Friday, November 30, 2007

Ducks and Other Fearful Distractions

by Jo Robertson

I was looking at some pictures of my granddaughter Annie the other day. Her family took a trip to Apple Hill, a beautiful place in the fall, where there’s a small fishing pond and a picnic area for children to play. Ducks swim on the water and waddle around the shore.

Initially the ducks fascinate Annie. She has no frame of reference to fear them. They look harmless enough. Pretty, too, with their white feathers and long "lellow" noses. Mommy whispers those noses are called beaks.

Annie reaches for one. It quacks or makes whatever frightening sound ducks make, startling her. She backs away, crying.

But, an hour later, with a little coaxing, and having become accustomed to them, their peculiar sound and smell, she inches forward.

By the end of the day Annie decides ducks are pretty cool.

Myself, I’m not the adventurous sort. I never cut class in high school. Really. I never sneaked out of the house at night. I never drove my dad’s car without permission. I never tried drugs in college even though it was the height of the hippie era. I avoided the deep end of the pool.

Like the words of that Kelly Clarkson song – I didn’t stray too far from the sidewalk.

There’s something wise and smart and cautious about not taking risks. Risk-takers often end up getting hurt. Or hurting other people.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional singer. After I was graduated from high school, I worked for the U.S. Government for eighteen months before college, lived at home, had a little extra money, and wanted so, so badly to take voice lessons from a professional instructor. But I was too chicken. I wouldn’t take the chance. I was afraid to risk embarrassment. Afraid I wasn't good enough.

As a result I didn’t sing my first solo until I was thirty-two in a small church in Jerusalem. The song was something about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness and every muscle in my body quaked like an aftershock -- but not my voice. My voice was clear and smooth and unfettered.

But you see, I could have done that at age seventeen or eighteen instead of thirty-two.

I know a lot of writers who never submit their work. Ironic, huh? That’s like a singer who won’t sing in the shower or a dancer who doesn’t tap his foot to the beat of the drum. But it’s true. Their convoluted logic is that if they don’t submit their work, they won’t face rejection.

There’s a concept that the more we do something, the easier it becomes. The task doesn’t get easier; our ability to accomplish the task becomes greater.

So my question for you is -- What have you learned to do that got easier with the doing of it? Come on, share those stories, folks. It doesn't have to be about writing. We writers get our inspiration and our perseverance from your successes!

Jo's Pumpkin Bread HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 c. sugar
1 c. oil
4 eggs
2/3 c. water
2 cans canned pumpkin
Nuts (optional)

Mix wet ingredients well. Add nuts and dry ingredients. Bake at 350 degress in greased pans about 35 to 40 minutes. Do not overbake. This recipe works best in small loaf pans. Makes 6 small loaves or three large loaves.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Party Favors!

Firstly, a big fat smoochy thank you to everyone who came to my launch party on Tuesday. I had such a lot of fun and you guys made it a real celebration for me! Mwah! And now for the important bit...

The winners of the consolation prizes of coverflats, the calendar and bits of stationery are:

Robyn E with her wonderful idea of having a hero party with no heroines permitted!

Bonnie for her fantastic Scottish extravaganza!

The winner of the signed copy of UNTOUCHED is:

Jennifer Y!!!

OK, girls, email your snail mail details to anna AT annacampbell DOT info and I'll get your prizes in the mail. Congratulations! And remember, you come back and see us now!

Holiday Gift to You!

by Suzanne Welsh
This year the Bandits are celebrating our first holiday season as a blog group. We talked in private how we could celebrate with you, our guests and readers. We decided to share some of our favorite traditions or foods with you. So starting today and ending with Boxing Day, December 26th, we'll have some of those favorite recipes for you to try, some great memories and stories to share with you, as well as some fabulous guests.

Every year after Thanksgiving I begin baking for the Christmas season. It's a tradition with my family that Mom is baking a new cookie or treat almost daily. Last year I'd injured my shoulder moving a patient and my husband realized that the stirring motion needed to make cookie dough was now impeded. So he bought me a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer..."so the kids can have their Christmas Cookies." Yeah right. Anyway, he saved the holiday season.

Here's the list that fluctuates depending on my mood and schedule:
Chocolate Mint Cookies
Buckeye Candy
Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Coconut Jam Thumbprints
Mexican Wedding Cakes (for hubby)
M and M Cookies made with green and red M and Ms
Peanut Butter Blossoms with Hershey Kisses
White Chocolate and Cranberry cookies
Raspberry Filled Pastries
Oatmeal Scotchies
and Cookie Cutter Sugar cookies my daughter ices with butter cream frosting.

The following recipe is one I actually make twice over the holidays. It's my kids' favorite, as well as several of their friends. The first batch always disappears quickly. My gift to all of you!


I received this recipe while working at THE Ohio State University’s L&D unit. It became an instant hit with my family and a staple of every Christmas celebration from that time on.

¾ cup butter
1 ½ cups firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar
2 TBS. Water
1 package semi sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
Green chocolate mint wafers, (Andes). About 1 pound.


Heat butter, sugar and water in a large heavy saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips, stirring until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large mixer bowl and let stand about 10 minutes until slightly cool.

With mixer at medium speed, beat eggs in one at a time. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating just until blended. Refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil. Roll tsp of dough into balls, place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cookies will appear soft. DO NOT COOK ANY LONGER.

Remove from oven and immediately place mint on each hot cookie. Let soften, then swirl mint over cookies to frost. (You can use the tip of a spoon or a toothpick.) Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

So is there a favorite food you have to have for the holidays or your celebration won't be the same?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


by Suzanne Welsh

This has been a productive week at my house. Yesterday I had three workmen stripping 1970’s era wallpaper and old chair rails from the dining room walls. They patched the plaster and filled holes from picture nails. Then they painted the eggshell white walls a lovely pale yellow green. They also painted the foyer a lovely shade of pale yellow gold.

Now you may be wondering what in the world this little bit of remodeling has to do with writing. Well, when we bought this house, we had a bedroom for each of the kids and one for us. As my children have moved in and out we managed to carve one room into an office for my husband. One where the door can clearly be closed while he works and when company comes.

But there never seemed to be a space for me to write. So I carved out ¼ of the front room which should be a dining room for my office. I have a large computer desk complete with hutch that faces away from the wall. I get plenty of sunlight, I have a filing corner, and a huge book case. There’s room for my chair, the trashcan, the shredder and of course space for Rocky the wonder dog, (aka my writing partner), to sleep in the sunshine or moonlight while I write.

We’ve finally been financially secure enough to buy nice dining room furniture, (which arrives tomorrow), have professional painting done and new floors put in, (those are coming in two weeks). All this is in preparation of having a space large enough and nice enough for the family to spend holidays and family meal nights together.

It is also time for me to consider moving my cave, (what we writers call our offices), to a small bedroom that will be an actual office. But for now I’m enjoying the fresh clean walls and the lovely color in my office/dining room. Oh yeah and it was great fun watching men work so efficiently yesterday!

So, writers, do you have anything special about your cave you’d like to share with us? And readers, do you have a room you’d love to do some freshening up to for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nothing Can Touch This Party!

Welcome to my launch party! Whoo-hoo! I'm sure anyone who regularly visits the Banditas knows my second book UNTOUCHED comes out today! Yes, the Green Monster is poised like Godzilla to eat up shelf space in a bookshop near you. RRRRRAAAARRRRHHH! And maybe munch that pesky Golden Rooster that has abandoned me for colder climes in recent weeks. I'll show that mangy cockerel what it's like as a frozen chicken! Ha!

Anyway, back to the important stuff. As your hostess, I welcome you into the lair which is decorated with green streamers and beautiful pink roses (significant in the story - and yes, Christine, I know you recognize the reference. By the way, I love how you gloat, girlfriend! Makes me feel like teacher's pet!).

The menu is Boeuf en croute and roast chicken, both of which make an appearance in the story. Hmm, maybe the rooster did come to grief after all. And I've done my famous baked potatoes (Downundergirl will back me up here) in virgin olive oil. Yum! And lashings of champagne!

In the shadows, mysterious masked figures move around and dance to the pounding music. Of course, the song of the evening is You Can't Touch This!

Who could those masked figures be? Of course it's the Banditas!

This is Bandita party central! And weaving amongst the dancers are the real versions of Buffie's avatars! Oh, here comes the magnificent AC with her coterie of cabana boys! This party will make the New York Times social pages! I can see it now!

Cassondra, get me a shot of all this. NO, CASSONDRA, NOT THAT SORT OF SHOT! Ouch! There goes the chandelier! And what a pity Richard Armitage was hanging from it at the time. Excuse me while I take him outside for some first aid... No, no, I'm fine on my own, thank you. THANK YOU, I'M FINE ON MY OWN! Sheesh! That Vrai Anna, just because she's got the best shoes, she thinks she's got the right to steal my victim...uh, patient!

Tawny, all right, you have great shoes too! You should feel blaze-ay about that! Helen interrupts the argument about shoes to offer everyone a Tim Tam! Yum! They DON'T feature in the book, needless to say.

Goodness, is that Demetrius running through chased by Joanie? No, it's Joanie running through chased by Demetrius! Ah, thank goodness, we have our Regency specialists Keira and Madam CDW to add a note of Beau Monde decorum. Donna was meant to add the Victorian morals but she's in the corner painting something. Well, at least sable brushes are involved...

Who's that huddled in the corner? Could it be Kirsten and JoMama and Susan and Christie? Oh, no, now I know what happened to the other gladiators! Some things you just don't want in your subconscious! Nancy, help me! You're always a woman of sense. Oh, right. You're busy with the sable brushes and one of the cabana boys.

I tell you, where is the modern world going??!!

No point asking Jeanne and Kate and Beth. They're tying the avatar boys up and torturing them with feathers! I know this book starts with the heroine tied to a table, but really, girls, there's no need to enact the entire first chapter! And there's only one heroine and how many avatar boys have you got there???!!!

I look around for my last hope! KJ and Trish and Suz are dragging Pam forward to sing for us! At last some high culture! Oh, no, Doglady bursts into How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?

Caren, queen of the malapropism, has the last word - she calls the evening a in-your-farce sextragavanza!

Richard, take me away from all this!

Richard, where are you?

Sigh. I tell you, it doesn't take much to frighten the British male these days!

OK, enough of the silliness! There are prizes on the go! And I think anyone who has read to the end of this blog deserves a prize although sadly, my postage budget probably won't extend that far. There's a copy of UNTOUCHED on offer and consolation prizes of a couple of Anna Campbell desk calendars and signed coverflats. Just tell me about your fantasy party! Anything you like. Where? Who? How? Menu? Music? Ambience? My favorite answers win! Hurrah!

Hic! I'm off for some champagne before these wild bandits drink it all!!!

Happy release day, Grace and Matthew! May green be the color of the coming season!

Anna x

Thanksgiving Blog Prize

The guest commenter and winner of Nancy's $15.00 Borders gift card is . . . (drumroll, please) Pearl! Congratulations, Pearl, and thanks for stopping by! If you'll email me, nancy AT nancynorthcott DOT com, I'll send your prize on its way.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Snatched from the Jaws of Victory

by Anna Sugden

Yes, I did mean it that way around!

Those of us who watch sports have seen it happen all-too-often. That game-winning goal scored as time runs out. That bloop in the 10th inning that results in a run. That horse who comes from nowhere to win it by a nose. When it’s the play-offs, a championship or a title race, and the stakes and tension are high, the agony and ecstasy are extreme

Suddenly, supporters and players split into two camps. Those who celebrate the glory of success and those who are plunged into the shock and misery of defeat. How often do we see the tearful faces of the losing fans - still unable to believe that victory has slipped from their team’s grasp? And how often do we see the men and women who play on through injury and pain, unable to stem the tears or sitting in stunned silence, head bowed.

For those of us who write, it happens all-too-often too. The ‘East German’ judge whose insane score prevents your manuscript from finalling in that crucial contest. The editor who loves your voice and is prepared to buy you, then disappears from the company. The agent who raves about your high concept proposal, then tells you he/she can’t sell it because no-one knows how to market it. And, as several of us Banditas have suffered in recent weeks, the uplifting requests and revisions followed by that depressing rejection.

Even published authors aren’t immune. Tess Gerritsen’s latest paperback release has several chapters missing - worse, in their place is someone else’s work! Late or undelivered promotions, someone more ‘senior’ missing a deadline and taking your launch slot and even a publisher going broke or being bought out, which costs you your contract.

And yet, we battle on. Teams, players and writers. We cry and rant. We relive our tale of vanquishment with friends, partners, family or whoever will listen. We binge on comfort foods and have that extra glass of whatever alcoholic drink is our poison (or is that just me?). We threaten to give up and despair over all wasted blood, sweat and tears we’ve devoted to our project.

Some people do give up. But for most of us, as dawn breaks on a new day, we suck it up and carry on.


I think the best answer is in a great Superbowl ad from a few years ago. It has clips of players and coaches who hadn’t made it to the Big Game, singing “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow” (yes, of Annie fame). (You can check it out here i). The strapline is “As of tomorrow, we’re all undefeated.” Or unrejected.

The fire burning within hasn’t faded. The desire to win still races through our veins.
And tomorrow truly is another day.

In the wonderfully supportive world of romance writing, there is a phrase that is often quoted “The only way to guarantee you have no chance of getting published is not to submit.” You’re encouraged to keep going. To revise or write another book. To submit to a different group of editors and agents. To enter other contests and go to conferences.

To keep throwing those pucks at the net, in the hope that one of them will go in and be the game-winning, Cup-winning goal.

Rejection hurts. But we need to be able to move beyond it. Learn from it. Use it to fire up our determination to succeed.

Cry, whine, sulk, eat chocolate, drink. Get it out of your system. Then tomorrow, get back to the game of writing and submitting.

Because tomorrow is another day. A day in which we are all unrejected.

So what do you do to get through the pain of loss or rejection? Whose shoulder do you cry on? And what is your favourite comfort binge?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Business Plan for the Contest Diva

With all this talk about contests lately (American Title—vote for Trish!) (The Golden Heart – deadline's coming up!) (And hey, our own Susan Seyfarth won Best of the Best in Indiana's Golden Opportunity contest!), I think it's time we brought up a very important topic. Okay, it's a dry, boring, left-brain topic, but if you’re serious about entering and winning contests, you're going to need a plan.

A Business Plan.

I speak from experience. I’d been entering chapter contests for years, intermittently and without any particular reason or goal in mind. I was lucky enough to stumble into finalling in the Golden Heart in 2002 and I won a Daphne that same year. Pure luck, I assure you. I didn't know what the heck I was doing or why.

Then two years ago at my RWA chapter meeting, someone announced that one of our members had just become an American Title finalist. A few minutes later, they announced that that same person had just won two other contests. The applause was thunderous, the excitement was palpable, the room was buzzing.

I turned to my friend Maureen and said, “Do you feel that?”

She said, “Yeah, what is that?”

I said, “It’s BUZZ. And I want it.”

Yeah. Buzz.

Uh, no, not that kind of buzz.

I'm talking about the kind of buzz where people are talking you up, they're buzzing, and it's all about you. Your name comes up on the short list when Oscar comes to town. Okay, maybe not Oscar, but you know, Maggie. And Susannah. And Emily. And Marlene. And RITA!! Yeah, that Buzz!

Okay, but back to me. I was an unpublished, unagented nobody, so there was only one way I was going to get the Buzz. Through contests. I needed to figure out the best contests for my purposes and then enter them. A lot of them. Oh, and I needed to win. A lot.

What I really needed was a plan.

So for the first time in my life, I wrote out a business plan. I created a spreadsheet. It was a little frightening. I was left-brain-free, a writer, a geek. But I was slowly transforming myself into a ruthless Business Diva.

I won’t get too specific and I don’t want to brag, but my spreadsheet was a thing of beauty. It was color-coordinated with a time line and pretty border shadings, and it listed the contest names and information (cost, page length, other requirements), the name of each manuscript I was entering, the final round judges, the deadlines, the announcement dates, the prizes, and other pertinent information, including the reason I was entering that contest. One contest had a really pretty necklace as the prize. I wanted it.

(Now, all this presupposes that you've got a fabulous manuscript or three to send out. Of course you do! At this point, all you need is good luck and fortuitous timing.)

For me, I wanted to reach my favorite editors but not come across as a pesky stalker. It's a fine line. I tried to be selective and I tried not to get too greedy. I think I did okay. When I became a Golden Heart triple finalist in 2006, then found out I’d also finalled in the American Title contest, it made for one hell of an amazing conference experience. But I was beginning to worry about that greedy factor kicking in, so after winning the GH, I decided not to tempt fate or karma again. It was time to retire my Contest Diva crown and make room for others to play the game. I’d already hit the jackpot. I’d reached my goal.

I got the Buzz. Yeah!

We're all Contest Divas here, right? And even if we're not up for it this year, we all have friends entering the Golden Heart and RITA, along with all sorts of other contests out there. Care to share some of your strategies and goals out there on the contest circuit? Any fun memories? Horror stories? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours!

But first, if you haven’t voted for Trish’s American Title entry, today’s the last day to vote – so go vote here! Then come on back and talk!

Spotlight on Trish Milburn!

Today the spotlight is on Trish Milburn, fellow Bandita, American Title IV finalist, talented multi-genre author, and all-around great gal! This is the final weekend for voting in the second round of the American Title contest, so please click on the side button and visit the Romantic Times site to see if Trish can earn your vote!

In the meantime, here’s a little more about Trish:

KJ: Congrats on making it to the top eight in the ATIV contest. As the runner-up in the ATIII contest, I have some idea of how much effort goes into encouraging voting. It's not easy to approach strangers asking for votes (think politicians!) and sharing information about the contest and your novel. Do you have any heart-warming/funny/frustrating tales to share from your travels thus far?

TM: A story ran in the weekly newspaper in the town where I grew up. When I was up there the next week, I kept running into people who mentioned seeing the article. I haven't lived there in eighteen years, so it was a little surreal and sweet at the same time. A classmate from high school who I haven't seen since then e-mailed me, and another friend that I haven't seen since college reconnected. It's certainly given me a taste of what self-promotion will be like when I have books come out.

KJ: You have recently sold YA novels as well as contemporary romances to Harlequin American. OUT OF SIGHT is a paranormal story and you've also been a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the Golden Heart. Diverse doesn't begin to cover your writing scope. Is there a particular genre that's your favorite? Do you write more than one book at a time? Please tell us about your writing process and how you manage to juggle all these genres.

TM: I'm lucky in that I write quickly. In the many years that led up to my selling, I tried several different sub-genres to see what was the best fit and because I just happened to have ideas that fell within those sub-genres. I like to mix it up a little so that I never get bored. I can honestly say I like lots of different types of stories. I'm really enjoying the resurgence of the YA market, and I've read some excellent YA in the past couple of years. I've always loved paranormal stories, whether in books, movies or TV shows—everything from Stephenie Meyer's paranormal YA stories to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And who can resist just a sweet romance where a guy and gal find true love and live happily ever after? I know the reading public often poo-poos romance, but who out there doesn't hope to find that special someone to love and be loved by?

I typically don't write more than one book at once, but I'm often working on various stages of different books at the same time -- writing one, brainstorming another, editing another. For instance, I'm currently writing a YA novel, but I just finished revisions on my first Harlequin American, and I'm beginning to work with my YA editor on ideas for a second YA. I don't really keep track of how many hours I put in a day, but it's quite a few. I typically work about three hours in the morning, then take an hour break to do e-mail, errands, terribly exciting things like cleaning the house, then go back and work two to three more hours before another break to do e-mail, cook dinner, talk to the hubby when he comes home from work. I often work another hour or two at night.Sometimes it's less, sometimes it's more—depends on what deadlines I'm trying to meet.

KJ: OUT OF SIGHT. Great title. How did it come into being? Do you usually title your novels before you start them or do they come to you during the course of the novel?

TM: Actually, when this story came to me, it was supposed to be the first of at least two novels with the same characters, and I'd planned to have them all have titles that start with "Out of...". OUT OF SIGHT ties in to the fact that the heroine can make herself invisible. Sometimes titles come to me as I'm brainstorming a story. For some reason, those are often the easiest to write. It's like the title gives birth to the story. I sometimes think up titles for which I don't even have a story yet. I just write them on a slip of paper and put them in my story-ideas folder in hopes a story will form someday to match the title.

KJ: I admire how much time and effort you give to RWA. Can you tell us about your various volunteering positions and discuss why these commitments are so important to you?

TM: Right now, I'm the Region 3 director for RWA. Last term, I served as the PRO Liaison to the board. Prior to this national service, I held every position in my chapter except vice president at some point. I've gotten a lot from RWA and my chapter, so I've always felt I should give back in any way I could. Organizations are only as good as the members make them.

KJ: You wrote for many years before becoming published. What one piece of advice would you give unpubbed writers to keep them at their keyboards?

TM: Every day you stick with it, you're one day closer to realizing your dream. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but it's the honest truth. The longer I worked at it, the more I had invested (time, effort, money). So the longer I was at it, the more I wanted to stick with it (even on the days it was incredibly tempting to chuck it all). I will forever preach the perseverance gospel to fellow writers.

KJ: If you could cast OUT OF SIGHT with Hollywood actors, who would star in the film?

TM: Eric Bana and Michelle Ryan (who plays the new BionicWoman).

KJ: Thanks for joining us today, Trish! We wish you all the best and hope to see OUT OF SIGHT make the next round. For more information about Trish and her writing, please visit

Friday, November 23, 2007

And the Winners are...

Helen, Doglady and Laura J! You've each won a set of signed over-sized postcards of Denise Rossetti's sizzling covers. Thank you for commenting! Please click on this link to Denise's website and email her your postal address through the 'contact' link on the sidebar.

Thanks as always to everyone who commented! And thanks to Denise for being a GREAT GUEST! We love to have people hang out with us in the lair. Please come back often.

Making Scents of It

by Donna MacMeans

As I’m writing this, there’s a butter slathered turkey roasting to a delectable crispness in my oven. Can you smell it? I think the whole nation must. House after house, filled from the rafters to the basement with that mouth-watering scent, open their doors to welcome friends and relatives, and, in turn, release some of the roast turkey scent out to the world.

When the house fills with that familiar smell, I can almost hear a football game playing on the television (of course, it doesn’t hurt that there IS a football game currently playing on the TV – but I’m going for association here). I can almost envision pumpkin pie and all the must-have casseroles that accompany the bird. I once read that more than all the other senses, a smell can trigger deep subconscious memories both good and bad. Turkey roasting is a good one, connected with fond memories for me.

As a writer, we can use this. We can set a scene with a familiar scent and thus draw the reader into the story. My characters all tend to be coffee drinkers - just so I can evoke that wonderful scent of coffee first thing in the morning for my story.

We can associate a character with a unique scent. I decided I wanted Emma in The Education of Mrs. Brimley to smell like winter apples as that spoke of a wholesome quality to me. I gave the hero, Nicholas, basic manly scents, but with a slight trace of turpentine to identify him as an artist.

To help keep myself in the story, I burned a Macintosh apple candle that surrounded me in Emma’s scent. Soon, I began to associate the scent with writing and formed a desire to write whenever I smelled apples. Not a bad association to form for a procrastinator like me!

What scents, good and bad, evoke strong memories for you? Is there a memorable character that you associate with a scent? For the writers, do you, like me, tie an overall scent to a book, and then hunt for a candle to “cast a spell”? (Hey, I’ll do anything if it keeps me at the keyboard.) One commenter will win a copy of The Education of Mrs. Brimley.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thankful Day

by Nancy Northcott

The clock has rolled past midnight, so this is officially Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I'll celebrate with family and friends and be grateful for both. As we engage in our frantic last-minute cleanup for guests, we may take a few minutes to watch a bit of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

I have a weakness for parades despite having marched in one every Thanksgiving when I was in high school (I played the clarinet). I love the floats and the balloons and, indeed, the marching bands. I didn't think about it, all those years ago, but I was fortunate to have parents who could and would buy an instrument and drive to practices and games and, when necessary, parades. I had a fantastic band director, who instilled in many of us an appreciation for a wide range of music, and I had friends in the band who made outings fun. I had the physical health to play a wind instrument and to march in parades and at football bames. All these years later, I'm still thankful for that those things and those people were part of my life.

I hope each of us has cause to be grateful for something today and that some of you will share.

I feel fortunate that my circle of friends has widened. I have the banditas now, and they're a fantastic bunch! I have women friends who convinced me to join RWA and several of its chapters. Elizabeth, who extolled RWA's virtues, had the right bait. "If you joined RWA, you could learn a lot," she said. Over and over, she said it, until I believed her and wrote the check. I feel as if all of our guest readers and commenters are part of that circle, and I'm grateful for all of you.

Two and a half years ago, some women in my college class decided we should all get together, as many of us as we could gather, at the beach for a weekend. I didn't know most of them, having transferred in as a sophomore and so missed freshman orientation. Another friend assured me no particular groups were organizing the gathering and that I would have fun. I assured her that I'd blame her if I didn't, so it seems only fair that Sue get the credit for my having a wonderful time getting to know these multifaceted, smart women I barely knew before. We just had our third such gathering, and the streak of energizing weekends remains unbroken. I'm already looking forward to next year.

During my extended years of school, I had some wonderful teachers who loved their subjects and conveyed that love to their students. They shaped some of my most enduring interests.

My family remains supportive of my writing ambitions, an invaluable gift for those of us AYU, and we're all healthy. So that's my "serious" list.

On the lighter side, I'm grateful for chocolate, music, super-hero comic books, genre fiction, dedicated historians who write comprehensible, as opposed to convoluted and confusing, sentences they build into interesting books, and whimsical moments with spontaneous laughter. Oh, yeah--and parades.

So what do you like about this particular holiday? For those of us in America, what spurs you to give thanks today? For those of us abroad, what would lead you feel thankful?

To help with holiday shopping, or maybe just to offer a bit of indulgence during the shopping rush, I'm giving one commenter a $15.00 Borders gift certificate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Denise Rossetti Swings by the Lair

Christine Wells writes: Denise Rossetti may not own bucket boots but she has a killer pair of red CFM heels--you can see them on her website. This Australian author of erotic romance and sizzling fantasy romance has written two novels and two novellas for Ellora's Cave and has just scored an impressive 4 book deal with Berkley for her scorching fantasy romance series.

Her latest release is her novella, Coming on Strong, in an Avon Red anthology called A Red Hot New Year. Denise also happens to be my critique partner and an all-round wonderful woman. So please welcome her with a hearty Bandita cheer!

A Red Hot New Year, out November 27 from Avon Red
4.5 Stars from Romantic Times

This New Year's Eve, turn up the heat . . .
At the stroke of midnight a new year begins—a time for passionate resolutions and brand-new pleasures; a time to let go of past restraints and embrace new sensual boundaries. Four masterful writers offer a quartet of boldly erotic tales guaranteed to heat up those winter nights.

Coming on Strong by Denise Rossetti
Sam Jones's laid-back charm and Aussie drawl have never failed him - until he meets Gina McBride. The little Yank has to be the most skittish woman he's ever met, and the most intriguing. Making love with her is an experience that makes Sam's eyes roll back in his head, but she won't do it with the light on. Then there's that sexy little growl in the back of her throat when she comes, and she's so strong…

Visit Denise’s website to win an ARC of A Red Hot New Year! Contest closes 30th November.
Finding Your Own True North by Denise Rossetti

I’m absolutely fascinated by the creative process – the way it’s so different for each of us, the utter joy and satisfaction it can bring. For me, writing is the most creative thing I do. I can knit very well indeed, sew a little, even garden, but that’s it. And in these areas, I’m a craftsperson, not an original artist.

But writing? Ah, that’s something wonderfully organic. The stories well up from somewhere inside me, no planning, no outlines with dot points. Mind you, it’s never easy – never! Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I don’t hate it, not at all, but heavens it’s difficult! I have to dig deep for every word. Plod, plod, plod, word after word, sentence after sentence, until The End. And I purely adore having written!

A few weeks ago, I was a tutor in an online workshop for Romance Writers of Australia. Romance 101 Bootcamp. There were other authors lending their considerable skills to character development, pacing, conflict. I was asked to do a session about the Writer’s Life. We talked about the Writer’s Compass and its four Points – Priorities, Personalities, Place and Space, and Permissions.

The participants impressed me with their clear-eyed courage as they did the soul-searching required to examine the place of creativity in their lives, each one looking for her own True North. And then I was awed all over again as they formed resolutions, declared them and followed up a week later by reporting on the changes they’d made. They were inspirational.

BTW, I warned them I’d probably come over like a Bossy Big Sister, or a noisy little cattle dog, nipping at their heels. The metaphors are a trifle mixed, but you get the idea, I’m sure! So here we go…

If you’re honest and brave, you can assess the PRIORITIES in your life relative to each other – family, work, finances, health, spirituality, community – and then add in your creative pursuit, whatever it may be. It’s that thing you do for yourself alone, the thing that gives you the gift of joy. Music, Art, Craft, Writing, Dance, Acting, Gardening. Whatever.

You will know too, how the PERSONALITIES around you usually react. Some will be indifferent, others will support you magnificently in your quest for creativity, and some – well, they won’t. Or can’t.

But what many women find difficult, I think, is giving themselves the PERMISSIONS they need. Permission to do what, you may ask? Ah well, you’re the only one who knows the answer to that.

Permission to sit quietly, all alone, staring into space? Permission not to be perfect, to hit an off-note on the piano, to write a sloppy draft? Permission to buy takeout for dinner? Permission to let someone else comfort a crying child? That’s a hard one, isn’t it?

All too often, sheer desperation compels us to carve out our own time and space, but without giving ourselves real Permission to do so. The result?

Guilt. Or exhaustion, because you’ve had to steal your “me-time” from sleep.

I’m a terrible mother/wife/partner/colleague. I’m so selfish. What about dinner/ballet practice/career/laundry? They’ll never understand. I wish I hadn’t… Sound familiar? Are you already saying to yourself, yeah sure, giving myself Permission sounds good, but I can’t because… Fill in the dots.

What makes your Priorities and Permissions worth less than anyone else’s?

It was years ago that I first read Virginia’s Woolf’s A Room of Her Own, and it made a tremendous impression on me. Such irony and intelligence, so exquisitely written. Back in 1928, Woolf pointed out that in order to write, a woman must have five hundred a year and a room of her own. I don’t think too much has changed, do you? (You can get it here for free - It’s short. Read it.)

Yes, financial independence is easier to come by, it’s even expected of women these days, but that room of one’s own… This is what I’ve called PLACE AND SPACE, because physical place and psychological/emotional space are intertwined. Of the two, mind-space is the most vital, because not everyone has the luxury of a study to themselves. I don’t. I share with two people I love beyond measure – my husband and my daughter – but it bothered me so much that I finally bought an office divider from a second hand store and set up my own space behind it. As a side benefit, I no longer have that prickly, vulnerable sensation in the nape of my neck as I sit with my back to the door. You can see my Place and Space here. You can also see that tidiness is not something I value. *smile*

Paige Cuccaro runs a wonderful site called The Cave - with photos of writers’ Places and Spaces. It runs from Susan Elizabeth Phillips to Laurell K. Hamilton to Lisa Kleypas to Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer. Fascinating and revealing all at once!

So, think about the Writer’s Compass and its four Points. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially on Permissions and on Place and Space. And please, you don’t have to be a writer to join in!
What have you given yourself Permission to do that has pointed you at your personal True North, given you the joy and the frustrations of the creative process ? How have you set up your Place and Space? Alternatively, what have you found most difficult and what is your solution?

Three lucky readers who comment will win signed over-sized postcards of my Ellora's Cave covers. And don't forget the contest to win a signed ARC of A Red Hot New Year on my website!

And in the interests of Full Disclosure, I should tell you that my children are old enough to be independent, My Beloved does the shopping and the cooking and we have a cleaning lady. But I do have a day job and I’m still Officer In Charge of the cat’s litter box.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

And The Winnah Is...

For the drawing in the Interview with Dianna Love Snell from November 9th:

1) For the autographed copy of Worth Every Risk......Helen!

2) For the certificate for Phantom In The Night, due June 2008, autographed by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love Snell........P226!

3) For the five-page critique......Keira!

You can all email me your snail mail addy's, or contact me for info at cassondra_m AT mindspring DOT com. Of course, take out the spaces and replace the AT and DOT.

Thanks so much for making Dianna welcome in the lair, and for all of your great comments!

Let the Countdown Begin

by Beth Andrews

In the US, Thanksgiving is the official kick-off to the Holiday season. And since Thanksgiving is in two short days, I'd like to present my list of the Ten Things I'm Looking Forward To This Holiday Season and Five Things I Could Live Without

Ten Things I'm looking forward to (in no particular order):

1. Enchanted. I love Disney movies and this one about a cartoon princess who gets banished to New York City looks really good *g*

2. Nora Roberts' Sign of Seven trilogy. I LOVE Nora Roberts' books, especially her trilogies.

3. Big Boned, the latest Heather Wells mystery by Meg Cabot. Meg's books--both for adults and teens--are laugh-out-loud funny!

4. White trash. This yummy combo of pretzels, peanuts, M&Ms, Corn Chex cereal and Cheerios covered in melted white chocolate is addicting.

5. Chocolate Chip biscotti. Yummy biscotti with chocolate chips and a hint of cinnamon--and the ends are dipped in melted white chocolate (I'm seeing a pattern here)

6. Christmas songs - especially anything by Trans Siberian Orchestra or Bing Crosby.

7. Shopping. Well, I love shopping at any time of the year really, but during November and December I get to tell my husband I HAVE to go to the mall. Two or three times a week.

8. Watching holiday movies like It's A Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn and The Santa Clause *g*

9. Making a gingerbread house with my kids on Christmas Eve. Making the dough and frosting takes some time but it's worth it :-)

10. All those wonderful sappy commercials. Remember the Folgers one where the older brother comes home and his little sister is awake and they make coffee and the rest of the family wakes up to the fresh aroma of Folgers and is surprised to see him there? Gets me every time.

Five things I could live without:

1. My mom's meat stuffing. She makes it every year for Thanksgiving. I'm not even sure what's in it but it's dark brown and looks like a dry meatloaf. The only people who eat it are my father and brother. But even though I don't eat it, it's still there on the table tormenting me.

2. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. The TV show, not the actual reindeer. I know, I know, it's like I'm Scrooge or something, and it's not that I hate Rudolph, it's just that something about the animation freaks me out. And I've always been afraid of that snow monster.

3. The song, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. Argh! And now that I've typed it, it's already stuck in my head!

4. The five pounds I'll gain from eating so much White Trash and Chocolate Chip Biscotti.

5. Taking down the decorations. Funny how everybody and their brother is around when it's time to decorate the house, but when it's time to UN-decorate, I'm the only person within a five mile radius.

Okay, that's my list *g* What about you? What are you looking forward to this Holiday Season? What could you live without? Come on, I can't be the only person who doesn't watch Rudolph :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

5 Random Things of Which I Am Afraid

by Susan Seyfarth

Here are, in no particular order, five random things of which I am afraid:

1. Snakes

And it's not the biting thing, really. It's that they have no legs, & yet are so very, very fast. This is a violation of some kind of natural law. If you're on land, & you're moving extremely fast, you should have legs. At least two, if not four. Or more. But to have none & still go faster than I can? This is wrong. Deeply, deeply wrong, & very disturbing.

2. Drains

Any kind of drain. Swimming pool, bath tub, storm drain. I'm not worried about getting sucked down. I'm worried about something unauthorized coming back up. Something alive. Something slimy. Something...pipe shaped. Oh lord. (see fear #1 if you can't decide where I'm going with this.)

3. The Ocean

I once went for a swim in a little lake near my house & had a blue gill mistake a mole on my back for a tasty treat. This tiny, toothless fish attacked me like it was auditioning for a part in Piranhas, the Movie. I believe I may have actually have leapt up out of the water & run across the surface all the way back to land while my husband looked on in bemused fascination. If a blue gill can do this to me, I don't even want to know what might happen should I attempt to share water space with sharks, jelly fish, or sting rays. Or, God forbid, eels. (Which brings us back to Fear #1, the water version. Only this time it IS about the biting.)

4. The Telephone

I find talking on the phone very stressful, especially to people I don't know well. I have a hard enough time making small talk with people I can see, but to sit there & try to figure out how a conversation is going without any visual cues? Eeeesh. You can't imagine how hard I resisted cell phones. I finally broke down, but I swear it's like putting a phobia in my purse & letting it stalk me all day.

5. The Mackinac Bridge

This is the bridge that connects Michigan's Upper & Lower Peninsulas. It's four lanes wide & the middle two are grates. Seriously. You can see through them to the water below. When I was a kid, a Yugo blew off. I didn't witness the event myself, but I don't care. They swear it wasn't the wind, that the driver lost control, but I refuse to drive on the grated lanes. I'm an asphalt girl, all the way. And even so, I sweat from one peninsula to the other.

Come on, admit it. You have some weird fears, too. Tell us! We won't laugh, promise.

And the winner is...

Lily! Lily, congrats, you're name was drawn to win a copy of DOUBLE DARE, as well as an excerpt of my upcoming Blaze, DOES SHE DARE?
Drop me an email at with your mailing information and I'll get that right out to you! And thank you EVERYONE for coming to share your adventures in toilet paper... I mean, your reader preferences with me!