Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bandita Booty

It was so awesome to have Pamela Palmer hang out with us - and even better, she offered THREE copies of DESIRE UNTAMED to three lucky winners. And the names drawn are:

Blodeuedd, Bkwrm 26 and Gigi.

Ladies, congratulations. If you'll drop Pam an email with Bandits Prize in the subject line and your shipping info, she'll get those books right out to you :-)

And thanks to everyone for hanging out!!!

Summertime and the Living Is . . .

by Jo Robertson

We’ve just reached the triple digits in northern California and I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West screeching, “I’m melting, I’m melting.”

Summer’s definitely here to stay in our little corner of the world. In spite of the heat, mosquitoes, and escalating air conditioner bills, summer recalls those wonderful memories of childhood in my home state of Virginia.

Barefoot explorations. My mother never cared if we ran wild and barefoot all summer long. My standard clothing issue was shorts and halter top and NO SHOES. Our property sloped down the hillside to the banks of the James River and my brother and I spent hours exploring the territory.
Gives me the shivers now.

Sleeping in. We had a screened in side porch where we always slept during the hot, humid summers. Our old house had a swamp cooler, but no air conditioning, so the meager breeze that swept off the river was essential!
Why is sleeping in still so wickedly delicious?

Fireflies. Not the Nathan Fillion kind – yum – and I’ll again recommend your buying the complete DVD of that amazing Joss Whedon TV series – but the bugs that light up.
As kids we always caught fireflies during the summer, captured them inside my mom’s canning jars, and stared at them all night as they rested on the floor by my bed. I'm still fascinated by the way their tiny bodies flash this amazing green light.

Ticks. Yes, we had tons of those little buggers. I distinctly remember one particularly fat one burrowing its body into my right butt cheek. I was about eleven, I think, and horrified at the thought of some crawly creature sucking my blood out like a vampire. That was also the summer I got interested in Bram Stoker. Mom used alcohol and tweezers and finally snipped off the head, leaving the body deep in my tender flesh.
I don’t remember the rest – I think I passed out.

Accidents. Why is summer always the time someone breaks a bone, gnashes a wrist or knee, or falls into an open sewer? I mention these three things because the summer I was twelve, my little brother Ken, eleven, managed to do all three on consecutive Saturdays.
The sewer was the worst. And I swear -- I was responsible only for one of the events -- the slashed wrist.

Ice Cream. I know, I know. It’s way cheaper to buy ice cream nowadays than to make your own, but there’s something that speaks of home and mom and comfort during warm summer nights with a giant bowl of homemade ice cream for company.

I’m again offering my super-duper infamous recipe for anyone who missed it previously. It’s easy, quick, and so light you’ll eat the entire canister by yourself. If the other people living in your house don’t beat you to it!

3 cups sugar

2 quarts of half and half

1 can evaporated milk

2 TB vanilla extract

1 TB lemon extract

And finally, making out on a blanket (otherwise known as picnicking). Okay, I’ll keep this PG-13, but summertime reminds me of dates I had with Dr. Big when we picnicked by the river. It was so beautiful and we were so much in love. Nuff said!

What about you? What's your standard "uniform" for the summer? What childhood memories does summertime bring to you? What kind of memories are you making for you children?
Are summer sports your thing -- water skiiing, rafting, sunbathing (hey, that's a sport!) Are you a sun worshipper or do you avoid it like the plague?
Do you enjoy picnic scenes in a romance novel? Do they remind you of a more relaxed time as opposed to our current hectic pace?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kissing Frogs

by Susan Sey

It’s 1994. I’m twenty-one years old, student teaching 9th grade English. In the four months I’ve been on the job, Tonya Harding has put out a hit on Nancy Kerrigan’s knee & Kurt Cobain’s committed suicide. It’s a pretty accurate barometer of how my pursuit of a teaching certificate is going, actually. But since my dad has recently informed me I can’t be a camp counselor forever, I feel compelled to augment my imminent English degree with an actual skill set. Hence the teaching certificate.

My cooperating teacher is napping behind a barricade of books on his desk. I am three inches shorter & twenty pounds lighter than my smallest student, a fact that has not gone unnoticed. Kids are actually singing & dancing in the aisles. I have completely lost control of my class, which is bad enough. But then something in my head snaps—what the hell am I doing spending my senior year of college in high school??—and I lose control of myself, too.

At the top of my surprisingly formidable camp counselor lungs, I bellow, “STOP!”

There is an instant of shocked silence. I find this immensely gratifying & am about to perform a hostile take over of my own class when somebody gets there first. Two beats into my hard-won silence, a girl yells, “Hammer time! Doot, doot, doot-doot…”

(It’s a song, for those of you too young to get the joke. MC Hammer? See, there were these crazy pants, too, & this little dance he did, and...okay, never mind. You'll have to trust me on this. It was a big thing.)

Anyway, the class about injures itself laughing—admittedly, her comic timing is exquisite—and there goes my brief flirtation with efficacy.

Okay. So. Not a teacher. Sorry, Dad.

And why am I telling you this story?

Because I got invited to my 20 high school reunion this week.

Because in my high school year book, I predicted that by now I'd be living on my own private island with an iguana named Issaac writing best-selling novels. (I have a husband, two kids & a house in the suburbs, in case you were wondering how that worked out for me.)

Because while my dad didn't specifically include writing romance novels in the "camp counseling is not a career" talk, I understood it came under the same heading.

Because after thirteen years of trying other things, I sat down & started writing anyway.

Because after five years of writing, I sold a book.

Because after two years of waiting, that book--Money, Honey--is finally going to hit the shelves.

In exactly one week.

Ladies (and gentlemen, I know you're out there), today I am here to testify. If yesterday's post didn't convince you (and congrats again, Suz), maybe today's will tip the balance.

Dreams aren't impossible. Only improbable. And this is coming from a woman whose toddlers used to blurt out, "Rejection letters!" every time they saw a mailbox.

Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs, people. But you kiss the right one?

Worth it. Totally worth it.

So what about you? Have you ever dreamed the impossible dream? Longed for something so outlandish you didn't really allow yourself to hope for it? (I include Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, & a tremendous singing voice on my list, so don't be shy.) Did you ever pursue it? Even a little? How did that work out for you?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Birth of A Story...

by Suzanne

In case you're one of the few people on the planet that I haven't told, and trust me, I'm pretty sure I've shouted it from the mountain tops, I sold my first book this month!

Now, this wasn't my first book. Nope, it was actually my ninth. I've been writing seriously for about 15 years. Over that time I've tried my hand at many romantic sub genres. At first it was American Historical...the market fell out from under me. Then contemporary, then contemporary small town, (not much market at the time for those). Then romantic suspense...oh, wait the market went really dark, plot-wise.

Hmmm, what was a girl to do? I'd always had good lusty sexy scenes. So when my CP Jo Davis started writing erotica, I thought...okay, why not give that a try?  Here's where I ran into a problem. I wanted to write an erotica where the sex was integral to the plot. One would not exist without the other. Geesh, exactly how was I going to do that?

As I am want to do in the middle of the night, I picked up a pad of paper and a pen and let my creative forces free write, with a focus on how intense sex could not only be a major part of the plot, but also propel the story forward.

Well first I needed a character. A heroine in need of saving, whether she knows it or not. Next a hero to come save her. Wait. This is an erotica....I can have TWO heroes. Oh boy!! I'm suddenly liking this very much! Okay, so what kind of heroes do I like? Tall, dark, strong, (Have we discussed how TOMBSTONE is one of my all time favorite movies? Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott in THE SHADOWRIDERS made me drool? How I adored all the bad guys in THE LONG RIDERS? How much I loved the romance and the gunfights in OPEN RANGE?) And hey...a western historical erotic romance? Well, that's taking a unique twist to a genre.

So now I have my cast of characters, my time period, and a spark of a plot. I flesh it out, (pardon the pun), and send the idea to Jo with a "what do you think of this story idea?" e-mail. Her return e-mail was very enthusiastic. I decided I'd give it a try, but if the story didn't hold together, I would put it aside as an experiment gone wrong.

But here's the thing. I fell in love. Yep, with all three characters. I wanted the men...uh...yeah, I wanted the men to capture the bad guy. I wanted the heroine to get justice. I wanted the bad guys to get what they deserved. So, the book kept growing, building, until I couldn't stop. Nope. Had to finish it.

Okay, now I needed some feedback and a title. So after some brainstorming, I came up with a title I loved, The Surrender Of Lacy Morgan. It had so many connotations that fit this story I just had to go with it. Next, I entered Miss Lacy, as she has become affectionately known in the Lair, in a writing contest or two. Dang, if she didn't win both erotica categories! Yippee!! Those contests also garnered her a request for the full manuscript by one big NY publisher and a request for the partial from another--alas, sadly neither panned out.

So here comes my middle of the night what-the-hell moment. I e-mailed a query off to Ellora's Cave. I immediately got a standard auto reply that they'd received my query and it was in the queue to be read and that I'd hear something in 1-3 months. Okay, cool.

Two days later, on Thursday, I get another e-mail that looked like a repeat auto reply, until I reread it. This was from a pre-reader who liked what I'd submitted and put in the queue for the acquiring editors to read. I would hear something in 1-6 months. Okay, even cooler!

The next Monday I receive a very enthusiastic e-mail from an editor who loved what I'd sent and requested me to send the entire manuscript by e-mail for her to read. And she'd be getting back to me in....1-6 months. Okay, super cool!

A month went by.


Now I was getting worried. Things had been going by so fast, then poof. Did this bode well for Miss Lacy? Was it an ominous warning off the port bow?

Then the week before Memorial Day...two months from when the process started, I see another e-mail from the editor in my inbox. OH NO....poor Lacy is about to be rejected. Because if the editor wanted the story she'd call, right? Isn't that what everyone says?

So, with hands over my eyes, I click open... It's NOT a rejection, HALLELUJAH!, but an apology for taking so long, and a question re: was the story still available?

Well, yes it was! After a deep, calming breath, I replied as professionally as possible, that yes it was and I'd look forward to hearing her thoughts after she had a chance to read it.  (Even if it took 1-6 months.)

A week later, I get another e-mail. She loved the book! The editor not only loved the story, she loved the idea of the other brothers in the book having their own stories, too! But she didn't think she could buy it as is, because, "There was too much story" in it. Would I be willing to revise and resubmit, so that the really good sex in the book be more of the focus?

Here's where some people make a mistake. They say, "No. Take it as it is or not at all."


Okay....cut to the chase, after a week or so of e-mails about how I was proceeding, did she have any suggestions, etc. I got another e-mail.

Jillian Bell, the editor with the most excellent judgement and taste, wanted to contract the book for Ellora's Cave! I still hadn't completed the revisions, but I seriously think the professional effort I was making to comply let her know she could work with me and that I meant business when it came to getting my book published.

Okay...I only read the first paragraph of that e-mail, then went calmly into the living room, stepped in front of the baseball game on TV and did my version of the happy dance! Hubby lifted one brow and said..."Uh...I take it you have good news?" "Duh! Yes! They want to buy a book!"

Then after much hugging I made him read the e-mail to be sure I wasn't seeing things. This is where I learned I'd have to change one character's name. problem! Hawke became Dakota. Yippee!!!

Next came phone calls to my CP's Sandy Blair and Jo Davis, and of course our Bandita Joanie. Then e-mails to my Texas girls, the Foxes and then the Bandit Loop! Oh yeah, and then my Mom! And after three glasses of champagne from one of the bottles I'd been saving for this occasion, I called my boss, who is my beta reader! Oh yeah, and the girls at work!

Honestly, you know when it really hit me? The next night on my way to work. I started grinning from ear to ear, doing the happy dance in the car at all the stop lights. Yep! I had received the contract by e-mail that day, read it and was going to sign it.

So, the call, wasn't really a call....but
I am a contracted, soon to be published author!

So, tell me what's the best party you ever threw! What was the occassion? Did people cram in and leave the place a disaster? (Uhm...let's make sure Sven and the boys have a reason to complain tomorrow!) Oh....and how do you feel about Western romances...both the regular and erotic variety?


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Writing on the wild side or... Where do you come up with this stuff?

by Tawny

I'm so jazzed to welcome one of our favorite authors, Pamela Palmer, back to the Lair. Today's she's hanging out with us and talking about that ever-exciting topic that keeps all writer's going hmmm... Imaginations. I know, you can't wait to hear what she has to say (okay, read what she has to say) so without further ado... Here's Pam!!!

All fiction writers have imaginations, big imaginations, or we’d never come up with the stories we do. We’re the ones walking around with the voices in our heads. But these big imaginations can take different forms. I think all novelists love the quesiton ‘what if?’ But not every writer looks at a plane in the sky and wonders, “What if it exploded?” or “What if it just disappeared? Or morphed into an alien spacecraft?”

I think those of us who write speculative fiction (paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy) tend to have brains that serve up the strangest what-if questions. What if that dude in front of me in the check-out line were to suddenly shift into a jaguar? What if I could suck the life out of someone with the touch of my hand? What if I were immortal? All three of these questions came to me at one point or another in the creation of my latest Feral Warriors shape-shifter novel, RAPTURE UNTAMED, which hits stores Tuesday (June 29th). It’s the story of a pair of immortals -- a jaguar shifter with a ripping bad attitude, and a non-shifter who has a secret -- a forbidden ability that could make her a danger even to the Feral Warriors. The shifter, Jag, is the last male on earth she could ever trust. And, ultimately, the only one who can save her soul.

So, where does this stuff come from? Honestly, I wish I could give you the secret. I think we’re born with brains that serve up the surreal. When my son was four, he woke up one morning filled with the memory of a dream -- a dream about a magic ring with incredible power. His detailed explanation of the workings of this ring took a solid ten minutes and made eerily logical sense. Yes, he enjoyed books and he watched t.v., but I read the books to him, and was almost always nearby when the t.v. was on. I’d have known if he’d heard about this ring somewhere. He hadn’t. It was the creation of a four-year-old’s imagination. How does a brain that young come up with something that intricate, something that doesn’t exist? It amazed me at the time, and it still does.

Do non-writers dream like this? I don’t know. You tell me. My son has no desire to be a writer, but I’m convinced he has the imagination for it if he ever changes his mind. And I absolutely dream crazy, exciting, high-action dreams along with the more mundane and frustrating I’m-late-but-I-can’t-remember-how-to-get-there dreams.

What if I could shove my hand through that table...without breaking it? What if the Dupont Circle fountain in D.C. was a gate into the fairy world? What if I could see the future? The questions come almost fast as I can type them. There’s a fine line between weirdly creative and crazy, trust me. So where do these ideas come from? The best I can figure, they’re all a function of some weird quirk of the brain. If there’s a cure, I don’t want it! If it weren’t for the strange paths my mind wanders, I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories I love.

Do you dream? Do you remember your dreams? And if you do, are they strange or pretty normal (for dreams)?

In celebration of the release of RAPTURE UNTAMED (in three days!), I’m giving away three signed copies of the first book in the Feral Warriors series, DESIRE UNTAMED, one each to three random commenters.

Sweet dreams!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Crack of Doom

by Nancy

I've heard that phrase, "the crack of doom," all my life. Learning from context, I figured it meant the end of the universe but didn't give it much thought. It recently popped into my head again, probably because I've been reading post-apocalyptic novels, and I decided to find the derivation and specific meaning of the phrase. Since I didn't feel like going to the library, where a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary resides, I went on a quest via the internet. This was a tactical error. Many, many, many people apparently think the phrase originated with Tolkien's discussion of the Ring of Power and Mount Doom. Uh, no.

I found other references citing Shakespeare's Macbeth, which seems likelier, though it also seems probable the phrase was around before Shakespeare and he just gave it power, as with so many other expressions. The specific meaning of it--thunderclap "crack" of sound, "crack" into the fabric of existence, "crack" between this world and the next--remains elusive, however. A friend who has the OED looked up the crack of doom for me and could not find a specific meaning, so I decided just to go with "the end of everything" and not worry about whether the specific wording "crack of doom" has a particular meaning.

In the weird way of associational thinking, this search led me back to the book I was reading at the time, S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire, the first in a series (naturally, given that it's alternate history and I was reading it!), Emberverse I, about life after a mysterious event much like an EM pulse, but also different in key ways, destroys all technology--and apparently changes certain laws of physics as well. I liked this book enough to read the next one, and I've now read the third, which I just happened to have, completing the first trilogy, because I didn't send back the "no, thanks" slip to the SF Book Club in time. That turns out to be a good thing, since having that book, which looked interesting, did eventually push me to find the first one.

The good guys in Dies the Fire include an ex-Marine turned bush pilot, a Celtic folksinger who's also a Wicca priestess, various ex-military (including SAS) personnel and medieval re-enactors (SCA --Society for Creative Anachronism--and others), and geeks. The bad guys are an assortment, but the one who rises to the top is a professor of medieval history (as a former history major, I give this one a bwahhahaha salute!) who loves William the Conqueror and is a former SCA heavyweight. This was the first of Stirling's many books I've read, and I look forward to seeing him at DragonCon.

Archery plays a big role, which appeals to the longtime Robin Hood fan in me. The series also has certain Arthurian overtones, and I'm always a sucker for that. One of the characters has a severe case of Tolkien-itis, which creeps into the story in many ways, some of them humorous, and I love Tolkien anyway. References to other books and genre conventions add fun little zings here and there.

Continuing the train of associational hops led me to Pat Frank's Alas Babylon, which I used to say was the first post-apocalyptic novel I read, though I've recently realized this is not right. The story of survivors trying to rebuild society after a nuclear war, it seems somewhat dated now, but the characters remain engaging, and I liked it enough to buy a copy when (way back when) I had to return my high school-issued one. I've read it several times since. Alas Babylon fits well with Neville Shute's On the Beach, about survivors of nuclear war, though the Shute is less positive since people are basically sitting around waiting to die. I never read On the Beach again. Once around with a serious downer is enough.

I recently discovered a book on a library sale table that I remembered reading in junior high, Robert Silverberg's Time of the Great Freeze, a YA about people surviving an ice age, and that truly was the first post-apocalyptic novel I read. I remembered liking the Silverberg, even after many, many years, so I bought it--for 50¢ or something like that. I'd forgotten about it until recently, when I was looking over the bookshelves for something else and spotted it.

Thinking about this reminded me that I used to read, many years ago, a Gold Key comic book called Mighty Sampson, which was set in post-apocalypse New York City. I tracked down the title and bought an issue at our local comic book convention this summer, but I haven't taken it out of the protective sleeve. I probably won't. Looking at the art on the cover, I think it's one of those things that, as the boy says, you shouldn't look at now because you wouldn't like it as much and that would take away from that earlier pleasure in it. Still, I'm glad to have it for old times' sake.

I've taught Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, which is set in California after an unspecified ecological disaster leads to lack of rain, with chronic water shortages and societal breakdown. After an escalating series of troubles destroys the heroine's family and neighborhood, she and her two surviving friends strike out for the north--Oregon or Washington, where rumors say water remains available. If you can get past the armed guards at the border. Along the way, they meet other people and must decide whom to trust and whom to turn aside as they struggle to survive. It's a terrific book and has sequels, though I haven't gotten to them yet.

What all of these books have in common is a struggle to create a society or social group with morals and ethics and honor, to keep back the tides of darkness when the worst in human nature comes forth. A friend of mine is more interested in the social structures and technological issues. I care more about what happens to the people and how they interact.

My favorite character dies at the end of the third book in the Stirling series. Despite this rather annoying conclusion, which at least had a big story payoff, I liked the other characters and the world enough to read the next series, Emberverse II, as well. I already have the first book, The Sunrise Lands. The ending of the first trilogy is not the HEA we expect for romance, but it is a triumphant ending, as befits the end of a trilogy's story arc, albeit at a high price for the heroes. I think that's a key genre difference.

In science fiction and fantasy, victorious endings tend to have a higher personal price than in romance. They may not be happy, necessarily. The ending of LOTR is not happy but bittersweet, at least for Frodo and the elves, as the Age of Men begins in Middle Earth. One could argue that LOTR also is apocalyptic, just in a different setting than the term usually evokes. When romance characters die, they tend to have been either unsympathetic anyway or else minor. Getting the reader to care about a character who then dies tends to spoil the HEA nature of the reading experience. It's not what we expect in a book that says "Romance" on the spine.

Romance has recently acquired more books with apocalyptic themes, as thinking about all this reminded me. Our popular guest Jessica Andersen writes of the Nightkeepers, Mayan magi trying to avert the 2012 apocalypse. Lori Handeland's Elizabeth Phoenix series features a psychic trying to avert Doomsday. The Phoenix series involves vampires--but they're icky ones, not heroes, mostly, and the books include other types of magic or psi skills.

I like the character progression in a series, such as the Nightkeepers and Elizabeth Phoenix books have. That's much more common in science fiction, fantasy and mystery than in romance, but I'm glad to see it getting a toehold in romance. It certainly hasn't hurt Eve Dallas and her Roarke. Come to think of it, their stories are set after a devastating conflict, the Urban Wars. Gena Showalter's Alien Huntress series is set in the aftermath of a human/alien conflict.

I've also noticed other books appearing in the Romance section that have apocalyptic events of some sort in their backstories. Maybe this and steampunk are the new rising wave, but that's a subject for a different blog.

Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which is usually shelved in Horror, maybe because the vampires are seriously and grotesquely evil, except for the hero, is one of the few vampire romance stories I like, and it occurs after a magical apocalypse. The hero and heroine are trying to stop one of the oldest and most evil vampires from not only killing them but destroying lots of other people.

Hmm. I appear to have read some very gloomy books--but they all had satisfying endings. Sort of like when the Battlestar Galactica crowd (speaking of apocalypses) reached Earth. Other TV series with post-apocalyptic settings include Jeremiah, starring Luke Perry and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (years prior to the series' opening, a virus killed all the adults on the planet, leading to social breakdown) and Dark Angel (an EM pulse killed all the tech and wiped all the bank accounts, and people are struggling back). There's also Jericho, not to be confused with Jeremiah though I sometimes do confuse them, about the aftermath of nuclear war in a small midwestern town. All three of these latter ones turn up on SyFy from time to time, usually on days when I have to go teach, alas.

There's a whole spate of movies, of course, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the Planet of the Apes saga and The Omega Man to Will Smith's I Am Legend and Independence Day. Just out or about to come out on DVD are The Book of Eli with Denzel Washington and The Road with Lair favorite Viggo Mortenson. The Road is based on a Cormac MacCarthy novel, which I pulled off the shelf at the store to check out. Skimming through it, I decided it probably wasn't for me, and I didn't like the ending. But having two such movies come out recently also encourages me to think this may be a rising wave.

In a way, the Terminator series fits here. Last summer's Terminator Salvation (Sam Worthington, anyone?) definitely did. I tend to prefer movies without flesh-eating zombie-like creatures or spewing blood, as a rule, though I did make it through 28 Days Later, which the dh endured with me. We used the fast-forward button a lot. We both were more impressed with Children of Men, based on the P.D. James novel and starring another Lair favorite, Clive Owen, in a non-action-hero role, and I liked Vin Diesel's Babylon A.D. The latter two may be more dystopian (lacking a cataclysmic upheaveal) than post-apocalyptic, though I'd say a virus destroying humanity's ability to procreate, as in Children of Men, qualifies as an apocalypse.

I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoyed the arc about the threat of Ragnarok, the end of everything in Norse mythology, in the Marvel Comics Thor series. I read Thor (now in production as a movie with a stellar cast) for several years, though I've drifted away from it now, and I think that storyline helped pull me into it. So did Sif, the warrior goddess who's married to Thor in mythology but who pined for him while he adored mortal nurse Jane Foster in the comic book--though an interesting twist resolved that particular conflict. At that time Sif wore a really cool silver skinsuit and fought with a sword. She still has the sword, but the costume (see below) has changed. Regrettably, imho.

(Just FYI, I didn't see what Thor liked so much in Jane when he could've had Sif, who's not nearly so dynamic in the mythology as in the comic, but that's also a whole different blog topic). I read the Ragnarok arc about the time I discovered Wagner. I had an album of excerpts from Wagner's Ring Cycle, and I love "Ride of the Valkyries" and "Gotterdamerung," the Twilight of the Gods, though I prefer the orchestral part without the choral overlay. Very dramatic. Lots of brass and tympani.

Anyway, all this mental meandering led me to wonder why I like stories with these themes. I think it's partly the heroic struggle to maintain not just life but decency, but it's also that the stakes are so very high. When failure means the end of all things good and true, as we deem them, the stakes can't go much farther up. High stakes ratchet up the conflict and the risk and give a good, affirming ending, in whatever genre, that much more punch.

As befits the meandering nature of this blog, I have varied questions, so feel free to answer any, all, or none, as usual: If all the tech ended tomorrow, what would you do first to cope? Do you like apocalyptic novels or films, or do you prefer a more settled story environment with more personally focused stakes? What's the most intense, gut-wrenching book or movie you can recall? Who're your favorite romantic couple in a high-stakes situation?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why Every Millionaire Needs a Wife

We always hear about the millionaire playboy, but seriously. Trotting the globe alone. Sounds kind of sad and pathetic, doesn’t it? How much fun could a man have, bedding different women every night? No man wants to do that! Snort!

After a while, arm candy would make a millionaire sick.

Or at least, it would a millionaire of character, like Adam Duke, the hero of my latest book, The Millionaire Meets His Match. Adam has no intention of ever settling down, but that’s because he doesn’t realize how much a wife – the right wife – would add to his life.

So here are the Top 10 Reasons Why Every Millionaire Needs a Wife

10. She makes a fabulous tax deduction.

When you’re raking in the bucks, you need every tax deduction you can get. Which brings us to…

9. He needs someone to bear his insanely gorgeous heirs.

No mansion is complete without the sound of children laughing as they play in the bowling alley or build a fort in the wine cellar. Of course, it will be a while before the children inherit because…

8. Married men live longer.

He needs time to enjoy all that money. And of course, he won’t truly enjoy it without a woman to help him spend it.

7. He needs someone to name the yacht after.

As well as to model for the sculptor of the figurehead.

6. He needs someone to keep away all those skanks who are only after him for his money.

Who do they think they are?!

5. He needs someone to buy jewelry for.

Tiffany blue just doesn’t look good on a man.

4. Who else is going to watch the pool boy?

The millionaire is too busy. Someone needs to make sure the pool boy gets every leaf! And is properly covered with sunblock.

3. He needs someone to help him choose a tie to go with his thousand-dollar suit.

The valet’s taste is simply too traditional. The millionaire needs a woman with an eye for color and a sense of whimsy to choose his ties to keep him from taking himself too seriously.

2. To get his mother off his back.

Does every millionaire have a matchmaking mother, or just Adam and his brothers?

And the number one reason why every millionaire needs a wife…

1. Because everyone deserves to find love, even millionaires!

(A big thank-you to my Facebook fans, who helped me brainstorm this list. If you’re on Facebook, I hope you’ll come say hi! Join the fun! We share funny videos, talk about interesting articles, and just generally have a good time.)

Let’s have fun with this! What other reasons can you think of? Why does every millionaire need a wife?

Thursday, June 24, 2010


by KJ Howe

I've recently had the pleasure of reading THE INHERITANCE by Simon Tolkien--yes, that's really Tolkien, the grandson of JRR Tolkien of LORD OF THE RINGS fame.

The story features Stephen Cade, a young man on trial for murdering his famed Oxford historian father. If you enjoy a good Agatha Christie mystery combined with a John Grisham courtroom drama, this book is for you. Lots of great twists and turns, startling revelations, and heart-stopping moments. And the writing is rich, textured, like an oil painting on the page.

What struck me most about the novel and its author was the symbolism of the title. THE INHERITANCE. Simon Tolkien, a successful criminal justice barrister in London who then moved to California, definitely inherited his grandfather's writing talent. However, I imagine it must have been challenging to enter a field where his grandfather is a legend. Although the TOLKIEN name carries great weight in the literary world, Simon must have felt some pressure as critics would naturally compare and contrast his work with his grandfather's. Imagine yourself the grandchild or child of a famous author. Who would it be? Would you write in the same genre as him/her or branch off and do your own thing? How much pressure would you feel following in the footsteps of a giant?

Thanks for coming on this imaginary journey!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Irish Warrior BOOTY!

Hmmm, does that post title sound a wee bit naughty?

Oh well, you all know what I meant! We have a WINNER for Kris Kennedy's newest release, The Irish Warrior!

Congrats to:

Louisa Cornell!!!

You've won a copy of Kris' fabulous new book! She will be in touch with you soon.

Thanx to everyone for turning out for Kris' visit!

The Gift of Love and Gia Dawn

Sponsored by Donna MacMeans

Every year for the past three years, New York Times bestselling author, Lori Foster, has taken the lead to compile an anthology of stories with a central theme. The author proceeds from the sales of the anthology benefit a charity. This year's book benefits a charity close to my heart, the Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati They work to educate and empower those individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other motor challenges. It's special to me as my youngest sister attended the learning center. I can remember neighbors coming to our house to take shifts to "pattern" Mary's muscles to teach her to crawl. Mary, born with cerebral palsy, is in her 40s now. That's her at the bottom of the blog.

So let me say Thank you to Lori and all the contributing authors to this year's GIFT OF LOVE. Don't forget, if you click on the book cover, it'll take you straight to Amazon to purchase. I've loaded the covers of previous charity anthologies down the blog as well in case some have slipped your attention.

My good friend, Gia Dawn, one of the contributing authors is with us today. Please welcome Gia into the lair.
We're talking The Gift of Love Anthology featuring: (Front row): Lori Foster • Paige Cuccaro • Gia Dawn (middle) • Jules Bennett (back row)• Helen Kay Dimon • Ann Christopher • Lisa Cooke • Heidi Betts (not in photo)

Here's a description of their stories in their own words:

Lori Foster
FOR THE LOVE OF WENDY - I'm a big believer that everyone should be looking out for children, their own and others. It's a responsibility that we share, and that often plays into my stories. Since the proceeds from this book are going to special needs children, I was inspired to write it into the story. At first, my hero, widower Jack, only wants a mommy for his special needs daughter. But he soon realizes only one woman will do – because he’s loved her all along.

Jules Bennett
Being part of this anthology was an amazing experience because I was able to bring to life a story that has been in my heart for a couple of years. Added to that, we're able to hopefully touch the lives of children we will never know by donating all proceeds to the Conductive Learning Center, a special school for children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. I'm honored to be in the company of such amazing authors doing selfless acts all for the sake of love.

Heidi Betts
SKIN DEEP -Being part of this anthology gave me the chance to write a story I don't think I ever would have considered otherwise. SKIN DEEP deals with physical injury and addiction, & I suspect that fans of America's Next Top Model will recognize where part of my inspiration came from. ;-) I hope you enjoy! And remember what Helen Keller said: "I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do" so do a good deed whenever and wherever you can!

Ann Christopher
ATTICUS GETS A MOMMY - As a mother, I understand the value of a program that provides early intervention so children can have the tools they need to succeed in school.

Lisa Cooke
THE REDEMPTION OF BRODIE GRANT is a story about a woman who falls in love with a man despite the fact he’d destroyed her family’s livelihood years before. Passion, absolution, and redemption drive the story and drive our heroine into the arms of Brodie Grant. This charity holds a special meaning for me. I lost my eldest sister due to complications from Cerebral Palsy and being able to contribute in this way to a school for children with
CP and spina bifida is a blessing.

Paige Cuccaro
THE WOLF WATCHERS DIET is about Ella Blackwood, a young school teacher who’s always struggled with her weight. Those struggles have had an unseen affect on her body. But when she’s bitten by a werewolf and changes into one, the new wolf in her won’t let her return to human form until she’s perfectly healthy. Lucky for Ella her new pack mate happens to be fellow hunky teacher Luke Danhurst who’s wanted her as his life-mate for years. With his help Ella learns how to live happy and healthy, and to love herself in any form. I love the charity Lori chose to benefit from this anthology. Having a cousin with special needs, I know the importance of schools like The Conductive Learning Center, and I’m thrilled that I can help in their mission in some small way.

Gia Dawn
A FAIRY PRECIOUS LOVE - When Summer lost her wings to blight, she was forced to live life on the ground and to give up the love of her life, the Fairy King Wolf Moss. Now blight has touched the royal household and Summer is called in to help. Is she fated to have her heart break again, or will she be able to claim at last her Fairy Precious Love?
I think we are all looking for ways to find a deeper meaning in our lives and career, and give back as a way of offering gratitude for our own blessings. This anthology provided a way for me to do all of work with Lori Foster, which was amazing in and of itself.

Helenkay Dimon
SECOND TIME AROUND - The one word I use to define how I feel about my life is grateful. This is true both on a personal and professional level. My life isn't perfect or stress-free, but I am truly blessed compared to the difficulties some other people face every day. My professional good fortune started a few years ago. Lori Foster ran a writing contest on her website. She provided this amazing opportunity for unpublished writers to get their work in front of an editor. I benefited from Lori's generosity. Over the years I watched her put together anthologies
to benefit different charities and thought those books were the perfect way for those of us who have been blessed to give something back. When Lori asked me to participate this year, I didn't hesitate. Knowing the proceeds would go to special needs kids only made the anthology more special. I love this story and the celebration of family. I hope you do, too!

Gia says:
"I appreciated participating in the anthology because it allowed me to give back to the community, but I'm always looking for new ideas. Tell me some ways you give back, or how you're received from the efforts of others"

One person leaving a comment will recieve a copy of the GIFT OF LOVE.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Boo or Not to Boo ...

by Anna Sugden

A couple of things happened recently - both during sporting events - which caused me to ask this question. In both cases, the team had performed poorly and their own fans were booing them off the field.

I've seen it happen before and each time it does, it makes me cross.

When I was young, I was told that you never booed. It was considered rude and poor sportsmanship. Even at the pantomime, you never booed the baddie - you hissed (don't ask me how that got started!). I don't remember much booing as a child, though I do remember people being told off for booing!

Slowly, I noticed that booing had begun to creep into our culture. Some of it I can understand and don't mind too much. Let's face it, that's better than a lot of the foul language we hear these days.

- Booing the villain.
- Booing the opposition *g*
- Booing a bad play, a foul or a bad refereeing decision.
- Booing the player who left your team to go to a deadly rival for more money (personally, I wouldn't give them the attention!)

More recently though I've noticed people booing their own team or representatives of their country. Now, admittedly, the people concerned had just played a stinker of a game and in both cases qualification for a major prize had been at stake.

But, was it right to boo? To boo the team you love?

In one instance, it was the end of a great season and the team concerned went out of the finals with a surprisingly poor performance. This was the last time the fans would see their team until the new season. There was no recognition of the great work that had got them so far, no acknowledgement that even though they'd played terribly their fans still supported them.

It was a disheartening moment. All I could think of was how much worse it made those players feel - players who were already distraught by their loss. And, I felt for the parents and families of those players who were seated in the stands. How awful to hear your child being booed.

I've heard people say that booing is the right of the fan - you pays your money, you have the right to boo if the product doesn't match up to expectations.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, I wonder how those people would feel if every time they had a bad day at work, the entire company booed them out the door? Or if everyone booed their child off the stage at the school play/dance recital/ concert.

In the midst of my thoughts about booing, something else happened that struck me the same way. A friend - a fabulous writer - got a nasty review on Amazon. Not just bad, but downright venomous! Worse, not only did the reviewer not like the book, the characters, the cover or presumably, the typeface it was printed in, but this person made the review personal and attacked the author. (oh, and told the whole story with spoilers to ruin it for everyone else).

I was shocked.

Now, no writer (or painter or actor etc etc) expects to get glowing reviews from everyone. We'd like to, obviously, but life isn't like that. People have different tastes ... much I hate to quote the French *g*, vive la difference!

If you don't like the book and feel the need to warn others off it, that's your preorogative. If you feel the need to do so publicly and in print, again, up to you - though I don't happen to agree. Equally, if you are so driven by what you've read to be brutally critical ... you get the picture. Some people thrive on that kind of acidic rhetoric. Some find it highly entertaining. Again ... nope can't quote them twice *g* ... let's just say, to each, his own.

But, to attack a person so vindictively? It beggars belief. And, in my opinion, totally wrong.

We've all heard (or, sadly, experienced) the tales of disgrunted fans and readers and the extremes they go to when expressing their displeasure ('Misery', anyone?!). The one that I always mention is the thriller writer (whose work I happen to love) who was villified by one reader because she'd got hold of one of her earlier novels - a *shock, horror, gasp* romantic suspense - and was disgusted. This person not only attacked the writer personally everywhere she could, she wrote to the publisher and all the people who'd given this writer quotes and lambasted them too! I think she also went into all the bookstores that stocked the book and waged a campaign to get it pulled off the shelves. This person needs to get a life.

What do you think? Is it okay to boo? Are there situations where booing is or isn't acceptable?

What about reviews? Are you a 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything' type of person or are you a 'tell the whole world and his dog what a load of drivel this is' or somewhere in-between? Do you find nasty reviews useful or do you ignore them?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kris Kennedy and Homages

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Today I'm thrilled to be welcoming Kris Kennedy back to the Lair to celebrate the release of her second historical for Kensington, The Irish Warrior. We had a blast when Kris was here last year touting her debut novel The Conqueror and we're so glad she was able to join us today. She's going to tell and show us some of the writers who have influenced her.

Take it away Kris!

First, a big “Thank-you!” to all the Banditas for having me back again this year to celebrate my second release, The Irish Warrior, which just came out 1 June! I’m super excited about this one, which was the 2008 Golden Heart® winner for Best Historical. Which of course means I’m also super nervous.

In part, this is because I’m a newbie to the publishing world, and I know nothing. Every so often, I fool myself into thinking I know something, but I’m quickly confronted by the truth, or alternate viewpoints, or new ideas, which show that my knowledge is rather . . . Umm, let’s say rudimentary. In other words: I know nothing. But hey, at least I know I know nothing!

One of the ways I navigate this “know-nothing’ state is I listen, and I learn. I try, as often as possible, unless someone is paying me to teach a class, to keep my mouth closed. And I absorb. And one of the best things to absorb is great writing.

In The Irish Warrior, I decided to pay a few little homages to some of the stories that have influenced me, either in a deep moving way, or in a lighter, fun way. Some of the stories that have stuck with me, deep inside.

I think this happens both unconsciously and consciously. We are deeply taken by some turn of phrase or stylistic approach or plotting choice, and it penetrates so deeply it becomes our own. Imbued with our own sensibilities, of course, changed from the original, but part of our own natural repertoire of storytelling. And then there are the conscious homages. The stylistic turns of phrase or characterizations or set-ups that we adopt knowingly.

In THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, in the first one, when the hobbits are on the road and they sense a Black Rider is coming, Peter Jackson used an old Hitchcock film technique, of that foreshortening, where the world seems to tunnel in and get at once closer and further away.

Later, Peter Jackson showed up in a scene in the film as an extra, just like Hitchcock used to do. All these were little homages to a great who came before him. A nod. A thank-you.

That's what I'm talking about.

I wonder if this is easier to do in film, in part because we all are (or should be) concerned withy anything that smack of plagerism. Additionally, each author has his or her own distinctive Voice. We don't want to copy someone else's.

But homages are different. They are tributes, and thank-yous, and I put a few of them in The Irish Warrior.

One is to the LITTLE HOUSE books.

Laura Ingalls had such a way with descriptions. Simple and potent. I felt as if I was riding on her wagon, all the little jiggles and shuggles of the endless bumpy ride, and the great bowl of the blue sky atop her head. The ponies running along the edge of Silver Lake, and releasing the baby Great Auk on the melting lake. The stocked larders in winter and the crunching snow underfoot, the long hot rustling grasses during haying season, and the thick-walled muskrat homes Laura and Pa are looking at in the opening of The Long Winter.

There's a couple passages in The Irish Warrior that adopt this style. One is right after the hero and heroine have stolen a boat, and just before a dangerous brush with soldiers, and in between two hot, sexy close-calls between the two of them, there's one little passage that closes out a chapter: "They floated off, the old man watching them, until the tall grasses swallowed him up and the only thing to be seen was the blue bowl of sky overhead and the long, stretched-out wings of a dark, silent cormorant that flew overhead.”

Not sure if it comes across to the reader, but to me, that was Laura Ingalls writing.

I also paid tribute to THE SECRET GARDEN in one little line. Or rather, part of a line.

The hero and heroine have escaped the bad guy and been on the run, and are finally lying down to rest. Senna, the heroine, is well aware her life in in danger . She knows she’s “fleeing for her life with an Irish rebel, out on the wildside, beyond the Pale, past rescue, past safety, past any future she’d ever dreamed of.” And yet . . . something has been awakened inside. Yes, she’s more frightened that she’s ever been before, but she’s also more alive. She lays down next to Finian, “near him but not touching. She put her head on the hard ground and smelled the cool dirt and pale green points of grass, then looked up into the sky and watched the day take its bright, wild shape.” And those pale green points of grass are just what Mary Lennox finds after she follows the robin into the secret garden and starts her own little secret garden, watching the pale green points poking through the dirt, a process which is awakening everything inside of her as well.

But I’m not high-brow about my homages. :-) I gave a little nod to TREMORS as well. Remember that movie? Com’on, you do. I loved that movie when I was a kid. And I thought the way they had to leap across those huge boulders to escape the . . . worm-y thing, was so ridiculous and fabulous. So, in The Irish Warior, the hero and heroine have to make their way across a river, and they do it by . . . jumping boulders. They didn’t have those long vaulting-type branches they did in the movie, but I definitely had them make their “leaping, slipping, flying way across the boulders” just like they did in TREMORS.

And depending on how loosely we define ‘homage,’ it’s possible that every book of mine so far, including the one I’m writing now, pays homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, via my heroes. They are Aragorn-inspired. ;-)

Some of the next ones on the “You Have Moved Me So I Will Pay Homage” list: Anne of Green Gables books. E.M. Forester. Agatha Christie.

I have to fit my next homages into a story which is set on the eve of Magna Carta, about an audacious knight who comes up against a woman on a mission. She upends his world, but unfortunately, their missions collide, and jeopardize the kingdom one of them is trying to save.

Thanx so much for joining us today, Kris, and for giving us some insight into your writing! I've definitely paid homage to some of my favorite writers.

How about you? Do you ever do homages to other writers or storytellers in your writing? Ever think you see it in books by authors you love? One commentor will win a signed copy of The Irish Warrior!