Author Interview and Giveaway: Shawn Martin

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Shawn Martin whose latest book Forget Me Not is released today. Forget Me Not is the second book of the Shadowflesh Series. Leave a comment for a chance to win one of two print copies of the book.

The books in the Shadowflesh Series are as follows: Shadowflesh (February 2013), Forget Me Not (March 2013), Invisible Ink, Shadow of Doubt, and Nevermore (the last three TBA). Shawn subscribes to the theory that even though a picture is worth a thousand words, a poet believes a word is worth a thousand pictures–so he tried keeping his titles concise, using words that were rich with passion, lament, fear, and dreamy imagery.

“If, for example, I had called the books Aileen’s Story, Aileen’s Other Story, etc… the titles may have been accurate, but they wouldn’t have made anyone’s world move. Titles should make the ground quake and the skies swirl,” he explained.

Much of what is in Shadowflesh and Forget Me Not was taken out of the pages of Shawn’s personal experiences. He encountered bullies and intolerant religious types and outcasts who hid in the shadows. In fact, the outcasts–the group who belonged to no group–was the group he hung out with in high school. They hid themselves from the bullies, or simply hid from themselves. He has known both love and pain, life and death. He has seen dreams come true and nightmares shatter hearts.

“Somehow I had managed to survive those years with my memories intact, without reconfiguring my past to conform with the future I had constructed,” he said. “Of course some of the paranormal elements were spawned in my imagination, but they were nourished from both the darkest and brightest days of my teen years.”

For the last several months, Shawn has been working on the third installment in the Shadowflesh Series, Invisible Ink.

“I had found myself with the book nearly finished, but felt it lacked the passion and promise of the other two books. That was likely a grim reflection of my personal life,” he admitted. “However, my darkness has been vanquished, and light is shining on both Invisible Ink and my life once again. I’m spending my nights rewriting the story and hope to have it out sometime next year.”

Shawn began writing fiction during his high school days. I asked him to tell us about some of his early writing.

“Everything from a touching tale about a killer whale falling in love with a submarine, or a musical play about a lonely girl trapped in an insane asylum, all mirroring the time when Alice had been admitted to Wonderland Memorial, or heart-wrenching excuses written to school counselors telling them why poor Shawn had missed school the last three days because he had saving nuns lost in a cave,” he said. “Ten years ago, I spent serious time refining my art, hoping that one day it would rise up to the level of being a talent. After many Zen moments of near success consumed by the dragon of failure, my status went from amateur to pro in February 2013, with the publication of Shadowflesh.”

“Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?” I asked. “If so, what do you do about it?”

“When writer’s block comes to visit, it often plans on staying a while. It robs the psychic nourishment from my mental fridge. It kicks me out of my bed, steals the remote, and worst of all, runs away my muse—that super-secret inner voice which whispers words into my pen and breathes life into my soul. I fight writer’s block by forcing myself to get a change of scenery, a change of perspective, and a change of attitude. Writer’s block doesn’t like change, and he often slams the door and leaves. Then my muse comes wandering back home, ready to tell me about her adventures.”

Shawn told me that he doesn’t invent his characters as much as he meets them, just like he meets people. He will find himself immersed in a situation or event, where new and interesting people cross his path, and he gets to know them.

“So, really the plot, in its rawest, brutish form, comes first,” he told me. “Then I meet the characters, and they blossom like a rose nearly a week after Valentine’s Day. But then once I get to know my characters, the plot grows and details emerge, and more characters are met. And so on, and so on. Plot does indeed come first, but it is woven in with the characters so much that it’s easy to lose sight of where it all began.”

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

“I have to balance my writing schedule with the other obligations in my life. While I’d like to be one of those old Victorian authors in his oak paneled study puffing on a pipe in his red velvet smoking jacket, writing, writing, writing, I live in the 21st Century and am a slave to our times. I work as a firefighter, which has my undivided attention 24 hours out of every 72. I don’t write on duty, so that gives me two days to devote to my stories. I prefer the late evening into the early morning hours for writing. My inhibitions are low and my creativity is high, a perfect combination for spilling ink onto paper.”

“Now, a fun question. Have you ever eaten a crayon?”

“Wow, what a question! I’m afraid the answer is, yes. I’ll offer this explanation, which should never be interpreted as justification. When I was young—grade school young—and far from my finest moment, I had upgraded from the standard sixteen crayon box to the exquisite sixty-four crayon box. The colors had such fascinating names, such as mulberry, and mulberries sounded absolutely delicious. The crayon looked so ripe, and I thought, what could be the harm? One nibble later and I was sorely disappointed. It tasted nothing like any berry I had ever eaten. It more closely resembled wax and made my teeth feel gummy. Since then, I’ve sworn off crayons.”

“Thanks for stopping by! And, good luck with the new book.”

“It was a joy sharing a little about myself with you, and I want to offer a big Thank You to Long and Short Reviews. Never stop reading, dreaming, and living.”

About the Author3_31 author photoShawn Martin calls Springfield, Missouri, home. After graduating from Missouri State University with majors in Economics and Political Science, he bounced around the Midwest only to end up right where he started.

His day (and night) job is being a firefighter. Aside from rescuing cats in trees and removing burnt pot roasts from ovens, he spends his time finding the hardest way to do the simplest of things. The rest of his time is spent weaving words into another installment in the Shadowflesh Series.

Website ~ @martiniaff152 ~ Facebook ~ Blog

3_31 ForgetMeNot 200x300Fortune has smiled on seventeen year old Aileen McCormick ever since Addison came back into her life, giving her the love she has so desperately longed for. That is, until a mysterious man slithers across her path and slips a spellbinding cameo around her neck. The cameo holds more than just the image of an enchantress who hungers for souls. It possesses a curse that strangles away every memory Aileen has of Addison.

Addison, a three hundred year old fugitive from the netherworld, recognizes the wretched woman inside the cameo and the curse she has cast on his unsuspecting love. The enchanted cameo has but one purpose: to torment Aileen with hints of love she can no longer recall.

Nothing more than a stranger to Aileen, Addison insists that she knows him, that she has felt his lips on hers. Thinking the handsome young man in his leather jacket and dark Wayfarers is playing some cruel game, she pushes him away and runs into the arms of Geoff, the one person who could ever rival Addison.

Geoff has waited oh, so long for Aileen. Before the opportunity slips away, he sweeps her off her feet at the Christmas masquerade ball. But fate thrusts Aileen into Addison’s waiting arms. One passionate kiss later, she knows beyond a shadow of doubt that she loves the icy stranger with smoky blue eyes.

Her newfound love is overshadowed by tantalizing hints of the first love she shared with Addison, just beyond her memory’s reach. And remembering comes at too high a price. Aileen cannot escape the deadly cameo. She runs for her life with the curse only a breath away. If she truly wants her memory back, the enchantress is all too willing to restore it. It will cost her, though. Cost her everything.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Interview and giveaway: Charity Kountz

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Charity Kountz, whose newest release Jason, Lizzy and the Snowman Village is now available. Leave a comment for a chance to win one of five Amazon Kindle e-book copies of Jason, Lizzy & the Snowman Village.

Aside from writing nonfiction articles for various clients, Charity and her husband (who co-writes the books with her) are writing the second book in the Jason & Lizzy’s Legendary Adventures. The second book is titled Jason, Lizzy and the Ice Dragon. It will introduce readers to new fun characters and there will also be some new twists.

“My husband and I just love taking various mythology and legends and twisting them around until they are our own creation,” she said. “We think kids are going to love the crazy characters we’ve come up with for this next book.”

Charity grew up in an abusive home with two alcoholic parents who are no longer a part of her life.

“My life was far from idyllic,” she admitted. “Throughout that difficult time, books were my escape and my salvation. From Walter Farley, Jack London and James Harriett, to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Judy Blume, I read everything I could get my hands on. School was my respite from the pain and I threw myself into my classwork and reading.

“I had an insatiable appetite for language and learning (except math – nothing could really make me like that subject). I was in two spelling bees (even winning my local area spelling bee but my father wouldn’t let me compete in the district competition). At about age 14, I received an English assignment from my 9th grade teacher to write a story around a girl in a raincoat in a dark alley. My very first novel attempt, titled “Dark Walk” and the character Selena Darkwalk was born. It was 14 pages and never did get completed but I will never forget that very first time, the exhilaration of typing out my story, almost unable to keep up with all the thoughts whipping through my head. I could see the scene so clearly, the character was so vivid. I learned then that writing stories was even more thrilling than reading them. Creating new worlds would become a new passion for me from that point on, an enduring theme throughout my life.”

Ever since that first story, Charity has considered herself a writer; however, it wasn’t until 2010 she began to call herself an author and began to pursue a writing career with focus.

“I realized this is what I was meant to do;  this was the gift I was given and I shouldn’t waste it,” she told me.

She was surprised that her first published book was a children’s book.

“Having grown up in such a dark and troubled way, and spending 10 years trying to recover from that, I don’t feel like I understand or connect with children very easily,” she explained. “I was never given an opportunity to be a child and was old well before I should have been. By the time I was 18 I had seen more tragedy than some people see in an entire lifetime. While I’m a mother to two children myself, it still feels a little surreal sometimes. But with my husband’s help I found myself really enjoying digging deeper and finding ways to reach children and exploring what it’s like to be a child. Looking at the world through a child’s eyes and the wonders around us has been a joy.”

She met her husband through EHarmony in September 2010 and they married in April 2012.

“He is my rock, my partner, my best friend and my love of a lifetime. He’s the most generous, giving, understanding and patient man I know,” she said. “Our marriage was by far the smartest decision I ever could have made, despite being terrified of failure and having no idea what to expect as I’d never been married before. Divorce rates are high but I’m fortunate to love him so much I can’t imagine life without him. For me, there will never be anyone who could ever take his place.”

They have two daughters–her youngest is six.

“She is a delightful combination of spunky, giving, high-energy and incredible intelligence. She’s quite a handful and has none of the childhood issues I grew up with,” Charity told me. “My other daughter is actually my step-daughter and is my husband’s child from his first marriage. But I love her like my own and she is a complete contrast to my other daughter. At 12 she’s almost easier and so like her father. The day they came into my life was the biggest blessing I’ve ever received and I’m grateful for it daily.”

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

“I don’t suffer from writer’s block; I suffer from writer laziness and distraction. Writing is hard work and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Somehow, putting your butt in the seat and working through a novel is almost akin to the best and worst kinds of torture. Never has the laundry been so direly in need of washing and folding as when I sit down to work on my latest work in progress. Even after 20 years, I have to force myself to actually DO the work, not just talk about the work. The actual work is very rewarding but it definitely is work. Sometimes the work requires blood, sweat, tears and every ounce of strength I possess. Other times it flows and it’s like riding a glorious rainbow and landing in a pot of gold. Most of the time, it’s just a lot of work. It took me almost two years to write my first children’s novel and it’s only 18,000 words. Hopefully the next book will be a little easier and each time after that will become easier. Already the plot for book two has come together much easier than book one’s did.”

Charity has read thousands of books throughout her life, with some of her enduring favorites being James Harriott, Terry Brooks, Naomi Novik, Mitch Albom, and too many others to list.

“I’ve read everything from classics like Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas to modern day fiction by Diane Capri, Lisa Gardner, Sara Douglass, Elizabeth Hayden, Stephen C. Spencer, Elizabeth Gilbert, David N. Walker, and Patricia Cornwell.

“As an adult I spent a solid month in 2002 reading every book Terry Brooks wrote in the Sword of Shannara series. I was single and on Christmas break from my job at a local university so I had a ton of free time on my hands and no money. I literally checked out every hardcover book my local library had and it was a stack almost four feet high. Brooks is the author who originally inspired me to realize fantasy was the genre I loved the most and would be the genre I would predominantly write in.”

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

“There have been so many it’s hard to pick just one but the one that immediately pops into mind is when my daughter was a year old. She’d just started learning to walk around that time and I was still a nervous first-time single mother. One night she woke up screaming like nothing I’d ever heard before. After about 30 minutes of that and trying everything I could think of, I called the pediatrician who thought she was possibly constipated.

“I rushed to a pharmacy for an infant suppository and when that didn’t work, rushed her to the emergency room at 3 a.m. in the morning. Her screams bounced around that room for hours, almost driving me mad. I did not stop crying the entire time, just cried and rocked her, promised her I would make it better, that she would be okay while terrified at my helplessness. The doctors around us seemed oblivious to her wails, but finally after a few blood tests and a urine sample, talked to me about doing a full CT scan. It was clear they had no idea what the cause was.

“Fortunately at 7:30 a.m. my pediatrician, Dr. Christopher Tallo, walked in, saw my ragged tear-stained face, took one look at my daughter and said, ‘That’s not our little girl. Something’s wrong.’ In 20 minutes he had her sedated with a nasal drip, x-rays being processed and she was resting. Shortly after that, she threw up all over me and the doctor said something I’ll never forget, ‘That’s a good sign.’

“A few moments later I heard him whoop from down the hall and come jogging toward me saying, “She’s full of poop! She’s full to the gills of poop!” Her x-rays showed she was full almost to her ribs and essentially her bowels had impacted, preventing her from having a bowel movement. She was moved into an ICU unit where they administered fluids and a liquid laxative. I never left her for a moment except to take a quick shower. She spent most of the day passing what was in her system and within 24 hours was a happy, content baby again. Within 48 hours we were back at home.

“The combination of pure helplessness, terror over the possibilities and then being among other children much sicker than my daughter made me face not only own mortality but also the fact that I cannot possibly protect my child from everything. She will get hurt, she can come to harm and nothing I do will prevent it if that’s what’s meant to be. All I can do is love her as completely as possible and give her all the tools I can to prepare her for the big, beautiful, sometimes scary world we live in and be grateful for every moment we have together. One of my first short stories, titled ‘Alone’, was inspired by that time in my life where I realized how alone, isolated, and vulnerable we each are.”

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

“Writing can feel very scary and overwhelming initially. But the number one thing I’ve learned is that everyone will not love your writing. Some people will and some people won’t. That’s why art is subjective – the appeal of art is based around each individual’s unique tastes, feelings, personality and a complex mixture of life experiences. You, as a writer, cannot possibly ever figure out the ‘magic sauce’ to appeal to everyone. So the trick is, to appeal to your own experiences and those who your words strike a chord with will be drawn to your work. For those who aren’t, that’s fine. Be glad of the readers and fans you’ve reached, and hold no grudges against those who don’t appreciate your work. That being said, don’t disregard everyone’s criticism but instead think about it objectively and weigh it against your own inner writing instinct. Make sure the criticism improves the work in the manner you envision and use it. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to disregard it. If you’ve written the best work you possibly can, your work will stand up against the criticism.”


About the Author:  

7_29 CharityKountz2012

By day, Marketing Director. By night, published Author. Lover of CSI, writing, poker, animals, family fun & Twitter. Information Addict. Techno Geek.Wife. Mom.

7_29 Paperback Front Cover 2After Jason and Lizzy’s family move hundreds of miles south from Chicago to Texas, leaving behind friends, school and the only home they’ve ever known, they are desperate for something familiar. Together, Jason and Lizzy make a late-night wish upon a star for snow that launches them on an incredible adventure even bigger than their recent cross-country move.

Join Jason and Lizzy as they make new friends, visit far-away lands, and learn, sometimes, home is more than where you live.

INTERVIEW and giveaway: Jill Elaine Hughes

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jill Elaine Hughes, author of Zombie, Incorporated, a YA/New Adult dystopian fantasy that was recently released. Jill will be giving away two prizes: a $25 gift card (international) and a Kindle 6″ (US only because of shipping restrictions). See the Rafflecopters at the end of this post.

Jill assured me that it’s not a typical zombie novel–it’s more psychological, tapping into how young people who are just stepping out into the adult world find that it’s nothing like they’ve been led to expect.

“It also ties in with how soulless the working world has become—and how it can turn even the most enthusiastic, bubby people into zombie-like automatons. (Or maybe even real zombies!)” she said.

Jill told me that she was a child of the 80s when “free writing” was a big trend, so she had a lot of elementary school teachers who made creative writing part of their lesson plans–between the third and seventh grade, she spent almost half the school day writing stories and plays.

“I feel strongly that having so much support and encouragement for creative writing when I was in school helped me become the full-time professional writer I am today,” she said. “I’ve been writing professionally, i.e. for money, ever since college, which would make it about 20 years now.”

She’s still very well-connected to the person she was as a teen and young adult and that connection heavily influences her writing.

“They were very hard years for me for a lot of reasons,” she explained, “and as a result they shaped the person I eventually became. I also had a very unconventional upbringing, which I think drove me to eventually become a writer—if it had been more ‘normal,’ per se, I’d have probably ended up selling insurance or something. My own parents also made a lot of poor choices that impacted me and my siblings very negatively at the time. Though I don’t blame my parents for what they did way back when, as a parent now it makes me very mindful of the choices I’m making, and how they impact my kids. So that mindfulness also keeps me very connected to my teenage/young adult self.”

Jill was an early reader (she could read by the time she was 3) and gravitated to adult books by the time she was 9 or 10 because she was very mature for her age. She was very choosy about young adult literature, but she did like Judy Blume and Jane Yolen.

“They couldn’t be more different from each other. Blume writes kitchen-sink realism, while Yolen focuses more on creating fantasy worlds,” she said.  “But both authors get at some universal coming-of-age truths, which I think is essential for anyone writing for this audience.  In ZOMBIE, INCORPORATED I was aiming for a very harsh, realistic take on what it’s like to be a working-class kid in the decaying Rust Belt—but with a dystopian/fantasy twist. You’re seeing both Blume’s and Yolen’s influence there. I also was a fan of writers like Stephen King, Henry Miller, Lurlene McDaniel, Madeleine L’engle, and Jack Kerouac as a teen.”

If she had to pick only one favorite author, however, it would be Jane Austen.

“I really think that nobody has ever surpassed her in terms of writing about young love and establishing yourself as an independent adult,” she said. “You could argue that she single-handedly created both the romance genre and the young-adult genre. There’s a reason she’s still so popular almost 250 years after she died!”

Pretty much all of her writing, either directly or indirectly, comes from her own experiences growing up.

“While I’m not always recreating actual events from my life (though there certainly are some cases where I do that), I am always mindful of how I thought, felt and acted between the ages of say, 14 and 25. I usually write in the first person, which requires me to get inside my characters’ heads—-and thinking back to the person I was at that age helps a lot with that,” she told me.

“What challenges do you think teens face today that you did not?” I asked.

“I think cyberbullying is really awful. Time was you only had to deal with bullying when you were at school. But now it’s 24/7, and the kind of stuff that happens online is way worse than anything that happened to me way back when. (And I was a major target of bullies when I was a kid, too). I even get cyberbullied on social media now—as an adult— from time to time.  The constant online media environment puts so much pressure on kids to be ‘on’ and ‘cool’ at all times—you never have a chance just to unplug and be yourself.”


About the Author: JILL ELAINE HUGHES is a professional journalist, playwright, memoirist, and fiction author. She has written for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Washington Post, Cat Fancy magazine, New Art Examiner, and numerous other media outlets. Her plays have been widely published and produced by theaters in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, the United Kingdom, and Australia. She is also the author of several New Adult fiction books. Ms. Hughes also writes erotic fiction under two pen names: Jamaica Layne and Jay E. Hughes.

6_26 zombie-web

Twilight. With zombies.

Eighteen-year-old Katie Allred is socially awkward and unpopular at school. Katie’s new after-school job at the Zimble Box Corporation draws her into the complex social strata of high school cliques and backstabbing friends in ways she never imagined. Katie soon discovers there’s something very strange about the “in” crowd at school—and about her employer, too. Shortly after starting her new job, the Contagion breaks out, plunging her town and the entire nation into chaos as zombie shadow forces come out into the open, ravaging the streets. Katie goes into hiding and her parents disappear, along with almost everyone else she knows.

But Katie soon discovers she has special powers that help her survive. She’s a Beacon, someone with the innate ability to help zombies produce children. It’s a power her employer — and what little remains of the U.S. government — both want to exploit for their own ends. Not only that, it runs in her family—which has a secret past Katie never knew about until now.

Enter Agent Morehouse of the FBI Special Zombie Control Unit. A reformed zombie working undercover, he suppresses his urge to eat human flesh in order to serve and save humanity. But Agent Morehouse is attracted to Katie, and she to him. Even as they fight zombies the world over, they must fight their intense attraction to each other, hoping to keep Katie from suffering Agent Morehouse’s terrible zombie fate.

Barnes and Noble                      Amazon                          Smashwords                        Sony                        Kobo                          Omnilit

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Author Interview: Nicky Peacock

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Nicky Peacock, whose latest book Bad Blood has recently been released. Bad Blood is, in essence, a vampires vs. zombies YA horror novel with a strong undertone of romance. It’s written in first person from the main character’s point of view.

“To be honest, Britannia is a little dense when it comes to the men in her life who love her,” Nicky told me. “Although she is well over 400 years old, she’d never really been in a relationship and is blinkered to the feelings and even the actions of those around her.  She’s a bit of a stone hearted so-and-so, but the cracks eventually do start to show.”

Even though Britannia is the main character in Bad Blood, Nicky told me that her favorite character is Nicholas–her enemy turned reluctant comrade.

“He gives as good as he gets,” she explained. “I make sure he gets some funny lines in there and is a stand-up kind of guy. I’m not sure how far I trust him, even as the author, but if zombies started descending on my house, I think I’d like him on my side.  He also has that old fashioned sense of chivalry that seems to have now died out amongst modern men.”

Since she writes about zombies and vampires, very little of her own childhood makes it into her books–except when it comes to the characters. They all have some facet of Nicky in them.  For example, Britannia finds it hard to think beyond her fantasy for the relationships in her life – which is something Nicky had in common with her when she was a teen.

“Day dreaming and fantasies can be a dangerous thing for teens – reality will never live up to them and I know that I certainly missed out on a number of opportunities because I lived too much in my head,” she said.

“What challenges do you think teens face today that you did not?” I asked.

She laughed. “Blimey, I’m not that old! I can still remember what it was like being that age. Technology is probably the fastest growing problem, and gift, to youngsters today. The Internet has opened a whole new world for them – but also many dangers too. Social media can connect you to people all over the world – but will it hamper social interaction and development? The education reform in the UK is certainly something that would have affected me back then.  I do worry about how it’ll damage the hunger for knowledge, when the journey now is so expensive.”

When it comes to research for her books, Nicky–since she tends to write paranormal themed books– starts off learning the basics on the characters she wants to write about.

“If lore is open to suggestion – such as vampires, every author has their own rules with these guys– I settle on what I want them to be like and how they’ll fit into my book. For example, the vampires in Bad Blood can only be killed by decapitation; there are no issues with sunlight – if there had been, my story would have been limited to the night,” she explained.  “Places are a big part of writing, and although it’s not commercially viable to visit everywhere you write about, Google- maps street view is an excellent way round this. Using this wonderful online tool, you can visit anywhere in the world, without paying out on airline fees.  Using tourist websites, you can even take virtual tours of cities and tourist attractions. Bad Blood is set mostly in London and being a UK based author I had visited there quite a few times in the past, so the feel and information were born of memory, then enhanced with online research.”

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

“Two things spring to mind: Finding the time to write and getting through the first 10 minutes. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do, and some days I’m literally dead on my feet by over-loading myself.  The career of an author has dramatically changed over the last decade and although there are many more opportunities for writers to get their work out there with Indie authors going straight through Amazon with eBooks  (of course there’s now their Print on Demand service too) there has never been so much work for a writer to do. You’ve got: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (I actually find this one quite therapeutic and inspirational) along with sorting out promotional tours, interviews, reviews and guest posts to drum up interest for your book – It all takes time. Fortunately with Bad Blood I was brought into the fold of an excellent publisher, Noble & Young (an imprint of Noble Romance) and they’ve given me lots of marketing support, editorial assistance and a kick ass front cover.  When it comes to the actually writing, I have the attention span of a sugar crazed monkey. If I’m not careful, I end up opening a blank word document, then wandering off online to do some internet shopping, check up on my friends on Facebook or on Amazon checking out the latest releases. I find if I can stay focused for the first 10 minutes, I get into a groove, and then can’t stop!”

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

“To go down the short story market first. I wish someone had given me this advice when I was started writing. By starting with the popular anthologies market you can hone your craft as a writer and gain publishing credits. Once you start writing stories from 2,000 to 10,000 – suddenly the 90,000 + word novel isn’t such a marathon. Learn to sprint first. Another great piece of advice is ‘You can’t please everyone’. There will be some people who will reject you and hate your work, but equally there will be some who will love it and snap you up. Don’t let rejection get you down – it’s not a personal reflection on you and what you can do.

“Also, join a group. I run a local writers’ group in my town and it’s a wonderful place to meet new friends and to motivate you to keep writing. In the right group you can put your manuscripts forward and really learn what works. A supportive group of like-minded individuals will help you. And if there are no groups in your area – start one!”

About the Author: 6_17 use12 I’m an English author living in the UK. I write mainly horror, urban fantasy and paranormal romance for both YA and adult markets. I run a local writers’ group in my home town called Creative Minds. I guess I’ve always been a storyteller, not in a ‘liar liar pants on fire’ kind of way, although I do work full time in advertising! When I was little, kids would crowd around me in the playground and I’d tell them tales of blood soaked horror filled with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and more. Yes, most would consider me a disturbed child, but my playmates couldn’t help themselves, they’d huddle around me every break time like an ancient tribe feeding off the fear; and that’s how I learned that horror stories hold a certain power, no matter what some might say, everyone is addicted to a good scare, especially if it is somewhat rooted safely in unrealistic beings… or are they unrealistic?

Twitter: @nickyp_author

Writers’ Group






6_17 BadBlood (2)“I am Britannia. I am your protector. I will fend off the hungry hordes of undead hands that reach toward you. I am your steadfast defender. I will stand between you and the zombie masses as they try to taste your flesh. I am strong, unyielding, and dedicated to your survival. All I ask from you… is your blood.”

A five-hundred-year-old bloody game of vengeance will need to be put on hold if vampires are to survive the zombie uprising. Britannia and Nicholas, bitter enemies and the only two surviving vampires left in London, have to work together to save un-infected humans and deliver them safely to a vampire stronghold in the Scottish Highlands. Unable to drink the zombie ‘bad blood’, the remaining vampires need the humans to stay alive. But will the vampires tell the survivors who they are and what they want from them? Will Britannia be able to hold back her vengeance for the greater good? Is survivor Josh the reincarnation of Britannia’s murdered true love? And can she bring herself to deliver him to the ‘safe’ hold? Survival instincts run deep, but bad blood can run deeper.





Long and Short Reviews welcomes Penny Jackson, whose debut novel was released last year by Untreed Reads Publishing.  She’s currently working on a book about cyber bullying. I asked her how she did research for her books.

“As a former teacher and writer, I listen. I listened to the chatter of my students in the crowded hallways, the school cafeteria, the Starbucks across the street. I write down snatches of dialogue I hear, descriptions of clothes teenagers wear, watch as they interact with each other as well as how they act in front of teachers and parents. I am also a parent of a teenage girl, and have listened to them chatter for hours during long drives. For my new YA novel about cyber bullying, I recently spend a lot of time researching the Steubenville, Ohio case, as well as other tragic stories about teenagers killing themselves because of what is posted on The Internet. I also look at the photographs of myself when I was a teenager, an unhappy teenager too, and recollect the mayhem and anguish I often felt so I could incorporate those emotions with my characters.”

Penny’s favorite books, both when she was a teen herself and now, are about adolescents figuring out how to live in their world.

“Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret was the first book that I felt was written especially for me,” she told me. “As with almost every middle school student, I adored To Kill A Mockingbird and as a teacher, taught the novel to every sixth grade class. I also loved such classics as A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, A Member of the Wedding and devoured anything written by S.E. Hinton. My favorite book right now is Dare Me by Megan Abbott, who I believe writes the most believable female teenager characters in fiction today.. Another terrific YA novel is STOLEN, by Lucy Christopher, which both my 83-year-old mother and me devoured in one sitting. Obviously the biggest difference between books in my past and books today is that the presence of the Internet. You can’t read a YA novel set today without also reading about texting, Instagram, Facebook, and other facets of social media. I wonder what Aldous Huxley would think of our brave new world.”

Penny thinks every YA writer can still remember every day in middle or high school; otherwise they would be writing another genre. She remembers being terrified of bullies in middle school, mean girls, the humiliating experience of not being invited to the “in” party, and the constant agony of not fitting in. In high school, she clearly remembers heartbreak.

“Falling in love for the first time is a very painful experience that I believe makes wonderful material for fiction,” she said.

“What do you envision happening in the YA field in the next five and ten years?” I asked.

“Definitely every YA book has to include social media. Who knows what will be the next Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Teenagers are addicted to social media, and I don’t see how that can change. My novel in progress, I Know What Boys Want, has almost all the characters completely addicted to their cell phones. Only one character eschews social media, and she is ostracized by her refusal to be trapped in the web. I also think even more adults will be reading YA fiction, and it won’t be called YA fiction anymore, but another term, perhaps cross over fiction.  I personally don’t like the term YA. A good book is a good book, be it about teenagers or adults.”

Penny feels that the greatest challenge teens face today is the abuse of social media as a way of bullying.

“As you can see in so many cases, teenagers post nasty comments and provocative pictures without the consent and the consequences often can be teenage suicide.  I really believe that teenagers, be it gaming or constantly twittering, lose contact with reality, and lose their moral compass as well,” she said. “I also feel there is too much pressure today with youth to get into the ‘best’ university, and that parents pressure them, from an early age, to be the ‘perfect’ student for an Ivy League school. And of course we live in the age of ‘photoshopping’, so no one is allowed not be beautiful. I’m concerned about weight issues with young women today, as well as prevalence of prescription drugs, such as Adderall, used to help students study ‘better.’ I hope I don’t sound too much like a pessimist because I still believe in the ambitions of today’s youth, but this is a difficult world right now.”

She’s driven to write books for this generation because she loves teenagers. When she read about the  Steubenville, Ohio, case or the suicide at Rutgers University, she got angry.  As a teacher, she saw bullying starting as young as second grade and wanted to write books about why this is happening.

“So many teens are creative, optimistic, funny and smart,” she told me. “They are our future. We need to write books about the next generation.”

Finally I asked, “What advice would you give to a new writer?”

“I may get in trouble here, but avoid MFA programs. Most of them train you to write in a certain way, and you will lose your original voice. MFA programs keep you in a bubble, and that is not a good place for creativity and vision. They are also remarkably expensive, and I know too many recent MFA graduates who are terribly in debt. My advice is travel, even on a shoestring budget. Go to places that make you feel uncomfortable. Seek environments that you don’t understand. Meet people who are completely different from you. Don’t be afraid of unglamorous work. I wrote a wonderful story after shelving books in a medical library. Read, read and read. Don’t get trapped in the Internet maze. Keep abreast of current political issues and they can inspire your work. Live in the real world. And don’t give up. If one novel doesn’t work, write another. Writing is very very hard. You need strong stamina and determination.”


About the Author:  5_3 Penny's_photo_for_publiciityI am a YA novelist and a produced playwright who lives in New York City. My YA novel, BECOMING THE BUTLERS, was chosen as one of the best YA novels of the year and optioned by Warner Brothers. My awards for writing include a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a Mirrielies Fellowship in writing from Stanford University and a Pushcart Prize for best published short story of the year, LA CHILD, about a teenage girl.

I taught middle and high school English for many years, and as a writer, I find it difficult to keep up with the changing social media that is changing teenagers’ lives. As a mother of a teenage girl,  I am very aware of the pressures these girls face from advertising, television and movies.

I am a proud graduate of Barnard College. I have a MA in creative writing from Boston University, and a MA in English Education from Teachers College of Columbia University. I have always lived in New York City, on the Upper West Side, and I don’t know how to drive.


5_3 Butlers_coverWhen Rachel Harris’s mother runs off to Spain with the super of their New York City apartment building, Rachel’s life takes a bizarre turn. Her eccentric father becomes obsessed with George Vasquez, the man who stole his wife: He wears George’s clothes, he shaves with his razor, and, to top it off, he moves George’s family into their apartment. The poignant and often funny journey Rachel and her father take to Madrid to hunt down her mother further cements her desire to shake her more than unusual family situation and find a new identity.

And who has a more perfect life than Olivia and Edwin Butler? So gorgeous and popular, they don’t really have friends, just hangers-on. And though Rachel doesn’t remember ever having spoken a word to them, her resolve becomes clear. She must find a way into the Butlers’ home and into their family.

In this marvelously compassionate first novel, Penny Jackson deftly depicts a young girl’s search for family – and her discovery that family is a state of mind.


INTERVIEW and giveaway: Mat Lazar and Amanda Thomas

Today, we are welcoming Matt Lazar and Amanda Thomas, the authors of Warrior Girl.  Leave a comment on this interview for a chance to win an autographed print copy of the book.

Matt published his first work, Cleveland and the Browns: An Oral and Narrative History, in 2002. Warrior Girl is his first novel. Amanda started writing at boarding school and, in her day job, does a lot of ghost writing for people who have a story to tell.

“I met an old school friend recently who reminded me that I used to sit at the back of the class writing stories to order for my classmates,” she told me.  “I don’t remember that but I know that I did write a lot of stories about very complicated family dynamics and I was always very interested in people.  My latest book entitled Shame is being written for Ray Poar, a man abused in a Young Offenders Institution by a prolific paedophile.  The case is being tried again in the UK as the people who stood my and did nothing are brought to account.  The degradation and deprivation of his childhood makes harrowing reading but the book is still a captivating read making you laugh and cry – often on the same page!”

Although Amanda has written all her life, she didn’t make it her main source of employment until about ten years ago.

“I had written a series of short stories that were accepted by a women’s magazine in the UK,” she said.  “The first time I saw my name in that weekly magazine with their illustrations bringing my story to life, I felt like a writer!”

Amanda told me that she and Matt have very different styles and almost came to blows over the editing for Warrior Girl.

“He’s a perfectionist and I am glad about that now,” she admitted. “I have to say that his severe editing style was the best thing for Warrior Girl although at the time I was not so sure!”

Who is your favorite author and why?” I asked them.

Matt replied, “James Clavell (Shogun, Noble House) – Clavell has a special ability to create epic characters and stories of massive scale that are also entertaining.”

Stephen King is Amanda’s favorite. She said, “I’ve always admired his descriptive talents that allow the reader to understand precisely what is going on any of his scenes; he was a way of describing human mannerisms and characteristics in a way that the reader recognises instantly.”

Amanda lives in the annex of a Manor House in the Cotswolds, a very beautiful area of England.  Her desk is next to a window that looks out on a dovecote.  On the wide window ledge she has an army of little creatures that move by way of small solar panels who keep her company.

“Amongst the little army of creatures,I have a little solar powered owl whose head twists back and forth when his solar panel is exposed to the light.   When I am writing I turn him either full into the light or away from it depending on the pace of the scene I am writing!”

Matt is from Cleveland and really loves the Indians, Cavs, and Browns.  He also prefers working with a co-writer and is currently working on the sequel to Warrior Girl.

When he’s writing, he tries to start with a new idea no one else has written about. Warrior Girl is the first novel where the game World of Warcraft is central to the part. Just after it was published, Matt got a letter from a woman who’s been playing World of Warcraft for five years and who told him how much she loved Sun Hi and the way WoW was depicted in the story.

“I was nervous about how the WOW community would respond to my novel, and this fan letter made me feel like my research had resulted in an authentic and fun story,” he said.

Amanda told me that as a ghost-writer, she’s written many books. Some of her favorites include some short books she wrote about carrier pigeons in World War II, but she admitted, “I have to say that Warrior Girl is my favorite not least because I enjoyed working with Matt Lazar so much!”

She would also pick Warrior Girl if she could choose a book to be made into a movie.

“I think the back drop of Oxford University and the ancient tradition of the boat race would make a great movie, not to mention the characters,” she said. “I would love to be able to cast them!”

About Matt: 4_24 matt_lazarWarrior Girl is Matt Lazar’s first novel. Matt lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and enjoys playing basketball in his spare time. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a master’s degree in liberal studies. His current projects include a sequel to Warrior Girl likely involving the game, Elder Scrolls.



4_24 amanda_thomasAbout Amanda: As a ghost-writer, Amanda has had many varied clients from a gangster to a kidnap victim. Her day may start with writing a steamy sex scene and end with another Tractor story for the under fives.  In between will be articles and broadcasts on UK Health Radio and on many other sites. Her most recent book is Warrior Girl written with American co-author Matt Lazar.

Amanda loves to write – anything! Her favorite typo was one that appeared in the Guardian where missing the ‘d’ off the report had, “Desmond Tutu being met at Heathrow by a small but enthusiastic crow (d)!”

4_24 wg_book-coverA beautiful young Korean girl, Sun Hi Kim, is beginning her first year at Oxford University. Thousands of miles away from home for the first time, she struggles to adjust to a different culture. Sun Hi befriends two English boys. Miles is a handsome final year student who is also captain of the Oxford rowing team. Adam, a first year student who is also a hunk, hero-worships Miles, his rowing idol.

Sun Hi knows that she’s naive and has never had a boyfriend, let alone an English boyfriend. Her first forays into desire very nearly end in disaster. Between rowing, her studies, boys, and an arrogant roommate, Sun Hi often feels overwhelmed. Playing World of Warcraft is the one thing she can do to escape her problems, at least for a little while.






<a href=””>Shawn Martin</a> is visiting with us here at Long and Short Reviews. His debut novel Shadowflesh is the first book in a series and was released in February by Vinspire Publishing.   The second book, Forget-Me-Not, will be released soon.   Leave a comment on today’s interview for an autographed copy of Shadowflesh.

Shadowflesh tells the story of Aileen, a sad girl who feels she can’t make it through another day.  After her family moves her halfway across the country, she finds herself an outcast in a new school.  When a group of bullies shoves her, she falls into the arms of Addison Wake.  And her world changes.  Addison is a seventeen year old who had been killed three hundred years ago, and his spirit was imprisoned by the enchantress who took his life.  When the enchantress hungers, she releases Addison into the mortal world to gather souls for her to consume.  Aileen falls for the handsome stranger, who confesses his dark secret to her.  When dead bodies start popping up throughout the town, Aileen begins to fear for her own life.  She has to decide if her love for Addison is worth the risk of possibly becoming his next victim.

“I’m currently working on the third book in the series, following Aileen on an adventure which takes her to a faraway place in another time, where she’s forced to run for her life and into the arms of someone who will love her forever,” he told me.

In addition to writing, Shawn is a firefighter. Part of the regulations of his job is that he has to fill out paperwork for a secondary job, so when Vinspire offered him the contract for Shadowflesh, he picked up the form from HR. One of the lines asked for the secondary job title.

“Immediately after I scribbled in the word ‘writer,’ it hit me.  I actually considered myself a writer and had the dinky little form to prove it,” he said.

Shawn began writing when he was a child. The winters were harsh, and there were times he found himself stuck inside and desperately seeking a creative outlet.

“One winter, I lost myself in writing a short story called ‘Corky the Killer Whale.’  It was a tale about a killer whale who had fallen in love with a submarine, and when those annoying Soviets launched an attack on the amorous vessel, Corky sacrificed himself to save his beloved,” he told me.  “My youthful heart tore in half, and I was hooked.”

Even though he enjoyed writing, he wanted to be a trial attorney when he grew up.

“I imagined myself wearing a suit, having a decent parking space, and saving the little guy against the big corporations.  I carried that ripening little dream with me into college, where I double-majored in Political Science and Economics,” he said.  “To further prepare me for a litigious life, I clerked for a law firm my last year of undergraduate school.  That’s when my dream dried up like a prune.  I wanted more out of life, and it took me a few years to find out exactly what that was.”

Between college and becoming a firefighter, Shawn worked as an inventory analyst for a large, very conservative company in Chicago.

“Halloween occurred on a Sunday, and a memo came out saying that employees could dress up for work.  On Monday, not Friday,” he said.  “I showed up Friday dressed as a pirate with a thin mustache and beard inked onto my face, a stuffed parrot on my shoulder, and cap and ball pistols at my side.  Yeah, that was embarrassing, but then I had to give a presentation to a group of clients that morning and didn’t have time to change.  I wasn’t exactly a jolly Roger.”

In Shawn’s opinion, good writing must have three basic elements. First, the characters have to be real, with the hero or heroine having some flaws and weaknesses, and the villain some virtues. Second, the research must be sound—if the story is set in London, the author must know if Big Ben has numbers or Roman numerals.  He also must know the smell of spring, the sound of birds, and the taste of soda bread. Finally, the style. The words and paragraphs are the picture frame in which the masterpiece is placed and should be crafted carefully.

I asked Shawn to describe his writing space.

“I write at an old ugly desk in a quiet corner of my house.  To my left is a skull with runic symbols carved into it, identical to Bob from the television series The Dresden Files.  A battered dictionary, stained thesaurus, and dog-eared baby name book sit behind my computer.  To the right, a few melted candles and incense box nag me for a light.  A sloppy stack of papers filled with research notes and one-liners hovers to my right.  Every once in a while a cup of tea or a can of Coke graces my writing space, but it’s rare.”

The hardest part of writing for Shawn is forcing himself to ignore interruptions, because if he answers every phone call, every email, and every tweet, he loses his rhythm and slips away from his character’s voice. He slips in ear-buds when he writes, listens to music, and shuts everything out. He also slips a heating pad behind his back—seven years ago while he was on a fire, he fell from a balcony and broke his back. Even though he recovered, the injury still pains him to the point of distraction.

The scariest moment of Shawn’s life didn’t happen when he fell off that balcony, though. When his wife was eight months pregnant, she called him at work and told him she was in labor.

“Like the good father I hoped to be, I dropped everything and rushed to my aspiring family’s side.  After several hours of huffing and pushing, my son was born.  But he didn’t cry.  The umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck, leaving his face a heart-stopping shade of gray.  The doctor and nurses worked to resuscitate him.  I stood by my wife’s side, feeling completely helpless.  I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t think.  I could do nothing but give my wife meaningless assurance.  What felt like hours, but probably was a minute or so, my son wailed out his first cry.  And he’s been vocal ever since.”

“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?” I wondered.

“While working on Forget-Me-Not, I needed to get a good perspective on palm reading.  I read up on palmistry and even had my own palm read.  But what I really needed was to see what a palm reader saw in the subject’s eyes and felt in her hands.  I met a young lady one evening and struck up a conversation.  I asked her if she had ever had her palm read, and she said no but always wanted to.  I told her I was a pro and she bought it, letting me bumble my way through the lines in her hands.  I remember the skepticism on her face, the way her brows knit when I stumbled onto her secrets, the way her lips hinted at a smile when I told her of a bright future.”


4_10 Shawn - pic to RTAbout the Author  Shawn Martin lives with his unconventional wife, two amazing sons, and a clowder of cats in Missouri. After graduating from Missouri State University with mostly harmless majors in Economics and Political Science, he took to the road rather than enrolling in law school.

When he finally settled down in 1995, he became a firefighter. Aside from rescuing cats in trees and removing burnt pot roasts from ovens, he spends his time finding the hardest way to do the simplest of things. The rest of his time is spent working on the next book in the Shadowflesh Series.


4_10 ShadowFlesh 200x300 (2)Death and darkness lurk in the shadows, awakening the flesh and forbidden love. Torn from her home and fighting bouts of suicidal depression, seventeen year old Aileen McCormick lands in the small coastal town of Redcliff, North Carolina. Her first day of school promises to be the worst day of her life when a menacing group of boys target the new girl. Shoved into the arms of arms of Addison Wake, she knows she’ll never be the same. Addison’s otherworldly charm and drop-dead gorgeous face leave her breathless, but only for a moment. Grim and painful secrets lurk in his dark soul.

Addison Wake isn’t exactly like other boys. Far from it. He’s dead and has been for 300 years, locked in an ethereal prison by a lethal enchantress named Donelle. When she hungers, she blesses Addison’s tortured spirit with moments of freedom, allowing him to roam the mortal world as Shadowflesh. But that dark blessing comes at a price. He must deliver the souls of five unsuspecting humans to Donelle. Knowing he’s here only for a short amount of time, Addison refuses to let himself fall in love and break Aileen’s already fractured heart. He pushes her into the arms of another, but destiny throws the two shadowy lovers back together. In the darkness of her room, Addison confesses his love and his deadly secret to Aileen.

When four dead bodies pop up in Redcliff, Aileen asks herself is her love for the mysterious boy unconditional? Is the love worth the risk? And will she be the next victim?




Long and Short Reviews welcomes Arthur J Gonzalez, whose debut novel The Photo Traveler was recently released. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Arthur is currently working on the second book in the Photo Traveler series, called The Peace Hunter. He’s also working on another untitled YA novel dealing with the end of the world, as well as a more adult-geared novel regarding Greek mythology set in the 21st century called The Olympian Chronicles.

“Think True blood of Greek Mythology,” he explained. “Quote me now…it…will…be…EPIC! ? As a young reader, I loved THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and anything surrounding Greek Mythology. The whole fantasy aspect is still there. It’s a way to escape the realities of our own world and imagine what life would be like given these situations.”

When Arthur was growing up, he didn’t want to be a writer; he wanted to be a doctor and went to college for medicine. He thought it’s what he was supposed to do for success.

“The passion I have for creating was never there for medicine,” he told me. “But I learned success shouldn’t be graded on monetary variables, but on the level of fulfillment you have in your life.”
Currently, his favorite author is Veronica Roth.

“It’s not solely due to her writing style and story-telling ability, but what she has done for young authors is amazing,” he said. “She has inspired me, personally. She deserves all the success coming her way. It just goes to show different the publishing world is and long gone are the days are Best-Sellers being older individuals. She represents a new age and I applaud her endlessly for that.”

The hardest part of writing for Arthur is the editing.

“It’s a never ending process! Even after the book is released I find myself editing and critiquing the work. I imagine this is how parents feel when their children grow up and they worry about them feverishly as if they were five,” he told me. “Now I can relate more to my mom when she calls me twenty times in a row because I didn’t pick up the first 18 times and she thought I may have died or fallen or been abducted. Love that crazy lady of mine.”

When Arthur isn’t writing, he likes to laugh and make memories. Because life is so short, he tries to soak every moment he has. He learned at an early age how important this is because his father passed away at 48 years old, without any warning. It was the saddest and scariest day of Arthur’s life and he decided then that he wanted to make sure he enjoyed very breathing moment of his life.

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

“I discovered I have a knack for creating genuine characters. It’s something important to me and (I think) I do a pretty good job at it. (Hopefully others feel the same way and I’m not ‘that guy’ patting himself on the shoulder while everyone laughs,” he said.

Arthur likes the idea of inspiring youth to read. When he was a teenager, he didn’t read often, but he’s come to appreciate reading on a whole different level. Now he’s borderline obsessed with reading.
“What is your most embarrassing moment?” I wondered.

“I was having the best day ever one day after school. It was the third day of my junior high school year. So there I am, crossing the street with the goofiest smile on my face after a successful Student Government meeting and BAM! I get struck by a F-350 pick-up.(Yes F-350!) And you want to know the worst part? I was justhit by a damn car and the first thing I thought of as I peeled myself from the ground was, ‘I hope no one saw that.’ Sometimes, I crack myself up. The goof news- no broken bones, only internal bruising.”

About the Author: THE PHOTO TRAVELER is young adult author Arthur J. Gonzalez’s first novel. Arthur was born and raised in Miami surrounded by his loud Cuban family. He graduated from the University of Florida, where he acquired his coffee obsession and his chocolate hoarding antics. He’s the proud father of one baby girl, Sookie–his miniature schnoodle dog. Arthur is a self-professed goofball who spends 98% of his life laughing. He’s now working on his second novel.

Amazon for Purchase: “http://”>
Official website:
twitter: arthurjgonzalez

Seventeen-year-old Gavin Hillstone is resigned to being miserable for the rest of his life. Left alone in the world after his parents died in a fire when he was four, he was placed in foster care, which for him meant ending up in an abusive home with an alcoholic adoptive father.

Gavin’s only escape is in taking and creating images. His camera is his refuge from the unending torture and isolation of daily life in his “family.”

Until he learns by accident that he isn’t alone in the world after all. His father’s parents are still alive and living in Washington DC.

When he takes the plunge and travels 3,000 miles to find his grandparents, he learns that they—and he—are part of something much bigger, and more dangerous, than he could ever have imagined. Something that has always put his family at risk and that will now threaten his own life, while forever changing it.

He learns that he is one of the last descendants of a small group of Photo Travelers—people who can travel through time and space through images. But his initial excitement turns to fear, when he soon discovers that he and his grandparents are being pursued by the fierce remnants of a radical European Photo Traveler cult, the Peace Hunters. What Gavin has, they want!

His adventure will take him to past eras, like The Great Depression and the Salem Witch Trials. Gavin will have to discover who he really is and must make choices that spell the difference between life and death for himself, for the relatives he now knows and loves, and for the girl he will come to love.

For Gavin Hillstone, life will never be the same.

INTERVIEW and Giveaway: Melanie Robertson-King

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Melanie Robertson-King, whose debut novel A Shadow in the Past is now available. Leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of the book (US and Canada only please).

Melanie is currently working on the second book in the series, Shadows from her Past. I asked her to tell us a little bit about it.

“I’d love to tell you more but don’t want to include spoilers. Can I leave it at read the blurb of my current book, then think about the title of my work-in-progress? I think that will give you an idea of what the next book will be about,” she said.

Melanie grew up as an only child and books were her best friends.

“I still have a number of my childhood favorites on my bookcases today,” she admitted. “I guess it was a natural progression from reading to writing. Years later, I did the newsletter for an organization I belonged to which got me back into it. That led to writing short stories but I would say that my biggest inspiration to start writing seriously, with the idea of publication came after reading the first four books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.”

Even though she’s been writing off and on since she was about thirteen, being an author as a career choice never entered her mind. When she was in secondary school, she decided she wanted to be an accountant. Off she went to college, but it wasn’t for her. Years later, she went back to school and studied computer programming—landing a job where she was able to use those skills in a limited capacity.

“In the end, while I’m still with the same company, I’m working in payroll where I work with numbers… lots and lots of numbers,” she told me. “Looks like I didn’t deviate as far from the accountant career as once thought since I report to accountants and have to defend my numbers.”

Melanie is from Brockville, Ontario, Canada, and still lives in the city. She likes it because it’s small enough you can know your neighbors well, but large enough you still have some anonymity.

“I live close enough to the downtown that I can walk to the shops down there. In addition, we have a beautiful waterfront (Brockville is on the shore of the St. Lawrence River) with a network of walking/bike paths along it and meandering through the city,” she said. “In the summer it’s a pleasant walk to start at our house and follow the entire network.”

Her father was raised in a Scottish orphanage after the death of his mother, but he wasn’t an orphan. In 1930, he came to Canada as part of the 100,000+ children who were sent out from the UK and became known as ‘home children.’ Her first published article was a piece on William Quarrier who founded the Orphan Homes of Scotland where her father had been raised.

A Shadow in the Past is set in the area in Scotland where her father was born (Aberdeenshire) and she mentions the orphanage in my book. Since she’s living in Canada, she had to do a lot of online research. She bought a number of books that would help her with the Victorian customs specific to Scotland and contacted people and organizations in Aberdeenshire (Aberdeen Central Library, Aberdeen and Northeast Scotland Family History Society, among others). She was also lucky enough to have traveled to the area a number of times before she started writing the novel, so she had many photos to look at and to help her remember the area.

“Google maps streetviews has been invaluable, too, but it took a long time for the heart of Aberdeen to be available,” Melanie told me. “Thankfully, it’s only a small portion of my book that takes place in the city proper and I had obtained copies of pages from the city directory for the year I needed.”

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

“That’s a no-brainer. I’d be on the first plane to Scotland in a heartbeat, although I have visions of Paris creeping into one of my future books. I’ve been there, too, so have lots of photos and the city is well ‘streetviewed’. Still it’s not the same as being there and smelling the freshly baked baguettes and croissants wafting out of the patisseries. And Paris boasts two Scottish pubs – The Auld Alliance and The Highlander. So best of both worlds in one city. And once you’re in either France or Scotland, the high-speed rail through the chunnel gets you from one place to the other quickly.”

“As an adult, how do you keep your finger on the pulse of today’s youth?” I wondered.

“My sixteen-year old grandson lives with me and although he keeps a lot of stuff bottled up inside, it gives me insight into what he’s going through and likely a lot of kids I don’t know. I keep my ears open at work and absorb the lunch hour/water cooler conversations with co-workers with teens.

“What challenges do you think teens face today that you did not?”

“I think the challenges are the same but the technology is different. Bullying has existed for years and will continue but with Facebook and Twitter and other social networks, the bullying of old has grown exponentially. Cyberbullying is something that is something that I never had to experience. I was bullied one year in elementary school (grade 2) and then in secondary school for the first couple of years. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end and it’s not pleasant. I can’t imagine going through it all again and having it splashed all over social media. Peer pressure is still there as are recreational drugs but now there are a lot more to experiment with and (as in my teen years) the pressure is still there to take them. Mental health issues are out in the open more and once a bully gets hold of that, a kid’s life is screwed. When I grew up, people with mental health issues were shuffled off to psychiatric hospitals – out of sight, out of mind. Thankfully people are no longer sequestered to the asylum but were we really doing them any favors?”

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

“I know it’s easier said than done but don’t let rejections bother you. Develop a thick skin because you’ll need it. Seek out and take advice from people who have been there, done that. Join a writers’ group and if none exist in your area, start one. Writing is a solitary occupation so surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you. But even more important than what I’ve already mentioned is read and read lots. Read different genres. It will help you develop your writer’s voice and increase your vocabulary.”

About the Author:2_15 Melanie author photo 500x590 Always a fan of the written word, Brockville born and raised, Melanie spent many of her formative years reading.

The writing bug first bit when she was about thirteen, but the itch subsided and it wasn’t until a number of years later that she put “pen to paper” and began writing again.

Prior to returning to fiction, Melanie wrote articles for various publications for a number of years and has been published in Canada, the US and the UK.

In addition to writing, her interests include genealogy, photography and travel – especially to Scotland, although Paris rates high on her “must return to” bucket list as well. On one of her trips to Scotland, she had the honor of meeting The Princess Royal, Princess Anne.

Author Website:
Author Blog: Celtic Connexions
Facebook Author Page: “″>
Twitter Account: @RobertsoKing

2_15 a shadow in the past cover 500x773 Nineteen-year-old Sarah Shand finds herself thrust back into the past. There she struggles to keep her real identity from a society that finds her comments and ideas strange and her speech and actions forward, unlike Victorian women. When Sarah verbally confronts confining social practices, including arranged marriages, powerful enemies commit her to a lunatic asylum. After falling in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, Robert Robertson, she must decide whether to find her way back to her own time or to remain in the past with him.

INTERVIEW and Giveaway: Adrienne Clarke

2_11 VBT To Dance In Liradon Banner
This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Adrienne will be awarding winner’s choice of a Kindle touch, Nook Simple Touch, or a $100 Apple gift card, and one crystal Faerie necklace similar to what Brigid wore to the Faerie ball to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Adrienne Clarke, who is visiting with us as part of her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions.

Adrienne, when did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I fell in love with storytelling in all its forms at a very early age, and I always understood it was something I wanted to do.

What inspired you to write?

Books inspired me to write. Reading so many wonderful stories inspired me to write my own. The craft of using words to create imaginary worlds that enrich other peoples’ lives, including my own, is amazing to me.

Why do you choose Young Adult Fantasy Romance as a genre?

I’ve always been drawn to YA fiction for its passion and idealism, but I’m not really aware of having a chosen a particular genre. I simply strive to write the kinds of books I like to read. Although much of my work contains fantastical elements, I also write literary fiction, mystery, and psychological horror.

Is To Dance in Liradon your first book?

To Dance in Liradon is my first published book, but not the first book I wrote. My first novel, Losing Adam, is still looking for a home.

Did you find it difficult to have it published?

Except for the lucky few, most writers seem to find the process of finding a publisher extremely challenging. Patience and perseverance are definitely required. Whenever anyone asks me for advice I always say the same thing: Don’t give up!

Where do you get the necessary inspiration?

I think inspiration is everywhere – you just need to open yourself up to different possibilities. So much of writing is daring to live the unlived life – to ask yourself: What if?

How do you deal with criticism?

I try to learn from criticism – use it to make my work better. The best way to do this is to surround yourself with people you trust; people who are good readers as well as writers. Of course, you also need to accept criticism from agents and editors. This doesn’t mean you have to accept everything they say about your work, but you do need to think deeply on the feedback you receive, so you can distinguish between constructive criticism and comments that are just a matter of personal taste.

Does your writing need a lot of research?

Yes! I’ve done a lot of research for all my books. It’s more than just getting the details right – it’s about capturing the right tone – the right emotional intensity for the story. The novel I’m working on right now is a ghost story/romance set in Victorian London so I’ve been doing a ton of research on the Victorian period, especially ghosts, séances, and spirit mediums.

I’m looking forward to reading that one—I love the Victorian age! Do your own studies help you in the creation of your characters?

My characters come to me in a variety of ways, but my professional life, or day job you might say, has certainly influenced my writing life. I’ve spent a lot of time at universities working with students, trying to understand their fears and insecurities, and that helped me to develop the voices of the characters in my first novel Losing Adam, who also happen to be university students.

Is there anything you want to tell the readers?

Only thank you so much for visiting me today. My favorite thing about being a writer is the opportunity to connect with readers. If you’re interested in To Dance in Liradon or any of the things I’ve talked about I hope you’ll drop a line, tweet, post, whatever! I love to chat.

About the Author: 2_11 AuthorPicI think I became a writer because the world inside my head was so real and vivid, sometimes more so than the outside world. In some sense I have lived parallel lives, present in my real and imaginary lives in different ways. Because much of my childhood was spent searching for faeries or reading about them, it is natural that my work encompasses fairy tale themes and other magical elements. In the words of Tennessee Williams, forget reality, give me magic!

I have previously published short stories in The Storyteller, Beginnings Magazine, New Plains Review, and in the e-zines A Fly in Amber, Grim Graffiti, Les Bonnes Fees, The Altruist, The Devilfish Review, and Rose Red Review. My short story, “Falling,” was awarded second place in the 2008 Alice Munro short fiction contest. To Dance in Liradon is my first published novel.

I am an avid reader of fairy tales and other magical stories and a thread of the mysterious or unexpected runs through all of my work. When I’m not writing, I can be found searching for faeries along with my daughters Callista and Juliet.

Find me online at:


2_11 Cover_ToDanceInLiradonSeventeen-year-old Brigid O’Flynn is an outcast. A chance encounter with the Faerie Queen left her tainted in the eyes of the villagers, who blame the Faerie for the village’s missing women and children. Desperate to win the village’s acceptance, Brigid agrees to marry her childhood friend: Serious, hardworking, Connell Mackenna. But when Connell disappears before their wedding, Brigid’s hopes are shattered. Blamed for her fiancé’s death, Brigid fears she will suffer the same fate as the other village outcasts, the mysterious Willow Women. Lured into Faerie by their inhuman lovers, and cast out weak and broken, the Willow Women spend their lives searching for the way back into Faerie. When Connell suddenly reappears, Brigid is overjoyed, but everything is not as it seems. Consumed by his desire for beauty and celebration, Connell abandons his responsibilities, and Brigid soon finds herself drawn into a passionate, dangerous world of two.

When Brigid discovers the truth behind Connell’s transformation she’s forced to choose between two men and two worlds. Brigid’s struggle leads her into glittering, ruthless Faerie, where she must rescue her true love from a terrible sacrifice or lose him forever.