Thursday, December 31, 2009

Coming Attractions--2010 enters with fireworks!

by KJ Howe

Happy 2010 everyone!!! To kick off this auspicious year, let’s indulge in fireworks, streamers, horns, champagne, and a chock-full schedule of phenomenal authors. Get your day-timers ready as you don’t want to miss any of our exciting guests:

On January 4, Elizabeth Naughton will be visiting the lair. She will be talking with Trish (and everyone in Bandita-land) about the third in her Stolen series, Stolen Seduction.

On Tuesday, 5th January, brilliant debut author Courtney Milan is Anna Campbell's guest. She'll be talking about her wonderful romance PROOF BY SEDUCTION!

On January 6, Lair regular Barbara Monajem steps up to the plate for a chat that'll include her Harlequin Undone, Notorious Eliza.

On Thursday, 7th January, Anna Campbell hosts fantastic historical writer Beverley Kendall who will be discussing her debut book SINFUL SURRENDER.

On Jan. 8, Trish is hosting Helen Scott Taylor, whose second novel, The Phoenix Charm, comes out in January. It's a story filled with fairies, water nymphs, and other magical creatures.

On Jan. 9, Trish is hosting MJ Fredrick, whose latest romantic adventure, Breaking Daylight, will be out from Samhain on Jan. 5. It's a story of a sexy Special Forces hero and a beautiful woman whose been held prisoner by a drug lord, and their life-and-death trek through a South American jungle.

On January 12, RITA winner Catherine Mann joins us with Renegade, the third novel in her action-packed Dark Ops series from Berkley Sensation.

On January 13, Kensington Author Carrie Lofty visits The Lair to discuss her new historical release Scoundrel's Kiss.

On January 19, Misa Ramirez will be guesting with JoMama. She'll be talking about her second book in her Lola Cruz series, Hasta la Vista, Lola!

On January 21, author and writing teacher Mary Buckham joins us to discuss creativity.

On January 26, Blaze author Kathleen O'Reilly joins us with RT Top Pick and great New Year's story Midnight Resolutions.

On January 29, bestselling author NYT Bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson will be hosted by Suz!!!

There we have it…although I’m sure there’ll be a few other surprises thrown in to spice up our intro to 2010. Happy New Years from all the Banditas!!! I have the pleasure of giving away the first prize of 2010, a $10 (to celebrate the year!) gift certificate from Barnes and Noble. All you have to do is tell us what New Years resolution you won’t make because you know you won’t keep it. The most entertaining answer wins!

Now, we also want to celebrate big moments for the Banditas—one of our lovely of our Australian contingent, Anna Campbell, has just received the gorgeous Australian edition of CAPTIVE OF SIN. It's a lovely trade paperback that isn’t available overseas so she thought she'd share the joy. TWO people can choose which of Anna's four books they’d like to receive in the bigger version so the prize is a signed copy of either CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, UNTOUCHED, TEMPT THE DEVIL or CAPTIVE OF SIN. All you have to do is email Anna on with the title of her June 2010 release. You might find the answer in January’s Latest News. For more information, please visit Anna's contest page:

Things At Which I Suck

by Susan Sey

Brace yourselves. This could be a long list.

Oh, fine. It's New Year's Eve. You probably have somewhere fabulous to be. I'll give you the abridged version. I need to be snoozing on the couch by 9 p.m. anyway.

Top Three Things At Which I Am Not Very Good:

1. Sales.
2. Synopses
3. Salads

(Sidenote: I never realized all the stuff I'm bad at started with an S. Huh. At least my awfulness is alliterative

I'll take them in reverse order

Salads: Yeah, it's embarassing but I can't made a salad. I think it's because I used to be a vegetarian. (FYI for all those steakhouses out there? You can take a pile of wilted iceberg lettuce, drown it in ranch dressing and call it dinner, but that doesn't make it so.) I suffered through enough of those iceberg disasters to have developed a knee-jerk aversion to the very concept of salad-as-dinner, & sadly cannot to this day make a proper salad. My heart just isn't in it. So if you ever invite me to a potluck, please understand. I'm not bringing salad, & if you force me into it, you'll be disappointed. Sorry.

Synopses: I can't write short to save my life. My hat is off to all you category writers out there because you ladies know how to tell a tight story. It's like poetry, where every word is perfectly chosen & pulls its weight. This is a skill I dearly wish I had but even my emails run into the hundreds of words. My grocery lists span two pages because I editorialize. ("Yellow onions. Sweet if you can find them. Not the white ones. Too strong! Not purple--funny color...") It's just that--okay, I'm cutting myself off because at this point, I'm only demonstrating the problem

Sales: My dad is a sales guy. He can talk to anybody. He can sell anything. He loves this work & he's wonderful at it. Apparently this isn't a hereditary talent because I get hives when I have to call the babysitter. (In case you were wondering, she's a thirteen year old girl, and I want to give her money. How hard could it be? But it's still calling up somebody who might have to tell me no, however kindly. It's torturous and I hate it.)

So here's my problem: I have a book coming out this summer. It's my first one & I'm deliriously happy about it. Or I would be if I didn't have to sell the damn thing.

Self-promotion. Another S word at which I suck.

There' s a lot of pressure on debut authors these days. In addition to writing a great book, you also have to have a great website. It should have fresh content all the time & offer lots of extra ways for readers to connect with you & your characters.

You should blog. A lot. Everywhere. You should be witty and warm and find ways to gently promote your work without coming off as a user who only dropped in to plug her book

You should do book signings and hold launch parties--things that involve walking into book stores, asking to speak (gulp) with the manager (who you don't know from adam,) and convincing him/her that you have enough friends & family to justify ordering a few copies of your book.

You will be required to print up bookmarks, postcards and a slew of adorable, charming, book-inspired tchotchkes (I'm drawing a complete blank on that one, by the way). They'll need to be distributed to any breathing person you might encounter for at least six months prior to your release date.

You'll need to make up a press packet, then call up a bunch of print journalists (gulp), radio announcers (gulp), and TV journalists (GULP) to see if they want to interview you. This is a) calling strangers and b) asking them to participate in your discomfort. The classic double whammy. Ouch.

Oh, & you'll definitely want to purchase some incredibly expensive ad space in each of half a dozen magazines.

And if you don't do even one of these things?


{pant, pant}

Okay, so maybe it's not that bad. Is it? Oh, lord, I feel a panic attack coming on. Is that a hive? Right there? On my neck? Oh god. I feel faint. Somebody hold me.

Clearly, I need help here. Besides writing a darn good book, what do you like to see an author do? Is it the blogging? The signings? The website? The ads? Is it accessibility? Is it a sparkling personality? And what turns you OFF? Is there anything an author could do (or fail to do) that would make you turn up your nose and toss their book (no matter how good) into the garbage disposal?

p.s. Oh crap. I forgot to mention my title, my release date or my publisher. Sheesh. I told you I was bad at this. Okay, take two. Ready?

Look for Money Honey by Susan Sey in July of 2010 from Berkley Sensation!

Whew. How'd I do?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Shepherds Returned to Their Flocks

by Jo Robertson

I’m not particularly religious, but I've spent a number of years studying various religions and the King James Bible as literature.

Luke records the miracle of the birth of the Baby and includes the account of the shepherds. You know the story – the long trek to Bethlehem to be taxed, the no-room-in-the-inn scenario, the cave and the manger, the angels and the shepherds.

Because angels with wings and holy seraphim seem more metaphoric than literal to me, I always found what those shepherds did after visiting the manger more interesting than their actually getting there.

Ah, thos
e shepherds! How I loved the them.

Since the concept of a shepherd and his or her flock has universal application, I was intrigued by what the shepherds did afterwards.

They returned to their flocks, Luke says.

And although they told the glorious news and sang praises for God’s gift, they returned to their flocks.


They didn’t rush out and build a holy tabernacle. They didn’t write up the story and publish it in the Bethlehem Daily Journal. Nor did th
ey try to sell their sheep and get a higher fee for them because they’d actually witnessed the babe in the manger.

Instead the shepherds returned to their flocks.

They went about the daily business of herding sheep. Sheep are rather dim-witted creatures. They need a shepherd to tend them, guide them, watch over them.

Let me extend the analogy.

If we’re all shepherds like those ancient commoners, what or who represents our “flocks”?

That’s fairly simple.

Teachers teach students.

Parents parent children, and often pets.

Writers write books.

Presidents preside over governments.

Grandparents – ah yes, they simply spoil those same children or pets.

Readers read books.

And so it goes.

I've been to the Grotto at Bethlehem, an unassuming sight, but I’m not particularly concerned whether the shepherds visited a real hillside cave and found a new-born child two thousand years ago, or whether it’s a beautifu
l metaphor.

What I care about is the message.

The shepherds returned to their flocks.

Thinking about those shepherds gives me new resolve to return to my “flock,” whether it’s my family, my career, my church, my hobbies. Or in my case at this juncture in my life – dedication to my writing.

We’re about to herald a new year – a whole new decade! How cool is that? The thought of an entire decade stretching out before me unblemished by my stupid mistakes is really intriguing. I want to rush out and write something on those pristine years! I want to slough off the old and begin anew!

What about you, readers? What would you like to focus your energies on? What would you like to rededicate yourself to? If you are the shepherd in your life, what’s the “flock” you’re returning to? What commitments will you make, what renewed purpose?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Timeless Sandy Blair

Suz: MAC DUFF'S SECRET is the third time travel romance you've written. What is it about time travel romances that you like?

Sandy: The possibility-the fantasy--of time travel fascinates me and I often find myself wondering how I'd react if thrown back or forward in time.

Would I-or a particular character--be intimidated by the lack of modern conveniences or become inventive in an effort to reestablish creature comforts? (I.e. try to make toilet paper.) Would I be brave enough to confront injustice or those displaying prejudices we now find appalling? If my hero knew from a modern perspective that something terrible was about to happen would he dare try to change history, knowing there'd be a domino effect, that everything-good and bad--from that point forward would also change? If throw forward in time how would I cope with learning everyone I held dear had died in some horrible fashion? These are the things I find myself thinking about when staring at the ceiling at 3:00AM.

Suz: Are there any unique challenges to time travel romances?

Sandy: Yes. The first challenge is crafting a fresh situation in which the possibility of time-travel is in some way believable. (Standing stones and fairy rings have been done repeatedly.)

The second challenge depends on where the protagonist (s) is heading-whether back in time, forward to the present, or into the future. The author may have to "world build" or do in-depth research into a particular time period (s) and in some cases, do both.

The last hurdle is making a protagonist's reactions to a "new reality" ring true for the reader, which often requires some soul searching on the author's part.

Suz: MAC DUFF'S SECRET is also your second novella. I think you do these very well. What do you like about writing for anthologies? And what do you see as the unique challenges to writing them?

Sandy: Thank you for the compliment. To be truthful I must admit to having an ambivalent relationship with anthologies. I love getting "the call." There's no rejection. The editor has come to me. Yahoo! Better yet, I don't have to come up with a High Concept. The editor has given it to me. Yahoo x 2! Riding high on these thoughts, I always say, "Yes! I'd love to do a novella for this anthology."

The minute I hang up the phone that's when the hate part-the panic--kicks in. My mind starts screeching, "They only want how many pages?!? How can anyone write a story worth reading using so few words? You can't even say hello in under 50, you idiot! And you promised to deliver in 90 days?! What were you thinking? What?!"

A few glasses of wine later I've usually settled down, have a Universal theme and "What if?" scenario in mind, am ready to bounce these off my trusty Cp (Bless you!) and get down to the hard work of making these characters empathetic/believable. And somehow it all comes together on time.

Suz: So, give us a quick peek at MAC DUFF'S SECRET without giving away too much, since it is a novella.

Sandy: Would love to.

"How bad could it be?" That's all Sarah Colbert thought when she agreed to chaperone her private school's sixth grade field trip through Edinburgh. She's about to find out when she and her students find themselves trapped in a Highland glen that time forgot with a battle-scarred warrior they'll never forget.

Suz: Are you working on anything new that we can look forward to reading?

Sandy: I currently working on three novels; two light-hearted Scotland-set historical Romances and my first historical (biographical) fiction, which is generating loads of personal angst and anticipation. After that, who knows? I may start working on the Gothic Romance I've had simmering on the back burner for two years. (He's a dark and brooding sort of way. ) weigh in readers...Do you like time travels? What is your favorite part of them? And do you like big anthology books like the Mamoth books?

Sandy will be giving away a copy of her anthology MAC DUFF'S SECERET in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF TIME TRAVEL ROMANCES to one lucky commentor.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Giving presents is one of the best parts of Christmas for me. I usually start early thinking about each person I want to gift on my list of family and friends. Since my parents and sister live in Ohio, I know I need to have them finished first so I can mail their gifts off right after Thanksgiving.

It's great fun to find unique gifts for my parents that they wouldn't think to buy themselves. One year my husband brought home a Leatherman tool for my dad. It's one of those ten tools in one thingys guys love. Well, Daddy has always carried a majorly big pocket knife for as long as I can remember, but this was cool because it had a screw driver and pliers in it, too. So I wrapped it still in its package so the present was odd shaped with lumps. Mom said she kept walking past the living room and there was Daddy holding the present, feeling the lumps and saying, "I wonder what they got me." When Christmas Eve rolled around and he finally got to open it, she said he looked like a kid who just got the key to the toy store. And even though I wasn't there, it still makes me smile to know he got such joy out of that gift! This year he got an electric wine bottle opener. He said, "I've got a bottle of wine to use it on tomorrow, as soon as I figure out the instructions." And I heard the smile in his voice.

Every year one of my gifts is a tray of baked goods for my co-workers. They always enjoy every cookie I make, but one item stands out in their minds for the next year. I always make Buckeye candy, known simply as Buckeyes. Peanut butter balls dipped in dark chocolate to resemble the Buckeye nut that grows in my home state of Ohio. These things are addictive and probably have 1/4 or your daily calorie intake, so I ONLY make them at Christmas. One batch=9 dozen. Every year, right after Thanksgiving, the girls at work start asking, "Are you making Buckeye this year?" How could I say no?

My kids are easy to buy for, not because I know them so well, but because they make me detailed lists, complete with pictures, sizes and where to buy them. The lists are rather large, because they send them to each other as well. While they truly want everything on the list, they don't expect to get everything. According to my daughter, "If people get me something on the list, it will be what I want, but I won't know what it is until I open it, so it's still a surprise." The added benefit for the rest of us is that we spend time talking through the holiday shopping season, calling each other to be sure everyone knows what we already bought off the list. And the girls add their children and significant others to the list, too. Now, my son's list isn't as detailed, but he does give us one and last year I gave everyone one, too.

This year my list was simple, I wanted an iPod. They went in together and that's what I got, mostly. Big Smile!!! But I also had a special gift from one of my daughters. We'd been talking about the stalemate I seem to be in with the publishing world. She caught me on the rare self-pitying days I get about the "good rejections" (isn't that an oxymoron?) that I keep getting. Those items that hack me off, but others pat me on the head and say, "It just means you're real close to selling."

Anyway, my daughter said, "Why don't you publish it on the internet?"

"Oh dear, I don't want to self publish. I want to be paid for my work. I want to be recognized for the effort. I want a book contract."

"Mom, I meant serialize it on a blog, like fan fiction. A chapter at a time, like Dickens did when he was a struggling writer."

(Now the girl had my attention.)

So after some more chat about how to format it, how to add pictures, how to market it, I asked her, "Would you format this and get it started for me as a Christmas present?"

Soooooooooo two weeks ago we launched "THE ROCKYMOUNTAIN ROMANCE SERIES" on blogspot. Here's the link:

It's actually a series of stories I wrote a long time ago just as the market for American Historical tanked. REFUGE is the first book about a woman with a life threatening secret who becomes a mail-order bride to a man who's been burned by a woman who kept secrets from him. Every Monday we'll post the next chapter, but anyone coming to the blog, can click on the side bar to pick up the previous chapters and catch up quick!

One of the challenges has been illustrating it. We started out with color pictures, but quickly realized black and white gave it a more period feel, since it is a historical after all. But it's been fun finding pictures of who I think might make the best hero and heroine and all the secondary characters!

Why did I decide to do this after my arguments about self publishing?

1. As I said earlier the market for American Historicals is almost non-existant, but I believe there are readers out there who are craving something different in the historical romance genre. Something west of England. Something with grit and spunk.

2. Self promotion. I'm hoping my writing will draw in more readers, maybe even an edtior looking for something different to read on the net, who might like to read more and even be willing to take a chance to bring back the American Historical Romance market. Someone brave!

3. Stories are meant to be told. Once they're written, they need to be read by others. They're meant to be shared.

So, my friends, my gift to you and anyone you choose to share this with is a FREE on line book, one chapter at a time for the next year! And yes, you can feel free to comment on the blog and tell me what you think.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

To Be Read

by Beth

My To-Be-Read pile has somehow grown into a To-Be-Read hill. It's gone from three separate piles (one romance, one nonfiction and one for non-romance fiction) to four piles (I went on a buying spree and had to make a pile for my paranormal YAs and urban fantasy books *g*) I know quite a few of you can relate to my multiplying books, or perhaps your own TBR piles are more like mountains. Either way, all I know is that at the beginning of 2009 I had a goal of reading more and keeping my TBR pile manageable.

Well, I did read more than I have in the past few years. I also bought more books. Many, MANY more books. Which is how I discovered a few new-to-me authors who are now on my Auto-Buy list including Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians YA series, and Kristan Higgins who writes fabulous romantic comedies.

One thing I've noticed about my current TBR piles is that there are many more books by authors I haven't read before. To be honest, I'm not sure why that is, all I know is that I'm anxious to get through every story in the hopes of transferring even more books from the TBR pile to my Keeper Shelves *g*

Here are the books by New-To-Me authors I plan on reading next month:

Evermore - Alyson Noel

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Prime Time - Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Blue Zone - Andrew Gross

Highland Scandal - Julia London

She Thinks Her Ex Is Sexy - Joanne Rock

Start Me Up - Victoria Dahl

Outcast - Joan Johnston

Kiss of Midnight - Lara Adrian

Nightwalker - Jocelynn Drake

Soul Magic - Jennifer Lyon

My Favorite Witch - Lisa Plumley

Night's Cold Kiss - Tracey O'Hara

Servant: The Kindred - L.L. Foster

Have you read any of the books listed above? Are there any you'd recommend move to the top of my TBR pile? What does your TBR pile look like? Did you discover any new authors in 2009?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Wonderland

by Nancy

We had a gray Christmas, not a white one, with rain most of the day yesterday. Not quite the ambiance we've been trained to expect. As the dh said, "No one wrote a song dreaming of a wet Christmas." And Charles Dickens didn't write about rain in A Christmas Carol. We would've liked just a bit of the white stuff--a few flurries, perhaps, though the boy believes "snow when [he's] out of school is wasted snow."

I imagine those of you looking at anything from multiple inches to a couple of feet of snow may wonder if I know what I'm saying, especially if the snow canceled your travel plans. And I do understand that snow presents anything from an inconvenience to a confounded nuisance to a danger. Yet snow has always had a mystique here in the central Carolinas, probably because we have it so seldom. I've had snow on the brain lately, in part because of my new fixation with the Times of London website, which featured snow so heavily this past week (including the Dickens article in the link above), and because of the nasty storm crippling the central US this week. However, I actually got the idea for this blog while watching the dh's favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story, yesterday afternoon.

At the end of the movie, the parents sit in the darkened living room with light coming only from the tree lights and from streetlights shining through falling snow outside. And they comment on the beauty of the scene. It struck me then, obvious though this may have been to others, that it isn't really the snow that's beautiful, at least not for me. It's what light does to snow and vice-versa.

Light shining through or reflecting off snow gives it a fairyland sheen. The snow covers the bumps and rough spots of the ground underneath, diffusing the light so everything glistens as though it had a magical coating. The shadows become more obvious than they would be on grass, and there's an aura of magic about the whole thing. At least for those of us who don't live with in week in and week out. I suspect this is all a matter of perspective, but I did enjoy looking at photos of snowy scenes from around the world.

Ice is dangerous--ask anyone. We've had ice storms here that brought down limbs on power lines and roofs and caused terrible hardships. Black ice caused a horrible bus crash in Cornwall last week. Yet seeing the sun shine through that ice coating a limb gives it a silvery, ethereal beauty made all the stronger because it's fleeting. That very sunlight that creates the beauty will soon destroy it.

Snow used to be a "get out of school free" card. Around here, we know we don't understand how to drive in snow, so most of us try not to. Yet there are always people who have to. For them, I'm sure, the snow is not so much a beauty as a nuisance. When I had to drive to work on snow-over-ice, I didn't love it so much. Still, I fondly remember sledding down a slick street with my friends in high school. No one else was out, and I worked up my courage by starting halfway down the hill and then going progressively higher. Because my companions were lifelong friends, nobody gave me any grief about being afraid of speed.

What about you? Is snow a blessing or a bane to you? Or both?

In the spirit of Boxing Day, I'm boxing up and sending to one commenter a duplicate soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl I somehow acquired. It's still in the packaging, but I don't have the receipt, so it's offered unused but "as is." I also have a signed copy of Warrior's Lady donated by Gerri Russell and a copy (not signed) of Don't Bargain with the Devil donated by Sabrina Jeffries.

This is my last blog post of 2009, so Happy Boxing Day and best wishes for a healthy, happy 2010!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Romance Bandits!

by Kate

‘Tis Better to Give …

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of waking up on Christmas morning and seeing the acre of presents spread out under the tree. I loved opening Christmas presents, and Santa Claus never disappointed.

But now that I’m all grown up, I find it's much more special and fun to watch others open their gifts. I love to see the looks on my friends and loved ones' faces when they see what it is, when they look up at me with excitement and pure joy at the realization that I've managed to find the absolute perfect gift for them.

Well, that's the dream, anyway. :-)

Over the last few years, my family and I have pared down the gift giving dramatically. It's not just because of the tough economic times. It's because we all have everything we need. So what do you give an adult who has everything?

These days, in my family, we all donate to a few special organizations, then exchange fun, token gifts so that everyone has something to open and enjoy on Christmas morning. I like to give socks. Who doesn’t need socks?

But here in the Lair, we Banditas LOVE to give, give, give. Especially on Christmas Day! So today, one lucky random commenter will win our fabulous Bandita Christmas Basket!! It’s filled with wonderful goodies like these:

* Every Night I'm Yours and Every Time We Kiss from Christie

* $15 Border's gift card from Jo

* Dark and Deadly from Jeanne

* Golden Rooster jewelry and a cuddly Romance Bandits teddy bear from Anna Sugden

* $15 Barnes & Noble gift card from Susan Sey

* If Books Could Kill ARC, plus a bookmark and Ghirardelli chocolates from Kate

* $10 Barnes & Noble gift card from Cassondra

* Wicked Little Game from Christine

* Yummy Godiva chocolate from Joanie

* Captive of Sin from Anna Campbell

* Feels Like the First Time, Coming on Strong and Going Down Hard from Tawny

* The Seduction of a Duke from Donna

* $10 Starbucks gift card from Trish

* Not Without Her Family and A Not-So-Perfect Past from Beth

* Caramel TimTams, chocolate cream TimTams, and spice tea from Nancy

* The Treasures of Venice from Aunty Cindy

* and more!

What’s the best part of the season for you? What is the most wonderful gift you've ever given someone? What's the best gift you've ever received?

To all the Banditas and friends who have been with us throughout the year, Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bandita Booty!!!!


by Donna MacMeans

Congratulations to:

Louisa Cornell who won her choice of a book and the rooster cookie cutters and cookie mix

and Silvia who wins her choice of a book

Please contact me at for contact information

and a Huge MERRY CHRISTMAS to all the Banditas and Bandita Buddies!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve--Time to Party?

by KJ Howe

With the holiday season upon us, our social calendars are filled with celebratory events for work, family, and friends. Hairdressers are double-booked, red lipstick flies off the shelves, and the stilettos and bling escape the back of our closets. It's time to party!

Back in the day, a party was just a party, but these days, themed parties are the way to go--the more outrageous, the better. For example, I recently attended a party where everything echoed the Academy Awards...yes, those two "Oscars" sandwiching me stood perfectly still on a stage for over two hours as people traipsed down the red carpet (and were interviewed) on their way in. What fun!

I'd love to hear about your themed parties, real or imagined, that you might find enjoyable. The commenter with the most entertaining idea (remember, real or imagined!) will win a $10 Barnes and Noble gift certificate. Let your imagination soar!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported the Bandits this year and to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Look for that mistletoe!

12 Days and Wild Ride Booty!

We have a winner for Karen Kendall's Take Me For a Ride. Because that post appeared during our 12 Bandita Days of Christmas, the winner also receives the special holiday rooster booty. And the winner is . . .

Pam P!

Pam, please send your contact info to Nancy via the link at the top of the blog, with "for Nancy and Karen" in the subject line.

Congratulations, Pam, and thank you to everyone else for stopping by. We hope you all have a fabulous holiday season!

Bandita Booty!!

by Anna Sugden

Lots of prize-winners today - 3 lucky people get a Parisian trinket from Eloisa James.

Congratulations to:

Hrdwrkmom aka Dianna

And the winner of the extra prize of the Banditas' Twelve Days of Christmas goody is ...


Please send your snail mail details to Anna at Annasugden dot com and I will ensure you get your prizes - remember Eloisa won't be posting hers out until the new year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lighten Up the Holidays!

by Donna MacMeans

I imagine by now the gifts are purchased and wrapped, the cookies made and the house decorated - right? Time to kick back and lighten up. Now that the winter soltice has passed, the days are getting longer - did you notice? (grin). Longer days couldn't come a moment too soon for me. I think I'm one of those people who suffer from sunlight deprivation during the winter.

But I must admit - seeing all the outdoor Christmas lights help. I thought I might share a little history about Christmas lights (what else did you expect for an historical writer?) and some of the lighted homes around my neighborhood. Kudos go to my daughter who hung out the window with the camera as we drove around singing Christmas carols and looking at the lights.

Back in the 1600s, Christmas trees were lit by small candles secured to the branches by bits of wax. The tree didn't go up until Christmas Eve because it was such a huge fire hazard. I had thought that the tree skirt that wraps around the base of the tree was to hide the unsightly tree stand - but it appears it's main purpose was to protect the floor from the dripping wax of the candles.

By 1867, a candleholder with a counterweight was used on the trees - but still the threat of fire remained. It wasn't until 1903 that GE introduced a light bulb string for Christmas trees, but they were so darned expensive, the candles prevailed. But over the years, the lights became more economical. These were what my father used to refer to as "hot lights". Although they could be used on a tree, they were better for outdoor decorations as they heated up significantly after burning for any length of time. You can still see these on some outdoor decorations.

In 1946, the bubble light was introduced. I love bubble lights! My father always set out a minorah decoration (we're not Jewish) and topped it with bubble lights. They were so much fun to watch - the precursors of lava lamps (grin). The cat did love to watch (and swat) those bubbles.

In 1950, miniature lights were introduced which didn't throw off the heat so they were perfect for the tree. Disneyland decided they were perfect for outdoors as well and decorated the parks with them. What Disney does, the world imitates, so now miniature lights, also known as fairy lights, abound.

Have you noticed how many homes are decorated just in white lights? Boring, but practical, but still boring. Our house is done in all white lights - but that's because I'm in charge of the inside decorating. If I had my druthers, the house would be a color riot - but I must admit I like this house because of the owners sense of humor. Makes me smile whenever I drive by.

The next lighting innovation came in 1998 with strings of icicle lights. I love these as well. They're available in all colors. When first introduced, I used to see them hanging from rooflines to simulate the real thing. Now, however, they're used on to decorate trees. Speaking of trees - check this one out. Isn't it beautiful? I hope they don't take down the lights for a long, long time.

Sometime in this decade, guard deer were introduced. You know - those prefabricated wire deer covered in lights? Apparently every home must have a pair placed on the front lawn - at least in my neighborhood. Here's a pair.

This year the innovation is LED lights. These last longer and use less power and come in some pretty amazing colors - especially cobalt blue. I expect these will be more and more common and fairy lights will go the way of "hot lights."

How about you? Do you decorate outside the house? Do you prefer elegant lighting - lots of colors - or something along the lines of Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation? How long do you leave them up? Have you gotten your Christmas shopping done yet? Are you ready for the big day? Don't forget someone will receive one of my books (their choice) and rooster cookie cutters & mix. So let's talk all things Christmas... Oh, and Anna, my daughter took this photo of penguins just for you.