Friday, August 31, 2007

Caren Begs Shamelessly

by Caren Crane

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIf you read our blog even occasionally, you know the Banditas love a contest! I am participating in a contest run by and Pocket Books called First Chapters Romance Writing Competition. The prize is a cash advance and having the book published by Pocket!

I'll admit to having a somewhat *ahem* competitive nature, so I threw myself into the spirit of the competition. The first chapter I have posted is from my Golden Heart finaling manuscript Kick Start. Please go read my chapter (the link is the book title preceding), rate it using the Rate this article option under the chapter (before the comments) and leave me a comment. They are only officially counting ratings of "10".

It would mean the world to me to see my Bandita friends there. And if Pocket publishes it, it will be one more great Bandita book for you. A win-win! Anyone with a question can contact me at: carencrane AT gmail DOT com.

Thanks, everyone, for your help and support!

What the Beautiful People are Wearing -- and Reading -- this Season

By Kate

Many people know I’ve had an interest in fashion from the time I was 10 years old and sewing my own fabulous outfits. My keen awareness of clothing style at that early age was considered phenomenal and people clamored for my opinion on the latest trends. Really!

I’ve carried this fashion awareness throughout my life, but I must admit, being a young style prodigy often meant I was a lonely little girl. I was lucky, though, because I managed to fill the void by discovering my other passion, reading.

So today, I'm thrilled to bring those passions together as I present my slightly abbreviated version of Kate’s Fall Fashion and Reading Forecast.

It’s official: color is out, capes are in, backless is hot, jeans are going wide, plaid is everywhere. But no matter what you wear, your most important accessory is always -- a book!

Check out the latest backless look on Kate Moss below. This look works for everyone! As long as you're carrying your very own copy of Donna MacMeans' wonderfully scintillating debut, The Education of Mrs. Brimley, you'll be happy and confident and completely pulled together. And check out Donna's gorgeous cover which proves the backless look is always beautiful, always in fashion.
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Did somebody mention plaid?
As you can see by this ensemble, plaid can often appear staid and a bit old-fashioned. In order to bring some pop to your look and truly highlight a perennial fashion favorite, may I suggest picking up a copy of Karen Hawkins’ marvelously funny and sexy new novel, To Scotland With Love? You’ll fall in love!
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Finally, there is no bolder fashion statement this season than a cape.

Capes come in every color and style from high fashion to Haute Halloween!

I can't think of a better accessory choice to complete your dramatic caped look than with JR Ward’s latest in her fabulous Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Unbound. This is Vishous' story. I can’t wait!

So…what books are you looking forward to reading this Fall? And how about the latest fashion trends – do you follow them or laugh at them? Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a $25 gift certificate to help kick off your Fall reading season!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

To Beard or Not to Beard

Here’s the thing about facial hair on men. Today’s image of a sexy alpha male often includes the scruff beard; in fact, some of our heroes keep a constant two- or three-day beard's growth. It makes them look manly, rugged, and sexy.

But the reality is those babies hurt like heck if they’re rubbed against the sensitive female skin. So where’s the fantasy come from and how does it transcend the reality?

It's clear that bodily hair serves an evolutionary purpose – to keep the species warm in frigid climates. I imagine our primordial ancestors possessed lots and lots of the stuff in rather unbecoming places. Even though we no longer need facial or body hair for protection from the elements, regularly as clockwork, facial hair seems to be the only fashion variable that men consistently alter, change, or invent.

I freely admit that my fantasy man has a full beard and mustache. When my husband taught in a private college, he was not permitted to wear a beard, and moustaches were seriously frowned upon. The moment he no longer worked there, I begged him to grow a beard. I suppose the idea of the beard was forbidden fruit to me.

The wearing of beards was rare in the western world during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but became fashionable by the mid-nineteenth century when many civil war heroes and officers sported them. After World War I, beards fell out of fashion again and were virtually nonexistent until the sixties and the hippie movement. From the 1990’s on, beards have continued to be in fashion, with various modifications. Even the corporate western world has accepted the look. Actors, music stars, and athletes alike wear some form of beard and/or moustache. The new millennium certainly seems to be the heyday of facial hair for men.

AND YET, the great heroes of romantic fiction appear be beardless – moustache-less – facial-hair-less. What’s that about? What can account for that discrepancy?

So here’s the question. Which do you prefer – clean-shaven men or bearded ones? What kind? Why? Are your fantasy men different from real-life ones? Why?

I'm giving away another Pirates of the Caribbean tee-shirt to a lucky commenter -- this one of Jack Sparrow in all his scruffiness. If you'd like to comment, but aren't interested in Jack's shirt, let me know and I'll take your name out of the hat. Banditas are eligible!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And The Winnah Is...

Super-congrats to Tracy! You are the winner of Lorraine Heath's book and mug. Please send your snail mail info to Suzanne at swwelsh2001 at yahoo dot com.

BIG THANX to everyone for hanging out with us here in the lair and a SPECIAL THANX to Lorraine for being a GREAT GUEST!

Be sure to check back with us often because we have MORE GREAT GUEST BLOGGERS coming up including Kathrynn Dennis, Terri Garey, and Sandy Blair just to name a few.

Meet Historical Star Nicola Cornick

I'm delighted to introduce to the Banditas hugely talented historical romance writer and altogether good egg (keeping the British flavor) Nicola Cornick. Nicola writes for Mills & Boon Historicals, Harlequin Historicals and HQN and her main area of interest is the Regency period.

Nicola, welcome to the Romance Bandits. Can you tell us a little bit about your early life as a writer and your journey to publication?

I think my earliest foray into writing was when I was about ten and created an imaginary kingdom called Ibazania of which I was, naturally, the queen! I had all kinds of magical adventures there and recorded them in an exercise book that my mother still keeps. I suppose I should be grateful that she doesn’t bring the book out to show visitors – as far as I know…

But despite starting to write quite early on, it took me years and years and years to get published. That probably sounds familiar to a lot of people. I wrote my first Regency romance, True Colours, when I was eighteen and spent three years revising it over late night cups of coffee with friends at college. Even now some of them remember James Mullineaux, the hero. I hope it’s because he was incredibly attractive but maybe it was just because they had to put up with him “living” with us for three years. I submitted the book to Mills and Boon and it was rejected. It took me another ten years, lots of revisions and two more submissions before they accepted it.

Strangely enough, I was dreaming about Ibazania only a week ago – perhaps I should set a Regency series of there!

You're clearly a great Regency enthusiast. What do you think lies behind the perennial appeal of this period in English history? Why does it particularly appeal to you?

Hmm, I’ve often tried to work out the appeal of the Regency period and it’s one of the things I love discussing with people. Clearly, whilst the sight of Colin Firth in a wet shirt and breeches is a splendid thing, it can’t be held completely responsible for the popularity of the Regency in books, films and TV.

Jane Austen’s books are timeless classics, of course, and some of the film and TV adaptations have been superb. I think there’s also an appeal in the rigid social structure and the rules governing courtship and marriage – and how far those rules might be bent or broken.

For me the appeal comes from the huge contrast that there was in society between the glitter and glamour of the Ton and the poverty and hardship that there was in other ranks of society. Writing about the house parties and the balls and the fabulous frocks is great but it’s also good to have the gritty side of life to research and that also provides wonderful story ideas.

You've got a great backlist, Nicola. Do you have any particular favorites among your books? Why?

Well, first of all I’m glad you like the backlist! Thank you. It’s difficult choosing favourites, isn’t it, a bit like having to choose between my pets! I can honestly say that I was madly in love with the heroes of all my books. I’m very free with my favours in that respect. In terms of favourite books, though, I have a particular soft spot for The Penniless Bride because it is a “happy book,” a rags to riches fairy story, which I think still manages to be emotionally intense as well as fun and entertaining. I also loved researching the history of chimney sweeps for that book. It was fascinating.

I loved The Penniless Bride. A real fairytale but with your exemplary grip on historical reality. Another book of yours that I particularly enjoyed was Lord Greville's Captive which was set during the English Civil War in the 17th century. Clearly, other people agreed with me as LGC was nominated for several awards. Were there any particular challenges or rewards in writing about a period other than the Regency? Do you have any plans to write more non-Regency books?

Lord Greville's Captive is another book that is close to my heart because I had wanted to write it for so long. I love the period of the English Civil War because it was a time of such intense experiences and emotions. There was huge physical danger, the potential for betrayal and redemption, heightened passions and intrigue, all of which appeal to me as a writer of romance. It was also fun to read up on and research a different time period, and because I work in a seventeenth century historic house I had lots of visual history – buildings, paintings etc to draw on. The drawback was that I had to plan in more research time than with my Regency books since I didn’t have as much detailed knowledge of the period, but that wasn’t exactly a hardship.

I don’t currently have any plans to write other books outside the Regency period except for one very special project. I’ve written a book set in the Edwardian era as part of the Harlequin Mills and Boon Centenary celebrations for 2008. It’s called The Last Rake In London and comes out in March 2008. The hero is a descendent of the Kestrel family who featured in my Bluestocking Brides Regency series. My grandmother is 99 years old and a true Edwardian lady, so the book is dedicated to her.

Your current HQN release is Lord of Scandal.I thoroughly enjoyed this story about celebrity and scandal in the Regency. Can you tell us a little about this book?

I first became interested in celebrity in the Regency period when I studied the appeal of heroes for my MA dissertation. It was a tough assignment but someone had to do it! Amongst others, I studied Horatio Nelson and was fascinated to realise that he was a celebrity as well as a war hero. In Lord of Scandal Ben Hawksmoor, the hero, is a man who has built a celebrity persona for himself. He’s one of the Prince Regent’s set of dazzling, dissolute characters, a gambler and a rake. But the real Ben is very different – a dark, complex character who is attracted to the heroine, Catherine, because she is open and loving and the opposite of him in so many ways.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing the second book in a Regency series called The Brides of Fortune for HQN Books. The series kicks off with Unmasked in July 2008. I’m pretty excited about Unmasked because in Nick Falconer it has one of those historical heroes I love – principled and honourable but sexy as hell into the bargain! Marina, the heroine, is more than a match for him. She has some deep, dark secrets to hide and is determined that Nick is not going to seduce them out of her no matter how hard he tries!

QUESTION AND PRIZES: Lord of Scandal is all about glamour and glitz and Regency celebrity. Which actor do you think looks the best in historical costume - or a wet shirt and soaking breeches! The prize is a signed copy of Lord of Scandal plus some luxurious pampering treats from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Baseball and The Boys of October!

by Suzanne Welsh
Yes, I know it's not quite Labor Day yet, but the run for the baseball playoffs is heating up! Especially in the American League Central division. The Cleveland Indians, my team, are leading by a slim margin of 2 and 1/2 games! And tonight they turned one of the rarest plays--an around the horn triple play. It was a thing of beauty.

I adore baseball. My mother and her two sisters in Tennessee were Cincinnati Reds fans back in the days of Johnny Bench, Pistol Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine. There was no such thing as ESPN and when the games weren't on TV we listened to them over the radio on warm summer nights out on the back porch with the crickets chirping and fireflies blinking.

Then I married an Indians fan and changed allegiance more from attrition than from their excellent play. This was back in the eighties and quite frankly I watched them lose more than win. They were so bad, they made a fictional movie about them, Major League.

What got me hooked is that they showed up every day. They practiced hitting, running, catching, pitching...all as if they planned on winning. Coaches made decisions and players were traded or sent down to the minors in the hopes of the team having a winning season. Or at least not being on the bottom of the standings. Some people would say they were paid to do these things. That a salary is what prompted them. Maybe, but it didn't make them play with passion and enthusiasm. They weren't the super-paid men in pin-stripes. Many were making low-for-baseball-players salaries. They were the underdogs, my heroes. They plugged away for the love of the game.

Then things started to change. After a new stadium was built, and management made some changes the team started winning. They played to 455 consecutive sell-out games at Jacobs Field. (A number the team retired in honor of their fans.)They made a run for the pennant. Omar Visquel was a thing of beauty on the field, almost a ballerina turning a double play! Jim Thome looked like a mountain of a man at the plate just before he knocked one out of the park. They played in two world series!! But didn't win either one.

Then time passed, they restructured the team and had a few rebuilding years.

Now they're in the race again, with guys like the gorgeous Grady Sizemore making flying and diving catches in centerfield. Designated hitter, Travis Hafner and catcher, Victor Martinez leading their offenses. Pitchers CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Paul Byrd setting records and winning games.

That's sort of what it's like for me as a romance writer. I plugged away in the early years because of my love of the game, (writing). Then things started to click, I won a contest that actually paid me! OMG, the next thing must be publication. After a couple of tries without reaching that goal, I had to step back and restructure. Then I started finaling in contests with my newer works, get positive feedback even in my rejections. Now I'm making a run at the series again, (an agent or a publishing contract).

Will I make it? I hope so. I'm working like I mean to achieve those things. I have two GH pins to show for the efforts so far. I have to believe they're signs!

Will my Indians make the World Series again? I hope so. They turned a TRIPLE PLAY tonight. Somehow I have to think it's a sign!

So what heroes in your life or books keeps you rooting for them even when all seems lost?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Lorraine Heath, guest blogger

Interviewed by Suzanne Welsh

RITA Winner and NYT best-selling author, Lorraine Heath joins the Romance Bandits in the Banditas Lair today. Lorraine’s newest historical romance, Just Wicked Enough, recently received a 4-1/2 star review from Romantic Times Magazine and will be on the shelves at your local book stores tomorrow. Today, she’s here to give us a sneak peek at Just Wicked Enough and talk about writing both historicals and Young Adult (YA). Congratulations, Lorraine on the great review and welcome to our lair.

Your stories always bring your readers wonderful alpha males in need of the right heroine to love. Can you tell us about the hero and heroine in Just Wicked Enough?
Michael Tremayne, the Marquess of Falconridge, stole my heart the moment I met him. He’s extremely proud (what male isn’t, right?) and in dire financial straits. In A Duke of Her Own, he watched his best friend court a wealthy American heiress only to end up with the penniless chaperone. Michael hasn’t the time to waste courting a woman when the outcome is questionable, so he decides to hold a private auction with all the American fathers. He’ll marry the daughter of the man willing to arrange the best settlement.

Kate Rose has a secret in her past that makes her more than willing to agree to marry Falconridge if for no other reason it’ll get her out of her overbearing mother’s house. But Kate also believes strongly in love and courtship so before she’ll consummate the marriage, she insists that Falconridge earn her love. And since her father has given control over the money to her, my poor hero—who had hoped to avoid courtship—finds himself dancing to her tune.

Kate seems to be one of those headstrong Americans you love to incorporate in your books. How does she feel about her father essentially buying her a husband with a title?
When she finds out, she’s furious . . . but since it was a private auction and neither man wants to confess what he’s done, it’s a while before she learns that Falconridge didn’t approach her parents and ask for her hand in marriage.

You originally wrote Western historical romances, which garnered you your RITA award. Was it hard to change from Western settings to books set primarily in England?
It was difficult in that I had to do a lot of research because life was so very different in London than in Texas. Clothing, food, to a degree etiquette, all different. But I’d always wanted to write a story set in England, so part of the reason that I brought the second sons of English lords to Texas in my Rogues in Texas series was so that I could begin researching England and getting comfortable with the differences when a story wasn’t completely dependent upon a vast knowledge of English ways. So the Rogues in Texas became exactly what I’d hoped they would—a stepping stone to writing stories set in England.

If you had the chance is there another time or place you’d like to take your readers to with your historicals?
Actually, I wrote three medievals before I was ever published and I’ll admit that lately I’ve been considering dusting them off and seeing if they have any potential. Although I suspect in truth I’ll find that they’re simply awful.

You’ve ventured into contemporary romances with Hard Lovin’ Man and Smooth Talkin’ Stranger. Are there plans for more of those stories in your future?
I would like to write more contemporaries, have worked on a couple of stories actually, but I’m just not entirely comfortable with my contemporary voice and I’m not sure I’ve managed to figure out how to create that “big book” feel that you really need to be successful with contemporaries.

Our blog readers may not know this, but you also write YA stories under the name Rachel Hawthorne. Want to tell us about your latest YA release, The Boyfriend League?
The Boyfriend League was a lot of fun to write. DH and I had gone to watch the McKinney Marshals play. They’re a collegiate team—college players move to the city during the summer, stay with host families, and play baseball. It was family appreciation night and they recognized the families who had provided homes to the players—and I immediately envisioned a teenage girl desperate for a boyfriend who talks her parents into hosting a player so she can get up close and personal with the players. Came home from the game, sat down at my computer, wrote the synopsis, pitched—so to speak—the story to my editor, and she loved it. I had my fictitious Ragland Raiders play actual teams in the North Texas Collegiate League. Although I’ve heard that the league may disband after this year.

If you read the excerpt for this book posted at my website, you'll discover that Michael believes he has only to guess Kate's favorite color in order to prove that he knows her well enough to be invited into her bed. His misguided belief provides some of the lighter moments in the story. What one thing does a man need to know about you to prove that he truly knows the real you?

One lucky commenter will receive an autographed copy of JUST WICKED ENOUGH along with a JUST WICKED ENOUGH mug!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Super Surprise

By Beth Andrews

Tuesday (my husband's birthday ) I was getting ready to pick up my daughter from ball practice and to go to the post office to send a query on my Golden Heart winning manuscript, All Or Nothing, when the phone rang. Because I was running late (as usual) when no one else answered it, I snatched up the phone and snapped out a Hello. It was an editor with Harlequin Superromance. She told me she'd requested the full of All Or Nothing after judging it in the Golden Heart. I figured she wanted to ask for revisions but instead, she offered me a contract!!

I was shocked since I had no idea any judges were even looking at All Or Nothing! And the weird part was that query I had all ready to send? Yep, I was sending it to Superromance *g* I can't believe how things work out sometimes! It's like it was meant to be *ggg*

I'm not sure what my title will be but my book will be released in June 2008 (Jeanne and I are to be debut month partners!) I'm obviously still walking on air and have no plans on coming down any time soon ;-)

Dreams really do come true!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Break a...nail?

I've been on vacation this last week. I didn't write, I didn't diet. I didn't do much of anything strenuous, which was perfect. Just before we left, I had a manicure. My hands looked great. Pretty polish, perfect length on my nails, just delightful and quite unusual for me with an active lifestyle including dogs and lets-play-baseball-and-chase-sons. I was thrilled. So, I'll ask you, have you ever broken a nail just when you thought they were the perfect length, looked great and actually looked like you intended them to? Yep, did that. Unlike acrylics, if your natural nails break, you can't (alas) just run by the nail shop and fix it. Darn it. I can't stand it to have my nails all different lengths, and I broke this one off to the quick. Ouch. So they all had to go much shorter. A whole different direction...

Yeah, this really does tie back to writing. Grin. I'm currently immersed in two works-in-process (WIPs) which are totally different. So far, I don't know if my editor would be interested in either of them for book two of my contract. One of them is out, I know, because its a paranormal. The other could be, but...who knows?

So I got this idea. Big idea. Great plot unfolding in my brain just as I woke up. Woo-hoo, thought I. Coool! So as my husband drove us home from our vacation, I made notes. As I drove the last bit, I made mental notes. I hurriedly scribbled the mental notes down as soon as we got home, before I even helped unload the car. Wonderful, I thought. Maybe THIS would be a good second book.

This morning, I excitedly read over all the notes, took them forward a bit more and realized...melodramatic music here...that the plot wouldn't work. I felt like I'd broken that pretty, polished, feminine nail all over again. Drat. Grrrr. Back to the drawing board and the WIPs. I'm not a plotter, and I'm not really a "pantser" either. I'm more of a plotzer. (Sounds like an exotic dog breed, doesn't it?) So I know both the WIPs will work because I know how they end, even if I don't know all the steps in between. Couldn't see an end to this really cool plot. Still can't. I'm going to keep working and hoping that if I let it percolate long enough, this fabulous idea will suddenly twist around in my brain in some believable way so I can write it.

Until then, I've taken off the polish, filed the nails and am back at the keyboard. Have you ever had one of those great ideas that fizzled on you? How did you cope? Did it ever spring back, full blown and work out? I'd love to hear about it. Even if you broke a nail over it... Grins.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Debra Webb Finishes Book 66!

by KJ Howe

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketToday, the Romance Bandits are lucky to have talented and prolific author Debra Webb joining us. Feel free to ask Deb any questions you may have about writing or the publishing industry. This warm-hearted Southern gal always goes out of her way to help others. Here are a few interview questions to kick off the day!

KJ: Congratulations on the upcoming release of TRACELESS, a single title romantic suspense from St. Martin’s Press. The conflict between your hero and heroine, Clint and Emily, fairly sizzles. Clint has been in jail for ten years for the murder of Emily’s best friend and Emily was a key witness in his trial. When Clint is released on parole, Emily comes back home to confront him, while the real killer remains at large. Fantastic set up. What inspired you to write this story?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDW: First, I love wounded heroes. Clint is a man who has been to hell and back and believes he has lost everything, including his ability to care for anyone else. I love proving those big, tough guys wrong! As far as the plot, I grew up in a very small town much like Pine Bluff. Your mistakes follow you to the grave. The whole small town dynamics appeals to me on a very primal level. I find it fascinating how the “family” mindset of small towns reacts to such a heinous crime. Yes, I’m twisted. I know.

KJ: Switching from category to single title is a fascinating process. Can you tell us about some of the challenges/joys you faced when writing the larger books?

DW: The transition was relatively painless in theory. I really wanted to write “bigger” books. I mistakenly thought that a bigger book meant a bigger plot and that’s simply not the case. A bigger book is one with meatier characters and the exploration of those characters to a greater degree. The plots of my “big” books are actually simpler than many of the category length books I’ve done. But the characters are far more fully developed and the setting is an equal character.

KJ: Your Colby Agency books have become a Harlequin institution. How did you come up with the original idea? And, most importantly, after blowing up the Colby Agency building last Christmas, where are you going to house Victoria and her amazing staff?

DW: I wish I could tell you that I’d had this grand plan with page after page of future events mapped out right from the beginning. I didn’t. I simply had a woman, Victoria Colby, who had lost the man she loved with all her heart as well as her only child. I gave her the Colby Agency to focus on and a wonderful romantic interest in Lucas Camp. The rest evolved with the stories. I love the Colby Agency! I can’t imagine ever ending that series. Of course, Victoria and her people will have a fabulous new home. Check out Colby Rebuilt coming from Harlequin Intrigue this November.

KJ: Congratulations on receiving the Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine this year, a well-deserved honor. I believe you’ve written over 60 novels (yes, 60, this is not a typo!). Can you talk a little about your writing process (when you write, are you a plotter/pantser, etc.)? How do you come up with new names for your characters? I can’t imagine how many you’ve had!

DW: Oh, wow. Yes. Number 66 comes out this November in only 8 years. Looking back, I can’t believe how fast time has flown. It has been an amazing journey. I have to thank my many friends, like you, Kim, and RWA, of course, for helping me get here. I’m not a plotter usually. I prefer to get the general idea of where I’m going and just write the book. I start with a character that I want to write, then I add history and then the plot develops from there. Sometimes I start with a plot idea and develop the characters around that. It’s never the same. Names are easy. I have the character in mind and then I give him or her a name that fits his or her personality.

KJ: What advice would you give unpublished writers in today’s market? Where should they focus their efforts?

DW: Always, always focus your energy on the work. Your voice, first and foremost, is what will get you published. No matter how amazing your story idea, the voice must shine on the page. The only way to develop your voice is to write. It’s kind of like working out, you hate it but it’s necessary. Keep writing, never give up no matter how many rejections hit you in the face. Just DO IT!

KJ: The Romance Bandits love secrets. Perhaps you might give us a little insider’s information on NAMELESS, your next Single Title from St. Martin’s?

DW: Now, talk about heroes, the guy in NAMELESS is to die for. Ryan McBride is the epitome of what I love in a man. Vivian Grace is his match on every level. NAMELESS will be released on February 5th. Look for a special sneak peek at the first chapter in the back of TRACELESS. As for a little secret...hmmm...there is one thing that scares, big, bad, I-don’t-give-a-damn Ryan McBride to death...but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!

KJ: There we have it...just like a romantic suspense author to leave us with a cliffhanger! Deb, thanks for joining us today. If you have questions for Deb, please feel free to ask. And don't forget to pick up TRACELESS. It's a un-put-downable read!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An Inspirational Challenge

by Donna MacMeans

Several years ago, when RWA's annual conference was held in New Orleans, I heard a workshop on creativity presented by Felicia Mason. She maintained that as writers, we experience life in a whole different manner than non-writers. We see possibilities, when others see scenery. We hear sounds and instantly create metaphors to describe the sound while others dismiss it as white noise. In that workshop, Felicia challenged the group to think of the one thing they were meant to see in New Orleans. That one thing that we saw through our writer's eye that we could use in a story.

Growing up, I was the oldest girl with two older brothers. That has translated into a constant drive to "prove" that I'm as good as them. I face any challenge with a determination to win - which explains why four of my stories resulted from someone issuing me a challenge.

So I took Felicia's challenge and mentally reviewed all that I had seen in New Orleans and discovered the one thing that spoke to me, but didn't seem to resonate with anyone else - the Charm Gates at the Court of Two Sisters restaurant. I eventually developed a time travel built around the Charm Gates. One of these days it may even see publication.

So now I'm challenging you. What have you experienced recently that singled you out and spoke to your writer's soul? Was there anything in Dallas at the recent convention? I know I stayed on the twentieth floor and thought about those small open areas by the elevators that dropped down to the restaurant area, nineteen floors below. I mean you could drop a body easily down one of those chutes. It's a shame I don't write contemporary (smile). What about a vacation? Was there something that inspired you? Could you create a story around it? Let me know, and I'll send the person with the best inspirational experience an autographed copy of Elizabeth Bevarly's book, The Ring on Her Finger.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Anyone for Camping?

I've got a deep, dark confession to make, Banditas and friends! In the early '80s, I had a HUGE crush on Adam Ant whose picture graces the top of this blog. When he sang Ant Music, I was in ant heaven. Or perhaps I should say the ANT-eroom to heaven! But the weird thing is I only liked AA when he wore make-up and his rather naff highwayman gear. When he looked like a normal guy, I wasn't interested. Why?

I'm a huge fan of the Scarlet Pimpernel but find him much more attractive when he's lily-livered Sir Percy Blakeney. I much prefer him making up groan-worthy verse about seeking those Frenchies everywhere than saving people from the guillotine!

I could go on. Captain Jack Sparrow. That man can wear eyeliner! David Bowie in the 1970s. ALL Restoration comedy which I developed a real fondness for when I did English lit at uni. Frances Crawford from Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. Camp as they come but SOOOOO dashing and gorgeous. Lord Peter Wimsey from Dorothy L. Sayers' classic mysteries.
I have a fairly loose theory that the reason I find these men attractive has something to do with their ability with the English language. Well, Adam Ant aside! But all of these dudes can talk their way out of a corner better than most. Do these particular examples float my boat because they might be camp, but they're dashing as well?

So a couple of questions. Am I alone in my attraction to these theatrical but extremely gorgeous manifestations of masculinity? Do you have any camp heroes of your own - and no, Caren, we're not talking about the scouting movement! What is the eternal lure of the camp?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Race Car Driver By Any Other Name...

posted by Aunty Cindy

Since my DH is a lifelong auto racing enthusiast, I've become a fan through osmosis. This Memorial Day weekend, we were actually home for a change, and watched avidly as Dario Franchitti slid across the yard of bricks to win the soggy Indy 500. Then, after calling the top finishers, the announcer said something about Franchitti being only the second Scot to win the Indy 500...

SAY WHAT?!?! Dario Franchitti is a SCOT?!?!

Yet another example of real life that would never work in fiction! As all novelists know, readers presume a lot about characters based on their names, ethnicity being one of the major things. I know, I know it doesn't necessarily work that way in "real life." Nevertheless, if you are writing a novel with a Scottish character his/her name better be McSomethingOrOther or you risk alienating your readers!

So where DO writers find all those wonderfully fitting character names? Thanks to the internet and Google, first names are easy. You can find just about any ethnicity. I know because I wanted some typical Croatian names for one of my books which has a half-Croatian hero. And I found 'em, NO PROBLEM! (along with Serbian, Russian, Arabic and MORE ) Not only can you find any ethnic first name, but you can also find out which names were the most popular in any particular decade. VERY handy not just for historical settings but naming secondary characters like Great Aunt Bertha and Grandpa Edgar.

Last names can be a bit trickier. I stumbled across some great census data from Ireland by county while researching names for my latest novel set in Northern Ireland. I also like to thumb through the phone book (luckily I live in a large metropolitan area and there are LOTS of names), and there are a treasure-trove of last names in the closing credits of most movies. Some writers use names of friends for minor characters. Another writer I know says she uses the names on the spam emails she gets! Talk about recycling!

So what about YOU? If you are a writer, how do you select names for your characters? And if you're a reader, would YOU believe a Scot named Dario Franchitti?

And the WINNAH is... shari c. You are the lucky winner of Susan Grant's book How to Lose An Extraterrestrial in 10 Days. Please email your info to Joan at JKayse413 AT aol DOT com
And THANX A BUNCH for hanging out with us in the Bandit lair.

Monday, August 20, 2007

And the winner is ...


Congratulations - You have won a copy of Julie Cohen's book MACALLISTER'S BABY!

If you contact Julie at she can get your prize to you.

Thanks again to Julie for spending the day with us. I'm thrilled to announce that Julie will return to the Bandita's lair in January.

Protecting My Process

by Beth Burgoon

My kids go back to school in six days, twenty-three hours and eleven minutes. Am I counting down the days? Yes. (I like to tease my kids that I actually start my back-to-school countdown on the first day of summer vacation *g*) Am I excited? You bet (but you already could tell that, right?)

Okay, I want to put in a disclaimer here. I love my kids. I adore them. I think they are the best kids around. But I work from home and to write I've discovered I need two things: A schedule (not easy to come by with three active kids) and quiet (my oldest plays the guitar--electric, acoustic and bass--and drums, my middle child is constantly singing--with or without blaring background music--and my youngest is young enough to still want/need quite a bit of my attention). Oh, who am I kidding? They all want/need my attention which they try and get by coming into my office, sitting in a chair, staring at me and sighing (loudly and repeatedly) while muttering about being bored.

None of those things are condusive to my writing process.

Which brings me to my point: I haven't always been true to my writing process and I haven't done nearly enough to protect it.

I realized this truth last week when, on one of my writing loops, a wonderful, published author said we needed to respect and guard our own creative process like junk yard dogs. For years, I've known what works for me but have, in an attempt to write better and faster, tried numerous other ways of writing. Unfortunately, while those other ways may work for some, they haven't worked for me. So I've decided this year when I have the house to myself again, I'm going to allow my own unique creative process to shine. I'll take the time to think about my new story, to make notes and type up a quick outline of scenes. Then I'll dive into the story, get to know my characters and let the words flow until I have a rough draft. Once I have the skeleton of my story done, I'll slow down a bit, flesh it out and take the time to polish those rough edges into the best story I can possibly write.

And when school lets out next year for summer vacation, I'll have a working schedule and process that works for ME. One that I'll protect and guard fiercely no matter how loud those bored sighs get ;-)

What do you do to protect your writing time and/or process? How long were you writing until you found what worked for you? For non-writers, is there something in your life--a hobby, exercise or just YOU time--that you protect? And come on, am I the ONLY one who gets excited about back-to-school? :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

In a Galaxy, Far, Far away...

by Joan Kayse

There lived a tired little nurse....

Oops, wrong page......

There lived an author who wrote wonderful sci fi/futuristic romances. That author is Susan Grant.

We talk so much about the different subgenres in romance; historical (pick a time period), romantic suspense, paranormal, fantasy but not as much about sci-fi/futuristic. And why, I can't imagine. Not when you have authors like Sue who have successfully been writing and publishing wonderful stories about handsome alien heroes and fearless heroines from other worlds for quite a few years.

I first became a fan with "The Star King". Now, who can pass up a title like that? In less time than it took to say "I'll buy that" I was enthralled by the story of Rom and Jas. This new addiction was quickly followed by "The Star Prince" "The Star Princess" and many other titles including "Contact" Sue's 2003 Rita award winning book.

My admiration for her flowed into a typical fan email. The following year at the national RWA conference, I made a point to go meet her and get her latest book. She was so gracious and over the years with a fan email with each new release and my yearly trek to her table at the literacy signing we became friends. She asked about my writing and gave me encouragement and I took her example to heart. In a world filled with regencies and Scots and vampires she had gained a foothold with a unique subgenre. Maybe someday, readers would enjoy my Roman historicals. She was my new role model.

That kind of ties in with Kirsten's previous post. Paying it forward. I know how important her support has been and continues to be. As my career forms and grows I will not forget that.

Now, back to the hot alien guys. :-)

Sue's latest title is "How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days" and it is like all of her other stories. An assassin sent from a far off world, REEF must find his humanity amidst the inhumanity done to him. He does so in the arms of a woman with strength enough for both of them. It's hot. It's exciting. It's wonderful.

Sue's busy schedule precluded her being able to join us in person. But she has sent the Bandits a gift and now we offer that to you. A lucky reader will win an autographed copy of ET. Tell us what interests you most about space and the possibility of other worlds. If there's a sexy alien hero there, all the better.

And the winnah is......

For Sabrina Jefferies "School for Heiresses Anthology".... Buffie! For the "At Home in Mossy Creek"..... Sue A! Please send your snail mail addy to carencrane AT gmail DOT com. Congratulations ladies!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pay It Forward

By Kirsten Scott

If you're like me, you've never heard of Catherine Ryan Hyde (until now). She's the author of the book Pay It Forward, which was later turned into a movie starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, and Kevin Spacey. The concept of Pay It Forward is simple--someone does you a favor, and instead of trying to pay them back you pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. I was going to start this blog with a picture from that movie, but--DUH--this is a blog about AUTHORS and BOOKS, so I decided to go for the original. :-)

I was the receipient of a random act of extreme kindness recently, and I'm still reeling. An author I had never met judged one of my manuscripts in a contest, and contacted me afterward to tell me she loved the partial and wanted to introduce me to her agent or her editor, anything she could do to help get it sold.

(I still get the shivers when I look at her email.)

It was an incredibly kind gesture, and did wonders for my tender writer's ego.

About a month ago, I was on a plane by myself and in the seats next to me were a mother and her fifteen month and four year old kids. I spent the plane ride entertaining the four year old, because the fifteen month old was screaming (LOUDLY) and he quieted down only if she walked up and down the aisle with him. I held the little one for a while, too, to give her a break. I'd like to think that was a pay it forward moment for me. Of course, I'm still looking for another opportunity to pass on the kindness that was given to me.

I love the Pay It Forward idea, and I think we all Pay It Forward, whether we do so consciously or not. So toot your own horn--when did you Pay It Forward? Or when did someone treat you to an act of random kindness? We'd love to hear your stories.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On Turning 80

by Christie Kelley
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I really don’t think it’s fair that I have to follow Sabrina Jeffries, especially when I was so busy yesterday with my regular job I couldn’t even post a hello to one of my favorite authors. Oh well, this post will be short because of the same reason--the paying job.

I returned from upstate New York on Sunday after spending a few days up there to visit my mom. She turned 80 years old so we had a little party for her. Well, nothing in my family is ever little. With seven of her nine children there, plus spouses and fifteen out of twenty-three grandchildren, it was quite a little party. And my mom loved every minute of it. She’s looks and acts far more like she’s turning 70 than 80.

My mom always told me she wanted a big family. So here she is now surrounded by her large family and loving it.

But it got me thinking about what I want to be known for when I turn 80. My goal for the past seven years has been getting a book published. Come February I’ll have reached that goal.

So what’s next?

For me it has to be getting my name out there, establishing a reader base and most importantly, not being known as a one hit wonder. When I’m 80, I want to know that I did something. I made people happy, gave them a few moments of escapism, made them think about things in a different way.

So what’s important to you? What do you want to be known for? Fess up!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sabrina Jeffries Lets Sleeping Rogues Lie

by Caren Crane

Caren: Welcome to the Romance Bandits blog, Sabrina. We're very happy to have you visit us! Your latest release from Pocket, Beware a Scot's Revenge, hit #14 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Congratulations! Were you surprised at the popularity of the School For Heiresses series or do you see it as a natural evolution?

Sabrina: Thanks, Caren, it's great to be here, especially now that I've met some of the Banditas in person at conference! Actually, I was kind of surprised. I didn't think it was a concept that would be as popular as the Royal Brotherhood, but I've been pleased that some readers are really liking the books.

(Caren: [mumbling] A lot of readers apparently, since it was #14 on the Times...)

Caren: "Beware a Scot's Revenge" was the third book in your School For Heiresses series. When is the next book due out and what can you tell us about it?

Sabrina: The next book comes out Feb. 19, 2008 and is titled Let Sleeping Rogues Lie. I just got the cover for it, and it's spectacular. It's about Anthony Dalton, the Viscount Norcourt. He grudgingly agrees to teach a few rake lessons at the school under the "supervision" of Miss Madeline Prescott, math and science teacher extraordinaire (they called them naturalists in those days), who is way too pretty for a schoolteacher. Little does he know that Madeline secretly needs his help...or that helping her is liable to put an end to his rakehell existence once and for all.

I had a lot of fun with Madeline, who tends to approach sex from a scientific viewpoint...and tells Anthony that his rakehell behavior isn't "safe" or practical, which is pretty much all she cares about. It catches the big bad rakehell off guard. He's used to getting censured for entirely different reasons.

Caren: In addition to your sexy Regency historicals with Pocket, I happen to know you have dabbled in some Southern fiction for the past few years with Belle Books. Tell us about that.

Sabrina: I read the very first Mossy Creek book (it's a collective novel, made up of stories written by different writers and loosely connected around an event in the town) because I knew the writers. But I got completely sucked in. In fact, I have now read every book in the series - generally I read them as soon as they come out. I just love the small town of Mossy Creek, and all its quirky characters. I like the series so much that I begged to be included. And they let me write a story for A Day in Mossy Creek and At Home in Mossy Creek. The first one wasn't a romance (hey, I was stretching). But the second one is.

(Caren:[squeals] I'm a Mossy Creek fan girl, too! Sorry...)

Caren: I know you claim to be a plot-driven author and your plots are always quite intricate. And yet, your characters are all three-dimensional and fully realized. How do you achieve such a balance?

Sabrina: Don't mention intricate plots - my upcoming one has a little too much intricacy. I get carried away sometimes. *sigh* As for characters, it took me years to learn how to make my characters three-dimensional. I have a number of questions I ask myself about my characters before I even start, but mostly I try to go against type. I mean, alpha males don't all have to be alike. And heroines definitely don't.

Caren: You are well known for having series of connected books. As a matter of fact, except for your first two Sabrina Jeffries books, haven't they all been part of a series? And, do you ever think you'll write a true stand-alone book again?

Sabrina: My first two books are part of a series, too, actually. It's only my Deborah Martin books that were sometimes stand-alone. I suppose it's possible that I could go back to stand-alones one day, but I doubt it. I really love series. Always have. I was delighted when they got to be popular with readers. I don't think I'm alone in that either - mystery and science fiction and fantasy readers have all preferred series for years. It makes perfect sense to me that they'd also be popular with romance readers. We like to visit the same familiar world over and over, only with different characters at the helm.

Caren: What other works do you have in the pipeline at Pocket? Any plans to branch out to other subgenres or try something new and different?

Sabrina: Right now, I have two books left (after Let Sleeping Rogues Lie) in my School for Heiresses series, including the one for Cousin Michael and Charlotte, so I'm focused on that. I have a couple of other ideas for other subgenres, but I'm still not tired of writing Regency historicals, so I'll probably keep it up a while longer. I really don't know. That's two books off!

[Sabrina ponders] But I'm curious to know how readers feel about their authors branching off into new directions. Would readers follow me if I wrote, say, a time travel? Or a contemporary with mythical elements? Not sure if I'm ready to do that, but I do have ideas.

So, dear Readers, let us know. What do you think about authors trying new types of stories? Would you follow Sabrina to a different subgenre? Be sure to post a comment. Lucky winners will win an autographed copy of either the School For Heiresses anthology or At Home In Mossy Creek!

You can find information about all of Sabrina's books at Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


by Trish Milburn

I'm obsessive. No, not in the clinical obsessive-compulsive sense. Rather, when I find a form of entertainment that I enjoy, I tend to glom everything I can find about it. If I discover a song I love, I play it over and over and over until I finally tire of it and have to give it a break. This happened earlier this summer when I played my Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks every day, multiple times. I would relive favorite movie moments when certain songs played, even when certain sections of those songs played.

When I fall in love with a new TV series, particularly if it's one that is now over but that I missed, I get a bit obsessive about catching up on the episodes. For instance, I'd heard writers talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years but I'd never watched it. Then in the summer of 2006, I was bummed about my own writing, uninspired, and got sick on top of that. I decided to borrow the first season DVDs of Buffy from a friend, thinking I'd watch one here and there. Uh, no. I flew through that season, and had to get seasons 2-4 from her. I kid you not, I was watching eight episodes a day. When I exhausted the seasons she owned, I went out and bought the ones still left. In about six weeks, I watched all seven seasons of Buffy, all five of the spin-off Angel, and the first season of Supernatural, another show I'd missed (thought luckily only the first season) but now love.

A few months ago, I fell into the same pattern with Smallville. I watched the first five seasons as fast as Netflix would send me the DVDs. I get so hooked on shows and have to keep watching mainly because there's a love story involved, and I just HAVE to know how it ends up. (I still say Buffy and Angel are going to get together at some point.) I've just started this same thing with a Canadian show from the 1990s called Road to Avonlea. Through the wonders of YouTube (yet another of my obsessions), I know there's a wonderful love story between the characters of Gus Pike and Felicity King and I can't wait to see it unfold.

On YouTube, I love the fan-made videos about certain TV or movie couples. The ones I've been watching lately are for Gus and Felicity as well as some for Padme and Anakin from the newest Star Wars trilogy. Earlier in the summer, my passion was for the videos about Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

There are, of course, certain books that make me keep reading past the point I should be going to sleep and when I should be working. J.R. Ward's books are like that for me.

The thing is, I believe all of these things inspire my writing. I write romance and young adult novels with teen romance in them, so these shows, songs, and novels feed my muse as well as provide entertainment.

Do you have this same type of obsessive nature regarding things you love? If so, what things have you been obsessing about lately?

I'll close by sharing this YouTube video. I love the song, "Everything" by Lifehouse, and it's set to video clips of lots of wonderful romantic couples.

Sabrina Jeffries Guest Blogging!

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Hi, everyone! I am excited to announce that Sabrina Jeffries will be guest blogging with us this Thursday, August 16. Sabrina will answer questions about her School For Heiresses series, writing series, dabbling in Southern fiction and what's coming up next for her.

Join us for a good time this Thursday and be sure to check for details on how to win autgraphed copies of Sabrina's books!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Falling In Love...

by Tawny Weber

Do you ever fall in love with a story?

As a writer, I rarely read my own work from a reader's perspective. My process is more along the lines of hyper-critical judgement, wrapped in scrutinizing assessment. I write the words, I read, change and shuffle them. I edit and polish. I send it out for critique and start the whole process again. Then I kiss it goodbye, send it off... and to be honest, try to forget about it. Otherwise I can think of millions of minute changes (or worry myself crazy, which is a different post in itself).

But part of the editorial process brings that book back to me a few times. At least once for revisions, again for line edits, and the last round for galley edits. I just finished the galley edits on my January release, DOES SHE DARE?. And for the first time, I actually fell into the story as a reader. I felt the joy and pain of the characters, I giggled and wiggled, I lost track of what I was supposed to be doing because... well, I was reading!

I was rooting for Isabel and Dante, and even though I knew the outcome, it still made me sigh happily when I read the ending. It was fabulously fun, if you don't count the fact that then I had to go back and start the edits all over.

If you write - do you ever re-read your work and go OMG, I wrote that... and it rocks! Do you ever find that fabulous distance that lets you be a reader and simply enjoy, critique-free?

As a reader, what kind of story sucks you in, makes you lose track of the hours while dinner burns, laundry sits forgotten, emails go unanswered?

What is that magic formula that makes YOU fall in love with the story?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Winner of Rules of Gentility

The random number generator has done its thing, and the winner of Janet Mullany's Rules of Gentility is Helen (the Aussie). If you'll e-mail me at with your mailing address, I'll forward it to Janet so she can send your book.

A League of Our Own

by Joan Kayse

I'm a bit late posting this morning because it's taken me several hours to dig out from beneath the mess of baking entries for the Kentucky State Fair. In a few hours I will take the sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, date bars and pumpkin chip cupcakes in to be judged. (The pineapple upside down cake flopped....dang).

Every year on that Sunday when I'm firing up my oven I find a movie or program or something to listen to while I whisk away. For several years it was the 1940's movie "State Fair"...the one with Jeanne Crain. Other years it's been the "I Love Lucy" or "Andy Griffith" marathon. One year it was Elvis movie extravaganza, LOL.

This year, I had DVR'd the Tom Hanks movie "A League of Their Own." I just really like this movie. All the characters are so distinctive. The plot has you cheering for this diverse group of women who were able to find an acceptable venue to show off their athletic skills and play the game they loved. Each lady has a different reason for playing. Each lady grows as a person and finds strengths inside themselves. Tom Hanks as the manager goes from a drunken has been to a coach who rediscovers the joy of the game.

There is one scene/one line that really jumped out at me.

Jimmy Dugan, the coach is confronting Dottie Hensen about her decision to leave the team just as they are going to the World Series. Dottie's been in turmoil a good bit of the movie conflicted about maintaining the social mores of the day with her true love of baseball. She has had to put up with her spoiled, whiny little sister who blames every bad thing on her "better." She's been worried about her husband who is off fighting the Germans including a close call when she fears he's been killed. She's been carrying all the responsibility including for the team until Jimmy is finally able to pull himself up out of the gutter.

But now her husband is home and she's leaving the team and going back home to Oregon. Jimmy tells her he doesn't understand how she can do tha she loves the game and that it is what makes her happy. She tries to deny it and finally, when Jimmy pushes just a bit more she looks at him and says "It just got too hard."

Jimmy (with a powerful Tom Hanks glare) retorts. "If it wasn't hard, everybody would be doing it."

Just like fair baking.

Just like writing.

How many times have you listened to the frustration, the despair the "why am I doing this" on writer's loops? How many times have you had to give pep talks to aspiring authors to "hang in there". You're almost're on the edge (hopefully on the edge of publication and not LITERALLY on the edge :-).

And how many times have you had someone say "Wow! You wrote a book! I couldn't do that."

A lot I imagine. We aspiring writers are in a league of our own. Some of us are lucky to have good team members to play the game with; local chapters, critique partners and for me...the Banditas. Each member brings to the game a different perspective, a different outlook, different experiences and different levels of success.

I really came to recognize what a unique and wonderful experience it is to be with others who have attained something as great as a GH final. There's just a different vibe, an unspoken recognition of shared experiences. What a wonderful thing.

Now, what position would you play in the game lineup? Pitcher? Short stop (short crop)?

Hot dogs! Cracker Jacks!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Book Journey

We’re just back from our family vacation, which we spent exploring parts of American history. Our trip also tied into three series of books I’ve loved for years. We started out in the Williamsburg area, where my cousin generously took a day to show us the Jamestown historic site and colonial Williamsburg.

At the entrance to historic Jamestown (as distinguished from the nearby Jamestown Settlement, which the state of Virginia built for the 400th anniversary of the landing) stands a bronze statute of Pocahontas. A greenish, weathered patina covers it--except for her hands, which are a bright golden from constant touching by visitors. Historians may argue about the level of exaggeration in her traditional story, but I think she can fairly claim to have been the first strong woman in the recorded history of North America. Whether or not she laid her head on the block to save John Smith, she did marry John Rolfe and go to England with him as an ambassador for her people.

From Jamestown, we headed to Williamsburg. The sun had come out, and the temperature had begun its climb to the high 90s, with a heat index of over 100 degrees. The air conditioning in the governor’s palace was a lifesaver! Despite the heat, we wandered the length of the restored area, explored the maze behind the palace, and poked our noses into various re-enactment shops.

In 1943 writer Elswyth Thane (a/k/a Mrs. William Beebe in the library card catalogue because heaven forfend a married woman should use her own first name at the time) launched a wonderful series of romantic historical novels about a Williamsburg family. The first was Dawn’s Early Light, set during the American Revolution. The series followed the family up to World War II. Family sagas (with a few exceptions like the O’Malleys) seem to have fallen out of favor, but I have a soft spot for the genre. I found Elswyth Thane because of Mrs. Wally, the wonderful librarian in my hometown. As a book geek, I spent a lot of time in the library, and every time I came in, she had something new to suggest. I dutifully checked out her suggestions, plopped them into my bicycle basket and pedaled home with them, and I was never sorry. She was a wonderful influence on my reading.

The battle of Yorktown figures in Dawn’s Early Light and in The South Fork Rangers, the concluding volume of Manly Wade Wellman’s YA historical series about the American Revolution, which I also discovered because Mrs. Wally handed it to me. We started our next day at Yorktown, where George Washington’s campaign tent stands in a dim, protected display at the National Park Service museum. His tents ended up in the Custis family, at Arlington (now known as the Custis-Lee Mansion). They were preserved during the Civil War by a Lee family slave, Selina Gray, who told the Union general occupying the property about them. He took them for safekeeping, and they were later returned to the family.

After the museum, we headed to the battlefield. The heat index was climbing toward 110, so we quickly decided that looking at grass and cannons on the tour could wait for another, cooler, opportunity.

We ended our day by driving south to the North Carolina Outer Banks, passing through the Monitor-Merrimac tunnel at Hampton Roads, where the legendary ironclads fought during the Civil War. (The second book in Elswyth Thane’s series, Yankee Stranger, is set during that conflict.)

The continuing heat wave dissuaded us from doing some of the things we enjoy, like playing putt-putt or visiting the Wright Brothers memorial at Kitty Hawk or the Fort Raleigh Historic Site and museum in Manteo. In search of indoor things to do, we visited the Manteo Booksellers, a small (and wonderfully air-conditioned) bookstore near the waterfront in downtown Manteo. On their local interest shelf, I spotted the third of the series I mentioned, historical novels (again, heavily romantic) set during various periods of North Carolina history by author Inglis Fletcher.

Fletcher lived not far from the Outer Banks, in the town of Edenton, which we’d explored on a previous trip. The ladies there hosted their own “tea party,” vowing not to drink tea, in the leadup to the Revolution, and quite a few houses from the period still stand. The first book in the series, Raleigh’s Eden, includes the Lost Colony, and the last, Queen’s Gift, is set against the ratification of the Constitution. My grandmother originally owned them, my mother inherited them, and I read them as a teenager. They eventually became mine. I have all but one, Cormorant’s Brood, and there it stood, complete with battered but mostly intact dust jacket, on the shelf in Manteo. As I reached for it, I noticed another volume bearing Fletcher’s name, one with an unfamiliar title. I picked it up and found, to my great surprise and delight, that it was her autobiography. Neither book was exactly cheap, and I had to choose, so I picked the autobiography. I plan to dive into it this week. I read a lot of author autobiographies. I like to know what shaped them and how they think. Stephen King’s On Writing is, of course, justly famous, but I especially liked Tony Hillerman’s Seldom Disappointed.

I enjoyed the beach and the visit with my cousin’s family and the historic sites we visited, but finding Fletcher’s autobiography was the highlight of my week. Fletcher and Thane and Wellman all created sympathetic, engaging characters and gave them big stories set against dynamic periods in our history. Some of Thane’s stories occur in Europe, but Williamsburg is always the touchstone. These series are out of print now but sometimes turn up in libraries or with used book dealers on the internet, though they can be a bit pricey. I haven’t read these books in a long time, except for the Wellman series, which my husband tracked down and bought for me and we shared with our son, who also loved them. I won’t give them away, though, because I know I’ll want to read them again. I now also feel a certain yen to acquire Cormorant’s Brood and complete my Fletcher set.

So what books or series or periods do you love, and why? Who was a major influence on your reading life?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

And Da Winnahs Are . . .

The winner of the Pirates of the Caribbean tee-shirts are . . .

ruth and cassondra

Please email with your snail addy and I'll mail your tee-shirt. The first one to email me gets first choice of Will or Jack. Congratulations!

Kitsch Icons -- Lest We Forget

posted by Christine Wells
Anyone remember The Love Boat? Nerdy little girl that I was, I used to adore that show. Julie, Captain Stubing, Gopher, the rather too cute captain’s daughter whose name I forget. Their beaming shiny faces always assured true love was just around the corner for a surprising number of lucky couples.

Now, perhaps my thoughts have turned to TLB because our Aunty spends a lot of her time cruising idyllic waters looking for the next buff cabana boy—ahem, I mean— the next perfect cocktail. But I wonder—if you had your choice of the modern day love boat, who would you want to see falling in love? Actors, book characters, you name it! Give me three couples who are going to trip the light fantastic on the deck of our very own Love Boat.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Delicious and Delightful ... Julie Cohen is our Featured Attraction

We're thrilled to have the super-talented Julie Cohen with us in the Bandit Lair today.

Romance changed Julie Cohen’s life. She grew up in Maine, came to England to study fairies, fell in love, and has stayed ever since.

An English teacher, she started writing romance at night between marking essays. Her fourth manuscript was a 2004 short contemporary Golden Heart finalist and was published in 2006 as FEATURED ATTRACTION by Harlequin Mills & Boon. Since then she has written six novels for Mills & Boon and two novels for Headline’s Little Black Dress romance imprint. She has just quit her teaching job and is currently working on her third Little Black Dress, THE HONEY TRAP.

She lives not far from London with her husband, a guitar tech for rock bands, and their baby son, who will probably have an English accent.

Welcome Julie. Since selling your first book, you've been prolific! Tell us about your current books.

MACALLISTER’S BABY (Harlequin Presents Special Releases, August 2007) was originally published in the UK and Australia as DELICIOUS. It’s the story of teacher Elisabeth Read, who is dedicated to her books, to her students, and to staying single...until celebrity chef Angus MacAllister comes to her school one day carrying a squawking chicken. Though she’s distrustful of his fame and his charm, the two of them have to work together to help two disadvantaged teenagers enter a cookery competition. Not so easy when the attraction between them is more tempting than chocolate.

It was originally published in the UK’s Modern Extra line, so it’s a bit different than your typical Presents--it’s very emotional and sexy like a Presents, with a cosmopolitan London setting, but it’s funny and a little offbeat, too.

[Anna - the chicken scene is one of the funniest things I've read!]

SPIRIT WILLING, FLESH WEAK, my September 2006 Little Black Dress release, is still on the shelves here, and available in the USA online through Amazon. The heroine, Rosie Fox, is a fake psychic, who mistakenly makes a true prediction about a tragic train crash. The resulting media frenzy brings with it Harry Blake, a reporter who’s known for debunking the supernatural. He seems intent on exposing her--in more ways than one.

[Anna - Get hold of this book - it is awesome! I read it in one sitting - I couldn't put it down!]

Many people may not have heard of Little Black Dress. Can you tell us a little about it?

Little Black Dress is a new romance line published by Headline Books here in England. The books are fun, sexy romantic reads, aimed at women aged 18-35, and marketed as an indulgent treat. They’re gorgeous little books, pretty and handbag-sized, and are more chick-lit or single-title in feel than category romance. LITTLE BLACK DRESS

How different do you find it working for two publishers?

The work itself isn’t that different--for example, both my editors are young, beautiful, intelligent blondes who listen to my stupid ideas for my next book, laugh charmingly and then say, “Now, seriously Julie...”

Honestly, the main difference is in the shelf life of the books. Category romances are on the shelves for one month only--but then you keep getting copies of your book translated into every foreign language in the world, which is nice. The Little Black Dresses are on the shelves for longer, which is also nice. Both editors work the same way with me: I give them a vague idea for a book, go away and write it, and then they read it and make me revise it, usually taking out all my cringeworthy jokes.

I love writing for both publishers. Category is so satisfying to write--it’s tightly structured, emotional, and it’s a wonderful challenge taking those old popular hooks and making them new. Little Black Dress is longer and I can really let my imagination run loose and develop character and plot.

How does what you write differ between the two?

Both of them are sexy, emotional romantic comedy, but people have told me they were surprised when they read SPIRIT WILLING after having read my category books, because it had a quite different feel.

Above all, category romance has to be focused on the romance. They’re tightly structured and all about the emotion. I was a lead author for the Modern Extra line, so I was lucky enough to get in at the beginning of something that had very few rules...but in the end there are certain rules for category romance, which the reader expects you to follow.

When I started writing for LBD I consciously chose to break some of those rules. My editor didn’t tell me to--I chose to, so I would know I was writing a different type of book. Writing in first person, for example. Writing about a heroine who’s a professional liar. Killing off a trainful of people in chapter two. Using flashbacks about the heroine’s childhood. Focusing more on the heroine’s development than the romantic story. Not having the hero and heroine meet until chapter five. Swearing.

It’s all stuff you could have in a category novel if you did it right--you can have just about anything in a category novel if you do it right--but it’s unlikely, and rightly so, because the category reader wants a fast-paced romantic story with a sympathetic heroine who doesn’t have a pottymouth, and not a lot of gratuitous death.

You were a GH finalist in 2004. How, if at all, did that help you make the final leap to publication?

It definitely helped me get agents’ attention, both in the UK and in the US. I don’t know if it made a big difference for my first sale, which happened a week before the 2004 RWA conference...the editor already had the requested, revised full when I found out I’d finalled, and I hope she decided to buy it on its own merits, not because of the contest. Maybe she read it more quickly, though. I never asked!

What was the key thing you learned which helped you make that final leap?

Emotion. I think in the manuscripts I wrote before I sold, I was a little scared to fully enter into the lives of my characters, to raise the stakes for everything they did, to really explore the emotion between them. It was when I started imagining myself in the feelings of my characters, and crafting events to heighten those feelings whenever possible, that I think I raised my game enough to get published.

You've now had a number of books published. How do you think your writing/books have changed?

I think I’ve relaxed into my voice more over the past few books (my eighth book in two years, ONE NIGHT STAND, is published in hardback in October 2007 with LBD). I’ve also started deepening my worlds a bit--exploring subplots and setting a little more, not being afraid to take a little time to let a theme or story unfurl. My structure is still tight, but it’s not quite so obsessively tight. I’d like to develop that roominess a whole lot more, though I don’t think I’ll be able to do a J.K. Rowling and make every book an inch or three thicker.

What has been your most fun moment as a published author?

There’s a big list of those, but I think the ultimate fun moment was going to my first Harlequin party a week after I sold my first book, with an invitation handed personally to me by editor Brenda Chin. Perfect happiness.

I also particularly enjoyed saying “cunnilingus” on BBC television when they filmed one of my workshops on writing sex scenes.

Another thing Julie is known for is her use of chocolate in her workshops! And I'm known for my love of Cadbury's Dairy Milk ... the real thing ... from England. And the Cadbury's Hero Assortment is heavenly! Although Aero Bubbles are a new favourite. (Mmmm)

So, Julie and I would like to know ... what is your favourite, to-die-for, chocolate treat?

And if chocolate can't tempt you - LOL - then Julie is giving away a copy of her US release Macallister's Baby!