Monday, March 31, 2008

Dare to Be Dazzling!

by Anna Campbell

It's my great pleasure to introduce new author Tessa Dare, the overall winner of Avon's FanLit contest in 2006. I was a FanLit groupie which is how Tessa and I met. Her debut book, which sounds like a complete delight, is called GODDESS OF THE HUNT and it comes out from Ballantine in August 2009 as part of a back to back release of a trilogy.

Tessa, congratulations on your amazing success. Could you tell us something about your writing journey to this point?

Thank you, Anna! And thanks to all the Banditas for welcoming me to your lovely lair. I’m so honored to be invited, especially because my writing journey is still in its early stages. My books won’t be on the shelf for more than a year yet. As I told you a few months ago, it feels like I’ve got a long road to publication ahead of me, and my odometer’s reading 000003. Maybe by now it’s 000019. Several months ago, I was looking at a website of a children’s book author (I hesitate to give his name, lest his tender-aged readers google it and find my own completely inappropriate books instead) but his advice to young writers went something like this: if you want to be a published writer, you should, of course, write—every day, if possible. But you should also try very hard—every day, if possible—to be lucky. And that is how I would describe my writing journey thus far. I’ve worked very hard (and continue to work hard) to write good books, but I also tried very hard to be lucky. I quit a paying job to write, forced my shy, introverted self out of my comfort zone, and followed up every contact, lead, and nibble of interest. In the end, it paid off—I got very, very lucky. I had the help of some brilliant people in making my book the best it could be, I found a wonderful agent, and she got me an amazing three-book deal that surpassed my wildest dreams.

Tessa, that was amazingly brave to give up your day job! Kudos to you! Now, we in the Bandita lair love call stories. Could you please share yours with us?

Gee. I’m never quite sure how to answer that question, because for me “the call” was stretched out over a couple weeks. Last summer, I signed with my wonderful agent, Helen Breitwieser, and in early fall she sent GODDESS OF THE HUNT out on submission. After several very quiet, very tense (on my end!) weeks, during which my primary activities were checking my cellphone charge and refreshing my inbox, one day she called me to let me know about two different offers she’d received, and to say that a third editor was interested, and we’d be going to auction the following Monday. So that was an extremely exciting call! I remember, I was still reeling when I emailed my CPs, and the subject line was something like this: “OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!!!!” And then shortly thereafter, there was another call: oops! Monday’s a holiday, so we’re pushing back the auction to Tuesday. Then there was the call that another editor was interested and conferring with colleagues, so the auction would be on Wednesday. Then there were some other calls and delays on Wednesday and Thursday, and the upshot was that the auction did not wrap up until Friday.

And in between these calls were about 83 emails, and lots of long, aimless walks with my children in the stroller and my cellphone at the ready, and absolutely no sleep. I was running on coffee fumes. Then on Friday, my agent called me to tell me Ballantine had won the auction, and after an hour or so of rapturous squeeing and phoning and emailing, I hurried off to complete some of the many errands I’d been putting off all week. And that’s when I actually
missed "The Call” from my new editor. *shakes head* But I still have her voicemail saved! And all those 83 emails.

It was an extremely surreal week, and I’m still pinching myself months later. I happened to hit the market at just the perfect time, when interest in new historicals was spiking. Like I said, I got very, very lucky. But my most memorable moment was not actually a call. It was the day I took my signed Random House contract to the post office—the same post office where I’d taken so many contest entries and submissions to be mailed over the past year. That’s when it became real, when I finally felt safe to tell myself, “I did it. I’m a professional novelist.” I was shaking and almost in tears.

Great call story, Tessa! GODDESS OF THE HUNT, your first book, comes out in 2009. Please give us a thumbnail sketch of the story.

It starts something like this. Lucy Waltham has spent eight autumns as “one of the boys”, fishing, shooting, and admiring her brother’s rakishly charming friend. When the object of her adoration plans to marry another woman, Lucy vows to snag him first. She enlists the assistance of Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall--a jaded man with a troubled past and very little patience for his friend’s troublesome sister. He’s always kept Lucy at arm’s length--until the night she throws herself straight into his arms, and suddenly the girl he’s always ignored is the woman he can’t forget. And that’s just the first chapter. I haven’t even gotten to the near-drownings, riots, or hot interludes in wardrobes. You can read a longer blurb and excerpt on my website.
What else do you have in store for readers?

Well, GOTH is the first in a back-to-back trilogy of Regency-set historicals, meaning the three books will be released in consecutive months (currently set for Aug/Sep/Oct 09). So if you like GODDESS OF THE HUNT, you won’t have to wait long to read books two and three: SURRENDER OF A SIREN, and the book I’m tentatively calling A LADY OF PERSUASION. All three are sexy, funny, romantic, and fun.

Can you describe your writing routine for us?

Hmm, Anna, I’m imagining you mean “routine” as in “orderly pattern of behavior”. But in the Dare household, the only “routine” we have resembles a circus act. Picture me walking the highwire all day, while my two young children (the darelings) alternately take the parts of clowns, acrobats, and snarling lions. Inevitably, there is popcorn strewn on the floor. Then when the strong man, Mr. Dare, comes within shouting distance, I sort of stuff the darelings into the cannon and shoot them off to him. If executed perfectly, this “routine” allows me to escape with my laptop to a café for a few hours of writing. And yes, we do it all without a net.

The Banditas met through a contest (the 2006 Golden Heart) and I met you through a contest (Avon FanLit). Clearly contests have a lot going for them. Do you have any words of wisdom on writing contests that you’d like to share with us?

Well, I certainly cannot claim the sort of contest success the Banditas have enjoyed! I did enter a handful of contests with GOTH. I won a few and bombed in a few, but absolutely the best prizes I’ve taken away from any contest experience are friends and mentors. I met my fabulous critique partners and made dozens of friends through FanLit, and other contests (even ones I didn’t final in) put me in contact with published authors who’ve been wonderful sources of inspiration and advice. I know I don’t have to tell the Banditas what great networking opportunities can come out of writing contests. However, when people ask me about contests, I try to caution against using contests as a substitute for querying and submitting manuscripts. I received two requests for my full manuscript from final judges in contests I’d entered in the spring of 2007: both came after the book sold in October. So if you wait around for contest results, you could be letting other opportunities slip by.

Have any other writers influenced you? What are your favorite romance novels?

I would not be writing historical romance novels today if it were not for my love of Jane Austen. Her novels are so abundant in brilliance and so heartbreakingly few in number! I eventually turned to Regency-set historicals as a way to keep satisfying my yen for delicious wit and period romance, and then I started writing my own. My first attempts to write historical romance were actually PRIDE AND PREJUDICE fanfiction, which I’ve blogged about recently and written about in the April issue of Romance Writers Report. In the historical romance subgenre, some of my favorite authors are Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase, Julie Anne Long, Elizabeth Hoyt, Laura Lee Guhrke, and on and on from there… As you can probably gather, my preferences tend toward light, witty comedies, although I like to mix it up every once in a while with a dark, atmospheric historical or a snappy contemporary.

Tell us five quirky facts about Tessa Dare.

1. I’m phobic about being trapped underwater. I love the surface of it – sailing, snorkelling, swimming—but scuba diving, no way. 2. Ironically enough, it’s water that gets me going again when I feel “trapped” in my writing. If I’m stuck on a scene, I go wash dishes. Usually, by the time I’m done, I’ve figured my scene out. 3. I live in a 1922 bungalow – plenty of cute built-in bookshelves, but no dishwasher. 4. We had a dishwasher hookup installed a few years ago, but still haven’t bought one. Because that would involve shopping, and I hate shopping. And then how would I get unstuck when a scene’s giving me fits? 5. My grandmother (who does have a dishwasher) still has my first “book” in her filing cabinet– a sort of epic Cinderella tale written over a holiday visit, entitled “Martha the Cranberry”.

Tessa has some important questions to ask visitors to the lair:

Do you own a dishwasher? Are you happy with it? Care to recommend any particular makes or models? Obviously, contests are one way for aspiring authors to go about “trying very hard to be lucky”. I’m curious to know what other methods the Banditas have found successful. Oh, and if anyone has advice for me on how to spend the coming year as I wait for my books to hit the shelves—please fire away! She has very generously offered a $20 Amazon voucher to one lucky commenter!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wasting Time

by Jo Robertson

Readers, I apologize for re-publishing this post, but since I had to pull it early a few weeks ago, I decided to use it again.

When I was a wife and mother, being a strong Type-A kind of woman, I used to become annoyed every time I saw my young husband resting or lazing around.

Reading a newspaper, professional journal, or watching sports on TV. What a waste of time!

My life was filled with deadlines. Morning dishes done bef
ore lunch rolled around. Diapers washed and dried before the stack of clean ones dwindled to nothing. Toys strewn around the house picked up before Daddy walked in the door from school.

Who had time to waste engaging in such frivolous activities as reading a book?

Or watching television.


Or, heaven forbid, relaxing in a hot tub scented with lavend
er bubbles.

One day I came home from the grocery store to find a note clipped to the refrigerator.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.


Wasted time is wasted time, right? How dare my husband imply that some wasted time was okay and some not.

Several decades later I understood the truth of that little slogan.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Listening to music with no distractions.

Writing in your journal.

Reading your favorite author.

Painting something other than the walls of your house.

Pruning the roses, not because they're as scraggly as Rip Van Winkle's beard, but because you enjoy their gentle fragrance.

Sitting in the glider on the back patio watching the birds chatter by the fence.

Gazing into the fire, feeling the heat on your face.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Don’t get me wrong. A Type-A person doesn’t easily evolve into a laid-back, easy-going Type-B one. I still move at warp speed to complete even the most menial tasks. I still eat so fast you’d think I was ending a week-long hunger strike. I still rush, not stroll, around the mall when shopping.

But occasionally, I waste time.

It’s a grand feeling.

What do you do to “waste time,” renew your spirits, rejuvenate your energies. What’s your particular unique "wasted time"?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

by Susan Seyfarth

So something really extraordinary happened to me yesterday. I got fan mail. Sort of.

I'm what we call an AYU in this business: an As Yet Unpublished. This makes it tough to get fan mail. (It also makes it tough to get hate mail, so there's the silver lining, I guess.) Anyway, one of the women who judged my manuscript Money, Honey for this year's Golden Heart contest emailed to say she'd been pulling for it to final because she'd loved reading the partial so much. This just blew me away. First because, wow, what a nice thing to say. But second because nobody was ever supposed to love Money, Honey but me.

Without going into a lot of excruciating detail, let's just say that I wrote MH during a particularly difficult phase of my life & as a result, the book is a It's not full of serial killers or child molesters or dog kickers or anything like that. Heaven forfend. It's just got a really broody, pessimistic, emotionally closed off hero with a well-deserved criminal record. He's hot as hell, yes, but good boyfriend material? Warm & fuzzy? Fully reformed & legitimately employed? Not so much. He's difficult. Prickly. Dangerous. And maybe not in a good way.
And the heroine? Well. I gave her a backstory so viciously complicated & emotionally scarring that even my amazingly supportive critique partner said, "She can't have lived through that & turned out even remotely normal."

Did I listen? Did I fix things? I did not. I wrote the damn book my own damn way & sent it off to the contest circuit where it got duly slaughtered. I shoved it under the bed where it belonged & figured I'd written the fabled Book of My Heart. You know the one that nobody will ever love but you, but you're somehow compelled to write anyway? The story you're longing to tell that has absolutely no commercial viability?

When Money, Honey hit the finals, I was stunned. It was like the universe had suddenly decided to reward me for indulging my quirks instead of sending the Rejection Express steaming through my mailbox every day. This was unprecedented. I ought to go nuts while the window of opportunity was open, right? So I started thinking about things I secretly enjoy that I don't widely publicize. I polled my friends about their guilty pleasures. I quizzed my family. Here (in no particular order & without attribution to protect the innocent) is what I discovered we love but won't necessarily admit to:

1) Smokin' hot anti-heros with a razor-sharp edge. Doesn't hurt if they're really, really rich & just the tiniest bit cruel. Remember James Spader from Pretty in Pink? Yummers. (Okay, I'll admit it. That one's mine.)

2) Wine Coolers. Hello, high school. And yet, on a really hot summer's evening? Admit it--a Bartles & Jaymes can go down pretty smooth.

3) Cheap Trick/Journey. This was a two way tie . I mean, come on. We all love these bands but nobody will own up to it. Sure, we all crank up the volume when we stumble across their songs on the radio, but who'll admit to having the CD in the car? (Okay, I will. I love me some Cheap Trick.)

4) Trash TV. A show called "Plastic Surgery: Before & After" seemed to come up in conversation a lot. Wife Swap came up pretty often, too. I haven't seen these ones, but I have a well publicized addiction to People magazine & Perez Hilton's celebrity gossip site, so I have no room to act superior. People also admitted to loving Las Vegas, various soap operas, 90210 & Dawson's Creek. (That last one was mine. I'm not ashamed. I loved Pacey.)

5) Insulting good food with cheap condiments. Tartar sauce on a $50 fish filet at a fancy restaurant. Mayo on fries. Ketchup on steak. I'll admit to a predilection for cheap ice cream. You can keep your Ben & Jerry's. Hang on to your Haagen Daaz. Scoop me up a big fat bowl of plain ol' vanilla from a $3 family sized tub. Squirt on the Hershey's & I'm there.

So how about you? If the universe really IS rewarding us this week for indulging our private quirks, now isn't the time to hold back! What do you love that you hide? And reading romance doesn't count. Not in the Lair. :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Same But Different

by Suzanne Welsh
As a mother I've said to my kids I love you the same, but different. (How many of us have said that?) Well it's true. Take my girls for example. Both my daughters are singers, artists and readers. I take great pride in all this, but swear I had little do with their development other than pass on some genes. While they're similar in their talents, a fact that still amazes their father and me, they are unique in their styles.

Music: Both girls have been soloists in school and church groups since elementary school. Alison is the soprano who loves blues and rock-a-billy these days. I think the mournful guitar riffs of the blues speak to that deep part of her soul, while the other is just plain fun. Lyndsey loves Christian Rock and punk. The girl can sing soprano and alto and has an ear for harmonies like you wouldn't believe. As their mother, I could listen to both of them sing forever. And given the chance they still perform for audiences in blues bars or churches.

Art: Since they drew their first crayon compositions on their bedroom walls, they've always been drawing. As they've grown their art has evolved into their own styles.

Alison's is very realistic. As you can see by these examples, she likes to draw people in their quieter, more introspective selves. She works with inkings and pastels on large sheets of drawing papers. I love the intensity, the raw emotions they touch inside. Alison is all self taught, well except for that one semester in college. And recently has been showing her work in galleries in the Deep Ellum Art district.

Lyndsey is a lover of the manga style of art. A very vibrant and fun style, full of surprises. She's had more classes to develop her understanding of art, but her style is strictly her own. She sketches on paper, scans it into the computer, then does the coloring by computer. Which given the details and special effects, you can see aren't easy. Each and every picture she develops amazes me and makes me smile. The one above of the girl with the glowing shield uses special light effects. The one below with the hands was a painting she did for a charity. And currently she's working with a Christmas Card company doing fun cards.

Books: Here is where I had a little influence in their tastes. Well, okay maybe a lot. From the moment they were born, I read to them, and they always saw me reading. I encouraged them to read, took them to the bookstore on a regular basis. And when I started writing, they learned how much I love the romance genre. Alison is all over the spectrum with her reading choices, Ann Rand, Sylvia Plath, Sherrylin Kenyon, Elizabeth Lowell, and anything with fantasy, Tolkein and J K Rowling. Lyndsey loves sweeter romances, such as Debbie Macomber; Kinley MacGregor, especially the old Pirate books; and fantasy books such as Gena Showalter and Cathy Spangler.

So what does all this have to do with a romance writing blog? Simple, just as I love my daughters the same but different, so do I love the many subgenres of romance. I love to be whisked off to a new dimension with space heroes and vampires. Give me a good psychic contemporary suspense to read late at night when the house is creepy silent. Give me a historical that makes me yearn for years gone by. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me go YUMMO at the heroes.

And sadly, I write the same way. I love to step back in time and create my version of history. I love creating the American contemporary small town and all the zany characters. I love to have the good guys defeat the bad guys and get the girl. Perhaps someday I'll find my one niche, but for now, I love them all...the same, but different.

So how about you? Is there anything you're so passionate about you can't see any other style? Or are you like me, a bit of a smorgasbord reader/writer?


by Suzanne Welsh
My friend and brand new paranormal author, Nancy Haddock, and I are sitting at the Crescent Beach Café in St.
Augustine, Florida. It’s early evening and we’re watching the waves from the Atlantic slap against the beach while we sip our coladas. Mine is the standard piña colada with all the pineapple and coconut, Nancy prefers a Kahlua colada. I’m here to chat with Nancy about her first book, LA VIDA VAMPIRE.

Nancy, it’s a thrill for me to be here with you to talk about LA VIDA VAMPIRE. And mega-congrats on the "4&1/2 star" review from Romantic Times magazine!! I know you've been writing a long time before you got "the call". How long was it? And how did you keep your motivation going?

How long was it? If that's not a straight line, I don't know what is!
Okay, seriously, I was a member of RWA for 23 years and some odd days before I got The Call. However, I'd been working on novels for several years when I learned about RWA and joined. Now, before I switched to novels, I wrote two children's picture books with a wonderful partner, and wrote teleplays. Nothing sold, but the hope was alive. I think that sums it up for motivation, too. No matter what the set backs, the hope remained alive.

I remember how excited all of your friends were to hear you’d gotten “the call”. (Lots of screaming occurred in various states!) The Bandits love "Call" stories. Can you tell us yours?

Sure! It shows what a dork I can be!

I had pitched LA VIDA VAMPIRE to Cindy Hwang at the Dreamin' in Dallas conference in 2006, and decided to follow up on the submission in late January 2007. I phoned (because what's the worse that can happen, right?), and spoke with Cindy's assistant, Leis Pederson. Leis confirmed the submission was there, but also invited me to resubmit. I did, and after the fact, a friend told me Leis was beginning to take a few authors of her own and that she was from Texas.

So, I put the submission issue aside, and was working along on another project when the phone rang on February 21st at about 11:30 a.m. I answered without checking the caller ID and heard, "Hi, Nancy. This is Leis Pederson of Berkley."

DORK ALERT 1: I replied with something like,"Well, hi, Leis. I hear you're a Texas girl. Where abouts are you from?" We did about five minutes on Texas, and maybe the worse dork part is that I didn't yet suspect why she was calling.

The lovely Leis then switched the subject to ask if I had an agent. I told her I didn't yet, why?

DORK ALERT 2: WHY? Did I think she was taking a poll?

Leis then said, "We want to make you an offer."

Houston, we have brain ignition. Amazement, excitement, the joy of "at last," and even a touch of disbelief zipped through me in a matter of triple-time heartbeats. But, baby, I hadn't been a member of RWA forever 20 years for nothin'. My business voice kicked right in, told me to sit down and take the information, and celebrate later. When Leis came to the end of the offer, I thanked her, and told her I'd like to contact an agent before I gave her a final answer. I then asked, "Since you've made The Call, does that mean you'll be my editor?" The answer: Yes.

Well, then I screamed a little -- though I tried to hold the cordless unit far enough away from my mouth so as not to deafen ... my new editor. There were so very many times I thought I'd never hear that phrase come out of my mouth, and now, it had happened.

After I disconnected with Leis, I stood trembling in my office, wanting to share the news with my newly retired hubby, yet almost fearful of finding I'd just had an extremely vivid vision. I finally ran up the stairs to his office and broke the news. His expression was priceless, and the man who had encouraged me all this time hugged me until I thought my ribs would crack. He began calling family while I wavered between shock and getting down to the business of finding an agent. Oh, yeah, and I pinched myself for days.

(Grinning at Nancy), One of the perks we get doing these interviews is we get to read the books before everyone else. LA VIDA VAMPIRE was a great story. It's set in St. Augustine, Florida. What made you want to use this setting?

Everything! St. Augustine was simply the natural and logical place to set LA VIDA, because I knew right away that the main the character was a native of the city. Plus, the city in all its facets inspires me, and has since I first visited here in 1989. That's not to say I won't write stories in another setting, but here I'm surrounded by over 400 years of history, a wide variety of architecture, the arts, and the beaches – not to mention surfers! St. Augustine is my corner of paradise.

LA VIDA is a witty, sassy story in first person, (not my usual cup of tea, however you so sold me on it, but I already told you that). Tell us about it!

First, thank you for the high compliment! I'm tickled you enjoyed the first person point of view!

LA VIDA VAMPIRE is the story of Francesca Marinelli (Cesca), a vampire who was born and raised in St. Augustine, then buried for more than 200 years. By the time she's unearthed, everything has changed -- and vampires are a protected species. Cesca she vows to make her new afterlife as normal as possible and is succeeding, until a vampire-hating stalker, a shape-shifter, and a killer bring chaos and death. Suddenly Cesca is a murder suspect, and is forced to team up with vampire slayer Deke Saber to solve the case. Along the way, Cesca must embrace her vamp powers. If she doesn't, she could be the next victim.

(Taking another long drink of my colada), Cesca isn't your typical vampire. What quirks did you give her, and why?

You know, Cesca pretty much gave herself the quirks, then I figured out how to use them. For instance, she'd always been a part day-walker and loved the beach and ocean. It was a natural that she'd learn to surf. Her reluctance to use her vamp powers stems from her not wanting to be woo-woo vampiric, so she learns to drive rather than using vamp speed. Now her quirk about blood? That came out of the blue, but was a perfect thread in the story.

OMG then there's the hero, Deke. (fanning myself here). What makes him tick, and any particular movie star you had in mind when you wrote about him?

Deke Saber slays the monsters who prey on the innocent. It's that simple, and it's not. He's ready to believe the worst of any vampire, and yet Cesca scrambles his radar. She so unvampish, so innocent and trusting, it makes Saber nuts. There are things I haven't revealed about Saber yet, but he is delicious! (grins) As for having a star in mind when I wrote him, I didn't. I had a catalog picture, and Saber grew while I stared at the cutout and played "What if."

Besides being a vampire book, there's another paranormal element in this book? (We exchange a conspiratorial wink.) Care to fill us in?

Grins, Suz! Yes, there is an element of magick with an old wizard, and with two magical shape-shifters (as opposed to lycanthropes). Both were born when a spell the wizard cast long-ago went haywire. One of the shifters is Cesca's long-lost friend, Triton, and the other becomes her protector.

Not to give anything away, do you think there will be more books with Cesca and Saber or just more books with the vampire/magick theme in it?

The second book in the series follows Cesca and Saber as they unravel a new mystery and battle a new -- or not so new -- evil. It will probably be released in Spring 2009, and I hope there will be more to follow, of course. The magick element also continues, and I see it building in successive books in the series. I hope there are more books, anyway. I have a blast with these characters!

(Nancy and I finish off our drinks and as we signal the waiter to bring us another she leans back and eyes me with a sly smile.)

Let me ask your readers something. What attracts you to books with continuing characters, and what turns you off about them?

Nancy has a fun website at, where you can play, “Where’s Cesca” for a prize package. She also has a signed copy of LA VIDA VAMPIRE for one lucky commentor on today’s blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Makers of Imaginary Realms

by Nancy Northcott

"Get your head out of the clouds."
"Where were you--Mars?"
"Act like you have some sense."

Have you ever heard the above applied to you or someone in your vicinity? Usually a dreamer? A reader or writer? Readers tend to be thinkers and, at times, dreamers. Writers tend to be both. Sometimes the people around us don't get it, which can make for difficult moments. Yet the realms of our choice remain attractive havens.

During the last month, three people died who shaped very different imaginary realms. All left lasting imprints in the worlds they shaped. Most familiar to romance readers, of course, will be the wonderful Phyllis A. Whitney. Most of us probably met her through her young adult novels, but she also wrote adult and juvenile mysteries. Whitney was honored with a special nod to her body of work at last year's Romance Writers of America national conference in Dallas. She was a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America for lifetime achievement. Her website,, notes that her books were published in more than thirty countries. Last year, her 1956 novel about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, The Trembling Hills, was reprinted as a classic in the Hodder Great Reads line in the United Kingdom. Two of her other novels, Daughter of the Stars and The Singing Stones, were recently reissued, and lists several of her books as available.

According to the obituary in the New York Times, Whitney's last novel,Amethyst Dreams, was published in 1997, when she was 94. A quick check of the paper's archive reveals that she had numerous titles on the paperback bestseller lists. Whitney lived to the grand age of 104.

Way back in 1974, two friends found a way to turn the perceived weaknesses of dreaming and imagination into strengths and to create a community of the imagination. They made these traits not only acceptable but the currency of the realm in a kingdom called Dungeons and Dragons. Their names were Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Gygax died last month. I'm not a gamer, so we won't be exploring that in much detail, but I am a dreamer, a reader, and a writer. So I'd like to take a minute and tip my hat to Mr. Gygax's memory.

All of us have particular kinds of imaginary realms we prefer. I like knights and dragons and swords and spaceships and women who take the driver's seat. Any combination or version of the above is acceptable. Maybe that's because I grew up in a culture that put women on television mainly to assist or to be rescued by the hero. Even poor Wonder Woman often needed saving by Steve Trevor. At the same time, I consumed a steady diet of Superman and Batman and Doom Patrol and King Arthur and Greek mythology (I wanted to be an archaeologist until I found out they dug up bones--I know, Suz and Joan, I'm a wimp--but that's for another day).

In Gary Gygax's realm, from what I understand, the dwarf or the thief or the poverty-stricken wanderer stands as good a chance of being the hero as the knight or the king does. It's an open realm, embracing all comers. How could geeks and nerds not love it? In Sharyn McCrumb's wonderful novel about fandom, Bimbos of the Death Sun, her protagonist uses a D and D game to force a murderer to reveal himself.

The New York Times obituary of Gygax, on March 5, called Dungeons and Dragons "a bridge between the noninteractive world of books and films and the exploding interactive video game industry." The article goes on to quote Gygax as saying the value of the game lay not in victory or defeat but in the imaginative experience. In a column in the New York Times on March 9, Adam Rogers credits Gygax with laying the foundation for all modern gaming. Online games apparently (as I said, I'm no expert) use the principles created for D and D. The popularity of gaming, along with fantasy, science fiction, and adventure stories, is a tribue, I think, to the power of imagination. Gary Gygax left behind thousands of people who may not know his name but know his work and its offshoots in depth. Many loving them fanatically. That isn't a bad legacy.

Finally, I sadly noted the passing last week of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. While he's best known as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, his achievements ranged far wider. According to the Clarke Foundation website,, his first short story, "Rescue Party," appeared in Astounding Science in 1946. He wrote numerous other short stories, novels, and nonfiction articles and books. He is credited with the idea for communication satellites. According to the obituary in The New York Times, geosynchronous positioning of satellites has been designated a "Clarke Orbit" by the International Astrononical Union.

I heard Clarke speak my senior year in high school, at a convocation sponsored by a local television station. All of us trooped into the auditorium expecting to hear about 2001. Instead, he talked about the role of science in the world and the development of the communications satellite. I was hooked. I went out and bought all of his fiction I could find. I still remember a poignant story called "The Star," about a Jesuit priest on an exploratory mission that finds the remains of a civilization destroyed by a supernova. His calculations reveal that the exploding star was visible on Earth as the Star of Bethlehem.

Clarke's interests weren't confined to space and its technology. He also explored the oceans. Dolphins figure prominently in a couple of his novels. In his autobiography, The View From Serendip, he discusses moving to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), where he spent the remainder of his life, for the diving. According to the Times obituary, diving was the closest he could come to the weightlessness of space. My favorite saying of his, one quoted in that obituary, was "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Magic experiences were what he gave his legion of readers. In 1998, he received a knighthood in recognition of his many accomplishments.

In their different ways, Phyllis A. Whitney, Gary Gygax, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke created imaginary worlds that gave dreamers a haven. Perhaps even more important is the fact that playing in those havens stimulated the imaginations of so many people who went on to create imaginary realms of their own, realms where dreaming is a noble vocation that keeps the world in motion.

What's your favorite imaginary haven? Has one ever spurred your creativity?

Has there ever been anyone in your life who didn't "get" it? How did you deal with that?

We're still celebrating Golden Heart and RITA finalists in the lair today. Bandita GH finalists are Susan Seyfarth with TWO manuscripts in Contemporary Single Title, The Princess Project and Money, Honey, and KJ Howe in Romantic Suspense with One Shot, Two Kills. Our buddy Doglady also finaled in the GH with Lost in Love in Regency Historical. In the RITA, our Anna Campbell took TWO of the slots in Regency Historical with Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched. Yesterday's blogger, Maureen Child, finaled in the RITA novella category with Christmas Cravings. Yay, all! Your manuscripts wowed five judges, and that's no mean feat.

If I've missed anyone, please sing out. We want to celebrate everyone's achievements in this banner week.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Author Maureen Child is in The Lair!!

By Kate

We all know that writing contests can change your life – and not just by getting your work seen by editors and agents. Lasting friendships often develop among contest participants, probably because of all that shared pain and suffering we experience. As 2006 Golden Heart finalists, we Banditas were fortunate to develop a special bond that led to the creation of this blog. And a few years ago, through another contest, I was lucky enough to meet a judge who introduced me to Maureen Child, and an amazing and beautiful friendship was born.

I can honestly say that no one has taught me more about the business of publishing and no one has been more valuable in terms of improving my own writing style and process than my friend Maureen.

But enough about me! Let's meet this amazing writer!

With over 100 books and counting, Maureen Child is as prolific as she is versatile and talented, and she’s got five prestigious RITA nominations to prove it. She’s written Western historical paranormals under the name Kathleen Kane, and one of those, A POCKETFUL OF PARADISE, was made into the TV movie, THE SOUL COLLECTOR. Maureen has written warm and witty contemporary romances for St. Martin’s Press and she writes short, sexy romances for Silhouette Desire. Silhouette Senior Editor Melissa Jeglinski says, “Maureen Child is one of Desire’s most prolific and best-selling authors” and suggests that if you want to write for Desire, you should read Maureen Child.

This month, the second book in Maureen’s outrageously funny and very sexy Demon Duster series, A FIEND IN NEED, hits the bookstores and she’s here to talk about it. Welcome to the Lair, Maureen!

Maureen: Hi Kate! Hi, Banditas! Thanks for the warm welcome. It’s great to be here—and Kate, I’m just as glad you entered the OCC contest that year! Don’t know what I’d do without you!

Kate: Thanks, Maureen. Okay, to bring everyone up to date, in your first Demon Duster book, MORE THAN FIENDS, Cassidy Burke learns that she’s a hereditary Demon Duster. Soon she’s in training to kill demons but somehow gets intimately involved with one very hot, incredibly sexy Demon, then ultimately goes head-to-head with an all-powerful evil Demon Judge who’s made the mistake of kidnapping Cassidy’s daughter. Whew! Can you give us a sneak peek into book two, A FIEND IN NEED?

Maureen: Ah, life in La Sombra ... It’s been a month since Cassidy’s world got turned upside down, poor woman. And it’s not getting any easier. Her daughter’s father, Logan buys the house across the street from her—having him popping in and out all the time is not something Cass is looking forward to—her daughter Thea’s decided to give up being a math genius and become of all things ... a dreaded cheerleader. And finally, a gorgeous Faery arrives on her doorstep and tells her she’s the only one who can save him! Busy week.

Kate: Busy is the word for it. And by the way, Brady might just be the sexiest Faery ever. And he can cook! What’s not to love? So how in the world did you dream up these fabulous characters, especially Cassidy? Since you write such wild and funny paranormals, I guess my real question is [don’t groan] where do you get your out-of-this-world ideas?

Maureen: I’m groaning ... Actually, the best ideas are in the housewares department at Target—right behind the plastic tub aisle, bottom shelf. Okay, okay. Truth is, ideas aren’t a problem. I was the kid who was always in trouble for staring out a window during class time. Now, being paid to stare out windows ... oh, and type, is a great revenge.

Coming up with Cassidy was the easiest thing ever. She’s so much like me, it’s scary. She talks like me, eats like me ... she’s tidier than I am though and as far as I know, there aren’t any demons in my family. Although ... there is that one uncle ...

Kate: Snork! One thing I love about Cassidy—and your writing in general—is the humor you instill in your characters, especially your heroines. Cassidy is hilarious. There were too many laugh-out-loud scenes to mention them all, but I’ve got to say that your Cassidy eats more than any heroine I’ve ever read of. I guess demon-dusting burns up the calories, but I’ve got to confess I was starving by the time I finished the first book. And I fell on the floor laughing after reading the scene with her and her out-of-control washing machine. Seriously, do you have any words of wisdom for us writers when it comes to writing humor?

Maureen: Thanks for that, Kate! I try to get a real laugh out of my readers and when it even makes ME laugh, I know I’m on the right track. Sarcasm is my go-to humor. It’s just part of my world and good thing I like it so much, since my whole family are artistes in this area!

As for the eating, Cassidy, much like me, is a nibbler. She grazes all day. Her favorites, and mine, are Hershey’s Caramel Kisses and Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Pop Tarts. I like seeing a heroine chow down in times of stress, relaxation, boredom, happiness ... you get the idea. And the washing machine?? Well, who hasn’t idly wondered if ...

Kate: Hey now, this is a family blog.

Maureen: Sorry! But sometimes a washing machine is just a washing machine. Anyway, to write funny, you’d better enjoy reading funny. Find some really good, funny books in the genre you want to write and read ‘em all straight through. Hey, it’s research! And it’ll put you in the right mood to find your own funny bone.

Kate: I mentioned your versatility earlier. How do you switch gears and move from writing a 90,000-word hilarious paranormal one day to writing a 50,000-word passionate, sexy Desire the next?

Maureen: The true mother of inspiration is eating. This is how I make my living. As great as writing is, it’s still my job. So there are pages that have to be done, deadlines that have to be met ... and hair that has to be yanked out and tossed into the wind!

I do try to take a day or two off between books. I read whoever’s latest is out, relax a little and get my head out of the finished book and ready to jump into the next one.

Kate: Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

Maureen: Just finishing up a single title funny paranormal for NAL. It’s called BEDEVILED, and according to the good buddy who’s reading it ... it’s pretty funny! (thanks, Kate!)

BEDEVILED is about a woman who accidentally gets doused with the essence of Faery powers when she tries to get a demon to stop devouring her ex-boyfriend. No good deed goes unpunished ... because that faery essence is taking over her body, her life, her world. Soon, she’s got a gorgeous, pirate-looking Fae Warrior telling her that she’s the chosen one, meant to deliver Otherworld from evil Queen Mab—and an ugly, crabby pixie sleeping in her tree when he’s not training her how to use the powers she doesn’t even want.

Oh, and her sister’s been kidnapped. By a Demon? A Faery? Who knows?

And, another exciting thing for me this month is the release of BARGAINING FOR KING’S BABY. It’s the first in a trilogy from Silhouette Desire and it’s out this month, with the other two slated for April and May.

Kate: And I happen to know that BARGAINING FOR KING'S BABY has been number one on the Waldenbooks List for two weeks straight now! Fantastic! Thanks so much for visiting today, Maureen!

Maureen: Thanks for having me. I’m here all the time, though I usually lurk. It’s much brighter when you’re not tucked away in the shadows!

Maureen didn’t mention that her heroine Cassidy owns and operates her own house cleaning business, and as part of her Demon Duster arsenal, Cassidy’s got a liquid spray that vaporizes demons—AND leaves glass shiny and streak-free! Is that the greatest product ever invented or what?
If you could invent your own household product, what would it be and how would it work? And if you have a question for Maureen about her books or writing in general, ask away! TWO lucky commenters will win an autographed copy of A FIEND IN NEED for their very own!

And don't think we've forgotten that today is "The Call" day! We've got our fingers crossed that all our Banditas and friends will receive that phone call telling them that they've finalled in the Golden Heart or RITA contest! If you find out you're a finalist, let us know!! We've got champagne on ice and we're ready to start the party right here, right now!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

CJ Lyons offers promotional LIFELINES!

The doctor is in the house! KJ Howe welcomes talented writer and physician CJ Lyons back to the lair. Remember her incredibly helpful tips on pitching at conferences? This time, she offers sage advice about promotion and branding, lessons she learned while promoting her debut novel, LIFELINES (a must read!).

Title: Practical Promoting in an Impractical World

KJ asked me to talk about practical promoting and what I've learned as a debut author. Hmmm…this might be a very short post!

For me, it's boiled down to knowing myself and my target audience. Or even more importantly, knowing my brand.

A brand is a subliminal promise to your readers—that any book written under this author's name will promise this type of emotional experience.

For example, even though I love to cross genres from women's fiction to suspense to thrillers to romance, every book I write has a theme central to my life: they're all about making a difference, trying to change the world.

Once I realized this fact, my tagline came easily: No One is Immune to Danger

Note that tagline is an emotional concept, not a promise of specifics. I did this on purpose because I knew up front that I didn't want to get locked into writing only medical thrillers. It works with medical thrillers, woman's fiction, romantic suspense, mainstream thrillers, etc. And it reminds the reader that I’m a physician—which is part of my platform or unique selling proposition.

A brand is more than a central theme, more than a tag line, it also includes visual images that evoke the same emotion.

For instance, part of my brand image is that I'm a doctor, so I use a lot of medical imagery on my website. I also use the color red a lot—again, creating an emotional response.

One thing that I wanted for my website was to evoke a response that it was fresh, dynamic, and different than other suspense writers' sites. Subconsciously, this tells a casual viewer that here is a writer who's different than others, willing to take chances, and whose books are also fresh and different.

I checked out as many websites as I could. Many I fell in love with—but they didn't fit my brand and the emotional response I was aiming for.

So instead of a dark background (which 99.9% of mystery, thriller, and suspense writers have) I went with a light background. And I asked my designer to make the images feel more fluid and expansive rather than boxed-in. As if there was a whole new world for visitors to explore.

Other promotional decisions I had to make:

--blog or not? To be successful you need to join a group, build a platform, or blog very often.
--contests? Offering free stuff is a great way to build interest and your mailing list, but it does cost money.
--appearances? Many conferences plan 9-12 months in advance, so if you want to get a speaking gig, you need to plan early.

Again, I based my decisions on my brand. As a doctor, teaching is a natural part of my life, and teachers are noted for making a difference, so volunteering to teach workshops, give keynotes, etc, was an easy fit for my brand.

And this is where I've had the greatest promotional success. I've been invited (ie. paid) to give online classes, live workshops, and keynote speeches all over the country. Fortuitously, many of these offers coincided with LIFELINE's spring release, so my "book tour" is partially paid for already, I have a built in audience, and the signings are arranged by the conference organizers, easing my workload.

If this didn't come naturally to me and fit my brand, I might have passed on some of these opportunities and spent my time and energy doing something else—like maybe blogging. But blogging doesn't come easy to me, so I use my blog as a news update and focus on guest blogging which feels more like teaching to me.

And I guess my final lesson in promoting was: it never hurts to ask. I knew my debut would be as a mass market mid-list general fiction novel. My publisher is very supportive, but was also candid with me up front that we had virtually no promotional budget and that it was pretty much all up to me. BTW, this is the "norm" for 80% of all books published.

But that didn't stop me from asking for things I thought were important. First, I asked for a "real" photo for the cover rather than stock art. After all, the whole idea behind LIFELINES was a "real" doctor writing about "real" events in a "real" ER—or as close as you could get and still be entertaining.

Wow!! Did Berkley ever come through for me there! The art director asked a lot of questions about my characters and then actually hired models for a real photo-shoot in NYC!!! And look at the results—stunning!!!

I also try to ask my audiences if they want to support myself or any of their favorite authors that they try to buy our books the first week they are available. That first week of sales is really the only thing that counts as far as deciding how long a book stays in print or even if there is a next book.

So go out, buy early, buy often! And to reward anyone who wants to buy more than one copy of LIFELINES (hey, it's only $7.99!), I'm hosting a contest: Treat a Friend and Win!

Simply send me copies of receipts showing two purchases of LIFELINES and you'll be entered to win prizes including an iPod Nano! Details on my website along with other contests, at

Thanks for reading!

KJ: The Banditas really appreciate you stopping by today to share those amazing promotional tips. We wish you all the best with LIFELINES!!! For more information about CJ, her bio is included below. As you can see, she is a very busy, multi-talented woman!

As a pediatric ER doc, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. CJ loves sharing the secret life of an urban trauma center with readers. She also loves breaking the rules; her debut medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, is cross-genre to the extreme, combining women's fiction with medical suspense with thriller pacing with romantic elements and is told from the point of view of the women of Angels of Mercy's Medical Center. Publisher's Weekly proclaimed LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), "a spot-on debut….a breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" and Romantic Times made it a Top Pick. Contact her at

Booty Ahoy!

Firstly, thank you to everyone who made Michelle Buonfiglio's visit such an incredible party. Everyone in the lair had hangovers the next morning! As suits such a fabulous party, I have not one prize but TWO to give away.

The first is courtesy of Michelle and it's an Amazon gift card. The winner of that is our first-time blogger:


The second prize is from me and it's a copy of Sizzle, Seduce & Simmer, a collection of short stories and recipes from some of Australia's best romance writers. The winner of that is:


Congratulations, girls. Alli, could you please contact Michelle on and she'll sort out your prize? PJ, could you please contact me on with your snail mail details? And thanks again to Michelle for a wonderful day in Bloglandia!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Great Peep Easter Hunt

posted by Donna MacMeans


Hope the Easter Bunny found your house and left lots of jelly beans and chocolate.

But if he didn't, have no fear. The Romance Bandits are here to help you celebrate the holiday! To this end we've collected a number of those marshmallow delicacies known as "peeps" and have hidden them in a virtual easter hunt.

Before I tell you the rules, please note the Bandit News scroll to the right and the words "Click here to email us!" When you want to send us your answers, please email them via this link and include your contact information. Do NOT post them in the comment section or it will ruin it for the other players. Okay?

The Rules - The clues below represent either 1) a book authored by a bandita or bandita guest or 2) something that has been mentioned in one of our blogs. To make things a little easier, I've included a list - in alphabetical order - of the authors participating in the hunt & the prize they are offering.

The first person to properly match the clues with the appropriate author can choose the prize of their choice. After that, we'll award prizes as the correct answers roll in. When the prizes are gone - they're gone (sorry).

Peep Clues:

1. The peep hides with he
Who is obsessed with large bugs

He just might be 'Lost'

2. You'll find this peep on the dark side.

3. The Romance genre she forsook
When Mystery presented its hook.
Peep's now in the cave
Trying hard to behave
And write the great Bibliophile book

4. This peep shies away from those that would call her "horsewitch," though bewitching she may be.

5. My peep is blonde, female, and wearing combat fatigues for butt-kicking purposes.

6. My peep turned as pink as her corset
Her curves to bare for his lordship,
But the tables were turned
His lessons well learned
Now she's the object of courtship.

7. This little peep had a "hot" time

Hanging with the guys of fire station #1
My, they had big hoses!!

8. What happens when you finally find the peep...and it's two?

9. Why is my peep wearing jammies?

10. Oh, who wrote this peep mad and cranky
So handsome but mother so skanky?
He dashed off to Scotland
That home of kilt plot land
I speak verity - hanky and panky

11. If you look carefully among the antiques
In the Pumpkin Patch store in Boston,
You might find this peep wearing his plaid.

12. This peep rode to Rachel's house
Snug in the saddlebags of a Texas Ranger

13. This peep travels far
and explains it all to you
on another blog

14. There once was a two-year-old girl,
The luckiest in all of the world,
She has a mommy named May-May,
And a Maw-Maw for most days,
But Grammy just loves her blond curls.

15. Ultramarine blue
And Alizarin crimson
Winter sunset sky
Hides my yellow peep
amid Ochre echoes on
barren evening ground

16. This peep is strumming a banjo on her knee.

Wow! Those are some tough clues to crack!! Don't forget - EMAIL your answers with your contact information (otherwise we won't know where to send the prize!). To help you out - here's a list of the participating authors and the prizes they offer:

Jeanne Adams ($10 Starbucks gift card, a Godiva snack and a cover)

Sandy Blair (signed copy of A Highlander For Christmas and a small silver bracelet)

Anna Campbell (signed copy of Claiming the Courtesan)

Kate Carlisle (a $15 Amazon gift certificate)

Caren Crane (a $10 Amazon gift certificate)

Kathynn Dennis (signed copy of Dark Rider, a cover flat and a blue jumping horse keychain)

Tracy Garrett (signed copy of A Touch of Texas)

Joan Kayse (Godiva chocolates)

Donna MacMeans (signed copy of The Education of Mrs. Brimley)

Loucinda McGary (Ghirardelli chocolate)

Cassondra Murray ($5 Barnes & Noble gift card)

Nancy Northcott (a $10 Borders card)

Jo Robertson (a $15 Target card)

Kay Stockham (signed copy of Another Man's Baby)

Tawny Weber (signed copy of Does She Dare?)

Suzanne Welsh (a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card)

Good Luck! and remember EMAIL the answers (but feel free to comment on the blog if you like the game)