Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Romance Bandits!

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been blogging here at the Romance Bandits for a year already. I guess it’s true what they say — time flies when you’re having fun! And since we Banditas love a party, we’re having a month-long celebration to mark our anniversary and to launch ourselves — and you, our wonderful and loyal readers — into our second year.

Each week, we’re going to have two drawings. One will be for a bevy of cool prizes like bookstore gift cards, yummy treats, Bandita merchandise, and signed books written by the Banditas. The second prize will be a critique offered by one of the Banditas. This is for the writers among our readers, so when you post this week please note if you’re a writer and want to be in the running for the critiques. These critiques will be of a first chapter, not to exceed 30 double-spaced pages. The winners will be able to tell the critiquer what she’s looking for — overall impressions, line editing, thorough and honest critique, etc.

We’re also going to have an extra giveaway on May 4, our anniversary date, and two grand prizes to be given away May 31. So, take a look at the prizes listed at the end of this post, and make plans to comment on the blog posts throughout the month. That’s how you place yourself in the running to win!

As if tons of prizes weren’t enough, in addition to the Banditas’ witty and insightful posts we’ve got another stellar lineup of guests this month. And we’re kicking off things with a bang tomorrow with Eloisa James! Yes, you heard that right. The New York Times best-selling author will be here in the Bandit lair to take your questions. Feel free to squee now, fangirls. 

Other fabulous guests this month are:

Esri Rose (and her hot elves), here to celebrate her debut novel, Bound to Love Her -- May 2
Claudia Dain, who’ll be hanging out to celebrate the release of her newest fabulous tale, The Courtesan’s Secret -- May 5
Inspirational author Missy Tippens -- May 6
Harlequin Presents author Annie West -- May 10
Brenda Novak – MIRA and Superromance author, not to mention the force behind her popular annual online auction to benefit diabetes research (Bid between May 1 and May 31 at -- May 12
Cerridwen Press author Eilis Flynn – May 19
Silhouette Nocturne author Pamela Palmer – May 21
Historical author Terri Brisbin – May 22
Kimber Chin, debut author and marketing guru -- May 24
RITA winner Beth Pattillo, here to celebrate the release of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society -- May 27

And, finally, on May 30 we’ll be having a launch party for our very own Jeanne Adams, whose debut novel, Dark and Dangerous, will be hitting bookstore shelves everywhere!

And now for the list of weekly prizes:

Week 1 (May 1-11)
Kirsten Scott -- Bandita mug and T-shirt
Nancy Northcott -- $10 Borders card, pretty bookmark
Christie Kelley -- signed copy of Every Night I’m Yours

Weekly giveaway of critique of first chapter (not to exceed 30, double-spaced pages) courtesy of Christie Kelley

May 4 – Special Extra Giveaway to Mark the Anniversary of our Official Launch into Cyberspace!
Loucinda McGary -- chocolates, skull-and-crossbones T-shirt
Cassondra Murray -- $10 Barnes & Noble gift card, Romance Bandits pin, Romance Bandits mug
Beth Andrews -- signed copy of Not Without Her Family, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds

Special first-chapter critique giveaway courtesy of Loucinda McGary

Week 2 (May 12-18)
Kate Carlisle -- Romance Bandits baseball cap and Sees Candy suckers
Christine Wells -- signed copy of Scandal's Daughter and a Dangerous Duke journal
KJ Howe -- $10 Barnes & Noble gift card

Weekly giveaway of critique of first chapter (not to exceed 30, double-spaced pages) courtesy of KJ Howe

Week 3 (May 19-25)
Trish Milburn – Mug that says "Caution. Writer at Work."
Suzanne Welsh -- $15 gift card to Borders, Godivas
Anna Sugden -- Romance Bandits bear
Tawny Weber -- signed copies of Double Dare and Does She Dare

Weekly giveaway of critique of first chapter (not to exceed 30, double-spaced pages) courtesy of Trish Milburn

Week 4 (May 26-31)
Jeanne Adams -- copy of Dark and Dangerous, chocolates
Caren Crane -- $10 Amazon gift card, Bandita journal
Joan Kayse -- Romance Bandits mouse pad

Weekly giveaway of critique of first chapter (not to exceed 30, double-spaced pages) courtesy of Jeanne Adams

Grand Prize #1 (to be given away May 31 at end of day)
Anna Campbell -- Tim Tams, Anna Campbell stationery, signed copies of Claiming the Courtesan and Untouched
Donna MacMeans -- signed copy of The Education of Mrs. Brimley, Romantic Times tote bag
Susan Seyfarth -- $15 Amazon gift certificate

Grand Prize #2 (to be given away May 31 at end of day)
Critique of first chapter and synopsis courtesy of Anna Campbell
Jo Lewis-Robertson -- Anne Bonny action figure and $10 Borders gift card

Good luck, everyone!

Flying Balls and Stiff Shafts

by Jo Robertson

Warning: The following material may be inappropriate for some readers.

Last night I crawled into bed beside Dr. Big. I was finishing up Deanna Raybourne’s Victorian mystery SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY, and closing in on the denouement, when I heard muttering to the side of me.

I ignored it. Raybourne’s a fabulous author and I did SO want to find out if Nicholas
Brisbane would kiss Lady Julia Gray again, so far the extent of their physical engagement.

More muttering to my right, but now the words began to penetrate my consciousness.

What you say? Flying balls and stiff shafts?

There’s not a romance writer in the world who will fail to identify with my curiosity at the tenor of those words – flying balls and stiff shafts? What other meaning could be attached to them but a bit of naughtiness?

“What are you talking about?” I asked, dragging my eyes from the printed form of Nicholas Brisbane.

Dr. Big waved a giant golf magazine in front of me. “My golf game, what else? A golfer’s most important tools are flying balls – gotta get loft and trajectory, but not too much or the ball will . . .”

At this point my eyes glazed over. “Hmmm,” I murmured noncommitally. I gave up Nicholas Brisbane for THIS?

“And of course the shaft of both the woods and the irons,” intoned Dr. Big, “must be hard, stiff, solid, not too flexible. Otherwise the . . . "

He slanted a sly look at me. “What did you think I meant?”


What did I THINK he meant?
Am I not a romance writer? Obviously, there’s only one answer to that.

The conversation got me to thinking. Would the mind of a normal person (by that, insert – a non-romance writer) flit precisely to the same place as mine did?

That idea led to euphemisms and YES, that’s my topic. We writers talk about purple prose and unrealistic and ridiculous stand-ins for body parts and functions, but what do we really mean? Should we call a spade a spade – er, a shaft a shaft?

Before I was a mother, my delightful nephew Bryan had an accident in which his t
iny penis had a serious confrontation with the toilet seat. Said toilet seat assaulted the poor boy and, honestly, it’s a wonder the kid ever got potty-trained. Three-year-old Bryan raced screaming into the living room where his mother and I were talking. “I hurt my wee-wee tickler,” he bawled.

Wee-wee tickler? Good grief, was my sister actually going to let her child call his penis a wee-wee tickler?

I shuddered.

But I now realize there’s a place for such ridiculous euphemisms. The first time I used the word “penis” in front of my father-in-law, he had an apoplectic fit and stomped out of the room, muttering something about bad language. Hmm, I’d rather thought the word was simply . . . anatomically correct.

The other day my five-year-old granddaughter flashed me a sad little look. “Grammy Jo,” she said, “my vagina hurts.”

“Oh, really?” I tried very hard not to laugh.

She nodded theatrically. “I didn’t wipe the right way,” she confided. “Now I have an infection.”

Her younger brother has his own troubled story to tell. At the tender age of three, he raided his father's nightstand drawer looking for the candy stash. Apparently the little blue pill look
s like . . . candy.

Now a stiff shaft on a three-year old is not a pretty sight. Poor little guy complained about his penis hurting all day. After the poison-control hotline lady stopping laughing, she assured Max’s mother that the sensation would subside in a few hours. I was proud of Max. He never once spoke of shafts or wee-wee ticklers. “Mom, my penis is too big," he said. "It hurts. A lot.”

Fighting the euphemism battle is a difficult task for parents. Even when we use t
he medical terminology for body parts and functions, children are like dirty little sponges. They soak up whatever “potty” word is going around at the moment.

It is an uphill and, I suspect, losing battle.

Wee-wee tickler is beginning to sound better all the time.

What about you? Do you shudder when a romance writer uses a silly, demeaning term for a body part or function? Any funny experiences with your own children? Are you sick of that purple prose or do you prefer the euphemism to the harsh glare of reality?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jane Porter Is in the Lair!

by Anna Campbell

I first met the fabulous Jane Porter at Romance Writers of Australia's 2003 conference. She was our keynote speaker and I was blown away by how smart, sincere and perceptive she was. Since then I've become addicted to her stories. If you want an honest, compelling, passionate read, I can't recommend her writing highly enough. And it seems this year's RITA judges agree with me as ODD MOM OUT is a finalist in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category.

Congratulations on the RITA nomination, Jane! I have trouble keeping up with everything you do! You’re amazing. Let’s start with your most recent single title, MRS. PERFECT (available 5th May), which has received rave reviews from Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times. Can you please tell us about this story?

MRS. PERFECT, like ODD MOM OUT, explores the theme of appearances, self-image and what lies beyond the public image. We women tend to be so hard on each other and I wanted to write about two women who didn’t like each other, yet were forced to deal with each other on a regular basis. I discovered that these women, although quite different from the other, actually had a lot in common. I also discovered that at the end of the day, we women have to be compassionate towards each other, but also towards ourselves. I really love this new book, too. It’s a story very close to my heart and I hope readers will enjoy it, too.

You write both single title books and classic Harlequin romances. Do you approach the stories differently? Do you think at heart, you’re telling the same story? What are the advantages of straddling a category and a single title career? What are the challenges?

I don’t approach my Harlequin and 5 Spot books that differently. Each time I sit down to write, I want to believe there’s a different process at work, but then it turns out to be the same: write and write and write until I find the passion in the story, and the truth, because every story has its own truth. Every story has a reason for being written. My goal is to find the meaning then grow it, flesh it, blow it up like a child’s beach raft. I want every story as full as it can be and in that respect, writing is the same. It does help, though, that I write the Harlequins in third person and the 5 Spot novels in first. I also like to think of my Harlequin heroines as modern day fairy tale princesses, while my 5 Spot novels are the women next door, or the woman sitting across from me in the airport lounge. One is more mythic while the other is more realistic, but at heart, I am telling the same story, and it’s a story I’ve been telling a long time-—we all deserve love, we all deserve a wonderful life, we all should take risks and go for more because this is the only life we’ve got and we want it to be the great adventure we’re hoping for. I don’t know if there are advantages to straddling category and single title. Sometimes switching back and forth between the two is really hard for me and I lose some significant writing time. But the positive is that it keeps me and my writing and voice fresh. So perhaps that’s the advantage—it doesn’t allow me to get too comfy. I’m always switching it up and hopefully, ultimately, it improves the quality of my writing and storytelling. In the barest market terms, I personally find category less stressful than the single title market. Category has a safety net below it that the single titles do not, and Harlequin Presents has a huge net because the name is so recognized that readers look forward to the new releases every month and there’s a good chance my books will be bought simply because they are Presents. That’s quite a relief as I never know what will happen when my 5 Spot book hits the shelves. I hope people will go out and buy my books, but will they know a new one is out? Will they wait fourteen months for a follow up? Or will they find another author to read instead?

I think you’re one of the finest writers working in category at the moment, particularly when it comes to intense, passionate stories. Can you tell us about your latest Harlequin Presents? What do you think is the secret to the popularity of Harlequin Presents? What advice would you give to someone targeting this line, Harlequin’s most popular?

My April and May Harlequin Presents are linked. They’re duet books, sheikh books, about two of the three royal Fehr brothers. I love writing sheikh books and these were particularly fun as I got to explore new cultures and customs. Parts of the April book are set in the United Arab Emirates and the May book is almost entirely set in Egypt. I’ve wanted to write about these places for years and it was such a blast. Probably some of the most fun I’ve had writing in years. I think Presents’ appeal in large part rests on its diversity in tone and style. The author voices are undiluted and the storylines, while at times beloved and familiar, are reinvented by each author. Readers love their alpha heroes, too, and I also think readers love intensity and seduction as well as passion and that’s the Presents promise-—passion guaranteed. If a writer wants to write for Presents you need to know the line. You need to read the line. You should read sheikh books by Penny Jordan, Susan Stephens, Sharon Kendrick, Trish Morey and see how we all handle our sheikhs so differently. Then read the Greek tycoons and read a Lucy Monroe and then a Sandra Marton and a Kate Walker. Read across the line and then write. Write your sheikh. Write your Greek tycoon. Write your gorgeous Italian. Make the classic Present themes yours. Because that’s the best way to sell to the line--understand it takes a strong voice and a strong vision and then heart, lots of heart and just go for it, making sure you are pushing your voice, and the sensuality and the characters to the max. Don’t write safe. Write like this is the only book you’ll ever write. Hold nothing back. And then submit and if it comes back, try again. It’s the only way to succeed. Take it on the chin and then come back for more. We writers have to have strong hearts to deliver the ultimate love story to our readers.

I think you’re a master (mistress?) at writing emotion. I cried my eyes out in THE FROG PRINCE and found myself caught between laughter and tears in FLIRTING WITH FORTY, which for anyone who hasn’t read it, is a wonderful story about having the courage to take life’s unexpected paths. Do you have any hints on how you achieve this emotional punch and depth?

Thank you for yet another lovely compliment, and I wish I could say that it’s luck, or talent, but really, it comes from being sensitive and having taken some hard knocks in life. I have a wild heart and when I write all the stuff I don’t want people to know, comes out. All the needs and hope and pain. All the grief and loss. All the bitter disappointments and unanswered dreams. I can point to the places where my life hurt and my heart broke—-the death of my father when I was fifteen. I waited years for him to come back and I tried for years to keep my family together so we’d all be there for him. But he didn’t come back and we got my stepfather instead who ruled our family by ruling my mother with his fist. I still can’t write about that too much because it’s such a wild, livid hurt. To see a huge man take down a woman, and not just any woman, but your mother, breaks not just your heart, but something in your mind. Living with domestic violence gave me thoughts and emotions that aren’t civilized and the only way I got through those seven years was by being bigger, fiercer, angrier than the violence around me. People look at Jane with her shiny hair and straight teeth and they don’t know I use hair and teeth and pretty clothes to hide the animal in me, the one that was hurt so badly and the one who will hurt others if they get too close to my family. These thoughts, these emotions are suppressed now but they surface when I write and instead of shrinking from them I let the beast loose and say to myself, ‘bring it on.’ Bring it on! Whew. I’ve faced some pretty big demons and I just thank God I’m not fifteen anymore. Or seventeen. Or twenty-five. Thank God I’m in my forties and so much tougher, as well as optimistic. Writing helped heal me, but writing also breaks me open again and there I am, confronting all the sad parts and pain, the teenage girl who can’t accept death and violence. I’m lucky I write. Writing allows me to reframe life, and to create better endings, happier endings. Fortunately, as I’ve grown, my stories have grown and my characters have, too.

You’re a dynamic presenter, a wonderful ambassador for romance writing. Does promotion and public speaking come naturally to you or did you have to work at it? Also do you have any advice for (often introverted) writers forced into the public light, as we all are in this day and age?

Anna, I have to work at everything. I really do but I suppose I don’t mind working hard. Regarding public speaking, that isn’t as difficult for me as for some because I grew up doing theatre and when I was on stage inhabiting a character, I felt free and safe because I was no longer me. And when I began public speaking, I would revert to the inner actress in me. I’d project confidence and hopefully charisma but it isn’t effortless. I’m often exhausted later, when I’m ‘off stage’, exhausted from trying to be more than I am, better than I am. I always try so hard because I’m afraid of disappointing people, afraid of being belittled. My advice to introverted writers is to focus on the message you want to give/share. Believe in the message, know why you want to share it, and if you find it difficult to believe in it, then maybe you don’t want to do the whole public speaking thing. One can be a NY Times bestseller without ever speaking at a single conference or awards ceremony. Do promo to the extent it works for you and nothing beyond that. Seriously. I’m trying to scale back on my speaking and promoting because it’s begun to get in the way of my writing. It’s easier for me than writing but I can’t make a career off of speaking. That’s not why I’m in this industry so its time to focus on my priorities so that’s what I’m doing in the next couple of years. Words for books and less words at podiums.
FLIRTING WITH FORTY is currently being filmed for Lifetime TV with Heather Locklear playing Jackie. How does it feel to know one of your stories is moving into another medium? Odd? Exciting? Scary? What do you think made this story cinematic? My guess is the gorgeous surf instructor Kai, but then, we both know I’m shallow! ;-)

The movie thing is great. It’s quite surreal though and I have moments where I don’t understand any of this at all. Why my book? Why Lifetime? Why Heather? Why now? It took me so long to sell the first book, and I’ve taken so many hard reviews, why the good? And then I think. Why not? If I can take the bumps and the blows, why not happy things? In terms of the actual movie, it’s really quite different than the book. It’s the same concept but with different scenes, although yes, the sexy surfer remains.

What’s coming up next in the world of Jane Porter?

What’s next for me? More books. My next 5 Spot novel will be out in July 2009, I’ll have another Harlequin or two out in ’09 as well, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with friends and family. And fingers crossed, having one more baby, too.

Thanks for a great interview, Jane! Jane has very generously offered commenters TWO prizes. One lucky person will win ODD MOM OUT, her RITA finalist. Another lucky person will win the Harlequin Sheikh Duet of KING OF THE DESERT, CAPTIVE BRIDE and THE SHEIKH'S CHOSEN QUEEN. So let's put our imaginations to work. Pick a favorite romance novel or two and cast the hero and heroine and tell us why. Good luck!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tracy Bernstein is in the Lair!!

interview by Suzanne Welsh

In this industry many times you meet people through connections or friends. Today's guest, Tracy Bernstein, comes to us through a conversation I had with my dear friend, Jo Davis. Jo's debut book of her sexy firefighter series, Trial By Fire, will be released in August by New American Library (NAL). While we were munching away on southwestern spring rolls at a favorite restaurant and discussing PR for her book and the Romance Bandit blog, Jo kindly offered to approach Tracy, her editor, about blogging with us. I was thrilled and jumped at the chance to say YES!! What a great friend!!

So, welcome to the Bandit Lair, Tracy. Have a seat and a cold margarita. Don't mind the cabana boys, they're Joan's Romans and Anna S.'s hockey hunks!

Please tell us a little about your NAL title, your job/workload on a daily basis, and your previous experience in the publishing industry.

I am executive editor of NAL, where I acquire and edit both fiction and non-fiction (my list is slightly tilted to the non-fiction side). I also run the Signet Classics program. In my (ahem) many years as an editor, I have worked at various other houses including Farrar Straus & Giroux, Henry Holt, Pocket and Ballantine.

How do publishing houses like NAL "position" themselves by positioning certain books in the market? Like, do you maintain an awareness of what other publishing houses are doing as part of your assessment of what to buy? Do you try to cover all sub-genres so you have a piece of each "sub-market" or do you have certain "specialties"? Or do editors simply buy what you love and want to read?

Like most publishers we try to publish broadly but not in every single possible area -- no one can be good at everything. You do have to narrow things down somewhat so that we can have a comfort level and expertise in what we do. But that's much more of an issue with non-fiction than fiction. So, for example, everyone knows we publish practical non-fiction but not hardcore "how-to" books (crafts, gardening, etc.). We don't have an official mission statement but NAL is a decidedly commercial house that maintains a mass market sensibility even when publishing trade paperbacks and hardcovers. We definitely think about what competing publishers are doing (we don't consider literary houses our competition, obviously) and talk about what we might learn from it (for example, trends in subcategories or cover design), but in the end a list naturally reflects the personal passions of the editors and publisher.

What turns you off the most in a query?

You'd be surprised how many queries are poorly written! I'm not about to read a submission from someone whose query letter is ungrammatical or fails at the elemental task of a query: explaining what the book is.

We all know the terms, "didn't grab me enough?", "didn't feel strongly about?" mean the story or voice weren't what the editor wanted. Any hints as to how to improve those, and is there ever a time to revise and resubmit?

Those kinds of comments don't tell you anything except we didn't like it, and I don't see how you can respond to that sort of general rejection. On the other hand, you might well take into consideration a more specific criticism, such as "the dialogue seemed anachronistic." But really, the best time to revise and resubmit is when we ask you to. Believe me, we will do that when we think someone is close to hitting the mark.

What trends do you see in the marketplace?

The two big trends right now are paranormal and erotic romance. Publishers are trying any variation of these you can think of.

While a writer shouldn't just write to trends, if she or he has more than one book to submit, what's hot and what's not for them to consider when making the decision on which to submit?

As you may or may not have heard, vampires are hot. :-) The interest in paranormal now extends to every other kind of imaginary being (shapeshifters, werecreatures of all kinds, dragons, faeries, wizards, immortal warriors of all kinds, etc.) Also, English and Scottish historicals still rule while American-set historicals (Native American or otherwise) are not in style. Historical (non-romance) fiction is also doing well. At NAL we have a saying that Henry VIII is ground zero; the closer to him in time period and setting, the more successful the novel.

What are the top ten things that will earn an author a rejection letter from you?

Wow, you're really making me work here!

(You noticed that, huh?)


1. A messy or amateurish presentation, whether of a query letter or manuscript.

2. A lousy letter, e.g. one that lacks a clear, concise description of the book or includes irrelevancies like "my friends all love it."

3. Less than stellar literacy. And don't tell me "that's what editors are for." NO, IT ISN'T. I will help you shape a book, not teach you remedial English. I'm not going to ding you for the occasional mistake, but when a manuscript is littered with basic errors, it's just too hard to read.

4. A plot we've seen a million times--or even once, if it's too close. Despite good writing, we don't want to reuse a premise.

5. Writing that is clumsy or labored--if I can see the seams, it's no good. This is often a problem in historical fiction.

6. Writing that is full of clich├ęs.

7. A voice that is perfectly serviceable but not unique or special. A great voice is one that I would follow anywhere it cares to take me, because I want to hang around it.

8. A voice that doesn't gibe with the content--e.g., sometimes an author's natural wit and levity seems to be fighting a darker storyline.

9. Anything that makes me think the author is going to be difficult to work with. We don't have to be personal friends, but I do expect courtesy and professionalism. Life is too short to work with someone mean, narcissistic, condescending, sneaky or dishonest. I have relatives for that.

10. Unrealistic, super-obvious or naive marketing plans/suggestions.

Can you give us an idea of what a typical day in the life of an editor is like (or why does it take so long to hear back from editors)?

One thing that occupies my time is meetings--some on a weekly basis (editorial, art, marketing, inventory), others monthly (strategy, sales). I also do a lot of writing (editorial letters/e-mails, in-house memos, tip sheets, tinkering with cover and catalogue copy). I talk to agents about possible projects, or to my boss about projects we're trying to buy. I run profit and loss statements. Because my books are at all different stages of the publishing process, in the course of the day I'm likely to talk to contracts, production, managing editorial, publicity or sales. What editors almost never do during the day is read manuscripts or edit! We do all of that on our own time at night and on the weekends. So don't ever think we're goofing off when you don't hear from us for a while.

While Jo and I were talking, she said you've had some odd submissions during your course as an editor. What's your strangest submission story?

The receptionist called and said a package had been delivered for me. When I opened it up, there was nothing but a creepy looking doll inside. The next day, she called to say there was another package. This time it was a tape recorder. Because the packages had been hand delivered, I knew the person was local and imagined all sorts of deranged stalker possibilities. So I gathered some colleagues (I was afraid to listen to it by myself!) and played the tape. It was a cheesy dramatization of a little scene, complete with sound effects. Of course on the third day the manuscript was delivered (and as you may have guessed, it wasn't any good).

What book did you find recently that you believe will be a hit on the shelves?

No question, Trial By Fire by Jo Davis. It combines some of my favorite elements--suspense, romantic tension, sizzling sex, and hunky firemen! And it's the start of a series, so you have a whole little world you can get immersed in and live in for a while.

(Smiling at Tracy over this.) I couldn't agree more. Trial By Fire is one of the best books I've read in a long while and Jo is one of the strongest new voices to come to the world of Romance! Oh yeah, and then there's the whole firefighter thing? Oh, mama!

It always amazes me how much editors have to read for your jobs, and that most of you read in your spare time, too. Who do you like to read for relaxation?

For fun I mostly read women's fiction (I'm a big Elizabeth Berg fan, for example) and memoirs. This is a book I just published so forgive the plug, but it's also emblematic of the kind of book I read all the time in real life: Road Map To Holland by Jennifer Graf Groneberg. It's a gorgeously written memoir of parenting a Down syndrome child.

Thanks for being our guest in the Bandit Lair today and giving us a look into the world of an editor. Now it's your turn. Is there anything you'd like to ask us or our viewers?

Something I would definitely be curious about is what the readers think of all the erotica publishers are putting out. This is a developing field and we want to do it right! Do they see a consistent difference between romance lines and erotica lines? Are there sex scenes they want to see more or less of in erotica?

As a special gift one of our readers will receive a signed copy of TRIAL BY FIRE by Jo Davis. This book is scheduled to be released August 5th.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All That You Can't Leave Behind

by Susan Seyfarth

Every year when we get our tax refund, we tackle a house project. It's a long standing tradition, & since we have an endless list of Highly Desirable Home Improvements, I imagine it'll stand for years to come. But this year was special. This year we finally replaced our kitchen floor.

Happy, happy day. I have hated my kitchen floor with a virulent passion ever since I first laid eyes on it ten years ago. It was yellow & white linoleum with a fake brick print & 30 years of dirt ground into every stinkin' crack & scratch. And there were LOTS of them. I could (and did) get down on my knees & scrub the thing with Comet until my fingers pruned up. Ten minutes later, it looked exactly as dirty as it did when I started.

Now my kitchen floor is a yummy, warm terra cotta colored tile & it's gorgeous. But it took a very nice man two solid weeks to put it in, during which time every single item that used to live in the kitchen had to find a new home somewhere else. (The linoleum we had removed was full of asbestos, so we had to REALLY empty the place out.) I had the fridge & the stove in the dining room. The canned goods went into big laundry baskets in the living room. The dishes & tupperware went into the basement. My laptop became a sort of migrant worker (which I'm sad to say explains my lack of presence on the blog lately. ) And so on & so forth.

As I put everything away, I thought how on earth am I going to get by without THIS for two weeks? This carrot peeler? My favorite paring knife? This cute little sauce pan? Two weeks later, I unpacked those same boxes & threw away like 2/3s of the junk. Because that's all it was. Junk. I mean, really. I had four cans of cream of celery soup, expiration date 1999. Did I really think I was going to stick that back in my pantry? It was just proximity that made all my junk seem necessary. Familiarity that make it seem vital.

It's the same phenomenon that makes a book I could have sworn was finished looked like h-e-double-hockey-sticks when I drag it out from under the bed a year later. It makes me wonder what else in my life I've been dragging around just because I'm used to it, not because I need it.

How about you? Have you ever had an epiphany? Something that happened that gave you fresh eyes? A new perspective? A paradigm shift? Tell us about it!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Banditas in the Gap

a group effort
No, this isn't about banditas endorsing a retail chain. Not this time, anyway. This is a visit with the banditas who've sold their books but haven't yet had the joy of seeing them released. Participating banditas are Trish Milburn, Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy, Kate Carlisle, Beth Andrews, and Jeanne Adams, whose books are coming to a store near you!

How long is the gap between the day you sold your book and the day of its release?

TM: I sold on July 24, 2007, and my first book will come out Sept. 9, 2008. However, the book that is coming out is September isn't the first I sold. I sold my young adult novel, Heartbreak River, in July 2007, but it doesn't come out until Spring 2009. The Harlequin American that comes out in September 2008 is one I sold in October 2007.

AC: I got The Call on September 14, 2007 and recently learned that my release date will be October 1, 2008, so a year and a couple of weeks. Feels LONGER! I also recently received my "official" title for the book I originally called Death in the Fens. The title is The Wild Sight: An Irish tale of deadly deeds and forbidden love, and the book is part of the new Casablanca romance line from Sourcebooks.

KC: October 9, 2007 is the day I got The Call that I sold a three-book mystery series to NAL. The first book, Homicide in Hardcover: A Bibliophile Mystery, will be out in February 2009. So naturally, I've been forced to spend all of 2008 in a shady cabana, drinking pina coladas and munching on on taquitos.

BB: I got The Call on August 21, 2007 (my husband's birthday!) My first book, Not Without Her Family, will be out from Harlequin Superromance this June.

JA: I got the Call on July 23, 2007 (my Dad's birthday!) and my first book Dark and Dangerous will be out June 1, 2008. Counting down the days...

Tell us a little about the book you're now waiting to see.

TM: An arson investigator has to return to her hometown to investigate a fire. While there, she also has to face her estranged family, a past mistake that had horrible consequences, and the man she once loved but lost.

AC: The Wild Sight is a contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal elements. Set in Northern Ireland, the book's hero, Donovan O'Shea has psychic powers that he has tried for most of his life to ignore. However, when he must return to Ireland to settle his ill father's affairs, a beautiful but vexing woman walks into his life, a couple of dead bodies turn up, and he is forced to deal with all of it and then some.

KC: The Bibliophile Mysteries feature a rare book restoration expert, Brooklyn Wainwright, who, in Book One, encounters a cursed copy of Goethe's Faust that leads her into a murder investigation only she can solve -- with the help of clues she uncovers in the valuable first edition. Along the way, she tangles with an annoyingly attractive British security officer as well as her Deadhead parents and assorted friends and enemies.

BB: Okay, am I the only one who has trouble blurbing her books? *g* When her estranged brother becomes the prime suspect in a local murder investigation, Kelsey Reagan is determined to help prove his innocence - but she doesn’t count on falling for the town’s sexy, by the book police chief.

JA: Nope, BB, I have trouble with it too! Dana Markham has to keep herself and her son away from her ex-husband at all costs. Donovon Walker, mob boss and drug dealer, wants her dead and her son to take his "rightful" place in The Family business of selling drugs and guns. Enter Caine Bradley, an undercover agent placed in Donovan's organization to bring him down. Little does he know that his assignment from Donovan will be to kill Dana! Battling Donovan, a leak in the Agency and their own feelings, Dana and Caine must protect Dana's son and risk their hearts to find freedom. How's that?

Authors in your position couldn't enter the Golden Heart or the RITA. How did that feel to you former GH finalists? How does this limbo feel in general?

TM: It felt weird not entering the Golden Heart this year after more than a decade of entering. However, I got to take part in the GH/RITA day excitement since I'm on the RWA board and got to call some of the finalists to let them know they'd finaled. That is SO much fun!

AC: Actually, I felt relieved. I only entered the Golden Heart one time, in 2006 and happened to luck out and final. But I know this feeling won't last because I plan to enter the Rita next year and every other year I am eligible! I am really looking forward to the ceremony this year, and cheering on all our Bandita and Bandita buddy finalists!

KC: Did I mention the cabana and pina coladas? I was so happy not to have to deal with all the pressure that comes with entering the Golden Heart this year! I was tremendously lucky to be a triple finalist in 2006 but I know from experience that I could've very easily failed to final the next year. So truly, I felt nothing but relief that I could sit back and cheer on my friends and fellow Banditas this time. However, as Aunty says, the feeling can't last! I'll jump right back into the fray when I become eligible for the Rita for 2009.

BB: I was so happy not to be eligible for the GH but when the day came when calls were going out, I was sort of upset not to have anything in the running. And forget being relieved - I was just as anxious for my friends to get the call as I would've been for myself :-) Oh, but I did get a really great call a few days ago asking me if I'd be interested in presenting a GH this year!

JA: It felt really weird to me too, to sit this one out. Have to say that I was delighted to not be eligible, but like Beth I was anxious for everyone else and it felt so odd not to have a horse in the race. :> It'll be interesting to see how different it feels next year with the Rita.

What are you doing on the writing front while you wait?

TM: I recently finished revisions to the YA coming out next spring and turned in my second Harlequin American. Now I need to work on the option book for American. I'm also working on promo stuff like my online presence with blogs, social networking sites, interviews, etc., and booking appearances and speaking engagements.

AC: The sequel to The Wild Sight. Though I originally wrote the book as a stand-alone single title, my editor expressed interest in making it the first in a series, and who am I to disagree?

KC: I sold the Bibliophile Mystery series on three chapters and a synopsis, so I've spent the past six months writing the first book! I finished this week (yay!) and will now start on the synopsis for Book Two. Then I'll start working on promo for the series, starting with a website re-design and all that scary stuff Trish mentioned!

BB: I sold two more books to Superromance so I've been writing the first of the two sold (if that makes sense *g*) and I'm thrilled to say I've hit the half-way point and I'm loving this story!

JA: I'm finishing and polishing the second book in my contract for my June 1 deadline. I'm also working on the next two stories so I can be better prepared for the next contract! :>

What are you doing to prepare for the big day?

TM: Promo and moving on to other writing projects.

AC: I just had this nifty countdown clock put on my website so if anyone (besides ME) wants to know how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds remain until The Wild Sight hits the shelves, wonder no more! Seriously, I'm trying to do all I can in the way of promo, though until you have a title, release date and cover (just got it! YAY!) there's only a limited amount you can do. I'm trying hard NOT to get stressed out over promo and reviews and a million other things I can't control but still worry about. The Banditas and all our buddies have been GREAT to keep me properly distracted.

KC: I want a countdown clock! But in the meantime, I'll write another book. I mentioned the promo stuff. And I'd also like to get out and meet other mystery authors and booksellers and mystery readers as much as possible. Oh, and I'll definitely worry a lot, so thanks for reminding me!

BB: I love the countdown clock, AC! I've been writing and doing a bit of promo. My main focus has been my new website (which I love - thanks to my awesome webdesigner!) I've been playing with it a bit but now it's all tweaked and ready to go :-)

JA: I totally dig the countdown clock too. I've been promo-ing, setting up speaking gigs and writing my little fingers off to meet my June 1 deadline for book two! Ha! Have to say, it is SO fun.

How would you counsel other authors in this position?

TM: You can't make the release day come any faster, so I'd say just move on with your writing and advance promo efforts so you're not slammed when the release hits shelves.

AC: Ah yes, take my advice, I'm not using it! LOL! Educate yourself about what you can and can't do, and try not to sweat the small stuff.

KC: Um, me? Counsel others? Hmm, do as I say, not as I do? Okay, here's my counsel. Write the best book you can, get a fabulous website, be nice to people, keep a positive outlook. Do as much promo as your personality and bank account will allow.

BB: LOL, Kate! I just gave Tawny that same advice *g* Honestly, I don't counsel. I think each person is so different that you need to figure out what's best for you and your career. For me that meant writing another book and focusing on what types of promo I'm comfortable doing. I totally agree with Trish's, AC's and Kate's advice though :-)

JA: Don't stop writing forward just because you sold! :> That's the only advice I have. Well, okay, two pieces of advice. Don't spend all your advance on promo, ask other authors what worked for them and don't spend it unless you can track it. How's that? Ha!

How has your sale changed your perspective, if at all, on the book business?

TM: It hasn't really changed my perspective. I was an unpub long enough to know that the business is always going to be tough, and we have to do everything we can to get published and stay published.

AC: It's a tough business. Selling a book doesn't make it any easier, you just trade one set of worries for another. I guess that's the only real change in my perspective.

KC: I wrote for twenty years before I made my first sale so, like Trish, I've recognized for a long time how difficult the publishing business can be. But I'm a fairly optimistic person so, just as I always persevered as an unpubbed, I plan to do the same as a published author.

BB: It's changed for the better because before I sold, I spent too much time revising my stories. Now I know I can write and produce pages each day. Most of all, it's shown me how much I love this career and how lucky I am to be able to write for a living!

JA: Can I just say ditto? Like AC, KC and TM, I had a certain perspecitve from being AYU for a good long while, but like BB, I trust myself more, write more quickly and don't second guess so much.

Has anything come your way that you didn't expect?

TM: An opportunity to contribute an essay to one of Benbella Books' Smartpop series of pop culture essay collections. The collection is about the show Supernatural, my favorite show.

AC: I've become acquainted with my Sister-Sourcebook authors, and they are a GREAT bunch of writers! We have our own Yahoo Group that anyone can join, and are starting our own group blog. Stay tuned for more info!

KC: I didn't expect to be so freaked out by my first professional deadline! I've worked at my own pace forever, so it took me by surprise when I realized how difficult it was to set up a timetable and work every day. Okay, that was the bad news. The good news is, I'm part of a wonderful publishing house now and I get invited to the parties! Woohoo!

BB: Like Kate, I was a bit freaked out by my first real deadline - luckily that only lasted two days *g* What I hadn't expected was that I actually could make a writing schedule and stick with it. That's been a lovely surprise :-)

JA: Gotta say Ditto again. The first "Have it in by..." deadline? Total freak out. But I got back on the horse. Also the delightful pleasure of being on the Kensington Authors loop and being asked to be a guest blogger. Those have been great.

For our readers, here's a list of upcoming first books from the Romance Bandits:

TM: A Firefighter in the Family, Harlequin American, September 2008

AC: The Wild Sight: An Irish tale of deadly deeds and forbidden love by Loucinda McGary, Sourcebooks Casablanca, Oct. 1, 2008

KC: Homicide in Hardcover: A Bibliophile Mystery, by Kate Carlisle, NAL, February 2009

BB: Not Without Her Family by Beth Andrews, Harlequin Superromance, June 2008

JA: Dark and Dangerous by Jeanne Adams, Zebra (Kensington), June 2008

Have you ever had to wait for something you knew was coming but couldn't make arrive any faster? For a project to pay off at last? How do you deal with waiting?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Title Tells the Story

I recently crawled out from the depths of the deadline cave and am proud to say I met my very first deadline as a published author. Yay! But ever since I sent the book to my editor, I’ve been thinking about adding chapter titles. I like them. My book is the first in a new mystery series featuring a rare book restorer, and I’m thinking I’d like to start each chapter with a quote from the book she’s working on.

Personally, I love to read books in which each chapter begins with some tidbit of fun. A quote, a song title, a bit of history, something extra that foreshadows the events that are about to unfold. I always feel like I’m getting a little extra special something in addition to the story.

For instance, in The Raven Prince, Elizabeth Hoyt begins each chapter with the next installment of the fairy tale.

One of my favorites is Rachel Gibson’s True Confessions. Her heroine writes articles for The Weekly News of the Universe, and every chapter starts with a funny fake headline that relates to what is about to happen, such as Bloodthirsty Bats Attack Unsuspecting Woman, and Squirrel is Proven Aphrodisiac.

Deanna Raybourn begins each chapter of Silent in the Sanctuary with a quote from Shakespeare that sets the mood or presages what is about to occur.

The chapters of Susan Donovan’s hilarious and charming book, Take a Chance on Me, are disco song titles such as Shake Your Groove Thing and Let's Get It On. In this book, our hero, a detective, takes a funny little dog to see our heroine, an animal behaviorist, because the dog witnessed his owner’s murder. The dog actually has his own point of view throughout the book, so we learn that his owner used to dress them both in matching disco costumes and go dancing. It seems that Hairy the Dog misses the dancing life.

One of my favorite new mystery authors is Hailey Lind, whose protagonist learned art forgery at her rascally grandfather’s knee. Now the old man has written a book about “the wonderful world of art forgers, felons and fakes,” and each chapter of Feint of Art begins with a quote from grandfather’s book.

Eloisa James tells the story of the Earl of Hellgate by beginning each chapter of Pleasure for Pleasure with a quote from the rake’s adventures.

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer begin each chapter of Agnes and the Hitman with a short excerpt from Agnes’s food column. One of my favorites starts this way: “There are very few recipes that couldn’t be improved by the addition of three-quarters of a pound of butter and a cup of heavy cream.”

In Candace Havens Charmed & Dangerous, each chapter begins with witch Bronwyn’s up-to-the-minute tallies. For instance…
Wednesday, 4 P.M.
Spells: 3
Dead guys: Almost 2

A book I wrote a few years ago featured a divorce lawyer, and I began each chapter with a lawyer joke. That book will never see the light of day, but the jokes were funny. So at the risk of courting controversy in the Lair—which, as you may know, is populated by a number of fine, upstanding lawyers—I will list a few of the milder ones for your review.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a slimy, bottom-feeding scumsucker and the other is a fish.

What's the difference between a lawyer and a pitbull? Jewelry.

How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One. The lawyer holds the bulb while the rest of the world revolves around him.

Why won't sharks attack lawyers? Professional courtesy.

That’s enough of the lawyer jokes—for now! But tell me, how do you feel about stories where the chapters are titled or the author uses quotes or stories to foreshadow future events? Do you have a favorite author who follows this tradition? A favorite book? How about a favorite lawyer joke? Please share!

And finally, I’m thrilled to announce the two winners from last month’s interview with Maureen Child! Arkansas Cyndi and Doglady! Please send me your snail mail addresses ( and I will forward to you autographed copies of both books in Maureen’s Demon Duster series, More Than Fiends and A Fiend In Need. (And P.S., More Than Fiends was just named a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Finance Your Fun!

by KJ Howe
American Title finalists from several years in Pittsburgh: (left to right) Janice Lynn, Lindsey Brookes, Michele Ann Young, Jenny Gardiner, Judi Fennel, Raz Steel, Trish Milburn, KJ Howe

The theme on the Bandits this week seems to be conferences. While many professional organizations have conventions where attendees fall asleep in industry-related panels, romance writers are guaranteed a good time when they meet up with fellow fans, writers, and publishing professionals. RT is the perfect example. Unless you’ve experienced one of these extravaganzas, it’s hard to describe. Picture cover models sweet-talking soccer moms, Fabio strutting through the lobby sans goose, costumes from another century, vampires looking for blood, wearing pajamas to a slumber party, psychic readings. The list goes on, but the bottom line is that RT is wild!

From the small local ones to the large National ones, conventions have their own flavor. Finding the right one for you is half the fun. For example, because I write romantic thrillers, I enjoy conferences where there is a spotlight on romantic suspense, thrillers, and any other adrenaline-flowing activities. Next up for me is Thrillerfest in July, where ATF agents will show writers how to blow things up and share information about the latest weapons. It should be a spine-tingling week!

But, alas, these opportunities mean a solid investment of funds. Many readers and writers would love to attend conferences, but find it difficult financially. So, today is devoted to spreading the word about ways you can attend conferences no matter what your fiscal situation. Everyone should be able to experience this wonderful opportunity to meet with fellow fans of fiction!

I’ve listed several opportunities below, but please feel free to share other ones in the comments section.

RWA National: New this year! RWA will raffle off one free conference registration (for 2009) every day to one lucky volunteer. So, it could really pay to help out in San Francisco—next year’s conference could be paid for in full! Visit for information on how to volunteer.

RWA National: The Valley Forge Romance Writers offers the Writer's Rafflemania. This year they raffled off $1500 toward the cost of Nationals and they will be doing it again next year. For more info, visit Tickets will be available starting in June.

Thrillerfest: Mingle with bestselling thriller authors and join over 35 top literary agents at Agentfest (sort of like speed dating with agents!). Tfest organizers are running a contest where the prize is a free ticket to attend Thrillerfest in NY this July. For more information, visit or go to

Some conferences, like RT, offer a small discount if you are doing a workshop. I know of at least one RWA chapter that pays for the chapter president’s conference fee. After all, this volunteer promises to attend the President’s Retreat and the Annual General Meeting, then reports to the membership about both meetings.

Several generous authors, like Lora Leigh, Jill Barnett and our Anna Campbell, offer to sponsor people at conferences. And there is always the Jeannie Gray Golden Friendship Award which pays the conference registration fee to the winner of the essay contest each year. Our Jeanne won it last year!

Another idea is to volunteer for the RWA board—executive members have their conference fee paid. You could contribute to a wonderful organization while saving a few dollars, a win-win situation all around.

If you really want to attend a conference, there are ways to do it. Let’s hear some of your ideas for cutting costs and making sure that you don’t miss out this year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rockin' at RT in Pittsburgh

by Donna MacMeans

I’ve just returned from Pittsburgh, PA – the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Steelers, and the 2008 Romantic Times (RT) Convention. This was my first time attending RT (Yes, I was an RT virgin) but I wanted to share the experience with you.

The RT convention is primarily for romance readers, so it's fun, fun, fun. I'm talking lots of free books, fun romantic fantasy events, and opportunities for readers to meet and interact with writers.

I started out my first day with a trip to the goody room, where attendees were invited to select an armload of books from the tables stacked high with favored romance titles. The lines to get to the goody room were long, but check out the stacks of books to the right.

Of course, this was not the only opportunity for free books. Every workshop and party gave away books as door prizes. There was no lack of reading material at the convention. Here's a photo of one of the workshops I attended on the future of paranormals. From left to right, that’s Monique Patterson, senior editor at St. Martin’s Press, Jessica Andersen, J.R. Ward, Kim Harrison, Angela Knight, and Cheyenne McCray.

Throughout the conference hunky men mingled with the attendees soliciting a vote for Mr. Romance. My pictures of the winner didn’t turn out (must have been all the heavy breathing that fogged the lens) but fortunately Linnea Sinclair had more success. This picture of Mark Fish, the Mr. Romance chosen by the attendees, comes from her site,

I certainly wasn't the only bandita present. Trish, KJ, Christie and I did manage to get together for a bite to eat.

Every night ended with dancing and I was so there, especially when the live band, The Impalers, played. Generally, the dancing was preceded with a ball. The costumes at these events were absolutely amazing, especially the Faery Under the Sea Ball & Costume Competition. I've never seen so many ornate wings attached to adult women. Some flapped with tiny motors. Some lit up with twinkling lights. Here’s one of the costumes. Can you see her black and lavendar wings? Virgin that I was, I did not arrive with a costume. At best, I could be described as looking like seaweed - but it fit the theme.

I did get into the spirit of the Vampire Ball and decided to do some vamping of my own. I have a Victorian riding hat that I wear at book signings and a pink corset compliments of my husband. (It was a birthday gift to celebrate THE EDUCATION OF MRS. BRIMLEY). I suspect I'm going to regret this - but I decided to give the tightly laced corset a try. Dear Heavens, I was hot! Check out the girls. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to wear a black jacket so I could slip away from the crowded ballroom without a threatened wardrobe malfunction (gravity is not my friend).

I believe I heard that 1600 readers & writers gathered for the event. They certainly all gathered for the big Saturday booksigning. The ballroom was packed. I sat next to the talented Sally MacKenzie, and across from fellow bandita, Christie Kelley. Terrio stopped by to visit (Hi Terrio), as well as lots of readers, booksellers, reviewers and librarians.

For the historical readers among us, I'd like to add that I shot the top photo of Pittsburgh from the top of Mt. Washington, also known as Coal Hill. I took the incline up to an overlook. That's a picture of the Monongahela incline on the left.
The hotel was located close to the site of the original Fort Pitt built by Great Britain to discourage the French from claiming the land. This shot on the right is all that is left of the huge fort - a blockhouse. Amazing how quickly time can alter the past.

I left on Sunday, the tailpipe of my car dragging on the pavement from the books stashed in the back. I had a great time. Next year the RT convention is to be held in Orlando, Fl.

How about you? Have you attended RT in the past? Will you go next year? What’s your favorite event? Any stories to share? Costume ideas? If you’ve never attended RT, who would you like to meet if you did? I’ll send one of the books received at RT along with a signed coverflat for THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT to someone posting a comment.