Friday, February 22, 2019

Interview with Author Sandra Gardner

I’m interviewing Sandra Gardner who is the author of seven books, fiction and nonfiction. In a previous, journalistic life, she spent years as a contributing writer and columnist for The New York Times, covering social issues such as adoption, juvenile justice, lead poisoning in children, slum conditions in a medium-sized city. She also worked as a public relations writer. Now she's happily at work on her own (mysterious) writing. 

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

 Answer:  GRAVE EXPECTATIONS, a paranormal cozy, is book 2 of the three-book Mother-and-Me Mystery Series being published by Black Opal Books. I selected the title because the murders are all about greed over an expected inheritance. Suspects are the greedy relatives of Marabella Vinegar's friend and neighbor, Sam, who, it turns out, had a considerable estate. The paranormal part of the genre is because the Mother-and-Me series features Marabella and her sleuthing sidekick, her recently deceased mother, who comes back to help --- whether Marabella wants her to or not -- whenever there's trouble that involves her daughter. The book is a cozy because even though this is a murder mystery, it is humorous, without a lot of gratuitous gore.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

 Answer:  The Mother-and-Me series, believe it or not, happened when I was ill with bronchitis, lying on the sofa. I felt, sensed, a dead mother hovering over me. An unknown mother, having no relation to any mother I've known. I dragged myself off the sofa, went to my computer and started typing about a relationship between an adult daughter and her dead mother. Later, I realized it wasn't going anywhere, so I began dropping the bodies...

 Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

 Answer: Marabella Vinegar is short, full-busted (but they don't measured up to her mother's), a brunette who's hair tends to frizzy without taming, a chocoholic who's always on a diet. Until recently, she was without a meaningful relationship at almost (gulp!) 40, and works in the public relations department at a college of last resort. She spent eight years in psychotherapy, including two in group, mostly because of her love/hate relationship with her mother.

 Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  Dead Shrinks Don't Talk, book 1 in the Mother-and-Me series, introduces Marabella and her deceased mother to the reader. When Marabella goes to her appointment with her longtime holistic shrink, she finds her therapist's bloody corpse and becomes the NYPD's perp of choice. Enter her mother, who has only been dead a week, who comes back to help get her daughter out of trouble and find the real killer.

Halley and Me, a coming-of-age novel, won the Grassic Short Novel Prize from Evening Street Press. Four nonfiction books include Teenage Suicide (Simon & Schuster) and Street Gangs in America (Franklin Watts). Street Gangs in America received a book award from the National Federation of Press Women

Question:   What are you working on now? 

 Answer: Currently, I'm revising a new mystery/suspense novel, The Murder Blog, a departure from my paranormal cozies, for sure. It features an investigative reporter turned crime-solving blogger who is on the hunt for a serial killer of teenage girls, with the help of the blog's readers and a psychic gravedigger.

 Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: My senior high school English teacher encouraged me to write. She had us write what she called a "theme" every week. Basically, it was anything we wanted to write about. I'd lock myself in the bathroom and write until I was done. She told me I could write. And I'd also been writing poetry since junior high. 

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer:  My advice to a new and not-so-new novelist: Read, read, read, particularly in the genre you want to write. Join a critique group for feedback. If the feedback isn't constructive, or, God forbid, destructive, don't go back. Go to writers' conferences that deal with the type of novel you want to write. Take a writing class with an instructor who knows about (even better, writes about) the kind of novel you're interested in writing. Again, as with a critique group, if the class isn't helpful, don't go back. Trust your judgment. 

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel? 

Answer: Grave Expectations is currently available at, Barnes &; Kobo and Black Opal Books (

Note: I read Sandra’s latest novel and gave it a five star review on I recommend this mystery to fellow readers and writers.

Comments and or questions for Sandra are welcome here!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Interview with Magazine Editor

Tina Smith and Lezli Robyn edit Heart’s Kiss magazine.

Lezli Robyn is an Australian multi-genre author and Assistant Publisher of Arc Manor, living in the US with her mini-Dachshund/Chihuahua, Bindi. Her love of books led to her meeting her future collaborator, Mike Resnick, on eBay. Since that serendipitous event, Lezli has sold to prestigious markets around the world and is in the process of finishing two more small press books while writing her first two novels. Known for her bittersweet and heart-tugging writing technique, she has been a finalist for several prestigious awards, including the 2010 Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In 2011 and 2014 she also won the Catalan Premi Ictineu Award for Best Translated Story. You can find her at

Tina Smith is being interviewed by me. She grew up in a small community in Northern California that proudly boasts of having more cows than people. She raised guide dogs for the blind, is dyslexic, and can shoot a gun or bow and miraculously never hit the target (which at some point becomes a statistical improbability). Tina also writes science fiction and fantasy as Tina Gower and steamy contemporary romance as Alice Faris. She has won several awards among them, the RWA Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense and was a finalist for the RWA Golden Heart. You can find out more about her writing at: 

Question: What is the title and genre of your magazine?  Why did you select them?

Heart’s Kiss is a romance fiction magazine and we publish short story to novella length in all sub-genres of romance (paranormal, contemporary, historical, suspense) as well as a variety of heat levels (sweet, steamy, hot). 

Question:   What inspired this magazine? How did it come about?

Our publisher Shahid Mahmud loves genre fiction. He’d started a science fiction and fantasy magazine, Galaxy’s Edge several years ago that has done well and always intended to branch out and start more. He spoke about it at conferences to writers who also wrote romance and eventually decided to take the plunge a few years ago. 

Question:   What are you working on now?

Every other month the magazine gets ready to go to press. We are currently working on material for the April and June issues simultaneously in hopes to get ahead this year. 

Question:   What made you start working as an editor?

Honestly, I was talked into it by Lezli Robyn my co-editor. I’m a writer first (writing award winning romance as Alice Faris and SF/F as Tina Gower). They needed someone to fill the role for a short time and I agreed. I saw it as an opportunity to create a space for voices that are often less heard, like romances that center disabilities, cultures, and lifestyles we don’t see as much of in mainstream—but hopefully we will see more! I already notice the tides turning in the industry and it’s a very exciting time. 

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing?

Keep at it. Learn all there is to learn and take workshop opportunities as they come. Get used to never feeling that you’ve “made it” because there will always be another hill to climb.  

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your magazine?

We have all the links to each issue on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, plus more on our website:

Readers, your comments and or questions welcome here!

Friday, February 8, 2019

How to Make Valentine’s Day Memorable

What makes Valentine’s Day special? There’s a simple answer: personal relationships and connections with others.

Valentine’s Day is a favorite holiday for me. In fact, the entire month of February makes me smile. One reason is because it’s the shortest winter month; another reason is because we are getting more daylight again. A third reason is that my older son Andrew was born in February and also married in February.

Point of fact, Andrew and his wife Anna were married on Valentine’s Day. It was a joyful wedding, loving and romantic. No big fancy affair, just the bride and groom, my husband and myself, the bride’s best friend, and a judge happy to officiate, followed by a wedding breakfast at a local hotel. Afterwards the bride and groom had to take a long drive so that my son could represent in court a couple accused of white collar crime.

Andy and Anna are still happily married and have a wonderful daughter to help them celebrate their anniversary. This love story is one of many worldwide celebrated on the most romantic day of the year.

Love stories have always been an important part of history and literature. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. Cleopatra and Julius Caesar (Cleopatra did get around). As Shakespeare said, “she was a woman of infinite variety.” Then there is the story of Napoleon and Josephine, another passionate love affair. In the Bible, we also find some of the world’s greatest and unforgettable love stories. What can be more romantic than the story of Ruth or Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? And there is the story of Esther which is celebrated on Purim.

A lot of the world’s most famous, classical love stories, of course, did not end happily: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Helen of Troy and Paris, Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere (a legendary triangle). These are tragedies.

Some of the literary characters I consider unforgettable are those of the Bronte sisters: Heathcliff and Catherine, the tormented lovers in Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester of Charlotte’s famous novel. Both romances are in the Gothic tradition. My tribute to that tradition, although one with a happier end is my novel

Thomas Hardy wrote a number of tragic love stories. For something lighter, I prefer Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy are memorable. I’ve read and reread that novel numerous times.

Love quite literally makes the world go round. My favorite Valentine’s Day gift to myself is purchasing a new romance novel. Candy makes me fat. Flowers wilt and die too soon. But a great romance can be read and reread and enjoyed.

 If you’re of a mind to read some romance to celebrate Valentine’s Day and enjoy short stories, consider my collection BEYOND THE BO TREE, a book that combines romance, mystery, fantasy and the paranormal. The first story in the collection is a free read:

For another free short story perfect for Valentine’s Day, check out “A St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” originally published in GUMSHOE REVIEW:

Here’s another free read suited to Valentine’s Day:

FYI: My blog for Valentine’s Day is a special one. The editors of HEART’S KISS MAGAZINE will be interviewed. (I have a short story in the current February issue.) I’m certain both readers and writers will find the interview of interest. So don’t forget to visit.

Friday, February 1, 2019

How to Increase Creativity

Do you find yourself suffering from a lack of creativity in your chosen field? Fear not! There is help on the horizon. The February issue of READER’S DIGEST carries an interesting article in “The Genius Section” entitled “Jazz Up Your Brain.”
Charles Limb, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and a musician, believes that “improvisation is creation in action”. He has proved scientifically that in order to improvise successfully, musicians need to turn off the part of their brains responsible for self-monitoring. Too much control and inhibition destroys creativity. Limb also believes that we are all capable of being creative, but like any skill, it needs to be honed.

Limb states that to train our brains to think creatively we should practice improvising in our daily lives. The positive benefit is that the creative, activated brain is more likely to fend off poor memory and even dementia. Improvisation occurs when the brain frees itself from rules and instead invents.

I would make one observation though: you should first acquire or know the rules before you start inventing ways to break them. If you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, for instance, and you know how to write but are hitting the wall, one way to deal with it is just to sit down and do stream of consciousness. Set a time limit. Whatever comes into your head for the next twenty minutes is what you are going to write down. It may just break the block.

In interviews, one constant question I’ve been asked is: are you a plotter or a pantser? My answer is: I’m both. I percolate a plot populated by characters inside my mind until I feel the need to write it down. I start with a rough outline and a character bible. As I actually begin to write my first draft, I often make changes. I am improvising. It works well for me.

Daniel Seewald (yes, my son) has a new blog in which he discusses how “innovation and creativity can be learned” not just by a select few but by all of us. He provides a series
of essays that I believe can inspire people in all fields of endeavor not just writing. Check this out at:

Your thoughts and comments welcome here!