Thursday, June 30, 2011

A (Surprise!) Release Party for Christina Brooke

by Christina Brooke (aka Christine Wells)

Break out the cabana boys and get your dancing shoes on because it's time for a very special SURPRISE Release Party in the lair!

By the time you read this, I will be at RWA in New York, squeeing and hugging the Banditas and Bandita Buddies who are there, and missing the ones who aren't like crazy. Oh, and hopefully signing copies of my new book, HEIRESS IN LOVE!

Yes, it's a long time since I had a new book out and finally I can tell you the reason--I'm so thrilled to be writing a brand new Regency historical series for St. Martin's Press, called the Ministry of Marriage or M.O.M. for short. You can read more here.

The series is about six Westruther cousins, three boys and three girls, who have grown up under the guardianship of the Duke of Montford. In this first trilogy, we begin with the girls, Jane, Lady Roxdale in HEIRESS IN LOVE, Lady Rosamund Westruther (MAD ABOUT THE EARL, January 3, 2012) and Lady Cecily Westruther (A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER, July 2012).

Here is the official trailer, which gives you an idea of what HEIRESS IN LOVE is about. You can read more on my website.

Hope you were wearing flame-resistant glasses for that one! And I'm not talking about the candles:)

When Jane and Constantine first meet, they are immediately at loggerheads. Constantine has inherited the house Jane lives in but she doesn't realize at first who this disturbingly handsome stranger is...

JANE OPENED HER EYES and a large form filled her vision—or at least, he filled the doorway—dark hair tousled beyond any recognizable style, heavy-lidded eyes trained on her, and a cigarillo clamped between very white teeth.

She gasped. The rider she’d seen from the upstairs window.

Now, he was close enough to reach out and touch. He smiled at her around that horrible cigarillo, Jane realized with dismay. Her heart lurched into a frantic dance.

Jane’s mind fixed on the source of that smoke as a drowning woman might clutch at a rope. She shoved Rosamund’s handkerchief into her pocket and scowled up at him. “I hope you aren’t going to puff on that disgusting thing in here.”

The man’s green eyes narrowed, observing her for a moment. Then his lips closed around the repellant object. The hollows in his cheeks deepened; the end of the cigarillo glowed amber. Deliberately, he removed the cigarillo from his mouth, tilted his head and blew smoke upward. The stream of cloudy gray passed between his well-formed lips, lifting, clouding, curling in tendrils to caress the plasterwork.

In that attitude, the slightly stubborn jut of his chin became pronounced. Despite her annoyance at his studied disregard for her wishes, Jane’s fascinated gaze traced the strong lines of his throat as they disappeared into a stark white cravat.

The stranger turned and pitched the butt off the terrace in a sailing arc, into the rain.

As if the heavens resented this wanton act, they opened, hurling water down in sheets. The wind gave a ghostly howl. Blood red curtains billowed around him, and the fanciful image of a devil stepping out of hell popped into her head. The gentleman moved inside and closed the long window behind him, shutting out the storm.

Jane shot from her chair, which brought her within discomfiting distance of the stranger’s tall form. He smelled—not unpleasantly—of horse leathers and rain and the exotic hint of Spanish smoke.

They both moved at once, and she fetched up against him in a heady brush of palm to chest, side to muscular thigh. Two large, strong hands gripped her upper arms to steady her. “Whoa there.”

The heat from his palms and fingers seeped into her chilled skin. He seemed even larger than he’d appeared from beneath her window. She had to crane her neck to look up at him and his decided chin.

A sudden fire glinted beneath those lazy eyelids. She almost expected him to hold her longer, but he unhanded her almost before she’d regained her balance. She retreated a hasty step and the backs of her knees hit her chair.

The stranger smiled, another flash made brighter by the contrasting swarthiness of his face. “No, no! Don’t go on my account.” His voice, a husky tenor, plucked its way down her spine.

Jane frowned. Who did he think he was? A gentleman did not barge into private rooms without an invitation. “Oh, I’m not going anywhere. You’ll find the other mourners in the drawing room, sir.”

“I know. That’s why I’m in the library.” The corners of his eyes crinkled. “You don’t have the faintest idea who I am, do you?”

She was beginning to think she did.

As if a new series and a new name weren't exciting enough, I'm delighted to announce that Penguin Australia is releasing the Ministry of Marriage series in trade paperback at the same time as the mass market comes out in the U.S.

The Australian cover is slightly different from the U.S. one, although the beautiful girl in the pink gown is still there.

So to celebrate in style with my favourite people in Romancelandia, today I'm offering a signed copy of HEIRESS IN LOVE to FIVE readers who answer this question:

What's your favourite first meeting in a romance novel? Any cute true life first meeting stories to tell?

And just for today, in a shameless piece of bribery, I am offering a bonus prize of one HARDBACK edition of HEIRESS IN LOVE! All you have to do to go into the draw is sign up for my newsletter here and tell me in the comments that you've joined my mailing list! Let's party everyone!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Authors in Real Life

by Susan Sey

Greetings from New York City, where the Romance Writers of America is kicking off its national conference today! If you're here, wheeee! If you're at home, booooo. We miss you.

This is the time of year when we all frantically try to match up the faces we see in the halls to the author photos we see on the internet & in the back of books. It's no easy task. We lose weight, we gain weight. We cut our hair, we color our hair. We put on make up, we take make up off.

And my personal favorite--we change our clothes.

I spent most of last year's conference trying to keep up with all the people who introduced themselves to me at the Literacy Signing that first night. Now I'm terrible with names & faces but I tried so hard. I really looked at people, I repeated their names the way you're supposed to. I shook hands, I hugged, I really thought I had it.

Then they all went and changed their shirts the next day & I was lost. Utterly lost.

This creates something of a social landmine. You don't want to sit down at lunch & cheerfully introduce yourself to your neighbor, only to have her remind you that you hugged her less than twenty-four hours ago. Right after she bought four copies of your book.

Equally unsettling is introducing yourself to your neighbor at lunch & having her blink in dismay & say, "Oh, wow, you don't look like your author photo at ALL."

Ha. Nope.

So here are two things I want to say as the conference kicks off:

1) I am not as cute as my author photo. Yes, my hair's short again & I got a pedicure for the occasion, but I will not be wearing make up. Not during the day anyway. It bugs my eyes. Feel free to express dismay at my appearance if you meet me. I'll laugh, then we can go get a Diet Coke & talk about how our high heels are killing us.

2) I will probably forget your name. I'm so sorry. This is a horrible social failing but I get nervous around new people and when I'm nervous I fail to remember important things. Like their names. But remind me. I will hug you most sincerely (I'm a very sincere hugger) and then we can go get a drink because if I forgot your name I'll be horrified & I'll need a drink. Then you can tell me something embarrassing you just did, or hit me with your pitch, & I'll tell you about the ridiculous thing I just did & I'll remember you because we drank & talked & shared our humiliations.

So, hey, make me feel better, huh? Share a social gaffe--a case of mistaken identity, a failure to remember a time/date/person, etc. Because I'm bound to be hip deep in humiliation at this point & I could use a good laugh.

p.s. I'm racing around the conference like a crazy girl, so I'll be scarce on the comments today but I promise I'll savor every word when I have two minutes to myself & reliable internet access!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Can You Keep An Eye On These Guys?

by Suzanne

As you know the annual Romance Writer's of America National Conference is taking place this week in New York City. I'm really excited to be going this year. It's only my second trip to New York. I get to see many of the Romance Bandits, some of our Bandit Buddies who hang out with us here, my critique partner Sandy Blair who no long lives near me, and this year I get to meet my editor, Jillian Bell, of Ellora's Cave Publishing. How cool is this?

This will be my second year there as a published author and my first as a PAN member. (That stands for Published Author's Network.) So I'll get to learn the secret handshake (Kate Carlisle PROMISED me there was one) and hear all the publishing news at special workshops, (do they have those at the bar?).

But while I'm gone I'm hoping y'all can give me a hand with something. See, I have these guys on my website who have a tendency to get a bit out of hand in a naughty, very sexy sort of way... Well, here, let me show you...
Quinn Halliday, the Dominant hero in my book, The Surrender of Lacy Morgan

Dakota O'Keefe, the second hero in The Surrender of Lacy Morgan

Will Danville, the hero of my second book, which is in the works right now

and soon to come
Ian Smith aka Ian Smythe, Lord Brookstone
Nicco DeCosta, the fiery Italian brother


Yeah, I do too! My friend, Kat Baldwin, 
did the designs and I'm proud to give her a shout out. You should see the backs.

Oh wait, I didn't tell you, did I? (Can you blame a girl for getting distracted by all this lovely maleness?)

These are the fronts of my new Romance Trading Cards!!! The backs are way cool and give you a feel for what these guys are all about. If you e-mail me @ and send me your snail mail addy, I'll happily send you a set! Or if you're at the conference this week, you might pick up a set at the goody room! Supplies will be limited...intentionally!! hehehe

Monday, June 27, 2011

The OTHER Men in My Life

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Yes, we all have them. In addition to friends, family, and significant others, we all have other important relationships in our lives. I'm talking about relationships with certain professionals... AHEM! Like your doctor, your plumber, or your mechanic! If you are very lucky, you find excellent people in these important professions and develop long-term relationships with these individuals.

I feel fortunate to have developed three such long-term relationships. One of them has been going on even longer than my relationship with the DH! Oh, and all three of them happen to be men. They are my dentist, my hairdresser, and my mechanic. They are the "other men" in my life and I couldn't get by without them.

Until a couple of years ago, my longest relationship with any man was with my dentist. I know, I know, everyone HATES going to the dentist, but that's because they didn't go to Ben. I don't exactly remember how I happened to start going to Ben's office. I think it was because he was in the same office complex as my son's orthodontist. Yes, it was THAT long ago... the mid 1980s.

Ben was a few years older than me, his middle daughter was the same age as my son, and his wife worked with him part-time as a hygienist. Ben and his office staff were friendly and did their jobs very well. I actually didn't mind going to the dentist because it was almost like going to see family members. They were always happy to see me and usually in good moods. Then, a couple of years ago, Ben did the unthinkable -- he retired and sold his practice! ACK!!! Yes, I even got invited to his retirement party because I'd been his patient for sooo long (my file was so old and thick that it was held together with duct tape). But I told him I was never going to forgive him for retiring on me! Never mind that *I* had retired from my day job first...

Now I go to the dentist who bought Ben's practice. I call him "Baby Dentist" because he is younger than my son. In fact he and ALL his staff look like they are fresh out of high school! Don't get me wrong, he is an excellent dentist and his staff are all quite nice, they just make me feel SO OLD!

My second oldest lasting relationship started in 1988 -- the year before I met my DH. My new BFF recommended I try her hairdresser. I did, and I've gone to Guy ever since! When we first met he was young, single and a big party-boy. I followed him to three different salons, through his marriage and the birth of his two kids, and a few years ago, his venture into opening his own business. He has been an enthusiastic beta-reader for all my manuscripts. Last year I helped him celebrate his son's acceptance to UCLA on a full athletic scholarship. Two weeks ago, we celebrated his daughter's graduation from high school.

Guy knows where more than a few of my skeletons are hidden and I know the same about him. Thank goodness he's a few years younger than me because after all this time I can't imagine anyone else cutting my hair! If he ever retires, I'll probably just start shaving my head.

I was actually introduced to the last "other man" in my life by my DH. No, this is not as kinky as it sounds! It was 1990 and I was filled with frustration over taking my car to the dealership to have it worked on. They were slow, I didn't trust them, and their 'customer service' was non-existent. The DH said, "Take it to my mechanic, Dwayne." So I did, and it was the start of a wonderful relationship!

Dwayne is as honest as the day is long. He will tell you how long something will take, how much it is going to cost, and he usually finishes earlier and cheaper. He will also tell you if something is not worth fixing (this happened more than once with my son's old clunkers). Also more than once, I've showed up at Dwayne's shop with my car on the tow truck's hook, five minutes before he was due to go home, and he stayed open, not just to get the car inside, but also to wait for the DH or my son to come pick me up! A true gentleman, he would never leave a lady stranded in an industrial strip mall, which is where his shop is located.

Dwayne is a few years older than me, and I live in fear that he will retire and leave me in the lurch! However, he is also one of those guys who is only happy when he is elbow deep under the hood of a car. To my knowledge, he has never taken a vacation. If he ever does retire, I may have to start using regional transit!

So now you know my secret... I have three OTHER men in my life who are all essential! I've known them all for decades and truly appreciate not only their professional expertise but their friendship.

Do you have some long-term relationships in your life, besides your family members or spouse? Please share who they are, what they do, and how you met them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Keepng Us in Suspense

by Nancy
Has anyone besides me noticed how few novels are appearing under the Romantic Suspense (RS) heading? The field seems to have become particularly tough for new authors. The last new RS series I saw launch was from an author already established in paranormal romance.

Yet Covert Affairs and Burn Notice, action/adventure suspense series with strong romantic elements, are thriving on USA Network. I've also noticed more suspense-y elements turning up in romances that say "contemporary" on the spine. Suspense has long been a staple in historical romance.

Those of you who've been here before know we banditas love our "boom" (Lair shorthand for action elements that may or may not involve explosives, for those of you who're new to us). We have authors here who write it well, Loucinda McGary, Jeanne Adams, Trish Milburn and Susan Sey (whose books say "contemporary" on the spine) have all published present-day, romantic, suspenseful books.

And I need to note here that Jeanne particularly loves her explosives.

Each of our historical authors also has suspense threads in at least some of her books, and many of us AYUs incorporate romantic suspense in our work to varying degrees. I know lots of us read it at least some of the time.

I've been on a bit of an RS binge lately. So I tossed out a question in the Lair--Is anyone besides me reading romantic suspense, and if so, can you tell us about an author you like? Even with the rush of preparing for National, several banditas took the time to send me author names and cover jpegs. Here are their responses:

From Anna Campbell:

I love a great romantic suspense. Classic authors like Mary Stewart gave me an enduring taste for the genre and among my keepers are a stack of Linda Howard’s romantic suspense novels. Recent discoveries include Pamela Clare and our own wonderful Jeanne Adams.

Just recently, I’ve become addicted to Cindy Gerard who was a guest at the Australian Romance Readers Convention this year. My fave so far is FEEL THE HEAT which is majorly sexy and features a couple of really strong, snarky, passionate lead characters in Rafe and BJ. Basically you can FEEL THE HEAT! LOL!

I think this genre is one of the hardest to write because you have to balance the suspense and the romance and Cindy does a wonderful job of that – not only that, but you get a wonderful secondary romance in this story too. If you haven’t read FTH, it’s well worth checking out!

From Trish Milburn:

I really think Annie Solomon does a fantastic job with romantic suspense. She has a real knack for writing gritty suspense and edgy characters. She's not afraid to take the reader to dark places but always has a satisfying love story amidst all the action and suspense. Other readers must agree because she's already won one RITA and is up for another this year with
Two Lethal Lies.

From Christine Wells:

Not being a hard-core suspense reader, I've only just discovered Lisa Gardner's The Perfect Husband and I'm now planning to glom her entire backlist.

I love the way she wrote the hero so authentically. The heroine is an ordinary woman who has been through hell and come out stronger. Plus, the writing is so sharp and vivid and I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. A sure sign of a keeper!

From Anna Sugden:

My ultimate fave is Karen Rose. The reason I love Karen Rose – her books are intricate and thought-provoking with complex characters and incredible twists. She takes you on a white-knuckled ride as you read her books, she tweaks all the emotional strings while challenging your brain and making your adrenaline pump too! The first book of hers I ever read was ‘Die For Me’ which someone had recommended because they knew I loved Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner.

Luckily, I was on a trans-Atlantic flight when I started reading because I could truly sit and read it cover to cover without stopping! I arrived at Nationals and at the Literacy signing went straight to meet Karen and get a signed book from her (yes, I did the whole fan-girl thing. Then I bought her entire back-list! I’m saving her latest “You Belong to Me” for an occasion when I can read it all in one go.

From Jo Robertson:

One of my favorite mystery series is Anne Perry's William Monk stories. I'm not sure they're romantic suspense, but they do follow William Monk and Hester Latterly's initial meeting (snarky, smart, and softly smouldering) through to their married life together. All the while, of course, they solve mysteries set in this incredibly realistic Victorian time period.

I discovered this series during my recovery after open heart surgery and I fully give Perry the credit for serious pain reduction! The series definitely should be read in order beginning with The Face of a Stranger, in which Monk suffers amnesia after an accident and discovers he doesn't much like the person he's coming to learn he was. (Note that there's a change in cover art between editions).

Me (Nancy) again:

I've finally caught up with Dee Davis's terrific A-TAC series, which features CIA operatives under cover as college professors. How could I not love that? The action is terrific, the emotion intense, and the plot gripping. The first book, Dark Deceptions, is a secret baby story--frequently not a favorite of mine, but I loved this one. There's a complete external plot in each book. However, the three have a shared arc of uncovering a traitor in A-TAC's ranks. There's an e-only novella due out next month.

Despite the demands of prepping for RWA National, Anna Sugden compiled a quick list of RS authors for this post. Here's the list:

Single Title
(not all of these authors always write RS)

Allison Brennan
Suz Brockmann
Debra Webb
Catherine Mann
Roxanne St Claire
Brenda Novak
Mariah Stewart
Cindy Gerard
Beverley Barton
Maggie Shayne
Anne Stuart

Intrigue/Series RS

Jess Andersen
Julie Miller
Debra Webb again
Rebecca York
Ann Voss Peterson,
Patricia Rosemoor
Kylie Brant
Cassie Miles
Justine Davis
Joanna Wayne
Cindy Dees
Merline Lovelace
BJ Daniels
Evelyn Vaughn

I'm traveling to RWA today and won't have the computer. I'll try to pop back in and answer comments. To get the ball rolling, tell us--Do you have a favorite romantic suspense author? How much suspense do you like with your romance--and vice-versa?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

From Deadline Hell to Conference Madness

by Kate Carlisle

I did it! I met my deadline for ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE, the next Bibliophile Mystery. Pretty good, considering that I’ve been working in the midst of a total kitchen remodel and my family visiting. When I reached the final sentence of the final scene, I paused, took a deep breath to savor the moment, and then slowly typed: T. H. E. E. N. D.

Moment savored, moment gone… and instant panic set in.

The Romance Writers of America conference is mere days away, and I have done nothing – nothing! – to prepare. I have nothing to wear. My nails have suffered the double mutilation of hammering away at the keyboard and of being gnawed at while I tried to work my way out of plotting quagmires. My scalp has little bald spots from me tearing out my hair, trying to get the book done in time.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. If you’re going to conference, promise me you won’t look for bald spots!

The truth is, I have a lot of work to do to get pretty enough for conference. Because you know that we all want to look good for each other. It doesn’t matter that 98% of the attendees are female. It’s soooo not about the men. We want to look fresh and relaxed so that when we reunite with friends we haven’t seen for a year, they’ll tell us how great we look, and we’ll be able to believe that they’re not just being polite.

(Yeah, I dream big.)

We also want to look professional so that when we see our editors and agents and other industry professionals, they will get the impression that we easily handle the stresses of this writing life. In the hopes, of course, that they’ll pile on more stresses by giving us more, bigger, and better contracts.

(I do actually dream big.)

Which means, of course, that I must go shopping. And I can’t rely on the internet this time. There’s no time to have clothes shipped to me, try them on, realize I ordered the wrong size, return them, and get a second outfit to try on in the comfort of my own home. No, I will have to brave the harsh light of the dressing room.

And don’t get me started on shoes. Ack.

I can’t possibly visit the clothing stores until I get a mani/pedi. Otherwise the sales clerks won’t take me seriously. Getting a manicure is an exercise in patience for me. It’s hard to sit still long enough for the polish to dry. Almost invariably, I end up with at least one ding. So I repair the ding by adding a glop of polish, which leaves a little raised bump on my nail that looks like I have some sort of medical condition.

If you’re going to conference, promise me you won’t look for deformities on my fingernails!

My hope is that all the panic and craziness I’m going through now will pay off in the end. That I’ll arrive at conference looking polished and chic precisely because I am worried about it now. Which means at conference, I’ll be able to relax and enjoy the experience without giving a second thought to how I look.

That is, perhaps, the biggest dream of all.

The RWA conference is part professional networking event, part high school reunion. When is the last time you attended a big conference or reunion? Did you stress about what to wear, how your hair looked, how your nails looked, whether your shoes were scuffed… ? When you look back on that event, what sticks out most strongly in your memory?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


by KJ Howe

Now, didn't that title grab you? Andrea Kane is our guest today, and her latest book THE GIRL WHO DISAPPEARED TWICE is a phenomenal read. To complete the book, Andrea did extensive research with the FBI. I thought this would make a fabulous post, so please welcome Andrea to the Lair.

Over the past several years, I’ve had the amazingly good fortune of working closely with the FBI. I’ve consulted with the Bureau’s Crimes Against Children Unit, the Asian Criminal Enterprise Task Force, the Crisis Negotiation Unit, the Behavioral Analysis Unit (a la “Criminal Minds”), members of various Evidence Response Teams (the Federal equivalent of “CSI”), the Art Crime Team, and more. I’ve visited several field offices and resident agencies (smaller, local offices), and I’ve toured FBI Headquarters in Washington DC. I’ve learned how to shoot a Glock, how to handle a hostage negotiation, and how to speak FBI (hundreds of acronyms!).

And then there’s Quantico. I’ve made more than one trip down there—I even did a book signing at the FBI Academy bookstore. It’s a world unto itself, with extensive training grounds, an impressive shooting range, and the legendary Hogan’s Alley—a man-made town that feels as real as your home town, except that it’s populated by FBI agents, new agents in training, and actors who are hired to bring simulated crime scenes to life.

Last Fall, I was asked by the Newark Field Office (they’re responsible for the entire state of New Jersey) to be their celebrity keynote speaker at an off-site conference with their entire staff. Making a speech in front of hundreds of the most brilliant and dedicated men and women I’ve ever had the honor of working with. Not too intimidating!

Besides being awesome pros, they’re also awesome hosts. I was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm, and the day was a blast! I made my speech, did a great book signing during which I got the chance to talk to and get to know many of the agents and support staff I had yet to meet—and to reconnect with those I’d already met—professionals who’d helped me inject the authenticity I needed to build my characters and to construct suspenseful storylines. On top of all that, the field office honored me with a beautiful plaque, thanking me for my contribution. I’ll treasure that plaque forever!

Bottom line-- The agents and support staff at the FBI are amazing at making themselves available to me. They also know that I’m a sticker for authenticity, as are they. So, before I convert any manuscript into a book, I have the experts who helped me read over all the pertinent sections they helped me create. I make whatever corrections they recommend. And I NEVER cross the line when it comes to situations that are delicate. I err on the side of “don’t release this” even though what I’m privy to is not classified.

Andrea Kane's groundbreaking romantic thriller, Run For Your Life, became an instant New York Times bestseller, paving the way for a series of smash hits.

Her most recent triumphs,
Twisted and Drawn in Blood, featured the dynamic FBI team of Special Agents Sloane Burbank and Derek Parker.

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice introduces Forensic Instincts, an eclectic team of maverick investigators. Despite their differences, they have one common bond— a blatant disregard for authority. Armed with skills and talents honed by years in the FBI and Special Forces, and with training in behavioral and forensic psychology, Forensic Instincts solves seemingly impossible cases while walking a fine line between assisting and enraging law enforcement.

With a worldwide following and novels published in over twenty languages, Kane is also the author of fourteen historical romances. She lives in New Jersey with her family, where she is plotting new ways for Forensic Instincts to challenge the status quo.

Andrea, thanks for joining us here today and sharing your adventures. Fascinating! If you'd like to meet Andrea, she'll be at ThrillerFest ( in July in NYC. For more information about Andrea and her books, visit

Man Makeover

By Donna MacMeans

I'm getty antsy. After a long, long wait, Redeeming the Rogue is set for release August 2nd. Please forgive me if I put the cover up again, but I thought I'd talk about one of the themes in the book:

Man Makeover!!!!

You know you want to do it (grin). Perhaps you took advantage of Father's Day earlier in the week to tactfully suggest that a little wardrobe sprucing is is order? Or politely suggested that your guy needs a more timely hairstyle via some gift certificates?

In REDEEMING THE ROGUE, Arianne Chambers is assigned the task of sprucing up a rogue who is more comfortable hanging with the thugs and crooks of London's underbelly than the drawing rooms of polite society. As Michael Rafferty is to masquerade as a British minister assigned to the legation in Washington DC, she has her work cut out for her.

First, there's the matter of his hair which is a bit long. Perfectly suitable for a rogue, I think, but not the thing for a diplomat.

Then she needs to address Rafferty's wardrobe, and make sure he has all the properly fitted clothes necessary for the various diplomatic affairs. In Victorian times there were rigid rules about whether a white waistcoat or black was appropriate for the occasion. Not so much now when just seeing a man in a suit is a bit of a rarity. (When it comes to a well-dressed guy, I immediately think of Cary Grant. Hence this photo from North-by-Northwest.)

Sometimes a man makeover requires more than sprucing up the exterior. Arianne had to make sure Rafferty's manners
shine as well. She needs to cover the proper use of the Victorian's extensive use of cutlery, and the proper way to introduce the various cultural hierarchies.

Her time to do all this is limited and her pupil not exactly enthused about the makeover. All he wants to do is hunt a killer that he suspects killed the previous British minister.

The first chapter of REDEEMING THE ROGUE is available here:

So my question to you. If you could makeover something about your man - or yourself for that matter. What would it be? For me -I'd like to put my dh in a really nice suit instead of golf shirts and khakis. As for me, I'd like to find a haircut that is perfect for straight, straight hair and a round round face. Then I'd like to engage a trainer and a cook that would force me to lose weight (grin).

Monica Burns was so kind as to give me a copy of PLEASURE ME last week to use as a blog prize, so I'm offering that to someone leaving a comment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quick Five - Top Travel/Packing Tips

by Anna Sugden

The summer holidays are upon us, or very nearly! For the romance writers among us, it's conference season. There's going to be a lot of travel happening over the next few months, starting for many RWA members this weekend as we descend on NY.

By the way, hope those of you in the NY area will pop along to the Literacy signing on Tuesday June 28th - it's open to the public and you'll get a chance to catch up with the Banditas and many of our guests, as well as over 500 favourite romance authors. It's all for a good cause too as the money raised from the sales of books will benefit literacy charities in the area.
Anyway, back to today's post ... I thought it would be a useful time to share hints and tips for packing and travelling. Even veteran travellers like myself are always keen to pick up useful ideas to make our trips easier!

So to start you all off, here are my 5 Top Tips:

1. Don't throw away those plastic dry cleaning covers - use them to cover dresses, skirts, shirts and/or trousers. This will keep them from getting too wrinkled and, if you pack them on the hanger, means you can go from case to wardrobe with ease.
2. Pad out your shoes with rolled up underwear, tights (pantyhose), swimsuits or socks. Keeps the shoes from crushing and it's a great way to save room in a tight suitcase.

3. Mix and Match - so many of us over-pack (holds up hand!). We take so many things that we never end up wearing. It's all very well saying to lay out what you're going to take and halve it, but we all know how well that works if you're an over-packer! To get round this, I try to take clothes that I can mix and match. That way you can take fewer of the bulky items like skirts and trousers and you know that you can wear any of your tops with those you do take.

4. Pack an extra flat kit/duffle/sports bag. It's often cheaper to pay for an extra bag than it is to pay overweight charges! Also, get flat rate boxes from the post office, which you can pack flat in your case. These can be much cheaper, especially for shipping books home, than paying the extra luggage charges.

5. Write down the emergency numbers for your credit cards on a slip of paper and store somewhere safe, but separate from your purse or wallet. If the worse come to the worst, and your purse or wallet is stolen, you'll have the emergency numbers to hand.

While we're on the subject - empty your purse or wallet of all the usual junk/cards etc and limit yourself to one or two general cards that you can use anywhere. Credit cards are better than cash/debit cards as they don't access your bank account. If you don't like credit cards, take travellers cheques - they're not just for travelling abroad!

And make sure you don't have your PIN numbers written down anywhere or stored in your cell phone, or that you're not carrying identifying info like your social security card. You'd be amazed how many people do!

For an extra tip - pack any essential medication in your hand luggage. If you need a prescription for your medication, it's worth taking an extra prescription from your doctor in case of emergencies. That way you can get to a pharmacy and get it filled, even if you're miles away from home. That's a good idea too if you need glasses - carry your prescription info around with you - you never know when you'll lose/break your glasses!

What are your Quick Five Travel and Packing tips?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jane Graves returns to the Lair!

interview with Suzanne
Jane Graves is the author of eighteen contemporary romance novels. She is a seven-time finalist for Romance Writers of America's Rita Award, the industry's highest honor, and is the recipient of two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Booksellers' Best Award, and the Golden Quill, among others. And I'm honored to call her my friend.

Suz: Welcome back to the Bandit Lair, Jane. Pull up a barstool and have a glass of wine while we catch up. It's been a while since you visited us here. What have you been up to?

Jane: Thanks for the wine, Suz. I'll have this glass of Cabernet while you sip your White Zinfandel. We do know each other well, don't we?

For personal reasons, I took a break from writing for a few years. Fortunately, when I was ready to get back in the game, my editor was very excited and wanted to buy more books. Black Ties and Lullabies will be out on June 28, and Heartstrings and Diamond Rings will hit the shelves on September 27.

Suz: Black Ties and Lullabies is your third Romantic Comedy for Grand Central Publishing and it's once again set in Plano, Texas. This time your hero is billionaire businessman, Jeremy Bridges. Many of your readers will remember meeting him in Hot Wheels and High Heels. How did he come to be the hero of this book?

Jane: I got more mail from readers wanting his story than any other character's I've ever written. He was actually somewhat of a villain in Hot Wheels, but there was a scene at the end of the book that hinted that there was more to the womanizing multimillionaire than met the eye, and I think that was what readers picked up on. I'm so happy they did, because I wanted very much to write his story.

Suz: I fell in love with your heroine of Black Ties and Lullabies, Bernadette Hogan, on page one. She is a very unusual heroine and has a unique relationship with Jeremy at the beginning of the book. I'll let you tell the Banditas and friends about "Bernie".

Jane: Bernadette Hogan is a bodyguard, ex-military, who never met a firearm she didn't like. It's rumored that she once killed a man with a Popsicle stick, but she insists that's absolutely untrue. It was a Q-Tip. She's been Jeremy's bodyguard for two years, and he aggravates her so much that if it weren't for the outrageous amount of money he pays her, she would have quit a long time ago. If you read chapter one at, you can get a sense of their rather unusual relationship.

Suz: Throughout this book, you had me chuckling frequently at both the internal thoughts of the characters and their dialogue with each other. Do you find it easy or hard to write the witty/snarky banter between the characters? Does internal dialogue come easy for you?

Jane: Writing snarky banter is second nature to me, because I'm a pretty snarky person. But in real life, even I have to draw the line somewhere. I can't always say what I think. But my characters can, and oh, man, is that ever fun. It's a blast to let them say things I couldn't say in real life without getting slapped silly or arrested.

Suz: Since we're on the subject of writing, you have a rather unique approach on writing a book. I know of only one other writer who does the same process as you. Care to let everyone in on the Jane Graves way to write a romance novel?

Jane: Okay, but I feel obligated to issue a disclaimer up front. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME. It'll make you certifiably crazy.

I begin writing a book by tossing down a whole bunch of dialogue, bits of scenes, exposition, whatever, that I can see possibly being part of the book somewhere in the 400 or so pages I'll eventually end up with. Then I expand on those pieces at random until the characters start talking and the story comes to life. Then I try to zero in on page one, because I can't sell the book until I can get proposal chapters written. Or if I've already sold the book, I can't get paid for the proposal until those chapters are done. I like to get paid. But getting three consecutive chapters down in the very beginning? It just about kills me. Fortunately, the more I get to know the characters, the easier the writing becomes. Still, when I finally write The End, I invariably have at least fifty pages of excess stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor.

I hear other writers say they see the story in their head and just write it down. Consecutively. One chapter after another. I'm so jealous of people who can do that. It would make my life SO much easier. Then some of them go on to say that one of the reasons they can write so many books is that they type fast. Well, I type over 100 words per minute, but when I spend an hour working on a three-sentence paragraph until my eyeballs bleed, typing speed doesn't really come into play.

I've been told many, many times that my writing seems smooth and effortless. That's hilarious. If those people had any idea of how much I consider every freakin' word that goes onto the page, they'd think twice about saying that. I'm actually not a very good writer. What I am is a pretty good rewriter. I just have the persistence to hit it over and over and over again until I get it right.

Suz: (Boy just hearing about that process exhausts me!) The next book in your future is Heartstrings and Diamond Rings. Can we have a little peek into that story?

Jane: The heroine is Alison Carter, Heather Montgomery's best friend from Tall Tales and Wedding Veils. In that book, Alison's dating disasters were well documented. In her own story, she's still determined to find her Mr. Right, but she's losing confidence in her own ability to find him. So she hires a matchmaker. But when it turns out that the matchmaker isn't the kindly old lady she expects but her sexy young grandson, the fun begins. Heartstrings and Diamond Rings will hit the shelves on September 27.

Oh-I also want to let everyone know about a promotion my publisher is running for the month of June. They're discounting the price of the e-book versions of Hot Wheels and High Heels and Tall Tales and Wedding Veils to only $1.99! That's 75% off the cover price, so if you haven't read those books yet, I hope you'll consider picking them up! Check out the deal at

And now a question for you. The original cover of Black Ties and Lullabies (the blue one shown here) was much more cartoonish in nature, a follow up to my two previous covers that were the same style. Then my publisher decided to go with a different look. They did a photo shoot and came up with the cover with the red dress.

Which one do you like better, and why? Also, there are a whole bunch of covers these days with headless characters. How do you feel about that? If you see hero's and heroine's faces on the cover, does it screw up your ability to imagine them for yourself? Personally, I feel a little sorry for the models-I wonder if their contracts include the fact that they're going to be decapitated?

Those who comment will be eligible to win one of two copies I'm giving away. I have two sets of advance reading copies-one set for each cover-so the winners can specify which cover they'd like on the autographed copy I send!