INTERVIEW: Amber Leigh Williams

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Amber Leigh Williams whose newest release A Place With Briar is now available.

A Place With Briar is the first in a series about Amber’s hometown, Fairhope, Alabama–a beautiful small town on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. Ever since she was bitten by the writing bug when she was small, she knew that one day she would write a story about Fairhope.

“Finally, one day, I found the perfect characters and that all-important ‘what-if’ scenario that clicked nicely with the setting,” she told me. “In the book, there are real life places – parks, restaurants, scenic highways…. I even throw in a beach scene. (Fairhope is only a hop, skip, and a jump from Alabama’s gorgeous, white-sand beaches.) I threw a few deeper, more personal connections into the book as well. The fact that the hero rides in on a Harley is reminiscent of my own, real-life, motorcycle-riding hero. Though Cole and Briar’s characters are not based on my husband and me, the route Cole takes when he gives Briar her first motorcycle ride is nearly identical to the one my husband took me on a few days after we met. It’s a very special scene because of that significance, for me.”

Amber is pretty sure that the series will consist of four books. She’s recently signed a two-book contract with Harlequin Superromance to write the second and third books of the series–that will keep her busy for the better part of the year. The second book is centered around Briar’s cousin Olivia, who is another small business owner. She has a tavern on the bay.

“I recently finished revising it for my editor. It should launch in October of this year,” she said.

In her writing, she usually starts out with a “what if” scenario, which amounts to the original plot concept.

“For example, in the case of my latest book, A Place With Briar, I thought, ‘What if this innkeeper whose mother has just died is losing her family’s inn and she falls in love with her latest guest, a man who rides in on a Harley Davidson and carries secrets behind his dark, haunted eyes?’ Falling in love with this man she knows little about and who is so obviously troubled is the last thing she needs, but it’s inevitable. In turn, what if this man is staying at the inn under false pretenses and he’s in league – against his better judgment and perhaps his own will – with the person who wants to take the inn away from the heroine? And yet he can’t stop himself from falling in love with his target? It was an irresistible concept and character-driven, which makes it even more compelling to me,” she explained. “If my characters don’t develop before the plot does, the ‘what-if’ scenario will usually give me all I need to know to figure out who the hero and heroine are and what their conflict is.”

Amber has swapped romance sub-genres quite a bit looking for the right it. The first romance novel she read was romantic suspense and, for years, it was all she read, so it felt natural when she started writing romance to write romantic suspense. Some of her work might include elements of suspense, but she’s found that she’s not quite able to make the genre work for her voice as a whole. She’s tried writing historicals (Regencies and Highland romances are her guilty pleasures to read) and, while she’s proud of those books, it doesn’t come as naturally to her as contemporary romance.

“Neither does paranormal romance, which I’ve also tried,” she explained. “It was fun, though, and quite the challenge. Many lessons learned there. I thoroughly enjoyed writing western contemporary romance. I love me some hot cowboys! When I finish writing my hometown series, I plan to approach this sub-genre again and write another cowboy trilogy. This one will be set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, whereas my previous western titles were set in West Texas.”

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

“Reading is so personal; it’s meant to be so many people will differ in their preferred elements to a story. However, good fiction needs plot. If there’s no plot, the story backpedals. I think it was J.R. Ward who said, ‘Plots are like sharks. They keep moving or they die.’ This leads to conflict. Great conflict is the most essential element of any story. A relatable protagonist is the second most important element of good storytelling. For me, though, I simply cannot finish a book without at least a dash of romance and some kick-ass dialogue! I’m a fan of both writing and reading dialogue, particularly the tension-fueled sort between a hero and heroine in a romance novel,” she said with a smile.

Amber is trying to find time between her deadline and being a mommy to a beautiful, rambunctious toddler to read the Outlander series in its entirety.

“I read the first book for the first time last year and was blown away. The problem is that the books are SO absorbing. I get lost in them. So I definitely can’t be either writing or mommying when I pick one up. And these days if the little one is down for a nap or goes to bed early, I’m jamming as much writing as I can in or taking advantage of the down time with my husband. Very little time to get thoroughly lost in the reading world,” she told me.

Amber has been writing since she was in the third grade–starting out with very short plays based on whatever she was reading at the time. Then she started writing short YA novels about witches in everyday life before crossing over into some mystery. Slowly, the mysteries were taken over by the dating lives of her characters. It was around this time that Amber read her first romance novel.

“I knew instantly that that was my calling,” she said. “Once you’re bitten by the writing bug, I don’t think you ever can stop being a writer. You just have to find your writing niche and your voice.”

“Can you tell us about your writing space?”

“It’s a small sitting room off the master bedroom. This room was why my husband and I chose to live here originally because it was the perfect writing cave. It has big windows on one wall that face east so there’s plenty of sunlight in the morning when I need it for motivation. There’s a birdhouse just outside it so in the spring I get to see birds nesting. My husband put his excellent carpentry skills to use shortly after we moved in and built me some impressive book shelves that take up another wall. The desk is wide, which is good because I thrive in clutter and there’s plenty of space to put it. There’s also a smaller bookcase my grandfather built and a painting he bought when he attended the International Educational Film Festival during the bicentennial. I thought seriously about becoming an educator myself before I decided to become a full-time writer. It’s a nice link to have with me every day while I’m writing, especially since he passed away before I was born. And, of course, there are the pictures of my husband and my son, which make up the rest of the space. They’re my favorite part of the room.”

“What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?”

“When I had a better metabolism, it was snacking. Constant snacking and refueling because writing for me is adrenaline-based. Particularly when I’m free-writing, which I did a lot of when I first started writing romance. When I was up against a deadline, I would spend huge blocks of time at the computer. Seriously, I wouldn’t look in a mirror until I was done. Which is really bad when you have a habit of dragging your hands through your hair when you’re stressed…like I do. When my husband came home on these days, he would be greeted by a frenzied woman in rumpled pajamas with a hairstyle not unlike Tawny Scrawny Lion’s. Chapstick is still another writing quirk of mine. I bite my lip a lot when I’m trying to work out plot kinks so chapstick is a necessity.”

Amber told me that she’s written more books than she can count, but she’s published a romantic adventure, a romantic suspense, one historical romance based in World War II–which was nominated for our Best Book of 2009 contest–three western contemporary romance novellas (one of which placed first in the novella category of the More Than Magic Contest), and her new Superromance series.

“I can honestly tell you that I do not have a favorite book…though A Place With Briar comes very, very close because of its connections with my personal life.”

About the Author:4_18 biopic1Amber Leigh Williams lives on the Gulf Coast. A southern girl at heart, she loves beach days, the smell of real books, relaxing at her family’s lakehouse, and spending time with her husband, Jacob, and their sweet, blue-eyed boy. When she’s not running after her young son and three, large dogs, she can usually be found reading a good romance or cooking up a new dish in her kitchen. She is represented by Joyce Holland of the D4EO Literary Agency.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Blog

4_18 APlacewithBriar He’s in some serious trouble….

Cole Savitt does not want to deceive Briar Browning. But if he hopes to see his son again, he has to find the weaknesses in her charming bed-and-breakfast, then get out of town fast! But the quaint inn isn’t the only thing charming him….

Cole’s straightforward plan becomes anything but when he begins to fall for the beautiful innkeeper. Suddenly everything’s on the line—his future with his son, a chance at happiness and the love of a good woman. Cole must rethink his priorities…and the stakes have never been higher.

Buy the book at Amazon, Harlequin, or Barnes and Noble

Author Interview and Giveaway: Kristy McCaffrey

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kristy McCaffrey who is giving away an e-copy of INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS to one lucky commenter. One scene in the book is based on an incident her father experienced when Kristy was a child. Her family lived on the Navajo Indian Reservation–her father was the accountant of an arts and crafts store, and a hex was placed on the building as well as on the employees within it. Because of this, he was allowed to attend several ceremonies held by a medicine man, even though he was a white man.

“This has always been an interesting story in our family lore, and I knew one day I’d use it in a book,” she said.

Kristy has been drawn to writing since she was young–she told me she thinks that it’s always just been a natural way for her to express herself. She wrote copiously during her childhood, but it wasn’t until she was in her 30s, with four young children at home, that she decided to write a book and try to get published.

“Did you always want to be a writer?” I asked.

“I was a quiet and studious child, and always thought I should be the son my dad never had, so I wanted to do important work such as theoretical physics or meteorology. But, for a while, all I really wanted to be was a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader.”

Many of Kristy’s recent books are set in Arizona, where she lives. That makes it easier for her to visit the actual location of her story.

“For my book The Sparrow, in which the h/h ride a wooden dory on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1877, I painstakingly mapped the length of the river and every rapid,” she told me. “Not that this is relevant to the reader, but it was important in understanding the challenges the characters would face along the way. Plus, I’m just a little anal and obsessive about details. It gives me something to do every day.”

She also reads a lot as research for her books–history books, fiction, dictionaries of Native American dialects. She also does internet searches.

“I know I can never represent a completely accurate portrayal of the time, but I do my very best,” she said.

She was born and raised in Arizona, but lived for twenty years in Pittsburgh before her husband took pity on her and moved her home to Arizona.

“I dislike being cold,” she admitted. “I get quite chilled even here in Arizona, about which my husband and children tease me endlessly. We took a family vacation to Scotland last summer and I reminded my children repeatedly to pack warm clothing since we were headed as far north as the Orkney Islands. They, being teenagers, just rolled their eyes. But we did hit a bitterly cold day and I stood my ground; I wouldn’t share my coat, scarf or gloves. Definitely not a Great Mother Moment, but sometimes you have to teach your kids with an ‘I told you so.’”

“What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?” I wondered.

“My thoughts on this have changed over the years. At the beginning of my career (10 years ago) I would’ve said a perfect adherence to writing rules (each genre has a certain expectation and rhythm to it), but today I would say it has more to do with heart. While I do think a writer needs to educate himself/herself with grammar, pacing and an eye for details, it’s more important to ride the crest of your own story. Pour your heart into it. This goes back to an authentic voice. If your work is a reflection of your best self, then there can be no regrets, despite rejections or bad reviews. Some of the best books out there aren’t the most well-written; rather, they’ve captured the soul of the story. In the end, I think that’s more important.”

Both Kristy and her husband work at home, with their desks occupying a den and nearby sitting area.

“I’ve got the better view; my desk faces a large window. We live north of Phoenix, in the desert of Arizona, and I’ve got bird feeders just outside so I get to enjoy quail, wrens, finches, sparrows and woodpeckers all day, along with many saguaro cactus,” she said. “I love it! As for my desk, it’s a fairly controlled mess of piles. I keep bins with file folders to organize not only my writing thoughts, but my husband’s business as well since I take care of his bookkeeping. I have several bookshelves, all filled to the brim with books. I have a Kindle, but I still have a terrible addiction to printed reading material.”

Kristy admitted that she is a notoriously slow writer. She’s currently finishing up a contemporary adventure romance about a woman climbing K2, the second highest mountain in the world. And she’s got two historical western romances in the future – one she’s started, but the other still in the planning stages. She would love to finish at least two manuscripts this year.

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

“My younger son was born with an irregular rapid heartbeat, which was discovered a few weeks after he was born. He had to be immediately hospitalized and I remember being overwhelmed by how quickly it all happened. That first night, I was alone with him because my husband had to stay home with our 1-year-old. The doctors couldn’t stabilize my son and during those long hours I was forced to face that he might not make it. It was one of the worst moments of my life. But I’m happy to say that he’s now a happy and healthy 18-year-old. He still has the condition but we’ve learned to manage it.”

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

“To simply begin. There will be much to learn along the way, and you won’t “get it” unless you’re in the trenches, working with words and plot and story structure. I would also add—be discerning with who and how you share your work. Feedback is vitally important, but bad feedback is worse than none at all. By this I mean, not everyone will have your best interests in mind. I echo the sentiment that you should read, read, read in many different genres, but I also think there’s a time when you should write, write, write. You must find your authentic voice, and that is done by working with the pile of clay that is your creativity. You won’t find the exquisite sculpture inside unless you work at it. Imagining it isn’t enough. This is the difference between published authors and those who can never seem to finish a story. And finally, cultivate a professional attitude from the beginning, because whether you make money or not, you ARE a writer.”

About the Author:4_11 KristyAuthorPhoto Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. A fascination with science led her to earn two engineering degrees—she did her undergraduate work at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh—but storytelling was always her favorite hobby. Born and raised in Arizona, and recently returned after a 20-year absence in Pittsburgh, she writes Old West romances to capture the landscapes that were such a big part of her childhood. Her first novel, The Wren, was a CAPA winner for Best New Author Traditional, a Texas Gold finalist, and a HOLT Medallion finalist for Best First Book. The Sparrow was the 2012 Winter Rose Winner in the Published Historical Division. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, where they frequently remove (rescue) rattlesnakes from their property. Her four teenaged children are in varying stages of flying the nest, so her two chocolate labs—Ranger and Lily—are the recipients of her maternal instincts these days.
Website: http://www.kristymccaffrey.com
Blog: http://www.kristymccaffrey.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKristyMcCaffrey
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/McCaffreyKristy

Rancher Ethan Barstow is weary of the years-long estrangement from his brother, Charley. Deciding to track him down is easy; not so easy is riding in the company of Kate Kinsella, Charley’s fiancée. In the land of the Navajo, spirits and desire draw them close, leading them deeper into the shadows and to each other.

Q&A: Barbara Taylor Bradford

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome back Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose newest book Cavenden Hall was recently released. Ms. Bradford was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Several of your books have been adapted to television. Of the ones that remain, which would you most like to see adapted and why?

Barbara Taylor Bradford: I would like to see all of them made, of course, but if I had to chose one I would go for Cavendon Hall. My latest novel can be a series, especially since I am now writing the sequel.

How did you do the research for Cavendon Hall?

BTB: Some years ago I wrote an Edwardian series called The Ravenscar Dynasty, set around the same time as Cavendon. I did a great deal of research for that series, and kept it. So I had a number of historical books about that period and the First World War. Because I am English, i was taught a lot of English history at school, and anyway, I happen to love that period. It was eventful and glamorous, and has stayed in my mind.

With the book being an “Upstairs/Downstairs” type of book—there are going to be comparisons to Downton Abbey. What do you consider the major differences in the stories?

BTB: There have been a couple of comparisons to Downton, but not many. This is because people have understood that this is an entirely different kind of book. Yes, it’s set in the same period, has a great stately home and titled aristocrats. But my novel is about the upstairs folk, the middle folks, and the downstairs servants. The Swanns, who have served as retainers of the Inghams for 160 years (different generations) are dominant in the novel. There is no one like the Swanns in Downton. Furthermore, I started the family saga concept back in 1979 with A Woman Of Substance, and other books including The Ravenscar Dynasty. The British Press calls me “the undisputed Queen of the family saga” because I was writing them long before Downton. Also, three movies were made for television based on A Woman Of Substance, Hold The Dream and To Be The Best, making viewing time of fourteen hours of the first series in the Emma Harte saga. There are many major differences in the story to Downton. And since I started this type of story first, I don’t worry about comparisons. But anybody who liked the TV series will enjoy Cavendon Hall.

You and your husband have enjoyed travelling a lot. Where is your absolute favorite place to go and relax and why?

BTB: Bob and I always love to travel when I have finished a book, or he has finished a film. We have always loved the South of France, and also Venice. We will be stopping off in Venice this summer before going on a private cruise around the Greek Islands.

About the Author:

Photo credit: Julian Dufort

Photo credit: Julian Dufort

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

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Cavendon HallFrom the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess’s wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl’s daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again.

Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page.

Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Author Interview and Giveaway: Mary Behre

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Mary Behre, whose debut novel Spirited, the first book in the Tidewater Series, was released last week. May will be giving away an autographed copy of Spirited

The series is about Tidewater, a semi-ficitious city in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area. In the series, there are a number of residents who possess unique abilities, some can see ghosts, others talk to animals, some have psychometry (they can read impressions based on the objects they touch).

"In Tidewater, you need humor because there’s always suspense and if you’re lucky you’ll be the one with the psychic love-connection," she said.

Mary can't remember a time before she started writing.

"I was always shy," she told me. "I used to sit in the mall as a child and watch folks go past. Then I tried to imagine their lives. Sometimes they were spies. Sometimes, they’re princesses on the run with their lovers. But always, their lives were riveting, filled with danger and love. It only made sense that I would write down my stories. In my hope chest, I even have stories I wrote in high school during history class. Sorry, Mr. Dittman. I wasn’t paying attention."

When she was a child, she briefly wanted to be a doctor until she heard how long she would need to be in medical school.

"That idea quickly fell by the wayside," she admitted. "But from the time Hurricane Gloria decimated Ocean City, I knew I wanted to be an American Red Cross volunteer…and a writer. Today, I’m both."

In Spirited, the main character Jules is a product of the foster care system. She lost her two younger sisters in it more than a decade earlier. She’s determined to find them and reunite their family.

Mary has just turned in the second book in the series, Guarded, about Jules’s second sister, Shelley who is a telepathic Dr. Dolittle. She’s also a vet who’s on a mission to solve the mystery of missing animals from a local zoo. When she’s implicated in the murder of zoo’s groundskeeper, she turns to an old friend, a cop named Dev from Tidewater. She’s also writing the proposal for book 3, currently untitled.

“What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?” I asked.

“The authors that most influenced my writing are pretty diverse. Dr. Seuss was the first author I adored. He made me love the written word and believe in happily ever after. (Horton Hatches the Egg still sits on my bookshelf.) Agatha Christie gave me a love of mysteries. Stephen King taught me that we’re only limited by our drive and imagination. And Suzanne Brockmann introduced me to modern romance novels.”

It’s not surprising that Suzanne Brockmann is on her list of favorite authors. Mary has several author she adores for different reasons.

“Suzanne Brockmann can spin a suspense that will cause you to lose sleep in your desperation to finish the book,” she explained. “Valerie Bowman writes the wittiest banter I’ve read in years. Her racy regencies are always on my must buy list. And Lynsay Sands writes the best vampire stories I’ve read. Her books have it all humor, sexy vampires, a good mystery, and great storytelling.”

I asked Mary which came first for her–plot or characters–and she told me neither one.

“I usually see a scene first. And it’s not always in the beginning of the book. With SPIRITED, I saw the bedroom window scene first, so I wondered what kind of woman would dress like that and why would she sneak into a stranger’s bedroom. The story grew from there.”

Mary treats her writing career like a regular job–working Monday through Friday, 9-5.

“I try to keep most weekends free to spend with my children and husband,” she said. “However, when I’m on deadline, I’ve been known to write for fourteen hours a day for weeks at a time. Then I sleep for a week after.”

For every book she’s written, Mary has something unique to the story herself. For Spirited, she has a toy purple platypus, and for the second book, Guarded, she has a toy ferret. When she’s writing, the toys go with her–especially on writing retreats.

She is usually surprised at who the villain of the story is–she thinks she knows, and she’s consistently wrong. However, by the time she reaches the end of the first draft, the real villain has surfaced and Mary knows that her revisions are going to be intense.

Many of Mary’s characters are police officers or former police officers, so she likes to attend the Writers Police Academy in North CArolina.

“It’s the busiest conference I’ve ever attended and worth every minute of lost sleep. There’s so much to learn and do, that attending once isn’t enough. I’ve already been twice and plan to go again<" she said. "For the paranormal aspects, I read everything from Hugh Lofting’s Dr. Doolittle to Edgar Cayce’s Auras and Colors.”

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

“The best piece of writing advice came from my critique partner after my sister died of breast cancer in 2012 and I was struggling to find the will to write again. ‘Cancer took so much from you. Don’t let it take your writing too,’” she said. “The worst piece of writing advice came from a craft book. I should have realized when I got it for a $1 that it probably wasn’t reliable, but I young and new to the craft. Anyway, the book said to NEVER use dialogue.  Now, I’d already written my first manuscript and it was riddled with that pesky stuff. So I went through and re-wrote the entire thing, sans talking. Yikes! Bad, bad advice.”

“What are your favorite TV shows?” I wondered.

“Ooh, I like this question. Do the shows need to be current? Let’s see. Quantum Leap, Castle, Medium. Ghost Whisperer, Psych, Grimm, How I Met Your Mother, and Friends. Luckily, not all are the air anymore, otherwise, I’d never get any writing done. But for the ones that are still on, let’s just say, I love my DVR,” she said with a smile.

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

“‘Never give up. Never surrender.’ No seriously. I loved that line from Galaxy Quest. I live by that rule. There a few times in my life when I gave up on my dreams…for a few days but the urge to write is always there. If you want to write, do it. Study craft books, take workshops, join the right critique group. (If you join one and it isn’t working for you, find another.) And one more secret…read the bestsellers and see what sets them apart.”

About the Author: 3_11 Mary_Behre_Author_Photo_330_dpiMary Behre is the lone female in a house full of males and the undisputed queen of her domain. She even has the glittery tiara to prove it. She loves stories with humor, ghosts, mysteries and above all else, a good romance. When not writing, she enjoys reading, gluten-free baking, and hanging out at the beach with the most important men in her life, her family.

Her debut paranormal romance, SPIRITED (Tidewater Novel #1) was an award-winning manuscript before it sold to Berkley Sensation. The Tidewater Series is mix of humor, suspense, and a psychic love-connection. The first three stories are about three sisters searching for love, each other, and a way to live with their psychic abilities. In each book, they’re caught up in mysteries that only their unique gifts can help solve.

Mary is represented by the fabulous Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.

http://MaryBehreBooks.com ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

3_11 Spirited_300_dpiShe’s running from who she is…

All Jules Scott wants is to live a normal, quiet life–preferably one that doesn’t include ghosts. Jules’s ability for communicating with the dead has brought her nothing but trouble. Despite her best efforts, needy spirits always find her and draw her into their otherworldly drama. When one implicates her in a series of deadly crimes, she may need to entrust her secrets to the person least likely to believe her…

He’ll do whatever it takes to catch her.

Detective Seth English can’t get distracted from the big case he’s working on, not even by his alluring new neighbor. He doesn’t believe that Jules had anything to do with the string of robberies-turned-murders that he’s investigating, but when she keeps showing up in all the wrong places, his gut tells him she knows more than she’s letting on. To solve his case, he’ll need to expose what the sexy redhead is hiding–no matter how impossible the truth may be…

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INTERVIEW and Giveaway: Beverley Eikli

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Beverley Eikli, whose latest book The Reluctant Bride has recently been released. Leave a comment for a chance to win a choice of book from Beverley Eikli’s backlist.

The Reluctant Bride started life as the winning entry in Romance Writers of New Zealand’s Single Title competition. Beverley then published three novels with Robert Hale before The Reluctant Bride won Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star. It’s now their launch title into the Australian market.

Beverley is in the midst of edits for The Maid of Milan, a Regency Romantic Intrigue about a woman who has at last fallen in love with her gorgeous, patient husband of 3 years.

“However her former passionate (poet) lover- from whose arms she was torn by her family – has returned from abroad, a celebrity due to the success of his book ‘The Maid of Milan’. High society is as desperate to discover the identity of ‘his muse’ as my heroine is to protect her newfound love and her husband’s political career,” she told me. “It’s just a little more difficult since her secret lover was her husband’s childhood friend. I’m also just finishing the first draft of a 1960s illegal diamond buying romantic suspense set in the mountains of Lesotho where I was born and where my father prosecuted a number of medicine murder and illegal diamond buying cases.”

Beverley wrote her first romance when she was 17; however, she drowned her heroine on the last page so, not surprisingly, she never found a publisher for it. When she was 23, she wrote another epic romance –all on floppy disks which she carted around the place.

“Unfortunately my boyfriend at the time accidentally deleted half of it,” she said. “However, the rewrite was much better so when I was working in a safari camp in Botswana for a couple of months and the gorgeous man who would be my husband asked to read it, my book became the subject of many letters we wrote over the eight months we got to know each other before he flew to Australia and asked me to marry him.”

They’ve now been married twenty years and have two beautiful daughters aged 12 and 8.

“They are all so supportive and enthusiastic about my writing and as Eivind is a long haul pilot who flies regularly from Melbourne to Los Angeles, I’m able to get to writing conferences and conventions more often than I might do, otherwise,” she said. “Earlier this year Eivind and I spent three weeks on a motorcycle/camping trip throughout California just prior to my going to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City. Eivind keeps his motorcyle in the basement of the hotel where the crew stay when in LA, so it was an inexpensive, but amazing, holiday.”

Beverley told me that she’s an organic writer–the plot develops by itself, taking her by surprise with its unexpected twists and turns. After the first draft, she looks to see which are the major plot turning points. She might disregard one apparent plot development by turning it into a red herring rather than developing it further.

“When it comes to character, I often draw on the personalities, or am inspired by the stories and the pilots I flew with when I worked as an airborne geophysical survey operator,” she explained. “I used to work the computer in the back of low flying survey aircraft in Namibia, Greenland, French Guiana and Sweden. During these eight hour sorties it was just me and a lonely pilot – although if I was flying with my husband on that particular sortie he wasn’t lonely.” She smiled. “Eivind and I were the only husband/wife team in the business and we saw the world together in the most amazing way before our daughters were born. I then returned to working as a journalist or editor on newspapers or magazines in Australia until my writing career took off. Meanwhile he’s still a pilot. We say that we must be amongst the luckiest people because we’ve both turned our hobbies into our jobs.”

“Do you write in multiple genres or just one?” I asked.

“I’ve written historicals with lashings of romance, adventure, suspense and intrigue, mostly set in Regency England but now I’m doing something completely different. I’ve just finished the first draft of my 1960s Lesotho-set illegal diamond buying romantic suspense for Choc Lit. I was born in Lesotho, which is a mountainous kingdom, landlocked by South Africa, and a lot of the story is influenced by my dad’s stories of his life there as a District Commissioner in the final years of the Colonial Administrations, investigating medicine murder and illegal diamond buying cases. It’s a really gripping story that focuses on a bush pilot’s love for the DC’s daughter and the extremes he has to go to in order to get her out of trouble. My dad put down a few political riots during his time there, and I have fond memories of my nanny, a warm and mothering Masuto woman with three little children who were my playmates, so these all are part of the story, infusing it with reality. My next couple of books are Africa-set thrillers, as well as a Georgian-set novella I’ve tightly plotted (which is strange for an organic writer) and which I can’t wait to write.”

Finally, I asked, “What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?”

“I’m really hoping The Reluctant Bride will do well. It won Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star and I’d like to think the general public will embrace the story as much as Choc Lit’s ‘tasting panel’. My second book with them – The Maid of Milan – will be out in March, and hopefully Lammergeier Rock, my Lesotho story later in 2014. So really, I would like to see my books do well. I’ve had so much publisher support from Choc Lit and I love their dynamic but personable approach. I’ll be on a couple of panels with fellow Choc Lit authors at the 2014 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in New Orleans so once again we’ll stand out with our British – and my Aussie – accents. Hopefully we’ll see some of you there,” she said with a smile.

About the Author:11_27 Beverley EikliBeverley is an award-winning author of eight suspenseful historical romances set between the English Civil War and the pioneer days of photography. Recently she was shortlisted for a second time by Australian Romance Readers for her racy Regency Romantic Comedy Rake’s Honour.

Last year she won UK Publisher Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star with her Regency espionage Romance The Reluctant Bride, which has just been released.

Choc Lit puts great emphasis on the hero’s Point of View and as Beverley spent thousands of hours studying the male psyche while flying low level survey with lonely pilots on contracts around the world, she believes she has created ‘the perfect hero’ in Major Angus McCartney, the passionate, self controlled war hero in the Reluctant Bride.

Beverley’s favourite real-life hero, however, is the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a campfire in Botswana twenty years ago, when she was managing a luxury safari lodge. After a whirlwind courtship Beverley married her handsome Norwegian and has lived with him in twelve countries and cities where she’s worked as a journalist and editor on newspapers and magazines.

Now Beverley is back in Australia teaching in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University and writing under her two names, including her pseudonym Beverley Oakley. She lives in a pretty town north of Melbourne with her husband and two daughters.

http://www.beverleyeikli.blogspot.com.au
Twitter: @BeverleyOakley

11_27 Cover_TheReluctantBrideCan honour and action banish the shadows of old sins?

Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn, soldier who represents her only escape from destitution.

Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride.

Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action. As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family.

Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?

INTERVIEW and Giveaway: Laura Strickland

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Laura Strickland, whose newest book Daughter of Sherwood is now available. She had serious doubts in the beginning about taking on the legend of Robin Hood, but once she got started the characters came alive and began weaving the story on their own.

“It was precisely like watching and hearing it all happen in my mind, complete with color, scents and a veritable wealth of emotion. All I had to do was write it down,” she explained. “In fact, there were times when I was forced (by things like my day job) to lay my pen aside, but the characters just kept right on going. While driving my car, cleaning the house or performing my duties at work, I’d be listening to them with half an ear and, very often, scribbling down what they said so I wouldn’t forget. And more than once, during the writing, I was unsure about what would happen next and how the story would end.”

As you can tell, Laura is definitely a pantser. Usually, she’ll get the flash of an idea for a book–it might be something as insignificant as an opening line or a comment one character makes to another. It might be a “what if” question: what if a Celtic warrior lost the ability to fight? what if a woman taken as slave by a Viking enchanted him? what if a character dreamed a world that became more real to him than his own?

“The rest of it just sort of takes off from there and I have no time to plot. The story becomes a living, breathing entity that creates its own plot as it goes along,” she told me. “I have never in my life made a written outline and probably wouldn’t have the patience. The most I ever do is jot down lines or details so I won’t forget them, and sometimes make lists of characters’ names because I write about antiquity, and some of those names can be tough to remember until the characters and I become well-acquainted. It’s a bit like automatic writing.”

Laura started writing because she loved to read. As a child, she was known among her family as the girl who always had a paperback book in her pocket.

“I consumed books the way other kids consumed candy,” she said. “Well, I consumed candy too, but that’s another story. There was just one problem with the books I read: they always ended too soon. If I got my hands on one of those truly wonderful books – the ones that drew me into another world –like Witch of the Glens by Sally Watson or Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott, I wanted it to go on and on. It was a real wrench when I had to lay the book aside. Then one day the voice of inspiration whispered in my ear: ‘Why don’t you just make up the story?; It dawned on me that if I wrote the tale, I could make it go on for as long as I liked and create whatever wonderful worlds I wished. So I guess writing became the fix to my reading addiction. And it still is!”

Laura wrote her first book in third grade–called “The Haunted House.” She wrote it out by hand and made a construction paper cover with a drawing of a spooky house on it.

“Even back then I nursed the conviction that I’d been born to be a published writer. It took the world some time to get up to speed with that conviction, but I never let that hold me back. I wrote throughout school, manuscript after manuscript scribbled in loose leaf notebooks, and when I met my best friend in high school (she’s still my best friend) I introduced myself by saying, ‘I write books about Scotland.’ For my Senior year Independent Study project I wrote a book (what else?). And I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve graduated to spiral notebooks, but no further. I still like to write curled up with a spiral notebook and a pen (college ruled and blue ink only, please). And I’ve created plenty of worlds to which I enjoy returning time after time.”

She’s been obsessed with Scotland since kindergarten–maybe even before. She lived and breathed stories about the place and studied texts about the Clans–attributing this connection to the strength of ancestral blood on her mother’s side. After she wrote her twenty-book Celtic Series, she saved up her money for her first trip to Scotland.

“I drafted my grown daughter into accompanying me and rented a cottage (via the internet, unseen) near Kippen, not far from Stirling,” she said. “And here comes the crazy part: we landed at Glasgow airport early on a rainy Saturday after flying all night into the dawn, rented a car and took off to find the cottage, which at this point was no more than a point on a map. Now, you have to understand I had never driven a car with right-hand drive. We took off from the airport parking lot in mid-day weekend traffic, in the pouring rain, and the first thing we had to do was negotiate a roundabout, which is like a traffic circle, with other cars driving around it madly. They all, presumably, knew where they were going. I didn’t! Eventually we did find the cottage, five hundred feet up a hillside, and even ventured out again to drive great distances. Scotland didn’t disappoint, and the locale where we stayed became the setting of my first book for The Wild Rose Press, Devil Black.”

Of her Celtic Series, four of the books have been published: The God’s Song, The Shadow Ground, The Walking Dream, and The War Raven. The series started out as a single book several years ago with one of Laura’s “what if” questions: What if a quintessential Celtic warrior, foremost in his clan, was so badly injured in battle he could never fight again? What would become of such a man once his purpose in life ended? What kind of physical and spiritual journey would he need to make? The answers to these questions became the story of Aoghan MacKintire, set in a (so I thought) mystical place on the coast of Scotland.

“The book and the place both possessed me and speaking in Aoghan’s voice became so deeply personal I wanted to return to it again and again. So that single book turned into a saga telling the story of Aoghan’s ancestors and descendants,” she said. “Ironically, Aoghan’s book, which came first, hasn’t yet made it into print. Instead, I began publishing with the stories that came earlier in the timeline. But I did find the mystical place where Aoghan lived when I journeyed to Scotland, and it proved to be exactly the way I’d always seen it in my mind.”

Not only is Laura a historical writer, she lives as close as possible to the way her ancesters lived.

“For the past thirty years my husband and I have heated our home exclusively with wood. We do not even have a back-up furnace! I am the official Keeper of the Hearth in our house,” she told me. “I rise before everyone else each day and kindle the fire, which I consider a semi-sacred duty. In winter I also leave my job at midday to drive home in my 1988 Volvo station wagon and stoke our woodstove. (Our dogs have long benefited from this, as I’m able to take them for walks after the fire is revived.) We live in the country and since acquiring our property 25 years ago, we’ve also harvested most of our own firewood from the deadfall found on our forested acres. We make it a point to fell no healthy tree, and make use of all those whose lifespans have come to an end. And each time I toss a log onto my fire, I’m grateful.”

“Who is your favorite author?” I asked.

“Wow, this is really a tough question because there are many, many authors whom I’ve elevated to the status of demi-gods, in my mind. If I look back, I can see I’ve progressed through them the way a ship progresses through waves. Each one pushed me a bit further on my chosen path. I’ve always said I learned to write by reading great authors, so I know I owe a great deal to each of them. If I had to choose one, though, to reign above them all – the Odin of my writing pantheon, so to speak – it would have to be Sir Terry Pratchett. To my mind, Terry Pratchett’s writing is untouchable. I’ve never read another author who approaches him for originality, humor, zaniness and pure creativity. And he’s brilliant, an absolutely delightful mind. The first of his books I read was The Fifth Elephant and from there I moved through the whole Discworld series the way a forest fire moves through dry timber. It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite, but Going Postal might come close.”

Finally, I asked, “If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?”

“In Scottish Hebridean lore, there’s a creature called the Bauchan, a dour, unhappy elf, and I’d like one of those if I could. Why, you ask? Well, because though not effusive in disposition, the Bauchan will work tirelessly for his keep and that’s exactly what I need around my house. I’m so busy writing, reading and editing I rarely have time for housework. In fact, things have been slipping drastically for some time. And a creature – even one full of gloom – willing to sort through my closets, neaten up my cupboards, scrub my floors and do the laundry in return for an occasional bannock, a cup of custard or a mug of ale would be most welcome. Of course, you did specify ‘pet.’ Every pet I’ve ever owned has spent its time lying around and sleeping in comfort while I performed every household task under the sun, so I don’t know … I could only hope for better behavior from my Bauchan.”

11_11 DaughterOfSherwood_w7891_750Laura Strickland’s new historical romance book Daughter of Sherwood, published by The Wild Rose Press, was released on November 1, 2013.

Raised as a scullery maid in Nottingham Castle, Wren has no idea she is the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood. When she is forced to defend herself against the unwanted advances of an influential man, she flees the castle and finds refuge in Sherwood Forest. It is then she learns a powerful secret: she has a destiny as a guardian of Sherwood, charged with the responsibility of defending its ancient magic.

Since Robin’s death many years before, his supporters have kept his legend alive. Now one of the three guardians holding the spell has died. With two young men, Sparrow and Martin, Wren must form a new bond strong enough to protect Sherwood and continue her father’s fight. Drawn equally to Martin’s warrior spirit and Sparrow’s gentle strength, she finds it nearly impossible to choose between duty and love.

Laura takes us on a journey into the world of Robin Hood’s daughter, where we experience her struggle to accept her identity and the demands of her father’s legacy. Along with Wren, we learn that what is loved in life can never be lost, and that great love is worth the price paid. For at last, when Martin is captured and held at Nottingham Castle, the path becomes clear for Wren and she finds the strength to become the woman she was born to be, the Daughter of Sherwood.

Daughter of Sherwood is book one of The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy.

About the Author:11_11 Laura StricklandBorn and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination frequently takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her “fur” child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.

Goodreads ~ Website

Buy the book at Amazon.

Interview and Giveaway with Barbara Wallace

11_4 billionaire VBT_TheBillionairesMatchmaker_Banner

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will award a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What inspired you to start writing?

I can answer that with one name: Kimberly Foster. She was my best friend when I was 8 years old. I came over one day and she told me she was writing a book about her cat. I was inspired – because Kim was cool – and decided to write my own book, The Adventures of Ginger the Cat. I’ve been writing stories ever since.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. I wrote my first romance novel in the mid-nineties. In fact, I mailed my first submission a week or so before my son was born. He’s a sophomore in college now.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

My best advice: Don’t stop writing, and never assume you know everything there is to know about your craft. In his book, Outliers, Malcom Gladwell points out that it takes 10,000 for a person to become a true expert. That would mean writing 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for almost 4 years. Most of us aren’t writing that much. Be open to criticism, learn from rejection. And more of all, don’t let your own insecurities destroy your dreams. Writing is hard and scary; success is as much about resilience as it is talent.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Of course, I suffer from writer’s block! Interestingly, my block usually shows up around the same time my PMS arrives. (Coincidence? I think not!) When that happens, I tend to take those days off to do business oriented activities.

Now there are also times when I’m stuck because I think the book sucks. Those are days when I have to ask myself, is it me or is it the book? I try to remind myself feelings are not always facts. (See that whole business about PMS.) If I discover it’s not hormones, and I’m still stuck, it means I took a wrong turn in the story. In fact, I probably knew subconsciously that I took a wrong turn pages earlier and stubbornly stuck to my idea anyway. That’s when I sit down with a pen and paper and start rethinking my plot.

Finally, there are days when I simply can’t get moving. When those days hit, I switch media. Instead of a computer, I use an Alphasmart or I go old school with a pad and paper. I’ll switch locales too. Instead of my office, I’ll sneak off to a coffee shop.

Having gone on for three paragraphs however, I will say that I firmly believe most writer’s block has a root cause. It’s either in our head or something to do with our book. No one is ever truly blocked.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Isn’t that a little like asking what’s your favorite type of chocolate? There are so many awesome authors out there, I’m not sure I can narrow down to simply one. I’m a big fan of Fiona Harper, who’s recently broken out into single title, and of Donna Alward. I have stack of Kristan Higgins books begging to be read. I’m positive she’ll be one of my favorites soon as I start. Mary Jo Putney has long been a fav of mine. So has Judith Arnold.

I am not a sexy book fan. I’m far more interested in emotional character driven books, Bring me the broken heroes and men with secrets. The stronger the emotion the better.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Books live and die on the strength of the characters. I don’t care how much sex there is in a book, or how crazy the plot is. I want to read characters who are believable and well motivated. I will buy anything they do so long as you give me a good read.

How do you develop your plot and characters?

I tend to write very character-driven stories. Before I start writing, I develop detailed character profiles. I spend a lot of time trying to think of a characters’ fears and motivations. Their back story – that is, there underlying fears and dreams – are very important to me. The plot tends to unfold from their actions. I let them decide what’s going to happen next.

What comes first, the plot or characters?

It depends. Sometimes I’ll come up with a “What if?” scenario and other times, I’ll envision a character. Either way, soon as I have a glimmer of a story, I turn to my character bios. Even in the most plot-heavy story, the characters take precedence for me.

Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

My short story, “Love in the Shadows,” is about scars. When I created Nicholas Bonaparte, I had the Phantom of the Opera in mind. He spends a lot of time at the beginning of the book lurking in the shadows – and for good reason. Meanwhile, Jenny Travolini is equally scarred. Her scars are internal and come for not getting enough love. Although I don’t go into great detail about her past, it’s obvious she looked for love in a lot of wrong places.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?

I’m currently working on a trilogy called 72 Hours to Fall In Love. The books follow three friends who each find love over the course of a 72 hour trip. Naturally, the men they fall for are very broken and need love.

What are you reading now?

The Sweetheart Bargain by Shirley Jump. Awesome read!

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

So, so many. However, before I published, there were three authors who were profoundly influential. The first was Judith Arnold. She was the first author who ever told me I had talent and not give up. I have never forgotten her support. The second was Jane Porter. She gives these wonderful workshops talking about fear and insecurity. Listening to her always gives me hope that I can someday write as beautifully as her. And lastly, Susan Meier, who is perhaps one of the wise writers in the business. I could listen to her advice forever.

It helps, by the way, that all three of these women are also fantastic writers!

How do you come up with the titles to your books?

I don’t come up with titles. I usually just put the hero’s name on the manuscript these days. In the past, I’ve tried to come up with titles, but they were so bad no one wanted them.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Great question! About two years before I sold, a colleague of mine told me that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to start acting like one. So, every morning I would drag my behind to Starbucks to work on my novel. I refused to let anything interrupt my writing time. As my manuscript began taking shape, I started thinking of going to the coffee shop as going to work. That’s when I realized I was a writer.

Describe your writing space.

I’m one of those writers who has to move around. I’ve had to stop going to the coffee shop because of the crowds. When I began, the shop was quiet; now there’s always people chatting. These days I hang home, but I still have to move around. Some days I’m in my office which is a lovely room with a desk and chaise lounge. Other days I’m plopped on my living room sofa (which my family hates!)

Believe it or ot, one of my favorite places to write is in my car. I grab a notebook and a coffee, drive to the nearest empty parking lot and write in the silence.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?

Writing. Seriously, the hardest part for me is the actual writing. There isn’t a day when I am not convinced the words I’m putting on the page suck.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

I usually hit the desk around 10 and write in 20 minute bursts until 1. At that point I check my email, play online, realize it’s 2:00 and go back to work for another hour or two. Around 4:00 I run errands and start dinner. I am not the most productive of writers. I’m trying to work on that.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I cannot start a book on the computer. I have to write the first chapter or two by hand. In pencil. In a fresh notebook.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

The problem with being a published author is you are always doing something writing or writing related. However, when I’m not on deadline, one of my favorite activities is cooking. I love to make fancy dinners for the family.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

I learn so many neat things when researching. I think my favorite –and it’s creepy – is learning about getting rid of bats. The heroine in Heart of a Hero had bats in her attic. I learned all about extermination. Interestingly, my neighbor had a bat issue the other week and I told her all sorts of facts she didn’t know. (And I’m sure she appreciated them too.)

What is something that you absolutely can’t live without? (Other than family members)

My morning coffee. Do NOT take my morning coffee from me ever. Or you will suffer.

Could you ever co-author a book with someone? If so, who would you choose, and what would you write?

Oh, that’s not a fair question. I would have to pick Susan Meier, Shirley Jump and Jackie Braun – my co-authors for The Billionaire’s Matchmaker!

Otherwise, I admit I’m too much of a control freak with my writing to co-author. It’d be best for everyone if I didn’t.

If you could spend a day with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you do? What would you ask them?

I want to meet Aigail Adams, wife of our second president. Theirs was one of histories true love stories. I think I’d want to ask her what it was like being so intelligent at a time when women weren’t allowed to speak out or demonstrate their intellectual prowess.

If you were on the staff to have a book adapted to movie, what would you pick?

I am a huge fan of Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury books. I would pick one of their mysteries to adapt for Masterpiece Theatre. Of course, this is assuming I can’t pick one of my own.

About the Author:Photo by Joan Sutton PhotographyBarbara Wallace has been a life-long romantic and daydreamer so it’s not surprising she decided to become a writer at age eight. However, it wasn’t until a co-worker handed her a romance novel that she knew where her stories belonged. Her first Harlequin Romance debuted in November 2010.

Barbara loves writing sweet, smart, ‘it-could-happen-to-you’ style romances. She lives in Massachusetts with her other loves – her husband, their teenage son, and three very spoiled pets (as if there could be any other kind). She also loves hearing from readers.

You can find her at her website (www.barbarawallace.com), on Twitter (@BarbaraTWallace) and on Facebook.

11_4 billionaireBMM-300Can a feisty four-legged matchmaker help four best friends find the romance of their dreams?

Driving Mr. Wrong Home by Shirley Jump: When a handsome man from Gabby’s past agrees to a cross-country road trip, her master plan to re-launch her art career quickly morphs into an unexpected, romantic reunion.

The Sheriff’s Secret by Susan Meier: Marney’s 9-1-1 emergency help arrives in the form of a rugged, blue-eyed cop. Now she has the perfect bodyguard to keep her safe during those dark, steamy nights…

Love Unleashed by Jackie Braun: The last thing Mia wants is a relationship…yet the headstrong florist can’t keep her hands off her sexy-as-sin ex-boyfriend. Will she open her heart before he leaves town for good?

Love in the Shadows by Barbara Wallace: Jenny is a woman on a mission – she’ll even resort to dognapping to make her point! But can she teach a reclusive, emotionally-wounded tycoon that love heals all thing?

Author Interview: Monica Fairview

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Monica Fairview, whose latest book Steampunk Darcy–A Pride and Prejudice-Inspired Comedy Adventure is now out.

“Thanks for stopping by,” I told Monica.

“First let me say thank you to Long and Short for allowing me to make yet another appearance here on this wonderful, jam-packed-with-goodies blog.”

“Tell us something about your newest release that is not in the blurb,” I encouraged.

“Here’s a small teaser: William Darcy has a scheming half-brother Richard who is not happy with the way their father divided their inheritance. The sibling rivalry escalates throughout the novel and culminates in a kidnapping. I will not reveal who gets kidnapped or why, though. You have to read Steampunk Darcy to find out.”

Monica loves all the characters in Steampunk Darcy, even the bad ones. Well, Richard doesn’t have much to redeem him, she told me, so maybe she doesn’t love all the bad ones. But, one of her favorite characters is Gianna Darcy, even though she’s a bit of a bad girl.

“I have a soft spot for bad girls,” Monica confessed. “She’s enough of a spoilt brat to cause an awful lot of problems, but mostly she’s headstrong and naïve at the same time, which is a bad combination. She’s very clever, but because her clothes are such a fashion statement, no one takes her seriously, especially since she says things like this: ‘I never go out in the sun if I can help it … my parasols are all too delicate.’ Now what would you think of someone like that? But she grows during the course of the novel and I have high hopes for her future.”

The hardest part of writing for Monica isn’t the writing, or even the rewriting. However, she told me that there comes a point when she can’t possibly spend one more single minute edting the novel—it’s the point when you’ve edited it so many times you can’t remember what you included and what you left out.

“This usually coincides with the moment your editor sends you the proofs and asks you to go over them with a fine-tooth comb,” she informed me. “Final edits get me every time.”

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

“Writer’s block? When don’t I suffer from writer’s block? Being on social media especially Facebook and Pinterest is my own especially created writer’s block which prevents me from doing any writing.
But seriously, yes. I can’t imagine any writer not suffering from writer’s block and if they don’t I take off my top hat to them.” She bowed. “Writer’s block is created by many things: a pathological fear of that gaping empty white page; the certainty that the last book you wrote was some kind of miracle and that it was the last book you ever wrote; trying to work out why you’re doing this rather than getting a proper job; a sudden urge to work out the meaning of life. Or it could be a nice day out and you’d much rather be outdoors.”

“What do you do about it?”

“I try not to bash my head against the computer screen (because the computer screen will crack). I tie my ankles to the chair legs and force myself to type. That often works. If it doesn’t, I make life miserable for all my friends and they tie me to the chair and refuse to answer my text messages.”

Monica told me that she didn’t have any writing quirks–actually, she has no quirks at all–claiming, “Quirkiness is alien to my experience.”

I just looked at her.

“All right, I admit I have one tiny one. A really small one, mind. It’s that I always like to put my tongue out at things. Take my first Regency, for example. I tried really hard to make it serious. I gave it a really nasty villain, too. But then the moment I’d start writing a scene, it would suddenly stop being serious. This lead to one of my reviewers saying the novel seemed like a parody of a gothic romance. I didn’t mean it to be a parody. It just came out that way. But I do have a romantic soul. Steampunk Darcy is most definitely heartwarming romance, even if it does have a few quirks.”

Monica told me that she’s written many novels, but fortunately none of them have been published. Her first novel was a science fiction novel called The Questers which she’s keeping at the bottom of a closet, along with other half-finished novels. They’ll be useful to burn up in case they ever run out of fuel.

Her actual publications are: An Improper Suitor, a Regency romance; The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins, traditional Jane Austen sequels with a touch of humor, and Steampunk Darcy, a lighthearted comedy with a mind of its own.

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

“I’m sure I have because the moment you asked I knew exactly what a crayon tastes like. I can feel the texture of chewed up crayon in my mouth. Strangely, I seem to have repressed that memory. However, I do remember very clearly consuming another form of stationary. This was when I’d just started middle school. We used to have to use ink fountain pens (something to do with improving our handwriting – an obsession still present in British schools today, as in right this minute. Who needs to improve their handwriting when most people type and print out things anyway? But enough on this subject). My favorite rather geeky thing to do was to squeeze ink from the cartridge onto my tongue and then go around shocking people by putting out my black tongue. This also qualifies as a most embarrassing moment in retrospect. My cheeks are turning bright red at the memory. Why on earth did I do such a thing?”

“If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?” I wondered.

“I would like to apologize to the boy at my primary school (whose name I don’t remember) who used to tell me creepy stories when I was about seven. He was in my school, and we lived in the same neighborhood, so we were often the first to be picked up and last to be dropped off. He was a couple of years older and he used to tell me stories about ghosts and graveyards. I had nightmares about characters in his stories. Then one day after a particularly vivid nightmare I told him I didn’t want him to tell me stories anymore because they were really stupid and pointless. Surprisingly, he stopped. Looking back I think he was upset, which is too bad because he was a very good storyteller, and the stories he told weren’t from books or films. He made them up himself.” She added, “I really hope I didn’t stunt his talent. It was just that I could never have admitted that his stories frightened me.”

If we were to look under her bed, Monica told me we would find, “A shoebox with shoes I never wear. At least one pair of my daughter’s dirty socks (why does she insist on throwing her socks under my bed?). Overdue books that I was supposed to take back to the library but shoved under the bed instead.”

These are the things we would find during the daylight hours. However, at night–especially when her husband is away, things are different.

“At night, the under-bed space is inhabited by terrible things,” she declared. “The burglar that somehow managed to get in when I was out and is now waiting for the lights to go out to make his move. A monster with big yellow eyes that glow in the dark. All the things that could possibly go bump in the night and they do. They wake me up.”

Finally, I asked, “What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?”

“Wheat grass juice,” she answered promptly. At my incredulous look, she added, “Just kidding. Now don’t get me wrong. Grass juice is good for you. It’s full of wonderful nutrients that will make you live much longer and keep you young and slender. But I can’t help thinking that there’s something bovine about it. Having said that, I do love bean sprouts and water cress in my salad, which isn’t really that different. But I digress.

“I do like freshly squeezed juices, especially apple and carrot or a berries and banana smoothie.
However, in an equal world where I could drink whatever I wished without having to deal with the consequences, I’d drink a chai latte a couple of times a day. I do sometimes make my own chai boiling a blend of spices in milk, and I’ll ask for it if available in an Indian restaurant, but there’s something about the sweet squeezable bottled version that draws me like a fly to a fly strip. That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? Okay to use an tried and trite expression – like a honey-bee to nectar.

“Which reminds me. Answering all these questions has really strained my poor brain cells to their maximum limit. I must go get myself a chai latte if I’m going to get any writing done today. Or maybe, since the weather’s very pleasant today, I’ll spend the rest of the day outdoors, thinking up my Steampunk Darcy, sequel,” she said with a wink. “Unless those reading this post have a question for me?”

About the Author: 10_24 Monica FairviewMonica Fairview is an ex-literature professor who abandoned teaching criticism about long gone authors who can’t defend themselves in order to write novels of her own. Monica can be described as a wanderer, opening her eyes to life in London and travelling ever since. She spent many years in the USA before coming back full circle to London, thus proving that the world is undeniably round.

Monica’s first novel, An Improper Suitor, a humorous Regency, was short-listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hassayan prize. Since then, she has written two traditional Jane Austen sequels: The Other Mr. Darcy and The Darcy Cousins (both published by Sourcebooks) and contributed a sequel to Emma in Laurel Ann Nattress’s anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Ballantine).

Originally a lover of everything Regency, Monica has since discovered that the Victorian period can be jolly good fun, too, if seen with retro-vision and rose-colored goggles. She adores Jane Austen, Steampunk, cats, her husband and her impossible child. If you’d like to find out more about Monica, you can find her at www.monicafairview.com, austenauthors.net, www.monicafairview.blogspot.com on Facebook and on Twitter @Monica_Fairview

10_24 Steampunk Darcy Cover SMALL AVATARWilliam Darcy is obsessed with his ancestors. So much so that he intends to rebuild Pemberley (destroyed during the Uprising) stone by stone, and he wants to employ reconstruction expert Seraphene Grant to help him.

Or does he? Seraphene wasn’t born yesterday. She can smell a rat, particularly when it stinks all the way up to her airship. She knows Darcy is hiding something. But with the Authorities after her and her other options dwindling by the moment, the temptation of genuine English tea and a gorgeous Steampunk gentleman are very difficult to resist.

But what if Darcy’s mystery job courts nothing but trouble? What if Darcy is harboring a secret to kill for? When kiss comes to shove, will Darcy’s secret destroy Seraphene, or will it be her salvation?
Join us on a romantic adventure like no other in this whimsical Pride and Prejudice-inspired tribute, featuring Darcy (of course) Wickham, dirigibles, swash-buckling pirates and a heroine with fine eyes and an attitude.

Interview and Giveaway: Liz Harris

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Liz Harris, whose latest book A Bargain Struck was recently released from Choc Lit. Leave a comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of the book.

While writing A Bargain Struck, Liz really enjoyed living in her head in America of the mid-1800s. She wanted to read more novels set in the same period, so bought a few in the western genre. However, she found that most of them tended to be modern westerns. She’s still looking for books actually set in the mid-1800s (except for mail-order bride novels), so feel free to leave recommendations in the comments. In the meantime, she’s writing a western set in that time period herself.

“I have the setting; I have my three main characters, and now I’m working out their story,” she told me. “This will be my next e-novel for Choc Lit Lite, and like Evie Undercover and The Art of Deception, it will be woven with the fantasy of romance.”

Liz has always loved reading: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mickey Spillane, Jackie Collins, Penny Vincenzi, Elizabeth Gaskell–”all kinds of books, in other words,” she explained. “And I have always loved writing: essays at school, letters to friends, shopping lists, exam answers – all kinds of writing, in other words. But it was a long time before I realised that these two interests could come together, and that I would derive the greatest satisfaction of all by writing the sort of novel I so enjoyed reading.

“Despite the fact that I devoured every book I could get hold of, it never occurred to me to write a novel until a friend, clearly tired of receiving the massive letters I used to send her, suggested out of desperation that I write a book. I did, and I’ve never looked back!”

Her favorite author is Jane Austen; Liz has loved all Austen’s novels since she first started reading them when she was twelve. The only thing that’s changed over the years has been the order of her favorites. Pride and Prejudice has always been at the top and Northanger Abbey has always been her least favorite, but in the middle there’s been some changes.

Persuasion has crept up over the years as I find the change in the way she depicts the gentry in Persuasion, compared with the way that she presents them in the much earlier Pride and Prejudice, very interesting,” she explained. “The Jane Austen who wrote Persuasion had seen her brothers come back from the Napoleonic Wars, and this had made her look differently at those involved in both trade and the Services, and at the gentry.

“I like Jane Austen’s novels because they’re wonderful. OK, that’s not a good answer. I’ll mention her characterization, therefore, as a specific detail. I love the way that Jane Austen doesn’t condemn her characters – she allows them to open their mouths and condemn themselves. You only have to think of Mr Collins!”

Liz admitted that her work area becomes increasingly untidy as the work progresses. She has a wide pale gray desk–normal length with an added unit at each end. She likes the extra length because she likes to be able to see research notes, books, files, her lists of things to do, etc., as she writes.

“I’ve several white mesh trays on the back of my desk – for example, one for letters and forms that need answering at some point, one for paper and envelopes of different sizes, one for things I don’t know where else to put,” she said. “On the far right of the desk is a printer and on the far left a television. There’s a double sofa bed in the room so my study becomes a bedroom at times.

“Most of the wall on my right is a large window – I like to watch the world go by when I’m thinking. On the other side of my desk, I’ve a white bookcase against the wall, and there are white shelves on the wall above the desk (you’ll notice that I like pale grey and white – my magazines, books, maps, etc, are so colourful that I don’t need colourful furniture.)

“My bookcase and bookshelves are lined with books (yes, there’s a surprise!), but the closest books to hand are the three books that have become my best writing friends: Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang (I like to check the origin of my words and idioms to make sure that they were in use at the time at which my novel’s set); Roget’s Thesaurus (a must for alternatives to a word that you’re at risk of over-using) and the Chambers Dictionary. A keen Scrabble player, this is the official Scrabble dictionary, and it’s my favorite.

“The desk gets increasingly disordered as I write my book, and by the end of the book it’s a total mess. In fact, it’s amazing that I can find anything on it, but I can.

“One of the first things I do when I reach the end of the novel is tidy up the desk and put everything back in its home. In a way, the clear ups become a ritual good bye to one set of characters, who are leaving, and a welcome to another set of characters, who are about to come in.”

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

“With great difficulty! After much loud vocal agonizing, my husband in desperation got involved He suggested The Road Back as a title. Aha, I thought; that works on several different levels, all of which fit the story, and quiet descended.

A Bargain Struck came easily. The moment I read a 1979 quote in a book about the American West, I knew I’d found my title. This is the quote: ‘In popular opinion a good marriage was a bargain struck between two strong-willed characters for an equitable and advantageous division of labour.’ Spot on, I thought, the moment I read that.

Evie Undercover was originally Evie on the Job. It’s a fun romance, and I liked the two meanings contained in the original title. However, after Fifty Shades of Grey, there’s a greater sensitivity over title implications, and my publisher came up with Evie Undercover.

The Art of Deception suggested itself as a title. It’s about a young woman who goes to Umbria to teach an Art course on an estate owned by dishy Max Castanien, which is ostensibly the only reason why she answered Max’s ad for a teacher. In reality, she wants to learn about the part he played in the death of her father. There’s Art there, and there’s Deception, and I like the play on ‘Art’.

“As for the western e-novel I’m about to start writing, and the book that I’ll be starting on in the New Year, I haven’t a clue!! The loud vocal agonizing begins!”

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

“Don’t worry about getting published: just write. Write what is crying out in you to be written, and don’t think about anything other than your story and your characters. And write what you want to write – not what you think is most likely to get published. You’re going to live with you characters and their story for a long time – you need to enjoy being with them.

“In the end, it’s a matter of luck whether or not an author gets traditionally published. Hopefully, everyone will be as lucky as I’ve been, but giving birth to people who didn’t exist before you put finger to keyboard – people with real emotions and motivations, who live and breathe in a world that didn’t exist before you created it – that’s the real thrill of being an author. Getting published is only the icing on the (chocolate) cake.”

About the Author:10_23 Author photo2_high resLiz was born in London. After graduating from university with a Law degree, she decided to see the world and moved to California. It seemed a pretty good place to start, she thought. She went there for one year, but stayed for six! She had a brilliant time there, leading a very varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to a stint as ‘resident starlet’ at MGM to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company.

Eventually, though, real life intervened, and Liz returned to Britain, did a London University degree in English and taught for a number of years, during which she contributed weekly articles on education to a local newspaper.

By way of hobbies, she loves reading – naturally – and is nuts about Daily Telegraph Cryptic crosswords. She also likes language, travel and theatre.

In her non-writing hours, of which there are few, she’s the organiser of the RNA’s Oxford Chapter, a member of the Oxford Writers’ Group, and also of the HNS.

Liz’s two sons live in London, while she and her husband now live in South Oxfordshire.

Blog: www.lizharrisauthor.com
Twitter: @lizharrisauthor
Facebook: Liz Harris

10_23 ABS_packshot copyDoes a good deal make a marriage?

Widower Connor Maguire advertises for a wife to raise his young daughter, Bridget, work the homestead and bear him a son.

Ellen O’Sullivan longs for a home, a husband and a family. On paper, she is everything Connor needs in a wife. However, it soon becomes clear that Ellen has not been entirely truthful.

Will Connor be able to overlook Ellen’s dishonesty and keep to his side of the bargain? Or will Bridget’s resentment, the attentions of the beautiful Miss Quinn, and the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, combine to prevent the couple from starting anew.

As their personal feelings blur the boundaries of their deal, they begin to wonder if a bargain struck makes a marriage worth keeping.

Set in Wyoming in 1887, a story of a man and a woman brought together through need, not love …

Author Interview and giveaway: Lauren Linwood

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lauren Linwood whose newest book Outlaw Muse was recently released. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Outlaw Muse.
Lauren is currently doing final edits on A Game of Chance, which will be released in January 2014. I asked her to tell me about it.
“Everyone’s heard the phrase ‘separated at birth.’ I decided to take that literally. The hero’s mother gives birth to a boy, and the father takes off with the baby for greedy reasons, leaving her on her deathbed. Even the midwife is surprised when another boy is born just minutes before she dies. The twins meet years later in San Francisco, and neither knows the other exists.”
If pen and paper had been provided to Lauren in the womb, she’s sure she would have started writing in utero, however she had to wait, come out, learn the language, and learn how to hold a pen before she could start getting all of the voices and action in her head on paper.
She started out, though, wanting to be a teacher in elementary school, but by the time she was in high school she had changed her mind. She wanted to be a journalist and set the world on fire. Teaching won out in college, though, so she switched her major and went on to teach history and English in both middle and high school.
“What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?” I asked.
“Character is the key component. If readers don’t like and/or relate to my hero and heroine, they won’t continue reading—and I wouldn’t blame them. Next, the plot has to be interesting, exciting, and loaded with both internal and external conflict. The more curveballs you can throw out, the better. If a reader is expecting a zig, do a double zag—followed by a dancing zig for good measure. The last crucial element is dialogue. Readers don’t want the author to tell them everything. They want to see things unfold and hear it ‘live’ for themselves. Dialogue can reveal so much about the characters, as well as let those sparks fly between the hero and heroine!”
Her characters always come first–before she starts anything else, Lauren needs the right names for her hero and heroine.
“From there, I begin to see them physically take shape in my mind. After that, their personalities start speaking to me. Qualities follow. Are they loyal? Stubborn? Creative? Assertive? Candid? Timid?” she explained. “Once I have created well-rounded characters, I turn to the plot. Sometimes I springboard off a topic I’ve read about, such as the orphan trains in Outlaw Muse or the way San Francisco grew as a result of the Gold Rush in A Game of Chance. A few times I’ve hit upon an occupation and built a story around that. In Music For My Soul, I thought about troubadours in England always being men and questioned, ‘What if my heroine was the only woman troubadour in the land?’ For A Change of Plans, I came up with a dime novelist. The twist? She’s a woman writing under a man’s name. And she lives in New York City! She decides to head west to experience first-hand everything she’s writing about.”
When Lauren’s not writing, she enjoys walking–she walks 4-5 miles most mornings.
“It’s my time,” she told me. “Not only does it help keep me in shape, but it’s the greatest stress reliever in the world. I can think, pray, listen to music, and daydream (within reason—I’m aware enough not to walk mindlessly out into traffic!). If I’m feeling a little blue, it’s the perfect way to swing my mood in the right direction. Sometimes I’ll plot new scenes or think over what I’ve written the day before, but mostly I am chilling and enjoying Me time.”
“If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?” I asked.
“Hah! This reminds of the time my daughter was in kindergarten and at Thanksgiving time, her teacher had them draw what they were most thankful for and get up and tell the class about it. All the other kids were thankful for their parents, their pets, stuffed animals, a swimming pool, Disney World—except for my child. She was thankful (at age 5) for flush toilets. Oh, she is SO my kid! With that in mind, my list would include (in no particular order):
1. A flush toilet (and the accompanying TP, without question)
2. Air conditioning (hey, islands can get HOT by mid-afternoon)
3. My Kindle Fire (cheating again – not only would I have my books and magazines, but I could email!
Wait, maybe I should say iPhone here – still has my Kindle app, plus email, Internet, FB, my music)
4. A shower stall with hot and cold water (Don’t tell me I could swim in the ocean – I’ll do that a lot, but I want to feel really clean and not salty and grimy after I get out)
5. A refrigerator (I’ll eventually learn to build a fire and cook stuff, so I’ll pass on a microwave for now)”
Lauren’s actual last name is hard to pronounce, so she decided to go with a pseudonym.

“I wanted to use ‘Diana Leigh’ since that’s the name my mom wanted to name me. When she woke up after the delivery and they brought me to her, she told the nurse that I couldn’t be her baby because her baby was named Diana Leigh. After checking hospital bracelets and locating my dad, he confessed that he’d changed the game plan and named me something else!
So I thought Diana Leigh would be a wonderful tribute to my mom. I Googled it and found that Diana Leigh is a jazz vocalist with a strong Internet presence. As a new author, I didn’t want to start my career competing over a name, so I wound up going with Lauren Linwood. I love alliteration and Googling that name, the only thing popping up was Linwood, NJ. Try Googling me now. You’ll find Lauren Linwood comes up on my website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.”
Finally, I asked Lauren, “What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?”>
“Write. Write some more. And keep on writing! To become skilled at anything takes practice, and writing is no exception. Don’t be afraid to put something down on the page. It’s better to give yourself permission to write poorly than to wring your hands and not capture anything at all. Once you’ve got the words down—a paragraph, a scene, a chapter—you can rework it, revise it, reshape it. The sky’s the limit! But it all boils down to taking that first giant leap of faith and being brave enough to write.”
About the Author: 10_14 Garnier IMG_4199 4x5 webAs a child, Lauren Linwood gathered her neighborhood friends together and made up stories for them to act out, her first venture into creating memorable characters. Following her passion for history and love of learning, she became a teacher who began writing on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones.
Lauren’s novels focus on two of her favorite eras, medieval times and the American Old West. History is the backdrop that places her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grows into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.
Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.

Website   Facebook   Twitter   Blog   Amazon Author Page   Goodreads Author Page

Buy the book at Amazon.

10_14 Outlaw Muse (smaller)Separated from her twin during the Orphan Train selection, schoolmarm Serena Sullivan searched for her brother Bill over fifteen years. Just as she gets a lead on his whereabouts, she is railroaded by a crooked sheriff and set to hang for the murder of the sheriff’s best friend.
English playwright Daman Rutledge has come to the American West on business for his brother when he witnesses a woman about to be executed. On impulse he rescues the beautiful stranger and goes on the run with her across the Kansas prairie. Along the way Daman finds the muse he’s been missing and loses his heart to the raven-haired beauty with haunting amber eyes.
As they try to escape the long arm of the law, Daman seeks to prove Serena’s innocence before it’s too late. They find love—and the truth—on a journey that changes their lives.