Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bwah-ha-ha!!!! Happy Halloween!

by Jeanne Adams


Are you going Trick-or-Treating tonight? I hope so. I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. There's just nothing like being able to play dress up as an adult, not to mention watching the kids decide who and what they want to be. Its really a study in psychology, in some ways. Do they want to be a powerful wizard? A diminutive fairy? A princess or prince? An Army Man or a baseball player? I think it shows what kids love and what they fear, both of which often show in the choice they make. Then again, sometimes, it's just fun.

Same thing with pumpkins. My older son and I always carve pumpkins together. We have seven this year, lining the walk. It's the most fun I have all year, dragging out the carving tools, deciding on faces, arguing about whether the face is scary enough or not. I haven't mentioned to him that one of the reasons people started carving scary faces on gourds, turnips, and various members of the squash family was to scare evil away from the door and protect the dwelling place from harm. He probably wouldn't care even if I did tell him, he just likes carving the pumpkins and so do I. Same thing with the apples we cut and cook for Halloween dinner, reading the seeds to see if fortune favors us for the coming year. They were originally symbolic of the harvest, of plenty and of the fertility that carries through to spring, culminating in the birth of lambs and calves aplenty, hopefully. Now, they're just great fare on a cool night.

Off they'll tramp, my Baseball Guy, my Dalmatian, and their Dad to knock on doors and ring bells, laughing with their friends and delighting in their loot. As writers, we conjure up images, and people, some scary, some not. We create demons - inner and outer - and divas with the proverbial stroke of the pen. Just like Halloween, our characters can be anyone or anything we choose.

What would you choose to be, on Halloween, if you could be anything and anyone? Would you be a sorceress or a wizard? A queen or a peasant girl? Was there ever a costume you wish you could have had, just for ONE day, that you didn't get? What was your favorite Halloween as a child?

Success guru Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame does an amazing thing in his workshops. He throws a Come as You Will Be Party. He has people invision themselves with all their wishes fulfilled, arriving at the party as they Will Be. If you could have three Halloween Wishes, and go to the party as you Will Be, what would you be?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ghosts and Goblins and Ghouls, Oh My!

by Jo Robertson

Psychologists theorize about why people enjoy being scared half to death in the name of fun. Rides at amusement parks, scary movies, and recklessly fast driving all apparently give risk-takers some sort of vicarious thrill.

But what’s so fun about being frightened?

Those same doctors suggest that scary movies and books, fast thrills, and watching others engage in risk-taking behavior provide a release for our natural inclination for daring excitement in a safe environment. In a movie we can watch the heroine get the mysterious phone call, hear a strange noise, and YEP go into the basement to check it out. "Don’t go downstairs!" we yell from our safe seats in the movie theatre.

By the way, why does she always go down there anyway? If we authors wrote such action for our protagonists, we'd say they’re TSTL (too stupid to live) and kill them off in a hurry.

But I LOVE those movies!!! I watched SAW One, Two and One Hundred even as I knew how stupid, violent, and silly the whole thing was. I love being scared, sitting in my house, safe and warm, reading a book or watching a movie, knowing I am secure while the heroine, idiot woman that she is, gets chased by the monster.

Those same doctors insist we like watching scary movies and reading scary books because they remind us that essentially we’re protected. They provide us the thrills we crave from a safe distance.

When my husband and I were engaged, and poor as church mice, we spent every Friday night watching the Friday Night Spook Movies on TV and eating homemade popcorn. I loved the old Bella Lugosi and Vincent Price movies, the scariness of the black and white screen, and the vicarious thrill.

When I was a young mother, I read a book whose name I've forgotten, about a possessed house, a sort of poltergeist (before those movies), an evil historical entity that threatened the whole family, a la Amityville. My husband was gone on an overnight conference and I was so frightened that I woke up my new-born baby and one-year old son, just to have the company. And I kept the lights on ALL night.

My favorite scary movie? It's "Night of the Living Dead," the 1968 movie that gives me the creeps to this day. And a close second, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," both versions!

So, what about you? What's your favorite scary movie or book? Why? Do YOU like the thrill of being scared out of your wits? Why?

And the winnahs are . . .

Here are winners from some recent giveaways:

In the drawing for Gerri Russell's books: A copy of The Warrior Trainer goes to Keira Soleore, and a copy of Warrior's Bride goes to Cherie J.

To claim your prizes, e-mail your snail mail addy to Gerri: gerri AT gerrirussell DOT net.

In the drawing for a $10 Borders gift card from Nikki Nelson-Hicks's paranormal blog, the winner is Dianna! To claim your prize, please e-mail your snail mail addy to Caren: carencrane AT gmail DOT com.

Congratulations, ladies, and thanks to all our visitors and commenters!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: Where the Haunted Things Are

interviewed by Caren Crane

Today, we welcome to the Bandit Lair a true Ghost Hunter and seeker of things that go bump in the night. Nikki Nelson-Hicks has pursued knowledge of all things paranormal since she was a child. Nikki is also a writer of short stories with a sometimes slight and sometimes quite lethal paranormal bent. With Halloween just around the corner and the paranormal romance market hot, Hot, HOT, we wanted to take a closer look into this extraordinary field of investigation and see what makes a Ghost Hunter tick. Welcome to Romance Bandits, Nikki!

Can you tell us when and why you became fascinated with all things paranormal?

When I am asked that question, I am always struck with the idea of why wouldn’t anyone be interested? I don’t care how technologically advanced humans become, we will always, at our core, be afraid of the shadows, what is lurking inside them and wondering if it wants to eat us.

I have always been into the dark and weird. [Okay, I knew Nikki in elementary school and this is totally true!]When other kids were reading Nancy Drew stories, I was watching Creature Feature. Other girls wanted to grow up and marry Donny Osmond while I wanted to go off on adventures with Carl Kolchack (and if you don’t know who he is, drop your pen right now and forget ever writing horror).

I remember when I was in first grade and I tried to check out a book on bats. The librarian wouldn’t let me because she thought it was too advanced for me; it was a third grade book. When I read a few pages out loud, she told my teacher and then, bam, I was shuttled off to some special class for gifted kids. Little did they know that the only reason I wanted the book was because I thought bats were vampires in disguise. I was very disappointed to learn they weren’t.

What convinced you to take your curiosity and interest and make it a hobby?

I kept my hobby in the closet for many years. I would read about a haunted house, say for instance, the Whaley House in San Diego and I would go out, alone, to check it out. Nothing very in depth or with any gear or anything. Just me, walking around and hoping to get a glimpse of something extraordinary.

When I lived in Budapest, I had to check out all the vampire history. Elizabeth Bathory’s family was very powerful there. They have an entire square named for them, Bathory Ter. The ruins of her castle are still there and are supposedly haunted. And, of course, Dracula left his mark. He was married in St. Matthias church in the Var and had been held as a royal prisoner in Solomon’s Tower in Visigrad.

There was one house that was occupied by a State Dept employee that had stories of a ghost. Supposedly, the recent occupants had seen a Hungarian guard in full dress uniform on the staircase. Marines from the barracks also claimed to have seen the guard. I was invited to a tea one Sunday and I snuck away and took photographs hoping to catch something. I had to keep it all hush hush.

When I lived in Muscat, Oman, I was a little more forthright about my interests. There was a place near the Marine house that was reputed to be so haunted that no one could live there. Because the belief in ghosts was not allowed in Islam, they claimed it was djinns. I had to take a look so I had one of the Marines take me over. The courtyard gate was locked so we couldn’t venture in but I can tell you, there was a very bad vibe coming from that place. Bad mojo.

I had a great time in Oman researching their pagan past. In the outer regions, where villagers left candies to appease spirits in caves, belief in the old ways was still evident. I would go hunting in the souqs for old talismans called somts and rings used in exorcisms called Zar rings.

It wasn’t until I came back to Tennessee in 2004, that I became involved with a group actively. Adasagona Paranormal Society (APS) was founded in 1998. There is some confidence that comes with numbers but, frankly, I still do most of my investigations and research alone.

Have your investigations convinced you that ghosts do or do not exist?

Of course, with age, I’ve lost many of my romantic ideals and became the crabby, cynical Scully I am today. I go into every investigation looking for the rational before I begin considering the paranormal. I am a firm believer in the Aristotle idea: it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.

What is the coolest investigation you've ever been on?

Two summers ago, the APS was invited to do an investigation at the J.B. Moore house in Villisca, Iowa.

A little backstory: in 1912, 8 people (two adults, 6 children), were slaughtered with a household axe. The killer (or killers) was never found. There are tons of websites on it, if you’re interested.

The whole crew caravanned from Nashville late Friday evening and arrived in Iowa late Saturday afternoon. Our refuge for the night was a house with no electricity and no running water. Oh, yes. No bathrooms. That, my friends, was in itself an adventure in public peeing. Throughout the night, we would all go across the street and take care of business behind a shack. It wasn’t until the next morning we found out that the shack was in the back yard of a senior citizen’s rest home.

When we first entered the house, I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. When I went upstairs to the supposedly haunted store room where they suspect the killers might have hid, I still didn’t feel anything. But when I went into the children’s bedroom, man, it hit you in the solar plexus. Just deep, deep sadness and fear. And anger. It was there that I saw (intuitively) an angry little boy who kept saying, “my head hurts” and “it isn’t fair.” I had brought with me some teddy bears to give to the children. I put them on the beds and then I did a blessing on the house. After that, the atmosphere lifted.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any empirical evidence: no photos, video or EVPs. I got the blame for doing the blessing so early on. Even our team sensitive said the house was completely quiet. Many other teams have gotten lots of interesting EVPs and videos.

I was actually more afraid of the townsfolk than I was of the spirits. They were courteous until they found out what we were doing there. Afterwards, they were very cold and downright nasty.

What is the "most haunted" site you have ever visited?

We were called in by a woman who was afraid she had a demon in her house. Erk. When I hear “demon”, it makes my hackles go up. She lived in a mobile home out in the boonies. I really put my GPS to the test to find this place.

Her chief complaint was that electrical appliances in the house were malfunctioning: TVs, DVD player, PS2 and even the generator on her hot tub outside went on the fritz. Light bulbs were popping. In spite of all that, what really scared her was this feeling of hostility in the house. She and her family and friends were complaining that her house, normally a social gathering place, felt “uncomfortable”.

We got to the house and did a quick walk thru before interviewing her. You didn’t need to be shown the heart of the problem. It screamed out to you. The back bedroom. Nasty place.

During the interview, we learned that, six months earlier, she had taken in a teenage boy she knew from church who had been sexually assaulted by his step mother. On top of that, his father had sexually abused his stepsister, the daughter of the woman he had married. Sort of a backwoods criss-cross.

The boy was doing well until she took him back to his home to get some personal belongings. After that, the boy’s behavior began to change. He became surly and disrespectful. He started sneaking into her teenage daughter’s room during the night. After that, she had the boy’s grandmother come and take him away.

We didn’t even need to ask which bedroom had been the boy’s.

Our team sensitive said she could feel the presence of something but that she couldn’t sense anything sentient. It was just a boiling of dark emotions, rolling around and around.

Turns out, what we had there wasn’t so much a spirit or demon but a case of a very sad, angry teenage boy who had projected his emotions into something tangible. Well, as tangible as a residual energy imprint can be. It’s very common in poltergeist cases.

We did a blessing and a cleansing and told her that the energy would dissipate on its own as long.

Interestingly, we had a call from a couple three weeks ago that was having poltergeist problems. They were terrified. But during the interview we found out they were in the middle of a very contentious divorce. Ah-ha. We explained the idea of emotional residue and that the only one haunting that house was themselves. The husband moved out and the problems stopped.

Does your family share your interest in the paranormal?

Both of my kids are deeply agnostic and find most things spiritual highly suspect. However, they are also writers and find that most of this stuff is great story fodder.

My husband doesn’t really care one way or the other. His main worry is the fringe that I often come in contact with. When your hobby takes one into dark places, you meet some real weirdos.

As me about the Email Chick sometime. Whooo, boy.

I think most of us--I know I--would be way too chicken to do the sort of investigation you do. Are you ever afraid? What do you think it is in you that makes you hunt for the things most people don't want to see?

The Masonic Lodge in Franklin, TN is the oldest lodge in the state. Andrew Jackson screwed over some Indians right there on the front steps. There is Civil War graffiti in the bathroom. And the third floor is haunted.

Only members of a certain degree are allowed to go to the third floor. Luckily, my husband, a 32 degree Knights Templar, is but, unfortunately, I am still a woman and no matter how highly elevated I am, I cannot go to the third floor. Well, as far as the Lodge is concerned. Ha. During a tour, Brian snuck me up to the third floor. He watched the staircase while I prowled around. I found the door that led to the main meeting room and opened it. Instantly, I felt a sickening pull at my solar plexus, my breath was taken away and I felt pushed out of the doorway. Whatever was in that room, did not want me, a woman of all things, coming in there.

That was probably the most uneasy I have ever felt. Mostly, I’m too curious to be afraid.

So, what is different about my makeup that keeps me doing this sort of stuff instead of taking up some respectable hobby? I honestly don’t know. There are many days I think to myself that I am a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat that probably isn’t even there.

And then I’ll hear a rapping on my wall. It’s been doing that ever since I brought that wood back from Gettysburg. And the hunt is back on.

How do you feel about Halloween?

As a holiday, I love it. It’s great macabre fun.

But, man, it brings the whackos out of the woodworks. I have a standard response when I am asked by anyone “Where is the best place to go to see ghosts?” I tell them, “Blockbuster. Rent a movie.”

While it’s nice that the idea of paranormal research has some popularity right now, the pendulum has swung to the far side and there are lots of Scoobies out there, mucking about in graveyards, with EMF meters and digital cameras. It’s a real pain in the butt for people who are doing analytical investigations.

So, Banditas, are you brave enough to be a ghost hunter? Are you fascinated with the paranormal? Do you have a paranormal idea and need some detail to make it ring true? I'm sure our readers and writers have many questions to ask of our paranormal expert, so fire away! We are giving away a $10 Borders gift card to a lucky commentor. We will, naturally, select a winner at midnight. [cue creepy music and add a "bwahaha" *g*]

Thank you, Nikki, for being with us today and sharing your expertise. Banditas, you can catch up with Nikki at her blog Nik Cubed. Happy ghost hunting!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


By Suzanne Welsh

I have a motto at my house: CHOCOLATE OR HOMICIDE, YOU DECIDE.

Raising 3 children, all prone to talking a lot and all born within 3 years tends to make a mother learn patience. If not, at least learn to hide her own personal stash of Chocolate. Once the kids discovered this stash, we had a heart-to-heart talk. I talked and for once, they listened! I explained that mom needed her chocolate to keep from KILLING them. Suddenly, the stash was safe from little hands.

I find chocolate to have medicinal puproses too. Ibuprophen, Coke and chocolate taken simultaneously will cure any of my headaches. It's probably the Ibuprophen, but the caffeine in the Coke and the sugar and endorphines from the chocolate certainly don't hurt anything.

A few facts about chocolate:
1. Dark chocolate possesses the highest antioxidant content of any food.
2. Chocolates contain many minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and, in milk chocolate, calcium.
3. Chocolate contains antioxidants.
4. Dark chocolate boosts good HDL cholesterol levels.

Chocolate has to have some magical affects on the brain. Got a roadblock on
the latest story? Take a little chocolate break. Nibble the delicious piece of Godiva's chocolate raspberry bar, and very soon an idea pops into your head. The book progresses. Frustrated that the characters won't do what you want? Bribe them with some M and M's!

But I do tend to get a bit compulsive on my chocolate. M and M's
in particular. I'm an M andM organizer. I divide them by color. Sometimes they end up in the pattern of flowers or Christmas trees. And I eat one color at a time. Don't ask me why, but it probably goes along with the need to procrastinate while writing. And have you seen the Mega M and M's? The person who invented them should be sainted!

So what is your favorite indulgence? Do you sort your M andM's? Is there a secret thing you do to keep from committing homicide at your house? Since we're talking chocolate, one lucky commentor will receive a gift certificate for Godiva's chocolate from me. Hmmm...maybe I should make a trip to the Godiva store today to get us both some!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Getting to Know You

By Kirsten Scott

After I graduated from college, I spent a couple of years working in outdoor education, doing group team building and leadership development. One of the standard parts of the day was the "get to know you game." This morning, my husband and I were brainstorming for activities for a church group he's leading, and I recalled one particular game that I always enjoyed. I thought maybe we could play it here on the blog. Sort of a virtual get to know you. :-)

So I'm going to give you the names of four animals that represent different ways people interact in groups. I'm not going to tell you what characteristics I think those animals represent. I'm interested in which one you pick and what it means to you.

Here they are:






Your turn! Imagine yourself in a group. It could be something you do at work, with your church or book club, even here in the Bandita Lair. Which animals are you and why?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gerri Russell on Building a Career

interview by Nancy Northcott

Your first book, The Warrior Trainer, was a January release. Now you have your second, Warrior's Bride, on the shelves. Yet your success was a long time in coming, as you told our own Anna Campbell in the September issue of The Romance Writer's Report. How did you persevere to reach this point?

Partly it was having faith in what I wanted, partly it was being too stubborn to give up. I had to ask myself every day if I wanted to be published. If I wanted to publish, then I had to do what it took to get there—and that was to write every day regardless of the rejections, regardless of the self-doubt that crept in every so often!

What advice would you give the new writer just starting his or her first manuscript?

This will probably sound strange coming from someone who took twelve years to sell, but don’t be in a hurry. Learn your craft, write the best book you can, and take a deep breath. Nothing happens fast in this business, so it is important to send out the very best product you can to the right publisher or the right agent. Don’t waste your opportunities by sending out a product that isn’t ready.

Both of your published novels are set in medieval Scotland. What draws you to that time and place?

The mystery, simplicity, and opulence of the Medieval and Renaissance times have always fascinated me, as have knights and heroes of old who fought for and defended what they believed in.

My family and I are all so captivated by the time period that we have worked as living history re-enactors at the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire in King’s Valley, Oregon, for the past eight years. It’s a wonderful learning as well as bonding experience for us all.

Why Scotland? I love that the woman are not as restrained as their English counterparts. And who doesn’t love a man in a kilt, armed to defend, with a soft burr in his speech?

Both books also have mystical overtones related to stones. How did you settle upon that as a connecting thread?

That’s the funny thing about research. Once you start down a certain path, interesting things happen. I started The Warrior Trainer with no idea it would have any companion books. And as I started to research more about Scottish stones, the more stones I read about. That’s when I decided to do the Stones of Destiny Series. I chose three wonderful stones that each had remarkable histories associated with them. You’ll be reading about the Stone of Scone, the Seer’s Stone, and the Charm Stone in each of the three books.

Tell us a little about the hero of Warrior's Bride.

Douglas Stewart is the bastard son of Robert II, Scotland’s king. His father has forced him from childhood to do his bidding, and he’s earned the name the Black Wolf of Scotland as a result. His latest demand—marriage to a woman of little consequence. Wolf would refuse his father this last demand, except that he’s holding Wolf’s brother hostage, threatening to hang him for treason is Wolf doesn’t obey.

The heroine of Warrior's Bride is Isobel. How do she and the hero clash?

Warrior’s Bride is a traditional marriage of convenience story. Wolf and Isobel clash over their forced union. Isobel wants nothing to do with marriage, watched how marriage drove her own mother to insanity. Fearing the same end, she fights Wolf at every turn. But sometimes the heart leads even the resistant places they don’t want to go. . . .

Your route to publication was a little unusual, with your first book winning the American Title II contest. What advice would you give authors who're thinking of entering a national internet contest?

Advice . . . or more warning . . . Be ready for the contest to totally consume your life—writing and otherwise. In order to succeed in this online venue, you need to be a master at promotion. You’ll need to be creative, willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, push past your comfort zone in ways you never knew you could, all while being an ultimate professional.

You're also a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart competition for unpublished writers, a contest that's now open to entries. What do you think authors who are entering should know or consider?

The Golden Heart is a wonderful opportunity that gives you lots of exposure if you final. But it is critical to remember that the Golden Heart is just that, an opportunity, one that does not guarantee you will sell. Selling a manuscript is part talent, part perseverance, and part luck!

Your launch party for Warrior's Bride benefited the Early Childhood Programs for the Bellevue School District. How did you decide to do that?

I received so much support from my community while in the American Title contest and I wanted to give something back. Literacy, at all levels, has always been a cause near and dear to my heart, so together with Barnes and Noble we arranged it so that proceeds from sales would benefit Early Childhood Programs in the local school district—programs that supported literacy.

Not only did we raise over $500 in donations from sales, but attendees also purchased books donated straight to the district exceeding the donated amount. It was an incredible evening—a memory I will treasure forever.

Thanks for being here, Gerri! Gerri is giving away one copy of each of her books. To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on the blog. To learn more about Gerri, visit her website,

What times and places do you love, and why? Has your reading ever led you down an unexpected road?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Call ... Finally!!!

By Kate
Will it ever ring?

Will they ever call?

They never call. Sigh.

I think I've been waiting for "The Call" since ... well, probably since I had a phone that looks like this one.

Fifty years? Okay, maybe not that long. Maybe only ten or twenty years.

But the waiting is over, my friends.


And oh, it was a sweet moment. And at the risk of sounding really silly--like that's ever stopped me!--I've got to tell you, everything changed in that single moment when my agents told me that a senior editor at a top publishing company had enough confidence in my writing that she was willing to buy three--THREE!--as-yet unwritten manuscripts -- from ME!

In that moment, the world changed, I changed, everything changed.

I know it shouldn't be that way, should it? A word from one person and suddenly you're more important or special or different than you were a minute ago? Validation shouldn't have to come from outside. I should have confidence in my own work. And I do. Really. But come on!

It’s like magic! When "The Call" comes, everything changes and all the years of hard work and rejections and hitting your head against the wall and stumbling and picking yourself up and starting over again ... all that background story suddenly hits an incredible turning point and then it spins and twists and explodes in an amazing climax. And whew, everything is different. And it's fantastic!

And then I hang up the phone and go back to the day job.

So sad!!

But someday soon …

Meanwhile, here’s a little history of what brought on the sale. I was sooo tired of hearing that my current mystery didn’t have a hook (My agent said “your voice and humor is your hook” – isn't that sweet! But, uh, no sale.). So I pushed myself to write a cozy mystery proposal with a HOOK. You might say I wrote it for revenge. And hey, it worked! I sold the first three books of a new mystery series to NAL. Woohoo!!

Here’s the announcement from Publishers Marketplace…

Kate Carlisle's HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER: A Bibliophile Mystery, a cursed copy of Goethe's Faust leads a rare book restorer into a murder investigation that only she can solve -- with the help of clues she uncovers in a valuable first edition, and three other books in the series, to Kristen Weber at NAL, by Kelly Harms and Christina Hogrebe at Jane Rotrosen Agency (world English).

Homicide in Hardcover. Isn't that cool? It's really real! I’m still over the moon but starting to get used to the feeling ...

And my fondest wish is that every one of my Bandita sisters experience that moment when everything changes. I can't wait to cheer you on!!!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Meet Margie Lawson, Psychologist, Writer, Presenter

by KJ Howe

If you haven't heard about Margie Lawson, you're in for a real treat today. Margie's classes and lecture packets will change the way you read and write fiction. Her explanation of non-verbal communication, rhetorical devices, and writing craft will revolutionize your writing! The Bandits are lucky to have her on board to talk about Self-Defeating behaviors--a topic that touches most writers. Let's get Margie to help us defeat our demons today!

Championing Your Day
by Margie Lawson -- Psychologist, Writer, Presenter

Hello Everyone!

A big THANK YOU to KJ HOWE for inviting me to guest blog today. I got to meet KJ in person when she attended a full day workshop I presented for Toronto RWA. I enjoyed chatting with KJ so much, I wish she would move to Denver. I know a few of the ROMANCE BANDITS. What an incredible group of driven-to-succeed talent.

Before I dive into the blog, everyone who posts a comment needs to know that they have an opportunity to win a LECTURE PACKET with over 200 pages of lectures. Stay tuned.

Championing Your Day

Does it seem like your days get away from you? Like you fall into a time warp? Seconds and minutes and hours seem to slip away without your full knowledge?

By the end of some days you feel as if you’ve accomplished little and you’re sad. You’re frustrated. You’re depressed.

Keep in mind, I’m a psychologist and a writer. I’ll share one tiny slice from my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors course that I teach on-line every January. It’s one of my TIME-MASTERY systems.

No cringing. Your time is your life. If you’re not in control of the minutes of your day, you’re not in control of your life.

I developed a list system with THREE LISTS: WINNER, SUPER STAR, and MAYBE.

WINNER LIST – This is for the items you KNOW you can complete in an identified time period from 20 minutes to two hours. Specify your time. List the items that are ABSOLUTELY DOABLE during that time. Not items that you wish you could do. Items that you WILL do. No question that you can complete them. Keep it short.

SEE? You can be a WINNER!
Think: DOABLE.

SUPER STAR LIST – This list is for what you MAY HAVE TIME TO DO. Or not.
You do not get to consider touching an item on this list until you have COMPLETED YOUR FULL WINNER LIST. No list hopping.

AGAIN: YOU DO NOT GET TO DO ONE ITEM ON YOUR SUPER STAR LIST UNTIL YOU COMPLETE EVERY ITEM ON YOUR WINNER LIST. You may get to one or two items on this list. No pressure to complete this list.

YOUR MAYBE LIST – This is where you capture your random ideas for whatever. You may do it someday or maybe not. You may put items on your MAYBE list that move up to another list later. Items on your Super Star List may also make the jump to your Winner List when priorities shift.

Remember: You can only look ahead up to two hours at a time. You can then take a break and reward yourself for being so incredibly productive and creative. Next, you identify another chunk of time, 20 minutes to two hours, and make your next WINNER and SUPER STAR Lists.

You may also have a Master List. That’s the one that could anchor the Titanic.
We won’t discuss your Master List. I’ll allow you to make you Master List, but don’t spend time staring at it. Pull the items from it for your WINNER List, then cover up your Master.

Will making these lists help you CHAMPION YOUR DAY? They could. You learn to set yourself up to meet goals. You boost your self-esteem. You accomplish what’s on your Winner List.

If you tap into your STEELY SELF-DISCIPLINE, you can take charge of sections of your day and power your way to success.

Here’s a quote I wrote that helps me stay on track.

Every hour, every day, follow your map to success.

My doable lists are my maps. Try making your doable lists and you’ll follow your maps to success too.

Take charge of your maps . . .
Take charge of meeting your writing goals . . .
Take charge of enjoying the minutes in the hours of your life . . .

Thank you for dropping by. I’d love to hear from you.

Do your big To Do lists overwhelm you? What maps have you created to help you champion your day?

If you’ve taken my Defeat Self-defeating Behaviors course, are you still working with your Change Coach? Let me know about your success.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE A WINNER? Post a comment and you may win a Lecture Packet (a $20 value) from one of my courses:

1 – Empowering Characters’ Emotions
2 – Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
3 – Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

Descriptions of these courses are on my web site. Click on Lecture Packets.

I’ll draw a name at 10 PM Mountain Time. I’ll post the winner at that time. Thank you for dropping by Romance Bandits!


Margie Lawson merges her two worlds, psychology and writing, by analyzing writing craft as well as the psyche of the writer. She presents 1) Empowering Characters’ Emotions, 2) Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More, and 3) Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors in one and two day master classes. She also teaches these topics in month-long on-line courses and offers Lecture Packets through PayPal from her web site.

Margie, thanks so much for stopping by the Bandits today. We're thrilled to have you as a guest!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chesty History

by Donna MacMeans

The holidays will soon be upon us. I see the signs everywhere. It's not the trees turning colors, it's not that maternal instinct to bake, it's the plethora of catalogues that are overflowing my mailbox. Yes, every vendor on earth is sending me their holiday catalogue ON A WEEKLY BASIS! I suspect they do it because they know my weakness. I love looking at the Tshirts. Not to buy, just to read.

I did a little research on Tshirt history. There appears to be a dispute over exactly when the light undershirt came into being, but American soldiers from WWI brought back the concept to the states in the early 1900s. Decorated Tshirts (most likely named after their shape) began to appear in Florida in the late 1940s with images of popular resorts (can anyone say Disney?). Tshirts as a means of expression became vogue in the 1980s. I may actually still have some of those.

These Tshirt observations come from - (they wouldn't let me copy pictures of the actual shirts, darn):

Lead me not into temptation, especially bookstores
Careful, or you'll end up in my novel.
Inaction figure

A good Tshirt expression adds to characterization in a contemporary. I used a computer-oriented funny to show the geek humor in one of my early suspense manuscripts. Shame that option doesn't exist for historicals. I suspect the shirts might resemble some story titles:

Heiress for Hire
Too Wicked to Love
One of these Knights
or maybe.... So Many Dresses, So Little Time

Oh - and I found this one at for one of our favorite bandit commentors:

Don't make me use my Opera Voice

So what slogan would you like to see on a Tshirt, contemporary or historical? Or, what's emblazoned across your chest these days? There are prizes involved.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Show me the hunks!

by Anna Sugden

No, this isn’t an excuse to plaster the blog with pictures of hunks. Well, that’s not the primary reason *grin*.

As writers, we all have different ways to help the writing process along. For many of us, visual cues really help.

A number of writers use collages and/or picture boards to represent their stories. These visual references can include pictures of specific elements - people, places or objects - representing characters, settings and key items in a story. They can also contain images which reflect particular emotions or the feel they want a book, chapter or scene/event to have such as a happy reunion, a melancholy misty seascape or sun-splashed flowers in a field.

Visual references don’t have to be limited to pictures. Some collages are elaborate, containing tactile elements (like fabrics and materials), miniatures (cars, furniture, clothing) or specific objects (eg a necklace, a matchbook, a flower).

When I start a new book, one of the first things I do is find pictures of my hero and heroine. Past heroes have been inspired by Matthew Mcconnaughey, Colin Firth and Hugh Jackman, while my heroines have been as diverse as Kim Delaney, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Ehle (Lizzie in the series of Pride and Prejeduice) and former punk star, Siouxsie Sioux.

Then, my good friend Samhain author Christyne Butler ( creates a mock book cover - complete with title, logo and strapline. These are the fabulous mock covers she made for my two hockey books. (You knew I’d get my hockey hunks in there!)

These covers grace the walls around my computer. The one representing my current manuscript takes pride of place above my screen. What better inspiration than to see a ‘book-cover’ for the manuscript I’m writing? And what better motivation than to imagine how my book may look on a shelf some day?

For the writers among you, do you use visual means to inspire you and who do your current hero/heroine resemble? For the readers, do you like to be told who a hero or heroine looks like or do you prefer to imagine them for yourself? And do they always resemble the same person - are they all Brad Pitt regardless of how the author describes them - or do you try to create an image based on the book’s description?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cover Me!

by Christine Wells
Hi all, I'm swinging by to fill in for our Bandita Kirsten who isn't well today.

My friend Denise Rossetti came over the other day, bubbling with excitement about her upcoming cover conference at Berkley for her Four-Sided Pentacle series. Incidentally, here is the cover for her Avon Red short story collection, A Red Hot New Year--isn't it HAWT?!

It got me thinking--hmm, won't be long until my cover for The Dangerous Duke comes up for discussion. Better avoid my WIP, er, I mean, do my duty, and find some images to suggest for my cover.

Now, it's a commonly held belief that authors get no say in their covers. That's true. Once the cover is done, you have to have the clout of someone like Stephanie Laurens to get it changed.
But when my editor asked for suggestions, I had a Word file of pictures I'd copied from the internet to show her and the art department my ideas, what Sebastian and Gemma looked like, the settings I'd used for each of their homes and some of the scenes in the book. I'd also spent hours going through covers until I found ones that captured the mood of Scandal's Daughter.
"Show, don't tell" is a good policy in this case. As writers, we deal in words, but it makes sense that an art department thinks in terms of images. It's so much better to show them the kind of cover or the kind of mood you're looking for, rather than tell them. They might come up with an entirely different vision from the one you intended just from a verbal description.

So here's what happened for my Scandal's Daughter cover. These are the first images I came up with:

I had in mind a romantic but not overly sexy clinch, perhaps the couple waltzing.

However, my editor saw Gemma on a horse, riding about the estate. So I found images of period riding habits as well as images of women riding side-saddle in habits very similar to those worn in the Regency.
I also found covers I liked that showed a heroine and a house. Look at the Almost Innocent cover and then look at mine. Do you think the art department paid attention to my suggestions?
They also got my heroine's hair colour right, which I think is SO important! I was delighted with the result!

I love my cover--it's so pretty! Can't wait to see what they do for The Dangerous Duke!
So, dear readers, what do you like to see on a cover? Any turn-offs? Have you ever bought a book purely because of its cover?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wandering Thoughts

by Beth Andrews

I'm supposed to be thinking about my Work-In-Progress, my next proposal for Harlequin Superromance. Unfortunately, my thoughts keep wandering away from my tortured hero. And where are my thoughts wandering to?

Halloween Costumes.

I love Halloween, not so much for the scare factor but for the FUN factor. I love the decorations, the treats and especially dressing up. When I was little, most kids' costumes were plastic. Remember those? They were some sort of plastic cape-like thing complete with plastic mask. I believe I was even Barbie one year *g*

When my first child was born, I swore there would be no plastic costumes for him! His birthday is close to Halloween so when he turned one, we had a costume-themed party. I dressed him in the jester costume I'd spent hours behind my sewing machine making him.

He screamed. He cried. He HATED that costume.

But I was not to be deterred and the next year I made him the most adorable dinosaur costume. Again with the tears. When he was three I made him a scarecrow outfit. You can guess what happened. When he was four we went to the store and he bought a Power Rangers outfit complete with mask (I don't think it was plastic). That kid wore that outfit just about everyday for the next six months. Lesson learned. Costumes don't have to take enormous amounts of time or energy for kids to love them.

When my son was five and my daughter one and a half, I bought them matching blue sweat pants and sweatshirts, cut out a Superman S, sewed it on the shirt, made them each a red cape and voila! Superman and Supergirl! When my daughters were three and one, I raided my mother-in-law's dress up box, dressed the older daughter in frilly pantaloons, topped it with a ruffled dress, slapped a bonnet on her head and had her carry a wooden crook. My younger daughter had fuzzy, white, one-piece pajamas. I stuck a tail on her, my friend made her ears out of a headband and felt and we had Mary and her Little Lamb :-)

So while I might feel the pull of the sewing machine, I'll resist and encourage my kids (the ones still young enough to trick or treat) to use their imaginations when deciding on their costumes. After all, we all know how a little imagination goes a long way ;-)

What was your favorite or most memorable costume? Did it take you hours or days to put together? Do you still dress-up? Attend costume parties?

Friday, October 19, 2007

On Losing

by Susan Seyfarth

The best romances are so messy, aren't they? Falling in love for real means tossing aside your cool, embracing your inner geek and splatting your heart right there on the pavement at the feet of your beloved. It means showing the entire world (figuratively speaking, of course) what you look like naked. Writing a romance is no different. Readers want to see that kind of emotional committment on every page, and that means the writer has to feel it. Has to mean it. It's exhilarating, exhausting, wonderful work, and we love to see it rewarded. So we Banditas bust out the bucket boots and rum (or was it bucket boots of rum? It all gets so hazy...) every time one of our fellow writers gets The Call.

You know, The Call? The one where the faithful and patient agent who's been hawking your work all over NYC (or the insightful and prescient editor who's been looking at your manuscript for a year or two) picks up the phone, dials your number and says, "Hey, want to sell a book today?"

At least that's how I've been told it goes. :-) I'm still waiting for a Call Story of my own, but that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about not getting the call. Not winning the contest. Not being the best or the brightest or the fastest. I want to talk about -- let's just say it -- losing.

Yeah, losing. We don't talk about it much because, wow, does it hurt to splat your heart across the pavement -- or the page -- and have somebody reject it. But losing has a lot to recommend it. Seriously. Stick with me here, I'll explain.

I earned my way into the Bandit Lair the usual way: I finaled in RWA's 2006 Golden Heart contest for excellence in romantic fiction. And that's a Big Deal, right? I mean, it's only the biggest contest in our field. It's supposed to get the finalists attention from People Who Matter, shoot us straight to the top of the slush pile. This was vindication for three years of scrounging out a little time to write while the baby slept and the laundry piled up. I was finally On My Way. Right?

Well. Not so much. First of all, I didn't win. I didn't sell the book that finaled, either. But no matter. Onward and upward, right? If I wrote one book that could final, surely my next book would sell. So I kept carving out that writing time, kept scribbling away. I wrote what I felt certain was The One. I labored over those all-important first three chapters, polished them to a blinding glare and sent them off to the 2007 Golden Heart contest with supreme confidence. This time I would win. I was a former finalist. I knew what it took, right?

Well. Not so much. This time, I didn't even final. I didn't even score in the top 25%. I'd splashed my heart all over the page (again) only to have the reading public go "meh." Ouch. But this is where it gets good. This is where losing starts to mean something. Because then I had a decision to make. Should I keep going? Was it worth it? I'd been breaking my heart with this writing business for four years. What if I'm never going to be good enough? What if I'm never going to have anything to say that people want to hear, or the skill to say it in a compelling way? Was it time to quit?

I don't know what I should have done, but I'll tell you what I did. I sat down and wrote another book. And every single day I sat down at the keyboard was an act of courage. It was a conscious decision to strip naked in front of an unconcerned audience, splat down my heart and try again. Fail again, if that was what it took. Losing forced me to screw up my courage and commit. It forced me to admit that I'm not good enough yet and dedicate myself to closing the gap. It both humbled me and lifted me up, if that makes sense. Have I learned to love rejection? Well, no. But I'm still writing, and I'm counting that as a win.

So what about you? Tell us your losing story! What was the best lesson losing, being dumped or being fired ever taught you? Where's that silver lining?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Love Letters

By Kirsten Scott

A few days ago, I went hunting through a box of old letters, hoping to unearth my passport. I was heartbroken to find that somehow, water had gotten into the box and destroyed about two decades worth of memories.

But magically, a few pages had survived, among them the letters I received from my first real love. Here's a little poem I found on yellowed paper--

Your hands
are like birds
they pick me up
and fly me
nearer to
a perfect heaven

He was a poet and a writer. We dated seriously in the year after I graduated from college. He adored me completely. Unfortunately, I didn't adore him in quite the same way, though I tried.

Love letters hold a special place in our lives. We devote books to them, Shakespeare crafted plays around them (and their tendency to fall into the wrong hands!) and they serve to make our memories even sweeter. It's what we read for, what we live for--all that emotion packed into one tiny little space.

My favorite love letters are poems and stories. I also know a woman who has a collection of sketches an old boyfriend did of her. They are her love letters--living tributes to the emotion he felt. Love letters can be graffiti or literature, true art or just true love. It's all in the emotion they express.

So, are there any love letters hiding in your closet? Are they standard pen and ink, or perhaps a photograph? Who are they from? Do you re-read them, or do they live in your memory like old friends, just waiting to show up when you need them?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paranormal Alive and Well?

by Christie Kelley

I'll admit it...I love the paranormal.

Ghosts, vampires, werewolves even time travel. The fantasy of something else being out there with us intrigues me. It might be the result of growing up in a hundred year old house that always had creepy sounds. Or things walking away from where you put them only to turn up in the same spot two days later. Of course, it could also be the fact that I grew up with eight sneaky brothers and sisters.

In addition to my historicals, I also have a paranormal romance I’m working on. Writing it was so much fun and so very different from the historicals. But now that I’ve written it, I keep hearing that is going to take a down swing any day now.


It seems to me you can’t turn on the TV these days without some paranormal show being on. Here are just some of my favorites this season:

Journeyman (though I’m starting to lose interest)
Ghost Hunters (love those ghost hunting plumbers)
Ghost Whisperer

Those are only the shows I watch. There is a whole bunch of new shows that I haven’t even tried yet.

So now it’s your turn. Tell me, what are your favorite paranormal shows (if you watch them), or your favorite paranormal authors. Or better yet, if you want to share anything that has happened to you in the paranormal range, let me know!

ps.. I'll be without power most of the day here due to the construction on my house so I may not be able to respond to comments until after 6pm edt.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Everything Going Your Way?

by Caren Crane

I hear that Mercury is retrograde these days and that, supposedly, messes with communication, computers...writing. I'm not sure I believe wholeheartedly in astrology, but I can relate to things not going as planned.

This morning, I carefully ground beans and brewed the breakfast of mothers around the world: coffee. I adore coffee. I never drank coffee until I was almost 30. Coincidentally (?) I began drinking coffee when my youngest was three months old (still breast feeding), my father was in ICU (not expected to live) and the two of us were in LA (Lower Alabama) with my four siblings and their significant others, awaiting our father's untimely demise. Coffee, the beverage I disdained for 29-1/2 years, suddenly became my Best Friend Forever. I look forward to coffee every morning and get surly when it isn't just right.

Today, it wasn't just right. My organic half and half, which was perfectly fine yesterday, picked today to clabber in my coffee. ACK! It is impossible to make coffee with off-kilter half and half into the coffee of your dreams. I tried. I shook, stirred, added milk. It is drinkable, but not what I really wanted.

I feel like that about my writing lots of days. The idea I wanted to convey is on the page, but it's not quite what I wanted to say. Almost. In the neighborhood. Pretty darn close. Not what I really wanted. I will keep trying and polishing and editing. Someday (please, Lord, soon!), it will be what I wanted. Or at least really close.

The coffee, however, is a lost cause. I will be forced to go to the grocery and buy more half and half today. I will also write some new pages. Most importantly, I am going back to the NC State Fair this afternoon to use up those remaining ride tickets and have another apple dumpling. Maybe I will look back on today and decide things did go my way, after all. Apple dumplings make any coffee better. *g*

So, what about you? Is everything going your way these days or have you had some disappointments or setbacks? In your perfect, daydream life, what would be going better? Let us know! Meanwhile, I'll be dreaming of unclabbered half and half...

Monday, October 15, 2007

And the winner is...

The winner of Anna DeStefano's Because of a Boy is...Buffie! E-mail me at trishmilburn AT yahoo DOT com with your mailing address, and I'll send it right out. Congratulations, Buffie!

I learned it all in a book...

by Tawny Weber

One of the things I love about reading is that I can go anywhere - or anytime. What a quick trip back in time, grab a book. Want to visit the romantic waterways of Venice? Grab a book. Other planets, the future, a wild nightclub? Yup -a book. I've 'visited' dozens of countries from the comfort of my reading chair and (I'm almost ashamed to admit this) learned more about history than I did in school, just by reading romances.

It all comes down to setting, doesn’t it? Setting is such a powerful part of the story, sometimes a major player, sometimes a soft, watercolor background that barely registers on the reader's awareness. Some are edgy - in Double Dare I opened with a nightclub, flashing lights, a meat-market setting and it set the tone for the rest of the story. Others are subtle - in Does She Dare? the story is set in a quaint, cobblestone paved small town, and again, it sets a tone. You'd think they'd be vastly different stories, yet both are hot, sexy and have very strong heroines... but both settings reflect the heroine's self-image.

For me, setting is always tied to and reflects my characters. Other authors use setting differently. They might use it to challenge the characters, or even let it be a character itself. In my case, a winter setting limits outdoor lovescenes, for some people winter presents a life or death scenario for the hero and heroine to fight to survive. Don’t’ you love how setting and time carry and frame our stories?

Even better, for me, is when I read a book and learn something new. Whether its societal customs of a Regency or police procedures in a romantic suspense, for me a great read is one that delicately weaves in the factual information, lets me learn without realizing I’m learning (this is probably why I learned so much more by reading romances than in school LOL – there is a lot to be said for the ancient bards and teaching by means of storytelling!!).

What are some of the most fascinating things YOU've learned in reading? What setting or time do you find yourself coming back to over and over again? Is there a reason that time/setting fascinates you?