Thursday, May 31, 2007

Unusual or Favorite Reading Spots

Don’t forget to comment at the end of this post to enter a contest to win a $25 gift certificate from Borders.

We Romance Bandits are readers first. It’s impossible to be a writer without being a pretty intense reader, and I suspect many of our guests are avid readers too. I refuse to go anywhere without a book in my hand or my purse. Never. Doctor’s office? A book. Fast-food drive through? A book. To the market or the library? Yes, a book.

Whenever I’m driving and get stuck at a red light, I can get about five or six lines read, depending on how long the light is. I’ve been honked at by frustrated and harried drivers behind me if my book was overly engrossing.I’m sure that if California ever passes a ban on drivers using cell phones, the legislature will decide it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump until they ban my book reading.I’ve read on a bed, a hammock, and a park bench. During dinner, at a movie, and in church (uh oh, lightning bolt coming).

The most interesting place I’ve read a book was at St. Catherine’s Monastery which sits at the base of Mount Sinai. Our group had bedded down for the night ready to make the early morning climb of the mountain the next morning. Suddenly I had to make a midnight bathroom run.

There was no electricity at the monastery, so I took my flashlight, and, yes, you guessed it -- my book -- and groped my way outside, down the corridor, and into the restroom. I made myself comfortable and opened my book.

After a few moments, I had the creepy feeling someone else was there. I flashed my light around. No one. A noise sounded from above me. I glanced up, throwing the beam at the ceiling. There, straddling the stall partition, was a Bedouin. Yep, a genuine Bedouin with head gear and flowing robe. Yikes! I screamed. He fell, definitely more frightened than I was.

What's your favorite spot to read? Where’s the most interesting, colorful, or relaxing place you’ve enjoyed reading a book? Why?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Decoration Day

Read and comment on tomorrow's post (May 31) to enter a DRAWING for a $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE from Borders Books!

Decoration Day -- Jo Robertson
Every age has honored its soldiers who die in service to their country. The United States is not unique in setting aside a national holiday to commemorate their dead. In American the original date was May 30, 1868, chosen because it was the only day which was not the anniversary of a battle.

My dad was a military man and I grew up on rousing songs and stories of soldiering. He always told me that every veteran, regardless of rank, from colonel to private, was entitled at his death to a full military funeral with the bugle, the gun salute, the whole stirring ceremony.

I was young, and too many of MY friends died needlessly and heedlessly in Vietnam, so I wasn’t much listening to my father. But when he passed away several years ago, Dad received a military service funeral. Family and friends gathered at the grave site, nestled among the lush greenery that only Virginia seems to produce in such lively abundance.

And there they were -- these baby-faced soldiers, cradling their rifles exactly so, protecting the flag-draped coffin until the moment when two other equally baby-faced men removed the flag from the coffin, and with military precision, folded it and handed it to my mother.

When the guns resounded over the beautiful Virginia countryside, I admit that I cried, not just for the loss of my father, but for the twenty-two year old man he’d once been in a foxhole on Iwo Jima -- and for every young soldier throughout history whose ultimate sacrifice ensures freedom for me.

British poet Wilfred Owen wrote a poem during World War I, a line of which is “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” a Latin phrase which means literally “Sweet and proper it is for country to die.”

We may argue with the sentiment of the words, and Owen meant the poem as bitter irony, but I think we agree the world over that a nation’s greatest honors should go to those who serve their country.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

There's always a writing connection

Today is my birthday, and I plan to play. Tomorrow, I'll work like a dog on revisions. Today, it's playtime! I plan to head out to the mall, see Pirates of the Caribbean 3, see what's new at Barnes & Noble, browse through the stores, and eat some chocolate frozen yogurt with strawberries on top. But even with a play day, there's always a writing connection. Movies often inspire characters or new story ideas; people watching at the mall always generates interesting character quirks; and cruising the bookshelves at B&N is always inspiring. You see what's new, what's popular. And you find the spot on the shelves where your book will be when you finally sell and your book is released.

When a person becomes a writer, I don't think it's something that we can turn on and off. Being a writer colors and influences everything we do. I'd bet those of us who are writers see or hear something every day that we could use in a story at some point. In fact, I'll challenge all of you to keep track for the rest of the week. At the end of each day, write down at least one thing you've seen or heard that day that could be useful in a story. Let us know what those things are. I bet we'll have some great stuff.

Even though we know we have to work hard to make it in this writing business, I think it's very important to take a day now and then just to play, an "it's all about me" day. It's rejuvenating, and we typically come back the next day even more ready to work. Though I'm not a mom, I think the writers out there who are moms especially need these types of days. Between day jobs, housework, taking care of the kids and husbands, and the million other things that life requires, moms often just sacrifice their alone/leisure time. I don't think this is healthy -- mentally or physically. I think moms should build in one day a month where they can have at least a few hours that are just theirs alone with no responsibilities. If writing is what you find rejuvenating, fine. But I think it's also fine if you just want to curl up with a book, take a long soak in the tub or go see a chick flick solo -- just you, a big soda pop, a king size popcorn and a bigger-than-life-size Captain Jack. :)

Monday, May 28, 2007


By Suzanne Welsh

Like most writers, reading is an integral part of my life. Even though I write and work fulltime, I read at least two or more books a week.

The other day my daughter asked me if I remembered the first book I ever fell in love with. I've forgotten the actual name of the book, but it was about Ping, the Chinese duck. It was the first book I bought through Scholastic books at school in the second grade. I read that book every day for months. The art in it was exceptional, but the words painted an even greater picture in my mind. I fell in love with that duck, and cried at the end.

When I told my daughter this, she started laughing. She'd meant the first romance I ever read. Well, that was a bit more difficult to recall.

Around the age of twelve, while visiting family in Tennessee, I discovered my two aunts' closets full of romances. My aunts generously let me pack an entire grocery bag of books to take home with me to read over the summer. There were dozens of Harlequins, a multitude of Barbara Cartlands, and some classic Grace Livingston Hills. So I cut my romance reading teeth on a mixture of contemporaries, historicals and turn of the century inspirationals. And just like with Ping, I fell in love with every hero and heroine in every one of those books.

If I had to narrow my love of romances down to one particular story, it would be a book titled The Black Horse Inn, an American historical that took place during the Revolutionary war. There's a courageous heroine, a strong hero, an evil uncle, the Sons of Liberty, Tory spies, and lots of drama. For years I've been searching for the book in used bookstores and on line. One day I hope to add a copy to my keeper shelf.

The next most influential book was Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Flame and The Flower. I got my first copy in my Junior year of high school. By the time I graduated, I'd worn out three copies! Following quickly on her heels were Patricia Matthews and Johanna Lindsey, then Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux. Now, I no longer remember the books by the titles but by the authors who influenced me.

So what book or author hooked you on reading romances?

Pirate's Booty and $15 Fandango gift certificate: filmphan (needs to contact Caren at carencrane @

Autographed copy of Tawny Weber's "Double Dare": danette b (needs to contact Tawny at tawny @

Liquor-filled chocolates: kimberly l (needs to contact Cindy at
cindymm18 @

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Going For GOLD...Again!

posted by Aunty Cindy (with special thanx for the image to two time GH Winner, Laurie Kellog who is also a 2007 GH finalist!)

In case you are new to this blog (Hurray! Welcome! Come back often and bring friends!) and didn't know, the Romance Bandits came into being because of a contest. We were all finalists in the 2006 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest. Yes, because of this prestigious and wonderful contest, we all met, bonded and this fabulous blog was born!

Notice I said 2006 GH contest, because the contest is held every year. This year when the finalists were announced, the Banditas were excited and proud that FOUR of us were finalists for 2007!

WAY TO GO KJ, Trish, Beth and Anna S. (aka--VA)! The rest of us will be cheering you on and hoping you win in your various categories (though this will be a bit tricky for Trish, who is competing against... herself!) Anyway, to celebrate their fantastic accomlishments, your old Aunty had a cyber-get together with her four Bandita "nieces" and grilled... er, um, ASKED them a few questions about their Golden Heart entries and such. Read on for their very interesting answers!

Please tell us about your current GH finalist story (or stories). And what inspired you to write it/them?

KJ Howe: I was fortunate to final in the Romantic Suspense Category with ONE SHOT, TWO KILLS (the runner up in the American Title III Contest) and in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements Category with NAIROBI NIGHTS. I’d love to share book blurbs about the novels and what inspired me to write them.


Book blurb: One shot, one kill is the sniper motto. But when the time came to execute her orders, U.S. Army sniper Kenya Alexikova failed to fire. At first, the mission seemed routine—stalk and terminate a faceless predator, code-named Afanasi, a man who thrived in Russia’s underworld. When she stared through the scope, Kenya reeled from shock. The face in her crosshairs was her estranged brother’s and the hesitation cost her partner’s life. Discharged from the Army and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Kenya plunged into a self-imposed exile. Three years later, the past comes calling in the form of sexy CIA recruiter Jack Travis with a mission she can’t refuse.

Background on the book: I was inspired to write OSTK after reading a fascinating book about Stalingrad and the 2,000 women snipers who played a major role in the battle. Only 500 of these women survived. Impressed by their bravery, I decided to write the story of one of the women’s granddaughters. Alas, U.S. Army sniper Kenya Alexikova was born. I also wanted to explore a contemptuous sibling rivalry a la Cain and Abel with a twist. So, I pitted the heroine against her sociopathic brother. The hero, Jack Travis, is thrown in the middle of brother and sister, and the CIA agent has his own secrets he’s hiding from Kenya. The story is set on the island of St. Lucia and the research trip was a whole lot of fun!


Book blurb: When introverted Nairobi Kain crosses paths with French Foreign Legionnaire Stille Rutger, sparks of attraction ignite. There’s just one glitch. Stille has a wound a mile deep and a score to settle with Nairobi’s father. Yet, he’s the only one who can help her save her kidnapped father and brother. Can Nairobi rise to the challenge and tame this South African rebel?

Background on the book: The French Foreign Legion has always fascinated me. A diverse group of men from all over the world come together to create the elite military force; and they often fight the battles no one else wants to fight. The hero, Stille Rutger—originally from South Africa—meets his match in Nairobi Kain, a nanotechnology expert and biathlete who’s desperate to save her father and little brother from Middle Eastern terrorists. The story is set in Switzerland and Saudi Arabia—I had the pleasure of living in both countries and they both work as wonderful backdrops for intrigue.

Trish Milburn: Both of my finaling manuscripts are in Young Adult. The first, The Wishing Tree, was also a finalist last year. It's the story of a teenage girl who runs away from home after she's attacked outside her family's home, which her parents have turned into a meth lab. She hops a train hobo style and ends up in the mountains of North Carolina, where for some time she lives in a cave, scavenging for food where she can, trying to stay hidden until she reaches her eighteenth birthday and thus won't have to worry about being put into the foster care system. This is one of those stories that came out of just a simple image I'd carried around with me for some time -- of a girl running away from home by hopping a train to get away from something.

The second manuscript, Coven, is paranormal. The heroine is a witch, and the hero is a supernatural hunter. This book was born after a few months of watching, nearly nonstop, all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all five seasons of Angel, the first season of Supernatural, and reading a lot of paranormal novels. I was going through a writing funk, totally uninspired and depressed that I wasn't able to sell, but after watching and reading all these stories, I came away energized to write my own paranormal YA. The thing nearly wrote itself, the first draft in 15 days. I've had some editor interest,
so fingers crossed!

Beth Burgoon: All Or Nothing is about reformed troublemaker Kelsey Reagan who is on a mission to reconcile with her estranged brother. She tracks him to a small town in the Adirondack Mountains, but her hopes for a happy family reunion are cut short when her brother becomes the prime suspect in a local murder investigation. Determined to help prove her brother’s innocence, she doesn’t count on falling for Jack Martin, the town’s sexy, by-the-book chief of police.

Jack, a widower and single father, doesn’t have time to get involved with a woman. He has a young daughter to raise, a town to protect and now a murder to solve. A former detective with the NYPD, he returned to his hometown of Harmony, New York after a mistake on the job nearly cost him his career and his reputation. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a suspect’s sister.

I started AON several years ago and it's gone through numerous revisions, but though the original plot has shifted somewhat, the characters and their overall growth have remained the same. I guess I'm inspired by my characters. I always come up with my hero and heroine first and then figure out their story -- the story that will help challenge them the most while helping them grow, change, and overcome (or at least face *g*) their greatest fears.

Anna Sugden: Mortgaged Hearts is a contemporary battle of the classes story, set in a small, conservative Yorkshire village. It opens with the heroine, Abby, and hero, Ryan, waking up in bed together after a drunken night of passion . Although their cloudy memories suggest they got on extremely well, it can't possibly be so. Middle class Abby has sworn off upper class men after her cheating ex. And upper class Ryan won't consider a woman who isn't from the same class after a disastrous marriage to a money-grabbing social-climber.

Unfortunately, it appears the whole village knows what they've been up to and is not happy about it!

This is the last thing either of them need. Abby is in the middle of a nasty custody battle with her ex, who is trying to prove she's an unfit mother. While Ryan, as the new, single head of the primary school which is being threatened with closure, desperately needs the support of the villagers who would have preferred a family man. Looks like matters are going to force them into an engagement of convenience.

What inspired me to write it? It is actually the sequel to my 2006 GH finalist Love by Bequest (about a Texas cowboy who inherits an English sheep farm). Abby and her son Barney popped into that first story and then demanded their own! As someone who's experienced the battle of the classes and Yorkshire villages first hand, it was a fun story to write.

There are excerpts on my website

What have you learned that made this GH final entry different?

KJ Howe: Conflict, Emotion, and Pacing. If you nail these three aspects of writing, readers will often overlook other issues.

1. Create such overpowering internal and external conflict between your characters that readers can’t figure out how your lovebirds will ever end up together.
2. Dig deep into your characters’ psyches so readers feel their emotions like they were their own. When your heroine is scared, readers should be terrified, when your heroine is sad, readers should cry along with her.
3. Keep the story moving at a breakneck pace, so that readers can’t put the book down. Avoid long sections of narrative, end every scene with a hook, and tighten your prose.

I’m still trying to conquer these issues, but identifying them is half the battle!

Trish Milburn: I've learned over the past couple of years how much I love YA and paranormal, and how I love mixing the two as I did in Coven. I also like writing some YA with darker stories, as in The Wishing Tree.

Beth Burgoon: I think I learned how to be true to my own voice. Once my voice 'clicked' in (which, for me, wasn't until I'd been writing for two years) I noticed a huge difference in the quality of my work.

Anna Sugden: Ummm ... tough question ... four things - make each scene work on a number of different levels, maintain a snappy pace by making my characters' dialogue work harder, start with a bang and set up the hero and heroine's GMC in Chapter 1.

What advice would you give to others seeking to final in the GH?

KJ Howe: Polish the first 55 pages of your manuscript, then go back and polish some more. Hook the reader in the first paragraph—one of the ways to do this is to ask yourself if the story starts at the right place. Embrace criticism from respected sources; it’s tough to see the mistakes in your own manuscript. Have fun when you write, it will show! Good luck!

Trish Milburn: Give yourself plenty of time in the months prior to the GH to mold your manuscript into GH caliber work. Don't wait until the last minute and work yourself into a near coma trying to finish it in time and then worrying that the pages beyond the first 55 are crapola. I also think it's very important that you do your absolute best work in every aspect -- characterization, plotting, wordsmithing, grammar and punctuation. You want to really impress the judges, not give them any reason to deduct points. A fraction of a point here and a fraction of a point there add up to not finaling.

Beth Burgoon: I'd say to be true to your voice (see above *g*), keep learning by taking workshops and reading articles on craft in your local chapter's newsletter and the RWR, and most importantly, don't give up :-)

Anna Sugden: Use other contests before you enter the GH, especially those which give good, constructive feedback (check out the score-sheets and ask around for those with a good reputation) to make your GH entry the best it can be. This is important because it's an expensive contest, with no feedback and you need extremely high scores from all the judges to even have a hope of finalling in the GH. I had one entry that had great scores and must have missed being a finalist by fractions of a point!

Confession time! Do you have a secret ritual or special spell that you do to help your entries final?

KJ Howe: I give my manuscripts a big smooch before I send them off. I hope whoever reads them feels the love! 

Trish Milburn: I really don't. I just try to do my best work then send them off and get to work on something new so that I don't drive myself batty wondering if they'll final.

Beth Burgoon: I wish I had a secret ritual - LOL! The only thing I do is make sure the paper separating the entries from the synopses are all the same color *g*

Anna Sugden: I always sign my entry forms with the special Mont Blanc fountain pen that my husband gave me as an anniversary present. And I have to have the staff in my local Cresskill Post Office give it an extra good luck wish to send it on its way.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Blushing at the Good Parts

By Kirsten Scott

Because we’re all friends here, and Caren started it with her sexy pirate cover, I’ll let you in on a little secret—I skip love scenes. That’s right. I don’t read ‘em. I may scan a line or two of dialogue, but on the whole, I close my eyes and flip past those pages like a kid looking away when his parents kiss.

Why do I engage in this odd behavior? I mean, aren't these the "good parts"? Well for one, I get embarrassed, particularly if I’m on the bus or anywhere in public. Wouldn’t want to be caught reading that sort of thing, if you know what I mean.

For another, to paraphrase a heroine from one of my favorite historicals—George from Gentle Rogue, by Johanna Lindsey—they makes me feel funny inside. Yes, yes, this is a little too much information, I understand. But frankly, I’m not comfortable getting that funny feeling, and then sitting down at my desk for a long day of work. Or worse, getting that feeling and then having to go make my kids’ lunches.

And finally, for some reason, rather than drawing me deeper into the story, graphic sex scenes often throw me out. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sexual tension, I love the build up, and I want my hero and heroine to consummate their relationship. But I’m just as happy to give them a little privacy while they do it.

So I skip ‘em, at least while I'm reading the book. I might go back later and read them. For research, of course.

The odd thing is, I not only write love scenes, I’ve begun writing erotica. An odd choice, you might think, for one so obviously repressed as me. Yet I love it. I love to play with fantasies and imagine beautiful and romantic intercourse. I’ve even learned to revel in the titillation that is part of the writing. But when I sit down with a good romance, I still pass by the sex scenes. They still make me blush.

I think I need a little counseling. I’m coming to you, the Banditas (you are all Banditas, now, I hope you realize) because you are wise and thoughtful. Do you read the “good parts”? Do they make you blush? Why or why not? What’s the secret to a good love scene, and how do I get over this reluctance to read them? Please, tell all!

And while you're at it, don't forget to check out Caren's sexy pirate blog from yesterday--arr, matey, there's treasure for a lucky few who comment!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pirates, Book Covers and Free Stuff

by Caren Crane recently had an article on book covers. Specifically, on whether it was possible to quantify what makes a cover special, different, impossible to pass up. Come on, if anyone knew that, all book covers would be terrific! I think we have all been witness to some unfortunate book covers. I have some ideas, though, on what makes a book cover great. Many covers, in my opinion, should look like the one on the right.

Now, this particular pirate may not be your cup of tea, but he could kidnap me and take me to a private island (as he did in the book) any old day! I will admit I am a sucker for a pretty face and great torso. Some readers prefer no hero/heroine embrace or bare-chested man on the covers they show the world as they read in the airport or subway or on the sidelines at soccer practice. These covers don't bother me at all, but some readers prefer to hide them behind fabric book jackets or scholarly-looking periodicals. Some observers may look at my half-naked pirate askance, but others are eager to find people who read the same books they do. I know I am.

There has been a trend in recent years toward flowery covers, or pictures of house fronts or abandoned cafe tables or delicate landscapes. These covers, frankly, don't do much for me. Like photographs, I want my book covers to have people on them. Because people are the interesting part! A hunky hero or wind-tousled heroine adds a focal point to a cover and makes me wonder what that person's story is.

Now, many of you may realize this weekend is the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End. Not only do we at Romance Bandits love reading about pirates, we love watching them. And since we Banditas are avid fans of our seafaring brethren, we have decided to have a contest! Reaching deep into the Bandit Treasure Chest, we have come up with the three following prizes that will be awarded, separately, to three lucky commentors:
*Pirate's Booty snacks and $15 in Fandango Bucks (so you can go see Captain Jack on the big screen with your sweetie)
*An autographed copy of Tawny Weber's May release "Double Dare" (for those who like to live the bandit life on the edge)
* A delightful box of liquor-filled chocolates (guaranteed to satisfy any pirates in your life)

To win, tell us who or what you would love to see on the cover of your favorite novel. Don't be afraid to think big. Um, but I have dibs Johnny Depp. Winners will be selected Sunday night at midnight. Don't forget to check back Monday to collect your booty. Arr!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Eight is enough! says Anna C

Recently, my fellow Bandita Donna MacMeans tagged me for the eight random facts thing. So here we go!

1. I'm a classical music nut. Never ask me a question about classical music or I will bore you rigid with why Ravel should be an essential part of everyone's life. I suspect even Ravel would get sick of the topic!

2. When they re-released Lawrence of Arabia which I'd never seen until then, I went to see it three times in one week. But then I've always had a huge crush on Peter O'Toole and, hey, it was like getting a free set of steak knives with the deal because Omar was pretty spectacular in that too!

3. I do a great Kate Bush singing Wuthering Heights impersonation. Cats from miles around start yowling. It's fab!

4. When I was a kid, I fell in the pool at the local Marineland when I was trying to feed the dolphins.

5. When I traveled in the UK for the first time, I had a job selling perfume knock-offs in soapstone jars to tourists at Covent Garden market in London.

6. I've always wanted to learn Russian.

7. Because I grew up on an avocado farm, I can discourse at length about avocadoes. It's almost as relentless as the Ravel conversation!

8. I have been through the entire British Museum. Every room. Every vase. Every mummy. It took me six months of dogged return visits but I felt like Rocky on top of those steps when I finally got to the last room!

OK, that's me. I now tag...Annie West, Trish Morey, Vanessa Barneveld, Amanda McCabe, Nicola Cornick, Yvonne Lindsay, Sharon Arkell, Nalini Singh.

Have fun, girls!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Donna says ...A Bit About Judging

I'm what they call a veteran contest judge. I've been judging romanace writing contests for ...oh...about eight years now. I've co-ordinated writing contests, I was on RWA's committee for judge training a few years back, and I've certainly entered my share of contests - including the Golden Heart. I mention all this because I'm judging some contests entries now, and that make me pause and think about how far we've come.

I'm sure you all know - it's not easy entering a writing contest. It's hard to put your soul out there and wait for someone to tell you all the places it's lacking. I just wanted to remind you that it's not easy being a judge either. Often, it's just as hard to award a low score as it is to receive one. I remember when I was the contest co-ordinator, one of the judges asked if it was okay to just not give a score on certain questions because she didn't want to hurt the writer's feelings with a low score. Of course, I said, "No. That wouldn't be fair to the author as anything is better than a 0."

It's hard as well to suggest through the scores that an entry is average. That, for whatever reason, there's no spark, no magic. How do you offer constructive suggestions on capturing stardust? You try. You offer suggestions, considerations, but you know that sometimes whatever you say will be taken as criticism. And unjust criticism at that.

So here's to all the Golden Heart finalists who triumphed through many, many contests. Who managed to combine excitement, action, and characterization - all within the first couple of pages. Who managed to use dialogue to move the story forward and not to tell backstory. Who incorporated enough plot twists and complications to make the judge disappointed that the entry has ended and she can't read more. Who learned how to capture magic and transform it into prose that takes on a life of its own. It can be done. It's not easy. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of craft, but it can be done.

So here's to the Golden Heart finalists - who by rising to this level have shown that they are all ready winners all. Congratulations, Ladies. You've come a long way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I've been tagged ...

... by our very own Donna. Apparently I need to tell you eight random facts about myself and then tag some unsuspecting victims ... um, friends.

So, here goes:

1. I used to volunteer for the American Red Cross when I lived in Virginia; helping out on the Blood Mobiles. Though I was trained in CPR and First Aid, I tended to minister tea and biscuits for those donating.

2. Another of my volunteering gigs was as a dj for hospital radio station - Radio Driffield. I used to host a Staurday morning show called The Lunchbox, that went out to the local hospital and some nursing homes.

3. To keep fit, I box. Yes, box. (note, my trainer doesn't hit me and I hit his mitts and body armour, not him!) It's a wonderful way to keep fit and it's a great exercise for both the body and mind. My trainer is a former New York Golden Glove champion.

4. I hate my birthstone - peridot. It' reminds of that Yorkshire 'delicacy', mushy peas. Instead, I love opals, fire opals and tanzanites and have adopted them as my stones.

5. One of my life ambitions was to mush with huskies. On our Alaskan cruise, my husband and I got to fly up onto one of the glaciers and mush! (see picture)

6. I have met the Queen, Prince Phillip and Princess Anne and had tea with the Queen Mother at St James' Palace.

7. My favourite chocolate is Cadbury's Dairy Milk. Only the real stuff, made in England, will do. Oh, and if anyone can find Caramac bars ... send them my way! They are yummy caramel flavoured 'chocolate' bars.

8. I collect penguins - have over 400 in various guises, from clothing to ornaments to kitchen utensils and even a radio. No, I don't have a real one. At one stage, I did look into adopting one at London Zoo. But they went very quickly and had a long waiting list. Who knows ... maybe one day ...

Now for my tagees: over to you ... Terri Garey, Janice Lynn, Stacey Kayne, Cheryl Wilson, Jeanne Pickering Adams, Caren Crane, Kate Carlisle and one of our regular blog commenters Keira. You can post on your own blogs or in the comments section of my post.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Queen of the Kitchen (or how I lost my crown)

I love to cook and bake. In fact, there was a time (not so long ago) when I was Queen of the Kitchen. Not exactly a title worthy of pomp and circumstance (although a tiara wouldn't have been too much to ask for) but a title I took seriously nonetheless. There were always cookies in the cookie jar -- cookies which I made (along with various cakes and brownies) from scratch. I also baked fresh bread and rolls and made my own pizza dough and pasta (yum!). Heck, for a while there, I even made ice cream and my family was treated to a homecooked meal at least five nights a week.

Those days are long gone.

Now that I'm writing full time, my family's lucky they get fed period. Gone are the days of planned meals and tasty, homemade treats. I no longer take the time to slowly peruse the grocery store for the best ingredients. Instead, I rush through my local Wal-Mart as if my hair's on fire, using my cart (filled with convenience and frozen foods) as a battering ram and trying not to make eye contact with the other customers.

Fortunately, my family has adjusted to this new lifestyle quite well. They know how important my writing is to me and how hard I'm working to turn this into a successful career. And I've also let (forced) them take over the kitchen once a week to cook dinner. So far those dinners consist of chicken quesadillas (my son's speciality) grilled cheese with tomato soup, and hot dogs with homemade mac and cheese, but at least I won't have to worry about them (or me!) starving while I'm working on my latest story *g*

Still, I sometimes miss those times in the kitchen, especially those times cooking up something delicious with my children. Which is why today I'm going to set aside the time to make Joan's chocolate chip cookies (reference Joan's nanny nanny poo poo post) with my daughters. Because time with my children is precious. Because my kids are growing up way too fast.

And because I'm craving some chocolate :-)

Just in case I'm not alone in my chocolate craving, I'm including one of my favorite, simple dessert recipes. This is a combination of cake and pudding so use a spoon when serving.


Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and ginger in medium bowl. Stir in milk, vegetable oil and vanilla to form a thick batter. Spread into a greased 9" round or 5 1/2 qt. oval baking dish.

Combine remaining sugar and cocoa with the brown sugar and sprinkle over batter. Pour boiling water over top of all. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 min. (cake will be gooey underneath -- like pudding) Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.


posted by Christine Wells

I had so many wonderful, inspiring author blurbs to choose from, I ended up picking the winner out of a hat. KEIRA SOLEORE! You have won a $25 Amazon gift certificate from our handy store of bandit booty.

Please contact me via the contact page on my website to claim your prize. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Random Facts about Joan....Picked Randomly

Recently, my Bandita mate Donna MacMeans "tagged" me on her Pink ladies blog. Being new to the world of blogs and such, I had not heard about it. Having spent the past few days dredging my mind for 8 facts about ME...and worried that I might indeed be a boring person....I now understand why some say "Ugh."

As per Donna's post, here are the rules. Anyone that I tag at the end of it remember....I still love you!

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about herself.

2. People who are tagged write a post about their own eight random things and post the rules.

3. At the end of the blog, the person has to tag eight people and post their names.

4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Random Facts about Joan

1. I've always wanted to learn how to play the banjo.

2. I've won over 100 ribbons for baking cakes/cookies at the Kentucky State Fair (reference "nanny nanny poo poo" post.)

3. My favorite flower is the tulip. When I bought my house I paid premo bucks for Holland grade bulbs, in coordinating colors and planted them strategically around my house.

)*&&^^ squirrels.

4. I own a 3 foot, glow in the dark rosary. My 4th grade teacher was an entrepreneur with connections to the religious paraphernalia syndicate. I've never found a use for it but kudos to Sr. Anthony for talking me into buying it!

5. My favorite movie is STEEL MAGNOLIAS. I have most of the dialogue memorized but my favorite line is "There is no such thing as natural beauty." Amen, Truvy (says Joan who went to the salon today to get the works in anticipation of attending her goddaughter's beach wedding)

6. I own 15 different shades of OPI pink nail polish. Color of the day: Holy Pink Pagoda.

7. I drove over 600 miles around Ireland two years ago and only lost one hubcap and missed by THIS much running over an Irish road worker down in a ditch. It was kind of interesting being cursed in Gaelic. LOL

8. I have a bridge phobia. I can ride across but cannot drive across. On the rare occasion I have, I managed to do it by having my passenger talk to me about anything. It was not the best crossing with my brother insisted on talking about MY PHOBIA while I went across.

Now tag to Renee Halverson, Sara Reinkes, Robin Nevitt and Lisa Tapp

Friday, May 18, 2007

Timing The Market

posted by Aunty Cindy

Way back when I first started saving for retirement, one of the first and most important financial lessons I learned was “never try to time the market”. The reasoning was simplicity itself. The heads of the biggest investment firms in the country and their hundreds of very smart staff people can’t figure out when a stock or a fund has reached its high point and is about to decline. What makes you think YOU can?

I believe the same can be said of publishing, and here’s my personal experience.

I attended my very first romance writers’ conference in October, 2004. During that wonderful three day event, the phrase on everyone’s lips, be they writer, reader, editor or agent, was CHICK LIT! Nearly every writer I talked to was writing and/or pitching a chick lit novel. Well, every one except me. Every editor and agent in attendance were requesting and buying chick lit. I was feeling a bit left out, but rather than try and “time the market”, I kept working on my romantic suspense WIP.

Fast-forward to July, 2005 and my first RWA National conference. I was working on my second romantic suspense WIP and suddenly everyone was talking about PARANORMAL romance. Everybody was reading, writing and/or buying anything with a vampire or a shape-shifter in it. Chick Lit, it seems, was dead, or at least terminally ill. HUH? I was out of the loop again. And I felt bad for the writers trying to pitch a chick lit manuscript.

Last year, when the RWA National conference rolled around again, vampires were still undead but also rather passe. Unless they were in an erotica, because the word circulating now was hot, Hotter, HOTTEST! Whatever you were writing needed to have plenty of steamy sex scenes. By now, I’m sure you can guess what I was writing… if you said anything except romantic suspense, you just aren’t paying attention.

So here it is May and National will be rolling around again in less than two months. What will be the next big thing this year? Judging by the rumblings I’ve heard and the sales I’ve seen lately, my guess is that historical are indeed making a comeback. Or not…

If I’ve learned anything in the past three years it’s that “the powers that be” in romance publishing, editors and agents don’t have any more idea about the next big thing than I do. And if they can’t predict the next hot trend, I’m certainly not going to try.

What about you? What do you think will be the next big thing? Do you run out to read and/or write what you see crowding the bookstore shelves? Or do you stick with your old favorites?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The End

by Christine Zampi

No, not the end of the blog. And certainly not the end of me.

But writing those two little words or even reading those words can evoke such emotions for readers and writer. I just added those words to the bottom of my current manuscript. There’s a part of me that already misses the characters and the plot, even though I know I’ll be seeing them again in revisions really soon. I usually don’t feel this way when I get to the end of one of my own stories. By the time I’m finished, I’m ready to be done with thos characters and move on to the next. So this is a new experience for me.

Reading a story and coming to the end is a very similar thing. There are books I can’t wait to be done with and hope to never see those characters again. But then there are those special books. The books you don’t want to be done with and you don’t want the hero and heroine’s story to be over so soon.

My goal is to write one of those books. A keeper. The book that people come up to you and say they reread it every year.

My reality is that I haven’t read a keeper in awhile. How about anyone else here? Most of my keepers are 5-15 years old. So what’s going on? Is it me? Has writing caused me to become so critical of others’ writing that I can’t enjoy a good book anymore? Or has the quality of storytelling gone down hill? Personally, I don’t think it’s that.

So what do you all think?

And before you post your comments, the winner of yesterday’s contest is Kim W. Congratulations, Kim!!! Caren needs your email address so she can contact you. Please contact her at

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Remember the "R" Word?

by Caren Crane

A common complaint I hear from women who do not read romance: life never works out that way. Sadly, life does not work out with a happy ending for some people. And yet, it does for many others. I know romance writers who are not enjoying a happy ever after with the man they married first. Some are divorced or widowed. Some have never married. Some are on their second, or third, or fourth marriage. So why do we write about the Happy Ending?

I am an optimist by nature. I'll admit that I enjoy the occasional thriller and, when the mood hits, a dark and unhappy tale. Mostly, though, I like my stories upbeat and humorous, where everyone gets their just desserts in the end. A good romantic book or movie gives me that. When I transitioned from writing straight romance to women's fiction, the heavy romantic story line was the first thing I dropped. But romance still figured in the stories. More strongly in each one, as a matter of fact. The hardest book I tried to write - and still haven't managed to finish - featured a married couple with no romance thread at all. Sorry to all us married people, but after a couple decades of marriage, romance isn't on top of the agenda. It wasn't for this couple and you see what happened to them - nothing!

But even if real-life romance doesn't stay front and center decade after decade, we still enjoy it. I recently planned a romantic dinner with my husband on a rare night when we were without children. The waiter figured, wrongly, it must be our anniversary. Which made me realize that we only expect romance a couple of times a year, like on an anniversary or St. Valentine's Day. Aren't we selling ourselves short? Shouldn't we expect romance to surprise us any old time, even if we're in a committed relationship? Couldn't any day be as romantic as Valentine's Day? And if we expected more romance - planned for it, even - might we not find our lives a little sweeter, a bit happier or, at the very least, different?

What do you think? Is romance a requirement or is it just occasional icing on the cake of your life? And if you haven't found your Happy Ending, do you expect to someday?

And speaking of happy endings, I'll select a lucky winner commentor to receive an autographed copy of Sabrina Jeffries' June 2007 release "Beware a Scot's Revenge". Happy commenting and be sure to check back to see if you won!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The wonderful world of world building

By Trish Milburn

There is something absolutely magical about a book that sweeps you into a totally different world and makes you believe you are there, even when “there” is Middle-earth, an urban fantasyland where vampires aren’t just scary myths, or a school for young wizards. I’m in awe of authors whose talents lie in remarkable world building. They don’t just tell a compelling story with an interesting setting and fascinating characters. They create from nothing an entire new world. How heady and incredibly awesome is that?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is a classic example. Seriously, I want to live in one of the Hobbit houses in the Shire, visit the Elves in Rivendell, and go riding with the Riders of Rohan. Tolkien’s stories and Peter Jackson’s creation of Middle-earth in the three fabulous Lord of the Rings films made me believe this place was real, that I could go there if I really wanted to. Two tickets to the Shire, please.

The same could be said of Caldwell, New York, the setting of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire series. Even though it’s not a fantasy world like Middle-earth, I can see and feel the darkness, the menace lurking, waiting to pounce.

And I couldn’t possibly write this post without mentioning J.K. Rowling, Hogwarts and Harry Potter’s magical environs. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to head to Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station in London on my way to see Harry, Ron and Hermione at Hogwarts. And perhaps help the gang kick Voldemort’s wizard butt once and for all while I’m at it.

What is it about these fictional locales that make them seem so real? First, the authors layer in details that make the settings three-dimensional, not a flat, two-dimensional place that’s easily forgotten as soon as the book is closed. They create their own mythology and lexicon, not a small endeavor. And then they people the story with unforgettable characters. You will find no cardboard heroes and heroines in these worlds. These characters are so real that you’ll want them for your best friend, your mentor or your lover. Just say Hermione Granger, Gandalf, or Zsadist, and remarkably complex, three-dimensional characters spring to mind. One of these aspects alone won’t lead to perfect world building, however. What good is a fantastic world if your characters are boring?

Reading wonderful stories where world building was critical led me to try it for my own stories. The effort led to one of my Golden Heart finaling manuscripts this year, Coven. It was so much fun to write, and I’m absolutely in love with the story. And I fully intend to delve into the wonderful world of world building again.

Are you a fan of world building? What author do you think does it especially well? And if you could visit one of these worlds, which would it be?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Day in the Life...

as shared by Tawny Weber

Wake at 11, rested and fresh.
A leasurely breakfast in bed, the paper and a rose.
A quick jaunty walk through the park to clear my head.
An afternoon at the computer, words flowing like fine wine. Sweet, intoxicating and quickly melding into a fabulously addicting story.
Dinner out with my precious and well-behaved children and my ever-so-attentive husband.
An evening of entertainment as we relax together in our spotlessly clean house, well-trained pups at our feet, everyone happy and content.

Ha ....

I write fiction.

It always amuses me when people get comment on how easy it must be that I am home all day to write. The reality is, I don't write during the day - Because we homeschool, the morning and afternoon hours are when I teach my youngest daughter. They are also when I deal with email, promotional issues, endless phonecalls, and putting out fires. Lots of fires. I can't write during the day.

My house is a continuous work-in-progress, the laundry is never done, and my kids... well, really they really do rock. But the rest of that imagined day is wishful thinking.

I am lucky, though. I love writing and love being able to make it an intinsic part of my day to day life. And that it is - My family knows when the headphones go on in the evening, I'm checking out. Becaues this has been the standard MO for almost 5 years now, most of my youngest daughters life, they simply accept it as a given that mom writes.

I think there's a really important lesson in that. At least for me. Writing isn't a luxury or an option. It is what I do -- for years before I sold, it was what I did. Because I spent years pre-published building the habit of regular writing, training myself and my family to value the time and space of my craft, its now a given. Nobody questions it, whines or bemoans the time it takes me to write book. Just like we realize when my oldest daughter is gearing up for finals and give her some extra space, pick up the slack on her chores, etc, they give me that same support when its time for revisions or if a deadline is looming.

It's all in the training.

Even if you don't have a family to train, (or worse, if they aren't trainable) training yourself is vital. Dont'chya think?

What do you do to train yourself to write? Do you create a writing habit? A ritual around your workday that turns on the "writing brain"? If you don't, if you simply wing it, how does that work for you? I'm always looking for new tips to hone and streamline the proces LOL. Got any??

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cookies and Contests

by Joan Kayse

By nature I am not a particularly competitive person. Sure, I've been competing in various contests with my manuscripts THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE and THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE, my GH finaling manuscript. Both have placed in a handful of contests and while pleased with such, felt no particular rancor to those who placed higher than me. I just added it to my repertoire of experience and plowed onward. But I am driven in one area of my life: competitive baking at the Kentucky State Fair.

When the Fair rolls around, I roll up my sleeves, fire up my oven, turn my new, bright blue KitchenAid mixer on high and grease my pans.

It started innocently enough. I had been taking cake decorating classes and heard about how to enter that category. I labored long and hard on the perfect "Cabbage Patch Babies" sheet cake and won a green honorable mention ribbon.

I was hooked.

The next year I thought "Hm, how hard could it be to make a cake from scratch?" I entered a chocolate cake and won a BLUE ribbon. Stars shone in my eyes and a gnawing thirst for the grand prize...the cake sweepstakes began to bloom inside me.

Over the next decade I would bake and enter a cake in every category; coconut, pumpkin, devil's food, name it and I baked it. I got to know the "inner circle". Oh, yes. There is definitely an inner circle to the state fair competition. You begin by recognizing names, you surreptitiously survey them at the display cases. You find yourself analyzing (critiquing, if you will) their icing techniques. You pretend to be eating a corn dog when in truth you're eavesdropping on their boasting about the type of butter they use. Grudgingly, you admit the 80 year old lady whose farmer husband dutifully drove her all the way from central Kentucky just to bring her mama's caramel cake in probably deserved to win.

But I still wanted that sweepstakes!

One year I had a wake up call as to how far I was falling into the dark world of powdered sugar and heavy cream the year we had a specialty contest for cookies.

These special contests are as nerve racking as sitting in the audience of the GH ceremony with Nora Roberts only three feet away. You bring your entries and sit and WATCH the judges eating your entry. You chew your nails, you whisper with your baking friends (yes, you do have some of those...Loretta and Juanita :-) and wait to see if you win.

The year I sank to my lowest low, I was having strained conversation with "The Queen" of cakes. Her ten year old granddaughter repeatedly interrupted us to tell me about her having won the junior division and having an article in the paper about it.

The girl was happy, giddy, ecstatic. I was doing my best to ignore it. I was the adult here, I kept reminding myself. She's a child, ignore it. But on the fifteenth time of hearing "I was in the paper" I snapped. Leveling her with a stern glare I said "Well, Nanny nanny poo poo."

I know. I'm horrible.

The girl, thankfully did not seem to understand the level I had fallen to. She gleefully skipped over to another section to fill them in on the news of her luck and I sank lower into my chair. To say it brought me to my senses is an understatement. It taught me a valuable lesson about keeping things in perspective. Thank goodness for Donna MacMeans, the Bandita who won my GH category. She may not remember, but at the end of the ceremony I offered her congratulations. If not for this turning point I might have nanny nanny pooed her LOL.

I did win the sweepstakes in 2003 and my chocolate chip cookies (renowned among my friends-recipe follows) have won a few ribbons. But the best prize I came away with is learning to take it as it comes. Keep it real, Joan. Keep it real.

Joan's Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 2/3 cup all purpose floor
12 oz. bag mini chocolate chips

Beat sugars with butter. Add eggs. Add remaining ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool slightly before removing to racks to finish cooling. Makes 3 dozen.


Saturday, May 12, 2007


posted by Aunty Cindy

WOW! The number of entries in our first contest FAAAR exceeded your old Aunty's expectations! In fact, all of us Banditas are pleased right down to our little boot tips that so many of you visited our corner of the blogsphere.

But enough of my blather! And the winners (determined by my handy-dandy random number generator) are:
  • B&N gift certificate -- Buffie (who posted on May 9 at 4:46 AM)
  • autographed copy of CTC -- Michelle (who posted May 9 at 8:03 PM)
  • See's candy -- Kara Lennox (who posted May 10 at 2:45 PM)
Ladies, please email me at cindymm18 at gmail dot com and let me know where to send your fabulous Bandit Booty. HURRY! That candy and gift certificate may not be safe for long.

Again a HUGE BANDIT THANKS to everyone who entered! This was so much fun that we will definitely do it again SOON (as in next month, or maybe before)! So please come back and visit us often.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The X-factor

by Christine Wells

When I started writing novels (which wasn't so very long ago), I owned a tiny Toshiba Libretto the size of a Trade Paperback. I wasn't connected to the internet, didn't know there was a market for Regency historicals, which was what I was writing, hadn't heard of Romance Writers of America. Basically, I was writing in a vacuum.

Then I discovered RWA, critique groups, contests, self-help books--you get the picture. I learned the 'rules'. I discovered and studied wonderful books by Regency historical writers (who were still alive and selling!) and I applied all of this knowledge to my writing. And at some point, I felt my own voice about to slip away.

Romance writers are incredibly lucky. I can't think of any other genre that has such institutional support for its writers, nurturing them and guiding them and paving the way to publication. But there can be a downside to all this wonderful support. You can pay so much attention to 'rules' and other people's opinions and what the market's doing, that you lose the one thing that will make your novel stand out from the crowd: your voice.

As a new writer, you need to listen and take advice that you judge to be sound. But there comes a time when you really need to shut everyone else out and do your own thing. Every writer needs that small amount of arrogance that says, No one can tell this story as well as I can. Even if you never say it aloud, you have to believe it, or you'll end writing the same book as everyone else. It's your very uniqueness that will give your story universal appeal.

The X-factor, the thing that is going to sell your book, is you.

So now, imagine you're a future bestseller with your debut book in the pipeline. Your favourite author (living or dead) writes a cover blurb--that quote on the front of the book that sums up the wonderful appeal of this masterpiece you've written, in 10 words or less. What would it be?

My favourite answer wins a $25 gift voucher from!


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pride and Prejudice by Anna Campbell (hmm, I wish that book was by me but Jane A got there first!)

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…

Yes, the dreaded moment has arrived when I’m giving my first author talk. Eeek! It’s tonight at Guildford Library in western Sydney if any of you are passing. I’ve coached my friends to watch and see if I look like I’m drying up and if I am, to ask me a series of well orchestrated questions. Stalin’s political rallies are nothing on how staged this talk is going to be!

I’m hoping one of the saving graces of the talk (and of the talker who isn’t exactly used to gigs on a podium!) will be that I feel very strongly about the topic of my speech. It’s Pride and Prejudice. No, not the immortal JA novel. Not even the slightly less immortal but extremely decorative BBC series or the movie (yum, Mr. Darcy is like chocolate in whatever guise!). I’m talking about the fact that I’m proud of writing and reading romance and yet I strike such prejudice out in the general community about my choices.

Why is this so? I’m a reasonably smart woman and my romance writing and reading pals range from smart right up to the scarily brilliant. So it seems patently obvious to me that romance isn’t just read by desperate spinsters who are too silly to know any better. It also seems obvious that romance is a genre where you can really explore the development of a relationship and be brave enough to offer the punters a happy ending. That’s a long way from the soft porn for frustrated women tag that gets tossed around so often. Yeah, there are sex scenes but that’s part of exploring the relationship in all its facets, surely!

Does romance cop flak because it’s fiction mostly written by women for women? Is it like the old if it’s a man in a kitchen, he’s a chef, if it’s a woman, she’s a cook. Is it because in this cynical day and age, romance challenges the prevailing artistic ethos that all human effort comes to dust in the end? I mean, romance writers promote the value of love and hope and endurance through adversity leading to triumph. Not fashionable but definitely empowering.

What are your thoughts on the prejudice against romance? Have you ever struck a snarky comment because you read/write romance? Do you have a fail-safe response?

OH, AND PLEASE ENTER THE FIRST ROMANCE BANDITS CONTEST MENTIONED IN THE COLUMN JUST BELOW THIS ONE! I wish I could, I want the chocs!! I guess I’ll just have to go and drool over Mr. Darcy again instead.

World's Easiest Contest

posted by Aunty Cindy

To celebrate our "official" launch of the Romance Bandits, we Banditas have gone into the depths of our Bandit lair and sifted through the Bandit plunder (aren't you proud of me, I did not say Bandit Booty!) for our very first giveaway.

We've decided to give away not one, not two, but THREE wonderful prizes:

  • a $15 Barnes & Noble gift card (compliments of your old Aunty)
  • a personally autographed copy of Anna Campbell's wonderfully sensual Regency noir, Claiming the Courtesan
  • a yummy box of See's chocolates (compliments of our shoe diva Tawny)
And how do you go about winning? Just post a comment to this blog entry anytime between now and midnight Friday night, May 11th and tell us which prize you'd like to win and why. And yes, "just because" is a good enough reason! But please, only enter once.

We'll announce the winners on Saturday, May 12th.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Whoa is me...

Do you ever wonder how we manage to stay sane, to actually write something coherent and/or even think about plot lines when there's all this crazy LIFE stuff happening? My husband has crowned me the Queen of Overcommitment. With blithe insouciance I say, "Of course, I'll be glad to help." So now, I'm the Retreat Chair for my chapter which wrapped up a week ago (but is still lingering in the stacks of stuff in my laundry room,) then I took snacks to my son's ball team Sunday, we had company for Sunday dinner after the game, and foolishly I cooked instead of ordering pizza; and that was just this weekend. It doesn't even begin to cover all the stuff that needs to be done in the house. Yikes. Laundry. Changing light bulbs that have burnt out one by one until it is now pitch dark in the bathroom (now I HAVE to do it.) Planting stuff in the garden.

Yeah, right. That'll happen.

Somehow, though, in the midst of the craziness of being the homework Nazi, chief cook and bottle washer, laundress extraordinaire, and the other stuff I do and get paid for, I still write. I can't NOT write. It's just there lurking, like malaria. I'd like to say I'm organized, that I schedule time to write and somehow, like Martha Stewart, I get it all done brilliantly and with a bow tied neatly on top. Sure. Right. In this lifetime? I don't think so.

The characters or ideas show up and I ignore the fact that there are no clean socks for baseball practice, and I give up on the chicken I'd thawed for dinner. I lose myself in the world I've created, playing with the characters in my head. Then there's the villain. Don't you just love the villain? I do. I get to use all the snarky things I wish I could say to the clerk or the car repairman or the guy who cut me off in traffic. Since I can't in good conscience shoot anyone for being an idiot in traffic, I get to dispose of their body in an undisclosed location in the pages of my book. I also burn all his or her laundry and trash their car. I've even done away with my ex-husband three or four times, in various creative, sometimes heinous, ways. Excellent therapy. Oh, and did I mention I leave absolutely no clue or forensic evidence?

Hehehe. Works for me.

What's your therapy for the mundane "must do's, but hate to do 'em's"? If you're a writer, does your villain come from life and the news or from all your own frustrations? You know my deep dark secret...tell me yours...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Posted by Kate Carlisle

Welcome to our beautiful new blog! I’m so excited to be here – and I almost missed it.

I just returned home from a long, frustrating cross-country trip complete with layovers and flight cancellations and internet service breakdowns (grrrr!). Then I woke up this morning with a miserable nasty stuffy head cold and wanted to write a letter to the airlines to complain about their bad attitudes and bad air circulation, but instead, I went back to bed and almost slept the day away before realizing—holy Stephen King! It’s my day to blog!

And when I blog, I've usually got a really important subject all picked out to dazzle you with, but today, all I can think about is…decongestants.

Have you tried to buy one lately? I have. Let me tell you, it's like I got caught sneaking through the back door of the White House or something.

First, the clerk entered my name and address and driver’s license number in the computer. But that wasn’t good enough. She also wrote the same information down in a big book—in duplicate, mind you. She made me sign it, then she disappeared for a few minutes.

What’s up with that? Was she flipping through the latest FBI Most Wanted photos in the back room? It was nerve-wracking and vaguely demoralizing.

So finally the clerk came back and allowed me to pay for the darn stuff. It cost me $5.62, including tax. It probably cost the company $40.00 for the clerk to go through all that nonsense. I popped a pill before I left the store and felt like an addict. Sheesh.

I know what you’re thinking: Kate, go take a nap. This sad story of yours has nothing to do with writing.

But you’re wrong, my friends. As I was going through the process, I kept thinking, if I were a different person, this frustrating little experience might push me right over the edge. I might think, what are you people doing to me? This is the last straw! I can’t take it any more! I’m going to kill someone!!

And voila! A new plotline is born!

Oh, before I left the store, I also bought a box of Kleenex and some cough drops.

So where do you get your ideas?

Friday, May 4, 2007

And We're Off....

It's Kentucky Derby time here in Louisville (break out the riding crop AC) AND we launched the Romance Bandits! Quite a wild weekend indeed.

It is incredibly easy to equate writing with a horse race. You could say we are all high spirited fillies ( my favorite for the fillies race, the Kentucky Oaks came in third. Her name was High Heels. Hmmm. I know how hard it is to WALK in heels, so running would be hard LOL). Some horses favor muddy tracks while others like the fast ones; the same way the Banditas write in different sub genres. Oh, and we look good in silks. :-) We're all in the race to publication and have our eye on the finish line. Some of us have crossed already. Some are there for a photo finish and the rest keep galloping along.

Enough of the racing analogies. Since finaling in the Long Historical category in the 2006 GH, I have had the privilege to get to know this fantastic group of writers now known as The Romance Bandits. They are supportive, encouraging, and incredibly knowledgeable and I know anyone visiting this blog will be glad they visited.


WILD WEEKEND! Banditas Revealed!

ALL RIGHTY! It is Friday afternoon and time to launch our FIRST WILD WEEKEND since we are now "officially" out here in cyber-space!

And to celebrate our new "officially launched" status, Aunty Cindy thought she'd expose a few little known facts about some of my Bandita compatriots. Hang onto your sombreros, chicas! Here are a few things you might or might not know about us Romance Bandits...

Yes, we are a diverse bunch! We write in many different sub-genres of romance including historical, contemporary, suspense, paranormal, and young adult. We hail from the West Coast, East Coast, Mid-West, South, North and places in-between, not to mention Canada, Down Under, and Across the Pond.

We have amongst our ranks at least one accountant, one engineer (Not the train variety!), and one real estate agent.

Two of our Banditas are attorneys.

Two are nurses currently working in hospitals and one Bandita used to supervise nurses (but not in a clinical setting).

At least three of us trained and worked as journalists (currently or in the not too distant past).

One taught high school English (and lived to tell the tales), and one even worked in the funeral industry (and teaches a class about it)!

And two of our Bandita sisters own more pairs of shoes than the other eighteen of us put together!

But one thing we all LOVE is writing! Doing it! Reading it! Blogging about it! So grab a margarita and join us at the BAAA for a rip-roaring good time!


Bandits Take Cyberspace By Storm!

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Zorro - Romance Bandits' inspiration!

Don't panic - it only sounds like you need to lock up your nubile virgins. In reality, the Romance Bandits are a mostly harmless group of romance writers who all happened to be finalists in Romance Writers of America's 2006 Golden Heart contest. Our ranks include all the fabulous authors you see featured down our side panel. We are not only a fine-looking group, but talented as well!

Below, you will find some of our previous posts (from before we declared ourselves street legal). You will find posts that make you laugh, make you think and make you itch to post a comment. Post away!

We are cooking up a Wild Weekend for all our friends in cyberspace. Bookmark this blog and check back often to find out what the Romance Bandits are up to. We guarantee you a wild ride.

So tell us, who are you, how did you find us, and how hot do you think Zorro was, anyway?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

THE SECRET key to publication...does it exist?

Everyone is talking about the book and DVD called THE SECRET. What if someone wrote a literary version of the book, unveiling the secrets that unlocked the door for unpublished writers, giving them the combination to guaranteed publication. Think it would be a best seller? I'd buy it! I believe that the same principles that make you a success in daily life could be applied to fiction writing.

The Law of Attraction is the perfect fit for writing novels. Although we believe writing is a solitary pursuit, my experience in the last couple of years says that it isn't. Let's explore this idea by looking at the Three C's and whether they can unlock that secret door to publication!

Contests: You've finished a manuscript. Your mom loves it, your best friend says that it is the best piece of fiction she has read, and your dog sniffs in approval. Now you need feedback from strangers, to test the mettle of the story, discover whether your craft needs work, hone your skills. Send it off to a contest. For a minimal fee, you have the opportunity to have honest feedback by avid readers. Okay, there are times when a judge is unfavorably disposed to your manuscript for personal reasons, but you need someone to toughen you up for reviewers, right? Contests can also offer you the opportunity to get your work in front of editors and agents who normally wouldn't see it. If you final or win contests, it helps with name recognition. And that can only help your plight for publication. After all, people need to see your name at least 24 times to take action (like buying your book), so you need to start sending that message out today. Entering contests can build friendships. I still stay in touch with contest organizers and judges that I've met through contests. A few judges have gone out of their way to mentor me, offer me feedback on my writing, a priceless gift...all resulting from entering contests.

Conferences: The laws of attraction at work. Nothing beats face-to-face contact. Although you can make incredible friends online, meeting someone and interacting with them in a relaxed setting (read drinks at the bar), can make all the difference. I've met many published writers and editors who have taken the time to share ideas and help me learn about the industry. Pitch appointments give you ten minutes of precious time for the undivided attention of an editor or agent. They aren't at their desk, they are focused on what you have to say about your book. E-mails and even phone calls can't replace face time.

Contacts: Here's an important one. Remember that motto, "it's better to give than receive"? It applies when making contacts in the industry. Be sure to send thank you notes whenever possible to judges, editors, and fellow writers. Celebrate your friend's successes like they were your own. Touch base with people. Try to give the personal touch, rather than a form thank you note. Help others whenenever you can. Not only does it make you feel good, you create a strong circle of buddies that will pick you up and dust you off when you receive a rejection, encourage you to keep trying, and celebrate your good news alongside you!

Okay, there are the three C's of success. Now writing a darn good book that editors can't put down can also help, but that's a discussion for another day! :)

I'd love to hear what people think about THE SECRET and how it might apply to writing. Whether you're published or still waiting for THE CALL, maybe you'll be kind enough to share some of your secrets along the way--what helped and what didn't. After all, we need to keep the Laws of Attraction in full force.

Wishing you all success in your pursuits!


Does Size Matter?

I started reading Harlequin at a very early age. Too early, in fact, for my mother, who banned the books for a few years until she realized her efforts were futile. I quickly graduated from Harlequin Romance to Harlequin Presents, and then dove right into the meaty, bodice-ripper historicals of the eighties. Loved 'em all. The bigger (and sexier) the better--Laurie McBain was my favorite. I wanted sweeping epics that took me to multiple locales, and stories where the heroine had more than one lover/husband. (Anyone else a Bertrice Small fan from the early Skye O'Malley days?)

When I started writing a couple of years ago, I turned immediately to the historicals of my memory. But, of course, you can't go back. I found that not only was the market not there any more, but I had changed, too. I now enjoyed a faster read--stories with dialogue, not description, and smaller packages that I could finish in one or two gym sessions on the exercise bike. But I worked my way through those first couple of books, struggling to fill up the space for a single title historical.

I hadn't considered category until I started reading category books written by friends from my local RWA chapter. I thought I was being polite, reading their stuff. I realized that these books were incredibly fun--and perfect for my post-college, post-babies, multi-tasking, short attention span.

So I gave it a try--and loved writing short. I recently finished a draft of a manuscript I'm targeting to Harlequin Blaze. And if category wasn't short enough, I found there are tons of short stories out there, particularly accessible via e-pubs who offer them at a few dollars a pop. I wrote a short story for Highland Press which will be coming out sometime in the next few months, and I'm now working on something for eSpice, which is taking me days to finish, not months.

So I'm loving the new shorts, and I don't think I'm the only one. I hear from publishers that single title books are getting shorter all the time. Other short attention-spans out there, I guess.

What about you? Do you read or write shorts? Prefer the sweeping epics of old? Do you feel confined by work count, or do you struggle to fill the pages?