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.

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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.

Author Interview and giveaway: Zana Bell

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Zana Bell whose newest book Close to the Wind is available from Choc Lit. Leave a comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of the book.

Close to the Wind came to Zana from a fabulous holiday driving around the South Island–you may have seen it in the Lord of the Rings films. On the driving tour, Zana learned there had been a gold rush in the 1860s with adventurers coming from all over the world and from all walks of life.

“I just knew I’d have to write about it,” she told me. “In those class-ridden days, the gold rushes gave those at the bottom of the heap a chance to escape – and not just by finding gold. The canny found other ways to create new and more satisfying lives for themselves and their families. As for the women of that time – they had to be pretty damned feisty and courageous to survive and they made the most of the tiniest opportunities.”

Growing up in Harare, Zimbabwe, Zana wanted to be a foreign correspondent or do research for BBC documentaries, especially the historical ones.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t hold onto these dreams nearly hard enough,” she confessed. “I still watch some documentaries and have a pang, thinking how much fun it would have been to make them. When I discovered Geraldine Brooks, I experienced a deep wave of envy. She not only had an eventful first career as a journalist in the Middle East, she then went on to write fantastic books, both fiction and non-fiction. And still be a wife and mother! She’s mega cool and it’s worth listening to her Boyer Lectures on podcast.

On the plus side, I love teaching English to migrants and overseas students. We laugh a lot together and I learn from them all every day. It is indeed a wonderful job.”

In fact, she thinks of herself more as a teacher, wife, and mother more than as a writer, even though Close to the Wind is her fifth book and despite the fact that her books have come out in a number of countries.

Zana now lives in New Zealand and told me that the harbor is by far the best feature–she lives on its shores and loves the ever-changing play of light on the waters. She also loves seagulls.

“These wild, swooping, ill-tempered, rasping-voiced birds don’t compromise for anyone, anything,” she explained.

She writes in a tiny cabin in their garden with a wall of sliding glass doors that look out on the mountain behind their house.

“It is stuffed full with reference and research books and the usual paraphernalia of a writer – computer, printer, wastepaper basket (essential). There are also empty coffee cups and books of Sudoku, all the better to procrastinate with,” she said. “The walls are filled with paintings; my husband is an artist and I also have a few very old black and white photographs of my long-dead father when he was a boy, frolicking on the beaches near Swansea. I always smile when I look at them.”

She admitted to me that she loves the research that goes along with writing. In fact, she admitted, “I write so that I have an excuse to research! For my historicals I like reading primary sources – books, letters, diaries and newspapers of the actual time. The voices of the people are still fresh and vital even though the actual writers have been dead for well over a hundred years. Visiting the locations is a must! You can feel the life and times of those who went before beating like a heart in the earth beneath your feet.”

She really wants to write a series about a New Zealand gold-mining town– sort of an Antipodean Deadwood, but with more stunning scenery and less violence.

“There’s something in the raw energy of people living on the edge, making up the rules as they go along which I find fascinating,” she said. “Women also got the chance to stretch and seize opportunities that they would never have had if they’d remained in Britain. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote and I think that’s partly because the women who came out were fiercely independent and not afraid to challenge conventions.”

In addition to this historical romance, she has also written YA time travel, straight historical, and contemporary romance as well as short stories and articles.

“I love the challenge of trying something new,” she told me. “In fact, when I first started writing, I decided I would try to write a book in each genre and I still think that’s not a bad ambition although publishers and agents say readers don’t like authors who jump around. However, I think readers are far more versatile than they are sometimes given credit for.”

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

“I was house-sitting alone in Zimbabwe when one night I awoke to hear scratching and knew burglars were trying to raise the flyscreens. Remembering offense is the best form of defense, I catapulted out of bed and raced through the house, slamming on lights and yelling, “I’ve got dogs! I’m going to release them!”
There were two dogs I was looking after; a lovely bouncy golden retriever of whom I was fond and a black doberman of whom I was very wary. Both dogs greeted me at the back door, barking wildly and the retriever leapt around me in her excitement, very nearly bowling me off my feet. I flung open the garden gate and the Doberman took off, a lean black streak into the darkness while the retriever, by this time almost hysterical, bit me.

‘You stupid animal! Them not me!’

Unrepentant, she ran off to bark at the trees just as the doberman returned with a scrap of material in his mouth. The burglars had clearly narrowly evaded his jaws as they scrambled over the wall.

I phoned the police but they had no petrol to come to my rescue. ‘We can send a man on a bicycle but it will take him over an hour to get there.’

‘That’s okay,’ I said bravely. ‘I’ve got a big dog here. He’ll keep guard.’

I’m generally a cat person and nervous with some big dogs but I confess, my admiration for dobermans rocketed after that night. As my fondness for retrievers plummeted.”

Finally, I asked, “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?”

“Well, it wasn’t weird but it was wonderful. I went to a chateau outside Paris to do a day’s research on my current project. The two comtes were absolutely charming but I found it hard to focus on the documents when the centuries old chateau was begging to be explored. Lunch (a puny word for the feast provided) was formidable; food the like of which I have never eaten, glorious wine, ancient flagstones, crystal glistening in the candlelight (and yes, I did say lunch), exquisite oil paintings of ancestors benignly looking down from heavy gilt frames. Afterwards I was shown old photographs but my attention was caught by one in the corner.

‘But surely that’s Chopin.’

‘Why yes. He used to come and teach the girls here. We still have some of his music.’

We trooped back up to the archives and they ferreted out some handwritten music.

‘Here, look at it.’

I clasped my hands behind my back to avoid temptation. ‘But I’m not wearing white gloves.’

The comtes guffawed at such a ludicrous notion. ‘Here, take it.’

So with trembling fingers I held paper that Chopin had once written on. And what particularly endeared him to my writerly soul was the crossings-out, the changes. Even Chopin didn’t get it right first time. I think of it now whenever I scrunch up a piece of paper and lob it into the wastepaper basket. We share the same problem, Chopin and me.”

About the Author: 10_7 interview Zana wedding photoZana Bell grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe and studied English Literature at the University of Cape Town. After travelling for several years doing a wide range of jobs, she immigrated to New Zealand where she now lives with her family and cats in a small harbourside community. She began writing, just for the fun of seeing whether she could actually complete a novel and immediately became hooked. Research is her primary love and writing gives her an excellent excuse to be obsessive or just plain nosey. She enjoys writing in a variety of genre but has a particular fondness for all things historical.

@ZanaBellAuthor

10_7 interview CTTW_packshot newWhat would you give to be free?

Georgiana da Silva is catapulted out of the Victorian drawing rooms and into a world of danger when she escapes her fiendish fiancé to engage in a mad dash across the world to save her brother before an unknown assassin can find him.

Meanwhile, Captain Harry Trent is setting sail for New Zealand. With a mission to complete and the law on his heels, he’s got enough trouble of his own without further complications.

Thrown together, unable to trust anyone, Georgiana and Harry are intent on fulfilling their missions despite the distractions of the other. But liberty comes at a price and the closer they get, the more they must question the true cost of being free.

Masquerades, deceptions and subterfuge – and that’s just on the heroine’s part.

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Author Interview: Brenda Margriet

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Brenda Margriet, whose debut novel Mountain Fire was released this year. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Mountain Fire.
Mountain Fire is set in and around Brenda’s home town of Prince George, British Columbia. The hero and heroine, Alex and June, meet on top of Longworth Mountain.
“There is a mountain that locals called ‘Longworth Mountain’, because is sits above a village of the same name. But that is not its formal name (if it even has one) so you won’t find it on a map,” Brenda told me. “I chose that setting partly because my aunt and uncle have a cabin in that area, and we used to visit them when I was a teenager, so I’m familiar with it. There is an old fire lookout on the mountain, and my family even climbed it once. Note I said my family, not me. I stayed back at the cabin reading (what else) when they did the hike. My aunt has read my book, and says I did a great job describing the mountain, so I must have absorbed something!
“Another interesting fact (but one I am not particularly proud of) about MOUNTAIN FIRE is it took 10 years or more to write. I can’t actually remember when I started the manuscript, but the very first scene was written before digital cameras became popular, because I had to revise it to move with the times! My only excuse is that I had three small children and a distinct lack of sleep in those days. I am definitely NOT a night owl, and by the time the kids were in bed every evening I could barely function, let alone write. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
Brenda has a second book that she’s completed. She sent it to her critique partner, made some revisions, and she’s now letting it simmer before submitting it for publication. RESERVATIONS OF THE HEART calls on her background in television production. Her heroine, Jemma, badly needs a job and becomes a Production Assistant on a television reality show–a cross between “Iron Chef” and “The Bachelor.” The hero, Paul,
recently opened a restaurant, and he takes on the role of the single man surrounded by a baker’s dozen romantic hopefuls in order to promote his new business. It is completely against the rules for these two to have a relationship…but guess what happens?
She’s also working on a third manuscript, which doesn’t have a title as yet. It’s set in the Azores, a
tiny archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, which is where her husband’s family is from.
“We visited the largest of the islands, San Miguel, in July, and it is the perfect settling for an international love story!” she said.
She writes using the name “Brenda Margriet”, her first and middle name. Her married name is of Portuguese origin and often throws people for a loop, so she wanted something a bit more accessible, yet unique. There are many, many reasons to use a pen name, some of them very valid, but when she started this road to publishing she wanted to make sure people knew it was HEr book, so she didn’t want to hide behind a completely made up name. She also has her full name listed on the copyright page.
“I wanted no arguments when it came to proving it was mine!” she stated.
I asked her to describe her writing space.
“I have a corner of the couch in our living room. That isn’t where the TV is, so I’m not right in the middle of the action, but I am certainly not cut off from what is going on around the house. I don’t think I could write locked away in a quiet room anyway…in my day job I am in an open room with seven other people, the radio is always going, and colleagues are popping in and out all the time, so I’m used to writing in near chaos. I’m too cheap to buy a proper lap desk, so I use an old plastic serving tray upside down on a pillow to support my laptop and that works just fine. Every once in a while I dream about the perfect work space: an elegant antique desk in front of a wide bay front window overlooking water (the ocean would be nice, but I would be okay with a lake). Shelves of books surround me, the coffee is always fresh and my fingers know exactly what word to type next. But if I waited for that to become reality I’d probably die before it materialized, so I’ll take what I can get.”
Because of her full-time job, Brenda has to squeeze her writing time into evenings and weekends. When her children were younger, they were very busy with sports, piano, and school, so it was almost impossible for her to have any sort of regular schedule. However, now that her daughters are older and can drive themselves (as well as being coerced into driving their younger brother), she’s able to be much more consistent.
“I am absolutely useless past nine o’clock, so writing late into the night has never been an option for me, but I’m usually the first one up in the morning on weekends, so I can get my quota done before other commitments take over,” she told me. “Speaking of quotas, I found my output really increased once I set a minimum daily quota. It’s pretty low (only 500 words) but that makes it relatively easy to achieve. Even if that’s all I get done, I feel good because I’ve achieve my goal, and if I write past that limit, I feel great! I also give myself one day off a week. It’s usually a week night (generally when ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ or ‘The Voice’ is on). But even with that break, I write at least 3000 words a week, which means I can have a fairly substantial manuscript written in six months or so. Considering I’m only spending about 10 hours a week writing, I’m pretty happy with that!”
When Brenda’s not writing, she enjoys reading–a lot. She told me if she didn’t read so much she might get more writing done, but almost everything she reads inspires her to write. Some of her favorites include Lee Child, Nero Wolfe (Archie Goodwin was probably her first literary crush), Robert B. Parker, Dick Francis, Diana Gabaldon, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Jane Austin–among others. When it comes to hobbies that don’t involve reading or writing, she enjoys spending time in her garden, playing card games with the family, boating, and watching The Big Bang Theory. She also likes cooking, but not baking, and swimming, but not running.
“What is your most embarrassing moment?” I wondered.
“Wow, that’s going to be tough to narrow down. I’m pretty clutzy in general, and my mouth is very accustomed to having both feet in it. One of my boyfriends actually gave me a desk plaque that said ‘Put brain in gear before engaging mouth.; Oddly enough, that boyfriend has been my husband for more than 22 years!
“One particularly shining moment I do remember was giving myself a black eye while brushing my teeth. I bent over to spit and bash the bridge of my nose on the faucet. I didn’t even have the excuse that it was an unfamiliar sink, as it was in my own bathroom.”
She also once poured a packet of salt into her mouth thinking it was sugar when she was having a sweet craving and spent the next hour spitting.
I asked her, “If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?”
“I would certainly finish my first book sooner. Balancing a young family and a job is tough, but I’m sure I could have done it sooner with a bit more dedication. I was incredibly lucky when it came to the actual publishing of my book. Ebooks are an amazing opportunity for new writers. The demand is so high that I think it is easier than ever for new writers to find a publisher, and that isn’t even touching the whole self-publishing industry. When I finished MOUNTAIN FIRE I happily submitted it via an online site to a large publisher that had just introduced an e-imprint. After three months I’d heard nothing, so I decided to try a smaller publisher. The Wild Rose Press liked my query letter enough to ask for the first 3 chapters, but because of POV issues they did not request a full. I rewrote the book, focusing on POV, and resubmitted…and they accepted! I never dreamed it would be contracted to only the second publisher I tried, so I was very excited (to say the least!) when I was offered the opportunity.”
Brenda avoided getting an e-reader for a long time, however, swearing she was a traditional gal who would never switch. The ability to have thousands of books available in one small device lured her, though, especially for traveling. She now has a Kobo Aura and loves it.
“I do still love ‘real’ books, and getting new ones is always a treat – the crisp smell of new paper, the smoothness of an uncracked spine,” she admitted. “I always put a few on my Christmas list, and then I ration them out over the next month or so. When I’ve looked forward to reading a book for months, the last thing I want to do is finish it the day I receive it. Also, I love the look of a library. My husband gave me a print with ‘A room without books is like a body without a soul.’ I really believe that, and an e-reader just isn’t the same thing.”
Finally, I asked Brenda, “What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?”
“I would love to get my second and third novels contracted. I really want to make writing a successful career, and now that I’ve had some experience with publishing I’m hoping to grow my readership, and make more money. I know it sounds a bit mercenary, but at least I’m honest. I want to make money writing, and I’m interested in exploring all the options in order to do so. But even if more money isn’t in the cards, I’m am definitely going to keep on writing. It’s good for me, no matter what — keeps me out of trouble and my brain sharp.
“I’m pretty sure my third manuscript will be finished by the end of the 2013, so another goal for 2014 would be to continue writing. I’m getting more efficient, as well as more disciplined, which is increasing my output. MOUNTAIN FIRE took more than 10 years to finish writing, RESERVATIONS OF THE HEART less than a year all together, and I’m aiming for about nine months for my third manuscript. I’d love to be able to complete at least 2 novels a year (including revisions and editing).”
About the Author:9_26 Best Crop medBrenda’s love of books began as a child. She ran into the living room holding “Old Hat, New Hat”, tripped and smashed into the corner of the coffee table. The book sustained a deep gouge in its cover, and Brenda has never forgotten its sacrifice.
As a teenager, she saved babysitting money to buy a typewriter. It had an electric keyboard with manual return, and cost more than $300. She clacked away at that for hours.
Her first finished novel was still decades away, even though many others died on the page in the intervening years. It wasn’t until her husband bought her her very own laptop for Christmas 2010 that she managed to type “The End” on what would eventually be MOUNTAIN FIRE.
Brenda lives in Northern British Columbia with her husband, three children (all of whom are taller than her) and various finny and furry pets. By day she is Creative Director at the local television station, and by night she pecks away at her works in progress.

9_26 MountainFire_W6820_750A mountaintop mystery leads two conservationists to dangerous obsessions and violent passions.

Natural resources student June Brandt climbs Longworth Mountain for some alone time. But when Conservation Officer Alex Weaver arrives to look into the death of a grizzly bear, June is caught up in the investigation—and fascinated by Alex.

Alex is attracted by June’s competence and coolness under fire—as well as her lithe body and honey-blonde hair. Although their mutual interest in protecting the natural wonders of the area brings them together, they soon realize they view love from very different angles. He offers passion and pleasure, but June wants more.

When one of Alex’s colleagues is murdered, June and Alex must work together to find the poacher before other lives are lost. And Alex must look deep inside to discover if he can give June what she deserves.

INTERVIEW and Giveaway: DAKOTA MADISON

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Dakota Madison, who is with us today promoting her newest release Fire on Ice. Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of her other new release After Alex Died.

As Dakota Madison, she’s written seven books, also writing fiction and non-fiction books under her legal name. Her pen name came from the names of her beautiful bloodhouns,  Dakota and Madison.

“I feel like picking a favorite book is like picking a favorite child (although I have to admit I don’t have children). In my case, maybe it’s like picking a favorite bloodhound, nearly impossible. With that said, I think I have the greatest emotional connection to BE GOOD and AFTER ALEX DIED,” she said.

Even though Fire on Ice is about a hocky player, Dakota doesn’t really know that much about hocky. However, her husband was born and raised in Canada and is a hocky fanatic, so he helped her with parts of the book. She also had a beta reader who was a huge hockey fan.

“I hope with the help of my husband and my beta reader, the story feels authentic. Of course, it’s a romance novel, so it’s about love not hockey but I still thought it was important to be as true to the sport as was necessary.”

Dakota participated in National Novel Writing Month last November and, since then, has written a novel a month. She’s currently writing the third book in her Matchplay series, called Final Play, and she’s also working on the second book in the Fire on Ice series called The Playmaker.

She works full-time as a university professor, so it’s difficult to find the time to write everything she would like to write. She gets up around 4:30 every morning and writes for several hours before she has to get ready for work.

“When I have time, I also write at night. I like to write for a few hours more on the weekends, although I have to admit to often participating in writing binges many weekends!” she told me. “I have so many ideas floating around in my head with only a limited amount of free time to write all of them. I often wonder what my productivity would be like if I wrote full time.”

Dakota learned to read when she was four years old, and she fell in love with books.  As a child, when people asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she always told them she wanted to be a writer.

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

“I think it’s every important to establish a writing habit and to write every day, even if it’s just a few paragraphs. Always finish what you start. Don’t ever leave a project half completed. I would also recommend completing a project before you start editing it because the creative process and the editing process are completely different. If you’re being judgmental of the work too early, it could stifle the creative process.”

Dakota writes until her goal for the day is met–even if the writing’s not good.

“I think it’s important to write, even if it’s not good. I give myself permission to write poorly because I know it can always be fixed later. It’s just important to get words on the page during the creative process,” she explained.

Writing is good, to Dakota, if she becomes emotionally involved with the characters and they feel real to her.  And, her all-time favorite character is Lisabeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.

“She’s such an intriguing character: strong, smart and tough. It saddens me that the author of the series, Stieg Larsson, died at such a young age. I think his work is brilliant. Although, I don’t think the writing has to be brilliant for readers to get caught up in the story,” she told me. “There are some technically ‘great’ writers who are not great storytellers and I don’t believe that can be classified as good writing. It’s not good to me, anyway! I prefer a compelling story over beautiful words that lack substance.”

Dakota always seem to construct her characters first, then come up with situations that will challenge them and in which they can grow.

“I think for some genres (like romance), it works well. If I was writing mysteries or thrillers I may be more inclined to think in terms of plot but I have yet to write in those genres,” she said.

Some of the authors that have inspired her to start writing contemporary, and predominantly New Adult, romance were Colleen Hoover (Slammed, Hopeless), Jamie McGuire (Beautiful Disaster) and Tammara Webber (Easy).

“Those three authors completely changed my perception of the romance genre and I felt like I could write romance novels that were not just about sex but also tackled other series subjects,” she explained.

“What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?” I wondered.

“I love to read, which I think it true of most writers. I try to read a few books a week although it isn’t always possible with my intense writing schedule. I also love watching movies. I enjoy spending time with my husband and our bloodhounds. I also like to travel. I’ve been to nearly every US state and 13 foreign countries.”

Finally, I asked, “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 wrote a kid’s book called The Incredibly Awesome Adventure of Puggie Liddell (under my legal name). It’s about siblings who travel through time. I had the characters meet Nikola Tesla because I find him absolutely fascinating and I want to meet him myself. I would ask him about his inventions and I’d want to know more about his death ray machine!”

About the Author: 8_16 Karen_200_SmileDakota Madison has been writing since she learned to read and fell in love with books. When she’s not at her computer creating spicy new romances, Dakota is traveling to exotic locales or spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.

Blog: http://12novels12months.tumblr.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DakotaMadisonAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/DakotaMadison

 

8_16 Fire on Ice Front SmallHe’s Fire on Ice and she’s afraid to get burned again…

After Taylor Thompson’s heart was completely shattered by her high school’s most popular jock, she vowed never to date another athlete. She keeps that promise through her first three years of college. But after a chance meeting with a star hockey player, the charming and irresistible Kian Kavanagh, Taylor’s carefully constructed walls are in serious danger of being burned down by Mr. Fire on Ice.

 

 

Buy the book at  Amazon or Smashwords.