Category Archives: short story

The All-Important First Line

While I don’t know if I’d go as far as science fiction author Madeleine L’Engle, who believed that the opening of every book should hold at least the seed of its resolution, first lines do give writers a chance to “hook” readers with a compelling mood, a unique voice, or a startling image. For me, the first line of a novel or story is also my own doorway into the piece, even if, as so often happens, it doesn’t survive past the rough draft.

So here’s the first line of “Blondes From Pasadena,” a story I’ve just drafted. Since I initially work long-hand, and then revise at least a little as I type the chicken scratch into a Word document, this actually at the “second draft” stage. Whether it will continue to hold the honored position of first line through future incarnations…who knows?

“Lulu Esquival’s eighteen years of training in lyrical dance had given her grace, poise and excellent posture, none of which rescued her during her first shift frying fish bits at The Happy Clam.”¬†

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about the late Madeleine L’Engle, a prolific author of speculative fiction from middle-grade through adult, here’s her website¬†

I also dedicated all of Issue #24 of Carrie’s Notebook, my newsletter, to Madeleine L’Engle, her work, and her influence on me as a reader and a writer. You can find that issue HERE.

Author Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007


An overweight school teacher spends her Christmas holidays in Spain where she meets a mysterious man and and even more mysterious fate.



As this paranormal story is quite short, there isn’t too much I can say without spoiling it for you. June is a teacher with no social life to speak of. Fed up with being taken for granted by her slimmer sisters and needy mother, she takes off for Spain in a kind of glorious rebellion. The tiny village is just what she wanted, and she settles in for what she expects will be a relaxing and uneventful stay. Then, while losing track of time during an evening walk, she meets a gentlemen whose courtly behavior and obvious interest in her raises the possibility of romance. But this Don Juan is much more than he seems.

Twist’s writing is solid. In roughly 36 pages, she manages to make June believable and likable, and she does a wonderful job with her settings. Both June’s life in England and her time in Spain seemed real to me. Twist’s pacing is perfect. There’s just enough suspense to keep you turning the pages until that shocking final image hits you in the gut.

Though this is the first story in a series, I wouldn’t call the ending a cliffhanger. The kindle version I read included the opening of the next story. The transition between the first and second installments is smooth, and the timeline is maintained, which helps keep you oriented.

MANTEQUERO is a short, entertaining horror story that leaves you eager for more.

Review: A Werewolf for Christmas

A young doctoral student recovering from setbacks in her career and love life is pursued by a werewolf who resents that she’s his natural mate.

All I Want For Christmas is a Werewolf (Changeling Encounters, #3)

All I Want For Christmas is a Werewolf

This story is the third entry in J.S. Scott’s Changeling Encounters paranormal series. It’s the most developed of the three. Both Faith and Gavin have back stories weighing on them. The romance isn’t simply a matter of the werewolf convincing the human that they are meant to be. Gavin thought he’d found his mate once before and it ended in heartache. So he hates romance and he hates Christmas.

Faith’s last lover stabbed her in the back by stealing her research and using it to get the job she wanted. Her feelings–anger, pain, distrust–are realistic. Unfortunately, Scott undermined my suspension of disbelief by not filling the situation in better. First of all, there’s no explanation of how Faith’s research was stolen. Every PhD student has an adviser and a committee overseeing their work from well before the research begins. Perhaps an adviser could steal research. But another student? Also, this “job” Faith lost out on is never specified. PhD students don’t compete for “jobs.” They battle for prestigious research fellowships, grants, and university teaching positions.

This may seem like I’m quibbling, but we’re supposed to believe this bright young woman with an advanced education is now scratching to survive. So the reason behind her problem needs to be convincing.

A good book, but a bit more research would have turned this four-star short into a five star.


A young illustrator picking up the pieces of her life after a time of tragedy takes home a stray puppy only to discover he’s a werewolf.

The Dangers of Adopting a Werewolf (Changeling Encounters, #2)

The Dangers of Adopting a Werewolf

This is the second story in J.S. Scott’s Changeling Encounters paranormal series. I was glad to find it much better developed than MATE OF THE WEREWOLF. There’s tension from the first page as Rafe Lancaster, stays outside too long in his wolf form, is on the run from hunters. He makes himself as small as possible and hides. Zoey Hall discovers him during a walk in the woods. The tension escalates as readers wait for her to figure out what she’s brought home.

The romance develops nicely. There’s more of an arc to the relationship than in Scott’s first story. Still, by not delving deeper into Zoey’s past, the author misses an excellent opportunity to build the character.

THE DANGERS OF ADOPTING A WEREWOLF has a great premise and is an overall quick, fun read.

Review: FALLING IN (Vol. 4)

A short story focused on the development of secondary characters Saint and Jeanette in Riley’s Taking the Fall series.

Falling In: Vol 4

Falling In: Vol 4

Saint and Jeanette added a lot to the first three volumes of the Taking the Fall series, so I was glad to hear the author had penned an installment that delved into their relationship. We get a new perspective on both characters. Saint is still lovable, but his submissive behavior in this installment made me a little queasy at times. I know he was just giving Jeanette the control she craved after escaping her ex, but even there the logic was wobbly. We learn that most of the horrible things her ex did was to OTHER women before and after Jeanette. He was controlling, sure, but there was only one real episode of violence and it led to Jeanette running away.

Some of the problems with the plot may have to do with so much story being squished into so few pages. It felt rushed. It didn’t help that the epilogue (as unnecessary here as it was in the earlier parts) steals space from the main narrative.

This fourth volume didn’t deliver what I was hoping for based on the first three.

Two Alexa Riley Erotic Shorts


A sexy older bachelor give into his longstanding attraction for his closest friend’s daughter.

Owning Her Innocence

Owning Her Innocence

I’ve read most of Alexa Riley’s books. This one was a bit flimsy compared to the others. I think it was her first, which might explain why it doesn’t quite match the others in character development and plot complexity.

Haley and William are both likable characters, and they share a spark, especially in the erotic scenes.

I found the story arc way off. There’s no time given to character development. Even a short piece like this can offer a little something in terms of character. The potential is there, but the final result is rushed. Also, William’s initial overtures are creepy and a non-sexy kind of predatory. Haley has some promise at first, but she gets too baby-talky. It edged past role playing and became off putting. She seems dopey rather than innocent and sheltered.

It’s a quick read with some good moments.


An orphan has no idea what she’s gotten herself into when she agrees to marry a reclusive bachelor sight unseen.

Owning the Beast

Owning the Beast

OWNING THE BEAST is a retelling of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, but the plot is somewhat more complex than the classic story. Annabella (Belle) Blanca is alone in the world. She thinks she’s signing on for an arranged marriage when she’s unwittingly fallen into high-class prostitution. Griffen Stone is a beast in more than looks. He’s truly unpleasant at first. He thinks Belle’s his latest order from an obliging madam. Then he thinks her arrival was a mix-up. It isn’t. There’s a villain in the background who made sure Belle was sent there.

It took me a while to warm up to Griffen. This dude does not like women. It’s clearly a “reject them before they reject me” situation. His eventual attitude adjustment is a tad too abrupt. I would have preferred a more gradual softening. Still, he’s a sexy thing. Very snarly and masterful.

The story logic is rough in spots. Mostly when it comes to the villain and his motives. We come to understand what this bad guy wants, but there’s no credible reason for him to think that Belle in particular would be a good way to get to Griffen. There’s some sense that Belle reminds him of someone he cared for (can’t say more or I’ll spoil the story). And, sure, she’s not his standard tart. But every tart starts somewhere, right? That she might provide a way to hurt Griffen isn’t made plausible enough for me. Despite this, the climax is full of suspense and had me biting my nails.

If you can set your brain’s logic meter on “pause” for the duration, you’ll enjoy this erotic take of the classic fairy tale.



I’ve reviewed a few Marie Mason’s shifter novellas here and here.

Very short paranormal romance about a shifter businessman whose reluctance to claim his mate comes back to haunt him when she’s attacked by a gang of rogues.

Mate of the Alpha

Mate of the Alpha

Marie Mason manages to pack a lot of action and a decent amount of character development into thirty-five pages.

Hero Ethan Scott is a good mix of sensitivity and strength. His main problem is that he isn’t convinced that Lily Reynolds, who he believes is his fated mate, is prepared for life with a wolf shifter. By not claiming her, he’s left her fair game for the less savory elements of shifter society.
I’m not sure I buy Mason’s logic here. Rogues are outcasts. They don’t belong to or recognize wolf shifter social structure. So, I don’t see how Ethan claiming Lily would have put them off attacking her. Seems to me that at least the nastiest among them would’ve been even more eager to hurt her if she “belonged” to the alpha.

But this is supernatural fiction.

The scene where Ethan faces down the rouges is scary and will make me think twice about entering a deserted parking garage.

A quick and entertaining story.

Review: ROOM WITH A VIEW by Kylie Scott

In the early days of a Zombie plague, a young man attempts to rescue a woman trapped in the penthouse of a luxury resort.

Room With a View: Hot Down Under (Flesh, #2.5)

Room With a View: Hot Down Under

I loved Kylie Scott’s FLESH and SKIN. This short story takes place in the same fictional universe, but at a distant location. There’s a good concept here. Natalie is trapped on an upper floor, and the only other survivor at the resort is a young university student named Angus, who finally decides to mount a rescue. Unfortunately, the premise never really moves past a basic Cougar-College guy erotic encounter.

Yeah, the length imposes limits on character development and plot complications. But twenty-five pages is more than enough space to provide a satisfying story. While Kylie gives us quality writing, two interesting characters, and a single compelling problem–get Natalie out–the narrative completely hijacked by the sexual content. It kills the tension. How can the situation be all that dangerous if these two are more interested getting OFF than in getting OUT?

If the author had held back a little, left the character with some sexual longing but out of the penthouse, and therefore with a chance to satisfy that longing, it would have worked much better.

ROOM WITH A VIEW is a good prologue or teaser for a longer piece. But it doesn’t stand up on its own feet even as a short story.

One Determined Killer

A detective tries to solve a series of murders where the victims have no obvious relationship to one another.

Hanson's Hunch: detective fiction short story

Hanson’s Hunch: detective fiction short story

This is a short, suspenseful work. Spicer packs a lot of character and action into it. The motive behind the killings isn’t something I’ve seen before. Detective Hanson remains something of an enigma throughout the piece. We get the sense of a complicated and gifted intellect, and the tiny peek into his home life hints at an abundance of warmth buried under the all-business exterior. I would have loved even more of this personal side as a contrast to the nightmare going on around them.

The end comes as a big surprise. I’m still not sure how I feel about it…very mixed emotions for reasons anyone who reads it will understand. However, this resolution did add a nice splash of dark humor.

A quick, entertaining reading experience.