Wednesday, August 31, 2011

LAUNCH PARTY!!!! WOOT! T-minus 6 days..5..

by Jeanne Adams

WOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!
<It's LAUNCH DAY for DEADLY LITTLE LIES!!!

And yes, I AM shouting. Grins. I'm going to apologize right up front for shouting and happy dancing, and being just a liiiittttle bit immodest.

This would be the reason: Deadly Little Lies was the book that almost wasn't. It was written during one of the darker periods in my life as my father's health was failing, and I had a difficult time getting it completed.

(BTW, Thank you again, to all the Banditas and BB's who helped me through all that. Ya'll quite simply rock!)

Of course, once I got it done, I had to edit all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth out of it before I turned it in. There was a LOT of that. I mean, a LOT.

And, ya'know, heroes in modern stories just shouldn't gnash their teeth. Really. Bad for their teeth, right? Grins. And my hero, Davros, called Dav, my dashing Greek shipping magnate, has beautiful teeth. I couldn't endanger those pearly whites!
Then in edits, I had to be sure I had the timeline straight (Oy!) and, when I made Dav, and Carrie, the heroine, go down some dark, spooky and very forgotten tunnels, I had to be sure I brought them back out the SAME WAY. (EEK!)

I actually had to make a map of the tunnels so that I was sure I had done it right. Good thing I like to draw because MAN was that complicated! Yikes!

For those of you who write, I know you feel my pain, right? Right? Please say you do, and if you don't lie, and make me feel better, okay?

For those readers who aren't also writers, this is how it goes sometimes. You feel like you're pulling the book out of your imagination a struggling word at a time. Ex-haust-ing.

Then you turn it in. And you wait. And you get nervous. And you decide it's the absolute worst book you ever wrote and you're going to die of mortification when it comes out and bombs and....and...and....

My only comfort was the memory of hearing La Nora (Roberts) say that sometimes, in the middle of the book, she'll call a friend and complain that she's never written such terrible schlock in her life, and it's the worst pile of (expletive deleted) she's ever seen.

Yeah, but she's La Nora, my errant thoughts would remind me. So I would resume my pacing.

Insomnia.

Nervous Wreck.

I considered taking up serious drinking as a contact sport.

Grins. But I really like to drink to CELEBRATE, so.....

Much to my (immense) delight, and relief, DEADLY LITTLE LIES received a TOP PICK from Romantic Times Magazine. The reviewer wrote:

"Non -stop action and heart-stopping danger make this book unputdownable!"

Now, I don't know about you, but unputdownable sounds pretty darn good. I don't know if it's a real word, but I don't care. Now you can understand my relief. Other reviewers have said they stayed up late to finish it in one gulp.

WHEW!!! Thank heavens.

But my insomnia had actually started early on, in the production stage, after the "get the timeline straight" call from my editor. Did you know that authors do cover quotes? I'm sure you read those. At least all of us newer authors HOPE you read them. If you don't read them, please don't tell me.

If you do....what do you think of them? Do you ever take a look at a book based on the cover quote?

Oh, and to give you further insight into my insecurity, you realize that those much-more-famous-than-me authors actually have to read the book, ahead of time, and quote on it?

As I approached that stage, I was all but ready to throw in the writing towel. I was sure my colleagues would laugh...or worse, pity my poor efforts. I was a flat, wrung out mess.

One of my all-time favorite NYTimes Bestselling authors, Dianna Love, is going to here in the Lair in a week or so. She's written innumerable fabulous books, both on her own and with Sherrilyn Kenyon. One of my all-time favorites of hers is Blood Trinity, the first in the Belador Series.

So you can imagine that I nearly keeled over and died when she gave me a quote for the cover of Deadly Little Lies, calling it: "...an edge of your seat read."

(That's Dianna in one of her fabulous Blood Trinity t-shirts, with a fan)

Oh, lawdy, where's my celebratory cocktail? Really, really, relieved. Grateful, and relieved. You see, I had the worst time re-reading this book for edits. Terrible. Usually I sail through all of that. Not. This. Time. So I had to send this book to my colleagues before I gave it a last edit.

HORRORS!!!!

So, imagine my even greater surprise when the 2011 RWA Lifetime Achievement Winner, the inestimable Sharon Sala offered to give me a quote. I felt like both the book and I were a hot mess, but Sharon said I was worried about nothing. She said there was "...sizzle on every page."

SO, now, more than with any other book, I'm in the mood to really celebrate a LAUNCH DAY!!!

Sven! Bring the special Hurricane Earthquake Punch!!!
(Hey, we have to also celebrate the fact that the power stayed on in the Lair, in the Writing Caves, and at my house because several of us have Sept. 1 deadlines! And no earthquake damage!)

Paolo!! Bring the hors d'oeuvres! We need sustenance for our Launch Partying.

Demetrius!! Bring the torches! Someone needs to light up these caves....which leads me to giving you a little excerpt. Grins. Dav, the hero, is claustrophobic. His enemy had locked him, and his lady-love in an underground cell. They have to figure a way out....they find a door and...

Dav took a deep breath and started into the tunnel. The light wobbled, then steadied and he could feel the warmth of Carrie's presence at his back. Two steps in, she wrapped her fingers in the loop of his belt. Somehow, the contact was reassuring, bracing. The palpable connection made the dark less horrifying.

Much later, they're both despairing....

"I want to keep going, she insisted. What if there's a way out, just beyond this?" She stopped suddenly and he heard her draw in a shaky breath. "Oh, my God, Dav, what if it's a dead end?"

"Carrie," he kept his voice firm in the face of her rising panic. "I will not allow you to die. I have told you this, yes?" We will find a way out. Now, come and sit down, rest. You can tell me your secrets and I will tell you mine."

In spite of his own fears, Dav makes sure Carrie feels safe. He's really a wonderful hero, without being "too perfect to live" like some heroes are. He gets hurt, bruised, banged up, has a panic attack about being underground (his father used to lock him up as punishment - something to panic about!), and yet, he keeps himself level for her sake. He's kind of like a 21st Century, Greek Indiana Jones in a way.

Although, he's really more Thomas Crown than a McGyver type, but he's smart and he can figure it out.

Carrie on the other hand, is more like McGyver. She's the one with the pocket knife that has 27 tools. She's the one who figures out an alternative exit.

She's more like Annie Walker on Covert Affairs, without being a spy. Or maybe a bit more like the Julia Roberts character, Maggie Carpenter, in Runaway Bride, she is capable, competent, and mechanically inclined, but she's got some scars that keep her wary.

If you read DEADLY LITTLE SECRETS last year, you'll have already met both Davros "Dav" Gianakopulos and Carrie McCray. I hope you liked them and will want to read their story in DEADLY LITTLE LIES.

In my regular form and fashion, things blow up. There's a fairly high body count. Grins. Oh, and did I mention a LOT of twists and turns?


This would be why you need the torches. Ha!

So, grab a flashlight, pen light, mag light or torch, get a Bloody Mary, or a Margarita, or a glass of milk and some of Sven's famous chocolate chip cookies (He stole the recipe from Joanie T - YUM!!!!), and grab a chair and start reading.

Then....riddle me this, spelunkers....

Are you more like Bond or McGyver? Annie Walker (Covert Affairs) or Maggie Carpenter (Runaway Bride)?

What about your Significant Other? Or if you don't have one at the moment, which type do you prefer? The polished, lethal weapon-type like Bond, or the rougher-hewn, all-purpose, get-you-out-of-any-jam like McGyver?

Or in more recent vernacular, are you more like Michael Weston (plan it, execute it) from Burn Notice, or Hank (use what's at hand, make it work) from Royal Pains? And which do you prefer?

Don't even get me started on Neil, the guy from White Collar.....whew!!!

Let's get this party STARRRRRRRTED!!!! Music! Lights!!! Cookies!!! Drinks!!!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do Judge a Book!



by Jo Robertson




Many of my friends say that the book's cover is what draws them to it in the first place. They prefer bright, rich colors and have definite tastes about what's included on the front: hate headless torsoes, love bare chests, hate "busy" or "dull" covers, love glossies or pastels and sexy step backs.

Sometimes they claim they'll buy a book because the cover is so engaging, so brilliant and beautiful, they havc to own it! I've always been a pragmatic gal and think I can have my cake and eat it too. So while I enjoy a striking cover, I've got to be engaged with the first three pages to purchase a book. Okay, sometimes just one!



The cover of my debut novel THE WATCHER (see above) screams darkness, dangerous, and doom, which is exactly what I intended. But I wanted my second book THE AVENGER, also a romantic thriller, to have a sexy hunk on the front. Doesn't the cover shriek alpha male? I confess I'm in love with this guy. I want to take him home and hide him in my room! This book has lots more romance in it.



Be sure to look for it mid-September at Amazon and Smashwords!




Readers often are as rabid about the title of a book as they are by the cover. An unfortunate cover or title, one that may raise snickers upon first glance, could be the mark of death for a book.


Green Eggs and Ham is a title that's iffy. Seriously? Green eggs?


But it's a quirky children's book, so it doesn't make you want to throw up.


Here are some other unusual or outrageous titles I've seen:


1. REUSING OLD GRAVES: Now this book is out of print so I can't really determine how one goes about reusing a grave. Any ideas? However, in used bookstores it's commanding a hefty price.


2. HOW TO WRITE HOW TO WRITE: Catchy enough. There are a lot of books about writing and the writing process, but this one gives a twist.



3. SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS: For some reason this title makes me giggle. Of course, it's a children's book, and I like the play on words.



4. THE MADAME A ENTREPRENEUR: CAREER MANAGEMENT IN HOUSE PROSTITUTION: This one made me laugh too, but for another reason entirely. It was published in 1979 and I have to wonder how many states had legalized prostitution back in the day and what kind of sales the book generated. Gotta love capitalism!



What about you, readers? What favorite, interesting or unusual titles have you encountered? Do you buy a book based on the cover or the title? Which influences you most in your purchases -- the title or the cover?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Great Minnesota Get Together

by Susan Sey

There are a lot of reasons I love my adopted home state of Minnesota but one of the biggest is the state fair.

We have the world's best state fair. Nothing against your state fair, I'm sure it's lovely. But the MN state fair just makes me happy. It's about five miles from my house, first of all, but there's a free park & ride less than a mile away that runs every fifteen minutes from 8 a.m. until midnight so we bike over there. I'm all about letting Metro Transit do the heavy lifting when it comes to fair traffic and parking.

Then there's the 4H building. I was never in 4H as a kid but I love their projects. (Who knew wool was so versatile? And the seed art!) Plus they put on an adorable little musical every year that usually involves pirates. I don't know what pirates have to do with 4H but I'm in favor.

I also love the competitions. Checking out the blue ribbon cakes, the home-made honey, the preserves & knitted goods. I always thing to myself, "Next year I'm going to enter my cookies," but I never do. I'm an happy amateur.

Then there's the food. Everything you ever wanted to eat (and then some.) On a stick, too. Even foods you didn't think could go on a stick. A few years back the they put mac & cheese on a stick. (This girl's verdict? Meh.) Last year the big deal was chocolate dipped bacon on a stick. (Again, better in theory than in practice.)

This year the big talkers are sweet corn ice cream (yes please) and breakfast on a stick. This consists of a sausage patty dipped in cornmeal waffle batter deep fried & drizzled with maple syrup. Three words: Sign. Me. Up.

Then there's my favorite part. The Milk Run. Sponsored by the Minnesota Dairy Farmers, it's a 5k race the opening weekend of the fair, starting & ending on the fairgrounds. For the price of the race you get a t-shirt, an admission ticket to the fair, some free dairy goods (last year it was yogurt), a ticket to the all-you-can-drink milk booth and a free milkshake. Plus it starts at 7:45 a.m. so you're done at like 8:30. You're a little sweaty but you're at the fair. You'd get sweaty without the 5k. Time to cash in that milk shake ticket & get your fair on while the fair grounds are cool & uncrowded.

That, by the way, is where I am today. The Milk Run kicked off at 7:45 & this year my 8 year old is running it with me. The rest of the family is joining us at the finish line & we're hitting the 4H booth. But not before I check out that breakfast on a stick thing. I'll report back.

How about you? Do you enjoy the fair season? What's your favorite treat on a stick?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

WHAT IF?

by Suzanne

Okay, those new to the blog may not know this, but I'm a big baseball fan. Yep, Love me some boys of summer!

Now given my love of western historical romances, you'd probably think my favorite team would be the hometown Texas Rangers. Uhm, I do root for them to win as long as they aren't playing my favorite team, The Cleveland Indians. That's right, I'm a fan of the Tribe! We pay to watch 162 Cleveland games every year on TV. Through good years and bad, we root for our Indians.

Now this past spring's scouting report wasn't very good. To we Indians fans it was dire. Hubby came into my office the week before the start of the season and said, "Suz, the Tribe is going to suck so bad this year they're not even expected to win 9 games."

Sigh. Such a pesimistic fair-weather-fan is my other half! I looked him straight in the eye and said, "I don't think they're as bad as that. In fact, I think the pundits are wrong. The Indians are going to surprise everyone."

So April 1st and the start of the baseball season comes along. The Tribe not only lost their first 2 games, they lived down to the expectations of all the sports writers and my dear hubby. They got killed!

But then something happened. The players said to each other, "What if we don't listen to everyone else and start listening to ourselves? What if we play ball like we love it? What if Masterson and Tomlin and Carrasco start pitching really well? What if Asdrubal Cabrerra starts making fabulous plays and hitting at will? What if Hanahan makes remarkable catches at third? What if Travis Hafner stays healthy for most of the season? What if Carlos Santana and Hafner have walk-off-grand-slams to win games? What if even in the bottom of the ninth we believe we can win?

What if the fans believe? What if the players believe?

Funny thing started to happen. My boys of summer started winning. Slowly rising to the top of the American League Central.

Well, the pundits had something to say about that. "They'll never be that far up come May." Then in May, the Indians managed to stay in the AL Central lead.

Pundits: "They'll never last through June. They just don't have what it takes."

Tribe: Continued to win, stayed atop the AL Central. Yes, the Tigers were closing in, but the boys from Cleveland were hanging tough, finding ways to win. Sometimes with starting pitching, sometimes with relief pitching from the bullpen, sometimes with great defensive plays, sometimes with great hitting.

Now it's August. Where is my Tribe? Well, we're not in first anymore. We're in second with a six game deficit between us and those pesky Tigers. With only 30 some games left, the possibility of catching up is there, but the probability is slipping from our grasp with every loss by us and win by them.

I pray they make it. I pray we can have an October of playoff baseball for these guys. They've played hard all year. They haven't given up. What if they get one final surge and make it to the playoffs?

If they don't, I can tell you they've certainly had a season of "what if ?" that no one ever expected them to have.

That's the fun part of "what if?". It's not expected. There are no expectations and more importantly, no limitations.

What if I hadn't met my husband? Would I have the kids I have or the grandbabies? Would I ever have ended up in Texas? Would I have met the writing friends who have helped me become a better writer and a published one? Would I have finaled in the GH? Would I have met the Banditas? Would I have met you, our readers?

As a writer, I love the possibility of "what if?". The freedom it gives me and my characters.

Here's some "what if?" 's:

What if an undercover FBI agent needs medical help for a material witness but can't go to a traditional ER and risk the dirty cops finding them? What if he kidnaps a nurse out of a dark parking lot? What if she fights helping him until she realizes the wounded witness is a child? What if that child is the same age her dead daughter would've been?

*Yeah, I thought that was good, too!* That's the premise of KIDNAPPED, my RS that finaled in the GH Long Contemporary category.

What if a small town sheriff finds a wanna-be private investigator digging through the local town's dumpster and she stimulates more than his curiosity? What if they find a mysterious murderer living in his town? What if she is the only one who can save him in the end? That is the second book in a small town series I've written, CLOSE TO HOME.

What if a young woman is hiding from the law and the outlaw gang she helped rob a bank? What if two U.S. Marshals ride into town and discover not only her identity, but that she is unaware of her own sexual submissive side? What if they use that to gain information about the gang's whereabouts? What if she's attracted to both marshals? Yep, the plot to THE SURRENDER OF LACY MORGAN.

What if a woman witnesses the murder of a U.S. Senator? What if she needs to get out of town and decides to take up the offer to be a mail-order bride? What if the man she marries is distrustful of women keeping secrets, but needs her help to care for his young daughter? What if she falls in love with him? Yep, that's the plot to my book, CANTRELL'S BRIDE, (formerly known as REFUGE), recently sold to Ellora's Cave Blush Line!


So I think "What if?" is a very powerful idea. How about you? Have you ever had significant "What if?" moments? As a writer, do you ever have "What if?" beginnings to your books?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Aloha -- An Earthquake Tale

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

When an earthquake rattled the East Coast this week, it made me think about my own experiences with having "the earth move." The DH and I are native Californians who have never lived anywhere but the Golden State. Given California's reputation with regard to earthquakes, the two of us have lots of stories to tell about quakes, right?

Wrong.

DH has never been in a major earthquake, and the only one I was ever in happened when I was six-months-old (which hardly counts). In fact, these two old Californians had to go all the way to Hawaii to experience an earthquake first hand!

We are very lucky because we live where it is easy to find inexpensive deals to Hawaii. Such was the case one recent October when a travel agency we've often used offered a five day trip to Honolulu, and we decided to go for it. Our high rise hotel was in a GREAT location, across the street from the Honolulu Zoo and half a block from the beach. The views from our ninth story room were wonderful -- we could see all the way to Diamond Head.

Sunday morning at 7 a.m. I was awakened from a sound sleep by the bed shaking. Thinking the DH had returned from his morning swim and was playing a game of 'let's wake up the slug', I rolled over ready to yell at him but NO DH. Instead, I heard a very loud roar, while the bed and the room both started to sway!

I may have never been in an earthquake before but I KNEW what was happening. I threw some clothes on over my pajamas while the room continued to sway. Then I grabbed my umbrella (Did I mention it was pouring rain?) and RAN down all nine flights of stairs to the lobby!

I had a friend who was trapped in an elevator for four hours during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 so there was NO WAY I was getting in an elevator, though that stairwell was pretty icky. I'm just glad we weren't on the eighteenth floor.

When I reached the lobby, huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive, I saw a lot of bleary-eyed people milling about. An emergency generator was already set up to run one elevator and some lights. Staff also had turned on a battery powered radio and I listened anxiously for about ten minutes for news of death, destruction, and... a tsunami!

All I heard was that one power grid had gone down and in doing so, had triggered overloads on all the power grids so electricity was out all over the island. Also, that the quake had been centered off the Big Island, not Oahu. And NO tsunami.

I couldn't quite believe that last part, and worse -- DH was still out there SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN! I walked out to the front sidewalk and peered through the sheets of rain. Finally, I decided if he didn't show up in five more minutes, I'd go looking for him. Two minutes later he walked up, towel around his shoulders, dripping wet. He headed straight for the elevator and couldn't understand why all those people were standing around in the lobby. When I mentioned THE EARTHQUAKE, he gave me a blank stare.

He hadn't felt a thing!

Luckily the only consequence of the earthquake turned out to be no power in Honolulu for thirteen hours. Inconvenient, yes. No cooked food, no air conditioning, no running water above the third floor... But in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that bad! We spent most of the day sitting on the lanai of the Hawaiian Princess hotel, which was right on the beach and had a lovely breeze.

I give the highest kudos to the Honolulu police, who were out directing traffic within 30 minutes of the quake knocking out the power. Officers were stationed at every traffic light down the length of Waikiki, and they stayed until the power came back on at 8 P.M. As the electricity was restored to each high rise hotel along Waikiki, a cheer went up from the patrons inside. Ours was no exception.

By the time we flew home on Tuesday morning, everything on Oahu (the airport, the roadways, the tourist attractions) was running as smoothly as it had been before the quake hit.

So there you have my earthquake tale, now it's your turn: Did you feel the quake this week? Have you been in another earthquake? If not, do you have a 'wild weather' experience you can share?

Friday, August 26, 2011

From The Big Easy to Big Bird

by Nancy

This blog might also be called "What I Did on My Summer Vacation." Who else had to write that at some point--show of hands? Yep, I thought so. I hated those essays, maybe because going to the beach with my family for a week or visiting my cousins didn't sound very interesting. After all, we did both of those every year, with nothing unusual or noteworthy ever happening.

This year, I started my summer with a first (and only) for me, by going to college orientation with the boy. He chose a school in the Deep South, so we detoured by New Orleans, the Big Easy part of this blog's title, and the French Quarter. It was hot and muggy. (To which you probably responded, "Well, duh!" or words to that effect.)

I'd been there in the summer, just not in a very long time. I had forgotten how muggy it can be, but I remembered quickly as we roamed the French Quarter during our very short visit. The shop pictured above made me think of several banditas and buddies, though it's not the sort of thing I usually think of when someone mentions the French Quarter.

Did you know there's really no place in the French Quarter to just sit down, aside from bars? There're some benches outside the cathedral in Jackson Square, but those benches are metal. This was June. Did I mention it was hot? We all know what happens to metal out in the sun, right? Sitting on those benches was like sitting on a cookie sheet fresh from the oven.

There were some shaded benches in the actual square, but those were occupied by people who didn't appear to live anywhere else and might've been prone to forms of social interaction we don't really favor. Good thing the cathedral is not only open to the public but air conditioned!

Pictured below is another shop that made me think of banditas and buddies. I longed to poke around in there, even though I figured most of the merchandise was out of my price range and even if I found anything affordable, getting it back on a plane seemed unlikely.



The next month, we took our official family vacation. We did something we've never done before. We treated Atlanta (aka The Big Peach. Yes. Really.) like a tourist destination. The dh, the boy and I have often been to Atlanta for specific things. We've gone to Dragon*Con, Moonlight and Magnolias or other conferences, I've gone to GRW meetings, and we've visited friends. But we've never seen the sights. So this year, we did.

We started our official vacation with a Saturday evening at the Shakespeare Tavern, where we saw a hilarious play within a play about three guys trying to perform The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. It was the boy's idea, and we all enjoyed it. We also had our dinner there. The place is, after all, a tavern, even if it is the headquarters of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

The next day, we checked out the Georgia Aquarium, something we'd been wanting to see for years. DragonCon has a special evening there during the con, but we never seemed to make it. I may try to this year. There are two huge, beautiful tanks of fish from different oceans, and there's a passage underneath and through one big tank. It's just gorgeous and offers a fabulous view of the various fish. I don't think I'd ever seen a whale shark before. Those babies are BIG. And they really don't look all that shark-like.

The highlight of the visit for us was Dolphin Tales, which just opened in April. It was great though it could've done with less hokey narrative and more dolphin action. I assume the hokey narrative and effects are supposed to keep little kids interested, but judging by the squeals of delight from them and the gasps from everyone else every time a dolphin jumped out of the water, I think the dolphins could carry the day on their own.

I've seen dolphins in the wild, in Roanoke Sound. We took a half-day trip a few years back with some marine biologists and got lucky. The dolphins were all around the boat, diving under it, swimming by it. I've also seen them in the water from afar.

But I've never seen them up close in a way that gave me a really good look, maybe because they're incredibly fast, and the wild dolphins showed little interest in interaction.

The waiting area for the aquarium show is beside a big tank occupied by the day's non-performing dolphins. As they swim by the glass, visitors can see them clearly. It's easier, at least for me, to appreciate both their size and their grace when I see them that way. They're a lot bigger than I'd realized. Watching them in the water was pure delight.

Monday, we went to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. They have a huge dinosaur skeleton in their rotunda. I took three photos of it to get it all in. Couldn't step far enough back in their rotunda to get the whole thing in one shot.





By happy coincidence, they were hosting an exhibit we saw and loved in New York years ago, one about mythic creatures. We spent more time in there than anywhere else in the museum. My favorites were the dragon at the front of the exhibit, the unicorn, and Pegasus. Unfortunately, I managed to cut the dragon's nose off in the photo, but we have the unicorn and Pegasus and a griffin here, along with the dinosaurs from the museum's entrance.
















Tuesday, we checked out the High Museum in downtown, and the Center for Puppetry Arts. The Center for Puppetry Arts has a number of Jim Henson's puppets and a big display for Labyrinth. Henson and Kermit cut the ribbon to open the center, and a Jim Henson wing will open in 2014. A lifesize Big Bird stands in a case outside the Henson display. I would've taken a photo, but it's a no-photography zone.

The center also showcases the history of puppets and different forms of puppets from around the world. The shop sold finger puppets of famous artists, writers, and public figures. One of those is in today's prize package.

The High Museum has a nice collection of works from various periods, including some Frank Lloyd Wright furniture. They also have one of Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings. It's similar in style to the later ones, but the lines don't flow as they did in her better known works.

We came home for a few days, saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 as a family (fitting since we've seen all of the HP films a a threesome), and then visited the boy's cousins in Raleigh overnight.

As you read this, the dh and I are once again somewhere in the Deep South, carting the boy's belongings toward his college. He's already there, but we have the bulk of his stuff. We'll take him to dinner tonight, move his things into the dorm tomorrow, and then hit the road for home on Sunday. Meanwhile, our house sitter is in charge of the dog. Or should be. The dog may have other ideas since she tends to regard humans as servants in need of constant training.

At one point during the boy's orientation earlier in the summer, I was standing on the balcony of the student center and saw him below me. A girl from his high school came up to him and hugged him, and then a girl we'd met that morning joined them.

Watching the three of them talk, I got a bit of a heart punch from the realization that this was his world now, that he'd be spending more time in this place over the next several years than under our roof. It's going to take a bit of getting used to.

So this vacation will end very differently from those of the last 18 years. The dh and I will come home to an empty nest. It's going to feel very strange. So will going to Dragon*Con without either of my guys. I've gotten used to having them there with me, but the schedule doesn't fit for the boy, and the dh will be stacked up with work because his classes start earlier than the boy's. We're squeezing the property delivery in between the dh's Thursday and Tuesday classes.

Dragon*Con will officially end my summer, and we'll try to recapture what life used to be like, long ago (or so it seems) when we were just two.

Of course, I close a summer vacation blog without a food reference. My favorite parts of summer meals are fresh peaches and fresh tomatoes. On the way back from Atlanta, we stopped and bought South Carolina peaches, which were great. Eating them reminds me of my childhood and my dad's frozen peaches.

Our tomato plants died, so I haven't had fresh tomato sandwiches as often as I'd have liked, but there's been a lot of watermelon, corn, and cantaloupe on our summer table. I hope you've been able to enjoy the foods of summer.

I have a goody package for one commenter today. It includes a Jane Austen finger puppet, the last of my freebie books from National, and a jazz hot mat. They come with a pretty New Orleans totebag I found on Royal Street in the French Quarter.


Did you ever have to write essays about your summer vacation? How did you feel about them? What's the best summer vacation you ever had, and who was with you? What's your favorite summer food?


Thursday, August 25, 2011

HOW TO SEDUCE A BILLIONAIRE Launch Party!

By Kate

Just when you thought it was safe to venture back into the Lair for a quiet afternoon of meditation …

IT’S PARTY TIME!!!

That’s right! Welcome to the official launch party for my latest release from Harlequin Desire, HOW TO SEDUCE A BILLIONAIRE! This is the third book in my Duke Brothers trilogy and I’m so excited to celebrate its publication this month.

The story takes place in the beautiful Napa Valley wine country, so that's where the party is! Please step right out onto the wide terrace and check out the sweeping view of the Valley and its rolling hills covered in grapevines. As a special party treat, along with our fabulous selection of fine wines and champagne, we’re serving Millionaire Mojitos! We’ve also got a delicious array of Trillionaire Tapas served with exuberance and charm by our Billionaire Bandita Cabana Boys.

So help yourself to a drinkie and some luscious hors d’oeuvres while you peruse the back cover blurb:

The first step…mix business with pleasure

New hairdo? Make-up? A dress? Where did his efficient secretary go? Because the woman in front of Brandon Duke is not the Kelly Meredith who left on vacation two weeks ago. He is shocked—and curiously enchanted—by her transformation.

She says this makeover is all part of her plan…to become more seductive. And this billionaire is just the man to give his suddenly sultry assistant a few lessons in love. He’ll go slow, savor every moment and then say good-bye—as long as he can remember just who is seducing who!

And here’s a short, PG-13 rated excerpt that takes place after a confrontation in the hotel lobby:

“Who’s the ice queen?” Brandon asked as they strolled back to the office together.

Kelly frowned. “I just assumed she was his assistant, but she was awfully pushy, wasn’t she?”

He glanced at her sideways. “Yeah, kind of like you.”

“I’m not pushy,” she said in mock outrage.

“Yeah you are,” he said as he led her into their office suite and closed and locked the door.

“Well, I guess I can be pushy once in a while, but I’m nothing like—”

Without warning, he spun her around. She let out a tiny shriek as he urged her back against the wall.

“Just look at the way you push me around,” Brandon said. “The way you force me to do this ...” He lowered his head and began to nibble her neck. Kelly felt the electric sensation all the way down to her toes. “And this ...” Brandon used both hands to flip her short jacket off her shoulders, trapping her arms behind her and causing her breasts to be thrust forward.

“But ... oh, yes.”

“So damn pushy.” He held her jacket with one hand while he slid his other hand under her thin sweater until he reached her breasts.

“Brandon,” she whispered, then moaned when he swiftly maneuvered her bra out of the way and used his fingers to tease and excite her nipples. But through the thick haze of pleasure, she remembered something important and grabbed his hand. “Brandon, wait. We weren’t going to do this anymore. We should stop. We should ...”

“We’ll stop after this, I swear,” he muttered, pulling her sweater up and off. “But I can’t wait any longer. I’ve got to have you now.”

“Yes, please,” she said, straining to remove her jacket as he bent to lick her breasts. “Hurry.”

“Pushy,” he murmured again as he kissed and nibbled his way back and forth between her breasts.

“Oh, shut up and kiss me,” she grumbled as she reached up and whipped his jacket off.

His laugh was deep and full. “I do love a pushy woman.”



I’m thrilled that RT Book Reviews gave HOW TO SEDUCE A BILLIONAIRE 4-1/2 stars, saying “Laugh-out-loud funny in spots and a consistently entertaining read, the unexpected romance of Brandon Duke and Kelly Meredith will give readers a wholly warm and joyful feeling.”

Now, I don’t mean to be pushy, but to celebrate my book launch, I’m giving away a signed copy of the first two books in the Duke Brothers trilogy, THE MILLIONAIRE MEETS HIS MATCH and SWEET SURRENDER, BABY SURPRISE, to one random commenter today.

So ... which do you prefer? The dark, tormented hero or the one who can laugh out loud? Sweet heroines or pushy ones? Vanilla or chocolate? Champagne or mojitos? Let’s talk!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bandit Booty!


The winners of copies of THE LAST GOODBYE and ONE GOOD REASON by Sarah Mayberry are:

Minna and Cindy Sample! Congrats, ladies! Please send your snail mail information to Sarah at: sarahjmayberry@hotmail.com

Bandita Booty!!!!!!!!


And the winner of a copy of Redeeming the Rogue is

JENNIFER TANNER


JENNIFER - if you can go to www.DonnaMacMeans.com and send me your contact information, I'll get your book out asap.

Thanks everyone for stopping by on such an "earth-shattering" day (grin)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Claim of Innocence

By KJ Howe

Please welcome talented MIRA author Laura Caldwell to the Lair.

I asked Laura to answer a few questions about her background and book. Laura, thanks so much for joining us today!

Describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer

In Claim of Innocence, Izzy and her best friend, Maggie, defend a woman charged with poisoning her own best friend.

What inspired you to write CLAIM OF INNOCENCE?

I'm admit I'm sort of marrying my real life with my fictional life in Claim of Innocence. My character, Izzy McNeil, is a redheaded Chicagoan who worked as a civil lawyer most of her career but has fallen into the world of criminal defense. That comes pretty close to my life. I used to be a civil lawyer, defending doctors who were sued. I never thought I'd be working with exonerees. I feel incredibly fortunate.


Where do you do most of your writing?

In one of two places: If I’m in Chicago, I write in what the real estate agent grandly called ‘the penthouse room.’ Basically it’s a sunny room off the roof deck. It’s filled with red and white furniture (keeps me awake), a curvy book shelf laden with reference books and a street sign bolted to the wall that reads, STOP HERE ON RED.

The other place I love to write is in Long Beach, Indiana, a place of hidden beauty. In the summer, I sit on the deck and am surrounded by a sea of green from all the trees. In the winter, you can find me in front of the fire.

Which part of CLAIM OF INNOCENCE was the most enjoyable to write?

I love writing about 26th and Cal, which is the home of Chicago criminal courts and many of its jails. Everyone who has ever been there will tell you that it has the craziest energy—part thrilling, part desperate, part seen-it-all, part wildly optimistic. I like appearing there as a lawyer and I like writing about it too.

What inspired you to write your first book?

When I first started writing after law school, I wrote a story called Burning the Map about a girlfriends’ trip to Italy and Greece that changes their lives. I had taken a trip to Italy and Greece similar to the one that the character followed, but mine, albeit ludicrously fun, was not life changing. It was a blast to write that book.

And now, a little bit about Laura:

Laura Caldwell is a former civil trial attorney, now Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Director of Life After Innocence, published author of several novels and 1 nonfiction book.

Before beginning her writing career, Laura was a partner in a Chicago law firm, specializing in medical malpractice defense and entertainment law. In 2001 she joined Loyola University Chicago School of Law and has taught Advanced Litigation Writing and International Criminal Law among others.

Laura began her writing career in women’s fiction and soon turned to mystery/thriller. Her first book, Burning the Map was voted as one of the best books the year by Barnes and Noble.com. Booklist declared “Caldwell is one of the most talented and inventive…writers around,” after the release of The Year of Living Famously and The Night I got Lucky. The release of her trilogy in 2009 received critical acclaim and nominations for prestigious industry awards.

While researching her sixth novel, The Rome Affair, Caldwell was led to the criminal case of Jovan Mosley, a young man charged with murder, sitting in a Cook County holding cell for nearly six years with no trial date. After hearing about his case, Caldwell joined a renowned criminal defense attorney to defend him, ultimately proving his innocence and inspiring her first nonfiction book, Long Way Home: A Young Man Lost in the System and the Two Women Who Found Him (Free Press, Simon & Schuster).

She is published in over 22 countries and translated into more than 13 languages. Laura is also a freelance magazine writer and has been publi shed in Chicago Magazine, Woman's Own, The Young Lawyer, Lake Magazine, Australia Woman's Weekly, Shore Magazine and others.

Inspired by Mosley’s case and his challenges of rejoining society, Caldwell founded Loyola’s Life After Innocence that assists wrongfully convicted individuals or other innocent persons affected by the criminal justice system in order to help them re-enter society and reclaim their lives.

So, Laura, your writing space sounds fabulous - both in Chicago and Indiana!

Readers, what's your favorite place to curl up with a great book, like Laura's Claim of Innocence?

Also, statistics show that women are more likely to use a "hands off" method of killing, like poison rather than a "hands on" weapon like a knife or gun.

Laura, have you found this to be true in your practice of law?

Readers, which do you believe? That women will use poison first? Or do you think you'd be more direct? Grins.

The Cutting Room Floor

posted by Donna MacMeans


The plan when I write is to have a finished book that reads smoothly from begining to end. However, often the actual writing has a few twists and turns in it that end up on the cutting room floor. I've been fortunate that in most cases, I only cut a few lines here and there (LOL- "enough" few lines to make up maybe thirty pages of so), but REDEEMING THE ROGUE was different. I began with a different vision for that book - a vision with which my editor disagreed.

You see, I envisioned my Irish rogue hero kidnapping my heroine. He needed someone to serve as a hostess for him in America as well as someone familiar with diplomats and all their falderal. The heroine served both purposes - plus rumor had it that she'd already been compromised. She'd be perfect for his purposes - why not kidnap her?

Unfortunately, I'd already written well over a hundred pages or so when my editor nixed the kidnapping. She suggested a "small" change that pretty much meant that only the first chapter could remain with some editing.

Now I'm not complaining. I think the editor's suggestion made REDEEMING THE ROGUE a stronger book - but man, I hate to throw out a hundred pages of creative work!

So I'm not. I'm putting up some of the deleted scenes on my website. Here's a part of one such scene. Let me set it up for you.

Rafferty, the hero, has kidnapped Lady Arianne as he knows she’d be the perfect person to teach him what he needs to know to impersonate a diplomat. He’s locked her into his room on a masted schooner until they're far enough away that she won't be able to signal for help. He’s provided clothes for her to wear thanks to some generous ladies of the evening near the docks (grin) but they aren’t as nice as the clothes she’s wearing. Arianne undresses so as to preserve what she has. Then she explores Rafferty's cabin and finds his gun.

While Rafferty feels guilty about what he’s done, this was the only way he could think of to force her to marry him and be his hostess. Rumor has it she’s been ruined anyway, so she may come to look favorably on his actions…eventually. His friend (and stage magician) Phineas suggests that Rafferty try kindness to woo her cooperation. So he does…

Michael leaned against the wall in the narrow hallway outside his cabin and ran a hand around his freshly shaved chin, wondering if she’d notice. On Phineas’s council, he’d donned an evening vest and his freshly mended frock coat with the intent of wooing the woman who wanted no part of him. Not that he could blame her. She was accustomed to a more lavish life than he could offer. She’d been tricked to make this journey with him, as he was convinced she wouldn’t have chosen to come with a lowly Irish gent she felt was devoid of money and title. But she would come around, he told himself. If they could just have a civil conversation, she’d understand the importance of this mission and her vital role in it. If she would just…

The door slowly opened. Her swollen red eyelids made his heart clench. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, not in that way, not in a way that would draw tears. But then, who could blame her? He’d closed off her options leaving only one distasteful alternative – him.

Then his gaze shifted and all thoughts of her vulnerability vanished. The trembling barrel of his own British Bulldog revolver was pointed directly at his chest.

Blasted bleatin’ bloody hell!

He raised a brow, careful to keep anxiety off his face and out of his voice. “I see you’ve been busy.”

“Turn the boat around.”

“I can’t do that.” He kept his voice soft and low. “The Queen has been threatened by the Fenians. Lord Wessex has been murdered, most likely by the Fenians. The leaders are in America.” He held her gaze so she’d recognize his determination. “I may be just a stubborn Irishman, but I won’t turn back.”

Rafferty studied her face. Did she realize that he kept the gun loaded for emergencies? He never considered the revolver would be used on him. Her knuckles whitened in their tight grasp of a paisley shawl at her chin. He cocked his head. “Why do you want to return? It seems to me the damage has been done. Do you think London will overlook this brief venture? Do you think they’ll forget about Vienna, once gossip reaches London? And most assuredly it

will. Gossip always does.”

“I’m warning you,” she said, her voice quavered much like the revolver barrel. “Take me back home.”

He stepped forward, forcing her to either step back or push the gun barrel into his brocade vest. She chose the former. “No one knows you in America.” He backed her into the room. “If you don’t want to marry, we can still pretend to be man and wife. No one will suspect otherwise.”

The gun wobbled badly. “Don’t come any closer. I’ll shoot.”

As if to punctuate her intent, she abandoned the deathgrip on the shawl, thus adding a second hand to keeping the barrel aimed straight at his chest. His face must have betrayed the spark of interest in the expanse of skin exposed as the shawl separated. Blessed God in Heaven, was she naked underneath?

She gasped and returned the hand to hold the shawl closed.

He smiled. If she was more concerned with preserving her dignity than placing a hole through his chest, perhaps her intent was not as serious as appearances indicated.

“Do you think I’d be so foolish as to keep a loaded gun in my cabin for anyone to find?”

Doubt slipped across her face. He chanced another step forward, as proof of his stated conviction. As the Bulldog’s barrel extended only a few inches, he was close enough to smell her latest floral concoction, this one reminiscent of damp earth. He fought the distraction, but took a deep breath anyway, drawing her essence into his lungs.

“Patchouli,” he stated, as if they were sharing dinner conversation. “It reminds me of Ireland.”

She frowned, confused. Good. She was distracted. He dropped his voice to intimate levels. “Did you find the bullets? Do you know how to load a pistol?” She gnawed her luscious lower lip. He held out his hand and whispered. “Hand me the gun, Arianne.”

They stood in a stalemate. He with his hand outstretched, she with the gun. He had to admire her courage. Phineas was right, damn his eyes, the woman was not afraid to make her own decisions – even if they were the wrong ones.

He noted the moment her attention shifted. Within seconds he took advantage of the opportunity and grabbed the weapon from her hand. Only then did he glance toward the floor to see what had claimed her notice. A fat mound of white fur quietly hopped into the cabin.

“It’s a rabbit,” she said, awe in her voice. “Why is a rabbit hopping about a boat in the middle of the ocean?”

He didn’t bother to correct her. They had a long trip before them to reach the middle of anything. “I suspect that’s Phineas’s doing.” Michael broke the revolver apart, barrel down, to remove five bullets from the cylinder, then placed them in his pocket. “He likes to practice his magic before the props become Sunday supper.”

(The full deleted scene is on www.DonnaMacMeans.com. Click on extras.)

So my question to you - do you have thoughts regarding fictional romantic kidnappings, pro or con? Are you interested in reading deleted scenes? (I have, after all, one hundred pages of them.) Or do they make the story more confusing? For example - I had to change the method of transportation with the editor's suggestion. You won't find a schooner in the published version. If you're a writer, do you have scads of scenes on the cutting room floor?Let's chat and I'll give away a copy of REDEEMING THE ROGUE to someone leaving a comment.

Oh - and I'm chatting on Canned Laughter and Coffee tonight with Renee Bernard - a broadcast internet interview. It starts at 8:30 pm EST, and as an individual who suffers from foot-in-mouth disease - I'm terrified what will come out (grin). If you're so inclined, drop in for a listen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quick Five - Book Fun!

by Anna Sugden

G'day! Yes, as you read this, I'm Down Under! I'll have been having a faboo time with fellow Banditas, Anna and Christina, and a number of our favourite Lair authors and BB's. I promise to share all the details and pics when I return!

I'm writing this before I go, as I don't know what my internet access will be like where I am, plus I'll be travelling a lot.

So, knowing how much you enjoy Quick Five posts, I thought I'd do a Book Fun post today.

Share with us:

1. The last book you read that wasn't a romance and did you enjoy it?

2. The book you're currently reading.

3. What are the opening line and final line of the book you're reading?

4. Turn to page 51 and tell us what the sentence in the middle of the page is.

5. Turn to page 105 and tell us what the fifth sentence from the top is.


Here are my answers:

1. Thomas Perry's The Butcher Boy. I love Thomas Perry's books - especially his Jane Whitefield series - he writes great thrillers. This was his debut novel about a mafia hit man and the female agent from the Justice Department who is hunting him. It was really clever, especially the way he made the reader empathise with a cold-blooded killer. Can't wait to read the sequels Sleeping Dogs and Informant.

2. My dear friend and Lair Favourite, Julie Cohen's latest book, Getting Away With It.

Funny coincidence about this book - Julie did her ice cream research with a company in Dorset called Purbeck Ice Cream. My husband's nephew has a charcuterie business called The Dorset Charcuterie Company at the Purbeck Larder. What's even more fun is that in this photograph of the ice cream developed in honour of Julie's book, you'll see that the ice cream is wrapped in meat from ... you've guessed it, The Dorset Charcuterie Company at the Purbeck Larder! Check out Julie's blog for the background to horseradish and beetroot ice cream!

3. The opening line is ... I sat on the cliff edge with my legs dangling over the drop, in a gold lame dress barely long enough to cover my arse.

The final lines are ... okay, I cheated a little *g* ... And this kiss, definitely, was the best one of my life. Except for the next one. And the next.

4. "You'd have fun if you let yourself."

5. The carpet here was some sort of natural fibre, jute or whatever, woven into a tight herringbone.

Over to you. Share your Quick Five!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

So Long, Farewell - Go, Already!

by Caren Crane

Before anyone gets concerned, this blog is not about me going anywhere. No, this is about something that is happening all over the country. It started last week and will continue for several weeks to come. This is about a bunch of parents - me and my husband included - packing their cars, vans and SUVs full of junk and hauling it all to universities near and far. This is about the stuff of dreams and all-too-much drama: college move-in day.



On Friday, we had the dubious pleasure of moving our middle child and older daughter to college. She happens to be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (yes, I own one of these buttons - Go Tarheels!), but I'm sure our experience was fairly common. We followed a series of signs along a convoluted route to get in a line to be assigned a parking area where we were allotted a generous 45 minutes to "unload".

Now, we have an ancient Plymouth Voyager SE minivan - the extra long kind. We took out the back bench seat and were able to load the 10-foot-long roll of carpet into it. It fit perfectly, as if designed for just such duty. I have a feeling those minivan engineers had packed more than one kid off to college! In addition to the carpet, we had a dorm fridge, saucer chair, all manner of clothes, shoes, bedding, books, hangers, toiletries, laptop, etc. I don't recall my son having nearly as much stuff, but guys have different priorities. I recall lots of angst over routers, ethernet connections and gaming systems when he went to college.

We managed to get the van unloaded and everything carted to the 9th floor (yes, the 9th of 10 floors) in the furthest dorm from the main campus. The RAs and residence hall staff were all great. They arranged it so only half the kids were moving into the dorm on Friday and the other half Saturday. It seemed - on Friday - to http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifbe working fairly seamlessly. (For fun, click on this time lapse movie of move-in to my daughter's dorm - it's #4, Hinton James. It looks like it was taken last year, when there was a big storm moving through, and I have to say there were LOTS more cars there this year.)

I was fine while we dropped the daughter off. She was more than ready for us to leave by the time we left. My husband and I were both rather down and depressed Friday night. It didn't help that the youngest - who will be a high school senior this year - spent the night with a friend and was gone all day Saturday at a church event. We got a real taste of the empty nest. I had to call my mother on Saturday and whine a bit. She understood exactly what I was whining about.

On Saturday, I had to go back to the university to deliver the second load. This load was everything that she had forgotten on Friday. By late Saturday afternoon, when I arrived with said second load, things were winding down and there wasn't an RA in sight. The parents who had driven down from places like New York and Minnesota looked dazed by the heat, humidity and lack of air conditioning in the elevators. But hey, at least they have A/C units in all the rooms now. They just finished air conditioning the last of the dorms LAST YEAR, if you can believe it. As balmy as it was in my daughter's suite on the 9th floor, at least there was a window unit chugging away. Again, my daughter was more than ready for me to be gone when I left.

Meanwhile, one my friends reported that when her son went to drop his daughter off at college on Friday, she cried and begged to be taken home. It took all his powers of persuasion to get his daughter to tearfully agree to stay and give it a try. While I was a bit disappointed that our daughter didn't even pretend she would miss us, I was really glad that she didn't cry and beg to be taken home. I'm not sure I could have steeled myself to leave her there if she had. Kindergarten was bad enough!

Do you have a college move-in day experience to share? Yours or your kids or someone you know? I recall my own being fairly calm, like my daughter's. Did you beg your parents to take you home - or did your kids beg you to take them home? I'll bet there are as many stories as their are kids. Do share! Meanwhile, I'll be waiting to see if more urgent phone calls come in for more urgently-needed "stuff". I'll also be planning how to get it all moved out at the end of the semester! ; )