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Monday, December 31, 2012

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: JUSTIN ROBINSON

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The Timeless Lessons of Christmas Movies
A holiday guest post by Justin Robinson, author of Mr Blank


Okay, so it’s Christmas, and you’re trying to come up with a way to pass the hours between opening presents and Christmas dinner without clubbing your brother with something heavy. This calls for a Christmas movie, either one of the many showings of It’s a Wonderful Life, or possibly TNT’s all-day marathon of A Christmas Story. We all know what these classics teach us, but did you know there are other Christmas movies that are like getting shot in the face with a double-barreled awesome cannon? Those movies teach lessons, too, so pick the one most appropriate for your family!

Die Hard: Everyone knows Die Hard is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. John McClane kills a bunch of ’80s euro-trash whose convoluted plan is to pass off a robbery as a dastardly act of international terrorism. It’s like stealing a pie off someone’s windowsill by murdering everyone in the neighborhood.

Timeless Lesson: If you don’t come home for the holidays, your wife will be killed by terrorists.

Lethal Weapon: Murtaugh might be too old for this shit, but we’re just the right age! The perfect ’80s buddy cop film featuring a mismatched duo of public servants. Plus, nothing beats Mel Gibson and Gary Busey in a deathmatch over who can be more convincingly insane.

Timeless Lesson: The most effective suicide prevention treatment is the systematic murder of an entire drug cartel.

Gremlins: Dad needs to buy his son Billy the perfect gift, and wouldn’t you know it, he finds a Furby ten years before they’re even invented. Problem is, these things are seriously defective and spawn a legion of hilariously murderous snot-green monsters.

Timeless Lesson: Read the instructions on your gifts. Follow them to the letter.

Better Off Dead: Someone has dumped John Cusack. Quick, every girl who came of age in the ’80s! Go comfort him! You’d never dump John Cusack. He’s far too soulful and adorable. Eventually, he finds himself one of the greatest movie girlfriends of all time, and beats a guy named Stalin at skiing.

Timeless Lesson: Just pay the two dollars already.

Cobra: Stallone is mad about something, but I don’t know what because it’s Stallone and no one ever taught him how to talk. He’s... doing stuff, I guess. Mostly shooting presumably bad guys with a laser-sighted pistol that’s bigger than most small breeds of dog. Christmas is only acknowledged by a single small tree on someone’s desk.

Timeless Lesson: Guurrr thrhh hraaah

Prometheus: A group of “scientists” who seem to have only a passing acquaintance with their apparent areas of expertise go off into space and get themselves killed in hilarious and easily-preventable ways.

Timeless Lesson: A degree from the University of Phoenix does not qualify you to explore Lovecraftian alien ruins.

Doubt: Meryl Streep is pretty sure Philip Seymour Hoffman molested a kid, but mostly because he’s a weird creep. She spends all her spare time trying to get him defrocked, which is what started all this business in the beginning.

Timeless Lesson: Philip Seymour Hoffman is a weird creep.

The Box: Richard Kelly has a nervous breakdown in script form. A whole bunch of stuff happens involving aliens, the 1970s, and Britta from Community. None of it makes a lick of sense.

Timeless Lesson: If a guy shows up with half his face missing, listen to that man. He is not kidding around.

One of those has to speak to your family. So sit down in front of one of these Christmas classics and enjoy!

About the Author: Much like film noir, Justin Robinson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He splits his time between editing comic books, writing prose and wondering what that disgusting smell is. Degrees in Anthropology and History prepared him for unemployment, but an obsession with horror fiction and a laundry list of phobias provided a more attractive option.

Where to Buy: From the publisher (where all eBooks are DRM-free and all paperbacks come with a free digital copy): http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com/shop/mr-blank
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Blank-Justin-Robinson/dp/193646036X
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mr-blank-justin-robinson/1110389202?ean=9781936460366
Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Mr-Blank/book-50gkksbYPkqOWGolT2a6UQ/page1.html?s=U1MDDYDaD0O8QN_pB7USdA&r=1

Monday, December 17, 2012

STUFF YOUR STOCKING BLOGFEST: HEATHER HAVEN

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Jingle All The Way
By
Heather Haven


I love Christmas. Always have. Ever since I found out the tubby guy in the red suit did NOT give me those presents once a year, I’ve been on a high. Let’s face it, Santa’s a little weird. Definitely someone my doctor would want to talk to about his weight. Further, what’s with the white trim, fella? Everybody knows when you’re a short zaftig person, the last thing you need is white fur running horizontally around your belly. I mean, come on. Talk about no clue.

When it’s all said and done, I really like it that my mom, a single, struggling mother of two, always managed to put something under that tree year after year. True, often it was a pair of much needed shoes, socks, or underwear. Occasionally, though, it was the gift of gold - new skates, a book, and once, when I turned fourteen, a portable typewriter. My childhood, you see, took place during the Punic Wars, when a computer or iPad was just a gleam in a yet-to-be-born entrepreneurial eye.

I remember opening up that typewriter like it was yesterday. The goldest of gold. Small enough to haul around with you wherever you went. The very thing for a fledgling, young writer. Ah, the prose, the poetry, the stories that typewriter helped me write! I wish I had it now; it was pure magic.

I believe the act of giving is Christmas. It’s all of us when we’re at our best. We don’t need those we love to sit on our knee and rattle off a wish list. We know their heart’s desires, just as they know ours. If we can make those desires a reality, we will. Christmas is love, hope, and the giving of ourselves.

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he’s you.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Heather's short story "Socks."



Persephone Cole and the Christmas Killings Conundrum

In late December, 1942, Persephone (Percy) Cole, one of Manhattan's first female PIs, has been hired to find out who killed a Santa Land elf and left the body in the storefront window of a swank 5th Avenue jewelry store. Was it the spoiled heiress whose big buck handbag was found on the scene? Or was it the rat who broke out of the big house to settle a score? Shortly after, the corpse of the Christmas Angel is discovered stuffed in Mrs. Santa's workshop. Will Santa Claus be next? With a penchant for Marlene Dietrich suits, pistachio nuts and fedora hats, this working mother finds diamonds to the left of her, diamonds to the right, and skullduggery aplenty. Armed with her noodle and a WW I German Mauser, Percy is determined to solve these crimes or it just might be the 'kiss off' for Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

INTERVIEW: FRANK NAPPI

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Nobody Has to Know. Click the tour banner above to see the other stops on the tour.

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Frank Nappi, whose newest book is now out.



Nobody Has To Know, Frank Nappi's dark and daring new thriller, tells the story of Cameron Baldridge, a popular high school teacher whose relationship with one of his students leads him down an unfortunate and self-destructive path. Stalked through text-messages, Baldridge fights for his life against a terrifying extortion plot and the forces that threaten to expose him.

Nobody Has To Know is a sobering look into a world of secrets, lies, and shocking revelations, and will leave the reader wondering many things, including whether or not you can ever really know the person you love.


LASR: What inspired you to start writing?

Frank: I feel as though I have always had the desire to put words on paper. It goes way back for me. I have a vague recollection of when I first began writing. I can remember writing a story when I was very young - maybe five or six years old. It was about a king who rescues a girl and makes her his queen. Not really sure where the idea came from, or even how good it was. I just remember my mom typing it for me when I was finished and that image always makes me smile. As time went on, this very powerful, ineffable need to write led me to the publication of several short essay pieces in Newsday’s “500 Words or Less” column. This was very gratifying for me but only fueled this desire to produce more substantial work -- something like a novel. However, as the cliche goes, I lacked the proper muse or inspiration. I just did not know what it was I was going to write about. And I did not want my first effort to be gratuitous in any way; it needed to be something poignant, something close to my heart. Then I met two very special WWII veterans - Mr. Bill McGinn and Mr. Eddie Hynes -- during a Veterans Speaker Program that I initiated at Oceanside High School for my classes, I was moved like never before. The stories they told me, and our subsequent friendship, became the basis for my award winning Echoes From The Infantry. I have been writing ever since. Thank you Bill and Eddie.

LASR: Who is your favorite author and why?

Frank: My favorite author is probably the favorite author of every writer - or at least he should be. F.Scott Fitzgerald was a linguistic genius. He understood the rhythm of the written word the way a composer understands musical notes. There is such an ease and natural flow to his work - tantamount to the way the birds sing. It’s seamless, beautiful and moving. The Great Gatsby, his signature work, embodies all of these qualities like no other work of American fiction. Many of Fitzgerald’s shorter works possess this same artfulness.

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

Frank: Well, as you know, Nobody Has to Know is a dark and somewhat daring psychological thriller that, tells the story of Cameron Baldridge, a popular high school teacher whose relationship with one of his students leads him down an unfortunate and self-destructive path. Stalked through text-messages, Baldridge fights for his life against a terrifying extortion plot and the forces that threaten to expose him. Nobody Has to Know is a sobering look into a world of secrets, lies, and shocking revelations, and will leave the reader wondering many things, including whether or not you can ever really know the person you love. On a more profound level, Nobody Has To Know illustrates how the landscape of our past influences our present and how, sadly, some of these more indelible moments hold us prisoner for the duration of our lives. However, what few people realize is that the ending of the original story was very different. I will not go into too much detail for obvious reasons, but I will say that initially, much of the “action” in the story was revealed to the reader at the end as “just a dream sequence.” It wasn’t until I realized that readers might feel cheated and/or duped that I decided to alter it.

LASR: Describe your writing space.

I suppose my writing space is not that unlike those of other authors. Well...maybe that’s not entirely true. I do most of my writing in my office at home, a modest room with walls adorned with my most treasured baseball memorabilia, highlighted by a beautiful 16X20 black and white Cooperstown signed photo of Ted Williams which hangs right over my desk. I have other wonderful items in the room as well, including game used spikes signed by Tony Gwynn, an autographed Sports Illustrated cover celebrating Hank Aaron’s 715th home run and two Shea Stadium seats that I acquired after the Mets shut down the old place. There’s lots more as well. My actual desk is littered with items you would expect any author to have handy -- some practical and germane to the writing process and some which hover I suppose in the realm of the idiosyncratic I suppose. I have plenty of pens and pencils, a clock, an old fashioned dictionary, and other office supply stuff like paper clips, tape, staples, etc. The more colorful items cluttering my desktop include a tiny wooden Hemingway House replica I bought while in Key West, a 12 inch Batman figure, New York Met Bobblehead, San Diego Sno Globe, lots of loose family photos and an F.Scott Fitzgerald magnetic finger puppet I received as a gift. It is quite an odd amalgamation of things but it works for me!

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

Frank: Well writing is a broad term; it includes everything that is written. If you are asking about what makes a novel a good novel, that is a little more manageable. In any great work, one that resonates with the reader, there needs to be authenticity with regard to the characters. If a reader does not invest in the characters, the author’s message is lost. It is my experience that “real characters” think and act just as real folks would. There is nothing contrived about their existence – their words and emotional responses to situations are emblematic of those of real people. This can be accomplished in part through the use of flashbacks, which become windows into the psyches of these individuals. If a reader knows where a character has been, where he is presently becomes far more plausible. I also feel that attention to craft in language is essential to capturing an audience. The way someone tells a story is at times as important as the story itself.

LASR: What comes first, the plot or characters?

Frank: That is an excellent question, one that so many of the students in my Creative Writing classes ask all the time. The truth is, it happens both ways. My first novel, Echoes From The Infantry, began with a very complex character who suffers from the insidious residue of WWII. He was fully developed in my mind before I ever wrote one word. The fictional framework came later on. In the first Mickey Tussler novel, it was just the opposite. I had already written a first chapter before I ever really knew exactly who my protagonist was going to be. The same is true for my latest novel, Nobody Has To Know. This is the beauty of the writing process. Stories come from so many different places and are executed in so many different ways.

LASR: What is a talent you wish you had, but don't?"

Frank: The ability to play the piano. I love piano music.

LASR: Weather: Hot or cold?

Frank: Definitely hot. If I never saw another snowflake again I would be just fine.

LASR: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Frank: I am milk phobic. It’s a long story, but it involves a rather tepid container of expired milk and a tyrannical first grade teacher. Enough said.

LASR: Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.

Frank: About a year after Echoes From The Infantry was published by St. Martin’s Press,I received an email from a man in Tennessee. His letter was not so much one of admiration for my writing as it was a confession of sorts. It seems that this gentleman grew up with a WWII veteran for a father -- a man who resembled very much my James McCleary. His relationship with his father was fractious and strained in ways similar to what I described in the book. However, his father passed away before he ever had the chance to reconcile some of these feelings that existed between the two of them. Even though this gentleman from Tennessee knew my story was fiction, he was able to gain insight into his father's mien and temperament and used the book’s ending as a vehicle through which he could finally obtain closure and move on. He told me that my novel saved his life. I’m not sure that I will ever receive another letter that will mean more to me than this one.

LASR: Have you ever eaten a crayon?

Frank: Not to my knowledge, but I think I swallowed a fairly large piece of a cherry Chapstick once and I am not ashamed to say it tasted pretty good.


About the Author:Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty years. His debut novel, Echoes From The Infantry, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Frank continues to produce quality work, including Sophomore Campaign, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story, and is presently at work on a third installment of the unique series. Frank lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

Find him online at

http://www.franknappi.com/blog.html
https://www.facebook.com/authorfranknappi
https://twitter.com/FrankNappi

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

EXCERPT: LAST DINER STANDING by Terri Austin




This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Terri will be awarding one commenter at every stop a signed bookmark and a cover postcard (USA/Canada Only), and one randomly drawn commenter on the tour will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon or B&N, winner's choice. Click the tour banner above to see the rest of the stops on her tour.



Rose Strickland is having a blue Christmas. Her friend is arrested for attempted murder, her sexy bad guy crush is marked by a hit man, and her boss is locked in an epic smackdown with a rival diner. Determined to save those she loves, Rose embarks on an investigation more tangled than a box of last year's tree lights. With her eclectic gang at the ready, Rose stumbles across dead bodies, ex-cons, chop shops, jealous girlfriends, jilted lovers, and a gaggle of strippers in a battle for freedom she might not survive.

Read an exclusive excerpt from Last Diner Standing:

“Any other names you want to give me? What about Roshanda?”

“Asshat’s sister? I know she lives down by Oakwood Elementary, but I don’t have her address or anything.”

“Do you know who else Asshat was dating? Or Flat Ass’s name?”

He sighed. “I don’t keep track of his social life.” His eyes took in Roxy, from her platform Mary Janes to her blue hair. “I’m thinking about my own extra-curriculars.”

Tariq fenced stolen crap and Roxy used to be a juvenile delinquent. She still missed the thrill of taking things that weren’t strictly hers, so I wondered at the wisdom of this Tariq/Roxy matchup. It had fire and gasoline written all over it.

I shoved my hands in the pockets of my jacket and glanced at the gloomy sky once more. I was going to have to invest in some gloves.

“Thanks, Tariq.” I tugged on Roxy’s sleeve. “Call me if you think of anything that can help Janelle.” I pulled her toward the car and we waved at Tariq as I peeled out.

“Want to hit the strip club?” I asked. “I have just enough time before I have to get ready for my parents’ party.”

“Yep,” Roxy said. “So what are these Strickland shindigs like, anyway? Fancy food you can’t pronounce and champagne?”

“Pony kegs and beer bongs all the way.”

She snorted. “Yeah, I can picture your mom with a funnel tube in her mouth. Seriously, are they any fun at all?”

“Not even a little.”

About the Author:
Terri L. Austin lives in Missouri with her funny, handsome husband and a high maintenance peekapoo. She’s the author of Diners, Dives and Dead Ends—a Rose Strickland Mystery. “Austin’s debut kicks off her planned series by introducing a quirky, feisty heroine and a great supporting cast of characters and putting them through quite a number of interesting twists.” Kirkus Reviews

Find Terri online at

http://terrilaustin.com/
http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAustin
http://www.twitter.com/TerriLAustin
http://www.goodreads.com/TerriLAustin
http://www.linkedin.com/in/TerriLAustin
https://plus.google.com/114753055559800020620
https://pinterest.com/terrilaustin

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

INTERVIEW and Giveaway: HAROL MARSHALL

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Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Shadow Cabinet Long and Short Reviews welcomes Harol Marshall, who was named after her father's brother, Harold. Her father dropped the 'd' to make it a feminine name.

In addition to The Shadow Cabinet, Harol's first political thriller, she's written four mystery novels, a short story anthology, Growing Up With Pigs, and a stage play, Our New Thing.

I asked her which was her favorite.

"Choosing a favorite is like asking a mother to name her favorite child, because I like them all, though in different ways. My two Mexico novels (A Corpse for Cuamantla and A Corpse for the Matadora) are brimming with stories of life in Mexico and bring back memories of my time living there. I like my two P.I. novels (Holy Death and Holy Mole Murder) because of the quirky characters. My play is about two retired Mafiosos who decide to go into business as investment bankers because 'investment banks were made for guys like us,' which I find hysterically funny. However, I’ll admit to favoring my Pigs book because the stories are based on my childhood."

Her Mexico novels are village mysteries that focus on the social milieu in which the crime appears. The play, Our New Thing, is a satirical comedy and her short story anthology, Growing Up With Pigs, is a humorous memoir. Heral wrote Holy Death, the first of her P.I. Polly Berger series, as a tongue-in-cheek parody of P.I. novels.

"The joke was on me," she explained. "I fell in love with the characters and decided on a series. Holy Mole Murder, the second Holy book, is a straight up P.I. novel, with a generous dose of humor."

The Shadow Cabinet is set in and around Washington, D.C., but action also takes place in Prague, Czech Republic, and in Hawaii. Honolulu is home to a gutsy female CIA officer, the beautiful ex-wife of the CIA’s Eastern European station chief. She’s been assigned the mission of luring a handsome traitor to his death. Almost falling victim to his charms, she nevertheless steels herself to do her job and deliver him to justice, when the tables turn on her.

She's currently working on a sequel to The Shadow Cabinet, currently titled The China Contact. It's set in Singapore, Canada, and the U.S. and is about an assassin intent on killing the President in an unusual manner. She's also working on a third book in each of her two mystery series tentatively titled A Corpse for Cortez and Holy Kow.

One reason she keeps two or three books going at the same time is to help with times she suffers what she calls "plot block." If she's struggling with the plot on one and doesn't know what to write next, she can abandon it for a while and move on to a different book or write a short story.

"Concentrating on a different project seems to free (unblock) my mind," Harol said. "On occasion, I’ll discuss my plot issue with my husband or one of my writing friends. Merely talking out the problem often leads to a solution."

Harol is from Schenectady, New York.

"I love the name, which is a Mohawk word meaning ‘beyond the pines.’ The pines, refers to a rare pitch pine-scrub oak barren that lies between Albany and Schenectady. Comedians insist the name means ‘end of the trail,’ but for me it was the beginning. Once known as the ‘city that lights the world,’ Schenectady was the Silicon Valley of its day thanks to Thomas Edison’s Edison Machine Works, which in 1892, became General Electric. Most people stumble over the spelling, but children learn early how to spell the city’s name using a rather rude rubric that Schenectadians learn around the age of eight or nine," she told me with a smile.

Harol and her husband share an office and said, "My husband no doubt would describe my writing space as a mess. Our office has a large bay window overlooking our garden, so it’s a bright cheery space. In terms of our personalities, he’s left-brained and orderly, and I’m his polar opposite. In my half of the room, my computer sits in the middle of a desk stacked with books, papers, and sticky notes. For me, out of sight is out of mind, so I only file an item when I no longer need it. Fortunately, I share with W.C. Fields the unique talent of being able to locate precisely the correct piece of buried paper when I need it."

When she's not writing, her favorite hobby is dancing—she and her husband go dancing at least once a week.

"I love swing dancing, Lindy Hop in particular, but also ballroom dancing, with cha-cha and rumba topping my list of favorites," she told me. "My husband is an avid gardener and we have fresh vegetables and herbs growing nearly year round, which is nice for me because I love to cook. Like most writers, I’m an avid reader. However, I’m also a political junkie and like to keep up with what’s happening in the scientific world, so, despite writing fiction, I generally read more non-fiction than fiction."

I asked her to tell me about her family.

"I’m married to my second husband, a retired particle physicist, who spends most of his time these days gardening and singing (in a barbershop quartet and chorus, the church choir, and the local choral society). I have two children—a daughter, who teaches English in a private school in Utah, and is the mother of my two beautiful granddaughters. My son is a standup comic, who has retired from life on the road in order to farm and write in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His first book, about rural life in the U.P., is titled, Yoo Pee Funny. "

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

"In fact, I’ve been talking about this idea with one of my cousins, who’s an attorney and an excellent writer. (The anthropologist in me requires a clarification here— he’s actually, my first cousin once removed.) With four children and a fulltime job, he can’t dedicate the time needed to write a book on his own. So, we’ve begun talking about writing a mystery together, possibly a legal thriller where he’ll write the courtroom scenes and I’ll write most of the rest of the novel. It could be fun!"

"What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?"

"In the 1960’s, my first husband and I helped pay our college bills by competing on game shows. We appeared together on the nighttime Price is Right with Bill Cullen, where we won an Amphicar, one million Triple-S blue stamps, and a variety of other prizes, all of which we sold for cold cash. Two years later, I was on Password with Lee Remick and Jack Cassidy. With Jack Cassidy as my partner, I won $350 and a portable TV that came with a rechargeable battery pack. Sometime in the next few months, my husband carried the TV outside to watch a football game while he washed the car. When the game ended, he unfortunately forgot about the TV, and promptly ran over it with his shiny clean car."

Finally, I asked, "What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?"

"The worst has to be the commonly offered advice, write what you know. Better, I think, to write what you love—you can always research what you don’t know. The best writing advice I ever received came from one of my professors in graduate school when I was in the midst of struggling to outline my PhD dissertation. 'Don’t wait until you have it all outlined,' he said, 'just start writing. Even if you end up beginning in the middle, you can always organize later.' I took his advice, and once I started writing, the words just flowed."

About the Author: Harol Marshall grew up in upstate New York, and began her career as a novelist after spending twenty years in academia. She earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. The Shadow Cabinet, her first political thriller, is due out from Storyteller Publishing in December, 2012. Harol has published four mystery novels, and a short story anthology, Growing Up With Pigs, about life on a family farm in the 1950’s. When not writing, Harol enjoys gardening and dancing in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and four cats. For more information, visit: http://www.harolmarshall.com.

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In a top-secret bunker... buried deep beneath FEMA headquarters on Mount Weather, a mysterious doppelgänger organization know as THE SHADOW CABINET prepares for the unthinkable. Secretly appointed by Congress, members of the Continuity of Government initiative prepare to carry on government functions in the event of a catastrophic national emergency. But Shadow President Fred McGuire has other ideas. His unhappiness with the current Administration translates into a cold-blooded plot to overthrow the executive branch and seize control of the White House. McGuire s co-conspirators include high-ranking government officials, a wealthy corporation, and a notorious private military contractor. Tensions mount when CIA analyst Malcolm Hall stumbles across evidence of the conspiracy, a discovery that costs him his life. Acting on clues Malcolm left behind, Dan Chavez at the National Counterterrorism Center, and Henry Larson, Director of the CIA s National Clandestine Services, begin a secret investigation that extends from Washington to Hawaii and beyond. Determined at all costs to disrupt the planned coup d' état by tracking down the homegrown terrorists and preventing high-level assassinations, Dan and Henry place their lives and those of their colleagues in mortal danger.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

GUEST BLOG and Giveaway: MICHELLE MUCKLEY

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Imagine this. You find a fantastic looking book, selling itself as a mystery. You read the blurb and it sounds like your kind of thing. You are twenty pages in and there is the dead body of the Duchess of Roths lying on the stairs and six suspects standing around it. The police burst through the doors and you think, ‘right, now this is going to get interesting’, and as you turn the page, the butler comes out from the shadows and says, ‘Sorry, it was me. I socked her with this hammer because I love her and my love is totally unrequited’.

As far as any plot line goes, this would just about suck for a mystery novel. It would just about suck for any novel. As writers we all know the beginning is easy. We start chapter one with all the gusto and enthusiasm of a freshly fuelled steam engine, all cogs racing and coals burning. But then we get to the first real challenge, the big middle chunk when it simply feels like hard work and where the coal pile looks to be running a bit low. We may not hit it at page twenty like in the sample above, but I know when I got to thirty thousand words of my last novel I certainly hit the point where I considered typing something like the above just so it would all be over. Through the wilderness of the middle, the scary no-man’s-land with no directions, no map, and sometime as a writer, no idea, it is easy to get lost. So how is it that we keep the suspense and the tension rolling?

There are certain tools that as writer we can utilise in order to keep up the pace and keep the reader engaged. The most important rule, which the writer of the above piece had clearly forgotten is to hold something back. Holding back the identity of the killer is obvious, but what about holding something of the other characters back as well? Keep their motives a secret, and make the reader curious about what comes next. Give them snippets of information that makes them suspect something about a character, but keep the real truth hidden. This can be delivered fantastically as back story, and is the most effective tool as a writer that you have to give explanations for characters' present day behaviour. This can also help you tocreate unanswered questions, but for the characters not just for the reader. Play those characters off against each other and let the reader in on the secrets, but keep the other characters in the dark. It can be devastating to let a character travel down an unsuspecting and incorrect path when as the reader you know from your elevated viewpoint that he is making a terrible mistake.

You also need to make the story mean something. If the character doesn’t care what happens why would he even get involved? Add in danger, but this doesn’t have to be end of the world apocalypse danger. Maybe the world won’t end, but his life, at least as he knows it should be in doubt. Make it believable. We have all seen the horror movie and all rolled our eyes when the blonde woman runs up the stairs instead of out of the door to safety whilst being chased by an axe wielding maniac. Make your characters real people with real brains. You do not want the reader to roll his eyes at your story or characters. Lastly, but by no means conclusively, make sure you write a kick ass plot. Make the story something that the readers cannot put down. Yes, prose is important. But could you really read two hundred pages of poetic prose about a person going to get the bus? No, I think is the answer.

If the author of ‘Murder in Roths’ had come up with some of these ideas, he could have written himself a pretty good who-done-it mystery novel. Only you can know what works for your plot line, and rules in writing are certainly not for me. However, if you keep some of these ideas in mind, you’ll have your readers drooling into page two hundred and fifty before you can say case solved.

Anyone who leaves a comment here will receive a free book token for my first book, The Loss of Deference.

About the Author:
Michelle was born and raised in a small historical town in the heart of England, but is now living in Cyprus and learning as much Greek as possible. She spent many years working in the NHS, doing on call hours that no amount of European laws can protect you against, and is now enjoying the more social and stress free life of the Mediterranean. This has enabled her to (finally) get her first novel, The Loss of Deference, published on the Kindle in June 2012, and be into the editing stage of book two (watch this space!). When she is not writing furiously about the darker side of life, you will find her hiking in the mountains, drinking frappe at the beach, or talking to herself in the kitchen in the style of an American celebrity chef. Just think Ina Garten.



Will Moreton and Daniel Fox have been best friends for almost their entire lives. Bound by a childhood secret, Will believes that he knows everything about his friend, until one winter's day when a devastating discovery leads him into a dark and terrifying conspiracy, where everybody has something to hide. The fight for survival has begun, but whom if anyone's life will be the same at the end. A journey of trust and betrayal, the reader is compelled to experience the limits of true friendship through a web of disturbing lies and truths.

The Loss of Deference is a gripping novel, where the writer carries the audience to an atmospheric climax, and where hope is found not only in the strongest of human bonds, but also the darkest corners of life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

GUEST BLOG and Giveaway: Gledé Browne Kabongo

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Gledé will be awarding an Italian leather journal to a randomly drawn commenter (US/Canada Only) during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

How to handle negative criticism


The question of negative criticism can be quite scary, paralyzing even, especially for new writers. I was petrified of this even before my novel was published, wondering what kind of reception Conspiracy of Silence would get. The self-doubt is always more than happy to express its opinion: What if readers hate it? What if the reviews are bad? How do I overcome the feelings of failure without throwing in the towel?

Criticism is part of life and it’s no different for the writing life. You simply have to accept that no matter how great the writing, plot, characters and dialog are, there will be people who just won’t like your work. It’s an inescapable fact. Sometimes the criticism is legitimate, other times you’re left scratching your head wondering if this person actually read your work or have you confused with another writer or worse yet, you want to scream because they completely missed the point.

Whatever the reason for the criticism, it’s important to remember that there can be hope in criticism. You need to figure out what nuggets of gold you can extract to spur your writing to the next level, and what should be ignored because it’s completely lacking in thoughtfulness, insight or analysis you can learn from. Examine the merits of the criticism, figure out what you would change if you could go back and do so. Look at writers you admire and see how they deal with those elements of your work that could use improvement.

If you’re serious about being a writer, the next book, or the next writing project is an opportunity to improve. Step out of your niche/genre as well. There is something to be learned. The story may not appeal to you but the technique might or the tightness of the prose for example. In the end, you can’t please all the people all the time so you can only hold up your end of the deal by becoming the best writer you possibly can.

About the Author:
Gledé Browne Kabongo began writing at age 14 when she covered soccer matches for her hometown newspaper. She has also written for the Patriot Ledger and Metrowest Daily News, two Massachusetts based newspapers. She earned a master’s degree in communications from Clark University, and once had dreams of winning a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. These days her dreams have shifted to winning the Pulitzer for fiction, and a Best Screenplay Academy Award. For the past decade, Gledé has worked in senior marketing roles for organizations in the Information Technology, publishing and non-profit sectors. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

Author website: http://www.gledebrownekabongo.com
Twitter: @gkabongo
Buy the books from
Amazon Barnes & Noble iUniverse

Thursday, November 22, 2012

GUEST BLOG and Giveaway: B.K. Stevens

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The Goldilocks Quest
B.K. Stevens


It started as a short story, but it was too long. So I rewrote it as a novel, but it was too short. When I tried adding subplots, it felt padded and heavy. Convinced my idea for a whodunit had promise, I kept struggling with one version after another but couldn’t get the size right. As the stack of unusable manuscripts grew, I felt like Goldilocks wandering through the three bears’ house. Too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft—would I ever find a length that was just right?

Then I heard that Untreed Reads was looking for mystery novellas.

Could that be the solution? I started with the novel version—the short story left crucial plot points murky—and started trimming. Getting rid of the subplots was easy, but I still had cutting to do. My goal was to end up with a novella that could be read in one or two sittings, perhaps by a commuter taking the train home. That meant moving everything along quickly, including character development.

In the novel version, I’d developed characters at a relatively leisurely pace. For example, I’d devoted several scenes to murder suspect Jacqui Liston, a former beauty queen who had an affair with the victim’s husband. From her conversations with my protagonist, Lieutenant Dan Ledger, readers learned about Jacqui’s failed marriage, her string of pathetic affairs, her unsatisfying career, her heavy drinking. From Jacqui’s erratic behavior, readers could see that her early celebrity had damaged her, that it had awakened expectations her life couldn’t meet.

In the novella, I could give Jacqui just one scene. I still wanted to convey the idea that hunger for fame had led her astray—that relates to the book’s themes. How could I get that across quickly?

I decided to use music. When Dan Ledger arrives at Jacqui’s house, he hears the overture to The Sound of Music blaring. Inside, while pouring herself more wine, Jacqui says she played Maria in high school and sang “Climb Every Mountain” at the Miss Ohio pageant. Ledger tries to talk to her about the murder, and about the sex-tape on which she recorded lively moments with her lover. But Jacqui can’t focus on present dangers—she’s too caught up in the music that takes her back to her glory days. (Ledger finds the sex tape later—under Jacqui’s bed, in a box labeled “A Few of My Favorite Things.”)

I still miss the scenes I cut. But I like the juxtaposition of virginal Maria and boozy, promiscuous Jacqui. And I think the new scene creates a strong image of a woman mired in a past that was always more illusion than reality.

Other characters had to be portrayed more concisely, too. The process was challenging but also invigorating, and I think I sharpened some skills I can use when I write short stories. It took months of cutting and rewriting, but I got my whodunit down to novella size. I gave it a new title—One Shot—and sent it off to Untreed Reads.

Fortunately, the editor apparently agreed that the length was, finally, just right.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of One Shot.

About the Author:
In addition to One Shot, B.K. Stevens (Bonnie K. Stevens) has published over forty short stories, most in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Some stories have been reprinted in anthologies; another appeared in Family Circle after winning first place in a national suspense-writing contest judged by Mary Higgins Clark. “Interpretation of Murder,” published in Hitchcock in 2010, won a Derringer for Best Long Story from the Short Mystery Fiction Society. B.K. has also published articles in The Writer, college textbooks on composition (Holt) and on literary criticism and research (Holt/ Harcourt), and a book on Jewish education (Behrman House). Forthcoming publications include two more stories for Hitchcock, “All That Glisters” and “Murder Will Speak.” Another story, “No Good Deed,” will appear in To Hell in a Fast Car, which was edited by John L. French and will be published by Dark Quest Books late in 2012.

Find the author online at

To One Shot: http://www.untreedreads.com/?p=2958
To the B.K. Stevens website: http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com



When rising politician Karen Dodd pushes through the toughest gun-control bill in Ohio’s history, she thinks it’s her ticket to the governor’s office. But soon after she announces her candidacy, on the day she’s slated to receive an award from a gun-control organization, Karen Dodd is found dead in her comfortable Akron home, one bullet through her heart. Plenty of evidence points to her political opponents, but the mutilated family portrait and the scattered rose petals at the murder scene might suggest a more personal motive. Or could someone be trying to exploit the media sensation created by Karen Dodd’s death, using it to take one shot at fortune and celebrity? Police lieutenant Dan Ledger puts his own life in danger as he struggles to uncover the secrets of suspects who at first seem harmlessly eccentric—but who can quickly turn deadly serious.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Blogfest Heather Haven

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Spooked
By
Heather Haven


Cliff adjusted the eye-patch and scrutinized the perfect but expensive pirate’s reflection in the full length mirror. “You’re one handsome son of a gun, Cliffy Boy, if I do say so myself. Especially now that you’re a widower.”

The doorbell rang. He grumbled about early trick-or-treaters and went to the door.

“Damn it to hell.” Cliff looked down to see his dead wife’s recently vanished black cat run through the living room and out onto the terrace, the terrace from where he’d helped the wife who cramped his style to her untimely but necessary death.

The cat leapt onto the terrace railing and turned around.

“So you want to play, do you? Well, you’re dead meat, cat. I’m sick of dealing with you.” He moved forward.

“Now, Cliff,” a familiar, feminine voice chastised. “That’s hardly fair.”

“Who said that?”

“You know who I am.”

Cliff shrieked, turned, and fell back into the living room.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Cliff found himself outside again, along the perimeter of the terrace.

The cat on the handrail let out a screech and struck. Thrown off balance, Cliff felt talons and fangs push him backward into space. Two sets of flickering green eyes burned into his as he fell. On the way down forty-two floors to the earth below, he thought of something odd. He’d never noticed before how his late wife’s eyes and those of the cat looked one and the same.

~~~~~

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of "Corliss," one of Heather's personal favorites.

About the Author:After studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, which were produced at Playwrights Horizon and well-received. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.

One of her first paying jobs was writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week but promptly came down with the flu. Heather wrote "The Sands of Time" with a raging temperature, and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Her stint at New York City’s No Soap Radio - where she wrote comedic ad copy – help develop her long-time love affair with comedy.

Her first novel of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is a Family Business, is winner of the Single Titles Reviewers’ Choice Award 2011, and the second, A Wedding to Die For, received the 2012 finalist nods from both Global and EPIC’s Best eBook Mystery of the Year. The third of the series, Death Runs in the Family, recently debuted and has already received rave reviews. All three books are published out of a Canadian publishing house, MuseItUp.

Heather’s most recent endeavor is a 1940s holiday mystery series starring a five-foot eleven, full-figured gal named Persephone Cole. ‘Percy’ Cole has the same hard-boiled, take-no-prisoners attitude as Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and Phillip Marlow, but tops it off with a wicked sense of humor. The first of the series, Persephone Cole and the Halloween Curse, takes place on New York City’s Broadway stage during World War II, three thousand miles and sixty-odd years away from the California Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series.

Heather Haven, writer
San Jose, California 95135
Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com
http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/
Heather's blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp
http://www.facebook.com
Twitter@HeatherHaven
Twitter@PILeeAlvarez


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Blogfest: Neil Plakcy

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Writing My Way Back Home
As I write this, it’s mid-September, and if I were back in Pennsylvania, where I grew up, there would already be a bit of a nip in the air. Instead, here in Florida, it’s still hot and humid, with temps in the eighties. Is it any wonder I like to return, in my head, to that small town where I grew up?

Suburbia and rural countryside live side by side in Bucks County. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood about a mile from the small town of Yardley. The population of our township then was about 10,000, with another 5,000 in Yardley itself. Though the population has grown, you can still travel from the Victorian gingerbread of downtown, past the suburbs built in the sixties and seventies, and then out into the countryside, where colonial-era fieldstone farmhouses still remain, dotted between newer developments of big houses and even bigger yards.

This is the area I write about in my golden retriever mysteries. I created a small town of my own, Stewart’s Crossing, and placed it just upriver from Yardley, between there and Washington’s Crossing, site of our first president’s Delaware adventure on Christmas Eve 1776. I like to mix in the old downtown, the suburbs and the farmlands, and to portray a place with a lot of history—both national and personal.

One of my favorite parts of autumn growing up was the Yardley Harvest Days Festival, and the flea market held on the grounds of the Friends Meeting House, on Main Street just beyond the old mill pond, now called Lake Afton. More than just a collection of used stuff, it was a way to reconnect with neighbors and friends, to help out local charities and celebrate the yellow and gold leaves of the towering maples and oaks that ringed the property.

The plain one-story meeting house transformed into a makeshift kitchen, where you could buy hot dogs, hamburgers, and Pennsylvania Dutch-style funnel cakes. Pick a homemade brownie or chocolate chip cookie for dessert from the bake sale and wander around the makeshift maze of tables displaying antiques, hand-crocheted tea cozies and old tools salvaged from someone’s garage.

Of course, there are always secrets lurking behind the shadows at the edge of the lot—every town, no matter how large or small, has them. And in my books, all it takes is a divorced guy with some computer hacking skills and a very curious golden retriever to unearth them.

Leave a comment to win an e-book copy of my first Golden Retriever Mystery, IN DOG WE TRUST—any format of the reader’s choice. Read more about my books at http://www.mahubooks.com

About the Author:
Neil Plakcy’s golden retriever mysteries were inspired by his own golden, Samwise, who was just as sweet as Rochester, though not quite as smart. And fortunately he didn’t have Rochester’s talent for finding dead bodies. Now that Sam has gone on to his big, comfy bed in heaven, his place by Neil’s side has been taken by Brody, a cream-colored golden puppy with a penchant for mischief.

A native of Bucks County, PA, where IN DOG WE TRUST, THE KINGDOM OF DOG and DOG HELPS THOSE are set, Neil is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Florida International University, where he received his MFA in creative writing. He has written and edited many other books; details can be found at his website, http://www.mahubooks.com.

Neil, his partner, and Brody live in South Florida, where Neil is working on a fourth mystery, and Brody is busily chewing something.

Buy links:

www.tinyurl.com/indogwetrust
www.tinyurl.com/kingdomofdog
www.tinyurl.com/doghelpsthose

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Blogfest: Judy Alter

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Mysteries and Halloween


Tired of hearing reminiscences about the “good old days”? Well, bear with me if I give you one more. I grew up in the fifties on the South Side of Chicago—inner city neighborhood where today I wouldn’t let my grandchildren walk next door alone. But Halloween is one of my fondest memories. At the ages of ten or twelve, I was allowed to roam free, with friends, after dark—and roam we did, through those tiny dark alleyways between apartment buildings where anything (or anyone) could have jumped out at us. The streets were full of kids just like us, and our parents were home passing out treats. It was a grand time of freedom.

By the time my kids were that age, we let them go maybe in the block we lived on, and we stayed on the curb keeping a close watch. They had freedom—but not nearly as much. Today my grandchildren never go trick or treating alone. An adult always accompanies them. And, truth be told, I don’t like to be the adult left home alone to pass out treats. Alone in my own home, I’ve been known to turn out all the lights, bring the dog in, and ignore the doorbell. It made me feel like Scrooge but I also felt safe—some of those trick-or-treaters got pretty darn big. The last few years I’ve sat on my neighbor’s porch, where I can watch my house and enjoy the little kids who come with their parents and their fanciful costumes. They’re sweet, polite, and lots of fun. But there are those occasional over-age ones with an attitude.

To me Halloween is a sad reflection of how our world has changed and how childhood has changed. Kids don’t have the freedom to run and play throughout the neighborhood that older generations enjoyed. Back in the day, during the summer children flew out the door after breakfast, knew to reappear for lunch, and came home when Mom called out “Dinner!” or rang a bell. Unheard of today when we have carefully pre-arranged play dates for our children.

This changing world is reflected in the celebration of Halloween in my three Kelly O’Connell Mysteries—Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. Each year the celebration of Halloween grows more constricted for the girls, as danger and threats surround their mother. One of the premises of the series is that danger lurks even in small, seemingly peaceful neighborhoods, and this is never more evident than at Halloween.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a free copy of Trouble in a Big Box, the third Kelly O’Connell Mystery.

Judy Alter

Web site: http://www.judyalter.com
Blogs: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com and http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Judy-alter/e/B001H6NMU6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1348248195&sr=1-2-ent
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trouble-in-a-big-box-judy-alter/1112558618?ean=2940014916752
Turquoise Morning Press: http://www.turquoisemorningpress.com/p/bookstore.html#uds-search-results

INTERVIEW and Giveaway: NANCY SPRINGER

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Nancy Springer, whose Dark Lies is coming out next month. Nancy is giving away ten signed uncorrected proofs of Dark Lies to randomly drawn commenters.

Nancy has been writing for forty years and Dark Lies is her fifty-fifth published novel. She also has many that have gone unpublished.

"I haven't kept track of that number—perhaps twenty?—because I seldom think about them. I mention them now lest anyone think once you're published you're 'in.' It's not so. Every new novel is as risky as the first," she told me. She was an English Literature major in college and thought she would "fulfill the manifest destiny of the English Literature major, which is to propogate their own kind."

She planned to take a Master's degree and teach in a college or university. However, she got married and her husband's plans changed hers and she found herself living the life of a housewife.

"Dialogues and daydreams filled my mind, so I tried to kill time by writing -- but what? The Great American Novel? I felt no authority. In college I had studied Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Joseph Conrad, Hemingway, Steinbeck and so on and on -- not a single female novelist except Jane Austen," she told me. "The only thing women wrote, obviously, was romance, and everybody knew that was pulp. (Wrong! But that realization came later.) I got no farther than thinking about writing contemporary fiction; I kept running into a nameless and invisible wall. Finally, after several months, it occurred to me that if I were to attempt a fantasy novel somewhat like the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, at least no critic could tell me I had my facts all wrong. So my first published books were mythic fantasy -- ten of them in a row before I started to branch out into other genres."

She didn't immediately think of herself as an author, however. It wasn't until after she had published her first book, written a couple more, retained a literary agent, and signed a nice publishing contract.

"Not, in fact, until the morning I told my husband that, starting that day, I would put my writing first and housework second," she remembered. "I don't remember the date. I should have marked it on my calendar to celebrate on a yearly basis. That may have been the day I saved my own life."

Until that time, she was a "capital-W Wife" in a very traditional marriage, with two preschool children, no job, and no car she could use.

"We lived way out in the country. I raised a vegetable garden; I made my own clothes and those of my children; I cooked inexpensive, labor-intensive meals because we had no money; I did the dishes and the laundry and housecleaning; I played with my children and read to them, and only when I was doing that last thing did I not feel like hell," she admitted. "To help the miserable days pass, I daydreamed, keeping a typewriter set up (this was before word processors) and every once in a while I stole a few minutes from my 'duties' to type a few lines, sometimes a whole paragraph. Even after I was published, I was still a housewife who wrote as a hobby."

She doesn't remember what it was that gave her the courage to say she was going to write every morning for an hour or two before she made the beds, but she did—and went from being a depressed housewife to being a writer with her whole life ahead of her.

"What is your writing space like?" I wondered.

" This is a hoot. At first, circa 1972, my writing space was just spiral-bound notebook in my lap. When I had handwritten the first novel, I needed to type it (original and two carbons) but I didn't own a typewriter and we couldn't afford to buy one, so I offered to be church secretary in order to gain custody of an old Royal. It, along with a ream of paper, resided on a folding card table in one corner of my bedroom, right next to the bathroom.

We moved to another parsonage (Yep, that's why we were poor as church mice. My ever-so-traditional husband was a pastor.) and there was no room for a writing space for me in the bedroom or any other room so I managed to set up a tiny desk in the hallway outside the bathroom. By now I had inherited my older brother's portable Olympia typewriter, small enough to fit the space, and my husband hung a shelf on the wall so I could keep a few reference books within reach. I also taped papers to the wall -- character names, words I habitually misspelled, that sort of thing.

At the next parsonage, upstairs by the bathroom (of course) was the pastor's study, complete with cabinets, shelves, and a desk. My husband didn't want parishioners upstairs, so he set up his office downstairs, and I got the other one. To separate the room into my office and a playroom for the children, we put up a corkboard 'wall,' and wow, I ran amok tacking up maps and pictures of my imaginary worlds, filling the bookshelves, writing as long as I wanted while listening to my children totally trashing their play space. And for the first time I had money enough to buy a typewriter. An electric one.

It was the money from my writing that enabled my husband to quit the ministry, at which point, of course, we had to move out of the parsonage. It was the money from my writing that paid for the house we would live in while he started some kind of new career. The house was a tall, narrow "Vernacular Victorian" rather like a file cabinet. All of those old houses had an interesting floor plan upstairs -- a front bedroom right at the top of the stairs, a back bedroom that had been divided to install an indoor bath (claw-footed tub), and the room in between, which had no doors. It seems the boys were put in the front room with easy access to downstairs, but the girls were put in the back room, where they could not get out of the house at night without walking right past their parents' bed.

Anyway, the room with no doors became my office. Right outside the bathroom, as was becoming traditional. Another tradition was that I never put a clock in my office. The office was an area apart from time.

Because we were no longer living in a parsonage, I could undertake the previously unthinkable, such as tearing up the threadbare carpet, plus patching the cracked walls and painting them the color of my choice! I chose peach, and when it turned out a bit bright, sponge-painted it with a lighter shade -- beautiful. Plus a wallpaper border at the top. Plus a big bookshelf set up as a kind of room divider, books on one side and my desk on the other. I used the back of the bookshelf as the surface on which to tape my lists, my pictures, all my visual aids, including a complicated guide to WordStar, the writing program on my new computer. The desk had a special place for me to set my dot-matrix printer so that the fan-folded paper would flow down onto its own little shelf. I could print out a whole novel in less than a week!

After a while I got a daisy wheel printer.

After another while, my husband left the marriage just as abruptly as he had left the ministry.

After that I no longer felt so fond of my office, and I bought a laptop I could not afford and took to writing in restaurants.

But now I have a new husband, a new residence, and a new office that I like very much. It's in what might have been meant as a nursery, a bedroom too small for a bed, right next to the bathroom of course. As I write this, there's a pink crepe myrtle bush in full bloom outside my window. Beyond are the towering longleaf pines native to the Florida panhandle. I look up at them every time a hummingbird or butterfly passes by. As I type, Mayzie cat rests her chin on my left hand; she likes the feel of my knuckles working against her throat. In the half of the window that's not over the computer I have hung a corkboard so I can tack stuff up, but very little of it has anything to do with business. It's pictures, mostly. Above some low bookshelves I've arranged more pictures on the wall with poster putty -- horses by Marc, a wonderful purple cow print, some silly pix I made myself with crayon and stickers. Behind me is a wall so scarred up it deserved to be covered -- with a cloth shower curtain featuring the original E.H. Shepard Winnie-the-Pooh illustrations. Boxes of foreign editions are stacked in front of it. I hear wind chimes; I've hung them all along the eaves, and I always make sure that the one I can see from my office window is the prettiest.

I'm drinking Diet Pepsi out of a huge cup with Matisse-cut-paper-style tulips on it. Five plastic horses prance on the windowsill right above my laptop. Offices don't get much better than this."

About the Author:
Nancy Springer has passed the fifty-book milestone, having written that many novels for adults, young adults and children, in genres including mythic fantasy, contemporary fiction, magical realism, horror, and mystery -- although she did not realize she wrote mystery until she won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America two years in succession. DARK LIE is her first venture into mass-market psychological suspense.

Born in Livingston, New Jersey, Nancy Springer moved with her family to Gettysburg, of Civil War fame, when she was thirteen. She spent the next forty-six years in Pennsylvania, raising two children (Jonathan, now 35, and Nora, 31), writing, horseback riding, fishing, and birdwatching. In 2007 she surprised her friends and herself by moving with her second husband to an isolated area of the Florida panhandle, where the birdwatching is spectacular and where, when fishing, she occasionally catches an alligator.

Find Nancy online at

http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000015705,00.html
http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780451238061,00.html Dark_Lie_Nancy_Springer
http://www.facebook.com/pages#!/NancySpringerNovelist
http://store.untreedreads.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=6_314



In this gripping psychological thriller -- smart, chilling, and unrelenting -- Nancy Springer establishes herself as an exciting new suspense writer with a distinctive voice and some surprises up her sleeve...

To their neighbors, Dorrie and Sam Clark seem a contented couple in America's heartland, with steady jobs, a suburban home, and community activities to keep them busy. But they're not quite what they appear to be. For plain, hard-working Sam hides a depth of devotion for his wife that no one would suspect. And Dorrie is living a dark lie -- beset by physical ailments, alone within herself, and unknown to those around her, following the comings and goings of the sixteen-year-old daughter, Juliet, she gave up for adoption when she was hardly more than a child herself.

Then one day at the mall, Dorrie, horror-stricken, sees Juliet being abducted, forced into a van that drives away. Instinctively, Dorrie sends her own car speeding after them -- an act of reckless courage that pits her against a clever, depraved killer, and draws Sam into a dogged, desperate search to save his wife. In a confrontation that unites mother and daughter in a terrifying struggle to survive, Dorrie must face and conquer her own secret, tormented past.

Friday, October 26, 2012

GUEST BLOG and Giveaway: Jenn Nixon

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jenn will give away one backlist book at every stop for one lucky commenter, and she and Wild Child Publishing will be awarding a $10 Wild Child Publishing GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The very first publication I tried to promote was a POD book I’d written in early 2000 before I knew what I was doing as far as publishing was concerned. At the time, I was so excited that someone wanted to publish my book that I didn’t take the time to learn about the business. My first mistake. Being young and internet friendly, I thought I had an edge on other writers out there because I belonged to online groups and communities way before Myspace was a glimmer in Tom’s eye. When the book in question finally came out, I went on an internet spamathon. I hit up all the groups I belonged to and even some I had only just joined so I could promote my book. I was nice and friendly, telling the group members how excited I was to publish my first book and included the blurb, excerpt, and buy links. I must have spent two days posting to about 30 different places. I figured the sales would go through the roof, you know, because my family and friends would buy the book too.

Guess what happened?

I got slammed.

Hard.

Not only did most of the group and community members call me out for joining the groups just to promote, they ripped apart my blurb and excerpt right in “public” for everyone to see and obviously didn’t buy the book. Mortified is the only word to describe how I felt.

I promptly took everything down, apologized to a few of the groups that I had belonged to, and crawled into a hole for a while.

But then something else happened.

One of the group members contacted me. She was very nice, honest, and helpful. Her first suggestion to me was to find a writer’s group. It was the best advice ever. I wish I still had her email address so I could thank her properly, but it got lost in the shuffle long ago.

The second thing that came from all of this was realizing that said book was pretty bad. Some of it was my fault, some of it was editing. Either way, I knew I had so much to learn about writing be it the process, submitting, editing, and/or dealing with publishers.

I took the advice and criticism to heart, joined a writers group, did hours and hours of research online, and eventually learned the correct way to promote without making an ass out of myself.

I think that first, extremely hard lesson helped me develop a thick skin rather quickly. I tend to be defensive when confronted, but when it’s online and it’s already there and you have to actually take the time to write a response back, it gives you moment to reflect and absorb what was said in the first place. Mostly everything the people in those groups said about my writing was true. It was crap. I freely admit it. One cannot get better if they don’t learn from their mistakes. I’ve learned.

I learned that everyone has an opinion. If the negative feedback is constructive, I’ll always listen. If the negative feedback is based on style, well, there isn’t much I can do about that. If the negative feedback is hurtful on purpose, I’ll just curse at the screen, take a deep breath, and then let it go. Being mean just to be mean is something I’ve dealt with for many years, so I will always take it for what it is, bullying.

Negative feedback can be a blessing in disguise too. As a writer, we are sometimes too close to a project to see the whole picture clearly. Editors, publishers, reviewers, and readers can all give valuable negative criticism if done correctly. And, as weird as this may seem, I can’t wait to get some more of it in the future. While I know you can’t please everyone all the time, honest and helpful negative feedback will only make me a better writer in the future.

About the Author:Jenn’s love of writing started the year she received her first diary and Nancy Drew novel. Throughout her teenage years, she kept a diary of her personal thoughts and feelings but graduated from Nancy Drew to other mystery suspense novels.

Jenn often adds a thriller and suspense element to anything she writes be it Romance, Science Fiction, or Fantasy. When not writing, she spends her time reading, observing pop culture, playing with her two dogs, and working on various charitable projects in her home state of New Jersey.

Find Jenn online at

Website: www.jennnixon.com
Facebook: facebook.com/JennNixonAuthor
Blog: www.jennafern.blogspot.com
Twitter: @jennnixon



To protect her family and find a killer, Felicia "Lucky" Fascino assumed her adoptive father's identity and joined the network of moral assassins to finish the job he began. Eliminating the man responsible for murdering her mother has consumed her for the last five years. Completing the job is the only way Lucky and her family can return to a safe and normal life. Lucky's uncle, Stephen Chambers, hasn't come close to tracking the killer. He announces he's stepping down as her handler to concentrate on the investigation and names Elizabeth, his daughter, as successor.

Keeping secrets is a family trait, and Elizabeth's addition to the business tests Lucky's ability to maintain the pretense that the job doesn't affect her despite the fact that all network hits are hardened criminals. While keeping her family at arm's length, Lucky begins to feel the weight of her career choice and reclusive lifestyle. Then a chance encounter with an enigmatic hit man during one of her jobs turns into a provocative and dangerous affair. Distracted by the secret trysts with Kenji Zinn and mounting tension within her family, Lucky starts to make mistakes that threaten her livelihood and almost claim her life. When her family is targeted, Lucky must make several rash decisions she believes can save them and preserve her own sanity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

GUEST BLOG: PAUL BATISTA

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WHY MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM BUSY LAWYER TO NOVELIST?


More basically, why exit from a business with a good regular paycheck to a business where the financial rewards are uncertain? Why exchange a suit for a casual shirt and jeans? I get asked these questions a lot, and they are in fact questions I ask myself.

Let's start with a disclaimer. I haven't entirely abandoned the practice of law. This is work I've done for more than thirty years, and old habits die hard. Besides, I like it. More important is the fact that the legal work I do provides fuel for the novels I write. A criminal case or even a civil lawsuit involves a story, a narrative. Part of the function of a lawyer is to shape the narrative -- not to fabricate facts but to tell a story.

Creating fiction, however, does give me a license to do more than just shape the narrative of a case. In writing a novel I have the ability and the incentive to weave imagined events together, to create personalities and personal histories, to generate intrigue and conflict. In practicing law, I’m confined by facts -- and those facts can be extremely interesting given the nature of the work I do -- but there are no such constraints in writing fiction.

There's another factor. Law is a highly regulated business. No matter how independent you may be as a lawyer, there are people known as judges. They require you to do specific things on their schedule, not on yours. They want you to do things their way, not necessarily yours. They tend to have outsized personalities -- wearing a robe can transform a guy or gal who in civilian clothes is demure and shy into a muscled-up action figure. And there are also clients. They get to call you in the middle of the night.

The external controls on fiction-writing are different. Sure, an editor can set "deadlines" but those are more goals and aspirations rather than drop-dead dates. You can be disbarred for missing a judge-imposed deadline if you do that too often. The worst a publisher can do is get mad at you.

But the most important reason for transforming myself into a novelist from a practicing lawyer is the beauty of transformation. The stuff of a novelist's life is different from the stuff of a lawyer's life. Creating novels is a liberating experience; you can let loose your imagination. I find I can have a passion and a drive that, even though I’ve loved practicing law, I can't completely tap into in a courtroom. You hear commencement speakers constantly delivering to young graduates the trite mandate to "follow your passions." As you move through life and hit the jarring realities of jobs, families and obligations, you can get cynical about those conventional admonitions to follow your passions, live out your dreams, and fulfill your talents.

But those inspirational messages do have meaning, at least for yours truly. Even a lawyer can break out of the constraints of the life he or she has lived. There is something invigorating, even for a seasoned adult, in taking risks and having the courage to give up security and embrace something unknown, strange, exciting -- fresh.

About the Author:
Paul Batista, novelist and television personality, is one of the most widely known trial lawyers in the country. As a trial attorney, he specializes in federal criminal litigation. As a media figure, he is known for his regular appearances as guest legal commentator on a variety of television shows including, Court TV, CNN, HLN and WNBC. He’s also appeared in the HBO movie, You Don't Know Jack, starring Al Pacino.

A prolific writer, Batista authored the leading treatise on the primary federal anti-racketeering statute, Civil RICO Practice Manual, which is now in its third edition (Wiley & Sons, 1987; Wolters Kluwer, 2008). He has written articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The National Law Journal.

Batista's debut novel, Death's Witness, was awarded a Silver Medal by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). And his new novel, Extraordinary Rendition, is now being published—along with a special reissue of Death’s Witness—by Astor + Blue Editions.

Batista is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and Cornell Law School. He’s proud to have served in the United States Army. Paul Batista lives in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.



When Ali Hussein—suspected terrorist and alleged banker for Al Qaeda—is finally transported from Gitmo to the US mainland to stand trial, many are stunned when Byron Carlos Johnson, pre-eminent lawyer and the son of a high-profile diplomat, volunteers as counsel. On principle, Johnson thought he was merely defending a man unjustly captured through Rendition and water-boarded illegally. But Johnson soon learns that there is much more at stake than one man’s civil rights.

Hussein’s intimate knowledge of key financial transactions could lead to the capture of—or the unabated funding of—the world’s most dangerous terror cells. This makes Hussein the target of corrupt US intelligence forces on one side, and ruthless international terrorists on the other. And, it puts Byron Carlos Johnson squarely in the crosshairs of both.

Pulled irresistibly by forces he can and cannot see, Johnson enters a lethal maze of espionage, manipulation, legal traps and murder. And when his life, his love, and his acclaimed principles are on the line, Johnson may have one gambit left that can save them all; a play that even his confidants could not have anticipated. He must become the hunter among hunters in the deadliest game.

Written by no-holds-barred-attorney Paul Batista, Extraordinary Rendition excels not only as an action thriller, but as a sophisticated legal procedural as well; tearing the curtains away from the nation’s most controversial issues.

Provocative. Smart. Heart-pounding. A legal thriller of the highest order.

Monday, October 15, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Sandra de Helen

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sandra will be awarding the winner's choice of a backlist eBook to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a $25 Amazon GC to one commenter from the tour. Click on the tour banner above to see the other stops on her tour.

Lessons I learned from Shirley Combs:


. Observe, pay attention to details
. Get someone else to take notes so you can keep observing
. Have a day job that earns you money so you can pursue your true passion
. It'd be great if your clients in your day job can afford to hire you for your passion job too
. Network, network, network
. You don't have to wear high heels to make money
. You can impress people with your brain as much as you can impress them with your [fill in the blank]
. Science is totally cool
. People are so impressed when you can tell them about themselves from things you have simply observed
. Now you're going to expect me to dazzle you when we meet at a book signing. Me and my big mouth

10 things most people don't know about you


. I dropped out of school after 10th grade (well, I was kicked out for being preggers)
. I married at 15 (see above)
. I went back to school at 29, got a degree in Economics, finished a thesis towards my Masters
. I once lived at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the Havasupai Reservation
. I've been to 4 continents, and 48 states
. I've taken the Nile River Boat Cruise (8 days)
. I've backpacked in the Olympic Mountains
. I've ridden a mule
. I've ridden a camel
. My sister keeps forgetting that what I write is fiction

About the Author:
Sandra de Helen lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. See more of her work at www.SandradeHelen.com. de Helen is also a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and International Centre for Women Playwrights.

Follow her on Twitter @dehelen
Read her blog www.Redcrested.com
Like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/drmarywatson



Tall, thin, androgynous Shirley Combs considers herself the world’s greatest living detective because she uses the methods and casebook of Sherlock Holmes to solve crimes of the gentry of the American city most closely resembling London, England -- in terms of the weather, at least. Sidekick/narrator Dr. Mary Watson both delights in and is frustrated by her partner’s behavioral resemblance to Sherlock. Combs is unemotional, analytical, and given to pacing through the night in the streets of the almost perfectly livable city of Portland, Oregon. Her ability to observe details and understand their relationship to a case is unmatched; her demands on Watson’s time are too.

Shirley Combs bills herself as the world’s greatest living detective, and why not? Taunted and teased as a child because her name sounded so much like Sherlock Holmes's, she developed an early obsession with the adventures and methods of Sherlock himself. She considered her fate sealed when she met up with Dr. Mary Watson. Shirley adds the technology of today to Holmes’s 100-year-old casebook and solves the mysteries of her much-beloved hometown. Mary Watson assists, and - of course - chronicles their exciting exploits. The planned series of novels incorporates and explores current events, types of people, social/economic situations that occur in Portland and the Pacific Northwest.

In their first documented adventure, Shirley is hired by 19-year-old Goldenhawk Vandeleur to investigate her wealthy mother’s untimely death. Timber heiress Priscilla Vandeleur Leoni, direct descendant of Sir Charles Baskerville, decides to spend the family fortune saving the old-growth forests of Oregon. She is a product of the 1960’s - former hippie and free-love advocate who gave birth out-of-wedlock, experimented with lesbian separatism, and married late. When faced with midlife, she tries to outrun her fears and give away her huge fortune. Haunted by a phobia of dogs, she is literally frightened to death by a pair of hounds.