Sunday, September 30, 2007

Honey Bucket and Hey You!

by Jo Robertson

I’m not particular what name people call me. As my dad was fond of saying, “You can call me anything as long as you call me for supper.”

By the time I went to college, however, I was pretty fed up with having to spell out my first name to everyone – B-E-N-I-T-A. So I immediately adopted my middle name J-O, just Jo, and have used it ever since. Hey, if Roy Scherer, aka Rock Hudson, could do it, so c
ould I!


Remembering that experience got me to thinking about the pet names we give one another, whether friends, lovers, or children (think babies and the gosh-awful, cutesy names we use).


My children have the strangest names for their offspring. Preston became “Wheezer.” I have so idea why. Annalise was “Annalise the Beast” and later became “Lou-Lou”; where DO they get these strange appellations? Siblings Gabe and Ezra are both called “Bubba,” as are their father and mother. Go figure.


I had a cousin named Bubba, a result of some in-breeding, I think, but that name was short for brother.


Some of the names we give our husbands and lovers are the most interesting. When I was a young woman, a man in our church referred to his wife of twenty-five years as My Bride. Now, to some wives this might seem deferential, sweet, perhaps even respectful. To me the reference merely conjured up images of a woman on a pedestal, thrust down into a pit. Not a pretty thing. On the way home from church, with steel in my voice and fire in my eyes, I said to my husband, “If you ever call me Your Bride, I will kill you.”


As you might suspect, that name lasted about a year.


So what’s preferable? Sweetheart (which is what I call my husband, but also how I address my daughters, shortening it to Sweetie)? When we were dating, my husband once wrote me a letter in which he called me sweatheart. Uh, not the same thing.


Honey? Darling? Baby? Remember Dirty Dancing and Patrick Swayze’s line, “No one backs Baby into a corner”? What kind people name their baby . . . well, Baby?


Hot Pants? Hootchie Mama? Is there a P.C. term that I’ve missed somehow?


So, gentle reader, the question today is – what terms of endearment do YOU use with your boyfriends, husbands, or lovers? What names used in novels make you cringe? Which ones do you love to hear? Oh, and don’t forget the most interesting part, the WHY.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

RESEARCH CAN BE FUN!

by Suzanne Welsh
As any of the Banditas or any romance author will tell you, we try to use facts to keep our books authentic. This requires research. Sometimes that is as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary. Sometimes it is as complicated as interpreting a doctor's long-winded explanation of a disease process so that the author, and therefore the reader, can understand this over the course of a scene or a manuscript. Sometimes it's just plain fun!

Recently another of my critique partners, Jo Davis, asked me to accompany her to a fire station in Irving to meet and take pictures (I was the photographer!) with the team of firefighters she previously interviewed for her series coming from NAL Signet next year about a team of? you guessed it, firefighters.

What was a girl to do? Say "no" to spending an entire afternoon with real life heroes? My mama did NOT raise a stupid daughter. I of course said, "sure!"

Here we two mild-mannered romance authors are walking up to the fire station, greeted by Captain Steve Deutsch, when suddenly the guys get a call to an accident out on the highway. They usher us into the station to wait for them while they climb onto the fire engine, (which we learned is not a ladder truck) and off they go.

Now when you leave two writers alone in a strange place what do they do? Well they behave for all of five minutes. We peeked into the pantry, which was loaded with things like can after can of Campbell's soup, Gatorade, popcorn, a giant box of Oreos and the most massive canister of TUMS we'd ever seen!

Next we wander out into the engine bay where they have a second vehicle they use for chemical fires and two pontoon boats ready for hauling to the nearby lake if a call should require it. There was a treadmill out there along with a weight lifting station, with more weights than I've ever seen.

Our curiosity a bit satisfied, we wander back into the meeting room/kitchen and await they guys' return. Luckily it was a minor accident and they were back fairly quickly.

Let me introduce you to the guys of A shift. Captain Steve, is a handsome, whip-cord lean man with a deep voice and a keen intellect behind wire-rimmed glasses. Wally Harris, the driver, is a good-looking man, tall and broad of shoulder. He not only drives the truck, but mans the controls for the truck's water pumps, a job which requires skill and a knowledge of physics. Nick Franco is a firefighter, cute and happy to tell the lady writers some great stories. Not a beta man among them, ladies!

One of the things Jo wanted to learn more about was the thermal imagining camera. A fancy gizmo the firefighters use to help them distinguish different objects or bodies in dark smoky rooms or raging infernos. So once the guys returned, Wally made himself a steaming bowl of Spaghetti-O's. (Yes the lunch of heroes!) Captain Steve pointed the thermal camera at him and showed us how it gives them the temperature of Wally's body vs. the bowl of hot food vs. the cold bottle of water on the table. Way cool!

Another thing Jo, the ever-curious, wanted to know was what all equipment they'd take into a house fire. So the guys let her try on some of the equipment. The heavy jacket and the air-tank. (We learned it's a tank with room-air equivalent oxygen, or about 21% oxygen, not pure oxygen. Room-air is what you and I usually breathe. As a nurse I already knew what room-air was.) Jo also had to put on the mask, and attached to all this was the thermal imaging camera, a flashlight and the radio mic. Geesh, how do these guys walk, much less crawl into and out of fires or rescue people?

Then the piece-de-resistance. Wally hooked up one of the large hoses to the engine and Captain Steve had Jo hold onto the hose. They started with 50 lbs of pressure and water came gushing out of the hose. Then the captain had Wally crank the pressure up to 100 lbs of pressure. Jo nearly flew off the concrete drive! (The captain and Nick got a kick out of that when we returned inside for another Q&A session!)

I got to ask a few questions about Meth labs for my own work in progress (WIP), and the guys gave me some stories that would frighten most of us if we knew what was really out there. Then they explained that an engine pumps water while a ladder truck has one of those big ladders with the buckets on them.



So a big thank you to the guys and Jo. I haven't had that much fun doing research ever!
Have any of you had a great day or experience doing new research?

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Last Bandita

By Susan Seyfarth and Kirsten Scott

Ladies and Gentlemen...you may have noticed a new symmetry to the blog lately. Check out that sidebar--TWENTY BANDITAS! That means we're finally complete. Hurrah!

I get the pleasure of introducing our new Bandita, because she happens to be my critique partner (CP, to the acronym-happy among us) and one of the dearest people I know. If it weren't for Susan, I wouldn't be a member of RWA, I probably wouldn't have finished my first manuscript, and I certainly would never have entered the Golden Heart--which means I wouldn't be a Bandita! (The horror!) Yes, the world has a lot to blame...er, thank Susan for. She's graciously agreed to let me ask her a few questions to introduce her properly to you all.

What she didn't know was that I was going to dredge up a picture from our first camping trip together to Glacier National Park. Here's Suz, showing off her muscles for the camera. So now that the public humiliation part of this is over, I'll turn to the interview...

Kirsten: When did you start writing? How/when did you start pursuing publication?

Susan: I’ve been in love with stories since I learned how to read, and a die-hard romance fan since way earlier than was probably wise. (Judy Blume, V. C. Andrews, and Iris Johanssen really filled in some gaps in my understanding of certain things.) But I’ve always had some pretty strong ideas about what a book should provide and a happy ending is absolutely essential. That’s why I re
ad romance novels, and it’s why when I found myself with a couple months on my hands between quitting my miserable job and giving birth to my first baby, I decided to write one myself. How hard could it be, right?

Five years later, I have four unpublished novels languishing under the bed. Oh, all right, five. The first one was an astounding achievement in sheer…awfulness, if that’s a word. I don’t like to count it, but I’ll fess up to it here in the Bandit Lair. I’m among friends.

Kirsten: I think we've all got one of those under our bed. I wrote mine in high school. It involved pirates and lots of kinky...oh wait, this is suppose to be about Susan. (blush) So, er, Susan, what books/authors influenced you?

Susan: Well, anything by the ladies mentioned above, of course. Anybody who doesn’t have a copy of Flowers in the Attic that falls open to the good parts wasn’t a teenaged girl, I’m convinced. If my mother had had any idea what I was reading…
Other than that, anything by Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Suzanne Brockman, or Nora Roberts/JD Robb goes into my shopping cart, no questions asked.

Kirsten: (Note to self: get Flowers in the Attic asap!) Can you describe your writing process, you naughty thing?

Susan: Sure, it goes something like this: deposit four year old in her room for quiet time with CD player, books on CD, snacks, crayons, etc. Promise sure and certain death upon interruption. Arrange ten month old on boppy pillow for marathon nursing session on lap. Belly up to keyboard. Check email. Read Romance Bandits. Comment. Check out Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip site. (Addictive, beware.) Open WIP. Scroll to trouble spots. Spell check. Stare into space. Consider renaming minor characters. Email Kirsten Scott, trusty CP, and beg for help. Cover sleeping baby’s ears while bellowing for four year old to turn down her CD player. Get caught up in “Ramona Quimby, age 8” blasting from four year old’s room. Admire Beverly Cleary. Frown at WIP, which doesn’t compare favorably. Belch out a few paragraphs. Frown some more. Belch out another paragraph or two. Check email again. Wonder what to cook for dinner. Send four year old back to her room for the tenth time. Save and close.

Kirsten: (Note to self: check diaphragm for holes.) That sounds very challenging! Tell us about your current WIP, and what’s next for you?

Susan: I just finished up a 100,000 word contemporary single title called the Princess Project. I was inspired by Angelina Jolie naming her daughter Shiloh Nouvel (which translates to New Messiah, but no pressure, right?) and pimping her baby pics for charity. I thought, yikes, how’s that kid going to grow up? And her mom is Angelina Jolie on top of it? Crazy sexy and possibly just plain crazy, but totally into saving the world. Wow. Good luck, Shiloh. Next thing I knew I was writing a book that imagined a possible future for such a kid -- Shiloh Nouvel grows up and gets a life.

Kirsten: The Princess Project just finaled in two contests, by the way--the Maggies and the Indiana Golden Opportunity contests. Expect to see it on the shelves soon! So as we come to a close, any advice for others or personal comments?

Susan: Just a big thanks to the banditas for opening the lair to me, late as I am to the party. It’s a wonderfully warm, supportive and informative bunch of women who hang out here. For example, did you know that a Glock (or was it a Sig Sauer?) cannot be effectively concealed in even the most generous of cleavage? You heard it here first, ladies. If you're planning to pack heat, get a holster. Or a big purse.

So how about you? What's the best fun fact you've picked up since you started writing--or since you started hanging out with the Banditas? We want to know! And just to keep things interesting, we'll randomly select one commentor & reward them with a $15 Border's Gift Card!

Oh, and just to keep it fair, here's a picture of Kirsten, on the same trip...note the keen sense of fashion I demonstrate, even while camping.



Thursday, September 27, 2007

GUEST BLOGGER, SANDY BLAIR

Interviewed by Suzanne Welsh

My very good friend and critique partner, award winning author Sandy Blair, has slept in castles, knelt in cathedrals where kings and queens have been crowned, dined with peerage, floated along Venetian canals, explored the great pyramids, misplaced her husband in an Egyptian ruin (she continues to deny being the one lost,) and fallen (gracefully) off a cruise ship. Winner of RWA's Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance, Sandy’s debut release A MAN IN A KILT also won the 2004 National Readers Choice Award for Best Paranormal Romance and was a 2005 RITA finalist.

Sandy's newest release, A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS is her fourth Scottish Historical Paranormal. It's a great read, full of love and laughter, which takes you from centuries-past Scotland to modern day Boston.

Suz: Welcome to the Bandit Lair, Sandy! Tell us a little about your newest release, A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS.
Sandy: I went back to my roots writing A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS. It's my first time-travel since my debut with A Man In A Kilt.

WELCOME TO MY WORLD
Not looking forward to Christmas alone, Boston antique dealer Claire MacGregor solves the mystery of an old puzzle box and suddenly a startlingly handsome laird appears. He might be centuries old but he certainly doesn't look it--or act it.

COME AWAY TO MINE
The last thing tall, dark and dangerous Sir Cameron MacLeod recalls before finding himself in Claire's 21st century bedroom was readying for war. Determined to return to his own place and time and painfully aware he hasn't had sex in 400 yrs, he decides bonnie Claire can remedy both problems.

Suz: Can you tell us a little bit more about this time-traveling hero?
Sandy: Charismatic, virile, extraordinarily handsome, Cam is the kind of man who plays as hard as he works, but above all else he's a clansman, a Highlander. A highly skilled warrior, he's a man of honor, who doesn't take kindly to that honor being questioned by either the heroine or the law. And it's that very honor and love of clan which compels him to find his way back to his own place in time, to go behind Claire's back on another matter, and to willingly break his own heart.

Suz: Your single title romances have all been Scottish historicals with paranormal twists. What makes you enjoy this sub-genre so much?
Sandy: I've been in love with all things Scottish for decades and love reading about time periods when men were often seriously alpha and had no idea they even had a feminine side, much less wanted to get in touch with it. Medieval Scotland was also a fertile place for clever and determined women. As for the paranormal elements, I like that they stretch the imagination and give me more latitude with humor.


Suz: When you were writing Claire's character, did you model her after anyone in particular?
Sandy: There's a lot of my daughter Rachael in Claire. She's a clear thinking, deal with it or cut your loses kind of gal. I needed a heroine with some knowledge of antiquities, so I gave Claire her hard-earned degree only to have her discover curator jobs were few and far between. But being resourceful, she utilized her knowledge to start her own business, an antique shop called The Velvet Pumpkin.

Suz: Without giving away too much, what do you think is the hardest thing for Cameron to adjust to in the modern world?
Sandy: The constant noise. It's never truly quiet, even in the dead of night.
Suz: What is his favorite thing?
Sandy, with a sly wink: Besides Claire's fine bottom? Cola.

Suz: Have you ever been to Scotland? If so, what were some of your favorite places to visit?
Sandy: Yes. I love the old world feel of Edinburgh and the Highlands in general. One of my favorite places to stay is Skibo Castle, a beautifully renovated castle-turned-hotel situated in the middle of 500 glorious acres in Dornock. Readers can find pictures of Skibo on the photo gallery on my web site http://www.sandyblair.net

Suz: Do you have any more Scottish historicals in the works?
Sandy: Definitely. I'm half way through A WARRIOR IN A KILT, the next in the Castle Blackstone series. I'm also working on The Tursachan Clan series. Would tell you more but it's yet to be sold.

And then there's the My Immortal Highlander series, which I'm really excited about, because of its strong paranormal elements.

Suz: Have you ever considered writing in another romance sub-genre?
Sandy: Funny you should ask. I'm currently working on book #1 of a contemporary series about three sisters who have no desire to find love but do...under the most peculiar circumstances.

Suz: If you could cast one actor as a Highlander, who would you choose?
Sandy: Maybe Last of the Mohicans' hunk Daniel Day Lewis. Just picturing all that animal grace racing up those mountains can make my heart flutter something fierce. Suz: OOoo I believe Daniel is a favorite among many a Bandita!

Sandy: My turn to ask a few questions:
Imagine you found your favorite Halloween Candy on sale at a serious discount this week. Would there be any left to give away on Halloween?
And what are you hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year?
A lucky commenter will win a signed copy of A HIGHLANDER FOR CHRISTMAS from Sandy Blair.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happily Ever After

by Nancy Northcott

How many fairy tales have you read that end "and they lived happily ever after?" A lot, I'll bet. One feature that sets romance apart from other genres is that the characters will live happily ever after (HEA) at the story's end. A lot of critics and non-romance writers mock the genre for this (and a lot of other things, each of which could be its own blog), but romance outsells all other fiction categories. We must be doing something right!

As we grow older, I think each of us redefines what HEA means to us. It isn't necessarily moonlight, roses and champagne every night, nor does it require happy, happy harmony every day, as the fairy tales seem to imply. I think HEA means finding someone who'll be there for you, in good times and bad, someone who won't run for the hills when the going gets tough. Someone who'll understand that you aren't being snappy because it's "that time of the month" or because you took a witchiness pill but because there's something wrong. Someone who can't wait to share his successes with you because he knows you'll appreciate what they mean to him and is equally eager to share your triumphs because he understands why they're important to you.

A lot of romance readers and writers haven't yet found their HEA with their Mr. or Ms. Right, yet they come back to the genre time after time. I occasionally read more mainstream fiction, but I have limited interest in stories that end "they survived, scarred but at peace with themselves," or some variation thereof. I want the heroes and heroines to triumph, no matter what the genre. It makes me feel good, picks me up after a bad day, and reassures me that at least one other person--the author--believes difficult situations can turn out for the best.

What brings you back to romance? Is it the happy ending? The emotion in the story? The optimistic tone? Let us know!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Happens In Henderson ...

By Kate
I spent part of last week at Plot Group. And good news – I survived!

My Plot Group is really amazing. Most of them have been plotting books together twice a year for over ten years, but this time there was something new and different added to the mix.

Me!

Yes, I’m a Plot Group virgin! I had no idea what to expect when my fabulous friends, Susan Mallery, Maureen Child, Christine Rimmer and Teresa Southwick, invited me to join their very successful Plot Group.

There are plenty of plot groups out there and apparently, they all work a little differently. Some meet more often and plot an entire book in sequence, scene by scene, turning point by turning point, fleshing out every single character and their motivations and conflicts and every little detail until the book is done.

Um, we don’t do that in my group. Turns out, none of us has the patience to micro-tune someone else’s story to that extent.

So here's how we work: First, before we get together, we email each other the basic plot idea we want to work on – anywhere from one to ten pages (or more, if you dare). Then, when the group gets together, we determine the hero and heroine’s conflicts and goals, work on an opening scene, three turning points and the black moment. If someone needs some specific scene ideas, we work on those. We give each book a total of ninety minutes.

For three days, we plotted ten books. Two books for each of us. We brainstormed like crazy, threw out tons of ideas, built new worlds. We yelled and laughed and worked really hard not to interrupt. Some of us had a better handle on the big picture. Others were good with the smaller details. There were no bad ideas. The author whose book we were working on had the responsibility to say if it was working for her or not. We plotted single title contemporary romance, light paranormal, category romance, a cozy mystery. We taped everything. And we ran a back-up tape in case of the unthinkable -- tape malfunction.

And we did it all in a huge casino hotel in Las Vegas – or rather, Henderson, the town right next door. On our breaks, we went downstairs to the casino to play video poker and penny slots. There’s a Starbucks in the lobby. And an ATM. And a Ben & Jerry's. And so much more. I spent way too much money and had an absolutely incredible time with my wonderfully talented friends. And I came home with two amazing, fully plotted stories I can't wait to write.
Priceless!
What’s your plotting process? Do you work with a plot group? A critique group or a partner? And the question everyone wants to know the answer to: where do you get your ideas?

Monday, September 24, 2007

And the winners are...


Cristyjan is the winner of a poster of the cover of Lord of the Fading Lands
Claudia Dain is the winner of a poster of the cover of Lady of Light and Shadows
Anne is the winner of an autographed copy of Lord of the Fading Lands, C.L. Wilson's wonderful debut book!

Congratulations, ladies! Please send an email to C.L. at cheryl@clwilson.com with your information and use the subject Romance Bandits - I won! And thanks to everyone for participating!

STOP, POLICE! James O. Born handcuffs mistakes in fiction

by KJ Howe



KJ Howe welcomes talented author and police expert, James O. Born who talks about common mistakes in fiction. If you have any questions for James, please fire away. He'll do his best to answer.


I am of fan of books and authors. No matter the genre, no matter the subject, I can usually find something I appreciate and enjoy in every area. I happen to write novels in the area of crime. We like to call it “Crime Fiction” as opposed to “Mystery”. No real reason other than I like to explain that my books tell more about how crimes are solved rather than guessing who did it. I’d prefer to write fantasy like the story of a middle-aged, slightly over-weight cop that women find irresistible. Regrettably that would be the genre of science fiction.

My career before writing, as a U.S. drug agent and state police officer, has given me an insight into realism in crime stories. Let me stress right now that good story-telling and writing are far more important than realistic tactics and situations. That being said, there are some common mistakes that frustrate military and law enforcement people. These are easily correctable story bumps that wouldn’t effect the plot or characters.

The most obvious mistake to me is when a cop “racks” the slide of his or her automatic pistol before they enter a room. That action, when an officer grasps the top of an automatic pistol and pulls back the slide, means the pistol did not have a bullet in the chamber and was useless. That would indicate the cop is an idiot and should be fired on the spot. It looks good in movies but it is the mark of the clueless.

Another common mistake is a writer putting a safety on a revolver. “He fumbled with the safety allowing the killer to knock it from his hands.” Some bull like that appears in a number of detective novels and movies. Modern revolvers do not have safety levers on them. Revolvers generally carry six rounds of ammo (the exception being compact five-shot “back-up” revolvers). Revolvers are reliable, usually slightly more bulky than a comparable automatic pistol and quickly fading form the professional law-enforcement ranks. When I graduated from the DEA academy, I was issued a Smith & Wesson model 13 revolver. I doubt if most recruits in the academy today have even seen a Smith & Wesson model 13.



Guns don’t go off when dropped on the ground. There may be the fluke or freak of physics that causes an accidental discharge (that sounds vaguely sexual) but in the real world the gun going off, causing a distraction, is about as likely as Andy Dick making a funny movie.

It is very difficult to race the ownership of a handgun if it has been bought and sold a couple of times. Books and movies make it seem like the ATF or FBI can go to a random computer and call up everyone who has ever had contact with a handgun. In real life it would take a determined cop to search forms then conduct any number of interviews, relying on people to tell the truth and hoping that the weapon had never been stolen, to get an idea who had own a gun prior to a crime.

Now these are just a few of the gun related items that come to mind. K.J. Howe is a nut for research and getting things right in her novels. That was one of the reasons I knew I couldn’t say no when she asked if I could contribute to the blog. Don’t think I’m a gun nut or won’t read a book that’s not 100% accurate in realistic details. I like creativity and good characters. I read for plot and emotion. But one thing I’ve learned; if you put in some tidbit that’s not accurate one of your faithful readers will definitely let you know.


If you haven't had a chance to read James O. Born, his latest release FIELD OF FIRE is available today and his next novel featuring ATF agent Alex Duarte, BURN ZONE, is coming in Feb 08. Visit James at www.jamesoborn.com or at the Naked Authors blog on Thursdays where Jim reveals all his secrets! Jim is an entertaining speaker who shoots straight from the hip!

Jim, thanks for joining us today!

And the Winnah Is...


Lily is the lucky winner of the pink keychain corset Donna promised in her Rewards post yesterday! Lily, please visit Donna's website at www.DonnaMacMeans.com and leave your contact information. Congratulations, Lily and thanks to everyone who posted!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rewards

by Donna MacMeans

This time last week I was on vacation, walking on a beach in South Carolina, when I found a lightning whelk half-buried in the sand. I picked it up, noticed that a snail still lived inside, and promptly tossed it back into the ocean. The shell would have made a lovely souvenir, but not at the sacrifice of the snail.
Later in the week we zipped down to Savannah, Georgia where I found the reward for my shell sacrifice. A pottery corset. How perfect is that? Sitting on a cage, waiting for the crinolines, my statuette is light blue with a little filigree design. One shoulder strap is slipped down just like on my book cover. Perfect.

Now, perhaps you don't see the corset as a reward for returning a snail to its home, but I think this is a necessary game we writers play with ourselves. Good deeds eventually are rewarded.

Hard work also begets rewards, but sometimes those rewards are a longtime coming. So we improvise. We substitute our own reward system for reaching intermediate goals. Write a chapter, treat yourself to a reward. Submit to an editor, treat yourself to a reward. Receive a rejection, then definitely treat yourself to a reward because this business is all about submitting. You can't sell if you don't submit and (unfortunately) open yourself to the possibility of rejection.

So tell me how you reward yourself? Do you have a reward system in place for reaching writing goals? I'll reward one of the comments with a pink corset keychain.

Shhh ... What's Your Secret Ingredient?

by Anna Sugden
There are more than a hundred ways with ground beef, or minced meat as we call it at home. Every country has their stock recipes which are filling and easy to cook. Over here it’s meatloaf or burgers. At home, it’s cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese (ground meat and tomato sauce). Dishes we learn from our parents, as students or from the first cook book. We all have our own variations on these dishes - that secret ingredient that makes our dish tastier than everyone else’s.

For spaghetti bolognese, I have three secret ingredients. One, I learned while backpacking in Greece is a pinch or two of ground Allspice. It brings out the flavour of the mince perfectly. The second is a teaspoonful of turmeric, which rounds out the flavour of the tomato.
The third, I picked up from fabulous Italian chef Antonio Carluccio. His wonderful TV series on Italian cooking was a feast to behold. He makes everything sound easy to cook and his recipes are delicious.

What was his secret ingredient?

Believe it or not … milk.

Figuring he hasn’t led me astray before, I tried Carluccio’s suggestion and added a cup of milk to my spaghetti bolognese recipe. And it worked. It made the whole dish richer and tastier. Who'd have thought?

As writers, our work often progresses or makes a big leap forward through the addition of a secret ingredient. It could be learning to use GMC to develop stronger, richer characters. Or increasing the amount of dialogue to intensify pace. Or using more deep point of view.

Those who have sold will often say that there was one thing - one special ingredient - that they had to discover about their writing, which enabled them to make that magical leap from unpublished to published. I know there were several a-ha moments in my writing career, which enabled me to make the leap to finalling in, and then winning contests, and to revisions requests from editors instead of form rejections. I’m still searching for that secret ingredient which will help me make that first sale. But, I know it’s there. I just have to find it.


So, what is your secret ingredient - either for meatloaf, spaghetti bolognese, another dish or in your writing?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lord Of The Fading Lands


interviewed by Beth Andrews


It is my pleasure to introduce award winning author C.L. Wilson to the Romance Bandits! C.L. combines sweeping sword and sorcery fantasy with the simmering passion of romance in her two-book publishing debut, Tairen Soul: Lord of the Fading Lands and Tairen Soul: Lady of Light and Shadows coming October and November 2007, from Leisure Books.


Welcome to the Bandit Lair, C.L! Congratulations on your debut release, Lord of the Fading Lands. Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication?


Thanks so much for having me. And thanks for the congratulations. I’m still very excited about the sale – and really looking forward to seeing my books in the stores in a week or so.

As for my road to publication…well, that’s been an interesting journey. I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was a little kid. I wrote my first story when I was six and started my first novel at age fourteen. Of course, I was one of those “million starts, zero finishes” writers. Ideas I had by the bucketful, but I was coming up skint on endings. Finally, when I was twenty, I typed my very first “THE END”. I thought for sure fame and fortune were right around the corner waiting for me! Er…not quite. My first rejection was, though. I did keep writing. I took a few fairly lengthy detours along the way – for college, career, marriage and kids – but I never gave up on my dream of publication. I studied, learned the craft, wrote – and finished! – another three books, each time getting closer to publication. I got critique partners and started entering lots of contests. My fourth book was a Golden Heart finalist and was the project that got me my agent. My fifth book was the one that sold.

My “Call” was pretty cool. The manuscript had finalled in the Low Country RWA’s Jasmine award and Alicia Condon at Dorchester was the final judge. She read the entry and emailed me to say she really liked it and if the rest was as good as the opening, she wanted to offer me a contract. I was very excited, but I also knew I’d broken all the rules with the book – it was 1,000 pages long (675 TNR12) – it was the first of a planned trilogy about the same couple, and it was sword & sorcery fantasy romance (nary a vampire or werewolf to be found). Anyways, Michelle and I shipped the thing off…and about eight months later (after Alicia got over the shock of the *size* of it) I received a call from Michelle who said “Well, would you like to sell a book today?” Most writers talk about screaming their heads off in excitement when they get The Call. I cried. LOL.



Of course, then my Call got even better – two days later, we got a second call, and the next thing I knew we were at auction (which is, really exciting and very nerve wracking, BTW). I sold the book to Dorchester, and I will always be grateful to them and to Alicia for taking such a chance on an unknown author.

Your books are a wonderful blend of fantasy and romance. What can you tell us about Lord of the Fading Lands and your next release, Lady Of Light and Shadows?

LORD and LADY are the first and second half of the original manuscript, called Tairen Soul. I had to split my 1000 page monsterscript into two books for publication – but they’re coming out back to back Oct 2 and Oct 30, so readers won’t have to wait too long. The books tell the story about an immortal shapeshifting Fey king, Rain Tairen Soul, who is trying to save his people (the Fey) and his soul-kin (the tairen - think fire-breathing dragon-sized panthers with wings) from extinction. He’s the last Tairen Soul – the only one of his people able to shapeshift into a tairen – and when he consults a magical oracle to find the key to saving the tairen and the Fey, it sends him to the mortal city of Celieria. There he meets Ellysetta Baristani, who is far, far more than the quiet, unassuming daughter of a mortal woodcarver she appears to be. Together, Rain and Ellie embark on a journey of love and self-discovery and perilous, high-stakes adventure in their quest to save the tairen and the Fey and defeat the dark forces of the High Mage of Eld.

What's next in this fantastic series?

I’m currently working on books 3 and 4 in the Tairen Soul series, which will conclude the story about Rain and Ellie. And then, well, that’s up to the readers. If they like the world, I’ve got many more stories to tell.

World building is an important part of this series. How did you go about creating the world of the immortal Fey and the evil Elden Mages? What about the legends, poems and art you use in the story?

I adore world-building. To me, it’s half the fun of writing the stories – I finally get to put all my years of trivial pursuit-worthy knowledge to use! LOL. I’m doing a series on the basics of world-building on my website blog, but in a nutshell, you find out what your story is about (both the plot AND the theme(s) of the story) and build an entire world or certain aspects of a world (cultures, creatures, magical systems) to explore, mirror, or set into conflict the plot and themes of your book. Successful world-building (Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Christine Feehan’s Carpathians) completely integrate the world into every aspect of their book – without that special and unique world, the story could not be told.




I did a lot of world-building for this story. I actually started with a single image – an immortal Fey king, sitting on a throne before a magical oracle, facing the extinction of his peoples and desperate to find a solution. Everything else sprang from that one very vivid image. And it’s an ongoing process for me. I’m on the same journey of discovery as my heroine Ellysetta, and we find out all sorts of things together as the words appear on the page. (Of course, I have to pause to jot down new discoveries in my world building notebook so I don’t forget them!)

As for legends and poetry…oh, I love them. Like with like fairy tales and music, you can derive such powerful emotion from legends and poetry. Legends are just, to me, little short fantasy stories with full of concentrated emotion and drama. They are a delight to read and write. And the same goes for poetry.

I know you love to travel - what's your most memorable trip? Any dream trips you'd like to share?

My most memorable trip was the three and a half months my cousin and I spent backpacking around Europe after we graduated from college. What an amazing experience – one I’d highly recommend to every adventurous soul! Some of our most memorable experiences included a trip was to Berlin, Germany on reunification day – my cousin and I both got a piece of the wall – and to Prague, Czechoslovakia, not long after it emerged from the Soviet block. Both were fascinating, and very eye-opening first-hand experiences of what life was like for most people in the Soviet Union under the communist regime. Oh, and Pompeii. Defies description. Amazing. And Rome – the coliseum was right outside the door of our pension.

Apart from that, probably my favorite trip has been the honeymoon my husband and I took to Hawaii. We stood about 10-12 feet from red-hot pahoehoe lava as it poured into the ocean from the Mt. Kilauea eruption. Fascinating.


Thanks, C.L.! To celebrate C.L. Being with us today, we're giving away three prizes; an 11"x13" poster of the cover of Lord of the Fading Lands, an 11"x13" poster of the cover of Lady of Light and Shadows and an autographed copy of Lord of the Fading Lands. So, Dear Readers, we'd love to hear from you. What was your most memorable travel experience? Where is your dream destination? Three lucky commenters will win!!

And The Winnah Is...

Ms Hellion! SUPER CONGRATS! You are the winner of Debrah Williamson's Paper Hearts. Please send your snail mail info to Aunty Cindy at cindymm18 AT gmail DOT com and we'll get that autographed copy out to you. Aunty is SURE you will love reading it! Thanx again to everyone who commented and even to those who read the post and didn't comment. Just remember, you can't WIN if you don't comment!

And VERY BIG BANDITA HUZZAH to Deb for being a GREAT GUEST! We hope to entice you back one of these days for more great writing tips.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Movie Favorites

By Beth Andrews

As I was trying to come up with a scintillating, interesting, informative and relevant topic to blog about, I thought of Debrah Williamson's wonderful post yesterday on screenwriting and the use of irony in books and films. Which in turn led me to think about my favorite movies and the use (or lack thereof) of ironic elements in those films. Which led me to think of my favorite heroes in those favorite movies.

Which is how I decided to blog about ten of my all time favorite movie heroes.

I know. My thought process is a scary thing *g*

So, in no particular order, (and though I don't usually refer to myself in the third person) here are Ten of Beth's All Time Favorite Movie Heroes And Why They Are Her Favorites:

1. Clark Gable as Peter Warne in It Happened One Night. Why? The scene where he gets undressed in front of Ellie (the spoiled heroine). Also, when Ellie's father asks Peter if he loves her he replies: "YES! But don't hold that against me, I'm a little screwy myself!"


2. James Stewart as George Bailey in It's A Wonderful Life. Why? "What do you want, Mary? Do you want the moon? If you want it, I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down for you. Hey! That's a pretty good idea! I'll give you the moon, Mary. " *sigh*

3. Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman in the Superman movies. Why? Those blue eyes.

4. Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the original Star Wars movies. Why? That crooked smile.

5. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in all the Indiana Jones' movies. How do I love, Indiana? Oh, let me count the ways *g* That hat. The whip. The way that one guy does his fancy moves with his broadsword and Indy simply takes out his gun and shoots him *g* Oh, and the scene where the heroine is bandaging him and she kisses all his 'hurts' ending on his lips :-)

6. John Travolta as Danny Zuko in Grease. Why? He's the one that I want. Oohh, oohh, oohh, honey! He sang. He danced. He was a bad boy with a heart of gold *g*

7. Patrick Swayze as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing. Why? "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Plus, another bad boy with a heart of gold who could shake his groove thang (I'm seeing a pattern here *g*)

8. Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones' Diary. Why? The same intensity he showed in Pride and Prejudice, plus he tells Bridget, "I like you, very much."

9. Josh Lucas as Jake Perry in Sweet Home Alabama. Why? I adore his portrayal of a laid-back Southern boy who's loved the same girl from the time they were kids.


10. Matt Damon as Jasoun Bourne in The Bourne Identity. Why? He may not know who he is but Bourne is smart, a bit dangerous and more than capable of taking care of Marie - the woman he comes to love - and himself . And I love the scene where they're cutting and coloring Marie's hair - great sexual tension which leads to their first kiss *g*


Okay, that's my list. What about you? Who are some of your favorite movie heroes and why are they your favorites? I'd love to know :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Debrah Williamson Shares Screenwriting Techniques and More

interviewed by Aunty Cindy

In the course of her career, our guest blogger Debrah Williamson published over 20 romance novels under several pseudonyms, both on her own and with a writing partner. In September 2006, her first mainstream novel Singing With The Top Down was published in trade paperback by NAL. A coming-of-age story set in the 1950s, it has received rave reviews and even been compared to To Kill A Mockingbird! Her second mainstream novel Paper Hearts was just released last month, and Aunty guarantees this is a three hanky read! In addition for the past several years, Debrah taught fiction and screenplay writing at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. Welcome to the lair, Deb! We are pleased as punch that you could join us today.

DW: Thanks for inviting me. Great to be here. And congratulations again, Cindy, on that first sale!

AC: ((HUGS!)) and thanx, Deb! Please tell us about your decision to move from writing romance to women's fiction.

DW: Moving is nothing new for me. As half a collaborative team, I wrote category and historical romances for a number of publishers. By the time I went solo, the category world had shrunken like a globally warmed glacier.

I had to rethink writing romances when I read the following in a revision letter: I feel you are trying to write a longer story so cut this, thus and such.

50K words weren’t enough. What to do? Before my last romance hit the shelves, I feared the line would soon fold. It did. Starting over – again – was the right decision.

At this stage in my career and life, women’s mainstream fiction suits me fine. I’ve been happily married a long time and keeping true love is more relevant to me than finding it. *G* I’m ready to write about the other problems life throws my way.

AC: What were some of the differences you had to deal with, not just the writing, but other aspects like marketing, reviews etc.?

DW: Everything’s different. Content. Editorial expectations. Production schedules. Deadlines. Promotion venues are less accessible. Reviews are harder to get. You must learn to write and speak a whole new language. Many more doors may slam in your face, but you can also receive more chances. Persistence pays off.

Writing longer, more complex novels forces me to continually grow as a writer. Moving to mainstream may not be for everyone, but it worked for me.

AC: How did teaching help strengthen your own writing processes?

DW: I have taught both university students and older adults in continuing ed. College students are fresh and inspired. Ready to tackle the world. I love their enthusiasm. Adults who have postponed their dreams for a long time are eager for someone to show them the way. Being that someone makes me a better writer because I have to work harder, expand my own horizons, think more deeply and live by the guidelines I offer.

AC: Please share 2 or 3 screenwriting techniques (and examples) that the writers among us can use in our next novel.

DW: I could teach a whole class on the subject but will try to keep it brief. *G*

I’ll bet every writer who ever took a course or read a how-to book knows the cardinal rule of writing: SHOW DON’T TELL. Am I right?

That’s where screenwriting techniques come in. They help us abide by that rule. If you read classics written before the first film hit the screen, you know that telling was acceptable in those days and authors could take as long as they wanted to tell a story.

Today? No way!

So let’s start with an establishing shot. In a script it’s found in the slug line, without description or dialogue. For example: EXT. DESERTED SMALL TOWN STREET – NIGHT.

Won’t work in novels, right? But it’s just as important to immediately identify the locale where the story takes place. Today’s readers watch TV and go to movies. They want to “see” where they are. Keep this in mind because I guarantee opening with an establishing shot will help you avoid telling too much, too soon, and breaking that cardinal rule.

Here’s an example from the opening paragraph of PAPER HEARTS.
Cold wind chased a lone girl down the dark, empty streets. She hunched into her denim jacket and ducked beneath the awning of a store that would not open for hours. Overhead a hanging signboard groaned. The air was heavy with the threat of rain. Like any wild creature caught out in the open in unfamiliar territory, Chancy Deel was desperate for shelter.
Do you see her? Do you have questions about her? Her situation? Do you want to know a little more? If so, then the establishing shot did its job.

In a plot-driven script, the most important element is concept. Character-driven stories don’t have big concepts. No one sets out to kill a giant shark, save the earth from asteroids, or catch a serial killer. In these stories characters are trying to save themselves or other people they care about.

In movies, we remember great concepts BEFORE we see the film, but we remember great characters long AFTER the film is over. Same goes for novels, in my opinion.

Since there usually aren’t any explosions, car chases or volcano eruptions in character-driven novels, it’s crucial to make the protagonist “relatable” (a Hollywood term) as soon as he or she is introduced. There are many ways to do this. Here are a few I’ve used:

1. Take away the character’s real power, but give her strength and humor.

My novel SINGING WITH THE TOP DOWN (set in 1955) is told in first person by Pauly Maloney, thirteen.. Pauly is poor. Her parents dump too much responsibility on her and are stingy with love. She wants more out of life but always gets the short end of the stick.

In the opening scene, Pauly is clearly at a disadvantage. Here’s a passage that gives the reader insight into her character and shows she has strength and humor:
Mama named me after the movie star Paulette Goddard. Pop decided Paulette was too Frenchified for our part of town and cut it down to the Bone. Pauly Maloney was not an easy name to live with. Pauly-wog. Pauly want a cracker. Pauly Wolly Doodle All the Day.
2. Heap a pile of undeserved misfortune on the character.

The first scene in the book takes place at a traveling carnival. In chapter two Pauly’s parents are killed in a roller coaster accident. Big misfortune for any kid. Enough said.

3. Make the character yearn for something she can’t have.

Pauly wants to be loved. Will she get it? Here’s the passage that concludes chapter one:
Knowing better than to talk back and risk being backhanded by Mama in public, I bit my tongue. Turning her back on me, she locked arms with Pop, and they leaned on each other as they floated away…Without another glance in my direction, my parents struck out across the parking lot and zeroed in on the bright midway like a pair of light-starved moths.
This is a favorite subject with me and I could go on and on. But I’ll wrap it up, using a touch of what I am about to discuss - irony. (This should be short and oops! It isn’t. *G*)

A good script, plot-driven or character-driven, is an ironic script. If a polished businessman falls in love with a prostitute he hires to be his one time date, well, that’s ironic - Pretty Woman

If a waitress secretly saving money to escape her not-so-nice husband suddenly finds herself pregnant, you have sadness and humor and irony - Waitress

If a coastal sheriff who doesn’t like the water has to kill a big ol’ set of jaws, yep. Ironic.

See what I mean? Irony provides both drama and humor. And that can be essential for character-driven stories.

For example. In SINGING WITH THE TOP DOWN, Pop takes the family to the carnival to cheer up Mama. Both parents are killed and the irony sets the story into motion.

In PAPER HEARTS, Max goes to the car in his garage with a death-by-carbon-monoxide plan. He finds a runaway girl who eventually gives him a reason to live, getting that story going.

In conclusion, find the irony in your story. Use it and make your readers feel even more emotion.

AC: Any final words of wisdom or experiences you'd like to share?

Don’t be your own worst enemy. Never give up. And don’t allow negativity — yours or anyone else’s — to destroy your dream.

Thanx for the GREAT ADVICE, Deb and for the very informative interview! If you'd like to read more writing tips and advice check out Debrah's website: www.debrahwilliamson.com

And for all our readers, do any of your favorite movies use one of the screenwriting techniques mentioned? Please SHARE it with us in the comments. Also, if you have any questions about screenwriting or Debrah's books or anything else, ASK AWAY! A signed copy of her latest release Paper Hearts will go to one lucky commentor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just the Facts, Ma'am

by Joan Kayse
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Just the facts. Wouldn't that make for a short and incredibly boring story? Boy meets girl. Girl saves boy from crucifixion. Boy saves girl from mad villian. They lived HEA.

What? That isn't just the facts? What about a crucifixion, you ask? Well, you're right. I dropped a kernel of description in there and it might have gotten your attention.

Many times on these blogs or loops we writers talk about point of view (POV), conflict, plot, etc. But there is another aspect that is often maligned. And that is the use of description.

Now, I'm not talking about a ton of backstory that drags the plot down. Or distracting purple prose that jerks the reader out of the moment.

Description in its best form enhances the experience of the character, sharpens the impact of the POV and...in the case of historicals....weaves a sense of time and place into the very fabric of the story.

Here's an example from my manuscript THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE:

They reached the bottom of the affluent Palatine neighborhood and turned toward the center of the city. Damon set a quick pace, navigating the twisting thoroughfares with ease. He knew this city like a man knows a lover. A boiling cauldron of arrogance, greed, and excess, Rome was the focal point of the civilized world, though Damon was certain a majority of the Empire’s conquered regions would hotly argue the point.

The crowds began to thicken as they continued down the Via Sacra and approached the two enormous pillars marking the entrance to the city center. Damon eyed the carved statues of Rome’s legendary founders, Romulus and Remus, circling their circumference. There were dozens of similar statues scattered around Rome, adorning public buildings, heralding a general’s successful campaign, an emperor’s benevolence, but this one had always been his favorite.

The famous twins faced each other, swords tightly clutched, expressions reflecting the stoicism of a conquering race, prepared to defend the nation they’d founded. Romulus’ free hand rested on the head of the legendary she-wolf who had suckled the abandoned infants. An omen the ill fated Remus, murdered by the brother who named an Empire, should have heeded. Take care who you trust. A lesson Damon had learned good and well. With Kaj flanking him, Damon stepped through the stone arch into the Forum.

The market was well designed. A large open area provided ample room for pedestrians and shoppers to go about their business. Weavers, jewelers, bakers, oil merchants, and pottery makers vied with tavernas and wine shops for their share of the citizens’ coin.

Street philosophers chalked their thoughts on the sides of buildings, some accompanied by unflattering drawings. Candidates for political offices spouted grand promises from stone block perches while those who had already been elected bustled about the business of government. Temples dedicated to one god or another stood wall to wall with brothels where, Damon mused, you were more likely to get your prayers answered than kneeling at an altar.

The city pulsed with life and Damon reveled in it. This was where he’d first experienced life after Jared had granted him his freedom. He closed his eyes for a moment, savored the sounds of bartering and badgering, inhaled the scent of spices and perfumes and—he cocked one eye open and looked at the painting of a pork hind gracing the side of a building—the butcher’s shop.


In this passage, I tried to show the power of the Empire as reflected by daily life in the epicenter of Rome itself....and my hero's connection and response to it.

Can you remember a description someone gave you about something? A trip or a gift or an event? Something that made you wish you had been there?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Staring at the blank page…


By Christie Kelley



Based on the title most people would think this was just another blog on writer’s block. Nope, not this one. I don’t have writer’s block with my current work in progress. But as I sat down last night to write this blog, I had nothing to say. Really!


I started one blog on Fall but only wrote three sentences before I decided it wasn’t any good so I deleted it. Then I was about to write something on a more “writerly” topic. I have nothing to say there either. So, now I’m just rambling.


I think the real issue is I’m feeling a little burned out and not from writing but from not writing enough. Does that make any sense? Work has been so busy lately and now the kids are back to school so there’s all the craziness that brings. Plus, we’re getting ready to do a major renovation to our house so I have to pack up almost everything. Needless to say, I have written almost nothing in past month (not a good thing when you have a deadline staring you in the face).


So I have two rooms left to finish packing up, and then I plan to schedule a day to myself. A real day off to help me relax and think about writing again. Once that’s done, I have to schedule some writing days with no interruptions (okay, as few as possible).


Burnout effects everyone but I’m wondering how other people handle it.


What do you do when you’re so busy with everything you can’t remember the last time you had a day to yourself? How do you cope with the craziness of days?


For the writers here, does not getting enough writing time make you cranky? It certainly does me, just ask my family.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

How I Met My Editor -- The Latest "Call" Story

by Aunty Cindy

July 2006 Atlanta, Georgia -- RWA National Conference

My "roomie" and writing buddy, Willie Ferguson and I leave our room on the 20th floor of the hotel to go to the continental breakfast being served before the start of the workshops. (Amazingly Aunty is up and dressed at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m.)

The elevator door opens and we get in with two other people, a woman and a man. The man asks the woman what she writes and she tells him she's not a writer, but an editor. Then she looks over at Willie and me and seeing the Golden Heart ribbon on my name badge, she says, "Oh, you're a Golden Heart Finalist! My name is Deb Werksman and I'm an editor at Sourcebooks. I'd really love to read your manuscript." I tell her sure, I'll be happy to send it to her and she gives me her business card.

Once we get off the elevator and go our separate ways, Willie gasps, "I can't believe how cool and calm you were!" I am staring at the card yawning, and she realizes I'm still half-asleep.

However, I DO send the editor the full manuscript of my GH finalist when I get home from the conference.

Fast forward six months...

At the urging of my fellow Bandita and CP, Jo-Mama, I send an email to the editor as a friendly little request on the status of my manuscript and while I'm at it, I throw in a query for my current WIP. A month later, I get a rejection of the "not quite right for me" variety and figure that is the last I will hear.

Two months later...

I receive an email from the editor saying she would like to read more of the WIP. I am surprised, but also in the midst of doing a mass query of agents and sending out a requested full of my GH manuscript. I take my sweet time until Jo-Mama kicks my arse and I send the partial a month after the request.

Friday, July 27th

Still somewhat in a funk because I didn't get to go to Dallas with my Bandita buddies, I return home from my usual Friday lunch "date" with 3 friends, to be greeted by the DH. Looking unusually frazzled, he clutches a piece of paper with his semi-legible scribbles all over one side of it. He says, "Deb Werksman called here on her way home from work. She wants you to send the entire manuscript of Death In The Fens!" As I stare dumbfounded at the paper (an editor has never called me before), he adds, "She said you would know what to do because you already sent her the first four chapters."

I hug him and praise him profusely for doing a "good job" (men need this kind of positive reinforcement!), and then spend the next few days in a frenzy trying to polish up the last few chapters. Finally, on August 2nd, afraid to wait any longer, I dash off a cover email, attach the whole file and hit "send."

Now the waiting starts. I query a few more agents and two more editors. I fumble around with ideas for my next project and do some research, all the while telling myself, "The first editor to see a manuscript NEVER buys it!" Meanwhile, I continue collecting rejections.

Friday, September 14th -- a day that will henceforth surpass all others for sheer joy!

8:45 a.m. The phone rings and wakes me up. A woman's voice asks for Cindy and I groggily identify myself. Then she says, "This is Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks..."
For one nano-second my heart stops while my mind races. She would NOT call me to REJECT the manuscript...
"...I'm calling because we want to publish Death In The Fens..."

I leap out of bed! Scream! Cry! Somewhere along the line, I actually calm down enough to have a semi-coherent conversation with her -- MY EDITOR!
Fifteen minutes, or a lifetime or so later, I tell her that I may have to call her back on Monday just to be sure all this REALLY HAPPENED! She laughs and tells me to go ahead.

That morning in Atlanta, I never dreamed that getting into the elevator would eventually change my life!

What about you? Did a seemingly random event turn out to be life changing? Aunty would love to hear about it!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I heart Earth

I consider myself an environmentalist. Unfortunately, when some people hear that term they equate it with someone who chains herself to trees in old-growth forests to prevent cutting or who takes a spray paint can to Hummers. I have never taken part in such activities nor ever would. I'm a good girl who obeys the law. To me, being an environmentalist can involve the simplest of actions by each person that, when taken together with the small actions of thousands or millions of other people, could make a big difference in the health of our planet and ourselves. Here are some examples:

1. Walk or ride a bike to destinations when you can. Fellow Bandita Kirsten bikes to work, and I've walked to get my hair cut because my stylist lives in the next subdivision over. Not only are you preventing putting more carbon dioxide into the air we breathe, but you're also saving money (have you seen the prices at the gas pumps lately?) and improving your health. It's a win-win-win situation.

2. When considering buying a car, at least consider going for the smaller, more fuel-efficient model. I drive an older Nissan Sentra with a lot of miles, but it's still small and gets more than 30 miles to the gallon. And it passes my city's emission standards every year by a good bit. Another benefit -- I can fit into parking spaces others can't. Hee hee. (Though not as small of a space as if I had a Smart Car.) If you have children and need the extra space not provided by a small car, there are still options for better fuel economy. Even if you don't go with something like a hybrid SUV, do some comparison shopping regarding miles per gallon before plunking down your hard-earned dollars.

3. Recycle. Many cities have recycling pickup now. And even if you live in an area where you don't, there are likely drop-off points somewhere in or near your town. Don't make extra trips (gas, you know) to drop off recycling, but collect the items in boxes or tubs in your garage until you're going to be driving past the drop-off point anyway.

4. Remember how your mom always told you always turn off lights when you left a room? It really is a good idea! And while you're at it, replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescents. My husband and I have done this and hardly ever have to buy light bulbs. Plus, the compact fluorescents don't give off heat like regular incandescent bulbs.

5. Get a programmable thermostat for your house. They're more energy-efficient. We have two, and we can program them according to when we'll be at home (and need heat or air) and when we're away (when we don't need as much heat or air).

If you'd like to know about living green, one of the places to explore is Yahoo!' Green.

So, do you consider yourself an environmentalist? What things to you do to lessen your negative impact on Earth's resources?

Friday, September 14, 2007

And The Winner...

Of an autographed copy of Terri Garey's debut release, Dead Girls Are Easy is hrdwrkdmom! Please contact Terri at tgarey@tgarey.com with your information and use the subject Romance Bandits - I won! Congratulations! And thanks to everyone for participating!

Revisiting Old Friends

by Tawny Weber

I was taking a mental vacation this afternoon (you know, those spaced out moments where your brain trips around without a map) and without intending to, revisited Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The scene with Dobby by the seaside cottage, to be exact. Which then sent my mind along the rest of the story, rereading it in my mind (and jonesing to reread it in real life... where is book one again?)

In Terri Garey’s interview the other day, she mentioned a quote by Louisa May Alcott that had the same effect. I revisted Jo and Beth in particular. Then I jumped on over to Little Men, when Jo is all grown up and raising her own kids. I love those books.

And I love revisiting characters. Not just in my own trippy little brain, but in stories. Both in series type stories like Harry Potter, where we held on by our fingernails waiting for our hero’s next year at Hogwarts, and in sequal type stories like Little Men, which I think came many years after Little Women and gave us a look at the ladies, all grown up. An adult example (can you tell school started and I’m in kid-book mode?) would be JD Robb’s Eve Dallas stories to revisit the ever-so-sexy Roarke, and her Chesapeake Bay series finale when we get to read Seth’s story and see what the brothers are doing all those years later.

Revisiting my own characters is always fun, too. In Does She Dare, I have a scene where the heroine, Isabel, goes to a party where Audra and Jesse are from Double Dare. It was so fun to visit, a couple years after their story was over, and show them as a couple. To see how Audra was still wild, how Jesse was still turned on, and how fun they still were.

How about you? What are some characters that just live on for you, long after you finish a book? You know the ones, they just pop into your head and say "hi".

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lucius Vorenus, Titus Pullo and YOU!

posted by Aunty Cindy

Last night, I finished watching the DVDs of the HBO series Rome including the “Bonus Features.” During the latter, a comment made by one of the show’s creators really resonated with me. He said that people were attracted to the show because of the characters. One minute, viewers would say, “Wow! Those people are just like me!” Then five minutes later they would say, “Wow! Those people are nothing like me!”

I couldn’t agree more, and I believe the same duality is true of all fictional characters. The audience needs to be able to identify with a character’s traits and actions, but at the same time, the character must go far beyond most ordinary human beings.

In Rome, it’s easy to identify with and like the character Lucius Vorenus. He is honorable, courageous, and highly moral in all his deeds. We would all like to think we too could be as noble and upstanding, and we love watching his character.

However, I know I’m not the only one who finds myself even more intrigued by Vorenus’ comrade and nearly polar opposite, Titus Pullo. Most of the time, Pullo is ultra-violent, killing and maiming anyone with seemingly no conscience. He is an amoral, drunken, whoring brute who never seems to think about his actions beyond how he can be instantly gratified. His character is exaggerated to the extreme, and he is not like someone you would ever hope to be! And yet… he is infinitely fascinating to watch! The few moments within the series when Pullo showed his sensitive, caring nature, or when he actually understood something beyond his own immediate need were my favorites.

Am I alone in my weirdness?

Think about some of your favorite characters. Were you drawn to them because they were
just like you? Or did the attraction lay in them being nothing like you?

Your inquiring Aunty wants to know!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dead Girls Are Easy!

by Beth Andrews




I'm thrilled to introduce debut Avon author Terri Garey to the Romance Bandits!

In Terri's newly released book, Dead Girls Are Easy, Nicki Styx just wanted to earn a living with her vintage clothing store in Little Five Points, Georgia and maybe have a little fun on the side. One near death experience later, and Nicki’s life is changed forever by the ability to see and hear spirits.

Dead Girls Are Easy is dark humor with a Southern slant - the angst of a young woman on the edge,a healthy dash of sex and voodoo, a sprinkling of spookiness.

Terri, welcome to the Lair and congratulations on the great reviews Dead Girls Are Easy is getting! Can you tell us a little bit about about your road to publication?


Ah… the long and winding road. *g* I’ve always been a writer—I still have the short story I wrote in the fourth grade about how my teacher turned into a fearsome, purple beast with green polka-dots! But I really got serious about my writing back in 2001. I had about 65 pages of an unfinished manuscript, my kids were growing up, and my husband challenged me to "go for it"! So I got online, found Romance Writers of America, saw they were having a big convention in New Orleans that year, and signed up. (Thank goodness it was New Orleans, if it had been anywhere else, Southern girl that I am, I might not have gone!) Anyway, I went not knowing a soul, not knowing the difference between category and mainstream, or my HEA from my POV. But I went, and I soaked it up like a sponge. I even went to my first agent appointment, and was deeply embarrassed to find out that what I thought was a Regency was actually set in the wrong time period (Georgian). But I went because I wanted to learn, and learn I did!

For the next four years, I "learned" my way through four more manuscripts. My original manuscript (which shall never see the light of day!), two historical paranormals set in early Britain and ancient Rome (which did very well in contests and got plenty of requests but—as I "learned"—don’t do as well with editors), and a paranormal contemporary. And then I thought, "Okay. I know what the basics are. Time to write something I can really throw myself into and have fun with." I knew I liked the paranormal aspect of my writing (which is why I went to the New Orleans conference to begin with… I played hookey from the workshops one day to take a cemetery tour and visit the Garden District where Anne Rice had written her novels), and the idea for Dead Girls Are Easy blossomed and grew to the point where I knew I had to write it.


I’d already queried my dream agent, and been rejected :p, but I queried her again with the new story, and she loved it. I told her which house was my dream house, and she sent it to them. And they bought it!
And now I’m writing the stories I always wanted to write, with the publisher I always wanted to write for. Dead Girls Are Easy is the first in a series, with a separate novella included (part of a paranormal anthology with Maggie Shayne, coming spring 2008, entitled Weddings From Hell). The second novel in the series is called A Match Made In Hell (August 2008). And if you’ve managed to make it through reading all that, I’m thrilled to announce the sale of the third stand-alone novel in the series, called If You Got It, Haunt It, to be released the summer of 2009.

Good Lord. Didn’t know I was so long-winded, did you? *g*

Your website is wonderful! Did you design it yourself?

I did. I was a computer geek in my past life *g*, and I find it hard to delegate that sort of thing. Glad you like it! It’s at http://www.tgarey.com/, and I’d like to invite everybody to stop by and enter the contest I’m having to celebrate the release of Dead Girls Are Easy. It’s a "winner’s choice" contest—you can choose a delightfully morbid "Blood-red Roses and Skull wreath" to get you in the mood for some hauntingly Halloween decorating, or if you prefer simply "delightful" to "delightfully morbid", you can choose a charming Book Fairy ornament who proudly proclaims Louisa May Alcott’s sentiment, "She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain." *g* I can relate to that one all too well.

You’ve certainly done a great job branding yourself. Care to share any branding tips?
Branding used to be a total mystery to me, other than the obvious (like McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.) Then I had a bit of a revelation, and it all fell into place. I just did a branding workshop this past weekend with the Tampa Area Romance Writers (great bunch of ladies, btw!), and I decided to post the workshop in three parts on my blog at http://www.tgarey.blogspot.com/.
The publicity you’ve garnered thus far has been amazing. Tell us about your recent television appearance.

I’ve been lucky. I put together some press kits (which is another workshop in itself), and sent them out to the local media. I got some great responses; the book editor at our local newspaper wrote a local interest piece and offered to do a review, one of the DJ’s at a popular radio station asked for an on-air interview, and I got a phone call from a reporter at one of the big local TV stations. She called at 4:30 pm on a Wednesday, and asked to come over the very next morning to tape an interview. It was a good thing in a way, because I didn’t have time to freak out! (or buy a new outfit, or get a manicure, or anything! LOL) I barely had time to clean up my office so it didn’t look like a hurricane hit! If you’d like to see the interview, here’s the link: http://www.tampabays10.com/news/local/article.aspx?storyid=62313 . Just click on the words "Video Story" beneath my picture.
Any quirky habits or real life spooky tales you wish to share?

Besides being a total Halloween fiend who turns her backyard into "Madame Zelda’s Haunted Graveyard" (http://www.tgarey.com/haunts.html ) every year? Besides living in a haunted house that was discovered to be the scene of a lover’s triangle murder/suicide? Um, no.

Seriously, I’ve gone on long enough. If anybody else has some spooky tales they’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!

Thanks, Terri! One Lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of Dead Girls Are Easy so let's hear about those real life spooky tales!