot for every spare second you’ve got to write something down – impressions, ideas, comments. Keep in mind good writing is not done by smoke and mirrors, it takes study and practice, like any other craft. If you play tennis for a while, you’re going to get good at it. Think of writing like tennis. Join a writers’ group, share with people you trust who respect you and your craft, whose comments are positive and helpful. Lastly, take classes, learn your craft. Know the rules before you break them. And read! Learn from the masters!”
About the Author: 10_10 HeatherPhotoAfter studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, which were produced at Playwrights Horizon and well-received. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.
Her first novel of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is A Family Business, is winner of the Single Titles Reviewers’ Choice Award 2011. A Wedding to Die For received the 2012 finalist nods from Global and EPIC. Death Runs in the Family, won the Global Gold for Best eBook Mystery Fiction, 2013.
A 1940s holiday vintage mystery series, The Dagger Before Me and Iced Diamonds, stars a five-foot eleven, full-figured gal named Persephone ‘Percy’ Cole. Percy is a trail-blazing female detective with the same hard-boiled, take-no-prisoners attitude as Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and Phillip Marlow, but tops it off with a fedora and a wicked sense of humor. This series takes place on the streets of New York City during World War II, three thousand miles and sixty-odd years away from the California Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series. This new series has received rave reviews, a fact of which Heather is very grateful.
Stand-alone noir mystery, Death of a Clown, written by author and daughter of real-life circus performers, former Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey trapeze artist and elephant trainer, brings the daily existence of the circus during World War II to life. The story is embellished by Heather’s knowledge of the Big Top in its heyday and her own murderous imagination.

http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/

Heather’s blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp

https://www.facebook.com/heatherhaven.5

Twitter@HeatherHaven
Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com
Heather’s author page at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Heather-Haven/e/B004QL22UK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1372537066&sr=1-2-ent

10_10 Deathruns-awardLee Alvarez’ ex-husband, Nick — a man she divorced with joy in her heart and a gun in her hand – sprints back in her life only to disappear again. She’d love to leave it at that, but could he be responsible for the recent death of her cousin, who keeled over at the finish line of a half-marathon in front of hundreds of spectators? As PI for the family run business, Discretionary Inquiries, Lee follows the clues to Vegas, where she joins forces with Shoshone PI, Flint Tall Trees. Together they uncover a multi-million dollar betting syndicate, a tacky lounge lizard act, and a list of past but very dead runners, plus future ones to off. At the top of the ‘future’ list is the love of her life, Gurn Hanson. Hoping to force the culprits out in the open, Gurn and Lee’s brother, Richard, vow to run San Francisco’s famous Palace to Palace 12K in only a few days. Can Lee keep the two men she loves from hitting the finish line like her cousin? With more at stake than she ever dreamed possible, Lee is in a battle against time to stop the Alvarez Family’s race with death.

INTERVIEW: Janis Susan May

Welcome to Janis Susan May. She has two books out with Vinspire Publishing.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Boredom. Real life was so bland compared to the explosion of excitement that went on between my ears. Wait – are we talking my first book, or my first grown-up book? It doesn’t really make any difference, though, since the answer is the same. My very first book was written when I was four. It was about some children who were playing in a park and captured a lion escaped from the zoo before going home to dinner. Not the most gripping of storylines, but remember, I was four! I cut typing paper to the exact size of a paperback book, hand-printed the copy and illustrated it myself, then sewed the pages together. I think I made six copies before becoming thoroughly bored with the process (sort of a leit-motif in my life, I think…). That’s when I decided to become a writer instead of a publisher. I think there’s still a copy extant somewhere in my late mother’s papers. I should dig it out and take a look.

My first grown-up book also grew out of boredom with my life at the time. I was young and in my first apartment and had my first job. I was also thoroughly put out that my parents had gone to spend part of the summer in Mexico, as we did for a couple of years, and because I was ‘grown-up’ and ‘on my own’ I couldn’t go! So, I started writing, imagining a trip to Mexico that was so very much more exciting than any real ones I had made. The resultant novel was WHERE SHADOWS LINGER, which Dell Publishing brought out in 1979. After that, there was no stopping me – at least, until some eight books later my mother fell victim to a lingering, horrible illness that would eventually be her last, and in order to take care of her both physically and financially I had to give up writing for ten years.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes. My detractors call it wordy, with too many big words and convoluted sentences. I call it erudite, literate and grown-up. I would have said Adult, but that word has taken on an unfortunate connotation these days. I pay my readers the respect of assuming (I know, some say never assume) that my readers are intelligent and capable of reading on a grown-up level. I find sex on the page tedious, so you won’t ever find lubricious sex scenes in my books. Love, romance and sexual tension, yes, but no mechanical details. As I said, tedious.

How did you come up with the title?

On which of my Vinspire books? DARK MUSIC, my first Vinspire book, was originally titled MURDER BY THE BOOK, since it’s about a series of murders at a writers’ convention. Our own extravagantly talented Dawn came up with the DARK MUSIC title, which is so perfect as the hero is a classical pianist who specializes in Chopin.

Short anecdote – when I first wrote DARK MUSIC I was living in an apartment. For atmosphere, I also played Chopin constantly. Towards the end of the book my neighbors were begging to know when I would be finished and the Chopin would stop. It was a cheap apartment with walls of tissue paper, by the way. I reminded them that I never complained about the husband’s snoring, which was louder than my music!

As for ECHOES IN THE DARK (which is probably one of my top three favorites of all the books I have ever written) that was my original title. It works on so many ways. The heroine is lost in the dark physically for part of the book. A lot of the action takes place in the dark. There are echoes of her past that darkly affect her present and future. There are also echoes of past events going back to the War of Northern Aggression that drive the present story. It’s hard to explain, but believe me, it works.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I’m not big on ‘messages’ in fiction, other than the cosmic, overarching ones – good will triumph over evil, good manners are essential, true love is possible, freedom is a God-given right that must be defended – that sort of thing. I’m a storyteller, and I write stories about the world I want to live in, because no matter what is going on outside, while I’m writing it I can live there. And maybe I have a little bit of hope that my writings can make other people feel the same things I do… so maybe I am into messages after all.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I try to create my characters and experiences from my imagination, because if I lift them from real life, I become a reporter instead of a novelist. Sometimes a person or incident will make me start thinking, will give me the spark of an idea, but by the time I get through twisting it and turning it and letting my imagination have full sway, there is little or no resemblance to the original. For example, the hotels in DARK MUSIC and in ECHOES IN THE DARK both had their genesis in real hotels where I have stayed, but by the time I got through with them it would be hard to identify either one. Plus, that way you don’t get sued. Owners of real places usually don’t like their establishments associated with murder and other assorted nasties!

As for writing my personal experiences… I learned early on not to put my own experiences in a book. No one ever believed them! After working on a film in the Middle East a generation or so ago, I wrote a romantic adventure based on some of my experiences, except I gave it a happy ending, something my hero of the moment and I didn’t have. I sent it to my then agent, who read it and laughed and said it was the best send-up of romantic adventure she’d ever seen and she loved a good parody. I told her it wasn’t a parody, and a goodly number of the things in the book actually happened – and that I had left out the really wild things, most of which I proceeded to tell her. She was silent for a long time, then told me because she had known me for years she believed me – but no one else ever would. The book languished ‘under the bed’ for many years until an e-pub picked it up a couple of years ago – and after I had toned it down a little.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Good grief, what a totally unanswerable question. I believe that everything which happens to us – incidents, books we read, people we meet, places we go, everything – influences us. To choose a few books that have influenced me ‘the most’ would be a lifetime’s project. Of course, I live in a house with three dedicated libraries, have 1,600+ books on my Kindle and maybe three times that many in my cloud reader, so perhaps my choice might be harder than others.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

The late, great and much lamented Dr. Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. Besides being a personal friend, she was an excellent, intelligent and innovative writer whose work I loved long before we met. Reading her books inspired me to work as a novelist.

What book are you reading now?

Of Dooms and Death by Dennis Somebody-or-other. It’s a medieval mystery, part of a series (and I usually hate series!) about Joslin deLay, a French minstrel traveling about England seeking to solve the secret of his birth.

What are your current projects?

Oh, Law! I never work on less than four at any given time, mainly because I bore very easily, and if I’m bored, the reader will be too. At the moment I am working on :

A Well-Mannered Murder, in which a paid researcher uncovers a scandal at a long-closed finishing school which someone will kill to keep secret.

The Egyptian File – a romantic adventure about a woman who inherits a mysterious file leading to an unimaginable treasure for which someone will kill. Aided by a mysterious cab driver she must flee across Egypt to solve the puzzle and to stay out of the hands of her unknown enemies.

Curse Of The Exile – a traditional Gothic set in 1850s Scotland where a female librarian finds both love and danger in a remote castle housing two handsome men, a murderous ghost and a long-forgotten treasure of gold.

The Widow of Westover Hall – a contemporary traditional Gothic in which a young wife must not only battle a predatory female to preserve her marriage, but overcome the ghosts of those who died in a fire whose existence only she knows about.

Welcome Home – a romantic women’s fiction story about a young jet-set heiress who comes to a small East Texas town to settle the estate of her late, estranged grandfather. There she finds a stalker, an unknown enemy, a town dying because of her grandfather’s arrogance and perhaps her own redemption.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I am blessed to have a supportive family and cadre of friends. As for ‘entity’ I’m not sure. As a founder of RWA I had great hopes for that organization, but when it became primarily for the benefit of the unpublished with little or nothing for the published, I was disappointed, though I love the personal camaraderie of my chapters. Nope – family and friends. That’s it.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Easy – genetically. One grandfather was the publisher of a small newspaper, back when small newspapers were a power to be reckoned with; both grandmothers were teachers at one time; my mother was a play producer, teacher, magazine columnist and advertising agent; my father was a printer’s devil at the age of nine, editor and publisher of several small newspapers, writer of articles and radio shows, speechmaker and fund-raiser, journalism teacher (he was the one who separated the journalism department from the English department at Texas A&M, an action sadly reversed in the last few years) and, with my mother, began an advertising agency that was in the top 300 in the nation as rated by AADA for every year of its existence. I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of being anything else but a wordsmith of some stripe. By the way, I was first paid for writing when I was nine years old.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Sitting down to do it. The world is so full of wonderful things to see and do – from world travel to exploring a new recipe – that it’s a struggle to make myself sit down at the computer, because I know once I get into my fictional world I’ll be there for hours and hours. Does that sound weird, that I find it challenging to sit down and write because when I do I don’t want to stop? If so, so be it.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s) or do guest appearances?

I love to travel, period. I would love to travel to promote my books and would do so happily, if someone else would pay for it. I also try to write a book for every place The Husband and I travel – it makes most of the trip tax-deductible as a business expense.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Being a research geek, I learn from every book I do, happily collecting odd facts like a squirrel collects nuts, as The Husband says. As for a specific example, there’s no way I can recall all of them, because there are so many! The last thing I remember learning that was totally different was for research for a romantic adventure I’m starting to work on, and that was the original builder of the dig house (which was built in the 1890s as a private residence) at El Kab (a Middle Kingdom archaeological site not far from Luxor, Egypt) is buried at the base of the house’s main stairs.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Write. Learn. Repeat ad infinitum.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Buy my books. I need the money.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Funny, I don’t find writing particularly challenging, at least not in the sense of overcoming difficulty. To me it’s like a hard-won game of chess – my characters are alive and real to me and I love outwitting them to make them do what I want. Sometimes they win, too. The Husband (a science rather than a word person) has become accustomed to my treating and talking about (and to!) my characters as if they were live and breathing creatures instead of imaginary constructs. As a friend said sympathetically to him one day, “Living with Susan must be verrrrry interesting!”

Thank you for reading!

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PS – And now, since I have your attention, I’m going to tease you with an excerpt from ECHOES IN THE DARK, a romantic adventure set in a derelict spa hotel in the wilds of Arkansas in 1963.

In 1963, famed photographer Alix Whittaker has problems – hallucinations from a head injury, a broken leg, an ex-husband with a new fiancée, a job with a third-rate archaeological dig, an unexpected murder and an overly attentive new suitor. Then she sees a very real ghost, and her problems really begin!

Excerpt : (which takes place in a neglected ballroom at the top of the old hotel)
“Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if we could have been here when this place was at its peak?” he asked suddenly, a completely new tone in his voice. “They used to hold balls here every Friday night. People would come from all over the country to take the waters and mingle with their peers at a Hidden Springs ball. The band would be over there.” He indicated an inconspicuous corner in the narrow angle of the odd-shaped room. “The chandeliers would be ablaze and all the doors would be open out onto the terrace. I would be wearing full evening kit.”

“White tie?” I asked lightly, drawn in spite of myself into the romance of his fantasy.

“Nothing less, Alix sugar. The room would be full of the crème de la crème, all in their best formal dress, but not one of them would be able to hold a candle to you, my beautiful, beautiful Miss Alix.”

I laughed and self-consciously ruffled my roughly-shorn mop. “You’ve had too much champagne if you think I’m beautiful.”

“But you are beautiful, Alix,” he replied earnestly. “What’s more, you are dressed for the occasion. Your hair is long again and piled up on top of your head with jeweled combs. You have on long white kid gloves that cover your arms. You are wearing a long dress, of course, an elegantly simple one made of emerald green satin. It’s cut low in front, but not too low, because you know I like you to look like a lady, and the full skirt makes a kind of a train behind you. Around your neck on a golden chain is a single, perfect emerald the size of a robin’s egg, and everyone who sees you knows that you belong only to me.”

Time didn’t slip and nothing changed. I knew I was still just plain Alix Whittaker, working photographer, dressed in jeans and a shirt and weighted down by a grubby cast. For just one magical moment under the spell Paul was so skillfully weaving, though, I was that other girl, pampered and lovely in the formal feathers of a different world. I could see Paul, too, tall and elegant in a black cutaway, white tie, and boiled shirt. They would suit him and he’d be even more handsome in old-fashioned evening clothes.

“I would come straight across the room to you,” Paul said dreamily then scrambled nimbly to his feet and suited action to his words. “Take your gloved hand in mine and kiss it. I’d dislike the proper white kid because it kept your flesh from mine, so I’d turn your hand over and kiss that small bit of bare skin on your wrist where you deliberately didn’t fasten all the buttons because you knew how much I liked to touch you with my lips.”

Paul bowed formally as he held my arm outstretched, his lips delicately seeking the sensitive skin of my inner wrist.

“How delightful to find you here, Mr. Galliard, suh,” I laughed breathily, entering into the spirit of his raillery with only a small sense of unease.

“Your servant, Miss Alix.” His eyes sparkled. “Always. May I have the pleasure of this dance?”

“Surely the band is taking a break?”

“We do not need a band, do we, Alix honey?”

I looked at his extended arms and was not sure if he were in the grip of a fantasy gone too far. With a gesture toward my cast, I said “I would enjoy it, but…”

“Surely you don’t think a little thing like that is going to keep me from the pleasure of a dance with you. Put your arms around my neck.” His eyes twinkled.

“Paul.”

“Put your arms around my neck, Alix honey.” With a consummate self-assurance, he slipped one lean, strong arm under my arms, the other beneath my knees and, with no visible effort, simply lifted me up. “Perhaps it’s not the most conventional of dances, but we are Galliards after all. Besides, isn’t the purpose of a dance for a man to be able to hold the lady of his choice in his arms?”

I put my arms around his neck and held on, not, as his smile seemed to indicate, for romantic purposes, but for protection. If he were going to go off dancing across that rough, curling floor while holding me up like that, I wanted some sort of security.

“Now isn’t this nicer?” Paul purred as he softly nuzzled my cheek. “Let the others talk if they will. The Galliards have always set their own fashion.”

To my relief he didn’t really dance, only moved gently in a slow turning motion. It didn’t fit any dance or music I could think of, but by that time, I was beyond critical thought. This was Romance with a capital R, and despite the fact the whole thing was slightly ridiculous, I was enjoying it as much as a little girl would a splendid game of make-believe. Leaning against Paul’s cheek, I closed my eyes and allowed fantasy to sweep me away. I was the girl in the flowing green satin dress, being whirled around a glorious ballroom by my handsome beau…

Paul stopped.

Zach stood in the grand doorway of the ballroom. His face was in shadow, so I couldn’t see his expression, but his very posture – shoulders hunched, hands jammed in pockets – radiated fury. When he spoke, however, his voice was calm and collected.

“When you’re finished,” he said coolly, “they need you downstairs. The sheriff is here.”

Author Interview: G.J. Swenson

Long and Short Reviews welcomes  G. J. Swenson, whose debut novel Occupant was recently released.   Occupant is the first book of the Compromised Agency trilogy, to be followed by Resident and Uninvited Guest.

In this series, he started with an incident he thought was interesting. He filled it with characters who were everyday people and wanted to develop them in a number of different ways.

“I wanted to show that there can be good and evil in us all. Good people can make bad choices and can be stuck in the decisions they have made,” he explained.  “Said another way, bad people can often be very likable people who have made some bad choices. I thought about what circumstances would motivate them and put them where they were. I wanted to show that people on the same’team’ or side of an issue can have very different motivations than the head of the team or the other teammates. I also wanted to show that ordinary people, when pushed into a corner can change drastically to preserve their lives. That change can be permanent.”

He has started a spin-off using one of the characters from Occupant and Uninvited Guest.  The new book allows that character to finally deal with what happens in the trilogy. He’s also started a book set twenty years in the future, in a very different America.

“How did you come up with the titles to your books?” I wondered.

“I tried to describe, in some clever way the focus of the book.  Occupant was named for the indiscriminate attack on an innocent person who was occupying the home of another.  Resident followed the occupation format, but focused upon the fact that there was a traitor within the residing personnel infrastructure.  Uninvited Guest describes the surprise move that a character makes.”

Gary has always found that he can form his ideas best while writing. As a young romantic, he wrote poetry. He wrote op-ed pieces to argue social viewpoints and wrote a community newsletter to promote unity and share information in a new housing development. He went through college in his late 30s and took a very heavy course-load to speed his completion. Through many semesters he found he was required to complete a term paper a week.

“What I discovered was that the writing not only came easy, but it also relaxed me,” he confessed. “I was in the beginning of the end of my marriage when my (then) father-in-law told me of his paranoid experience at a rental house.  I went home the same night and started to write in ernest.”

Occupant was the most complex book of the trilogy and, in that regard, it was the most difficult.  It required establishing many characters and settings.

“It was a project that helped me get through a divorce and discover a side of myself I did not know. I fought for its life for many years,” he said.  “Writing Resident was very different experience.  The story is of a different timbre. I wanted to continue developing the complexity of the plot and the differing motivations of the characters. But for me Resident was more of a thrill ride with high energy and non-stop action.  I brought some quirky characters into the spotlight for fun. In Uninvited Guest, I was required to do a very different type of research, since it was my first real experience at using multiple unfamiliar settings that I had to make come alive. I really enjoyed the experience.  I want to go to Prague and Moscow to see how I did!”

” What is your work schedule like when you are writing?” I asked.

“I’m at my best in the early morning.  I am usually awake 4-4:30amwithout an alarm and write for an hour before I have to get ready for work. It is when the house and the requirements of the day are still asleep.  Thoughts of my story will saturate my day, and I often find myself writing notes by the side of the road or speaking into the notes app on my iphone. I remember when I first started writing Occupant. The family had one compaq computer.  We were home-schooling our children, and by the time I got home from work my children were at play.  My son had discovered the program, The Oregon Trail, and I would often find him fighting dysentery, a snake bite or having some critical problem with his Conestoga. He reminded me recently how irritated it made him when I would pull rank and take over the keyboard after work.”

“Have you ever eaten a crayon?” I asked.

“I did not eat the crayon, but I managed to get myself into quite a lot of trouble with them.  We had  ceiling lights in our 1950’s  era house.  Like today’s lights, the bulbs were mounted to the ceiling. There was a translucent, yet foggy glass bowl that hung from three brass chains to soften the light from the bulb.  I don’t remember how old I was, but I laid in my bed with my yellow and green box of 64 colors of crayons, carefully chose a few- shades of primary subtractive colors red, blue and yellow, broke them in half and threw them up into the bowl.  I watched the crayons melt and the colors blend into new colors, ending up as near black when the show was over. My artistic moment was rewarded with a spanking and an hour at the sink scraping and cleaning the melted wax.”

Finally, I asked, “What is a talent you wish you had, but don’t?”

“Music.  I would love to be able to play music and harmonies as I can hear them in my head.  I love the violin, but I find my greatest accomplishment in playing has been the nights when an ambulance doesn’t show up at my door to help the person my neighbors believe is in pain.”

 

About the Author:  7_24 author photoI grew up inside the Washington, DC beltway.   After making twenty stringed instruments I left the life of a luthier for a more traditional career in the production department of The Washington Post. I moved from union production worker to Assistant Plant manager and eventually to Director of Production for one of the Post’s subsidiary daily newspapers. Along the way I was the board president of a professional Symphony Orchestra.  Each step of my career gave me insight into my desire to write and the natural flair I possessed. My father-in-law, a published college English professor, helped me through my first few months of creative writing, providing guidance and direction. I now work to support this love. It took twelve years to find an agent that would present me to the industry. I wrote during this time, but without focus. Within months after I had that introduction, I finished book 2, Resident, which I had started more than a year before. Then, in another half year I had the trilogy finished.  Since the trilogy was finished I have started another two books, but have not yet had the time to really develop them.

occupantbook.com

gjswenson.com

7_24 occupantcover1600x2400What if someone else’s past became your future?

Occasionally, information comes into our lives – and changes everything. It can be in the form of a gift or an inescapable dilemma.

Sergei Zorkaltsev was living a charmed life. His doting father was able to make enough money and have the right connections to get him into the St Petersburg Technical University. His dream of becoming an Agricultural Engineer was coming true. That was until the American bullet pierced his father’s heart. He became a man looking for justice. He was given an address. Its occupant was his target. His information was manipulated.

Tom and Michelle Larson were embarking on the journey called retirement. Their life together had been fruitful, their love neglected, their story- rather bland. Unknown to them, they rented a vacation home from a man with a much more exciting past. His past became their future.

INTERVIEW: STEVEN P. MARINI

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Steven P. Marini whose debut novel Connections was released last year by Gypsy Shadow Publishing Company.  His second book in the Jack Contino Crime Stories series, Aberration, will be released later this year. Steven is currently working on the third book in the series.

Steven has always enjoyed writing, but never really worked at it. However, just before he retired from Federal service, he got an idea after reading about Joe McCain, a Boston police officer, and went with it–not knowing where it would take him.  About a year ago, he saw a commercial on TV for Ancestry.com where people were saying they learned fascinating things about their ancestors.

“I have three little granddaughters and thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if their grandchildren did some digging years from now and discovered that their great-great-grandfather became a published novelist in his sixties,” he told me.  “That helps motivate me.”

Steven is the youngest of four from a blue collar family.

“There were three boys and a girl, so I had all the sibling issues and rewards growing up,” he said. “We were close and I knew I wanted to be a family man some day. I am happy to say that I succeeded in that effort. I have a great wife who is my partner in our journey. We have two daughters and a son, all grown and married. Our oldest, Lisa, has three girls of her own, so we’re enjoying being grandparents now. They all live in Maryland and we visit them several times each year. Your kids become your best friends when they grow up and that’s what we enjoy now. There’s nothing that makes us happier than getting together.”

No matter whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, Steven tol dme he believes that people want to read about the human condition.

“Ultimately, readers can all relate to someone dealing with the challenges of life when you show that they are just people, subject to the same challenges as any of us can face,” he explained.

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

“I’ve learned that the title has to relate to the story. That may seem obvious, but it’s true. In my first book, I developed a story with three main characters. I had to link them together and so, Connections became my name choice. My second is called Aberration. It involves what you might call socially deviant behavior to the extreme. I was going to call it ‘Deception’, but my editor didn’t think it worked. I want to stick with one word titles, preferably ending in ‘-tion,’ so that makes it challenging, sort of like playing Scrabble with myself.”

When Steven’s not writing, he enjoys playing in the Cape Cod Senior Softball league.

“I’m in a division with guys over sixty- four.  This is no church league,” he assured me.  “It’s slow pitch, but very competitive.  I was not much of a ballplayer as a kid and had been away from the game for over forty years, so I’m proud to be able to play with these guys, many of whom are better athletes than guys half their age (I’m not one of them).”

He also likes to host parties with old and new friends.

“It takes me back to my younger days, when going to the Cape to relax on the beach during the day and party at night was great fun.  I love the Cape, especially when our kids and their families come to visit.”

Something else he’s learned to do since he retired is cook–he had to in order to survive!  His wife worked for the National Security Agency and, after 9/11, she worked all kinds of hours. To his surprise, he loves cooking now.

“I hook up to my iPod, pour a beverage and cook up dinner,” he said.  “It’s my very own party time.  Cheers.”

“What comes first, the plot or characters?” I asked.

“I’ve heard people argue that character drives plot. I’d say that characters influence plot. You have to come up with a story idea that intrigues you, then put your character in it. In a series, for example, you can develop a character who fits into the plot.  You don’t think up a bunch of main and subordinate characters and then figure out how they’ll all interact. I develop a story and the characters are born within it.”

So far he hasn’t had to do a lot of research for his books because he writes fiction and the settings are places he’s familiar with.

“I thank the stars for the internet,” he told me. “I can research as I go. When I need a little specific data on a subject, I can find it in minutes. I also have a few friends who were in law enforcement who critique my work for police procedure and they give me advice. For example, I learned that police cannot, despite what you see on TV, execute a search warrant by just going into a place and snooping around. They have to have a specific item or items that they are searching for and once they find it, they must stop searching.”

“Ebook or print,” I wondered, “and why?”

“Both and that’s not a cop out. My publisher is a small, independent publisher that focuses on eBooks. That’s fine with me. But I can have my books available as print on demand and I want that because I know there are many, many people who say they prefer to hold a book in their hands. They are mostly my age. But I prefer the eBook. I love being able to enlarge the font, carry a thousand books with me when traveling and buying a book where ever I am.”

“Tell us about the absolute best fan letter you have received,” I said.

“That’s easy. It will be my first one. It hasn’t come yet, but it will be terrific. I know you’re out there, so hop to it, fan of mine.”

About the Author: 5_17 Steve1Steve Marini holds a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Boston University and a B.A. in Business Administration from New England College and has spent over thirty years in the Education/Training field, including posts in higher education and the federal government.

Although he describes himself as a “card carrying New Englander,” he lived for twenty-six years in Maryland while pursuing a career spanning four federal agencies. His background has enabled him to serve as a project manager at the National Security Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Academy and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he worked with teams of experts in various fields to develop state-of-the-art training for both classrooms and distance learning technologies.

A “Baby Boomer,” Steve has taken up fiction writing as he moved into his career final frontier. Married for thirty-six years, a father of three and a grandfather, Steve and his wife Louise own a home on Cape Cod that will serve as his private writer’s colony for the years ahead.

 

https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/StevenPMarini

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http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/11060603?shelf=read

http://www.amazon.com/Steven-P-Marini/e/B008VTXR20/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1365958148&sr=1-1

 

 

 

 

 

INTERVIEW: K. J. JANSSEN


Long and Short Reviews welcomes K. J. Janssen whose latest work Fatal Dose was recently released.  It’s the second in a series and centers around the epidemic of counterfeit prescription drugs.

“I continue to read in the newspapers and on  the web about people dying from phony drugs, many of them being smuggled in from China and Eastern Europe,” he told me.

Since a lot of what he writes is “snatched from the headlines,” he has a constant source of new material and keeps several works going at once.

Currently he’s developing a new series and character, Alex Syminton. He’s the partner of a large security company that the President covertly uses to  uncover a serial killer–with a working title of Serial.  He also is working on a departure from his usual mystery/suspense genre–an inspirational called Secret Armageddon.

Generally, his plots come first, but since Fatal Dose is the second of a series, it was important for him to continue the development of his main character, Special Agent Mark Matthews, and the villain Marco Vennuti.

He has had to do quite a bit of research for his books:  Blood Money, the first book in the Mark Matthews series, required he learn about blood banks and blood types; for Fatal Dose, he needed to learn about prescription drug manufacturing and distribution; and for Hamptom Manor, a multi-genre work about three generations of the Hampton family, research was needed on fighting fires as well as clothing manufacturing.

Ken’s been a writer all his life, but once he retired he finally got the chance to devote as much time as he wanted to his writing. He’s been writing, in earnest, about five years. It took three years to get his first novel pubished, but along the way he published several short stories.

“Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book,” I told him. “Where would you most likely want to go?”

“Hawaii,” he answered promptly. “Would you make the suggestion for me?”

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

“Don’t be discouraged by rejections. If a publisher is kind enough to offer advice take it seriously. Keep at it.  Even the best were turned down in the beginning.”

 

About the Author:  5_10 alt. Bio PictureKen’s debut novel centered on the exploits of Mark Matthews, a private investigator turned FBI agent. In Blood Money Mark helps topple an association funneling money to terrorist organizations. Blood Money was published as an e-book in November, 2011. It has five-star reviews on Amazon, including one from Jack (Spywriter) King.

Hampton Manor is a multi-genre work about three generations of the Hampton family and their interactions with five townspeople in the peaceful community of Old Brooking, Connecticut. When one of the five hires an assassin to kill Adam Hampton and his father and to burn Hampton Manor to the ground, the resulting sequence of events leaves the town of Old Brooking reeling. Hampton Manor is an emotionally suspenseful and compelling read. It was published as an e-book 4/12/2012. Hampton Manor also has five-star reviews on Amazon, including Jack King.

Secret Armageddon, Ken’s latest novel, exposes the secret battle for the consciousness of men. The battle is between Super Consciousness and the Collective Unconscious; the survival of the world being the ultimate prize. The protagonist is portrayed by Reverend Aaron Masters, minister of the New Thought Metaphysical Center. Secret Armageddon is about new ways of thinking, from birth to death.

Fatal Dose, the second Mark Matthews Mystery exposes a drug mafia distributing counterfeit prescription drugs. It was published as an ebook by Untreed Reads in March, 2013.

Ken has epublished several short stories at Nights and Weekends, Writing Raw and Long Story Short. He is a member of ITW, ASCAP.

He lives in Ohio, with his wife Jeannette and can be contacted at kjans3@yahoo.com

Blog: http://kjans3.wordpress.com/

 

 

Interview: Melanie Surani

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Melanie Surani whose debut novel The Silent Treatment was released last year.  It’s the first in a series.  The second is Exchange in Eichstätt, and Melanie is putting the finishing touching on it right now. In the second book, Kat–the protagonist from The Silent Treatment–travels to Germany on a college-sponsored trip.

“Without giving too much away about the ending of The Silent Treatment, I’ll just say that she runs into someone very important to her, but barely has time to process how she feels about this meeting before the person is kidnapped,” she told me.

Melanie lived in Germany for a month so was familiar with the area in which she placed Exchange in Eichstätt, but she said, “It would have been so much better if I’d been able to return for inspiration.”

She’s always loved stories.  From the time she was very young, her parents read to her–books like The HobbitDracula, and Sherlock Holmes. 

“My first attempts at writing were straight-up plagiarism,” she admitted. “When people who loved me told me that wasn’t right and I should write my own stories, I graduated to fan fiction. Star Trek: The Next Generation, anyone?”

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

“I wanted to be so many things, which is why I think having a ‘real job’ is so difficult for me. Very early on, I wanted to be a writer, but that soon turned into being a grade school teacher, an actor, a singer (that didn’t stop until my late teens). Now I still want to be a ‘famous writer’, but my biggest career dream is to be a stylist/sculptor at Madame Tussauds in London.”

She hadn’t given much thought to hair as an artform until recently when she needed to stop being an office assistant.

“Cutting hair is a lot like sculpture. The angle at which you cut the hair makes a huge difference about what it’s going to look like when it drops down to its natural position,” she said.

She’s currently trying to learn as much as she can about hair cutting and styling.

“I would love to be able to do a big Marie Antoinette updo,” she told me. “I’m betting it needs a lot of non-hair filling in the middle…The hairdressing profession takes a lot of concentration — but a good kind. It occupies the mind the same way drawing or writing does for me: it takes me deep down into almost a meditative state where all I can think about is what I’m doing, how I’m going to get to the end result from what I’ve got to start with. When I’m done and the client is smiling, I feel really good about what I do and can’t wait till I can do it again.”

Outside her home, Melanie’s favorite place to write is the concourse under Rockefeller Center.

“There’s a Starbucks there (along with many other eateries), wi-fi, bathrooms, and I don’t have to buy something to sit there,” she said. “If I need a little break from writing, I can people-watch or go shopping, then come right back to business.”

Melanie always starts with the germ of an idea.

“A look someone gives. An object that seems like it should have a story behind it. Someone in danger. These tiny ideas grow in my head (and then on paper) to become my plot and characters. For me, the characters drive the plot. If I’m thinking that someone is in danger, I ask myself how they got there, who’s keeping them there, who’s going to get them out. Answering those questions leads to hundreds others. I take that tiny idea and expand it until I’ve got my outline. The longest outline I ever had was 50,000 words by itself–which was excessive,” she admitted. “Then when I’m writing the first draft, I’m just filling in the gaps with dialogue and detail. When I used to be a pantser, I would never get to the ending and abandon the project.”

Finally I asked, “What is a talent you wish you had, but don’t?”

“I would love to be able to sing opera. I don’t necessarily want to perform, I just think it’s a beautiful artform. In fact, this could also be a paranormal ability. If I’m trying to lead some people to safety, and we come across a glass wall blocking our path, I’d just whip out the ol’ Queen of the Night aria and break it down with my glass-breaking high notes. But then again, the people I’m trying to save would be covered in shattered glass, and the enemy would be able to follow us through the now-broken wall anyway (and by our trails of blood). So scratch that.”

 

About the Author:  5_8 InterviewWhen Melanie Surani isn’t cutting hair, she’s thinking about ways of killing people (for mystery novels). Her fiction can be found anywhere ebooks are sold, and you can book a hair appointment if you live in Manhattan (and have a lot of money).

facebook.com/melsurani         twitter.com/melsurani   

                                                 www.goodreads.com/melaniesurani                              

 

5_8 interview cover big Kat Shergill doesn’t expect to find a piece of forgotten movie history during a bout of retail therapy. After watching the coil of film found tucked inside her purchase, she’s shocked to witness the brutal murder of a famous 1920’s star by a fellow actor. 80-year-old mystery aside, someone will stop at nothing to get the film away from her and silence what she’s discovered.

 

INTERVIEW and giveaway: Johnny Ray


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Johnny Ray whose latest book A War Hero Returns was released earlier this year. Leave a comment on today’s interview for a chance to win one of six downloads of the book.

Johnny told me that when he does research, sometimes he finds things that have changed he wasn’t aware of.

While doing the research for A War Hero Returns, he discovered that one of his favorite restaurants in New York City–The Top of the Sixes– has been replaced by a cigar bar, one of the most exclusive in the world.

“My hero has one vice–smoking cigars with the band of alpha males that work for him,” he said. “In this case, it was a small change to the plot, but gives a deeper look into the hero and makes him more human.”

He’s currently writing about a current-day ultimate female warrior who will one day be queen of her small hidden country in central Europe. She has her own twitter account where she is ladymatalina, and she has already attracted 8500 followers.

He’s written 18 novels, with The Salsa Connection being his favorite for one reason–it was the first novel he won an award with–the Royal Palm Literary Award for best thriller.

“Moments like this are what keeps a writer going,” he told me.

Johnny has always loved to write; he likes the thrill of knowing he has total control of his characters and setting.

“More importantly, I love the ability to plot and keep my readers guessing,” he told me.  “I want to give enough clues along the way that it is totally possible to figure out everything, but I want you the reader to say, oh me, I should have seen that coming–but I didn’t.”

For Johnny, every story starts with a moment of inspiration.

“Then, it has to grow, and develop as the plot thickens, so to speak, or should I say as it is written,” he said. “While the characters should be fully fleshed out before you start, that is not very often the case. They change as the book and plot comes together.  Often times, they can make a writer re-plot the book.”

He’s never had writer’s block, but there have been times he gets tired of writing and needs to get away from work to refresh his soul.

“I think all writers should do that,” he said. “Take a vacation and some time to enjoy life outside writing occasionally.”

Johnny has an office in his home, but does most of his writing on the beach.

“I have 35 miles of beach with over 400 coffee shops along the way, and I go to a different one every morning,” he said.

One of the hardest parts about writing for him is keeping the plot simple.

“I can get too carried away and make the book too long,” he admitted. “I try to stay around 100,000 words.”

The plot is the most critical part of the story, and it has to keep the story alive.

“I do this by showing a point of view that I think is different,” he said. “I hope to add the twist and turns that others have not considered. I also like to take chances that many will avoid. For example, I will write about a rape in the plot, but hopefully do it right so it is not too much or too little, just enough to move the story forward.”

“What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you? ” I asked.

“I love to dance. Well, maybe not too much of a surprise since I have dancing in many of my novels. I love salsa and tango. Yes, many years ago I was a national champion dancer. But that was a long time ago.”

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

“Write! And be prepared to do it over and over, and have it shredded by many people. In fact, ask that it be shown no mercy. And be sure to make many friends along the way. You will need their support often.”

About the Author:   5_1 Author photoJohnny Ray has a passion for life and adventure that he loves to share with his readers. As an avid traveler and professional businessman conducting business worldwide for years he has made many interesting contacts and received numerous awards for top production. He has owned and operated several real estate companies, several insurance companies, and a stock brokerage company. He loves radio and TV talk shows, as well as speaking in front of various audiences. Feel free to contact him if you need a guest speaker.

When it comes time to play, he is very active in many sports including dancing, swimming, tennis, biking, and skiing. While he loves adventures that are new, interesting and challenging, making friends that share his passions is a special gift.

Johnny lives in Clearwater, Florida where he works full time as a writer, and he can be often found in one of the hundreds of coffee shops along the beach working on his next novel. He belongs to the Florida Writer Association where he recently won the Royal Palm Literary Award for best thriller, the Romantic Writers of America, and the Mystery Writers Association. He attends various national writer conventions throughout the year, as well as several local writing groups in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Facebook                  Goodreads             Blog                     Kindle author page                             Website                                 Twitter  

 5_1 Book CoverWhile Suzan Mercer’s father promised in his dying words the land he left her would bring her love, she never anticipated the events involved in the process. Now, could she balance her new love life with her hidden CIA commitment? Could she? After serving eight years in the army, Suzan Mercer returns from Afghanistan to Florida as a female war hero–her works as a CIA operative, of course, would always be hidden. She couldn’t believe her mother had used a power of attorney while she was gone to sell the land her father had left her. After learning her mother also has early onset Alzheimer’s and claims to have been taken advantage of by Matt Harris, the billionaire developer involved, Suzan uses her military and CIA training to plot her revenge and to reacquire her land. Entering a world where high heels replace combat boots and deep red lipstick becomes more deadly than a colt 45, Suzan never anticipated the cost to reacquire her land would be losing her heart. Matt also learns his money and power cannot acquire the one asset he has always lacked in his life as he ventures into untested skies without a golden parachute to save him. Also, would the ghost of his playboy image come back to haunt him?

INTERVIEW: KARA L. BARNEY

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kara L. Barney, author of The Hudson Diaries: The Life and Times of a Baker Street Resident, her debut mystery publication–although she has dabbled in many other genres.

If she could go back and have a redo leading up to her first publication, she told me she would do more research from the beginning.

“The trouble that I had while writing The Hudson Diaries was that while my characterization and timing were strong, the historical fact and background were lacking,” she explained. “Detail is something not to be skimmed over, and even though in the author’s head the story may make perfect sense, we must remember the audience and reader who do not initially see and envision as much as we do. Thanks to Jay Hartman for helping me to see what I needed!”

Kara’s been writing since she was six years old and always knew she was a writer, but it wasn’t until she was in the eighth grade that Mrs. McDonald, her English teacher, inspired her to pursue it. It’s partly also why she chose English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing, as a major when she was in college.

  • I have always loved to write, but I kept it to myself until I couldn’t hold it in any longer and wanted to make the world a better place with good literature,” she said.

She’s very much a plotter–her bedroom floor is covered in notebooks, novels, and paper.

“It’s only when a work is finished for me that the notebooks disappear and even then they don’t disappear for very long,” she told me. ”

  • I always write hand-written drafts first, so there are tons of bits and pieces of work hanging around. I never type a draft until I know it’s finished, so most of the time I always have a piece of paper and pen in my hand, and then when it’s edited and typed, I print out a copy to get organized. I never use a desk, just the bedroom floor!”

Once Kara has plotted out her work, and she knows she’s on the verge of a great idea, she knows she will have a long and productive night. She pulls out her notebook and just writes without stopping or editing.

  • The hours pass with no attention paid to them at all, and I shut my door and will not allow interruption,” she said. “Until the last punctuation is down, nothing can halt the feverish constant scratch of pen against the paper, for fear that if I halted, the idea would be gone in that instant, and would be lost forever.”

 

Kara’s day job is working as a call center representative, and she has to get up at 4 AM to go to the day job.   She does her writing mostly at night.

“E

  • ven if I’m trying to take a nap during the day, I cannot sleep until I have written down what is my head.  It’s a nagging sensation in your brain repeating the words in your mind again and again, and if you try to ignore it, it doesn’t work. I write until I can’t write anymore,” she said.
  • Also, at least for me, I work on mainly one project at a time. Sometimes there are little parts of works that come along, but for the most part I concentrate on one project, and as soon as that’s done, I work on something else.

“Who is your favorite author?” I asked.

  • Jules Verne.  I’ve read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea five times, and it’s my sick book—the book I turn to when I can’t sleep, or I’m running a fever or I feel lonesome. I’ve also read most of his other work, and it brings a smile every time. I’m not sure why exactly, but I guess it’s some sort of dormant, constant wish for adventure, a change in life or a step forward into something different and exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I love other authors too, but Mr. Verne and I go a long way back,” she said with a smile.

Her list of books that have most influenced her life go back a bit, too:

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes series, 100 Hair-Raising Horror Stories, 100 Malicious Little Mysteries, And Then There Were None, Hamlet, Great Expectations, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…

One thing Kara wishes she could do is play the violin.

“T

  • he strings inspire me, make shivers run down my spine and bring joy and beauty into a sometimes mundane and ordinary life. But time is not against me yet; you are not old until you have given up, and so I wait patiently. Someday that will happen, even if only for a short while,” she said.

“Where are you from and what do you love about your hometown?” I wondered.

“I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah and I absolutely love downtown. It’s not as crowded as New York but its crowded enough to beat the wheat fields in Kansas! I love the noise, lights, busy-ness of it all, but when you are done for the night, the city does sleep. There is night-life, theatre, gardens, and everything that a huge city has, but then there is that quiet, that midnight hour when most are asleep, when only a few lamps burn and the world is resting.”

About the Author: 4_23 Disney Concert IIHailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Kara L. Barney has been writing since she was six years old. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 2009 with a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing, and also enjoys editing. Over the years she has dabbled in many genres, though The Hudson Diaries is her first published work in the mystery genre. She is an avid reader and also likes singing, swing dancing and learning in her spare time. She currently lives in Salt Lake City.

https://twitter.com/ @karalbarney

http://www.karalbarney.blogspot.com/

 

 

4_23 hudson diariesVictorian England, 1880—Sherlock Holmes is at it again! But this time, instead of his faithful chronicler Watson at the helm, his tales come from another source…Mrs. Hudson, the housekeeper. A new set of tales for a new generation, Sherlock Holmes is given to us in a whole new light: “The Great Detective” before he became great. From their first meeting to her place as a permanent resident of Baker Street, Mrs. Hudson helps us rediscover the ever-logical detective who has become a literary icon.

 

INTERVIEW: F.E. FEELEY, JR

Long and Short Reviews welcomes F.E. Feely, Jr., , whose debut novel The Haunting of Timber Manor was recently released from Dreamspinner Publishing. He’s currently working on a book inspired by Meatloaf’s song “Objects in the Rear View Mirror.”

” Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell 2: Back into hell was one of the first cd’s I ever listened to and fell in love with,” he told me. “Jim Steinman was an incredible writer and the theatrics and passion of the music touched my heart. The one that really did it, the song that still sends chills down my spine, is Objects..and I hope I can write something that is as awesome as that song. ”

F.E. has wanted to be a writer since he was a kid. He used to devour books—they provided window for him to climb out of and into another world to escape from being bullied at school and other issues he had.

“I loved to disappear in those pages, soak myself in the mind of an author and disappear. As an adult, there are still times when I want to go back and do the same thing. Growing up, sucks sometimes and so instead of reading someone else’s work, I want to disappear into my own imagination and translate that to the page so If there is a person out there like me, the journey that I go on wont have go alone,” he explained. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling really.”

He’s been writing, off and on, since he was in high school. Every year, for Halloween, one of the English teachers would host a scary story contest. The two years he entered, he won. He thought it would just be a hobby for him—he would start, stop, and discard whatever he was working on. However, when he was writing The Haunting of Timber Manor, the manuscript became so long he considered submitting it.

“I googled a publisher, finished the manuscript, submitted it, and then *poof* the rest is history,” he said.
F.E.’s favorite author is Stephen King. He began reading the Dark Tower series when he was in the sixth grade and he was hooked.

“His series was probably my ‘Tolkein’ and a series I have read over and over again with the same enthusiasm,” he told me. “The Stand, The Shining, The Dark House, The Regulators, Desperation, and on and on all these books I just loved. I love the intricate world he creates, the characters that you see as three dimensional, the chills, the thrills, and heartbreak and humanness of people. M-O-O-N that spells humanness. ”

“What is the hardest part about writing for you?” I asked.

” Writing isn’t easy. One of the worst things an author hears is ‘oh, I can write a book’ from people who haven’t sat down to actually try. It’s like climbing a mountain and understanding that bringing the plot together is like a mountain climber being careful with each and every single step he or she may take knowing that if one misstep could lead to disaster. It’s a sleepless, fevered, sometimes excited, sometimes mundane, sometimes mind numbingly challenging task. Yet when you finish, you look back on your mountain and nod to yourself saying, ‘Yep. I did that.'”

He tries to write 3,000 words a day—sometimes he makes the goal, and more, and some days it’s like pulling teeth. Usually, it takes him all day.

“The house is empty, the house is quiet, I do my work out, shower, and start writing,” he told me. “If I can’t seem to get started on the first try Ill take a break and return or if I am on a hot streak I just keep going until I’ve exhausted myself and then I stop. Everyone has their own way of doing things and that is simply mine.”

“When did you first consider yourself a writer?”

“I think the moment I got my first contract and nearly fell over dead from shock. It was so surreal and …..breathtaking and mindblowing. I mean, I had always been writing here and there, bits of ideas, and then walking away from it. So I have always been a writer, but then I realized, ‘Holy Crap I can get paid for this.’ I felt like I had arrived in the land of the writers. Then you have that freak out moment where your like, ‘What if nobody likes it?’ Then you have to take a step back and remember that you write for you, not for them — I don’t mean that in a bad way but in that as artists you’ll always turn back to that medium in which to communicate and express your heart.”

When he’s not writing, he loves listening to music, being political, educating himself, talking with his partner, grocery shopping, and cooking.

“God, I love to cook!” he exclaimed. “It calms me down. It’s something that lets me think. I have this insatiable need to feed peoples so when I cook, I cook a lot and love it when I have people over to eat my food. It’s very satisfying. ”
F.E. is a political person and refuses to toe party lines.

“I feel like, if one party gets too much power for too long they become fat and bloated and out of control so I am usually bitching about something or another. My partner and I actually met one day and the first thing we did was debate politics. It was love at first sight and we have been together almost three years now. I think one of the things we were able to come together on, given our sexuality and relationship together, was marriage equality. I love the law and reading legal crap and sometimes get caught up in the passion of Constitutional questions and such so, recently, with the Supreme Court taking up PROP 8 and DOMA we have been really paying attention to not only the cases themselves but the reaction of people out there. You know, I don’t think in history anyone who ever lived a single day on this planet would figure that sometime in their life they would find themselves or their peers in the middle of a civil rights debate or find that their future rested in the hands of politicians or the nine wise people on The Supreme Court. It’s a very interesting , personal, and bothersome thing to listen to people speak so passionately about this subject. It’s one thing to be commenting on a bit of law and giving an opionion on it, but when you actually have a dog in the hunt, so to speak, it takes on a whole new level of involvement. It isn’t an easy thing to listen to when people want to equate you or your relationship to some pretty awful things. But, I think in the long run, gay people will eventually win over the hearts and minds of the country and come out on top…so to speak.”

About the Author: F.E.Feeley Jr was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for twenty years before joining the military. He is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Services, having done a tour in support of Operation Iraq Freedom in 2002-2003, turned college student pursuing a degree in political science. He now lives in Southeast Texas, where he is engaged to the love of his life, John, and where they raise their 1 ½ year old German shepherd, Kaiser. As a young man, reading took center stage in his life especially those novels about ghosts, witches, goblins, and all the other things that went bump in the night. His favorite authors include such writers as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice and whose work allowed him to travel to far off places and meet fascinating and scary characters. As a gay man, he wishes to be able to write good fictional literature for those who love the genre and to write characters that the readers can relate to. All in all, he is a cigarette smokin’, whiskey drinkin’, rock and roll lovin’, tattoo wearin’, dreamer of a man with a wonderful partner who puts up with his crap and lets him write his stories. Enjoy!

4_12 Interview Color coverWhile recovering from the recent loss of his parents, Daniel Donnelly receives a phone call from his estranged aunt, who turns over control of the family fortune and estate, Timber Manor. Though his father seemed guarded about the past, Daniel’s need for family and curiosity compel him to visit.

Located in a secluded area of the Northwest, Timber Manor has grown silent over the years. Her halls sit empty and a thin layer of dust adorns the sheet-covered furniture. When Daniel arrives to begin repairs, strange things happen. Nightmares haunt his dreams. Memories not his own disturb his waking hours. Alive with the tragedies of the past, Timber Manor threatens to tear Daniel apart.

Sherriff Hale Davis grew up working on the manor grounds. Seeing Daniel struggle, he vows protect the young man who captured his heart, and help him solve the mystery behind the haunting and confront the past—not only to save Daniel’s life, but to save his family, whose very souls hang in the balance.

Buy the book at Dreamspinner Press