Saturday, June 30, 2007

In The Bandit Lair

posted by Aunty Cindy

HURRAY! The Banditas are about to embark on their third month in the blogsphere! We are having such a fun time, and Aunty continues to be AMAZED at the things she sees and hears around the Bandit Lair. Just in the past week alone, I learned:
  • the correct way to make peach cobbler (and this is how Aunty made it before she retired from cooking) versus the North Carolinian way
  • how to properly affect the Stink Eye (sometimes known as the death ray glare or simply The Look)
  • more facts than I ever knew existed about Flint, Michigan
  • six ways to pronounce author Ayn Rand's first name, including the Finnish Russian way
  • how to "brand" myself without soliciting
And that was only a few things.

It was quite a week! Who knows what might crop up next week?

Oh, all right, your old Aunty does have a FEW insights. How about TWO great guest bloggers? This Monday, the fabulous Alyssa Day will join us in the Bandit Lair. Then Tuesday, the always lovely and vivacious Jane Graves will be our guest! And don't be surprised if one or both of them have prizes to give away. (And it's still not too late to leave a comment on Brenda Novak's great guest blog on Author Branding and win an autographed copy of her latest book.) What might transpire the rest of the week is anybody's guess!

As for the rest of July, expect a lot more of the same: another guest blogger or two, more contests, lots of fun and the Banditas will INVADE DALLAS!

The RWA National conference will be held in Dallas on July 11 --15 and of course the Banditas will be there! Not to worry, a few of us (including your old Aunty) will stay behind to (wo)man the Bandit lair. But we hope to have some special "on the scene" posts for everyone's enjoyment and plenty of tales to tell afterward. (If you are lucky enough to attend the conference, be sure to look for a Bandit Basket of very special plunder that will be auctioned off at the Literacy signing.)

July is gonna be a HOT TIME in the Bandit Lair, so be sure to hang out with us! Make lots of comments! And tell us what you'd like to see in the future on the blog.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The writer's workspace

Is that Will Turner, Captain Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann striding out of the fog to make sure I haven't committed a severe cast of character head hopping? Is Will swinging toward my computer keyboard to make sure I don't take the plot of my latest story in the wrong direction? Not exactly. These two posters are among the latest additions to my office walls, part of the inspiration of the solitary writer. The three Pirates of the Caribbean movies were stories that captured my imagination and didn't let go. Those are the types of stories I want to write. Will, Jack and Elizabeth are the types of captivating characters I want to write. Thus, they're now on my wall to inspire me.



Readers are often fascinated by what a favorite writer's workspace looks like. I'm a writer myself, and I'm often curious about the spaces in which authors type the words I later enjoy. Particularly if you're a visual writer, I think it's important to surround yourself with various bits of inspiration, be those movie posters, inspiring quotes or lists of goals. I have all of those things on the walls surrounding me and more. So here's a little tour of my writer's environs.

The Elvish army from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers greets you as you walk through the door of my office. The LOTR trilogy was also bigger than life, full of great stories and characters. Soundtracks are another love of mine, and I happen to be listening to the LOTR: The Two Towers soundtrack as I type this.



I write young adult novels, so I enjoy watching television programs and movies that appeal to the younger demographic. The CW TV network caters to this demographic, and I'm a big fan of two of their shows -- Supernatural and Smallville. I was a fan of Veronica Mars too, but VM's now gone. Boohoo! Next to the CW posters is my filing cabinet full of story ideas, magazine clippings of "character" pictures, completed manuscripts, past issues of the Romance Writers Report, etc. On the side are clippings of more favorite characters -- the cast of Bones and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are also a number of book-cover magnets. Atop the filing cabinet are books written by friends.



Rejection is part of the writer's life, no matter how much we dislike it. To counter the negative feelings rejections bring, I've covered my walls with framed certificates from contests I've either won or placed in.



There's also a framed poster of my category from the first year I finaled in the Golden Heart, one of the biggest boosts I've had in my career so far.



Above my computer is a corkboard filled with tidbits such as my lists of goals for the year, quotes, trinkets from conferences, pictures of writing friends along with one of my agent and me at the Reno Golden Heart Awards. There's a bumper sticker for WetNoodlePosse.com, fortunes from fortune cookies and "Firefly Life Lessons" from another favorite show that's now gone, Firefly. Among my favorites -- "Sometimes the voices in your head are right." To the right, you'll notice two more small LOTR posters.



I love to travel, and I'm a big lover of America's national parks, so I also have some wall decor that highlights those facts. Here are two framed photos I took on my honeymoon 14 years ago -- one of a sunrise at Myrtle Beach, the other of Hickory Nut Falls in North Carolina's Chimney Rock Park, film location for The Last of the Mohicans, one of my all-time favorite movies. Next to them are official National Park Service maps of the entire NPS system and one of Yellowstone National Park, one of my favorite places. What do these things have to do with writing? If I sell oodles of books, I get to travel to more places like them. :)



And what's a writer's office without crammed bookshelves?



So, if you're a writer, what does your workspace look like and include that inspires you? If you're not a writer, are you curious about your favorite authors' work areas?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Life Gets In The Way


by Suzanne Welsh

About two months ago a situation occurred in my other career that set in motion a series of events that changed my life this past month. My beta reader, (the person who reads my manuscripts strictly as a reader), took a new job with greater responsibility at a new hospital. She in turn offered me a position with this new staff. Taking a leap of faith in her and my own skills, I switched hospitals.

This new position had me doing what I love, delivering babies, but it also meant a greater commitment of my time. Translation, I went from working twelve-hour nights for nineteen years, to one solid month of eight-hour days. For a confirmed vampire, this has been a shock to my system. And as a writer the whole ordeal limited my available writing time.

This month of working days gave me a new appreciation for those writers who do it on a daily basis and still find time to write. I must confess, that not all of my home time has been wasted with mundane chores or sleeping. I did manage to work on a nursing article I hope to get published in a professional journal, and I taught a continuing education course to the other nurses this month. But sadly I felt like my romance writing, in particular my current work in progress (WIP), took a backseat to everything else.

When working night shift, on my days off I am up by eight and write at least until noon, with at least one hour during that time to blog or answer e-mails or work on my local RWA chapter’s concerns. Then about one in the afternoon it’s nap time. If I work that night, then I’m good to go. If I have the night off, the nap allows me to write again later at night. This day shift gig has my system all out of whack.

The other thing I noticed was how down I felt. The creative process must feed into some mental endorphins I need to keep my mood and mind balanced. Putting aside something I enjoy to focus intently on some other part of my life seems to put everything else off the axis in which I move on a daily basis.

One positive thing that happened was during the extra half-hour it takes me to drive to and from work my mind would work like a sledgehammer on certain points I still need to write in order to finish my WIP. And one particularly disturbing morning a character from a Regency Historical I’ve played with suddenly started talking to me. Literally. The heroine sat in the passenger seat and told me her back-story and how it affected her actions in the beginning of the book. (Yeah, it freaked me out, too!)

Thank goodness I return to nights next week!

Have you ever had a situation in your life where you couldn’t concentrate on writing so you had to just tuck it away for a while? Did you find your mind gravitating towards it at odd times? How did you handle the added stress?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's in a Brand?

There’s a buzzword in the industry that makes almost any author sit up and take notice: branding. Everyone’s talking about it; everyone wants to be effective at it. But…what is it, exactly? And how important is it that we learn to market in this way?

An author brand is like any other kind of brand—Coke, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Andersen Doors. The most familiar brands evoke immediate recognition and association with particular products or even a level of quality in a certain product. Basically, branding translates into a sort of shorthand. I see a Nora book, I automatically know what kind of experience I can expect by reading it, so I pick it up without having to think twice or do any research. Branding is having a reputation and a loyal following and helps with all those impulse buys that are so critical in the book business.

Branding is important because it enables the author’s name in and of itself to become a marketable commodity. James Patterson is now using his brand to sell stories co-authored by other people. He’s even expanding his brand to include many different types of stories. Now that he’s so strongly associated with a good story, he can do that.

How did he build such a strong brand? By writing consistently great stories. That always has to be first. But there’s more to it than that. Branding is an on-going process and doesn’t generally happen overnight. It’s most difficult in the start-up phase. As well known as they are, Coke and Pepsi are still out there, advertising and building name recognition. It’s like pushing a ball uphill. If you stop pushing, it rolls right back to the bottom—something else encroaches and takes the attention of those you’re hoping to reach.

Specifically, an author brands herself by developing something that is consistent and unique in her writing. I do that by making sure every book I create delivers a deeply emotional, evocative story. How is my brand different from other authors who write in the same genre? My books are known for their deep characterization in a genre that is often more plot-driven (as you drift toward the suspense side). Once you know what you want your brand to be, you establish it through your writing style and “voice,” as well as your promotional efforts, until it becomes recognizable to others.

Some tools an author can use to build her brand are:

Paid Advertising
An interesting and constantly updated Web site
Strategic Contests
Blogs and chats (See? I’m building my brand right here )
Newsletters
Charity/Volunteer work
Networking
Joint-promotion with other authors and businesses
Speaking
Writing articles
Press releases/media attention
Author response to fan letters/e-mails
Mailers to booksellers/fans
Samplers

Your brand is your promise to your readers. When my readers buy my books they want to be able to count on a certain type of read. Therefore, I make sure I deliver that kind of read. Everything I do professionally is geared around building my brand and my career, so my Web site reflects that brand, my promotional materials reflect it, my charity auction reflects it, and my workshops/blogs reflect it.

Think about how solicitors make you feel. Because we are approached by so many who are trying to sell us something, the melee is deafening. We learn to filter and filter quickly, which means, in order to be effective in today’s marketplace, we have to be creative and effective marketers.
So my question to you is: How can you reach people who are already tired of the signals that are constantly bombarding them via the telephone, TV, computer, etc? How can you set yourself apart?

Throw out some ideas, and I’ll be happy to contribute. ☺

Remember to post a comment or question by Saturday night for a chance to win an autographed copy of Brenda's newest book, "Coulda Been a Cowboy."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Author Brenda Novak Guest-Blogging on Wednesday

Stop by tomorrow to read guest blogger Brenda Novak’s post on author branding called, “What’s in a Brand?” Brenda writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense from her home in Sacramento, California. She’s the prolific writer of twenty-five books, the mother of five children, and a great friend and mentor to those who know her. Additionally, her annual online auction for Juvenile Diabetes Research has raised over $269,000 in the three years she's been holding it. Amazing feat!

Many of Brenda's books have been designated a Romantic Times “Top Pick” and have gone on to place in contests such as the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, The Write Touch Reader’s Award, the Holt, the Award of Excellence, and the Beacon Award for Published Authors.

Brenda's latest work includes a trilogy set in a small town in Mississippi. DEAD SILENCE and DEAD GIVEAWAY are out. The third book in the trilogy, DEAD RIGHT, will be available August 1st.

An autographed copy of her latest contemporary "Coulda Been a Cowboy" will be raffled off on Sunday to one of our lucky commenters. "Coulda Been a Cowboy" is the story of a professional football player who suddenly finds himself saddled with an illegitimate baby, a public scandal involving that baby's mother, and a plain Jane nanny. He doesn't want any of the three--until he spends a few weeks with plain Dakota Brown and baby Brayden. Then he realizes that the embarrassing scandal has actually forced changes in his life that might bring him everything he's ever wanted.

Be sure to post your comment by Saturday night. The winner will be announced on Sunday, July 1.

Monday, June 25, 2007

COMMUNICATION

There’s this sixteen-month-old baby, Ezra Brown (nickname Easy B), whose facial features are a wealth of expression. High, wide forehead, expressive eyes, mouth that becomes the Grand Canyon upon a smile, every muscle in his face and form are methods of communication. He speaks -- well, actually he jabbers -- in some Klingon dialect no human can understand.

So what I thought was this: Why can’t we adult humans communicate so well. Easy B communicates with his mother through sign language, “please,” the rounding circle on his tummy and “all done” the waving of two tiny hands above his head. However, when he wants to nurse, his little face becomes very still; he uses only one hand to simulate the milking of a cow, a closed fist (okay, DO NOT ask), and holds the posture until his mother acknowledges what he wants. Then, when she bares her breast, he gives this little ah-ha of relief at being understood and given his most elemental need.

Communication. Men and women have been doing this awkward dance for centuries. And it’s darned strange that I can read every nuance of Ezra’s face and body as if his words were emblazoned on a marquee, but have difficulty conveying the same language among my characters.

When I want to cow a particular unruly tenth-grader in my high school class, a lifting of both brows and a stoic stare are sufficient to quell the ensuing rebellion.

Why is it so much harder to use body and facial language for our characters without reverting to stereotype and caricature? I mean, come on, there are only so many brow lifts, steely stares, and mouth quirks the story can handle. And in real life, our dashing Alpha males express very little with their faces, more, perhaps with their bodies, and oh yeah, a whole lot with . . . well, ‘nuff said there.

So my question to both readers and writers is: What’s your favorite character’s (male or female) non-verbal expression or use of body communication? NON-VERBAL, ladies and gents, to eliminate the classic, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” followed by an equally classic thunderbolt from the gods.

Or what's a favorite communication tool you use as a writer?

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Town

One of the really cool features of the Romance Bandits is that we represent numerous countries, much less several US states. We have different backgrounds, different occupations, but a common passion - writing romance.


I thought it might be nice to share a little bit of trivia about my home state, but I'm really curious about yours - so here's the deal: tell me some trivia about your home town, state, country - whatever you wish to share - and I'll pick a winner and send you a bandit mask.


I live in Ohio which is considered part of the Midwest- which might be surprising. I mean, geographically speaking, it would be more accurate to call Ohio part of the Mideast... (I can almost hear the tourism department screaming). However, in all other ways we more closely resemble the Midwest.


Most of the state lies on top of a plateau, so we're flat - lots of sky. It's a great place to learn how to drive a stick shift. Agriculture plays a large part in the economy. One sure sign of spring is the timing of the commercials for corn crop fertilizers and weed killers. Back in the day, it was said that Ohio had so many trees, a squirrel could travel from one end of the state to the other and never touch land, but the many farms and metropolitian cities changed that. We're still pretty green, though.


Trivia fact - 50% of the entire US population is within a 500 mile radius of Columbus, Ohio which is smack dab in the middle of the state.


Ohio has a rich history in culinary arts. We gave America its first hot dog in 1900, and chewing gum in 1869. Wendy's Hamburgers started in Ohio as did Bob Evans, White Castle, and Damon's Ribs. Okay, so our culinary history is more "fast" than "rich," but you get the idea - we like to eat.


The world's largest basket is in Ohio - I've seen it. We also have an office building that is designed to look like a huge basket. Seriously. It tends to freak you out when you see it off the highway. The same company is behind both of these structures.


Steven Spielberg was born in Ohio, though I'm not sure he stayed long. Clark Gable is from Ohio, as is Paul Newman (I met his wife, Joanne Woodword, backstage of a play once. Paul wasn't there though). Annie Oakley is also from Ohio - which surprised me.


Seven US presidents were born in Ohio - but they were all boring - except for Ulysses S. Grant who had the good sense to get his mug on a fifty dollar bill.


The "pop-top can" was invented in Ohio - a product I use daily.


Cleveland was the world's first city to be lighted electrically in 1879 (did I mention that Thomas Edison is from Ohio?) Cleveland also boasts of America's first traffic light. They don't boast, however, about the Cuyahoga River that caught fire and inspired Randy Newman's song - "Burn on, big river, burn on."


So know you know a little trivia about my home town. Tell me about yours. A bandit mask hangs in the balance.

Beyond the book ...



My name is Anna Sugden and I am a bookaholic. I love books. Reading them, buying them, collecting them. Hard back, paperback, old and new. Luckily, my husband is a bookaholic too - we have over 20 bookcases in our house and a TBR room!

Apparently, though, we’re a dying breed.

The biggest issue facing our industry, from publisher through to bookseller, is not which genre is hot and which is not. Rather, it is how to convince the younger generation to commit their time and money to reading and books. With so many more options available to them - from the internet to all manner of ever-changing, ever-improving electronic technology and gadgetry (Blu-ray anyone?) - is it any surprise that the humble book struggles to appeal?

Although e-books and audio-books have been around for some time, even they hadn’t really kept up with the times. Recently, thanks to innovators like Apple/iTunes and Sony, providing better listening devices and better readers, and the increasing use of the internet, these alternatives have had a new lease of life breathed into them. Add to that the increasing success of epublishers, like Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen press and Samhain (who have just signed a deal with Kensington) and things are looking more rosy.

It doesn’t stop there. Recently, publishers have begun to think ‘outside the book’. Both Harlequin and Dorchester have got manga-style lines, hoping to encourage cross-over from those who are hooked on the Japanese graphic novels. And for those addicted to their cell-phones, Harlequin has a download service that sends story instalments direct to your cell-phone daily.

While I think the latter is a great idea, and know plenty of people for whom it would be perfect, it’s not for me. I don’t live on my phone! Nor are e-books. I spend enough time gazing at a screen and it doesn’t seem worth printing them out.

But I could go for manga romance novels - like reading the teen magazines of my youth with the comic strip and photo stories! Plus, it’s still reading and holding a book in my hands. And I certainly enjoy audio books - especially now many are unabridged and with decent actors reading (some romance novels actually have a male and female reader for the different points of view).

Who knows what the future holds. What other ideas publishers and retailers will come up with to keep the market alive and well.



So, imagine there are no more books left in the world (an alien being has zapped them all into outer space). Which new format(s) would you choose to feed your reading habits?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Welcome To Summer!

by Caren Crane


Today is the first day of summer. Hooray! Summer, for me, is a get out of jail free card. Not like it was in school, certainly, but it marks the end of many obligations. Most of them are things my kids do all through the school year, but some are my own. Now that summer's here, we enjoy a brief respite from the must-dos.

Which leaves me with more free time to write. Right? Well, sure, as long I don't start playing Chuzzle or start on the to-be-read pile of books or hit my Netflix queue with a vengeance. Fortunately, my dear friends have recently challenged me to write a brand new sort of book for me. One that has the back of my mind buzzing with activity. The new idea has made me listen harder to conversations, read my mail more closely, pay attention to things I normally wouldn't.

A new book is like a new relationship in that way. It changes something profound about the way you view things around you. Now, I am filtering everything through my new heroine's point of view. I am considering the type of vehicle my hero drives. The kind of house my heroine would live in. Where her friends would live. What sort of jobs they have. The potential is limitless, like it is in that new relationship. Soon enough, I will start to hem my characters in, give them roots and problems and crazy family members. For now, though, summer is new and so is the book. Anything could happen. It's so exciting!

So, what is the brand new summer calling you to do? Laze by the pool? Watch a pile of movies? Keep your nose to the grindstone by day and party through the twilit evening hours? Tell us your summer plans!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You had me at hello

By Beth Burgoon

In the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth Bennet: "I love you. Most ardently." I must confess, I swoon *g* I'm a sucker for romance (no surprise as I'm both a romance writer and reader) but nothing gets to me more than a simple, honest declaration of a character's true feelings. And those declarations are the ones that have stuck with me through the years. Some of my favorites:

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner." -- Dirty Dancing. Yeah, it's cheesy but it still makes me want to cheer when Johnny (bad-boy from wrong side of the tracks) arrives and takes Baby's hand.

"I like you very much. Just the way you are." -- Bridget Jones's Diary. Simple. Truthful. And just what Bridget is looking for -- someone to love her just as she is *g*

"I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." -- When Harry Met Sally. Okay, this one has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of when my husband proposed to me. He drove the 90 miles to where I was attending school to ask me to marry him IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT because he couldn't wait another minute for us to start our life together :-)

"What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down." -- It's a Wonderful Life. One of my all time favorite movies. And later when George visits Mary and they both listen to their friend on the same phone, the sexual tension is through the roof *g*

What are some of your favorite/most memorable romantic lines from movies? Any that have stuck with you through the years or have a special meaning for you?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Turn-ons and Turn-offs

By Kirsten Scott

A few weeks ago, I sent a draft of a short story I was working on to my critique partner. It was my first attempt at erotica, so I was curious what she'd thought of my efforts. Overall, she was enthusiastic, but she had a really strong reaction to a particular word I'd used. It started with "c" and ended with "t" and she absolutely hated it. Couldn't I use a different word? Something that started with "p" perhaps?

Now unfortunately, my reaction to the "p" word was almost as strong as her reaction to the "c" word. It completely turns me off. To me, that word sounds silly and adolescent boy-ish. Not a bit sexy. I'm not entirely happy with the "c" word-I understand there are those, like my CP, who find it jarring and violent, something a man would use but a woman would not. But I like it better than some of my alternatives.

Of course, we've all got our little turn-ons and turn-offs, from individual words to overall story-lines. I love stories about the "last of the line," the orphan who must be found because s/he alone can save the world. My favorite of this kind is Dragonflight, the fabulous Anne McCaffery book. I love a good romance where the heroine is mistreated by the hero, who will later have to make it up to her in any number of ways (try Anna Campbell's Claiming the Courtesean, if you're like me!)

As for turn-offs...well, I tried to think of some, but the truth is, I can enjoy almost any tried and true plot line, if it's written well. Amnesia, twins, Cinderella, marriage of convenience, you name it, I've enjoyed it. Oh wait--I thought of one! Unhappy endings. I absolutely refuse to read them. I guess that's why I stick to the romance section. ;-)

So what about you? What are your turn-ons and turn-offs? It can be a word or an entire genre--dish the dirt!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Of Laundry and Writing

by Joan Kayse

The Writer's life. Glamour, exotic locations, exciting adventure, tantalizing interpersonal relationships.

Sorting the darks from the whites.

It's not all chocolate and champagne. Cabana boys bringing us towels while we lounge by the pool churning out pages and pages of riveting fiction. Not even close (except for the chocolate).

Many of us still have our "day jobs". We have households to run, children to raise and nurture (or in my case, drought striken plants to resusitate. A petunia with its tongue hanging out in thirst is NOT a pretty sight!) Obligations that demand our attention. But....

During meetings we're trying to decide if our hero should arrive by horse or UFO. We zone out during church when we're really trying to work out in our heads a better way for our heroine to tell the villian to take a hike. Even going to the grocery store can solve a particular plot problem as we listen to the lady behind us in line complain on her cell phone about her boyfriend.

Our minds. Always working.

Our fans would be dazzled if they watched us during the actual process. Hours of staring at the computer screen waiting for inspiration to hit. Rewriting the same sentence twenty times. Talking to our inspirational character pics taped to our desks. (I've had many a long conversation with Damon, hero from THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE who just happens to look like an image of a scruffy Hugh Jackman from PEOPLE. I used to do it with my Davy Jones of the Monkees poster when I was 12 LOL)

And it gets even worse when we're with other writers. I chat with my CP almost everyday. Last night she listened to me grouse about my bad weekend at the hospital. I listened to her talk about working our church picnic. Soon we were discussing our progress on our current WIP, hashing out plot issues, celebrating the completion of a manuscript. Multiply that by hundreds when we go to the RWA conference in a couple of weeks. Two thousand like souls all congregating for four days of talking writing! Nirvana.

The writing life; highs and lows, joy and frustration, success and rejection.

And I LOVE IT!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Oops! Forgot to pick winner

My bad. I forgot to pick a winner of one of Colleen Gleason's books after we had her as a guest blogger here at the Romance Bandits on June 8. After culling all the comments made by us Bandits and using hubby's random number generator, danetteb, you are the winner! Please e-mail me at trishmilburn AT yahoo DOT com with which book of Colleen's you'd prefer to receive (The Rest Falls Away or Rises the Night), your full name and mailing address. I'll forward all of that info to Colleen.

Why Perseverance is so Important

by Christie Kelley

I started my writing career 7 years ago during a small phenomenon called Y2K. Anybody remember that? I’d always wanted to write but never had the time or energy with a full time job, husband and two young kids. As Y2K approached, I had just started working part-time from home in computer software development (only the part-time working from home thing was new). The company I worked for wouldn’t let us do anything except fix emergency problems until after 2/15/00. That’s when I started my first (and never to be seen again) manuscript. I joined RWA and the Maryland Romance Writers and quickly realized that I’d found my true passion in life.

So where am I going with this rambling post? After seven years of writing and seven manuscripts and many years of thinking this would never happen, it did. I GOT THE CALL.

THE CALL.

The one all the unpublished authors wait for with every manuscript we give to our agent or the all powerful editor. I sold my baby. The book that finaled in the 2006 Golden Heart and made me part of this fantastic group, Her Scandalous Proposal will be a February 2008 release from Kensington titled, Every Night I’m Yours.

My agent called me a week after I'd received a pass from another publisher that really put me in the dumps. Her call came the same day I found out that I hadn’t finaled in a contest with my newest manuscript. When I saw her name on my caller ID, my first thought was: “Oh great, now she’s calling to tell me that I’ve been rejected by all the editors and she doesn’t want to represent me any longer.” For all you readers out there--this really is how writers think.I’m thrilled that my dream is finally coming true.

But more importantly, I want the rest of you to know that I was ready to give up a hundred times. I didn’t. And you can’t either. As a real estate agent, we live by the mantra: location, location, location. As a writer, you have to live by the mantra: perseverance, perseverance, perseverance
.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The joy of bookstore browsing

By Trish Milburn

I've been so busy lately that I've barely come up for air, but while my sister and nieces were visiting last week I got to indulge in a favorite pastime -- casually browsing bookstore shelves. Since I'm writing YA and just finished revising a paranormal YA, I gravitated to that section of the Barnes & Noble. And discovered there are an incredible number of very cool looking releases lining the shelves. It takes only moments to realize that paranormal is very hot in the young adult market now, and for that I'm glad. I love the combination of teen stories and paranormal elements. Thanks to Harry Potter, so do lots of readers 20 years younger than me.

The YA publishers are also very good at putting eye-catching covers on these books. Those covers were what made me pick the books off the shelves, turn them over and read the back-cover copy -- and make notes to myself to read these books soon. Here are some of the books that caught my eye:







Have you been browsing lately? What has caught your eye? And how important is a good cover in making you pick up a book?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Counting the Blessings

posted by Tawny Weber


For all it's ups and downs, I feel so blessed to be able to consider writing my career (not exactly a lucrative career... yet, but its getting there *g*). After all, I get to tell stories, have the incredible excitement of sharing my stories with others, seeing my name on a book - and that book on a shelf! All blessings!!!


But one of the biggest blessings, the most inspiring things about writing is the friends I've made. In times of frustration, I swear, its my friends that keep my going. If I hit a wall, can't seem to write or focus on the story, they are right there wth me-- understanding, encouraging, nagging *g*.

The perfect example is last night - I haven't been writing much the last couple weeks. I have excuses (and they are just that -excuses). Beth assures me that this is simply "my process" --the insane headgame I play with myself for each and every book (and she'd know, since this is the 5th she's held my hand through). Around 9:30 I got a phone call - its one of my plotting partners - she whispers in this deep voice "Tawny, this is the writing angel, I don't think you're writing like you're supposed to." Too funny! She informed me that I had an hour to finish whatever I was doing and we'd meet online to write. No excuses. So - an hour later, I wrote. And it felt great. I'm still "in process" in that I don't know that the direction I am heading is right, and I'm concerned with pacing, but... I wrote.

Inspiration is a nebulous thing, sometimes. For me, I love the story I'm working on. The characters are solid, they feel great. I'm happy with my career direction and love what's happening. But sometimes, it takes that late night phone call or that friend who holds my hand and assures me this is "my process" or playmates who "get me" and are always there to cheer and hold my hand, to take the inspiration for a story and give me that final shove to turn it into actual pages.

How about you? If you could give a shout out to your writing buddies, your backup, what would you say?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Impact of Romance

by Joan Kayse

When you first read my subject title you're probably thinking about the impact of romance writing on the state of the world. And in essence it is, but not from the writing perspective.

Our stories come from within us, creations of our imaginations, our hopes (in my case) or our dreams. But what about the real stories, the ones experienced by real people? The ones that impact a life?

Recently, I had my house painted. The fellow who came to do it was a friend of a friend of a friend. We spent a lot of time chatting while Jay freshened my walls with a whole range of colors and I frantically jumped in to dust behind the furniture :-). We talked about a lot of things, about his children, my writing, the global misunderstanding of country music. A great guy who did a great job.

On day four he received a phone call which he took privately outside. He came back in rather somber looking and went quietly back to work. I continued my reading when from the kitchen he said "That call was about my grandmother. She's dying."

I told him how sorry I was for that and he replied that it was not unexpected but that he was very close to her and you could hear how much he would miss her in his voice. He then told me the story of how his grandparents met.

His grandfather worked as a young man on a farm. One day he was walking back home from a trip to town and decided at the last minute to cut through an adjacent meadow. Just enjoying the day and perhaps hoping to get home just a tad sooner. Along the way he passed by a lake where a large group of people were having a picnic/gathering. There was picnic food, laughter, games and out in the lake he could see some people in small boats. All of them having a good time and you have to wonder if he wasn't wishing he could spend some down time with a bunch of friends. But he had work at home to do and so he continued on his way.

Just as he passed the lake he heard frantic shouts and screams for help. He turned and saw that one of the boats had capsized with two people...two young women....inside. Without a thought, he kicked off his shoes and dove into the lake. The girls were frantic, neither could swim and they were fighting him off in their terror. He knew he would only be able to save one of them and faced with that grim choice caught hold of one and started for shore. He got her there safely and then...must to his surprise and relief....found that the second girl had caught the ankle of the first girl and was also saved.

The second girl became his wife of fifty years.

Jay told the story with such wonder and marvel at the karmic forces that had caused his grandfather to decide at that moment, on that day to cross that meadow and be there to rescue this woman, marry her and build the family that had given him life. He said "I wouldn't be here if not for that."

It was such a gift to have Jay share this story with me. I was touched by it on so many levels and yes...even began to plot out a story based on it :-)

So how has romance touched your life? What stories have you heard that reaffirms your belief in the power of romance?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Heroes In Pajamas

posted by Aunty Cindy

Last night I met with two of my local Critique Partners (CPs) for one of our regularly scheduled meetings. The three of us prepare a line-by-line critique of the other two's work (usually a chapter each) and we meet to eat pizza and go over the critiques.

So my two CPs were going over my chapter when we came to the scene where my h/h are waking up in bed together. The hero gets out of bed wearing only flannel pajama bottoms and one of my CPs said, "Please DO
NOT tell me those are plaid flannel pajamas!" And when I said yes they were she groaned, "Romance heroes do NOT wear plaid flannel pajamas!"

Of course I disagreed. After all, I'd already shown that he was a pretty conservative guy who wears blue pin-striped boxers, and they were in a chilly climate. Then I went into TMI (too much information) territory and added that my DH wears plaid flannel pajamas AND he even has a pair with green smiling monkeys (that I bought for him). Clearly this was waaay more than my CP wanted to know and forever ruined my DH's chances of being a Romance Hero in her book.

Still, I was left wondering if what a hero WEARS makes him any more or less a hero? If so, then some of those historical costumes look pretty silly to me, and I'm personally not fond of cowboy hats (or most other hats) on ANYONE. And while I'm thinking about it my son is a lot closer to my hero's age than my DH (oh heavens, HOW did this HAPPEN?!?!), and son wears ratty old sweatpants to bed (at least when he visits me). I definitely can't picture a Romance Hero in THOSE!

So what do YOU think? Do Romance Heroes wear flannel (or any) pajamas? If the book you're reading has a scene with the hero in flannel pajamas does it ruin the character for you? Should Aunty ADMIT to having a child old enough to be a Romance Hero?!?!

Monday, June 11, 2007

And You Know It's Good For You...

by Christine Wells
As a bit of fun and a whole lot of shameless self-promotion, the banditas decided to open our very own cafe press store. Check out the cute, reasonably priced items on sale!
We don't make any profit. Everything is sold at cost. And if you want to join a raid on the bar with the banditas at National, wear an RB button or t-shirt and you'll fit right in!
Now, I'm not a big one for clutter and sadly, most of the items that fill goody bags at conferences find their way into my waste basket--usually before I leave the hotel. But give me a mug or a t-shirt--something I can use--and I'm yours!

My all time favourite freebie is from the first Romance Writers of Australia conference I attended. A mug with quotes from writers--some inspiring, some thought-provoking and some designed to kick that lazy butt into gear. What better item to have next to you at the computer than a mug full of coffee that says:
Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.

I've often wanted to quote Jack M Bickham's words of wisdom to people I meet. You know, the ones who say wistfully they've always wanted to write a book BUT... In fact, for all those occasions, there must be thousands more times I should have said it to myself.

If you want to become a good writer there are no shortcuts, no alternatives to writing, writing, writing. And once you're published, there's the temptation to spend a lot of time and energy on things that *feel* like they're vital--promotion, chatting online, reading reviews, googling yourself daily:) Yes, promotion is important, but it shouldn't take the place of all that writing because, hopefully, the journey to becoming a great writer doesn't stop with publication. And after all, an author's best advertisement is a damn good book!
So what about you? Do you have any quotes that inspire you? What promotional material has led you to buy the author's book? Inquiring minds who have a book to promote want to know!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Anna Campbell Sets the Scene

posted by Anna Campbell

Australia is a very new country, even newer than the United States or Canada. If you’re talking architecture, 100 years is old to us. I live in a 1928 Art Deco block of flats and that is considered heritage.

So what is a girl to do when she’s been in love with the past, the more distant the better, ever since she was a little kid reading fairytales?

A girl is to go to Britain as often as she possibly can! Even though the flight is awful and the exchange rate between the pound and the Aussie dollar is worse. When I need my history fix, I need my history fix! I’ll endure any pains, slog through any cold English rain, chat up any gorgeous Scotsmen (hmm, that’s REALLY suffering) just so I can see something built prior to 1900! I will suffer for my art!

As I write this, I’ve got a couple of days to wait before I board my big red and white Qantas jet and head off for London for a week followed by three weeks of wandering around England and Scotland. Am I excited? Did the Saxons cop a hiding at the Battle of Hastings?

I’m planning to scout locations and do a lot of research. I’m hoping to come up with a string of ideas for new stories. Experiencing the places where my characters live is so inspiring. Of course, I’m writing romance not a dissertation on the Highland Clearances or the position of women in Regency England. As a writer, I try to subscribe to the iceberg theory—at least 90% of what you know is floating underwater out of sight. Knowing the setting so well is for my benefit, really. I have to believe in the authenticity of the people and their world (although I’m sure I make mistakes—it’s almost impossible not to! And it’s always the little things that slip you up!) when I’m telling a story.

In Claiming the Courtesan, I use a lot of historical detail—hopefully with a light hand. But in my mind, it made those people flesh and blood as individuals of their time and setting.

To give you some examples, the Duchess of Kylemore’s cruel eviction of her tenants was based on the deliberate depopulation of the Highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries as the Scottish nobility decided they’d rather live the easy life in London. The easy life was expensive and wool was the boom industry so the landowners threw people off their crofts in preference for running sheep which were cheap and profitable. The castle and village at Inverathie are based loosely on Inveraray, the home of the Dukes of Argyll, in western Scotland. Just as a small detail, when you walk into the main hall, the walls are decorated with weaponry just as they are in my book. Here’s a link if you want to check out the similarities.

http://www.inveraray-castle.com/Pages/content.asp

So now over to you. Have you ever been somewhere and found it inspired a whole new story? How important is setting in your writing? When you read a book, is the sense of place/history important to you? Is there somewhere you absolutely, positively have to visit for your current work in progress? Has a book ever inspired you to want to visit somewhere through the sheer power of the descriptions?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Pitching at National...Are You Ready?

With RWA National only four weeks away, it's time to warm up those presentation skills for those knee-quaking pitch sessions with editors and agents. To help us prepare, I've invited talented author CJ Lyons to join us with tips on how to successfully pitch your novels to industry professionals. Hope this helps!

KJ Howe

Secrets of Pitching from CJ Lyons

Award winning medical suspense author CJ Lyons has had requests for manuscripts every time she has pitched her work. Here are a few of her secrets to success:


First of all, relax. 90% of the time the person you're pitching to is going to ask for your material if it is anything that sounds at all like what they are looking for. And since you did your research ahead of time, you already know what they're looking for, right?

Second of all, the agents and editors will probably listen to 100 or more pitches during their time there. Guess what? They won't remember any of them.

BUT they might remember you. That's what you want, to make an impression—hopefully a good one.

Why? To build that emotional Velcro, make a connection.

So, how to make a good impression? Of course, be professional, act professional. Come prepared, display poise and confidence. Have a business card to offer, lay it on the table between you so the agent can glance at it when they're forgotten your name.

On the back of this business card, type the title of your book and a short (15-20 words) hook or tag line. This way the editor will remember both you and your book when they get back to NYC.

Next, use your pitch to elicit questions. Remember, you are NOT there to describe your book. You're there to make an impression, so that when you send in your work the agent or editor will remember you.

Keep your actual pitch short and sweet, to hook your audience and keep them asking for more. It's that simple.

So you give your twenty second pitch (it shouldn't be any longer) and the agent nods and asks a few questions and wants the full manuscript. Mission accomplished, right?

Not quite. That should take maybe five minutes, probably less, of your allotted time. Don't waste the rest!! Use it to cement that professional impression, to increase that emotional Velcro.

Think of it as a job interview—only now it's YOUR turn. Come prepared with some well-thought out professional questions for your agent and editor. Things that will make that glazed expression in their eyes fade away as they sit up and actually talk with you instead of being barraged with pitches.

Here are a few:
--where do you see the (insert genre) market going?
--any recent successes? OR better yet, do your research ahead of time and compliment them on a client's success
--what's the best advice you would give a writer trying to break in?
--what's the best book you've read recently?

You get the picture. Suddenly you've turned a one-way pitch session into a professional conversation. Guess what? People remember conversations. People have conversations with people they like. People they want to do business with.

Bingo!! Mission accomplished!

Also, be prepared by bringing the synopsis and first few chapters with you. 99% of the time the agent or editor will NOT want them (they don't want to carry stuff on the plane back home) but there are exceptions.

The very first time I ever (ever!) pitched it was to Donald Maass. He liked my pitch, liked my credentials even more (it was a medical thriller) and asked if I had the first chapter with me. To my amazement, he sat there and read it, right in front of me!

He made it through the first ten pages or so and proceeded to give me the best writing lesson I ever had. He ripped it to shreds, told me about conflict on every page and basically our fifteen minute meeting turned into a very dynamic critique session as we brainstormed alternative openings and plot lines.

Moral of the story: always be prepared.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your pitches!


Award winning medical suspense author CJ Lyons is a physician trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Winner of the Golden Gateway and a Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense, CJ is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. Her writing has appeared in Romantic Times BookReviews, CrimeSpree and Spinetingler. Look for her debut novel, LIFELINES, coming from Berkley in April, 2008. Contact her at www.cjlyons.net

CJ, thanks for joining us today! I'd love to hear from our readers how they best prepare for pitch sessions. Good luck to everyone at National!

KJ Howe

And the Winnah Is . . .

The winner of the $25 Border's gift certificate is SHANNON. Congratulations. Please email me with your address and I'll send the certificate to you. jo

Friday, June 8, 2007

Just reminding everyone that June 8 is the last day to post to Jo's entry on May 31 about your favorite reading spot. I'll be drawing names out of a hat and announcing the winner of the $25 Border's gift certificate tomorrow!

Colleen Gleason, creator of the "Regency Buffy"

We're thrilled to have Colleen Gleason, author of the wonderful Gardella Vampire Chronicles series here with us at Romance Bandits today.

Colleen's second book in the series, Rises the Night, hit bookstore shelves this week and I simply cannot wait to read it. I did a little Q& A with Colleen. Here's a little Q&A I did with Colleen. If you have other questions or comments, please post to the comments section. We'll be drawing a winner, who will receive one of Colleen's first two Gardella books -- winner's choice!

When people hear how your Gardella Vampire Chronicles are billed as "Buffy meets the Regency" or "Buffy meets Jane Austen", it immediately says highconcept. Was that your intent? And did the high concept come before or after you'd started writing the first in the series, The Rest Falls Away?

I think, yes, in a way, it started that way--as a high concept, and before I started writing it.

When the idea for the story came to me, it came as "a Regency vampire slayer." That was it. I knew if I was going to write about vampires, I was going to write about them as villains, not sympathetic creatures...but the vampire slayer bit had already been done...so I figured I'd put it in the time period most "saleable"--meaning, the most popular/common setting for romance novels.

I remember walking around the RWA conference in Dallas, thinking "I'm going to write a story about a Regency-Buffy." But I didn't start for another six months because I was finishing a different project that, by the way, to date hasn't sold. :-)

What has been the easiest thing about writing the Gardella books? The most difficult?
The easiest thing was that it was a book I wanted to read--one I would have picked up off the shelf and read had someone written it before me. (And boy am I glad no one did.) I wanted to write about a smart, strong heroine who had more than one gorgeous, smart man to choose from, and so that's what happened. I wanted to write about a woman who tries to have it all, and do it all....and ultimately learns that it's not that easy.

The most difficult part is that, since I tend to write "organically"--meaning, I don't plot or plan out things--I have to be careful what "rules" I set in my world, and what histories and events I've given people and the world around them so that it doesn't mess up something I might want to do in the future. :-) I've gotten better at that, however, although I did give a certain vampiric character an age in The Bleeding Dusk (Gardella Three) that locks me in to a prior commitment so to speak. In other words, if I ever want to write about this character in another book, I have to work with his age and how long he has--or hasn't--been around.

You've said that the series will be five books long? How did you determine that? Did you plot all five before starting to write the first one?

I want to write five books about Victoria Gardella Grantworth, and that's because I want her to have a finite character arc, including getting her Mr. Right at the end of it. I don't want it to drag on for too long, because I don't want the characters and story line to get boring, or to "Jump the Shark." I don't want to have everything that can happen to a vampire slayer to happen to Victoria; I'd rather share the wealth and let some things happen to other characters.

And when I originally started to write, I didn't really think about how many books it would be. I just knew the story wouldn't be resolved in the first book. Then I thought about making it a trilogy--that's such a nice, neat package. But as I finished the second book and went on to the third, I realized there was no way I could resolve the story even then, in what would be the last book. So I thought that five (not four because four is an even number and one likes to have a sort of peak or pinnacle in the story line) books would be perfect.

So that's my plan at this point, and since I'm contracted through Book Four, as long as the books do well enough, I'm hoping NAL will give me another two-book contract. Then I'll finish up Victoria's story and start another character's story.

And, for the record, I didn't plot any book before I had to. I just finished plotting Book Four, and I have a vague idea of what will happen in Book Five....but I'm no JK Rowling!

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind? Are there CDs that, to you, put you in the mood to write, specifically, the Gardella books?

I often do listen to music when I write! I have a mix of "writing music" on my Rhapsody player that is a conglomerate of some good '80s music ("Something About You"--Level 42, "Rio"--Duran Duran, "Goody Two Shoes"--Adam Ant) mixed with some of my favorite '90s ("Little Miss Can't Be Wrong"--The Spin Doctors, "Girlfriend"--Matthew Sweet, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself"--Georgia Satellites) and current artists (Maroon 5, Coldplay, Nickelback, James Blunt, David Gray, Jamie Cullum)...

I just add a track whenever it comes to me, and the mix plays in a random order. Lots of the songs are mellow: "Take My Breath Away"--Queen, "Lover You Should Have Come Over"--Jeff Buckley, "Trouble"--Ray LaMontagne, etc). I have a few rocking songs ("Supernova"--Liz Phair, "Highway to Hell"--AC/DC) that I play specifically when I'm writing fight scenes.

One of the things that I don't like about writing historically set novels is that the characters can't share in that music with me! I know a lot of authors have "soundtracks" that go with their books, and it just doesn't work for me to have Victoria Gardella Grantworth's theme song to be "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair. Ya know?

I do have a few songs, though, that remind me of the characters and how they feel about a certain situation or character. For example, I do think of Victoria's theme song as "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair. Some day I may share some other songs that go with the books, but at this time, they'd be spoilerish. :-)

And since your book does have that bit of a Buffy connection, you know I have to ask the big Buffyverse question: Angel or Spike? :)

Easy-peasy. Angel for Buffy, Spike for me!

Angel and Buffy belong together. They've always been connected, their love was true and sweet and clear, and he's a good foil for her smart mouth and blazing into danger kind of personality. He was her first. And he loved her from the first.
Besides. Like I said, that leaves Spike for me!

Your books aren't what I'd call a traditional romance--there's no happy ever after at the end of The Rest Falls Away, nor, I suspect, at the end of Rises the Night. With this in mind, how do you feel about having your series marketed as a romance when it technically isn't? Do you feel that your books are currently in their proper niche, or should your stuff be alongside Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, et al? And how do you feel about taking a Janet Evanovich-type stance with having two possible heroes?

This is a good question, and definitely worth talking about.

The thing is, NAL had to make a decision about which market my books would mostly appeal to, and although they can be cross-marketed/shelved in different places in the stores, the general placement/positioning has to attract a particular market if it has any chance of success. They chose romance because there is a broad sense of romanticism in the books, even though there are elements of horror, action adventure, and historical settings.

I think NAL made the right decision in their positioning, because the series has a lot of romantic elements to it--it's really a romance novel spanned over five books. In fact, that romance arc is the only part I really know for the entire five books.

Why over five books? Because it's going to take Victoria that long, wearing her new "skin" as a Venator (vampire hunter) to realize who is the only man for her--the right one, her soulmate, the only man who really understands and deserves to love her.

I wanted to do it that way because, realistically, most of us women have had more than one love before we found (or rediscovered) our life-long partner. And there's no reason a heroine like Victoria--an "Extraordinary" one--wouldn't attract (or be attracted to) an array of men. It just makes sense. Beauty and brains...confidence and excitement. What man isn't going to want that?

And as for the Janet Evanovich connection...the difference between the Gardella books and the Stephanie Plum books are that there will only be five books about Victoria, and I know who her hero is. And it's my intent--my hope and intent--to bring the readers along with me and Victoria as that decision is made. Even if they tend to root for one of the characters over another, even if their choice for hero doesn't make it, they'll understand why he's ultimately the one she chooses. It'll make sense, and it will have been fed into the stories from the beginning.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Beth's Eight Random Facts

A while ago, fellow Bandita Donna MacMeans tagged me to share eight random facts about myself (see, Donna, I didn't forget *g*) So here goes:

1. I have a very large family. Between my husband and I we have 7 sisters, 3 brothers (and various in-laws) 30 nieces and nephews and 28 great-nieces and nephews -- not to mention our own 3 kids. Holiday gatherings are interesting to say the least ;-)

2. I've never read the Harry Potter books. I know, you're all gasping in shock, right? I meant to and since I adore the movies, I really want to, but I just...haven't. Maybe I can make that into a summer reading goal *g*

3. Another shocking random fact: I don't like the Wizard of Oz. I've never admitted it for fear of public humiliation but that movie scares the panties off of me. Those flying monkeys are freaky (shudder).

4. I love trying new things and/or going to new places even if it's just a local restaurant I've never been to before. So in the spirit of I Want To Try Something New, I've decided to try all varities of Samuel Adams beer (I think there's 21). I'm not even crazy about beer but when I saw the commercial I thought "Hey! Something new to try!" and haven't been able to get the idea out of my head *g*

5. I'm extremely stubborn. Once I get an idea in my head that I want to do something, it's almost impossible to dislodge no matter how illogicial or impractical it may be. (See above)

6. I have a love/hate relationship with my gas grill (if it's possible to even have a relationship with a gas grill). I love it because really, to me, food just tastes better cooked outside on the grill *g* I hate it because...well, let's just say that we have a history that includes a small explosion, a tiny fire ball and singed hair and eyelashes. Which is why you're supposed to lift the lid BEFORE you light the darn thing so the gas doesn't build up and the lid doesn't just sort of EXPLODE open (No matter what my husband says it was a very small explosion. Sort of like a mini-explosion.) and singe your hair and eyelashes. (In my defense, this happened 15 yrs ago when I was a young, brand new mother. I blame sleep deprivation).

7. My newest addiction is Sunny Seed Drops chocolate sunflower nuts. Basically, chocolate covered sunflower seeds (no shells). So yummy and the chocolate is colored so they're pretty too!!

8. I'm one of those annoying people who is always humming or singing. Doesn't matter where I go or what I'm doing. And I also have a weird memory. I forget to pick up milk but I have the lyrics to what seems like a gazillion songs memorized *g*

Okay, that's it! More than you ever wanted to know about me :-) Thanks for the tag, Donna!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Do you remember your first?

Romance, that is?
posted by Tawny Weber

Mine was in first grade. His name was Alfred and he was the preachers grandson. Our first date was to the movies to see Disney's Robin Hood. We played the roles of Robin and Maid Marian for weeks afterward. *sigh* Our first (and only) kiss was in the playshed, eyes squished closed and the count of three LOL. Just the memory of it is sweet, like a bright spring day filled with innocent promise.

This sweet boy definitely colored my view of relationships, and probably played a hand in my future as an avid romance reader.

I remember my first heartbreak, too. *sigh* It was definitely a learning experience, complete with leftover feelings of mistrust and anger that still surface to this day (well... it was a really UGLY heartbreak.)

Lucky for me, I had years of reading romances under my belt by this time. They were my salve, my hope during the time it took my heart to recuperate. I read voraciously, using books and the happy-ever-after promise to assure myself that yes, true love did exist.

And when I found my own true love... I was in pretty good shape. I'd read plenty of romances. I knew that communication was key to a good relationship. I knew, through the brilliant skill of my favorite authors, to be true to myself. I'd learned alot, actually.

I realize life isn't as tidy as a romance novel, but there are plenty of lessons in those pages. I know romances, the reading of them, the experience of having them myself, and the writing of them, have had a major part in shaping my life... how about you? What influence have romances had on YOU?

btw - to celebrate my January release, DOES SHE DARE? I'm holding a contest to find the sexiest chocolate cake recipe. If you've got a delicious one you'd care to share -check out the contest on my website.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

And the Winners Are...

Seton and Helen!

Please email me at kirstenscott33 @ yahoo. com with your e-mail and snail mail address so Jacquie can contact you and send you your books!!

Thanks to everyone who wrote in and made Jacquie feel at home. I think she had a lovely time and I know I loved having her with us. We'll be watching for Sleepless at Midnight to shoot straight to the top of the NYT Bestseller List!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Jacquie D is in the House!


Drumroll please!!! Today we welcome a truly talented author. I had the pleasure of meeting Jacquie D'Alessandro at a workshop in Denver, and knew we had to have her for the Romance Bandits. I found she is an incredibly sweet and generous person as well as being a great writer. So, without further ado...here's Jacquie!

Hi Jacquie, and welcome to Romance Bandits! To start off, we'd love to hear all about the the new book/series you have coming out!

The series is called Mayhem in Mayfair and the first book, Sleepless at Midnight, goes on sale June 26th. The series centers around a group of four friends who have formed the Ladies Literary Society of London which forsakes the classics for more thrillingly forbidden reading material. In Sleepless at Midnight the ladies have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—a very scandalous book at the time, not only because it was written by a woman, but because that woman had been involved in a scandalous affair with a married man. The book fires up the imagination of the heroine, Miss Sarah Moorehouse, so when she spies the Marquess of Langston mysteriously sneaking home in the wee hours clutching a shovel, she simply must investigate. Impelled by curiosity she steals into his bedchamber, only to be caught red-handed by the impossibly handsome and totally naked nobleman—an incident that sets them off on what I like to call A Big Adventure. The sequel, Confessions at Midnight, will be released in January ’08. In that story, the ladies read a book of erotica which sets Sarah’s sister off on her own Big Adventure. An excerpt and the first chapter of Sleepless at Midnight are posted on my website at www.JacquieD.com.

How did you start writing romance? What was the road to publication like for you--short and smooth or long and bumpy?

I started by consolidating my habit of jotting down notes on random pieces of paper (after I joined a writers’ group, I was so relieved to find out I wasn’t the only person who did that!). Romance and mysteries were (are still are) my favorite genres, so when I realized I wanted to write a book, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind what sort of story it would be. As for my road to publication, I wish I could say it was short and smooth, but it wasn’t. I have a folder of rejection letters and suffered the frustration of the loooooong waiting periods between submitting and finally hearing back from editors. I didn’t have an agent and had gotten thisclose to selling my historical, but the editor (who I’d queried, who then first asked for the partial, then the full, then revisions--a process that took 19 months) left the house and the editor who took her place wasn’t as enamored of the book as the original editor and passed. I was so disappointed and heartbroken and frustrated, I quit writing. Completely. After about 4 months, I picked myself up and decided I didn’t want to quit, but I also didn’t want to deal with that historical again right away. So I tried something completely different and wrote a short contemporary romantic comedy. As I had with the historical, I started entering it in contests and got good feedback. At the same time, I did some re-writing on my historical and tried a few more contests--and won the Novel Beginnings contest. Through that win, I got my agent (who was the finalist judge). She asked to see the full manuscript and loved it. I made some revisions based on her comments, and within a few weeks she’d sold it in a two book deal to Dell. About two weeks later she sold my contemporary romantic comedy to Zebra Bouquet which had just started. And I’ve been typing ever since!

You write both historical romance for Avon and hot category romance for Harlequin Blaze. What do you like about writing in each genre, and how do you balance the two parts of your career? Do you ever find yourself using Regency-speak in your Blaze books?

I like writing the Regency-era historicals because I just love that time period. The lords and ladies, the fancy balls and soirees, the country house parties, the political climate, the wars and spies, the strict rules of Society. The lack of women’s rights during that period fascinates me—the dearth of choices they had figures prominently in my stories. I also love the longer length of the books because it enables me to add a mystery element into each story. After writing a 400 page historical, I love to turn it all completely around and write a short contemporary. I find the prospect of diving right back into another 400 page historical daunting, so I think mixing it up between the two very different lengths and types of stories helps keep me fresh. So far I’ve managed not to give my Regency heroine a cell phone or dress my contemporary hero in breeches. Hopefully if I ever make that mistake my editor will catch it!

The romance formula is pretty clear--boy meets girl, boy and girl hit some bumps on the road to paradise, boy and girl live happily ever after. How do you keep your stories fresh and exciting?

Let me tell you, after 25 books, it’s a challenge. I always thought this would get easier, but for me it gets harder. I’ll write a sentence and think, “I KNOW I’ve written that sentence before!” So I try to come up things that are fresh for me—things that I haven’t read. Things that make me excited to discover. For instance, my last Blaze book was part of the Adrenaline Rush series and took place during a hike to Machu Picchu. I did a ton of research about the Inca trail, Peru, the hike, and I found it fascinating, which made the book fun to write. Creating the four female characters for the Ladies Literary Society of London also excited me—coming up with four very different, distinct women, and the situations that would drive them forward into love. I guess it comes down to brainstorming ideas—trying to put new twists on things, and creating characters I love, who readers will hopefully love as well.

Besides the happy endings, what do you think distinguishes romance novels and literary fiction? Do you have any interest in crossing the bookstore aisle from "romance" to "literature"?

I think the happy endings are the biggest factor, along with the message of hope those endings deliver. I have absolutely no desire or interest to write anything other than a book with a happy ending. It’s the sort of book I love to read and the only sort I would ever write. Even if I switched gears and wrote a mystery, it would have to have a romance in it, and it would have to end well. I don’t think a book has to be sad or depressing to be “important”. After all, what’s more important than love? I think people who pooh-pooh romances have never read one—or haven’t read one in a very long time. I really dislike reading any book that leaves me feeling sad or depressed. I read the newspaper for that. If a book won’t leave me with a smile on my face when I close the cover, then I don’t want to read it. Which is why I’ve always loved romance.

Have your books changed since you started writing? In what ways?

I think the biggest change is that they’ve gotten sexier. Probably because I’ve gotten more comfortable writing love scenes, and also because I continually try to challenge myself to come up with something I haven’t done before—not easy in a love scene after 25 books! I think my writing has also gotten tighter—at least I hope it has!

Anything else you want to share with our readers? The meaning of life? How to lose those last ten pounds? (I'm particularly interested in this last one...)

If I knew how to lose that last ten pounds ( I’d call it baby weight, but my “baby” is 17!!), I’d write a book about it and be an instant bestseller! (dibs on that idea!). As for anything to share, I can only say don’t give up. This is a difficult business—anything that involves a lot of solitude, rejection, and waiting isn’t easy. But nothing rewarding is ever easy. If it was easy to get a book published, everyone would have a book published—I mean, have you ever met a person who said, “I’ve never, not once, ever thought of writing a book”? I haven’t. But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And even once you get published, it really all just boils down to two words: Keep Writing.

Thanks Jacquie! Now it wouldn't be a Romance Bandits day without a contest, sooooo....we'll be giving away signed copies of Jacquie's new book (when it is released!) to two lucky folks who either leave a comment or question for Jacquie. She will be popping in periodically to say hello and answer questions during the day. So start posting those questions!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Encouraging Words...



posted by Aunty Cindy


As an AYU (As Yet Unpublished) writer, it is very easy to feel discouraged in the face of all the rejections and general negativity involved in the publishing biz. That's why I love reading and hearing words of encouragement. In fact, I keep a list of "positive" quotes related to writing close at hand so I have a little pick-me-up when I'm feeling down. I'm always looking for things to add to that list and the other day I ran across this gem from Karen Gillespie on "Romancing the Blog":
Debut novelists tend to have a fresh perspective. They often possess what Zen Buddhists call “beginner’s mind.” Unlike many career novelists they’re ignorant of publishing trends and the bottom line. Instead of writing to get another contract, they write because they have something they want to say to the world. There’s an uninhibited quality to their prose that can be impossible to replicate.
As an AYU who hopes to be a "Debut novelist" in the not-too-distant future, it's pretty obvious why this quote resonated with me! But what about you? Care to share some of your favorite encouraging words?


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Evidently, I don't speak Pirate.....

I finally went tonight and saw "Pirates of the Caribbean 3".

At the risk of causing a collective GASP from our resident Bandita POC3 experts....I spent the first half of the movie going "huh" a lot.

I'm sorry, I guess I just don't have an ear for "pirate" (Though I do for Irish accents). And the voodoo queen? Forget it. And because of that, I just couldn't keep straight what they were saying and doing. (I did however understand the monkey :-0 ) The motivations were not entirely clear, the characters seemed to interact without purpose. I did find I liked Captain Barbarossa a lot more. Maybe I was just intoxicated by the butter on my popcorn.

It wasn't until a key battle scene that it started to fall into place. And yes, I have to admit Mr. Bloom DID look sexier than he ever has in my book. And glad you gals told me to wait for the extra scene. It made me go "Ohhhhhh..."

Now to avoid blood shed....Parley?

:-)

Joan

Bandits Blog On… Or Preview of Coming Attractions!

posted by Aunty Cindy

Monday June 4th will mark the one month anniversary of Romance Bandits “official” launch! What an exciting first month it has been. According to the Google Analytics data gathered under the watchful gaze of Bandita Caren, we have had over 700 unique visitors from 31 different countries including South Africa, Malaysia, Brazil and Finland to name a few of the more unexpected ones. Yes, it’s true (thanks to a little research and some well-placed emails by Bandita Trish), we’ve even had a visitor from Antartica!

We’ve talked about hunks, inspiration, reading and writing books, and more. We’ve shared secrets, recipes and encouragement, and met a slew of new friends through the comments.

So what’s in the future on the Romance Bandits’ Blog?

Expect more fun contests (and it’s not too late to comment on Jo’s May 31st post and win a Borders gift certificate) with “essential Bandit plunder" like books, gift certs and chocolate. Expect more funny, poignant and thought-provoking posts about writing and life. And expect a few surprises too… like some exciting “First Sale” news by at least one of the Banditas. We’ve also invited some special guest bloggers for the month of June:

On June 4th we’re thrilled to have USAToday best selling author Jacquie D’Alessandro whose latest book Sleepless at Midnight will be available in July.

June 8th the Banditas will welcome Colleen Gleason whose second book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Rises the Night is out in bookstores TODAY!

And on June 27th multi-multi-published author Brenda Novak whose newest release Dead Right (the last book in her “Dead” trilogy) hits stores in August.

Rumor has it that at least one, if not all, of our guests will be giving away autographed books! What’s not to love about free books?

Rumors are also rampant about more great guest bloggers (like Sabrina Jefferies, Janet Mullany and Michelle Buonfiglio) in the not-too-distant future!

And we’d love to hear your ideas on what else you’d like to see on the blog.

We love to share our stories and opinions and generally have fun with all our readers out in the Blogsphere, so VISIT OFTEN and BRING FRIENDS!

Now start up the salsa music and bring out the cute cabana boys with the frosty drinks! It’s another WILD WEEKEND!

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Protector

By Kirsten Scott

I almost didn't make it home last night.

I am a migraine sufferer, and last night on my way home from a very long day at work, I started seeing a little wavy spot in my vision. Within five minutes, the spot had spread to a large crescent shape. By the time I pulled into my driveway, a few minutes after that, a large section of my vision was impaired.

Needless to say, this can be terrifying, particularly when you're in a car. In this case, I got home, took my meds, and thirty minutes later, the lines were gone and I just had one whopper of a headache.

My husband, fabulous alpha male that he is, instantly went into protector mode. In these situations he likes to herd the children away from me, get me into bed, pull the covers up, and gently shut the door. I feel him check on me later in the night. It makes me feel safe and cherished. It makes me feel...feminine. Fragile.

This morning I thought about the importance we place on our our heros being protectors. One of my favorite plot devices in romance novels is where the heroine is terrified of something (I like the old terrified-of-thunderstorms device), that something comes to pass, and the hero must protect, soothe, and care for her. He may even distract her with a little kiss...(heehee). This also works well with the heroine getting sick (ah, he wets her feverish brow) or hurt (he gently binds her wounds).

Yet as modern, liberated women, we're supposed to be the ones saving ourselves, right? We're supposed to be strong, tough, a match for our men. Is what we seek in romance novels a contradiction to this strength? Can the desire to be protected, cared for, and fussed over live in harmony with our "I am woman hear me roar" independence?

I love to feel fragile and delicate. I never feel more feminine than when my husband is protecting me. Yet I also like being a ball-busting attorney. Hmm. Am I dealing with multiple personalities, or is this simply a sign of being a modern woman?

What do you think?

(And in case you're wondering, no, that isn't me in the picture. Sigh. I wish.)