Monday, June 30, 2008

A Thousand Ships

by Jo Robertson

You’ve heard the stories. You know their names.

Helen of Troy -- whose face launched a thousand ships -- and her lover Paris.

“Helen, thy beauty is to me like those Nicean barks of yore that gently, o’er a perfum’d sea, the weary way-worn wanderer bore to his own native shore.” (Edgar Allan Poe)

Elizabeth Barett, who defied her parents’ wishes and married an up and coming young poet named Robert Browning.

“How do I love these? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sight for the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”

Thomas Moore who, it is told in an apocraphyal story, wrote a love poem to his wife after she contracted smallpox which left her face scarred.

“Believe me if all those endearing young charms, which I gaze on so fondly today, were to change by tomorrow and fleet in my arms, like fairy gifts fading away! Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment
thou art, let thy loveliness fade as it will . . .”

Peter Abelard, who suffered castration for his love of Héloise.

“But if I lose you, what have I left to hope for? Why continue on life's pilgrimage, for which I have no support but you, and none in you save the knowledge that you are alive, now that I am forbidden all other pleasures in you and denied even the joy of your presence which from time to time could restore me to myself?”

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, whose love inspired a song and was captured in movies?

“We had it all, just like Bogie and Bacall, starring in our own late, late show, sailing away to Key Largo.”

But what of the others? The unnamed, unknown lovers down through the centuries whose stories and lives have stirred our hearts? Plain, ordinary men and women in the lives they live around us and flashing and flamboyant ones in the books we read.

Benjamin Lewis, who left love notes lying around the house in odd places – inside a book, on the nightstand, on the kitchen window sill, where Mary Elizabeth Burton would find them.

You haven’t heard of the latter couple because they’re my parents, married fifty years when Dad died, but believing their love would transcend the eternities. Every day of their married lives together my father wrote my mother a love note. After her death, while cleaning out her house, we still found them scattered here and there.

Who are YOUR favorite lovers through history, literature, or real life? Here are my three all-time favorite lovers:

1. Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara – because he’s so rakishly desirable and the only man who truly understood her

2. Nancy Regan and Ronald Regan – because I’ve rarely seen a real-life c
ouple in the public eye so devoted to one another

3. Biblical Jacob and Rachel – because he worked seven years for the privilege of marrying Rachael, and then another seven when Laban tricked him into marrying her sister Leah first

Readers, who are YOUR favorite lovers? I'm offerring a $15 Amazon gift certificate to a lucky random commenter. Be sure to say why they're your favorite.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vanity, Thy Name Is...

by Caren Crane

...Caren? I often wonder if I'm as vain as I suspect. I am by no means a beauty, but I find myself spending inordinate amounts of time (and money) worrying about my hair, my skin, those fine lines appearing around my eyes. That one line that wants to surface under my lower lip. Well, you get my drift. There are at least a dozen - okay, maybe a hundred - things I could critique concerning my hair/face/body at any given time. If I'm not vain, I am at least a bit self-obsessed.

Vanity is a polarizing subject. We (women especially) don't like to talk about it. When asked, people tend to either 'fess up (like I do! *waves madly*) or deny they possess even a jot of the vile stuff. I mean, who wants to admit they are a know...stuck on themselves? That they measure their pores, carry out search and destroy missions on stray eyebrow hairs and scrutinize their scalps for signs of gray.

And yet...

Marketing firms know just how vain we all are. Why else would companies spend a gazillion dollars telling us how great we'll look if we use their product, drive their car, drink their fancy vitamin water? They know that deep down inside we all want to look like a supermodel, dress like a fashion maven, posess silky-smooth hair, a blindingly white smile, mile-long legs and ankles with nary a spider vein. Even if we have a Popsicle's chance in Hades of acheiving any of these things, it doesn't keep us from buying one more shade of lipstick. One more lash-extending mascara. A new wrinkle-diminishing moisturizer. An age-defying hair conditioner with hemp (okay, maybe that's just me *g*).

I wrote a book where the heroine had been a beauty queen in her youth. She was from a long line of beauty queens and was raising her daughter to carry on the family tradition. For Katie, beauty was part of life. She had always been beautiful and always expected to be, as far as her age and circumstances would allow. It was something she took for granted, like someone who has a lovely singing voice takes her voice for granted or someone with a facility for languages thinks anyone could learn Portugese if they wanted to. Katie had flaws like the rest of us, but not on the outside. Hers were deep-seated, internal issues.

I got a LOT of negative comments about this heroine. Women didn't like her, despite the fact that she had been a good wife to her late husband, was the best mom she knew how to be, was a loyal friend and was kind to animals. She had also been cheated on by her husband. Yet, readers had trouble sympathizing with her. Why? Because she was beautiful. We love beauty and we hate it. Or we hate those with it. When a beautiful woman is also nice, we are suspicious and want to pick at her until we unveil the monster she must be underneath. Why is that?

Some readers, I think, sympathized with the women around Katie who wanted to tear her down and knock her off her pedestal. I believed - okay, I still believe - Katie is who she is because she is lovely, not in spite of it. If I had grown up being told by virtually everyone how gorgeous I was, that would be the norm for me. (Um, that didn't happen to me. My next older sister called me Bucky Beaver. *g*) But I can imagine how it would be. Having effortless beauty would be like having green eyes or brown hair: just a thing that is. I think Katie, like any of us, would be keenly aware of the flaws no one could see but her.

And yet...

Knowing your flaws doesn't necessarily make you insecure or any less self-confident, but it does make you human and vulnerable. it conceited to embrace your outer beauty? Is it unpalatable to take what you have and make it the best it can be? Now that I am in my forties and have a son who is grown, I am fighting the good fight against both Father Time and Mother Nature. Does that make me vain? Or merely human? I tend to think I'm more vain than most people I know. Until we start talking about skin care products...

What do y'all think? Is it vanity to spend hundreds of dollars on makeup and skin care products? Are we self-absorbed if we buy in? Are we vain if we don't think we need them or simply don't care? And why DO we hate beautiful women so much, anyway? Please share!

Please note: It is with a hefty dose of irony that I posted MY picture on this blog with a gorgeous model, Eva Gardner and Sophia Loren. Yeah, that's me, Bucky Beaver!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


by Suzanne Welsh
Have you ever been riding along, minding your own business when someone jumps from the right or left lane directly in front of you without any kind of warning? Their inconsiderate, spontaneous action forces you to make a decision, hopefully quick enough to prevent the crunch of metal on metal and the deployment of airbags. The biggest aggravation is they do it without issuing a turn signal. That tiny little piece of their car that takes one or two seconds to activate. Just poof, they jump lanes and God forbid you're having a conversation with your wayward characters and miss their lane change.

Just this week this happened to me on the thirty minute drive to work. Since I work twelve-hour nights, my commute to the hospital takes place during the evening rush hour when people are trying to get home to dinner or take the kids to soccer/baseball/basketball games. This particular day three people jumped in front of me on one trip alone. (Ergo the blog idea.) None of them used their turn-signals. I could blame it on them being teenagers, but they weren't. Maybe they were on their cell phones? Didn't look like it. Perhaps the kids were fighting in the back seat? Nope. No kids in two of the cars. Maybe their signals were broken? Possibly, but not very likely. It simply happened and I had to deal with it.

There's a line from one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping, that stuck with me long after the movie's HEA. Peter Boyle plays Ox Callahan, the patriarch of the family Lucy (Sandra Bullock) falls in love with. (The family, not Ox.) It's a quiet Sunday morning and Ox is reading the morning obituaries because he's an estate buyer, a company he runs with his son Jack, (Bill Pullman). Jack brings him a box of illegal donuts not allowed on his low fat diet. Ox, says "You know, sometimes life is good. Everyone's healthy, everyone's happy, things are running smoothly." That's when Jack pulls a left turn and says, "Pop, this isn't one of those times." We know Jack's unhappy helping with the business and wants to build beautiful hand-crafted furniture instead. But poor Ox is clueless until this moment. No turn signal. (Although I think those donuts might've been Jack's turn signal for his dad.)

That's how life is. You're going along minding your own business and poof, some drama happens. A son gets engaged, a daughter says, "I'm pregnant", the dog breaks his leg, you're offered a new job you didn't know you wanted much less needed. You have your Ox Callahan moment. Your course is now changed. You must make adjustments in your speed or use your skills to maneuver around the obstacles.

Writing is like that, too. At least for me. I've got my inciting incident, my characters are fully formed in my mind, or starting to gel quite nicely. The plot is taking shape out of that gray foggy mist I call plot-land. The letters and words are flying onto the pages, and poof, the heroine pulls a gun on the hero and says, "Get me the hell out of here." Okkkkkkkaaaaaaay... Never saw that one coming. Or the heroine is riding along tied to the pommel of her horse and poof, a cougar jumps from a cliff onto her and her mare. Yep, didn't see that one coming. Or the hero is minding his own business driving the sheriff's car around town and poof, finds a woman standing on a car riffling through the bank's trash dumpster. Okay, maybe I saw that coming, but he didn't.

Even without those signals that a change is coming, life and writing's surprises can be rewarding. The son married a lovely young lady. Daughter gave me a beautiful granddaughter to enjoy. Dog made great photography with the lampshade on his head. Job turned out to be great fun and more money. The heroine with the gun? She was complex and dear to my heart. The heroine attacked by cougar, has great fortitude. The sheriff? Sexy, funny and worth the heroine's love.

So dear readers, have you ever had one of those no-turn-signal moments in your life? Or if you're a writer, in your story? Did it turn out worse or better than you imagined?

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Great Outdoors

by Susan Seyfarth

So, we took the kids camping this weekend.

Now my husband & I, we used to camp quite a bit. My husband loves Minnesota's fabled Boundary Waters the way some men love hot cars & fast computers & will jump at any excuse to throw the canoe on the car & head north. I'm more of a backpacker myself. I fell in love with hiking during what my father still refers to as my camp counselor days. (For the sake of accuracy, I would like to point out that I was not a camp counselor. I was an outdoor educator. It a REAL JOB, dad. Sheesh.)

Suffice it to say, we considered ourselves the outdoorsy types, my husband & I. We spent our honeymoon camping in Alaska, after all. For our first anniversary, we spent a few days on the Superior Hiking trail (an awesome wilderness trail that stretches from Duluth to the Canadian border), then got in the car & puttered our way into Canada where we hit all the provincial parks surrounding Lake Superior. Canada has some amazing parks, by the way. One of our camp sites in Lake Superior Provincial Park was a gorgeous little island. Not just on an island, mind you. The actual island. The whole thing. Sadly, it turned out to be somewhat less, um, isolated than a couple celebrating their first anniversary might be inclined to hope, but that's a different story altogether. One I will not be getting into on a public blog.


Where was I?

Oh yes. We were inveterate outdoorsmen/women. We had the skills, we had the experience, we had the equipment.

Then we had children.

I can now report that we have an entirely new understanding of what roughing it actually entails.

Roughing it is not going without indoor plumbing.

Roughing it is standing around at 3 a.m. dangling your bare-bottomed, just-potty-trained 3 year old over some shrubbery that you pray to the good lord isn't poison ivy, trying to explain why it's okay just this once to pee on the ground.

Roughing it is not sleeping in a tiny, two-person tent small enough to fit in a backpack.

Roughing it is sharing a cavernous Coleman 6-man tent that barely fits in the back of your station wagon with a 5 year old that somebody fed s'mores until she was ping-ponging off the walls like a demented, DEET-scented monkey.

Roughing it is not sleeping on the ground in twenty degree weather.

Roughing it is sleeping on the ground in a stifling tent in 85 degree heat with your 18 month old (aka The Heater) draped over your crotch because that's where she finally fell asleep & you would rather die of heat stroke than deal with her if she wakes up.

That said, we had a great weekend. It took us approximately 8 hours to prep for 16 hours in the Great Outdoors, & my eldest daughter's mosquito bites are now the stuff of family legend (how does one kid slathered in DEET get thirty bites on one leg??) but the kids are already asking when we get to go again.

We're thinking canoes this time.

May god have mercy on us.

How about you? Are you a camper or does the thought of sleeping outdoors give you hives? What was your most memorable family vacation? When was the last time you truly felt like you were roughing it?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

From Gripping Pages to Hot Video: The Story of a Trailer

by Nancy

Today's guests are here because a cool trailer on YouTube for a sizzling romantic suspense novel, Take Me If You Can, created so much buzz in the lair that we wanted to explore the subject in more depth. We welcome the trailer's creators, author and web designer Liz Bemis (pictured at left) and author Karen Kendall, (pictured at right) today.

To view the trailer, click on this link:

NANCY: What gave you the idea of doing this trailer?

LIZ: Uh... Karen called me and said, "Hey Liz. I need a trailer." :D (I'll actually let Karen cover this one!)

KAREN: LOL. Well, it all started with the web site, really. I had these preliminary pages for a new site geared towards the new direction I was taking in my writing career. But they weren’t quite “there” and I asked Liz for help. What she came up with was brilliant. So that was the start of our working relationship. Then we did book-marks and postcards and I wasn’t having much luck contacting the person who’d done my first and only other trailer . . . so I said, hey, how about it?

Right from the start Liz had great ideas about live actors and voice-overs, not just images with superimposed words. I was very impressed! Plus Liz was able to make me laugh while I was both on deadline and in promo hell—and that was quite an achievement!

NANCY: How did you go about putting it together?

LIZ: We had a couple of false starts, actually. We'd initially planned to do a trailer with a scene directly out of the book. Karen sent me an excerpt and I cut it down to the bare bones, and then recorded the audio. I did the part of Avy and Quinn, an incredibly gifted voice guy (and fortunately a friend) did the part of the narrator and Liam. It was... well, not very good, really. But I learned a lesson. Full scenes of dialogue don't really belong in a trailer. So we went back to the drawing board. Karen provided a different kind of script and I massaged it a bit and cut it down. We were really trying to keep the trailer to about 60 seconds. Anything longer than that and I think the message gets lost.

After that we went through about 42,847 songs trying to find the perfect one. I give Karen full props for picking the music she did! It works perfectly! Karen made suggestions for the kind of images she wanted to see and I hunted and gathered in places like Then Quinn and I recorded the new audio about a thousand times until we had exactly what we needed and I then matched the audio track to the music, and then the pictures to the audio track and... voila!

KAREN: Liz is modest—she makes it all sound so easy. And she’s also patient—not to mention non-violent. LOL. I felt like Simon Cowell when we talked about the first “false start” as she puts it. There’s nothing worse than telling someone as talented and creative as she is that, well, ah, oops, um, here’s-the-deal-but-our-visions-aren’t-gelling-here and, oh, by the way, I’m the one who probably screwed you up by sending you a terrible script which is much better read silently than aloud.

Liz handled that like a pro (me, I was almost in tears on the phone, not so pro, heh) and all she said was, “Okay. Can you explain to me more clearly what your vision is?” Wow! And she even omitted any serious cursing or threats!
So I said, hell-no, I can’t explain it—what, do you think I’m a creative or something?

Liz took a deep breath (really, I think she keeps a tank of patience right next to her desk and regularly inhales from it when dealing with idiot clients—I won’t speculate on Xanax).

LIZ: No Xanex. But there's a bottle of good Cabernet and a wine opener on hand at all times. In case of emergency... break fill glass. Repeat if necessary.

KAREN: Then she asked somewhat plaintively (can you imagine the nerve?) for just a single, solitary, flea-sized clue.
Okay, I said. Take this capsule summary of the book, this sketch of hero and heroine and go watch the trailer for the Thomas Crown Affair re-make . . . never mind that we don’t have a Hollywood budget, I know you’re brilliant. You can do this, Liz!

Even then, she didn’t come after me with a knife. Amazing. She just pulled it off. And to this day I don’t think she’s told anyone what a pain in the patooty I was—I figure that’s my job.

NANCY: Karen, Take Me If You Can is a departure from the romantic comedies that launched your career. What motivated you to move in this direction?

KAREN: I’ve been fascinated with art crime for a long time and I have an art background. But when I conceived the idea for this series, romantic comedy wasn’t doing so well in the market. And when my agent, editor and I talked about the story concept of TAKE ME IF YOU CAN, we all agreed that we didn’t want it to devolve into farce or a complete caper (though I love those old art caper movies like To Catch a Thief and How To Steal a Million). I can’t entirely repress my warped sense of humor, but art crime is a very serious subject with growing repercussions for our world. I wanted to delve into the danger of it, the suspense, and it seemed to fit.

NANCY: Will you continue to write romantic comedy, or are you taking a break from that?

KAREN: Any time I make plans, especially plans in the publishing world, God laughs and derails them, so I can’t speculate on that. There are still comic touches in these books, though.

NANCY: You have several recovery agents in Take Me If You Can. May we assume they're set up to appear in a series of such books?

KAREN: Yes! So far there will be at least three. I’m revising the sequel, Gwen’s story, right now and have written the proposal for book three. Avy, Liam, Sheila and even Sid will be back in book two, which is fun.

NANCY: Liz, how did you become interested in doing websites? What's your foremost consideration in author promotion?

LIZ: Web design is a pretty natural fit for me, actually. I've been a computer programmer since the early nineties, and before that, I did a lot of graphic design. It ties in both the creative (making it pretty) and the technical (making it work fast and have lots of bells and whistles). As for my foremost consideration, I'd have to say the author's personal brand. I want to create a site that's not only functional and visually appealing, but also one that really tells a story about who the author is and what kind of books she writes.

NANCY: When you set out to do a new website, what factors do you consider?

LIZ: First, what (visually) appeals to the client's tastes? I want to find a design that the client will love, so I make them look at a gazillion different sites and find about five that they love and five (professionally designed!) sites that they... well, don't love, and to tell me what they do and don't love about them. That gives me a really good indication of what works for that particular client.

Next, what is the author's writing style and brand? There are a lot of great sites out there that absolutely do not belong to the author whose name is at the top of the page! I never want a visitor to be confused about what kind of book an author writes when he/she hits a site that I designed.

Finally, I work with the author to develop content that will bring visitors back and then put it all together.

NANCY: Was any redesign of Karen's site necessary to launch Take Me If You Can.

LIZ: Actually, Karen's website was the first step in the promotion of Take Me If You Can, in addition to launching a new MySpace design and a lot of printed items (bookmarks, postcards, excerpt booklets, etc). Her old site worked well for her romantic comedy, but didn't really speak to her new "brand" as a writer of romantic suspense.

KAREN: Yes, as I mentioned, the new site was the first project that Liz and I worked on. Then the printed materials, the My Space site and the fabulous, high-octane trailer. I highly recommend her!

NANCY: Liz, in addition to your promotions business, you also write. Tell us a little about your work.

LIZ: I am currently in the final editing stages of the first book in a Romantic Suspense series. The entire series focuses on the Cincinnati FBI Field Office and each member of the office gets their own book. I'm pretty excited about it! This is the first true Romantic Suspense that I've ever written. It's a lot darker, deeper, and more emotional than my previous fifteen books which were all Romantic Comedy (though a few of them had light suspense-y elements). Quite hopefully, this will be the one that sells, because after sixteen books and two Golden Heart finals, I'm ready for it. :)

I've done a video trailer to my most recent book. (To continue the shameless self promotion.)

Liz Bemis is the owner and creative director of Bemis Promotions ( She has worked in the Graphic Design and Information Technology fields for more than fifteen years and is responsible for all creative aspects of all projects produced by Bemis Promotions. Liz is also a two-time Golden Heart Finalist ( which gives her unique insight into the business, branding and promotional requirements of marketing books.

Karen Kendall is the author of sixteen romantic comedies and many disasters. Awards she’s received include the Maggie, the Write Touch, the Book Buyer’s Best and R.T. Magazine’s Best Blaze of 2005. She launched her romantic suspense career in April 2008 with TAKE ME IF YOU CAN, the first in a series about an agency that recovers stolen art. TAKE ME TWO TIMES (working title) will be released by Signet in April of 2009, with a third TAKE ME book to follow. Please visit for more information or excerpts.

Karen will be giving away a copy of Take Me If You Can to one commenter chosen at random.

What do you think of these cool trailers? What kind of book promotion do you most enjoy? What sort of web page features do you like? Is there anything else you'd like to share about reading or book promotion?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bandita Booty ... and the winner of the best beer name is ...

by Anna Sugden

Thank you all for the very warm welcome you gave Anna Lucia and Keir, the uber-sexy interrogator hero of her book Run Among Thorns. I know they both really enjoyed their time in the Lair (even if it was kind of hard to tell with Kier because he was keen to get going with Jenny!). Hopefully they will come back and visit us next year, when Anna's next book Dangerous Lies is out, and Kier can update us on how he and Jenny are doing.

Anyway, without further ado, on to the winners of Anna's name the beer contest. And the winner is ...

Christine Wells with Sweaty Socks!
There’s a scene in Dangerous Lies where Alan and Kier end up on a friend’s yacht after a tense chase across Algeria. Exhausted and thirsty, they check out the tiny fridge and find real ales... and now the beer they’ll pick and remark on will be Sweaty Socks...

And the runner up is ...

Joan’s Golden Rooster Ale! – Anna knows it’s a Bandita name, but she could really see an Ale with that name!

As I was so impressed with all the creativity - I'm giving away an extra prize ... to the teetotaller who came up with some storming beer names *grin*. A copy of Run Among Thorns goes to Louisa Cornell!

Please send your snail mail addresses to me at Anna at annasugden dot com and I'll pass them on to Anna Lucia.

Congrats to all our winners ... especially Christine. Can't wait to see your 'name' in print!

One Step at a Time on the Road to Publication

By Kate

That moment last October when I got The Call was one of the best of my life. It represented the culmination of everything I’d worked for so long to achieve. Just one short phone call changed my life in so many ways.

And in so many other ways, everything stayed the same. I hung up the phone, did a little dance, shrieked a little (okay, a lot), but then it was time to go back to the day job. Later, I came home, did the laundry, cleaned the house.

Kept writing.

Life goes on, you know?

But every so often I'll have a week where I have to make some revisions, or I'll get an email or a phone call that reminds me all over again – Hey, I’m a published author!

There are so many little steps along the road to publication. Like, when I signed my first contract. Now that was exciting! My husband took my picture.

Then a month later, I received my first check. They paid me! I made a color copy of the check before I put it in the bank.

I got my cover copy. You know that description of the book on the back cover? Mine's brilliant! I wouldn’t change a word. Hey, there’s my name!

Oh, and I met my first deadline. Whew. I’m home free now!

Spoke too soon. I got my first set of editor notes. Yikes. Now what?

I made that deadline, too. I rock!

Then I saw my book listed on Amazon. Wow. No cover image yet, no description, nothing but the name of my book and an ISBN number – and my name. I’m the Author. It’s not much to get excited about, right? But I cried. And laughed. And told my whole family and my friends – who all immediately pre-ordered five copies each and forced their friends to do the same.

I sent in my author photo. Do I really look like that? I should have used more product on that hair of mine. Can you fix those wrinkles? But I like the books. And the wine. Hmm.

Then last week, on my birthday, I saw my book cover for the first time. It was surreal to see someone else’s notion of what image and design will best sell your book. I stared at the cover for hours. It’s absolutely nothing like I imagined or expected it would be. (A good friend admonished me that from now on, I am never to set expectations of what my book cover will look like. Good advice.)

I love my book cover and I'm thrilled to unveil it here in the Lair for all to see. I think it’s beautiful. It’s warm and charming and funny and slightly sinister. It’s colorful and perfect for the cozy mystery market. And it makes me happy. It makes me feel like a published author. Somebody pinch me.

So that was a week ago. Last weekend I had to finish some last minute revisions. Then I went to visit my mom. Took her shopping. Had a latte.

Then today, I wrote my book's dedication and all my acknowledgements. It was hard to remember all the people who have helped me along this road but I tried. I probably won't be able to mention everyone but it was humbling to look at that list.

And tomorrow, I’m back at the day job. Must remember to stop at the market after work. And I’ve got to call mom. And I desperately need a pedicure.

Life rolls on.

But now I’ve got a book cover. And an Amazon page. Woo hoo! I can’t wait to take the next step!

Do you ever feel like you're leading a double life? At one step, you're a writer or professional person, then you take another step and you're suddenly a mom-nurse-secretary-taxi driver-juggler. How do you cope? Or do you? What's the most exciting or scariest step you've taken on your personal road to somewhere? Please share! To celebrate my new cover, I've got a $15.00 Amazon gift certificate to give to one lucky random commenter!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And The Winner...

Of a signed copy of NOT WITHOUT HER FAMILY is

Beth!! (and no, I didn't pick her because of her cool name - my daughter drew her name out of a hat )

Congratulations, Beth!! Drop me an email at: with your snail mail info and I'll get your book out to as soon as possible.

Thanks to everyone who commented!

In the Name of Research!

Research. Do images of dusty tomes in an antiquity-filled library come to mind? Not for romantic suspense writers...research has a whole new dimension and often includes live ammo, daring exploits, and an adrenaline rush. The only dust involved isn’t from books—rather, it’s usually from sniper-crawling through a jungle!

I recently traveled to the wilds of British Columbia, two hours north of Victoria, to the stunning vistas of Lake Cowichan. Why? Because talented SRS author Loreth Anne White extended an irresistible invitation. When she first mentioned the BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) weekend and listed the different workshops available, I said yes, absolutely (did I mention that I’m impulsive?), and signed up right away.

Sleeping bag in tow, I headed west, bracing myself for anything. The first workshop taught me how to throw a knife and tomahawk where the instructors discussed the need for a one rotation throw. The satisfaction of landing my first hit into the targeted stump was amazing.

Next up, Loreth and I tackled the rifle marksmanship course. Our instructor was a fascinating guy named Darren who gave us the ins and outs of handling rifles. Breathing, trigger control, and positioning—all important factors of getting the best shot. We graduated from a .22 to the booming (and I mean booming!) .303 rifles with hands-on instruction (ooh, the suffering) from our esteemed instructor. The most important lesson in that course was that I should never anger Loreth—the girl is a serious sharpshooter!

The afternoon lesson focused on trap shooting. Nothing beats the exhilaration of hitting your first clay pigeon! Woohoo! And it’s harder than it looks to track the neon target as it flies out of the bunker and heads off on its trajectory.

For the grande finale, we studied human tracking (you can run, but you cannot hide). Two search and rescue workers taught us the intricate details of how to look for signs of human tracks. We even did a mock rescue. It took incredible patience and determination to find evidence of our lost “Nellie”. Ironically, most of the class was interested in search and rescue, but Loreth and I were more focused on how our villains could track our heroine and how she could defend herself with a tomahawk thrown from several feet away. Ah, the fun of being a writer!

Speaking of which, did I mention that Loreth and I were the only two writers at the event? While we were there for research purposes, the other women who were there (a very eclectic group) were mostly interested in gaining skills for their outdoorsy lifestyle. Observing all the women there gave us plenty of fodder for interesting characters, that’s for sure!

The instructors are all volunteers, people who want to share their love of the outdoors. Other courses included ATV, chain saw and ax, falconry, canoeing, and map and compass skills. All in all, it was a memorable weekend and I thank Loreth for inviting me. I’m hoping to invite her back for a bodyguard course hosted by a former SAS soldier. Sound like fun? It’s all in the name of research!

What kind of research would like to do whether it’s for a book or just for fun?

Visit Loreth at and you can see that my intrepid research pal is a lot of fun!

Another winner!

Wow -talk about a rockin' week here in the Lair. The winner of any book from Karin Tabke's backlist is Amy S. ! Congratulations, Amy -drop me an email at with Karin in the subject line and let me know which book you'd like.

Monday, June 23, 2008

More Bandit Booty

From Loretta Chase's guest blog day--The winner of the grand prize (a signed copy of Your Scandalous Ways) is . . . Terry Odell!!

And winners of a bookmark each are . . . Margay, M., Jennybrat, Pat Cochran, PJ and Terrio!!

And from Christine Wells's post about Voice the winner of the guess that quote contest was ... Kammie! You win a signed copy of Scandal's Daughter. And the winner of the best comment goes to Carol!! A Dangerous Duke Diary is coming your way!

Congratulations!! Please email Christine via her contact page on her website to claim your prize.

And the Winner is...

The Walrus!
Well, not really but Terry Odell, your walrus, ah "insights" won the Border's gift card for most unusual collection. As well as giving out trivia that may one day be useful on Jeopardy!

Send your snail mail info to JoanieT13ATgmailDOTcom.

Congratulations, cucu a choo.

Happily Ever After

by Donna MacMeans

There's a scene in Shrek 3 where Prince Charming stumbles in a bar of fairy tale villians and rallys them to rebell with the battle cry "Everyone deserves a happily ever after!"

When writing romance, we try to do just that - give the deserving characters a proper happily ever after. In fairy tales and romance, this traditionally translates into matrimonial bliss. In real life we know these two concepts marriage + bliss do not necessarily go together. Then again, sometimes they do.

I thought it might be appropriate on this day in June to recognize a few banditas who found a way to make their own happily ever afters a reality. Now a disclaimer - these are not all the happily married banditas - just the ones brave enough to send me a photo.

Okay, so this isn't a bandita. I thought I'd share a little background on June weddings. As Joanie could tell us, this is the Roman goddess, Juno, who coincidentally is also the goddess of marriage. Thus, it was thought that getting married in the month of June was considered lucky.

As you can see from the photo of her statue, Juno was armed and wore a goatskin cloak, which was the favored garment of Roman soldiers on campaign. Perhaps the Romans were trying to tell us marriage is war.

However as a veteran of 35 years of wedded bliss, I've found the weapons are best left checked at the door - at least, at our house.

This is me. Check out the hat. I never was a white veil kind of woman, and the long blond hair. I'm afraid it's a lot shorter now. My husband had long hair as well in the fashion of the 70s, that's gone as well.

Let's see if you can figure out these others.

I've been assured that this is not Colin Firth, but -- I don't know. I see a resemblance.

Here's another Bandita with a husband on one knee. I'm not sure if my husband got down on one knee these days, he'd be able to get up again without help. Those were the days!

I think this photo could easily be on the cover of a romance novel. Can you tell who this lovely bandita is? Shame we can't see her shoes. That would be a definite clue.

Here's another on the right. I must compliment you ladies on managing to get your husbands to wear a black tuxedo and not blue. When all is said and done though, the color of the tuxedo has little impact on the lasting nature of a successful marriage.

Anna Sugden provided the next photos as testament that happily ever afters do exist. These are her in-laws, both on their wedding day and on their 60th wedding anniversary.

Times have changed, but the love still grows.

So tell me about your happily ever after, or favorite wedding story. I have a copy of The Trouble with Moonlight for a poster.

Oh and one last photo, of two people who hadn't a clue about what life would hold, but figured they could face anything as long as they faced it together.

Yup, my name is Donna and I write ROMANCE.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Bed With The Devil Winner!

The winner of a signed copy of IN BED WITH THE DEVIL by Lorraine Heath is Gannon Carr!

Congratulations, Gannon!

E-mail Suzanne your snail-mail addy to swwelsh2001 AT Yahoo DOT com, and we'll see that prized gets mailed to you asap.

Welcome Anna Louise Lucia and her Secret Guest

by Anna Sugden

We’re sorry for the extra security in the Bandita’s Lair this morning, but when you meet our special, secret guest, we’re sure you’ll understand why. I hope the hockey hunks and the sexy Romans weren’t too enthusiastic in their searches (and for P226 and our other male visitors, the elite team of RB security gals)! Flag down a cabana boy for a drink and make yourselves comfortable.

I’m thrilled to welcome my dear friend, super-talented Medallion author Anna Louise Lucia, whose debut novel Run Among Thorns is out this month (don’t forget you can order from Amazon by clicking on the book cover). It’s a thrilling read, that grips you from page 1 and won’t let you put it down until you’ve reached the end. RT gave Run Among Thorns a well-deserved 4.5 stars.

Welcome Anna

Thank you, Anna, *g* I'm delighted to be here! Thank you for giving me, and Run Among Thorns, such a great welcome!

Please tell us about Run Among Thorns.

Ah, well, Run Among Thorns is my first book – the first I finished, the first I submitted, and my first to be published. But it's by no means the first draft! It's been through a lot of changes (I put it aside to write several others before coming back to it and trying again) but there's one true constant: Kier McAllister, the hero.

You see, Run Among Thorns is my, "what happens if you fall in love with your enemy?" book. There were times I was tempted to tone McAllister down, make him less uncompromising, less overwhelming, a bit... well, softer. I'm glad I didn't, because if I had the heroine, Jenny Waring, wouldn't have had a hero worthy of her own strength.

Jenny gets involved in a hostage situation and kills three armed men. It's Kier's job to break her, to find out how and why she did what she did, but Jenny finds herself drawn to her enemy, and Kier, for the first time, begins to question himself more than his subject...

The reason for all the extra security today, is that you’ve brought a very special guest with you. Would you like to introduce him?

He's not much of a man for introductions. Folks, this is Kier. He's taken a moment after accepting this mission, before he heads off with Jenny.

Kier, welcome to the Lair.


Can you tell us a bit about the mission you’re on?


Ah. I should have explained we've been granted clearance–

Let me see. Okay. For the record, I don't think this is a bright idea.

We understand. This is in complete confidence, you can trust us.

I don't trust anyone. I just won't tell you anything you can do any harm with.

It's a straightforward job of the type I'm best at. We've caught CCTV footage of a woman taking out three armed men. The Agency want to know how she was able to do that, and more importantly how she caught them napping. They're supposed to know when highly trained agents are on their patch. She got through.

It's my job to question her. To break her cover and find out what makes her tick.

What makes you the perfect choice for this job?

I have... a knack. It's not a bamboo splinters under the fingernails job, I'm not a torturer, I'm an interrogator. Given enough time, I can find anyone's break point.

What makes me perfect? I'm the best there is. It's not a boast, it's just the way it is. Doubt, compassion, uncertainty – those are the weaknesses that can get you killed. I don't have 'em.

This is not a job for a man with a conscience.

Now that you’ve had a chance to meet Jenny, what are your impressions of her?

She's good. Great offensive moves, clean kills, and a great actress. The idiots here have been questioning her for thirty-six hours or so – I've seen tapes of the highlights. Her performance is consistent, designed to convince and provoke pity.

I've been studying her and she seems to radiate this fragile courage. If I wasn't certain it was an act, I'd worry... but I am certain.

Yeah. She's good.

I'm better.

So, is this a pretty straightforward case. Or is there something unusual about it?

Every case is different. You underestimate a subject and you put yourself at risk.

The only unusual thing about this case is the way Agency staff seem to be improving on their usual level of anxious incompetence. The sooner we're out of here the better.

I suppose you could say Jenny's unusual, too. English, no good reason for firearms or combat aptitudes, and that sense of...

No. Like I said, she's good. But I can break her.

After you leave us, I understand you’re heading off to Scotland. Do you have a place there and what’s so special about it?

The way I operate relies on isolating the subject. Denying them any privacy, any respite, any control over the most basic aspects of their lives. I find that easiest on my own ground.

The longhouse – that's a traditional, one-storey cottage - in Scotland is very basic. One room, stone floors, no road, no telephone. It puts things on my terms. And puts her under my control.

Many thanks for joining us today, Kier. I know you’re keen to get on with your job, but I hope you’ll be able to stick around a little bit longer to chat with all of us in the Lair. Good luck with your mission.

There's no luck involved. But sure, I can stick around, while they're sorting out the paperwork.

Anna, thank you for bringing Kier with you. He certainly is an exciting hero. I hope he and Jenny get through their adventure together safely.

Can you tell us more about Taking the Pith and Waggledance? And about the fabulous prizes you have for some of our lucky visitors today.

LOL! Well, one of the character's Kier meets in Run Among Thorns is Alan, Jenny's brother. Alan's a Brit, and a real-ale fan. Poor Kier's a bit confused by all the strange-named beers in Alan's house, but I promise you that every one is real – I haven't made up a single one! I'm not Taking the Pith!

But now it's your turn to do just that – make up a beer name. I might even be able to include it in Alan's story – Dangerous Lies – which is out next year. I haven't done edits yet, so I should have the opportunity to immortalise your made-up-beer in my next book!

Some of the beers I've used have come from a local brewery called Jennings. Their offerings include Sneck Lifter and Cross Buttock.... but can you do better?

Make up a beer name and post it in comments, I will pick the winner and:
1) Include it in my next book (subject to publisher's editing!)
2) Send the winner a signed copy
3) And include some bookmarks and Jennings beer mats in the package

I'll also choose a runner up, and send another signed copy, bookmarks and beer mats.

You can find out more about Anna at her website .