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Monday, May 28, 2012

GUEST BLOG: JOHN NELSON

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A Rebirth of Dystopian Literature


With the success of the Hunger Games series, we’ve seen a rebirth of the dystopian genre. In contemporary Young Adult (YA) dystopian literature, the backdrop is often a nebulous post-apocalyptic landscape where children are at the center of the story. It’s been a successful formula and has revitalized the genre. I hope the success of YA dystopia will motivate publishers to also revitalize contemporary adult-centered dystopia.

In some of the classic dystopia such as Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, the major theme was totalitarianism. The fear of world dominance by a Soviet-style dictatorship was a real and tangible danger in Orwell’s time and the novels reflected those fears. They were cautionary tales that showed us the road signs that could lead to such a dystopian society. Aldous Huxley, writing a generation before Orwell wrote Brave New World, a cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific and social changes that were taking place in the 1920’s. Both Orwell and Huxley were social critics. They looked at their society with a critical eye and imagined a dystopian future based on what was going on around them.

In my novel Against Nature, I built a story based on the Orwell/Huxley model of contemporary road signs that may lead us down a wicked path. The news headlines in the years following 9/11 read like an Orwellian dystopia with tales of secret prisons, torture, extraordinary rendition, domestic spying, suspension of habeas corpus, military tribunals, ignoring the Geneva Convention, and wars built on falsified intelligence.

As a fiction writer, I didn’t have to imagine a post-apocalyptic landscape or Soviet-style take-over as a backdrop for a dystopian society. The news headlines provided me with plenty of material; all that was needed was a little imagination. My goal was to use contemporary events, add in some plausible fiction, and then blur the lines between them.

Based on our recent past, I wondered how we would react to a catastrophic event greater than a terrorist bombing or a broken levy. In Against Nature, I created a global pandemic: a disease without a cure and superimposed some of our post-9/11 reactions onto this new crisis. I added in the recent rise of Social Darwinists on the political scene and what came out the other end was a frightening and all too plausible dystopia in the spirit of Orwell and Huxley.

Writing in the dystopian genre takes a keen sense of the current landscape and a willingness to look critically at your own society. My catalyst in Against Nature was a global pandemic. At the heart of such a story line must be the vaccination plan. I wondered how we would dole out an experimental vaccine for a fatal and highly contagious disease that was spreading unabated across the globe. In a recent film about a global pandemic, the vaccine was doled out by lottery and the citizens lined up in such an orderly manner.

Would we really distribute an experimental vaccine in such an egalitarian way? In Against Nature, I wanted the vaccination plan to mirror our wealth distribution. We live in a society where one-percent of Americans control half the wealth of the entire nation and the bottom eighty-percent control only seven-percent. Is this inequality a sign of a healthy society? In a global pandemic, would we need to save everyone or only the top twenty-percent to preserve our national wealth and power? Would the Wall Street banker get the vaccine before the day laborer or the venture capitalist before an inner-city pre-school teacher?

In creating my vision of pandemic America, I used the story of the Titanic as a parable. I wondered how our society would behave if we began to list and take on water? Who would be in the lifeboat and who would perish in the icy waters? What are the road signs in our contemporary society that points us toward a potential dystopian future?

As a fiction writer you have to ask those types of questions and be willing to view the world through different lenses. To write a compelling dystopia, you have to be more than just a good storyteller; you also have to be a social critic. You have to look at your own society from outside the fishbowl and be willing to move away from your own comfort zone. You have to examine faith, gender, race and class from many perspectives and peel back the layers to expose the roots of our social structures. When you do that, you create a blended narrative that is quite complex. Fiction, like life, should be many shades of gray.

With Against Nature, I tried to avoid a predictable ending where everything is wrapped up in a tidy package and we feel hopeful that good has trumped evil and the poor all end up wealthy and self-actualized. A good narrative in any fiction genre should be more complicated than that. In the dystopia genre, it’s imperative that we see the reflection of our own society (warts and all) in the pages of the fantasy society. I think that’s the most important ingredient and that’s what I look for in dystopian literature. Sometimes we need that social self-reflection to shake us from our moorings. We need to be transported out of our fishbowl and look back in from a different perspective. It’s what makes the journey to the dystopian fantasy world worth the trip.

About the Author:
John Nelson is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and former Special Forces Medic—Air Commando. His novel Against Nature is available as an eBook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks and from the publisher.

Visit his blog for reviews of Against Nature: http://johngnelson.blogspot.com/.

The U.S. is ground-zero for a mysterious global pandemic. The disease is highly infectious and kills its victims within two weeks of exposure. It’s neither bacteria nor a virus and all traditional treatment regimens have failed.

Serena Salus, a radical scientist, discovers the organism is an extraterrestrial dust mite brought to earth by a shuttle astronaut. The government contends it’s a genetically-engineered organism created on earth by enemies of freedom.

Dr. Salus uncovers a vile plan for distributing her experimental vaccine and finds herself in a deadly confrontation with powerful forces that’ll stop at nothing to control the distribution of her vaccine.

Monday, May 21, 2012

INTERVIEW: CAROL MARVELL

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Carol Marvell. Carol lives on a property outside the small country town of Childers, Queensland, Australia.

"I love my hometown for its location and climate," she told me. "I am central to three small cities, all within forty-five minutes drive; Maryborough – famous for the author of Mary Poppins, Bundaberg – famous for Bundaberg Rum, and Hervey Bay – famous for Humpback whales and World Heritage listed Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world. I am only fifteen minutes from a junction of four rivers and half hour from the coast. All this gives me a wide variety of shopping, outdoor activities, movies, beaches etc."

When she's not at her full-time job or writing, Carol loves fishing and camping. Every year the entire family (and sometimes a few additions) camps for a week on the beach of Fraser Island.

"It’s great fishing off the surf beach," she assured me. "The other good part about it is that we spend quality time with the family without any distractions of the modern world. I also love going out in our boat fishing. We can either fish the nearby rivers or whiz down to the ocean. Gardening is another love of mine. I have a large garden and try to get out in it as much as possible. I have grown most of our plants from cuttings so it’s quite rewarding seeing them grow. Travelling is another passion. My husband and I have seen a lot of the world and still wish to see more. We’ve taken our children with us at times, and now that they’re old enough to appreciate it, they too have been bitten by the travel bug. I try to read as much as I can, but seem to only get time on my holidays. And then there’s my music. I love listening as well as playing it. I play bass guitar and a little bit of piano and rhythm guitar."

Carol's writing started off as a hobby about twenty-five years ago, and she never had any intention of publishing. There weren't too many heroines around in books or movies. She grew up as a tomboy and always liked the action movies better than the romance stories, so she decided to create her own Aussie heroine.

"I wanted someone who wouldn’t crumble at the first sign of trouble, someone strong in character and genuine in personality, and someone able to look after herself," she told me. "Hence Detective Billie McCoy stepped into my world."

Carol's debut novel Slave Trader - In the Name of Freedom released this month from Wild Child Publishing, and she also has a contract with them for her second novel, the sequel to Slave Trader, Providence Road-In the Name of Friendship.

"Although I can’t give you any hints to what happens in it, Providence Road is filled with just as much fast-paced action and twists as Slave Trader. The editing process does take time though, but I’m hoping it will be ready for publication in the near future. I am also working on my third novel that sees Billie in another adventure with new bad guys to take on."

Carol actually created her main character, Detective Billie McCoy, and three of the other major characters before the story for Slave Trader took form. Once she had the idea for the story itself, she added in her villains and other characters as the story unfolded, feeding off it to guide her with new ideas and twists.

As you can see, she is definitely a pantser.

"I have never sat down and written an outline or tried to plot a storyline on paper," she admitted. "I start with an idea, which includes the main dilemma, and go from there. I build my characters and plot on the way. I never know how or where the story will lead or how it will end. I seem to make it up as I go, adding in characters, good or bad, as I need them. It makes it so much more exciting this way and quite rewarding when it all falls into place at the end. That’s the best thing about editing, you can change things at any time."

"How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?" I wondered.

"With so many crime stories out there, I wanted something different, something that would break away from the usual run of the mill detective stories. Rather than have the theme of the cops chasing clues to solve a murder or some other crime, I took another path by dumping Detective McCoy in a heap of trouble and then following her struggle to get out of it. I have used plenty of action which delivers fast moving plots. Basically, my stories revolve around the good versus the bad, the desire to see justice done, all wrapped within an adventure that can lead anywhere. Amidst all the dramas, there is an element leaning towards the strength of friendships, unique friendships that tend to grow with each book. It is this unity that I feel shape my stories, developing my ideas and plots to work around this special camaraderie."

Carol told me that she's never suffered from writer's block where she couldn't think of what to write. There have been times, however, when she has to think harder to get Billie out of some of the tight situations Carol leads her into. The stories just seem to flow for Carol and, when she's not writing, she can't get her stories out of her head—she's always thinking of ideas or developing schemes and strategies to either strengthen her existing work or create new ones.

Actually, in most cases, coming up with the title is harder for Carol than actually writing the book.

"Sometimes I feel I think too hard," she confessed. "I tossed over names for Slave Trader, bouncing them off my family, but couldn’t come up with anything I liked, or anything we all liked. And then all of a sudden, Slave Trader jumped out at me. I mean, that is what the book’s about – a modern day slave trade. It’s so easy in hindsight. Providence Road was just as frustrating. Again, as it should be, the title is related to an aspect of the story - the road they travel on when the slave traders transport their prisoners north. For the prisoners, their destiny, and fate, lies at the end of that road. I linked the two books together with their second titles – In the Name of Freedom, which concentrates on Billie and her fellow prisoners fighting for their freedom, and In the Name of Friendship, which focuses more on the development of unique friendships."

She actually wrote both of these books several years ago and was surprised to find, after the release of Slave Trader, how extensive modern slavery actually is.

"It is as real, brutal, and inhuman as any history book," Carold said. "Twenty-seven million people across the world could be considered slaves, and the industry of slavery and people trafficking makes $32 billion a year. The more I look into it, the more shocked I become. It is very frightening to know it goes on and that it is ranked among the top three revenue earners across the globe for organized crime, after drugs and arms."

"What was the scariest moment of your life?" I wondered.

"That would be the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It only took a few moments for my doctor to tell me the news. I didn’t hear much of what she said after that, and in fact, I had to revisit her the following day, with my husband by my side, to get all the facts again. That was back in 2005. The cancer proved to be quite aggressive (9 out of 12 lymph nodes in my arm were cancerous) which lead to instant surgery, followed by three months of chemotherapy and then six weeks of radiation. Within two weeks of starting my chemo, my hair started to fall out in clumps. No matter where I went, my hair was dropping into everything. It was quite overwhelming so I bit the bullet and asked my husband to shave it off. We started with a number two cut but that just made me look like a punk, so then we went the whole hog. Once I got used to the look, it wasn’t too bad. It was definitely cooler in summer. Through this ominous time, not only did I have the love and support of my wonderful family, I also had my writing which held a special place alongside them. I used my books to focus on. Editing kept my mind occupied, which helped to maintain a positive attitude and outlook. Seven years on, I am down to annual checkups, which so far, have all been clear. I take every day as it comes, every birthday as a blessing and I never complain about getting older anymore."

In addition to her writing, Carol plays in a country rock band with her husband and two other guys.

"It’s only a hobby band but we get a lot of fun out of it. We play at pubs, clubs, weddings and parties. I’ve been playing bass guitar since I was fifteen and joined my first band at the age of sixteen. I’ve never looked back. Even when I was pregnant, I was still out gigging until the last week. I had to rest my guitar on my hip because my belly was too big. It must have affected my children because they are all musical and have achieved qualifications up to 8th grade in violin. I’m also a member of a symphony orchestra playing, would you believe, electric bass. There are over fifty members and we play a wide variety of music. The orchestra is totally voluntary and we visit retirement villages and small towns to entertain the residents. They love it, especially the elderly who don’t get out very much."

About the Author:
I live on a small property in Queensland, Australia. I work in a local primary school as a school officer / librarian and have recently taken on an additional role of Community Development Officer. Born in Childers, I grew up on a cane farm. Horses were my passion back then and I spent a lot of time in the saddle; riding with friends, pony club, shows etc. I met my husband on a beach at Hervey Bay - I was ten, he was eleven. Even though he lived in Sydney (a thousand miles away), he visited his grandmother every school holidays. My family had a holiday house around the corner from her, so we met up each holiday. We became good friends, and after he moved to Hervey Bay many years later, we were married. As he worked in the airlines, we could travel cheaply so saw a lot of the world, including Australia. I worked as a weighbridge clerk in a sugar mill. Both of our jobs revolved around shiftwork so at times we hardly saw each other. That’s when my writing took a firm hold. It was a means of taking my mind off being home alone in a big creaky house, particularly at night. At the same time, under this silence of the sometimes long hours, I had no interruptions to distract my thoughts. Once I was focused on my writing, nothing stopped me. We now have three beautiful children, two girls and a boy, and have just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. My husband is still my best friend and soul mate.

Find the author online at:

http://wildchildpublishing.com
http://www.carolmarvell.webs.com
http://twitter.com/carolmarvell
http://www.facebook.com/carolmarvell

For the past three years, young prostitutes and destitute women have been vanishing without trace. Their fates unknown, the only common links to their disappearances are their good looks and prison records.

Never before has a cop been taken.

Detective Billie McCoy, a member of an elite undercover squad, is on assignment when she stumbles onto a slavery racket that goes deeper than she could ever have imagined. Plunged into a web of corruption and evil, not only does she have to contend with the slave traders, but her fellow prisoners – all who hate cops.

Stretching from the streets of Sydney to the rainforests in far north Queensland, it’s a race against time. Filled with determination, disappointment and twists, the story follows Billie’s fight for freedom and her greatest ever challenge. She will need all her cunning and skill to get out alive and see justice done. Blood will be spilt, hopes will be destroyed – all to uncover a plot so unpredictable that only fate can decide . . . .

Thursday, May 17, 2012

GUEST BLOG: MATT CHATELAIN

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This post is part of a Virtual Book Tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author is giving away a $20 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour. Click on the tour banner above to see his other stops; remember, the more you enter, the better your chances!


The Caves of Etretat is the first of a four-book epic action/adventure. The main protagonist evolves through the series, following a classic theme of growth, overcoming challenges to master hidden secrets, explored in such books as Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, the Dune series by Frank Herbert, the Matrix movie series by the Wachowsky brothers, and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.

I wrote The Caves of Etretat in the first person. It was an unthinking act, one I naturally fell to when writing stories. My story rolled around Etretat, a small town in France, around Maurice Leblanc, an author who lived there, and Arsene Lupin, Leblanc's famous character. Lupin was a gentleman-thief created as a counterpoint to Sherlock Holmes in England. The character was mischievous and clever, able to steal your heart and your paintings at the same time. He had a habit of presenting himself under anagrams of his name.

I came up with Paul Sirenne, a name Lupin had never used. My main character was born.

He was me, at the beginning. I placed myself in a fictitious adventure, one I had always dreamed about. Raymonde Leblanc, Sirenne's one true love, reflected my life partner. Many of my faults were his, having created him without reflection. Blended in were a few character traits. There were some things I wanted Paul Sirenne to be.

I didn't like the action hero in the books I read. They were always too good, too perfect. I wanted an average guy thrown into the adventure of his life. His perspective had to be different, not gung-ho mercenary. I wanted him scared and weak, unwilling to take chances. He would have to be forced to act throughout the series.

Paul Sirenne evolved as I grew the series. One day, he was no longer me. He had become a separate identity, alive in my head, dictating his actions, no matter what I wanted. I could outline the events that would happen to him but his reactions were his own. I started seeing the story as an inclined board with pegs on it. Characters were balls that I dropped through the pegs. I could set the pegs where I wanted but the balls bounced where they wanted.

The problem was that the story was so real. Research proved I was following a historical mystery, exploring the same thing Jules Verne had explored, along with Maurice Leblanc. Sirenne's quest was my quest, no matter what I did to separate fiction from reality. He sought the answers to my questions. Why are we here? Is matter real? Is the world, the universe, an illusion?

What did this have to do with Etretat?

Leblanc had obviously been caught in the same trap, one hundred years ago. He hid more than 1400 codes and clues in his books, trying to tell someone, anyone about the mysteries in Rennes-le-Chateau. Now, here I was, following in his footsteps, somehow looking for the exact same answers. The priest Sauniere, in Rennes-le-Chateau, had posed the same questions, in clues hidden in his church and in his tower.

Every book I wrote in the series emphasized the connections. Research led me inevitably to find that story elements were not invention after all. Sirenne was looking for something real, Like Leblanc and Sauniere before him.

Like me.

The Four Books of Etretat, the title of the second book suddenly represented the four books of my series. At some point in the story, Fabian Coulter, Sirenne's friend, reflects on the similarities between fiction and reality. I still don't know if he was talking to me or to Sirenne. All I can say is Sirenne was pulled into the adventure of his life and I was there, stuck by his side until the very end.

I had to go back and re-adjust Sirenne as his character evolved. What had seemed like unplanned impulses when I started writing the book, now took on deep meaning. The story was circular, always bringing me back to The Caves of Etretat. Sirenne's character was circular, changing himself through time, his future changing his past.

Sirenne was teaching me.

Although I was writing fiction, sitting isolated in my room at home, the world had reached out and connected to me, involving me in the most important search of my life. My character, Sirenne, was going where I could not, and he would not stop until the answers came to him, to me. Writing Book Four, The Greyman, was the hardest thing to do. I was swimming in the unknown.

I'd wanted my character to do what I had never seen done before. Sauniere hadn't done it. Leblanc hadn't done it. Dan Brown had only alluded to it. I wanted Sirenne to find the answers, to make them make sense, to give us good reason for all this suffering. Do you remember Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson? All his suffering? What was it all for in the end?

Could Sirenne do it?

He damn well did. I was lost, hanging on, trying to make sense of it all, but he saw the answers. He wrote them down and brought them back. The last book ends at the first, changing everything, changing Sirenne, changing me.

Changing you.

In the end, I went back to Book One, to The Caves of Etretat, to page eleven, where I inserted the ultimate line describing Paul Sirenne. It seems like nothing, a sentence easily missed or ignored. "I hurt no one and no one hurts me." That sentence expresses so much more than Sirenne. It's the fear of suffering in all of us. The problem is, no one can avoid suffering. The question is: Why Not?

Discover more about my series at my website www.MattChatelain.com , including audio excepts and interviews. The Caves of Etretat is available at Kindle as Ebook, and at Amazon.com in hardcopy. Book two will be out by end of May 2012. All four books will be published by end of 2012. Sign up to win signed copies of the series on my website. Don't forget to leave a comment.

About the Author:
Born in Ottawa, fifty-two years ago, I have been the owner of a used bookstore I opened in Ontario, since 1990. I have been writing since I was ten. Beginning with poetry, I quickly moved on to short stories and non-fiction pieces. I stayed in that format for many years, eventually self-publishing a franchise manual (How to Open Your Own Used Bookstore), as well as a variety of booklets, such as 'How to Save Money at Home', 'Build a Greenhouse with Style' and the ten booklet series of Eddy Brock, Brockville Detective.

Having semi-retired from the bookstore, I embarked on the project of writing my first serious novel, which I expanded to a four book series after discovering an incredible mystery hidden within Maurice Leblanc's books.

My interests are eclectic. I like Quantum Physics, Cosmology, history, archaeology, science in general, mechanics, free power, recycling and re-use. I'm a good handyman and can usually fix just about anything. I'm good with computers. I love movies, both good and bad, preferring action and war movies. I can draw and paint fairly well but am so obsessed with perspective and light that I cannot think of much else. I am too detail oriented. Takes too long to finish anything.

Website: www.MattChatelain.com
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003486781507

In 2007, Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne is suddenly thrust into a quest for answers, when his parents are found brutally murdered, their bodies cut up and shaped into the letters H.N. Finding a note inside his father's copy of The Hollow Needle, by Maurice Leblanc, Sirenne is determined to uncover the roots of his long-forgotten family secret.

He heads to the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of the Hollow Needle. Falling in love with Leblanc's great-granddaughter, he deals with puzzles, theories, codes and historical mysteries, leading him to believe that Leblanc held a secret war against Adolf Hitler, fighting for the control of an incredible complex of caves hidden in Etretat's chalk cliffs.

THE CAVES OF ETRETAT is the first in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

INTERVIEW: BARRY WILLDORF

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Barry S. Willdorf, whose second book in his 1970s Trilogy, A Short in the Arm, has recently been released.

He told me he's pretty conventional when it comes to titles. He tries to have the title relate to the theme of the book.

"For my trilogy, I began with Burning Questions because the mystery involves who is burning down all these old hotels and, more to the point, why they killed a rich kid that witnessed a torching," he explained. "In A Shot In the Arm, the mystery is who gave this girl a fatal dose of heroin, why, and how the perp covers it up. In both of these books, someone is set up to take the fall. But the title comes from the kind of crime that's involved."

Barry's first published work was on a book called How to Pass the LSATs.

"I was in law school and needed the money. So I took this job for a guy named Gruber," he explained. "My part was to make up fictitious factual situations for students to apply legal principals. I did crime stories where they had to decide whether evidence was admissible. I did auto accidents where they had to explain who was negligent and why. I made up contracts and businessmen who maybe breached them, and maybe not. The students had to look at the facts and decide how the law would come down on one side or the other."

I asked Barry how he developed his plot and characters.

"I have a general idea of a mystery or thriller plot. I have some regular characters that I hire from the central casting that is somewhere in the recesses of my addled mind. I use a Mr. Potatohead strategy when I describe them, taking characteristics from different people I've met who have prominent and interesting features. Things like bulbous noses, cauliflower ears, comb-overs, crossed eyes, cleft palettes, whatever. I just put stuff together to make a picture of a person with human features and flaws. And I don't seem to ever know where my characters are going. I kind of let them romp on their own until I get to where I think I ought to stop. In Burning Questions, for example, I completely changed the perp at the last minute. I didn't know I was going to do it until I read an early draft and decided that I'd rather have a different murderer. So people can read it and think they know who did it, only to get fooled, just like I did."

"What do you like to do when you are not writing?" I asked.

"I am always amazed by this question because we tend to go one way or another with it. One way you can go is to give a complete fantasy response based upon one's interpretation of the word: 'like.' I like to spend my time on a tropical beech with a warm swimming spot, and an inexhaustible supply of cool mixed drinks. When that's happening, I'm not writing. The other way people tend to answer this question is by saying the everyday things that they actually do, that they like, as compared to the rest of the bedraggled and hassle-prone things that cross their paths daily. I like to hang out with friends sipping coffee as opposed to cleaning silverware with a solvent. But I prefer that beach."

Barry tends to get hung up on facts and details during his writing. He'll find himself wondering what kind of evergreen was native to the British Isles two thousand years ago. Because he wants the background of his scene to be authentic, he can spend a day or two on the Internet reading bits and pieces of academic papers.

" All this work for maybe a sentence," he said. "But now I know the answer to that question."

Sometimes he will get a book from the library for research, but when he does he goes through the footnotes and check those out.

"You can tell if sources borrow each other's work and give themselves a symbiotic relationship," he explained. "I know it's not going to the original source, and historians would disapprove, but I'm writing novels and I need to know that I'm within the target, not that I've scored a bullseye."

One of Barry's favorite characters is Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.

"He's a madman but he gets everyone to follow him because of his zeal," he told me. "Every word, every mannerism convey's Melville's alegory to watch out we don't mistake some people's zealotry for truth, like the crew of the Pequod did. The whole ship got destroyed but one who was left to give warning: Just because somebody is really crazy, 200% sure in their beliefs, it doesn't mean they're right."

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

"I think I'd like to take the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul with a few choice stops along the way. I"ll take it up with my publisher after he ponies up a hundred Gs in advertising and promo, which I'm sure he'll be doing immediately after he reads this. And then he'll have to do the same for fifty other authors who will be outraged at my good fortune at being able to hire a PR firm at publisher's expense. And while we're fantasizing, I' d like to have an open bar and a fancy deli plate at every bookstore my booking agent (at publisher expense) can book for me."

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

"First, you have to learn how to write. Then you need life experience so the things you write about can pass for real. Then you have to learn how to take criticism. Then you have to learn how to take rejection. Then you have to learn how to negotiate. Then you have to learn how to promote a book. Then you have to work on public speaking. Then you have to get a day job to support yourself. Then you have to watch out that you don't become an alcoholic or a drug addict. After that, it's a piece of cake."

About the Author:
I was born in New York City and grew up in Massachusetts. I was an investigator for the New York Legal Aid Society. During a legal career of more than four decades, I have been lead counsel in more than 100 trials from homicides to Ponzi schemes. In 2005, the San Francisco AIDS Legal Referral Panel named me “Attorney of the Year”.

In 1972, I co-authored a military legal self-help book: Turning the Regs Around. In 2001, I published a semi-autobiographical novel, Bring the War Home! drawing from these experiences. Bring the War Home! is available as a free download on Scribd. My historical novel, The Flight of the Sorceress recently won a Global E-Book Award for best historical literature and was an EPIC finalist for a 2012 “best historical novel.” Most recently, my 1970s Trilogy is in mid-publication. Part one, Burning Questions, was published in August 2011. Part two, A Shot In The Arm, was published April 1, 2012. Part three, The Fourth Conspirator, will be published in September 2012. My legal publishing credits include co-authoring How To Pass the LSATs, and part of the Matthew Bender series, California Forms of Jury Instructions. I was also a contributing editor for Matthew Bender’s Trial Master series. I have also written a guide to the courtroom for non-lawyers called See You In Court! currently available as an e-book on Smashwords and Scribd.

I live in San Francisco, am married with three grown daughters and three grandchildren, one pending.

More about me and my novels can be found on my website: www.agauchepress.com and on my various blogs: www.flightofthesorceress.blogspot.com, www.1970strilogy.blogspot.com, and www.cunct.blogspot.com.

Against Christina’s advice, Nate Lewis defends a black militant accused of homicide. But his fat cash retainer was stolen from government agents involved in a drugs-for-guns operation. Soon Nate is the last man standing as the agents attempt to recover the cash. Only Christina can save him. But she’s caught him philandering. Will she?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Short Story: The Bribe by Tara Fox Hall

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THE BRIBE
by
Tara Fox Hall


Why did she have to sit here with this insufferable old woman, Lynette thought. Anything was preferable than playing babysitter. Worse, her mother had taken away her phone, saying Lynette was expected to watch over her great-grandmother Viola that afternoon at her apartment.

Lynette had done her best repentant act, but her mother hadn’t relented. It didn’t help that her mother was still mad about the phone bill last month. Lynette had told her to sign up for unlimited texts, but her mother had refused, saying that Lynette had to pay more attention to what was going on around her. God...

“What is it, dear?” her great-grandma said, leaning forward. “You look like a cat just barfed in your lap.”

Lynette smiled at her grandma’s characteristic bluntness, in spite of her sour mood. “I’m sorry, Grandma Viola. I just wish I had my phone back.”

“You miss testing?” her great-grandma asked.

“Texting,” Lynette corrected. “Yes. It’s like living in the 1900s to be without my contacts—”

“Not quite,” her great-grandma said, picking up a square cloth-bound book. “I was born in 1909, remember? You’ve got it made, Lynn.” She opened the book, then pointed to a photo of a girl in a simple poplin dress, a wide hat shading her face, her hands on a bicycle. Carriages were parked behind her, the dark horses in harness standing complacently. “You don’t have to wear a skirt, or do any of the things expected of ladies back then. You have real choices.” She paused, her finger resting on the picture. “I only had one real choice in my youth; to be cruel, or be kind to her.”

Intrigued, Lynette leaned in close, looking at the other blurry figure almost hidden in the picture’s background. “Who is that?”

“Delilah,” her great-grandma said. “But she was known as Lahlah. She was looked down on by the community, because she thought she saw visions.”

“You knew her in the summers, when you went to Maine?”

Her great-grandma nodded. “I loved swimming with a passion. I think I spent every day in the water. And I wasn’t alone.” She turned the page, pointing to another picture, this one of a short man in dark clothes, his dark eyes scary. “This is Gemini Gardeau. He was a rich, middle-aged man who owned the cottage next to us. He would come out every day to watch me. I didn’t pay attention. No one did, except for Lahlah.”

Lynette nodded, rapt. “And?”

“Lahlah came to me one evening at dusk, when I was walking up to our cabin from the shore. Her talk was wild, telling me to be scared of old man Gardeau, telling me he had plans for me, bad plans.”

“What did you do?”

“I chose to be kind,” Grandma Viola said, drawing herself up proudly. “I thanked her for her help, and told her to tell me if she had any visions, so I’d have warning if he tried anything. She solemnly agreed. My mother called for me just then, distracting me. When I looked back for Lahlah, she was gone.”

Lynette’s eyes rounded “Did he try anything?”

Her Grandma Viola nodded. “Yes. Listen.”

***


The air was chill, the first hints of fall in the clear cold wind coming off the beach. The sun was just setting, the afterglow lighting the sky with pale blues and pinks.

Viola looked up at the sky as she walked up from the beach, toweling her hair and marveling at how the sight never seemed to get old. Maybe that was because each sunset was unique, like a snowflake.

Her smile morphed to a frown. There would be enough of those soon. Worse, school was coming up fast…

“Viola?” a low voice crooned. “Would you wait, please?”

Viola turned, the sight of Old Man Gardeau walked toward her freezing her in place. “I need to go—”

“I just wanted to talk to you,” Gardeau said, taking her hand, his iron grip locking onto her thin wrist. “Please, come with me—”

Viola tried to yank her hand away. “Let me go—”

Gardeau grabbed her other hand, then pulled her close, his arms squeezing her as his hand covered her mouth, silencing her scream. Viola struggled, kicking and flailing as he began to drag her up near the pier.

“Be quiet,” he hissed, his breath sweet and sickly. “I aim to have you—”

Viola hit at him, getting in a lucky blow. Gardeau grunted in pain, then hit her hard across the face, stunning her.

“You’re bad as Natalie,” Gardeau hissed, his dark eyes glistening like wet stones. “Come here—”

Viola let out a cry, frantically trying to crawl away. Natalie Foster, a local teen that had gone missing this spring. She’d been found beneath the pier a week later, what was left of her. Police had blamed it on a transient…

Gardeau grabbed her arms, dragging her towards the darkness under the pier. As he entered the dark, he suddenly cried out in pain, then slumped.

“Viola?” a feminine voice asked tentatively.

“Lahlah?” Viola ventured, reaching out to take the pale offered arm.

Lahlah pulled her to her feet, her grip surprisingly strong for someone so slight. “Go on home.”

Viola cast a hasty look of fear at Gardeau, relief washing over her that he was still motionless. “What about him?”

“Lahlah will take care of it,” the thin figure said resolutely. “You go on.”

Viola ran for home, casting one look over her shoulder, her last view of Lahlah dragging Gardeau’s body beneath the pier.

***


“She killed him?”

“It was ruled an accidental drowning,” Grandma Viola answered, her tone meaningful. “Everyone knew he drank, and liked to walk on the beach at dusk.”

“Then how did you know for sure that she did it?”

“Listen,” Grandma Viola said.

***


Viola was alone on the pier, her thoughts troubled as she watched the sunset. Gardeau was dead, so there was no reason for her to be afraid. But she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. She turned to go, letting out a gasp to find Lahlah right behind her, her hand extended.

“Hi,” Lahlah said nervously.

“Did you kill him?” Viola blurted, then went white, clapping her hand over her mouth as she shrank back against the railing.

“Had to,” Lahlah said, her wild eyes rolling crazily. “I been watching a long time, Viola. Gardeau hurt other girls over the years, girls just like you. Always kept quiet—” She flung her arms wide. “—but no more.”

“What?” Viola stammered.

“No more coins,” Lahlah said, reaching into her pocket, and bringing forth a fistful of silver dollars, the coins rolling out of her grip to hit the deck, some plinking into the water. “No more dead girls.”

There were more than twenty coins there. And each represented a dead girl. “You knew,” Viola accused, her tone screeching. “You knew all this time!”

“Forgive me,” Lahlah sobbed, trying to give her the money. “Please—”

Viola pushed her to the ground, the coins scattering in a wide arc of gleaming silver to disappear into the darkness. “You didn’t have visions! You always knew!”

Lahlah cowered. “Please, no—”

***


“What happened?” Lynette asked, enraptured.

Grandma Viola shrugged. “I ran from her, terrified and sure she was as crazy as everyone had always said. She drowned herself in the ocean that night.”

Lynette blinked, then leaned back, trying to shake off the horror she was feeling. “This sounds like those ghost stories you read.”

Grandma Viola smiled then reached behind the picture, pulling out a coin. She placed it in Lynn’s hand. It was a silver dollar marked 1901.

“She showed me the coins,” Grandma Viola said sadly. “The rest were lost, or washed out to sea that night. But this one fell into my shoe top somehow.” She pressed it into Lynn’s hand. “Here.”

Lynn recoiled a little. “I can’t take this.”

“Consider it a bribe for kindness,” her Grandma Viola said. “It cost Lahlah her soul. Everyone needs reminding now and then to do the right thing. She saved me. I’ll never know why I was the turning point when so many others went missing without her acting to stop it. But I’ve been grateful for her ever since. In return, I’ve tried to always do what was right by others, even when it wasn’t easy. And its time I passed on that lesson to you.” She pressed the coin into Lynn’s hand. “The coin is for remembrance. You exist because of a stranger’s kindness. Don’t ever forget to be kind yourself.”

“I won’t,” Lynn said softly, taking the coin. “I won’t.”

About the Author:Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, horror, suspense, erotica, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. Her first full-length novel, Lash, was published in April 2012. She divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.

Find the author online at:

Website: www.TaraFoxHall.com
Tara's Blog: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5286654.Tara_Fox_Hall/blog
Tara's Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Fox-Hall/151813374904903
For info on my recently published work, Just Shadows, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Just-Shadows-ebook/dp/B006V4HB2Y

Monday, May 7, 2012

INTERVIEW: JENNIFER MILLER

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly, which releases tomorrow. Jennifer will also be at Water Street Books in Exeter, New Hampshire, on Thursday, May 10, at 7 PM for a reading from her new work. If you are close, stop in and tell her hello.

The original title for The Year of the Gadfly was "Extremophile."

"Extremophiles are micro-organisms that exist in extreme environments--like in thermal vents or under intense pressure at the bottom of the sea," Jennifer explained. "One of my main characters is a science teacher who got his PhD in microbiology studying extremophiles. In the book, they become a metaphor for adolescence: our teenage years are often the most extreme time in our lives."

She's working on a new novel about the daughter of a Vietnam Vet whose fiance comes back from Iraq with PTSD. Her protagonist, Becca, ends up on a motorcycle road trip with her father and his war buddies. They are traveling to compound in the Utah desert to visit a man who may or may not have the heart of a Hindu god embedded in his stomach. It's based on a story Jennifer wrote for the New York Times about a group of bikers.

"I rode across the country with them on the back of a motorcycle in 2005. They were called Rolling Thunder. At the time, I was the only female along under the age of 25, the only Jew, and one of like two democrats," she told me. "It was a strange and fascinating experience. The men were mostly in their late fifties and early sixties and they were very protective of me. They made sure I wore sunblock everyday and even took me to buy a leather pony tail cover so that my hair wouldn't get too tangled. They're some of the best people I've met, though they have very different stories from their years in the war. I had a lot more material than could fit into a 1700-word article, so I'm turning it into a novel."

Jennifer is a journalist as well as a fiction writer, so much of what she writes has its basis in her reporting experiences. The Year of the Gadfly is partially based on the death of her high school boyfriend. To create a character similar to him, she interviewed all of his friends and his parents.

"I even read articles he'd published in science magazines before his death--and it was one of those articles in which I first learned about extremophiles," she said.

She spends a lot of time brainstorming with her husband, talking through various plot scenarios and character traits. She will also make timelines of plot elements.

"My characters are often composites of people I've met throughout my life," she admitted. "For example, the character of Jonah Kaplan in my book is physically based on a kid I went to elementary school with (the pale skin and wild, orange hair), while his personality is based on my brother's (his cynicism and love of science)."

Jennifer writes full time and splits her day between fiction and journalism. She has a small office in her Brooklyn apartment. The desk sits directly in front of a large window overlooking the tops of some low-slung apartment buildings and a church spire.

"There are also trees and I can sometimes see into the windows of my neighbors across the street. There is a teenage girl who sometimes sits by her window doing her homework. It makes me feel good to know that there are people living their lives--and writing--all around me," she said. "The walls of my office have a framed New York Times front page with the enormous headline: 'Nixon Resigns.' I try to get in about five hours of writing time a day, but if I'm in the middle of a revision I'll end up sitting at my desk until eight or nine pm. I often need to get out of the house in order to motivate, so I'll circulate through a handful of coffeeshops in my neighborhood. Being around other people who are also working helps keep me focused. There are two pitfalls in working away from home. First: I generally eat my way through the day (also to keep myself motivated!) and coffeeshops get expensive. Second: people don't seem to realize that a coffeeshop is NOT an actual office and when they take extended business calls, I have to start giving them the stink eye."

Jennifer finds two things hard about writing. First is whether or not she will sell the book or magazine article she's working on.

"I'd like to tell you that I can do this just for the fun of it, but I'm trying to make a career as a writer, so it's not just about fun but also earning money," she said. "So far, I've been lucky to earn money writing in formats and about topics that are inherently interesting to me--though it hasn't been steady since I started. After my non-fiction book, Inheriting the Holy Land, came out in 2005, it took another five years for me to sell the the next book--The Year of the Gadfly. The other difficult thing about writing is feeling limited in my abilities. I have a certain style and it's very hard to break out of that style or move past it even if I really want to. "

"Have you ever eaten a crayon?" I asked.

"I have never eaten a crayon, thought it's funny that you include this question. One of my favorite moments on Sesame Street (or possibly Mr. Rogers) is a segment shot in a crayon factory. You see all the different colored waxes being melted and I remember always wanted to eat (or, I guess, drink) those!"

Jennifer kind of floated between groups in high school, because her school didn't exactly have popular and non-popular crowds. Their groups were definite by their physical hangout location in the school.

"Some of these corresponded with social activities--so the techies hung out on the third floor (but there were also actors up there as well as non-techie kids who played magic cards.) The kids who were more preppy hung out in the school lounge, but then again, so did the kids who wanted to sit on actual couches instead of on the floor (which most of us did because my high school had no cafeteria and was really lax on the rules). Some of my friends were in the lounge. Some of them had a spot outside the language department on the first floor and another group had a spot on the second floor outside the library," she told me. "In The Year of the Gadfly, social group and social standing is directly equivalent to where kids hang out, so the so-called losers hang out in the school basement, known as The Trench."

When the weather is nice, Jennifer loves to take very long walks while listening to podcasts. She also likes to shop, even though a lot of the time she ends up not buying anything.

"I just like the variety of looking at clothes and styles and feeling like I could wear them all even if I won't," she said. "I watch way too much TV, which has been a problem since I was a kid. Only now that I make a living out of literature, I don't feel nearly as guilty about it. I think The Wire is the best show ever made for television. I know of no other TV show that is so realistic and engrossing. Stop whatever you are doing right now and go watch it. I'm also a fan of The Office, 30 Rock, and Community--basically the Thursday night lineup. Oh, and Mad Men and Friday Night Lights are also fantastic. Such great narratives."

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

"Being a successful writer is a combination of two things: talent and perseverance. I believe they are closely connected. Sure, there's innate talent, but the more you write, the better writer you become. The more you read and study how other authors develop their characters and plots, the more you learn about how to create your own great fiction. It's a question of devoting yourself to the task. As long as you stick with it and don't let yourself become discouraged to the point of giving up, then you will become a good writer and you will achieve success. The Year of the Gadfly took me six years and multiple drafts to write."

About the Author:
Jennifer Miller is author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Men's Health, Smithsonian.com, Salon.com, Guernica.com, the Columbia Journalism Review, The Millions and the Daily Beast. Jen holds an MFA in fiction-writing and a MS in journalism from Columbia. She is a native of Washington, DC and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with all the other writers.

Find the author online:

www.byjennifermiller.com
https://twitter.com/#!/propjen
http://www.facebook.com/byJenniferMiller

Iris Dupont is a teenage reporter who communes with the ghost of Edward R. Murrow. Jonah Kaplan is a failed microbiologist-turned biology teacher who is haunted by the ghosts of his past. Each embarks on a private investigation to uncover a secret society in their remote New England town. As Iris and Jonah's paths start to intersect, they are drawn into the darker corners of their town, their school, and their own minds.

Friday, May 4, 2012

INTERVIEW: LIESE SHERWOOD-FABRE

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Long and Short welcomes Liese Sherwood-Fabre whose debut novel Saving Hope is being released today. Alexandra's daughter in the novel is Nadezhda, which means “hope” in Russian. That’s where the title comes from—saving her daughter Hope.

Liese is currently working on another suspense/thriller novel set in Mexico and loosely based on the Lori Berenson case. She was an American woman arrested in Peru in 1995 for supporting a terrorist organization there. In mine, a young woman is arrested by the Mexican army and charged with terrorism—only in this case, the woman is the daughter of a U.S. Senator.

"How do you do your research for your books?" I asked.

"Thank goodness for the Internet! I can look up most of the information I need there. When that doesn’t work, there are books (I recently purchased one on how U.S. embassies operate). I also will put questions out to some writing groups. There’s a lot of expertise among different writers. Finally, so far, I have written about places I know--such as Mexico and Russia."

While doing her research, Liese found out that the US Foreign Service provides a formal system for any employee to influence policy through what is known as the dissenting channel. Anyone who is in disagreement with a situation or policy can send a message straight to the top of the State Department. Of course, they need to be able to support their position and to truly make changes, need to document it thoroughly, but it has been used successfully since the 1970s to affect foreign policy.

"I know I’m going to be putting that bit of info to good use somewhere, sometime," she told me.

Liese grew up in Dallas, Texas, and lived there until she went to college—forty-five minutes from home in Fort Worth.

"I could’ve done without the heat in the summer, but as a child there was Six Flags (we went every summer from the time it opened) and were close enough to Oklahoma where my cousins lived to drive up on a regular basis to visit them," she said. "Having lived other places, I’ve become aware of how proud Texans are of their state and its heritage. It was the only one that formed its own independent country with a president and currency before joining the Union."

One of the other places she lived was in Moscow and that's where she experienced one of the scariest moments of her life, shortly after the US entered the war in Bosnia. A man fired an anti-tank missile into the US embassy.

"I didn’t work in the embassy building. The US Agency for International Development (USAID, the foreign assistance arm of the US government) occupied the building behind it," she explained. "The missile went through the embassy’s outer wall and hit the copy machine. I heard the explosion, but felt relatively safe being surrounded by other buildings. Luckily, the room where the missile hit was empty at the time and no one was hurt."

Liese dabbled in creative writing throughout high school and undergraduate school, even winning two honorable mentions during her undergrad years at TCU in their annual writing contest. She began pursuing it seriously when she was working in Mexico in the 1990s.

"I had a subscription to Isaac Asimov’s science fiction magazine, and after reading one story, I thought to myself, 'I can do that.' Despite that first story’s rejection, I learned I could find the time to write and turned to writing a novel about a group of expatriate women living in Mexico. It will probably never be published, but I learned even more about writing from that experience."

In terms of books on writing, she found Sol Stein’s, Stephen King’s, and Robert McKee’s books very good in providing direction, however there are too many fiction writers who have inspired her for her to name.

When she was very little, however, she wanted to be an archeologist.

"Long before Indiana Jones was ever created, I thought it would be fun to seek out and discover ancient worlds," she told me. "Then I read about the work the work and knew I didn’t have the skill set needed to be a good one. I’m too impatient to sift through dirt one centimeter at a time. I’d want to hack away at something and probably destroy things in the process."

"Are you a plotter or a pantser?" I wondered.

"I would like to think I’m a plotter, but I often find myself going off the track I’ve laid out, so I’d have to say I’m a mix. I have an idea of where I want to go, but things pop up as I start writing, so I just keep writing, knowing that I’ll figure it out at some point. Once it’s finished, however, I do lay out the plot to determine if I’m hitting the turning points—what sends the story forward and into different directions—at the appropriate times."

Saving Hope is out in e-book format today through Musa Publishing and I asked Liese what she thought of the whole e-publishing trend.

"The e-reader market is exploding. Amazon sold more than 4 million Kindle units in the month of December. Not to mention Nook, iPad, Kobo, etc. All publishers are seeking to provide the material for all those readers. Traditional publishers were slow to pick up on this trend, and the e-publishers have been able to exploit this niche to their advantage. In addition, they are willing to take more of a chance on books that traditional publishers would say they can’t easily categorize. Traditional publisher are concerned with placing books on the shelves in brick and mortar stores where interested readers can find them. Where such labeling is a problem, they’ll often pass. E-publishers, on the other hand, can list books in several different categories on a Web site without a problem, increasing the type of reader a book might reach as well as offering readers a greater variety."

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

"The most basic is: perseverance. Every once in a while, you might hear of someone who writes one book, finds a publisher immediately, and has a bestseller overnight, but I haven’t met them personally. Start writing, find a writers’ group to help you learn the both the craft and business ends, and find another writer and work as critique partners. Only start submitting to editors or agents when you have a finished product you can be proud of. Also, reading in the genre you’re writing will also help you with the cadence and vocabulary in your own works."

About the Author:
Liese Sherwood-Fabre grew up in Dallas, Texas and knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live abroad for more than fifteen years—in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career and has had several published pieces. Her debut novel Saving Hope, a thriller set in Russia, will be available from Musa Publishing on May 4.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1370210900
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/lsfabre
Bebo: http://www.bebo.com/c/home/index.html
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/liesesherwoodfabre

In one of Siberia's formerly closed cities, Alexandra Pavlova, an unemployed microbiologist, struggles to save her daughter’s life. When she turns to Vladimir, her oldest friend, for help, she's drawn into Russia’s underworld. His business dealings with the Iranians come to the attention of Sergei Borisov, an FSB (formerly the KGB) agent. Alexandra finds herself joining forces with Sergei to stop the export of a deadly virus in a race to save both her daughter and the world.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

GUEST BLOG: TARA FOX HALL

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At his request, I allowed Trystan Valeras a.k.a. Lash to be the one to introduce my newest work Lash, the novel depicting his origin. A heartfelt thank you to him for this, and also a warning.: watch the language, and don’t be threatening anyone. :-) - Tara Fox Hall

WHY A SNAKE?


What kind of fu—um…what kind of title is that? Why not a snake? I admit I’m not cuddly like a Pomeranian, but hey, would you really be that interested in my exploits if I were? You want danger, you want suspense, you want some fucking heads to roll, then you came to the right place, Dolls and Gents. I’m not going to waste your time with bull, or draw out the mystery any longer than it takes me to drive my survival knife right through the beating heart of the matter. So let's cut this small talk and get down to business.

Lash is the story of my origin. I’ll be straight with you; it’s not pretty. I was forced to kill my first man when I was only a child. I did it in defense of my mother and brother. We didn’t want trouble. My mother just wanted a better job, so we could have a good life. We’d been driven from our home in the swamp, and we had no other choice. When your back is against the wall, and your hand is forced, you have to kill. I’ve never understood why some say how hard it is. When it’s a matter of survival, you do what you have to do. I always have.

I admit, when my mom got the job at the Case hotel, I thought that we were going to be okay. Maybe not great—we were staff, not guests—but life was okay, if not exactly pretty. Then a few years later, my father showed up. He’d only been gone…let's see…my whole life. He was a gangster to boot. While the fortunes of my family changed overnight, it was far harder for me to adjust. I knew what I was, and I knew I didn’t belong with those rich people who smiled at me with cold eyes, even if my mother was now the legal wife of my father, rendering me legitimate . I also knew with that blood money came expectations, that my father wanted me to follow him into the family business, something I wasn’t sure I wanted to do. I knew he had enemies, people that would try to kill us to get to him. But none of that mattered in the end, not really. What mattered to me was Mara.

I’d admired her from afar for months, from the first day I saw her, standing there in front of the hotel with her family. I knew she was out of my league, that those stolen looks from afar was as close as I’d ever get. But once I was rich, that changed. I was able to get close to her, to be first friends, then her fiancĂ©e. There were so many complications, with her being human and me being snake. But I stupidly told myself that didn’t matter. I told myself that if she loved me, she had to love all of me, including the sometime scales. And so the morning of the wedding, I went to meet her, to tell her everything.

She didn’t accept me, to put it lightly. Everything went to complete shit, to be more accurate (yes, I’m trying to refrain from swearing, but sometimes I have to express myself, Ms. Hall). I had to kill people, and was nearly killed myself. Worse, my family was attacked a few days later, and some of my family members were killed. I was forced into hiding with my pregnant mother, while we waited for my father to find out who was behind it.

A lot of things happened I regret. Some of those were things I did myself. Please remember that I didn’t get to be Lash because I wanted to be. I became Lash because I had to. Give me a chance, and I promise you action, suspense, and mayhem, laced with a little sex for spice and more than a little humor. I’m just like you, except I sometimes have scales (and fangs). Hey, if you all can get behind vampires and zombies, I’ve got to think you can at least try a weresnake. What do you have to lose? I promise not to bite…for now.

Be seeing you in the dark later,
Lash

About the Author: Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, horror, suspense, erotica, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She also coauthored the essay “The Allure of the Serial Killer,” published in Serial Killers - Philosophy for Everyone: Being and Killing (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Her first full-length action-adventure novel, Lash, published in April 2012. Her vampire series begins in June 2012, with the 1st novel Promise Me. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice.

Find the author online:

Website: www.TaraFoxHall.com
Blog: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5286654.Tara_Fox_Hall/blog
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Fox-Hall/151813374904903
For info on my recently published work, Lash, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Lash-ebook/dp/B007UJ6KGC
For info on my recently published work, Just Shadows, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Just-Shadows-ebook/dp/B006V4HB2Y

Scarred from a childhood spent in perpetual indigence after being forced from their home in the Everglades, weresnake Trystan Valeras and his family make their way to the Case Hotel. When his wealthy gangster father arrives the summer he turns sixteen, Trystan’s dream of a better life, along with the lovely aristocrat Mara, is suddenly within his grasp. Instead of paradise, a series of devastating events unfold, leading Trystan to become the instrument of his dying father’s revenge. His violent reprisal instigates a backlash of murder and death, forcing Trystan to flee with the remains of his family to the sultry city of New Orleans where he sells himself into the service of the Vampire Lord Abraham. Becoming the assassin Lash to hide his identity, Trystan finds a measure of peace, even as his skill with killing heightens, bringing to him not only new allies, but also new adversaries