Beginning January 1, 2013

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Monday, April 30, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Mark R. Rinker, whose debut novel Evil Ambulance is being released today.

"Congratulations on your release, Mark. You have classified Evil Ambulance as YA horror. How much of your writing is based on your own experiences as a child or teen?"

"In the case of Evil Ambulance, none—thank God! Actually, no, that’s not quite true. The part of Evil Ambulance that came from my childhood is Eric moving for the first time. In the book, Eric’s said to have rarely ever left his town, and for me, that wasn’t the case—my family drove from California to PA when I was very young, and went on a lot of vacations—but when I went away to college at nineteen, I definitely felt some anxiety and uncertainty about the whole thing, about leaving home. All that stuff most kids think about when they go off to school. So, that idea of being relocated, of having no idea what’s coming up next in life, that’s something a lot of kids feel, and certainly I did, and I put that in the book."

Evil Ambulance is the first novel he's had published, but it's not the first book he's written. He has first drafts of two other novels he wrote before Evil Ambulance and well as partial drafts of many other books.

"Those two books were pretty bad, and I never went back to them," he admitted. "I did complete a draft of Evil Ambulance that was extremely different from the finished work. Different tone, different setting; I kept almost none of that when I re-wrote the book. This final version of Evil Ambulance is what I’m most proud of, and what I’ve put the most time into."

Evil Ambulance is a complete story in and of itself, but Mark told me he has definite ideas about where a sequel could go and where a third book could pick up after that. We'll have to wait and see, but it might be the first of a series.

Mark has enjoyed writing since he was very young, but didn't consider it seriously as something he would like to pursue until high school or college. He thought he wanted to be a screenwriter, so at school studied film and video production.

"But it’s very difficult to get a screenplay turned into a film, and it became somewhat nsatisfying writing all these scripts that didn’t become anything—because a screenplay isn’t a complete work on its own, it’s just the beginning," he told me. "Whereas a novel, even if no one publishes it, even if it sits on a shelf, is a finished work. As much as I love film, I love reading at least as much, probably more, and after I realized I probably wasn’t going to pursue screenwriting, I began working on honing my skills as a writer, working on short stories and novels."

For Mark, often the first thing that comes to mind when he starts a new work is a particular scene or moment. The plot and characters develop together after that.

Mark doesn't do a lot of research for his books. The first version of Evil Ambulance he wrote took place in Brooklyn.

"I’d been to Brooklyn a couple times, but, as the handful of people who looked at that original draft could tell you, I had almost no knowledge of Brooklyn, geographically," he said. "When I came back to the story and started it anew, I changed the setting to a fictional town in Pennsvylania. I know PA a lot more, and you know, they say to write what you know."

I asked Mark to describe his writing space.

"I write in my bedroom, where I have my computer monitor positioned in a manner that allows me to half-recline on my bed, in a relaxed position, while typing away. I have a turntable with two big speakers, not far away, and, of course, the computer plays music as well. Next to the computer is my chinchilla, Gizmo Giraffe. He sometimes watches me while I write."

As you might have figured, Mark almost always listens to music while he writes. It's usually something upbeat, energetic, and loud—when possible he likes his music at a high volume. He listens to a lot of punk, old and new, and rock from the sixties to eighties—Misfits, Minor Threat, Offspring, Good Riddance, the Who, the Doors. He’ll mix it up with some rap or pop, but mostly it’s loud guitar-based stuff. He also plays bass guitar in the band The Mind Control Squids from time to time.

"That’s a lot of fun. We actually have our first show in almost four years coming up this June," he told me.

The show will be Saturday, June 9, at the Strange Brew Tavern in Allentown, PA, if anyone is close enough to go.

Mark's favorite author is Clive Barker. Mark read The Thief of Always for a book report when he was in the seventh grade and, from there, checked out his other work.

"At the time, Thief was his only young adult novel, but now, of course, he’s got the Abarat series, which seems to be doing pretty well," Mark said. "I love his YA stuff, but my favorite book of his is Imajica, which I started reading at age fourteen, only to be stopped by my mother, who worried about the graphic content. I ended up picking the book up again a couple years later, and have read it several times since then."

Mark was born in California, but has spent most of his life in the Lehigh Valley, in Pensylvania.

"The last seven years I’ve spent in Bethlehem, which is part of the Valley, and I like this town because there’s plenty to do—we’ve got two independent movie theaters to choose from, for instance, one in town, and one in nearby Allentown—but it’s not like a city environment. Well, maybe Allentown is. But for the most part, it’s got a small-to-mid-size town feel, but with enough activity to keep me interested, used book stores, lots of restaurants, nice parks."

"What are your favorite TV shows?" I wondered.

"My favorite show is Freaks and Geeks. Easily, number one, top favorite. I didn’t get to see it when the show originally aired, but caught it a few years later on DVD, and was just amazed by how well it was written, acted, everything about it, the way the filmmakers captured the awkward feel of high school. Great show. Fortunately, it’s gotten more attention, more people have turned onto it, in recent years, due to the success of some of the producers and actors involved, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, James Franco, those guys. If you like stuff about high school, or if you grew up in the 80’s, I’d recommend it highly. Put it at the top of your list."

Mark told me he thinks on challenge teens face today that he didn't is keeping up with their social networks.

"When I was in high school, AOL AIM was new, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Talking on the computer to your friends—in real time! It was amazing," he explained. "But now, there are so many crazy options online, I think the main challenge facing kids may be getting outside more than once a week!"

About the Author:
Mark R. Rinker was born in California, but has spent most of his life in eastern Pennsylvania. His short story, “Dog Mask” was published last year by Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine, and Evil Ambulance is his first novel.

Find the author online at:

Twitter: @markrrinker

Eighteen-year-old Eric Donnelly moves to a small town in Pennsylvania, to live with his uncle, Dan, while his parents finalize their divorce. Dan has recently purchased an old house which sits atop a three-mile hill overlooking the town of Riverwood; a house which is host to the decades-old presence of Victor Devlin, a homicidal ambulance driver responsible for a series of brutal murders years before. Eric soon finds himself alone, as the spirit of the ambulance driver begins to inhabit his uncle’s body, and each night Devlin’s ambulance appears in the driveway, eerily glowing, calling to Eric.

Friday, April 27, 2012



Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles, Book 1

I love to write for teens because that was the absolute hardest part of life. I mean, for me, it was the time period that gave you everything from the biggest romance of your life with your first love, to bullying, to trying to fit in, to dealing with adults, friends, enemies…everything goes crazy when you’re a teen, and I think there are a lot of people who simply say: “Get over it!” and walk away. I love being one of the ones who can write a novel that allows them to go someplace else and open their imaginations, and perhaps one day lead them to become a writer.

Every word of my writing is based on my own experiences as a teen. The only difference in writing now is the fact that I learned better grammar, punctuation, and I now type 145 wpm which I didn’t when I was a teen. I’ve gained some knowledge and learned some life lessons that help where emotions are concerned, but the plot, characters, and situations all come from a teen life lived and, thankfully, survived.

We definitely had bullies in my teen years. In fact, I was overweight in high school and was picked on incredibly by one boy who simply wanted to destroy my life, but I’m still not sure for what reason. Mine never went further than name calling, and embarrassing me in front of the class by putting a broken desk where I sat so that when I sat down the whole thing broke underneath me.

But now, this ‘crowding’ and ‘tagging’ garbage - bullies are getting far meaner and way more violent, and some teens take their own lives because of it. I’m absolutely disgusted by these people which is why they should hear the end of my story. Years after high school was over, my ‘bully’ ended up shooting himself. That’s what his life had become. People simply began to hate him and he lost his chance at happiness because of the bitter person he was. So if you think you’re being funny right now by harming another individual, that fun will end. And fate has a way of making sure that what you give out will return ten-fold.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a download of Until Next Time.

About the Author:
As the daughter of a career librarian I grew up loving books; ‘Patience & Fortitude’ at the NYPL were my heroes. Beginning with my first book of historical romance which was titled, The Heart of a Legend, and moving into the action/adventure world with a series called, Tallent & Lowery, I have been very lucky.

Working as an editor in the publishing industry for decades, I am now the Owner/Operator of The Write Companion which offers all services to authors who are trying to get their work seen. I am a contributor to Suspense Magazineand various other literary publications such as The RT (Romantic Times). I am a reviewer for periodicals and websites including: Authorlink, The Feathered Quill, The Romantic Times (RT) Magazine,, Random House YA and Once Upon a Romance. I am a contributor for Ruby For Women, and many of my writings have touched people’s hearts, which makes me extremely proud.

Find the author online at:

How does a girl choose between the one who steals her heart and the one who owns her soul?

Matt and Emily were created for a specific job. Raised and trained as the ultimate angel/warrior team, they are sent down to save, defend, judge and forgive, depending on the 'life' they've been assigned. What they don't realize is that the power of human emotions, such as love, anger, passion and fear can take over even the best of souls, causing them to make mistakes and follow paths that lead to confusion and heartache.

When the reason for their training is finally revealed, the angel/warrior team find themselves thrust into a world they know nothing about. Matt takes over the life of Daniel, a young man with a great deal of baggage. Emily becomes Liz, a girl living in a remote village who relies on nothing more than her own strength to survive. A violent storm erupts one night, and framed in the window of Liz's establishment is a frightening face. Let in by the soul of a Good Samaritan, the two visitors bring with them a past full of secrets that could literally change an angel's path and a warrior's plans.

From murder to redemption, this angel/warrior team must find a way to keep the faith they have in each other in a world that's ripping them apart.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Long and Short Reviews welcomes Renee Pace. The second book in her Nitty Gritty series, Off Limits, is now available. This was a story that was really hard for her to write.

"It’s about friendships. How they develop and why. It’s about secrets and how they can destroy you unless you learn to trust someone," she said. "I wanted to write a story with two girl’s POV but from two different worlds where they would be forced to come together and over a period of time realize they really liked each other."

She's working on the third book in the series,Off Stroke, about a girl and boy who tackle prejudice while learning to trust each other. Shannon has been injured in a car accident which killed her mother but the one place she feels at peace is her paddling club. Eje is a Canadian refugee who after six years of living in Halifax, is still trying to fit in. He’s smart but trouble has a way of following Eje. Eje gets forced into an afterschool paddling program at the same club as Shannon and while their relationship gets off to a rocky start they can’t fight their growing attraction to each other.

Renee had a major writer's block about three years ago and decided to totally switch her writing around. She switched genres and also switched how she wrote.

"As a romance author, I always wrote in third person so I quite literally had to force my mind to learn how to write in first person for my YA novels," she explained. "I am so glad I did this. I love writing my YA novels and while my nitty gritty novels are very realistic and hard hitting, I love being able to provide that teen first-person point of view to these novels."

Her favorite author, and the one who has inspired her the most, is Simone Elkeles.

"When I first started writing my nitty gritty series I couldn’t find another author like me who was writing these realistic contemporary hard hitting stories but one day as I was roaming Chapters I saw this book Perfect Chemistry – I haven’t looked back. Finally I had found someone who, like me, was brave and wrote from the heart." She has heard from a lot of readers since she made the change to her Nitty Gritty series.

"Some told me I touched them so much they couldn’t finish the books because they were so hard hitting, some emailed me to say they couldn’t put it down because they were wondering so much how my characters would turn out. All that have contacted me loved the realistic approach and voice and that’s what I was going for."

Renee will normally map out a synopsis at the beginning of her writing process, but she has to trust the characters as they grow and develop inside her head, because she's found the story is better if she can let the characters breathe, without worrying about how many times she has to revise. Sometimes a plot thread will start to develop, but unless she hears a character start to talk in her head she finds it difficult to pursue it.

"For my nitty gritty stories like Off Leash (the first book in the series), I had this dog POV that jumped in my head and had to get it down on paper fast or I would have lost it," she explained.

Renee has four children of her own and two of them have entered their teen years.

"It's certainly not an easy road," she said. "I think writing YA books is something I know I have to do."

A lot of her own writing is based on her own experiences as a young person. She was transplanted to the country and never really fit in, so she always felt alone—there was little to do and being smart was an odd trait. She feels the teens of today face a lot of the same challenges she did growing up, but there's so much of everything, like drugs and ways to score easy money, that make it even harder to be a teen today.

"What do you envision happening in the YA field in the next few years?" I wondered.

"I think the YA field will get better but also be forced to sub-genre like romance. Currently if I walk into Chapters all the YA books are grouped together which while annoying is also a great way to grab a new reader."

Renee runs a paddling club and deals with 400 children/youth during the summer. She's always creating programs that will encourage inner city youth to come to the club and try out, for free, a sport they wouldn't normally even think about. They will be expanding it this summer, and she's very excited about it.

I asked her to describe her writing space.

"I write everywhere. With four children I have to. I always have a notebook I carry in my van. I also spend a lot of time at Starbucks. Writing at home is hard. I can’t write when my children are around and if my house is a mess it’s very difficult for me to concentrate. If I didn’t have such a supporting hubby I wouldn’t be able to write. We are a very busy family but still hubby will tell me to go out and write. Usually I come home a happier woman."

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

"I totaled a car when I was 16 and saw my life flash before my eyes in slow motion but also felt warm hands wrap around me whispering words, I’d be okay, it wasn’t my time yet. The car was so badly smashed only my side had no damage but the seatbelt saved my life – it had turned over 3 times. To this day I remember it like it was yesterday. The hands wrapping around me I swear were my best friend, Sissy, who died of cancer four years earlier on me."

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

"Join a local writer’s group. The best thing I did was join my local romance writing group and it’s a very professional group. I have learned so much over the years about the art of pitching, querying, how to write synopsis, marketing and set writing goals. These people have also become my favorite authors and now some are my critique partners."

About the Author:
I call Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada home. Happily married to my dream man I am the mother of four children. I am always juggling deadlines, children schedules and my volunteer activities. I am an English/history major from Dalhousie University and have a journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical University in Toronto. I have always written.

I love to write hard hitting nitty gritty teen books and edgy paranormal and sci-fi novels. I am multi-published as a romance author and am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and the Society of Children Writers & Illustrators.

Find the author online at:
Facebook -
Twitter – ReneePaceYA

Lindsay looks and acts like the perfect fifteen year-old, but she’s hiding a dirty little secret that no amount of fashionista coverings can make better. Telling her mother her step-father is molesting her is not an option. Trying to kill herself again haunts her more than the scars on her wrists, and pretending to be perfect at school might very well drive her over the edge.

Megan knows all about lying. It's been part of her life ever since she realized the only way to escape her poverty-stricken neighborhood was to work hard, keep her mouth shut and wear a mask no one can penetrate. All that changes when Lindsay befriends her.

Can two girls who have little in common discover the value of a real friendship or will the secrets they dare not speak destroy them both?

Monday, April 23, 2012

INTERVIEW: Trish Milburn

Long and Short Reviews welcomes ,Trish Milburn, whose White Witch, the first book in her Coven series, was released in February.

She told me that she feels like White Witch was a "gift book." The idea came to her the summer before she sold her first book—which was not this one. It was also the summer that she considered quitting writing.

She had started writing her first manuscript in the early 1990s, but didn't get really serious about writing and submitting for publication until her local RWA chapter, Music City Romance Writers, was started in 1996.

"I'd been at it for about 10 years at that point and getting really discouraged," she explained. "I ended up sitting on my couch watching all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all five seasons of Angel and the first season of Supernatural. Somewhere in the midst of all that, I started getting an idea that would become White Witch. I wrote the first draft in 17 days. It's gone through a lot of changes since then, but it's still the book that got me going again."

She always wanted to be a writer, but at first she didn't think about books. She went into journalism and worked at newspapers and magazines for several years before quitting to write books full-time.

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

"There is so much available online now, but I also have used documentaries and programs on TV (for Winter Longing, a YA set in Alaska that I wrote under the name Tricia Mills), maps, interviews (also for Winter Longing -- a friend had lived in Alaska and I'd never been there). My favorite thing to do, however, is on-site research. There's nothing like experiencing a place firsthand -- the sights, sounds, scents, the feel of a place -- to help make it come alive on paper. I made a trip to Salem, Massachusetts, last summer to do this for books 2 and 3 in the Coven trilogy, which take place there."

Trish also writes adult fiction, and I asked her why she decided to write in the YA genre.

"There is something so powerful about the teen years, when everything is at a heightened emotional level, that sticks with you no matter how old you get. I think there's a teenager living inside all of us. I've always loved movies, TV shows and books in which the central characters are teens. It's a time when you're beginning to leave childish things behind and on the cusp of becoming an adult, figuring out who you really are and what you want to do with your life. It's an exciting time. Plus, when I'm writing the story, I can make things turn out as they should. That's not always the case in real life. Just ask any girl (or boy) who has experienced unrequited love, bullying, social ostracism, etc."

Even though there aren't actually actual events from her own teen years, she has taken bits and pieces of the feelings around things that happened to her while she was growing up.

"I think most teens experience the same types of angst at one point or another, so it's easy to pull from that and have it be a universal theme with which teen readers will connect," she explained.

Good stories helped Trish get through some tough times and transported her to other places, and she loves the idea that perhaps in the stories she creates she can do the same for someone else.

"What challenges do you think teens face today that you did not?" I wondered.

"I think it's the same things, just much more dangerous. We had drug issues in the 1980s, but it was typically marijuana. Now the drugs are so much harder and dangerous, life-altering and unfortunately sometimes life-ending. Same with violence. We'd have fights in our school, but not once did I worry about someone walking in with a gun."

To keep her finger on the pulse of teens, she watches a lot of teen-centric movies and TV shows, reads a lot of YA fiction, and pays attention to news stories and online resources that cater to teens.

There are several writers Trish admires—writers that can take her to another time or place, so much that she feels she's really there.

"J.K. Rowling really is a master at creating a fully-realized, three-dimensional world full of characters that are real to me. So is Suzanne Collins. One of the books I got most excited about last year was Beth Revis' Across the Universe. It's sci-fi YA, which I was excited to see because I'm a big sci-fi fan."

"What are you passionate about these days?" I wondered.

"I tend to be obsessive about my fandoms. My latest is Game of Thrones. I don't have HBO, so when the first season came out on DVD, I got the first disc from Netflix. I loved it so much that I couldn't wait for the next disc and went to buy the season on DVD. I watched it in three days, and I went to my friend's house to watch the premiere of season 2 on April 1. I've watched tons of fan videos and interviews with the cast on YouTube and all the DVD extras. I'm also reading the books."

Some of the other TV shows she enjoys are: The Walking Dead ("love Daryl Dixon!"), Lost Girl ("love Dyson!") and Supernatural ("love Sam, Dean and Castiel!").

Finally, I asked, "If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?"

"Electricity, running water/plumbing, a loaded e-reader, an endless supply of toilet paper," she said with a grin, "and a laptop computer."

About the Author:
Trish Milburn writes young adult fiction for Bell Bridge Books, contemporary romance for Harlequin American Romance and paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne. She's a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award and has also won the Maggie Award of Excellence twice, once as an unpublished author and once after being published. She enjoys watching TV and movies, reading, road trips, visiting national parks, hiking, and cosplay.

“Fresh, fun, and dangerous! I can’t wait for the next one!” – Sherrilyn Kenyon, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of the Dark-Hunter Series

Witchcraft Is Her Family’s Business.
No One Quits The Family And Lives To Tell About It.

“Jax” Pherson has power, enough power to know her future will end in service to the dark coven her father controls. Unless she can stay hidden in a small community in the mountains of North Carolina. She must find a way to live without magic and deny the darkness she feels welling up inside her-the same dark power that fuels the covens around the world. All she wants is a normal life. A boyfriend. Friends. Some place to belong, but all too soon Jax’s barely begun new life hangs in the balance when she discovers that the boy she’s attracted to is sworn to kill her kind. He’s a hunter with good reason to kill everything that goes bump in the night. Even the most fleeting use of her power is tantamount to signing her death warrant and will bring both hunter and coven down on her. But can she walk away when her friends are threatened by an old evil? Something created by the magic of witches? Jax’s only hope of survival is to convince the boy she loves to forget everything he’s ever been taught and help her find a way to fight the covens. To believe there is some good in her.

Friday, April 20, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Bonnie J. Doerr, whose latest eco-mystery StakeOut received a 5 star rating from Long and Short Reviews.

At the time of this interview, Bonnie was in Key West researching her next book Busted, the third book in her series. It will feature the Key West Wildlife Center. She visited the rescue center when they were working on a short-tail hawk that had been electrocuted. Busted won't feature a hawk; however, it will feature a big bird.

"I don’t want to jinx anything by going into details at this time. But since each of my books features problems and crimes associated with an endangered and/or threatened animal, you can likely guess what bird it will be," she said.

Island Sting features the National Key Deer Refuge Center and the tiny Florida Key deer. StakeOut champions the Turtle Hospital along with the Save-a-Turtle volunteers and featured the sea turtles they rescue.

Bonnie's passion for the natural environment combined with her sadness over youth's separation from nature inspired her writing—contemporary, realistic adventure/mysteries with ecological themes.

"Perhaps not the most lucrative choice given the penchant today’s YA readership has for paranormal and sci-fi genres," she admitted. "But I prefer hands on research, and I’d rather research with and among the living. So many children spend their lives inside of boxes. These boxes may be houses, apartments, or a computer which is a box within a box. Through little fault of their own, many kids have had no interaction with the outdoors. No interaction with wild animals other than in zoo. No experience breathing fresh, unpolluted air or understanding of how the food that keeps them alive lives and grows. It’s something Richard Louv defines as 'nature deficit disorder.'

"It’s difficult to care about something we have no experience with. Is it any wonder kids living in tight, cramped spaces don’t care about the beauty of wide open spaces or the health of rivers, oceans, trees, and the air they breathe? Any wonder they don’t see the connection between their circumstances, their quality of life, indeed life itself, and that of—say a frog or a sea turtle?

"My work offers readers a non-threatening adventure fighting crime and solving mysteries while immersed in a virtual natural environment. My hope is that this experience will inspire youngsters to enter the genuine world of nature where they will make connections and become caring, environmental stewards."

Bonnie first chooses environment circumstances that have the potential for drama, mystery, action, and adventure. Then she gathers lots of information—reading news articles, research, and books about her themes. She will visit the settings she utilizes and observes the animals she writes about—their habitats and interactions with humans.

"I even investigate actual legal and ethical problems, as well as interview the heroic volunteers and staff members of wildlife rescue organizations," she told me.

Then, she decides on a plot that will incorporate the things she's learned—a plot that will appeal to young readers and that could involve a crime teens could really solve on their own.

"Sometimes the research has to come before I can come up with an environmental topic that could incorporate the necessary elements. Of course, my heroic characters have to embody the skills and personality traits to pull all of this off. So, though I write about some of the same characters in each book, any new protagonist characters must be developed with traits that support the winning team," she said. "And the villains (usually adults) must be developed with the traits to thwart the teens at every opportunity. So I’m mostly a plot first, characters second writer."
At the time of this interview, Bonnie was on a combined research trip and writing retreat in Key West. She was working at a tidy glass-top computer desk that looked out an open window. There was a lovely tropical breeze and she could see traveler palms, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and a key lime tree. However, when she's at home in North Carolina, things are much different.

"At home, I have a much more cluttered space. Though I do try to organize it before I get down to serious business because I’m easily distracted. My desk is a wooden work space that was once my grandmother’s lacquered red and black kitchen table. My great grandfather hand built it. When I was in college my grandmother had it stripped and decorated with hand painted flowers on its corners. I love its history and the grounded sensation I have while working at this desk. It sits by a window looking out on the rolling North Carolina woods outside my log cabin home. I’m surrounded by book shelves on three walls and tropical art in every form as well as shells (remember I write about the Florida Keys) and other inspirational artifacts on every conceivable surface. You could say my writing space is organized chaos."

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

"This question points out a kind of catch 22 for me. I don’t write in a common genre. So keeping my work unique isn’t a big issue. But that quality also makes my books a bit hard to find. Who searches for tween eco-mystery/adventures in a bookstore or library? In truth there are other authors who write contemporary realistic stories with environmental undertones. We just don’t get lumped together. Still, no matter who writes what, I need to come up with a unique plot and research my facts very seriously because though I write fiction, any reference to environmental issues has to be spot on."

The best writing advice she's received is not to compare her writing or publish path with other authors.

" The worst is advice heard all too often, Write what you know. To that my character, Kenzie Ryan, would reply, 'Bee boogers.' What you don’t know, you can learn. And guess what? After you learn it, then you do know," she said. "I don’t hear that recommendation as much as I used to so I think today’s writers are too sharp to accept that advice. I say write what you enjoy. That’s common sense. You’re going to have to live with it a very long time. Who wants to be unhappy while pounding out text. Obviously, you can’t make a reader happy if you don’t enjoy your own work."

About the Author:
Bonnie J. Doerr is the author of eco-adventure/mystery novels, Island Sting, Leap Books 2010 (the 2011 EPIC children’s eBook award winner), Stakeout, Leap Books 2011 (2012 finalist Green Earth Book Award), and the forthcoming Busted, Leap Books 2013. A nature lover and lifetime educator, she has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Her acclaimed contemporary-realistic novels celebrate crime-fighting, fearless teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Originally from western Maryland and former resident of the Florida Keys, she now lives in a log cabin in North Carolina. Ms. Doerr’s work may be described as a mashup of Jean Craighead George and Carl Hiaasen.

Find the author online at:

twitter handle: @bonniedoerr

It was an ordinary field trip to the New York City aquarium. How could Kenzie have predicted that a surreal encounter with an ancient sea turtle would propel her into peril in the Florida Keys? Exotic and mystifying, the islands hide dark secrets... Sea turtle eggs feed a mysterious superstition, and poachers with money and murder on their mind lurk on sandy shores. Shores that are home to an ancient population that Kenzie, Angelo, and Ana must save from extinction.

StakeOut is a stand alone sequel to Island Sting and includes notes on the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida and sea turtle conservation around the world. For readers ages 10 to adult.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Marva Dasef, whose latest book, Scotch Broom, the third book in a series called The Witches of Gladorheim, is now out. The first book, Bad Spelling, and second book Midnight Oil. are also available. The hope is that each book is standalone enough to read separately, however there is a progression in time.

"The blurb for the first book might give the reader an idea of how the characters get to the events in the second book," she told me. "I recommend readers who think Midnight Oil sounds interesting to pick up the first book. Contact me. I'm fairly willing to gift the first book if someone purchases the second. My publisher also offers a short story, "Spellslinger,' that's a prequel to the series."

Bad Spelling - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series

A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?

If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.

Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo. A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.

The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.
Marva would like to continue with the adventures of Kat and Rune as they grow up, expand their abilities as witches, find love, make horrible mistakes, fix their mistakes, and, ultimately, take over leadership of the witches' island.

"I think I could write books about other characters within the world of Galdorheim. Some of my fans have said they want a book about Kat and Rune’s mother, Ardyth. From hints in the existing books, going back in time to Ardyth and her sister, Thordis, as teen witches learning the trade as Kat and Rune are in the three books of the series. By the way, the third book will be published this spring," she said.

Once Marva had the original idea for the Witches series, she did a lot of research.

"Since much of the action takes place in the Arctic, I spent a lot of time finding out about life above the circle. This led to information I didn’t know existed. The types of sea life, birds, and land animals in the area. It’s not just polar bears, although I do have one in the first book. I also discovered the hunter/gatherer tribe, the Samis, which were perfect to be my main character’s paternal side of the family (her mother is a witch)," she explained. "The 'what' of my research leads to the question of how I go about doing it. Lots and lots and lots of internet searching. I also followed many links to other information which gave me a new idea to include. I had decided to use runes for magic, but I learned that they were a language called Elder Futhark (no, really), not just simple symbols. When I learned that, I managed to find some real runic words I could use in the text. Kat’s biggest problem at the beginning of the series is her inability to remember and pronounce the Old Runic words. It wasn’t that she didn’t study hard enough or that she was not too bright, but that she was surrounded by a curse that made her a bad speller (which also produced the title of the first book)."

Marva told me, "Unlike other authors, I did not spring from the womb with pen and pad gripped in my tiny fingers. I was always a good writer who loved essay questions while others in the classroom groaned. I did my teenage share of stories and poetry (really, really horrible poetry). At college, I made up my own curriculum combining English composition and computer science courses to create a brand new major: technical communication. I worked as a tech writer for the next thirty-five years. In 2005, I retired with the notion of writing a bit of fiction. I've been a professional writer for more than forty years, I just switched from non-fiction to fiction."

Marva has a great set-up in the family room for her writing—right next to the kitchen for quick snacking. Her oak computer desk faces out a large window.

"Not much of a view, but I can watch the squirrels at play. When I write, I find any music distracting so there are no iPods hanging out on my desk. I've become used to the sound of the dishwasher, hubby running power equipment, and my cat vocally worrying about those danged squirrels. I have a second computer on a desk an easy step away if I need it. I use it (XP system) for building book trailers since it can run the Microsoft Movie Maker. I don’t like the MS Live Movie Maker that comes with Windows 7. It’s more for photo slide shows of your vacation pictures."

The hardest part of writing for Marva is describing settings.

"I figure that the movie running in my head should be quite clear to anybody reading my book," she said. "My critters set me straight on that and demand that I add just a teensy bit of detail. My tech writing background taught me brevity and omitting extraneous and unnecessary details, like this sentence."

"When writing descriptions of your hero or heroine, what feature do you start with?" I asked.

"This is an interesting question in that I think the answer should always be that you don’t describe your characters. Every bit of physical information should come from actions or what others say about the character. I grind my teeth a bit when I’m reading and come to a big fat tell paragraph describing any character. Even with famous writers, I’ve seen these long unnecessary descriptions of even minor characters. One time I threw a book (paperback) across the room screaming that I did NOT need to know that the guy was wearing a grey turtleneck. It was an unnecessary detail that got in the way of the plot. I spent several pages trying to find the importance of the grey turtleneck and threw the book when it became evident it was meaningless. Envision your characters and even write a description of them in notes, but resist the temptation to say something like:

Maisie Goodlady had long blonde hair, tied neatly into a bun at the base of her neck. Her blue eyes flashed when she became animated in her book club discussions. Slightly shorter than average, she always wore six-inch stilettos, but varied her outfits between her night working clothes which included fishnet stockings, a mini skirt, and plunging neckline showing off her braless cleavage...
"Sorry, got a little carried away there, but the complete description of a character when introduced is a big dead weight dragging down the plot."
Marva outlines with brief summaries for each segment.

"Chapters may combine or cross over a given segment. This will run about three pages. Then I start to write going by the summary. At some point, the whole thing goes out the window and it’s pantser all the way to the end," she told me. "As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of research. Often I find something that will give me a whole new direction or, at least, something to include in the story."

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

"That’s a toughie, since every writer likes to believe their writing is unique. For one thing, I have a fondness for puns and cultural references. For example, one chapter in Midnight Oil is titled 'Fight to the Finnish.' No, I didn’t spell finish wrong; the fight is in Finland. I use the real world with the assumption that my magical characters are part of it and know they have to keep their magic hidden. For all we know, we have a perfectly brilliant witch living next door, or that killer whales can talk if they meet the right person to talk with."

"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?"

"Where else but up north above the Arctic Circle. I would love to actually go to the places I have in my books that I had to research like a mad woman to make them realistic (and magical, of course). Besides, my grandmother was born in Norway, and I would love to visit the country she left as a sixteen-year-old girl to bravely come to America along with millions of other immigrants have done."

About the Author:
Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a fat white cat. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several previously published books. Her latest pride and joy is the Witches of Galdorheim Series from her super duper publisher, MuseItUp.

Find the author online at





Twitter Handle: @Gurina

MIDNIGHT OIL Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim Series

Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?

Kat is a nervous wreck waiting for her boyfriend's first visit to her Arctic island home. He doesn't show up, so she's sure he’s given her the brushoff.

When she learns he’s disappeared, she sets out on a mission to find him. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.
Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches’ arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble. Her younger half-brother tries to horn in on her trip, she gets lost in the magical Otherworld realm, is led astray by a supposed friend, then she has to confront a Scottish goddess who’s fallen on hard times.

While dodging the goddess’ minions and trying to find her way out of the Otherworld, Kat soon learns she shouldn’t underestimate the old has-been for one second; the crone still has a few tricks that can drain a witch’s magic in a flash. To make matters worse, Kat's brother secretly followed her into the Otherworld. Now he’s in danger too. Kat has to go one on one with the goddess to save herself and her brother.

Download a PDF Sampler of all three books in the series and the bonus short story, Spellslinger from .

Monday, April 16, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Jane Toombs, to talk with us about her first Young Adult book The Turquoise Dragon. She told me she didn't really feel "driven" to write for the YA market, but it seemed what she wrote was more suited for that age group than any other.

Jane is 85 and has been writing most of her life. When she was four, she asked her father (a non-fiction writer) if she could learn to use his old L.C. Smith typewriter. He told her that she needed to learn to read and write first. So, when she turned seven, he showed her how to use the typewriter.

"Unfortunately he was a seek and find typist, so I am as well," she told me. "But he added that now that I could type, I had to write him a story. To my seven-year-old mind that sounded perfectly logical. I’d read a lot of stories, so why couldn’t I write one? So I chose to write about the day he brought me my first kitten--a half starved one he’d found in the woods and named Merriweather after the place he found him. (My father was a conservation officer at the time). I can still remember how I loved that cat. My father told me I’d written a good story. Then he suggested a few ways it could be made better. I knew it went good, better, best, so I didn’t mind at all. After that, I wrote him stories whenever I felt like it and they were always 'good' but could be 'made better.' He was the perfect critiquer and my inspiration. I do regret he died too early to see my first book published."

In fact, Jane's main advice for a new writer just starting out it to find someone, or a group, to "help make your good stories better."

"Critique groups, if you find the right one can help a beginning writer tremendously, so do listen to well-meant comments," she recommended. "But ignore anybody who trashes your book instead of giving helpful critiquing. They should be banned from any and all critique groups because they are of no help at all. While I’m on critique groups, they do need a leader /monitor who can call a halt to bashing and keep the group moving right along."

"How do you develop your plot and characters?" I wondered.

"I started out just writing a story and was lucky enough to take an off-campus class from an elderly mystery writer who announced in his first session that, since none of us had yet paid the fee, he wanted to tell us how he felt. He said that writing memoirs for your family was fine, but his class was not going to be about that, but about writing to sell. He told us that, in his opinion writing a story and never sending it out was akin to masturbation. At this point, at least a third of the class walked out. The rest of us learned a lot, because this guy critiqued every story, showing clearly what was good and what needed changing. A lot like my father did with me when I was seven. He picked out three stories he thought were viable and my Tule Witch was one of them. He worked very hard with these three stories and finally told me privately that if I finished my book, he’d give a final critique and then send it to his agent. Whoa! I did, he did and the agent sold it to Avon in 1973. What‘s this have to do with plot and characters? I‘m getting to that," she explained. "I wrote another gothic and the agent sold that. Then died. But another agent immediately called me, wanting to represent me. I agreed and wrote another gothic. The new agent couldn‘t give it away. But he didn‘t give up. He called to tell me a packager wanted a gothic writer to do Sagittarius for his Zodiac Series, so could I work up a synopsis and three chapters? Since I hadn’t a clue what a synopsis was, I asked him. After he explained, I went ahead and did research about Sagittarius, then wrote a synopsis and the first three chapters. The packager promptly went to contract. And I learned you didn’t have to write a complete book to make s sale. I learned more than that--finding the story easy to write because of the synopsis. After another sale made the same way, I went back and tried to write a synopsis for the third book. Couldn’t because it wandered all over the place… I became a plotter then and there. Wrote a new synopsis for it and the agent promptly sold it. And I got my one and only review in Publisher’s Weekly--a good one! I never tried to write a book without a synopsis again."

Jane's office is what would be a third bedroom or den; however, because she counts if off for income tax, even the closet has nothing by material related to writing in it. She shares her office with a fax, a desktop computer, a laptop, two printers and a CD player with CDs. She also has a stand containing nothing but reference material, two bookcases filled with writing-related books and old books that she frequently uses to look things up. There are also two accordion file cases with receipts for income tax and a lot of old disks she might need someday. Two windows look out at Lake Superior. There are also various chairs the cat often sleeps in and a dictionary stand a handyman built for her that contains a giant dictionary. The walls are decorated with her framed book covers, a clock, a bulletin board, and a few awards.

She told me that her home on the lake was all due to her older brother.

"I’m living in my hometown after years in California, upstate New York and Nevada. After my brother, 20 years older than I, retired from what was then the Conservation Department in Michigan (now the DNR), I came from California for a visit and discovered he’d gone into real estate and had bought some lots along the lakeshore. He insisted I needed to buy two of them because 'your roots are here.' Only $500 apiece and the best view. I didn‘t have a whole bunch of money at the time, but when I got back to California I sent him the 1000 bucks and now I owned two lots along the lake. Paid taxes on them for years. One day, I’m visiting my oldest niece in Ontonagon and she tells me the high school is building houses for people and don’t have one yet to build this year, so why don’t I have them do one on my lots? She’s so enthusiastic she calls the guy who teaches the kids and he shows up. Next thing I know I'm committed. At this time, the Viking and I are living in Carson City, NV. So when I get the call that they need the plans, I remember we found the plans for the house we’re in and like the floor plan, so I send him those. Building a house long distance is interesting, to say the least. And so here we are back home, living in this house. And, of course, the lots have so appreciated in value that if I hadn’t done what my brother wanted me to do way back when, we couldn’t afford to be living here."

About the Author:
Jane Toombs, the Viking from her past and their calico grandcat, Kinko, live across the road from Lake Superior’s south shore in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula wilderness. Jane’s published books, including novels and novellas, have reached ninety. She’s aiming for one hundred.

N Cozz: A dragon who fears becoming an outcast lays a wrong color egg. It’s not in her nature to destroy it. Is that alien machine outside her cave her answer?

Earth: What happens when a young woman born to die and an impossible beast fall in love?

Thursday, April 12, 2012


This guest blog is part of a Virtual Book Tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Click on the banner to check out the other stops in this tour--Peter has some original prizes he's giving away at the end of his tour. Two winners will win a pint jug of Butternut Mountain Farm Vermont Pure Maple Syrup, Grade A Dark Amber, in honor of the main character of The Maple Express, Sara Maple, from the small town of Mapleton Vermont. One grand prize winner will win an awesome Bachmann Trains Pegasus Ready-to-Run HO Scale Train Set.

What drives you to write books for kids and teenagers?

My childhood wasn't the greatest, not that I am complaining, but it did have a lot of influence on my writing today. Whenever I write my young adult novels, I fall back into my teen years and I place myself in their shoes as I write. I remember how little I thought I had to offer the world back then. I was short and immature for my age. I was a constant target for bullies and spent my waking hours trying to keep my self-esteem from dropping even lower than it already was. It was a scary time for me. So when I write about young people I do it with the knowledge of how many of them feel.

I used to think there was a secret to growing up and being successful in school and I somehow missed it. It wasn’t until I became an adult I realized there are no secret formulas. Life it’s all about what YOU make of it.

I grew up with the Hardy Boys and to a lesser extent with the Nancy Drew mystery series of books. I didn’t know that they were actually written by quite a few different authors. Their impact on me was so great that I try to emulate them when I write. I loved how they were fast paced and the suspense was so intense at times I would have to put the book down and take a break. They were page turners and made me want to read to keep reading until the book was done. Maple Express is a book that was written along the same lines.

My next novel, due out in the summer / fall 2012, is titled Holly Alexander and the Mystery of the Courthouse Square. I decided to use a title that reflected my love for the Hardy Boy mysteries. I want people to love reading my books as well as people loved reading them.

It's weird for me in some ways, because I am not generally comfortable around children. My wife has an instant rapport with children - I go out of my way to avoid them, yet for some strange reason I seem to attract them to me. Maybe as I age I am beginning to look like Santa Claus. Now, teenagers are different. I love their spirit, their ability to not let over-thinking stop them from accomplishing something that appears to everyone else to be an impossible task. Young adults just go out and do it. They aren’t tainted with the negatives of life and people who go out of their way to tell them it can’t be done.

My lead characters are the same way. In Maple Express, Sara Maple is a strong willed girl who is finally confronted with how she has been treating others. Sara ends up on a train ride that requires all of her abilities to find her way off.

Writing for me is a compulsion. I can go a few months and not write, but before long, I am getting a craving, like a smoker who needs a cigarette. Because I still act like a kid most of the time I relate more to writing for a young audience. I think it also comes down to something even more basic than that. Young audiences love stories. Harry Potter is a perfect example. It was an excellent story, crafted through seven books to an ending no one could have predicted. I think young people are more open to a good story, regardless where it takes them. Adults appear to be more sophisticated and want to be entertained or enlightened.

I am a story teller.

Thank you for having me here today. I truly love to write and I hope your readers love reading a good story as much as I love to write them.

About the Author:
It only takes a few minutes of thought before Peter Brandt can devise a scenario that would make a fantastic story, and minutes after that before it begins to fill itself in.

“I have been able to think up stories all my life but it’s only been in the last seven years that I realized I was abusing my creative side by not writing them down.”

Peter retired from the Air Force and began a new career as a Technical Writer. His writing abilities have allowed him to work in Canada, the United States and even in the Middle East.

But its Peter’s love for stories that has brought him into a new realm of writing. His humorous memoir about his life as a soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces and the tragic memoir about his father’s life in a Prisoner-of-War camp at the age of 14 allowed him to refine his writing before he began to venture in writing Young Adult fiction.

Find the author online at:

Sara Maple has a comfortable life—the only child of a wealthy family—a best friend who does everything she asks—and the admiration of most of her schoolmates. Unfortunately, her temper and “indestructible” attitude quickly place her in a very precarious position.

“The Maple Express” is a powerful novel that captures the author’s take on the miracle of the human mind. “The Maple Express” delves into the actions and consequences of a young girl who has never had to take responsibility for her actions before. The story brings the reader into a world where Sara’s determination to find her way off the train sends her on an emotional trip that bonds her to her new friends and changes her life forever.

Both young and old readers will love the emotional journey Sara Maple takes them on as she deciphers the obstacles that confront her. Sara’s story ends with a surprise twist and leaves the reader with a sense of discovery about his or her own humanity.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012



Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Sue Perkins, author of Dragon Flame--which was released by Desert Breeze Publishing in January.

Sue lives in a rural district of the small town of Blenheim at the top of New Zealand's South Island. She and her huband have a 3 acre block and love the peace and quiet.

"During the summertime all you can hear are birds singing and the crashing of the waves on the shore," she told me. "We live about 500 meters from the sea. It's my idea of heaven."

Sue was inspired to write when she first learned to write at primary school and was encouraged to write essays. For years she wrote just for herself—short stories first and then, once the children were in school, she felt the urge to write a novel rather than short stories. Once she got started, she couldn't stop.

She began writing for publication in 1990 and admitted that writing for herself and for publication are two different things. She took a creative writing class when helped her hone her writing skills.

"I'm still in contact with the teacher and go on a writing retreat she holds annually," she told me.

She told me that she never really suffers from writer's block, but will occasionally get to a point where she's not sure what she's going to do next in the story. So…she just fast forwards a bit and starts writing the story a few chapters further on. By the time she's finished the manuscript, she knows what needs to be in the space she left. This is her way of keeping her manuscript on track.

The characters always come first with Sue—then the location. The plot comes last of all.

"Once I have the characters' names correct in my mind, then the storyline comes to mind," she explained. "When I start writing the story it unfolds as I write and the mystery, conflict and resolution come naturally as the book progresses."

Sue tries to make the title reflect the content of the book. Dragon Flame is obvious, because the dragons set fire to the human settlements. Her book Blitz, a contemporary romance, covered the time of the blitz during WWII in England. Other books use character names in the titles, while the books in Sue's Sky Castle Trilogy are named after the house colors of the main characters' estates.

The hardest part of writing for Sue is just finding the time to write. She works part-time and, of course, she has the usual boring household chores to do. Once a year she gets the chance to go on a writer's retreat where she spends ten days of luxury just writing non-stop.

When Sue was growing up, she wanted to be a children's nanny, but unfortunately didn't get any career advice, so she ended up taking the wrong classes.

"It worked out well in the end though as I picked up using computers quite quickly which helped when I became a writer," she told me. "I also wouldn't have met my husband if I had become a nanny."

Sue told me that she considers herself a pantser, saying, "If I try to plot a story the life goes out of it and it doesn't get written until I've forgotten it for several months. My plots tend to unfold as I write which is probably why I can't set everything out before I start."

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

"That's not too difficult in the fantasy genre. While other genres have to stay within location, historical period etc., fantasy writers build their worlds, people and magical beings inside their heads. This means there is very little chance that any two books will be exactly alike so I have no doubt my writing is fresh as I always try to write about something I haven't read before."

On a fun note, I asked Sue what we would find under her bed.

"Dust bunnies. Lots of them. You'd also find my portable hard drive, I hide it there in case we're burgled and my laptop is stolen - oh shucks, now I'll have to move it as I've told the whole world where it's hidden. Plus I've got my husband's anniversary present hidden under my side at the moment."
If her publisher offered to fly her anywhere in the world to do research, she would love to go to New Orleans, because she can think of a dozen scenarios for books in that area. Being in New Zealand, she admits she has further to go than most authors, but she can imagine all the best sellers that could come out of a trip like that.

"It would be well worth their air fare," she assured me.

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

"If you really want to write, don't give up. Also don't throw anything away. That best seller you thought you had inside you may not seem so great when you see it either on paper or on the computer screen. Even if you decide not to send it to a publisher, don't delete it. At some future date when you're more settled into writing you may want to return and blow life into your manuscript."

About the Author: Born and brought up in England, I visited to many exotic places with my husband, as his job required him to travel a lot. The Middle East, the Maldives, Gibraltar, Singapore, India, Japan, United States, Canada I’ve visited small parts of all of these countries. I’ve even been through the Suez Canal just after the Middle East war and found this a fascinating experience. Plus I lived in Kuwait for two years just as the troubles were starting.

My writing is enriched by these experiences. We eventually settled in New Zealand and have lived here for over twenty years and brought up our children in this country. Of course children are always contrary and now they are adults they have returned to England, but we still love it here. Two of my romance books are set in this wonderful country I call home, with another set in wartime England.

Three days a week I work as a graphic artist and the other four days I have to fit in writing, housework, shopping, laundry and anything else that needs doing. Who says an author lives a life of luxury? Obviously someone who's never written a book.

Keep up with Sue at and

Eighteen year old Talei and several young children are left orphans after the attack on her settlement by fire breathing dragons. The survivors join up with other refugees but when Talei links telepathically with a dragon, she discovers their goblin riders are holding the female dragons hostage. Talei and her friend Adri lead a group of teenagers to free the beasts. Failure means the end of both dragons and humans.

Friday, April 6, 2012



Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Danielle Thorne, whose first YA paranormal, Death Cheater, was released in February. She's very excited about it and not only because it's her first, but because she's been able to delve into her past experiences as a high school teen trying to sort out life.

"Everyone has problems, but that concept can be harder to grasp before we fully mature. Sticking my toe into the waters of the paranormal was great fun, and it certainly helped bring out the drama that comes with being young and in need of direction," she said. "In Death Cheater, Athena's always suspected she could somehow cheat death, but she has never fully understood why, until now."

Danielle always wanted to write for teens, because she struggled a lot herself as a young person.

"It would be wonderful to connect with others who has the same insecurities, anxieties, and problems I had," she said. "In some way by relating to someone out there, I hope I can help them a little. Or at least inspire. I found in writing Death Cheater, that my heroine, Athena, reflects a lot of my personality, both in my youth and now. In my past novels, I always tried to be unbiased and let the characters develop on their own. Death Cheater was different. I can relate to how Athena feels because I gave her a lot of challenges that I experienced, if even just in my head. In its own way, I suspect it's therapeutic."

Death Cheater is Danielle's sixth published book. Her favorite is her first book, The Privateer--a historical adventure set in the Caribbean in 1729.

The titles of Danielle's books often come before she begins writing. She's inspired to create characters with specific story-worthy problems, so the titles often flow naturally to the forefront of the first page.

"A funny story about the title for Death Cheater, is that it was inspired by the death eaters in the Harry Potter novels," she told me. "I once overheard someone incorrectly call them by name, and it left me wondering what exactly a death cheater would be. Later, as I began to form ideas about a teenage girl with a haunting problem, I realized that her gift to be able to cheat death would fit perfectly."

"What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?" I asked.

"Character and plot. While some things can be overlooked, a weak or cliché character is hard to like. The story simply isn't important enough to read if the hero or heroine are unlikeable. The same applies to plot. Thoughts and opinions will only carry us so far. Readers need action with purpose."

Danielle has written since she was a small child, but she told me she still has a hard time accepting that she's worthy to be called a writer and being addressed as an author is even harder for her, even though she's had several published works of fiction and poetry.

"I suspect this has something to do with the books I treasure from such greats as Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian. Who can compare to such talent? Maybe someday it will come easier."

The hardest part of writing for Danielle is finding the time to write. Her family and friends are her first priority, with her home being a close second.

"Because I work as an editor, the majority of my novel writing time comes in snatches of a few weeks here and there, with lots of all-nighters," she explained.

"What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?" I wondered.

"Probably that I research along the way -- and I enjoy it more than the writing. I usually submerse myself in topics that interest me, then create stories, and last write as I learn the polishing details along the way. The only other answer would be… I talk to myself and snack over the keyboard when I'm on a good roll."

When Danielle isn't working or writing, she likes to do things with her family and go out with her friends. She's never been a very social person, but as she's gotten older, socializing has become more comfortable for her and something that helps her rejuvenate. She also likes to try new recipes in the kitchen, to dabble a little with gardening, and to travel.

"What do you envision happening in the YA field in the next five to ten years?" I asked her.

"I think because of the hard things going on in our world these days, fantasy and other themes of escape will continue to flourish. Kids mature pretty quick, and I don't necessarily agree that books need to encourage the things that they are dealing with in order to 'relate' to readers. I hope that there will always be room for uplifting fiction that doesn't have to be hidden from the parents, but on the flip side, I do believe mature material can be handled right under the right circumstances. I'm not dissing authors who write about real life problems."
"What challenges do you think teens face today that you did not?"

"Pornography -- to be blunt. It is easily accessible. Everywhere. When I was growing up, a Playboy magazine was the worst of the worst in my little world. These days, the very definition of what is decent and what is art has been downgraded to rationalize feelings and desires. In short, it has become politically incorrect to label anything as offensive unless it is criminal. Our kids are seeing too much before they are ready. The exposure pressures them into situations they aren't mature enough to handle."

"If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?" I asked finally.

"I'd like to think everyone has that one boy or girl they never stood up for in high school. I can't even remember his whole name, but Jeffery, wherever you are, I'm sorry I didn't take the bull by the horns and defend you. I'd sure do it now."

About the Author:
Danielle Thorne writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of sweet romantic adventure books, both historical and contemporary. Danielle has published poetry and short fiction as well as novels.

Other work has appeared with Espresso Fiction, Every Day Fiction, Arts and Prose Magazine, Mississippi Crow, The Nantahala Review, StorySouth, Bookideas, The Mid-West Review and more. She was the 2009-2010 Co-Chair for the New Voices Competition for young writers, is active with online author groups such as Classic Romance Revival and EPIC and moderates for The Sweetest Romance Authors at the Coffee Time Romance boards. Her popular blog, The Balanced Writer, focuses on the writing life and the pursuit of peace and happiness.

Ms. Thorne has four sons with her husband, Rob. Together they enjoy travel and the outdoors, Marching Band competition and BSA Scouting.

Find the author online at:



Athena Gray lives vicariously through her sister because people in general avoid her. Whether it's strange things like dead butterflies fluttering to life at her touch or even the miraculous -- like the time she saved her dying grandpa by willing him to live -- Athena knows that she is different. The only person who doesn't seem to think so is Dan, the most popular boy on Omega High's baseball team. But even Dan can't understand the reason she acts haunted, until a spirit roaming the local historic burial mounds takes an interest in people Athena cares about.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012



Long and Short Reviews welcomes Ginger Simpson whose YA book Shortcomings is available from Muse It Up Publishing.

Ginger told me that it was the voices in her head that inspired her to start writing.

"To some that may sound crazy, but other 'pantsers' will understand," she assured me. "Being that type of author is when you want to hear voices, because without them, you're lost. I'm so thankful for the day that Cecile Palmer spun through the revolving door that is my brain and insisted I tell her story. Prairie Peace was my debut novel, and something I'm very proud of even today."

The characters come first for Ginger. She's tried to preplan stories and it just doesn't work. The star of her novel appears in her head with a story to tell and, usually, a full cast of characters already in tow.

"It gets a little crowded in my brain sometimes, but my job—should I accept the challenge—is to show the reader the tale my character conveys," she said. "If my character isn't talking, my fingers aren't typing."

Ginger has just finished a new book, Hattie's Heroes and has been submitted. What started out as a western with one hero turned into a time travel with two heroes. She actually suffered through her first bout of writer's block with this story recently when Hattie turned mute.

"I think it was because we wrote ourselves into a corner we couldn't escape from," she explained. "I shared my dilemma with my good friend and fellow author, Roseanne Dowell, and she made a unique suggestion, which I used to get Hattie talking again. I'm not divulging the suggestion. I'll simply say the story got back on track."

One of Ginger's releases was a remake of one she had previously released, Embezzled Love. Based on a true happenstance, her divorced heroine, Cassie, signs up for a computer dating service and soon learns the cost of a roller coaster ride from hell.

"I had lots of research background on this tale since my sister was the true victim and I know for a fact how everything played out. What I didn't know at the time I wrote the story was she was aware of everything being done to her and by her silence, she permitted herself to be used," Ginger shared. "We haven't spoken in several years, and if someone put a gun to my head and asked me to tell them why or die, I'd be dead. Sad but true. At a time in life when family should be one of the most important factors, some people hold grudges."

"What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?" I asked.

"Almost every author is unique despite the myriad of rules and regulations imposed on us. No matter a person's style or voice, a good book will hook the reader from the get-go, put them in the character's shoes, and show them the story from that POV. If you have to keep turning pages, feel the breeze, smell the smells, and cry with joy or pain, then you're reading a novel by someone who knows their craft."

Ginger said one author who really influenced her own writing was Laura Ingalls Wilder.

"If you could search the library checkout cards from my grammar school, you'd find my name numerous times, borrowing each book she wrote. It's because of her remarkable ability to whisk me away to life in the 1800s that I became determined to write my own historical. Now I can't stop. I continued my passion for the old west with Amanda Baker and Cassie Edwards. I wish I could meet them in person and tell them what strong role models they've been for me."

Ginger told me that in most cases not only do her characters come to her with a cast already in place, but the title as well. There was one book she named herself, First Degree Innocence, because that title jumped into her head the moment she started writing the story. She liked it better than the option Carrie Lang gave her.

I asked her about her work schedule, and she told me she was fortunate in the fact that she was retired, so whenever her lead character is talking to her, she is able to write.

"When I worked, I generally spent my lunch hours and breaks trying to catch up with all the yammering I had to put on hold during business hours, and I think I actually wrote my first book courtesy of the university's computer," she confessed. "I'm not as active at writing as I was a few years back, deciding to pay more attention to my husband and grandson, but I still love that I can write whenever I want, and I love that my characters keep showing up with new stories to be told...or shown. "

"What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?" I asked.

"I never really considered myself to be a quirky person. In fact, I'm not even sure I have one. Let me look it up in the dictionary and I'll be right back," she said with a smile. "Oh...a peculiar trait. Don't have any that I know of. I love to laugh and make others join in. I always dreamed of being a stand-up comic, but I've settled for just being able to keep laughter in my life. I don't wear outlandish clothing, I don't have any annoying habits that I'm aware of, so I guess by some standards, I'm just boring."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Boy, that's a tough one. I started this journey about the time the Y2K bug was all the rage and things have changed so much. I've been contracted twenty-six times, which means I've been through a lot of editing. At first, I relied heavily on that person to be the authority on what was right and wrong, but I soon learned that I have a unique voice, and often, an editor is simply another author with differing opinions. I think the most important tip I can pass along to someone just beginning is to trust your instincts and ask lots of questions. Don't assume just because someone puts something in red on your manuscript, they know all the nuances of writing. It just isn't so."

About the Author:
Ginger retired after almost twenty-five years of working at an institution of higher education, only to find herself employed for a year as a corrections officer. The experiences in dealing with people from all walks of life has been invaluable in forming the characteristics of her heroes and heroines and bringing life to her books. She was born and raised in California, but moved to Tennessee six years ago to be close to her grandson, Spencer. He's now nine years old, and she claims he's her greatest inspiration. Autistic and developmentally delayed, he's demonstrated that no obstacle is too great to overcome. Her new Year's resolutions include not accepting any runway model contracts, rejecting any Nascar offers, and definitely not applying to be on Survivor. Other than continuing with her writing career, she wants to hang around long enough to see Spencer become a responsible and independent young man. That's in God's hands.

Find the author online at:

Our shortcomings don't define who we are, unless we let them. Cindy Johnson needs to learn that. Born with one leg shorter than the other, she has no self-esteem because of the cruel comments and cold stares she receives from her classmates. When Cory Neil, the football quarterback asks her to Homecoming, she's quite sure he's asked her on a dare and refuses. It takes more than just her mother's assurances that Cindy's beautiful before she realizes she may have made a mistake in turning him down.