by Suzanne Welsh
About this time last year a group of us were chatting on the 2006 Golden Heart Loop about our careers and lives since becoming finalists in the Golden Heart contest. We celebrated in the sales of a few of our numbers--Anna Campbell, Donna McMeans, Tawny Weber, and Christine Wells. A few of us had ventured into the cyberspace realm of Public Relations with websites, myspace pages and personal blogs.
I can't remember who exactly first posted about blogs on the loop, but suddenly many of us were asking how to start a blog. Then the conversation turned to suggestions that maybe we should start a blog for writers and readers. Then on March 2nd, Aunty Cindy took the big step and formed a blog for the '06 Packers to practice blogging on. Those who wanted to participate started a separate loop to discuss the process and play with this blog. We knew there were 18 of us who acitvely wanted to form this blog and were willing to put ourselves out there and test the water.
About this time, Anna's Claiming the Courtesan, hit the book shelves. We officially had a book to promote with our blog!
Next the discussion turned to what sort of image we wanted. The name Romance Bandits popped up, after a few really bad ones! With the group being in agreement, we talked about the way we wanted the site to look. Classy, but unique. Since my daughter Lyndsey is a concept artist, (she takes people's ideas for pictures and transforms them into actual images), I volunteered her to make us a banner for the site. It would need to meet the approval of 18 people. Quite a feat! When I gave Lyndsey the idea so she could make up a mock banner, she excitedly let me know she'd found "Pirate Font" to write the word BANDIT. The mask and rose were added, and with a bit of tweaking, the top of our blog was created and approved! We were off to a grand start.
We decided to take the colors from the banner and find someone to finish the look. Trish contacted Dawn with Austin DesignWorks, who created the rest of our page design. It's had a few tweaks along the way, like adding new pictures and the "Bandit News" wanted posts, but hey we're a work in progress.
By now we were getting used to taking turns posting to the blog and posting comments. We also had some private discussion regarding finances. One of our banditas volunteered to be treasurer. On May 4th, we officially went public with Caren's post featuring a large picture of Anthonio Banderas...er...Zorro! (We think of ourselves in a cross between pirates and masked avengers like Zorro.)
This was followed by our second Bandita book to hit the shelves, Tawny's Double Dare.
As we morphed into this group of bloggers, we made a few tentative requests of our published friends that they come and be "Guest bloggers". Amazingly, they said, "Heck yes!" We gave away prizes, another popular feature. We started to have regular commenters, many of whom have become great friends.
Then we geared up for Nationals. We came up with the idea of business cards and buttons, using a variation of our banner, to hand out to promote the Bandits. At the National RWA convention, Bandit buttons were a hit! One of the buzz items making the rounds at National was, Romance Bandit blog. Everywhere we turned there was someone asking us about the Bandit blog. And to top the conference off: both Beth and Trish won their categories in the Golden Heart!
After Nationals we rounded out our numbers to include two new members, Susan and Nancy for a final total of 20 Banditas. We figured that was just the perfect number.
Since then, we've had more books hit the shelves: Christine's Scandal's Daughter, Donna's The Education of Mrs. Brimley and Anna's second book Untouched.
We've had new sales among our Bandits: Christie, Beth, Jeanne, Cindy, Trish, Kate, and Kirsten.
And somewhere along the way we gained a mascot, The Golden Rooster, thanks to our loyal friend and poster, Doglady! The prize for the first commenter of each day. It became a challenge for those of us in the States or Canada to beat the Aussie contingent for the coveted gilded fowl!
We finished the year off with Trish being a contestant in the American Title IV contest, Joan a finalist in the Suzannah, and today I bought my copy of Tawny's second book, Does She Dare?
So, now we look forward to 2008. Wonder what great changes it will bring for the Banditas? We're wishing for more sales to our published members and new sales for those As Yet Unpublished ones. Some contest wins? Maybe a spot on a "Best Sellers" list or two?
What would you like to see on our blog? Any ideas? Any requests?