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Monday, December 31, 2012

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012



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):
Barnes & Noble:

Monday, December 17, 2012



Jingle All The Way
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



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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012



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:

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.