Sunday, August 31, 2008


by Suzanne Welsh
Tomorrow is labor day in the United States. Started in New York City back in the 1880's it was a day set aside to remember the contributions made by the city's workers. As the daughter of a Union plumber and pipe fitter, I've always known the importance of the day.

But for me, it's always had another meaning. As some of you may know, my dreaded night job is that of a Labor and Delivery nurse...(okay, by now you know where I'm going with this). My very first year out of nursing school I worked on Labor Day. How appropriate was that? Women in Labor on Labor Day...So today I'm going to share with y'all some of my favorite stories... (every one of them a true story!)

When I lived in Florida, the unit I worked on was 6 floors up. We had a separate entrance from the ER, clear on the other side of the hospital. One night I got a call from the security guard who sort of chuckled and said, "We've got a lady down here having her baby in her car." Because he laughed, I thought he was joking. Only, he wasn't. The laugh was an I'm-scared-please-come-help-me laugh. So my team and I run to the elevator, and hurry down to the entrance. Sure enough the mother was lying in the front seat of a Grand Marquis. She was trying to exit head first out the driver's side. Problem was, the baby was coming head first the other direction! We managed to delivery the baby without too much difficulty and up to the L&D unit safely. Let me tell you, leather upholstry makes a very nice delivery table!

One time, I was working in a University Hospital with residents and interns. A lady in very active labor comes down the hall, holding her stomach and breathing like she's a category 3 hurricane. Between breaths she says, "I need a birthing room." As the charge nurse that night, I showed her into a labor room, explaining it was the only empty bed, but if she was ready to deliver I'd move her over to the delivery room after we examined her. I turned to pull back the covers, and when I turned around, she was gone! I found her at the end of the hall, holding onto the guard rail we had on the wall, squatting and grunting. (NOT a good sign!!) So, I grabbed her gown and slipped my hand between her legs. Yep I could feel the baby's head touching my hand. As we maneuvered into a delivery room, (imagine here a cross between a waddle and a goose-step!), I yelled for a resident. Good plan, except for the delivery table was chest high!! No way could she climb on top to deliver. The little resident runs in and says, "What can I do?" After he gets his gown and gloves on, I told him to put his hands under her like a quarterback, and then when I let go, whoosh...he caught the baby with mama standing and holding onto the delivery table. Funny thing was, I looked into the observation window that this hospital had, and there was the rest of the staff all watching!!

One of my most favorite deliveries was this past winter when my daughter had my granddaughter. My hubby said I got to have every grandmother's dream. I picked the doctor, the nurses, the hospital AND I got to be in the room when she was delivered! Well, the dreaded night job has to have some perks, doesn't it? And here she is!

So, those are two of my stories...Do you have any fun stories about being pregnant, deliveries of yours or a friend's? Let's talk babies and births today!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Things That Go Bump in the Night

by Jo Robertson

Do you remember the lines from the old Scottish prayer,

"From ghoulies and ghosties/And long-legged beasties/And things that go bump in the night/Good Lord, deliver us!"

When I was a little girl, I had all sorts of fears.

We lived on the banks of the James River that sloped down from our property into a thick brush of sand and thickets and . . . well, for all I knew, a dead body or two. At least those were the stories my brother spun for me.

And I believed him.

Our house had an enclosed wraparound porch and we'd sit in the swing as evening came, looking out into the thick lush foliage and trees. As the night fell, and we could no longer see what lay outside the protected, screened porch, I knew there were things that not only went bump in the night, but that ate little girls alive.

My fears were seldom unfounded.

Okay, maybe the monsters living under my bed weren't real, but I wasn't going to test the theory by dangling my arms or feet over the edge during the night.

But I knew one monster which did exist -- Big Foot. I knew he was real from the stories my older cousins told me when we visited them in Kentucky. Somehow those isolated roads and far-apart country houses made the stories real.

Ghosts were real too.

I w
as about seven and my brother six, the summer my West Virginia cousins -- Bobby and Freddie -- great teenage boys way too old for such antics -- covered themselves in white sheets one night. They used flashlights for giant red "eyes" and came upon us as we made our way back from Aunt Edna's outhouse. They scared the living daylights out of us.

I was afraid of ticks, too. And with good reason. They heavily infested our area and dug into the flesh, sucking blood like manic miniature vampires. Scalp, arms, legs, bottom -- all were suspectible.

Once, a huge one, fat and drowsy with my young blood, buried itself into my little butt. They're almost impossible to remove and require gross things like alcohol and tweezers for their removal, items sure to scar you for life. Then you have to burn them to make sure they're dead.

My fear of water came from my military dad trying to teach me to
swim and the vague notion that polio came from swimming in the ocean too early in the year. To this day I'm afraid of the ocean. While it amazes and fascinates me, I keep my distance from the water.

The ocean is a treacherous mistress, and any sailor knows she should be handled with wise caution.

One last thing I learned to be afraid of when I was older. That freaky Chucky doll.

What's up with that thing? He scuttles across the floor like a rat, so fast you can only sense the bloody knife in his hand.

What about you? Are you afraid of things that go bump in the night?
Did you have any childhood frightening moments or real-life frightening experiences?

Do you have irrational fears? Or do you have good reasons for being afraid of certain things?

Are you afraid of the dark? Being alone? The dentist?

Come on, fess up. What are your three greatest fears? The most creative and interesting experience/story will receive a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, courtesy of Dr. Big. Shhhh, he doesn't know yet!

Friday, August 29, 2008

HUGE RB Welcome to Roxanne St Claire!

Jeanne: A huge Romance Bandits welcome to fabulous Rita-award wining Suspense author Roxanne St. Claire. I've been a huge fan since I read French Twist, Tropical Getaway and Like a Hurricane in quick succession four years ago. Since then, Rocki has written 22 award winning books so far in four areas - romantic suspense, category, chick-lit, and novellas in anthologies. But one of the most fun things, I think are her the series she's created. Rocki, I'm dying to know about how you write these complex, interwoven series. First You Run was an April 2008 release, Then You Hide is just out as of July, 2008, and I'm waiting with bated breath for the September release of Now You Die. Rocki, tell us what it's like to write about The Bullet Catchers, and the hot, hot...suspense .. yeah, the suspense, that's it...that inspires your novels. :>

Rocki: Thank you, Jeanne, and thank you so much for the invitation to join the Romance Bandits! It’s an honor and a thrill to be here. And, of course, I’d lurve to talk about my fearless, gorgeous, alpha-to-the-bone bodyguards – the Bullet Catchers! Because they’re so…suspenseful. Right. That’s it.

You know, it’s kind of ironic that I write a series of any kind because I was never a huge fan of recurring characters or continuing series back when I was only reading, and not writing. I always had this sense that the author was being arrogant in *assuming* I’d read all her books, not to mention I hate the sensation that maybe I’ve missed something important. But when I was researching my fourth romantic suspense, KILL ME TWICE, and learning about the life of a bodyguard, some creative lightning struck (I read the slang term “bullet catcher” for bodyguard and the whole series just popped into my head) and I decided I’d give a series a try. It’s worked out well, since now there are six full length books in the series, and two novellas. But because of my earlier anti-series bias, I kill myself to ensure that each book stands completely alone and that recurring characters are included for a reason that makes sense for the story.

So things got real tricky when I decided to write a “trilogy within the series” – the three books that come out this year. They do stand alone, in that each is a romantic suspense adventure with a hero/heroine who ultimately find a happy ending, but there is a story thread that starts in the first, knots up further in the second, and is finally tied into a bow in the third. But, wow, a trilogy that’s released “close together” (mine are each two months apart) is NOT for the faint of heart. The first book is in production while the third one is being written, meaning, Thou Shalt Not Change the Plot.

But guess what I did? Changed the plot? Uh, yeah. And the heroine. And the hero. And the villain. And the entire direction of the trilogy I’d originally proposed. It worked out, but, wow, there were some dicey days last spring.

Jeanne: So for our readers, why don't you tell us who the Bullet Catchers are, and what the books are like?

Rocki: The Bullet Catchers are an elite, high-end group of bodyguards and security specialists that handle some of the most difficult, dangerous, and daring assignments doled out by their uber-controlling leader, Lucy Sharpe. In every story, the Bullet Catcher hero (or heroine) has to face both a physical and emotional challenge, bringing their particular skill set to the adventure (as well as their singular “weakness” – which Lucy, the boss, always knows), and, in the process, they save lives, solve a crime, foil a few villains, fall miserably in love, face daunting conflict, and, ultimately, find HEA bliss.

And, boy, was I wrong about recurring characters! Readers love them. In fact, the very first character I introduced was the woman who runs the Bullet Catchers operation, Lucy Sharpe, and from the get-go, she generated the most mail and interest among readers. I hadn’t planned on making the third book in the trilogy Lucy’s book (because I thought that when I ended the series, I’d do so with her book), but she is one of those *demanding* characters and she’s the reason I changed the entire trilogy so that she could be the heroine of the third book. That book came out this week, NOW YOU DIE, and I hope readers love the story I’ve given her. (Or, I should say, the story she insisted on having!)

Since so many people like to start a series from the beginning (although it’s not necessary!), here are the books to date, all still available.

KILL ME TWICE (hot Cuban-American hero with major libido issues)
THRILL ME TO DEATH (big, sexy former DEA agent brought to his big, sexy knees by former lover)
TAKE ME TONIGHT (spicy Italian boy who can cook and does amazing things with a canoli)
FIRST YOU RUN (Aussie hero on the hunt for a woman hiding secrets)
THEN YOU HIDE (slow southern boy meets feisty New Yorker girl in deep Caribbean trouble)
NOW YOU DIE (Bullet Catcher boss has to team up with the one person who makes her lose what she values most ~ control)

There are also two novellas, and, I’m delighted to say, at least two more Bullet Catcher books coming in the summer of 2009.

Jeanne: Wow! That's fabulous! Oh, man, even more Bullet Catchers! Sigh... But you also write for Harlequin - and several of their lines at that! I know that your first Single Title, Tropical Getaway and your first category, Like a Hurricane, came out one right after the other. How did you manage that? Was the experience bliss or terror? Grins.

Rocki: It wasn’t terror then because when I sold my first book, as is the case for most writers, it was complete. And I had another completed manuscript, also, which Pocket decided to release as my third book, KILLER CURVES (my first foray into the world of NASCAR). And, since those books were coming out two years apart (with FRENCH TWIST in the middle), I had a lot of time to write. So, I broke into category! I have to say that writing category books (specifically the Desire line) is F-U-N for me, because there are no dead bodies, no conniving villains, no heroines in jeopardy, but there is tons of sex and emotion and banter and romance. I’m not writing any now, as I focus on the Bullet Catchers, but I would love to do more at some point.

Jeanne: I know you've said that you love writing romance, and especially romantic suspense. You certainly put that love into your work, you've won everything from a Rita to the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence to Daphnes and Maggies and more. We've debated over and over, here in the Bandit Lair, if contests, both for unpublished and published, are worth the entry fee. What are your thoughts?

Rocki: I’m really honored that my books have done so well in contests. Before selling, I was a contest slut (Oh, who are we kidding? I was truly a contest whore.) and entered many unpublished contests. At first, all this did was validate my *suspicion* that maybe, just maybe, I could write a book. I really needed that, and that’s why I strongly recommend contests for new, unpublished writers. The feedback (even the tough stuff) can be invaluable, and the process forces you to hone your craft. When my manuscripts started to final in contests, that boost of confidence was just the magic elixir I needed as I was slammed with rejection after rejection.

As a published author, I entered contests to build my bio and reach more readers and booksellers who are the judges. Now, I only enter a few, because with an average of four books a year, it can be costly in terms of time and money.

But here’s why a published writer should enter contests: you can’t really put fabulous “reviews” in your bio, but when the first few lines are “winner of the RITA, the HOLT Medallion, the Daphne, the Maggie, Bookseller’s Best, Book Buyers, Best, Award of Excellence, etc.” – you have instant credibility with readers and workshop attendees. So, I don’t enter them all anymore, but I’m delighted to have won for almost all of my books, including the Reader’s Choice, which I just received in July for one of my Bullet Catcher books, TAKE ME TONIGHT! And, let’s just be honest here, there is nothing as sweet as a RITA. That night is simply magical. After I won, I wished that everyone in RWA could experience that night just once, because floating around with that golden girl is a little bit of heaven on earth.

Jeanne: I admire anyone who can write both single title and category. Several of our Banditas write fabulous categories for Harlequin, but I find it quite difficult to "write short" and tell a compelling, complete story within the word count. I really appreciate the mental flexibility you have as a writer to do both. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Rocki: I definitely think long and hard about the story premise before I start, and I believe that helps me craft a book that fits the page count limitations. In shorter books, I don’t have room for the complexity I have in longer books. Therefore, I outline a “simpler” story – a conflict that can be resolved without multiple steps, usually a very strong “external” conflict because that works really well as the spikes to “hang” all the internal conflict (assuring that you don’t have an “introspection heavy” book.) I’ve written three novellas, and, wow, those can be challenging to a writer who likes to write “big” stories, as I do. Two were Bullet Catcher novellas, and that was really tough to weave a suspense plot (with plenty of sexual tension, a scary climax and believable resolution) in 25,000 – 30,000 words. The trick, I think, is to start with a premise you can keep uncomplicated – and make sure the pace is lightning quick. Limit introspection, description, and backstory as much as possible, and stay focused on tight, clean storytelling.

Jeanne: Finally, do you have an inspiration for your heroes before you start a book? Do you use a movie star, an imaginary character (Captain Jack Sparrow, anyone?), or real life heroes you've met to build The Bullet Catcher heroes?

Rocki: Oh YES! I absolutely cannot start a book without two things: a picture of my hero, and a title that I love. My hero goes on my screen saver, and he is my MUSE. Without him, I will battle the book, and have been known to spend hours combing the internet to find just the Right Guy. (This is hard work, I tell ya!)

Oh, you’d like to see some? All right…

Here’s Jack Culver (to the left)…the hero who has the honor of snagging Juicy Miss Lucy in NOW YOU DIE (did I mention that book is out this week?)

And here’s Dan Gallagher… the hero who didn’t get Lucy but, fear not. I’m writing his book right now and he’s getting…plenty. I was so happy when I found this one, because the look totally captures my Dan.

You want MORE? Greedy, greedy girls. Okay, two of my favorite Bullet Catchers:

(Left) Johnny Christiano from TAKE ME TONIGHT.

(right) Adrien Fletcher from FIRST YOU RUN:

How can I thank these men for the inspiration??? I couldn’t have written a word without them.

Jeanne: Oh, my. Mymymymymy. I'd write too, with that for inspiration..... Okay, focus, Jeanne. Back to the matter at hand....Last but not least, you've been in marketing, public relations, television and now, writing full time. What's the best part of The Writer's Life, from your perspective? No pantyhose? What's the worst? Revisions? Do you still, like most of us, doubt your work from time to time?

Rocki: The best part is the writing, and the worst part is the writing. When it *works” – you know, that day that your fingers fly and the story spins like magic on a wheel, when you close a doc and push away from the desk with bone-deep satisfaction that you nailed it….priceless. The rest of the time, it’s like chiseling marble, tapping and digging and hammering into it for the characters, story, and emotion you know is hiding underneath. Writing is very hard work, but when it sings, it is the greatest high a creative person can enjoy. When it doesn’t, I lose sleep, tear out some hair at the roots, and drink large glasses of Kendall Jackson.

Doubt? Puh-lease! I doubt every book, every scene, every sentence, every word. The only difference is now I know what “doubt” sounds like – it’s a totally different nag than the screaming gut hollering “Something Is Wrong. Emergency! Emergency! You Are Screwing Up the Story!” When I hear that, I react. When I hear inner doubts, I try to let them do no more than keep me on my toes, always striving to write a better story than the last.

Jeanne: Oh, yeah, I listen to that one too. Like you I try not to listen to the other one. Bandita Nancy and I were talking about the line from Dune "Fear is the Mind Killer..." Okay, back to the Bullet Boys - YUM - and our fabulous fans. We usually get our guests to ask a question of our Banditas, and Bandit Buddies...get them to quit drooling over the pretty pictures and actually chat...So, do you have a question for the Lair?

Rocki: Oh, yes, I do have a question!! It’s about series – do you love them, hate them, insist on reading them in order, or are you indifferent to the series concept? What turns you on most about a series – what do you dislike? More recurring characters for you, or less? I’ll give one poster THREE BULLET CATCHER BOOKS (winner’s choice – get the first three, or, if you have them, the three books in the 2008 Bullet Catcher trilogy), signed and ready to read. Post away!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


by Suzanne Welsh

My husband is out of town this week, so I've got the house all to myself. While I miss his company immensely, I love being alone.

Mind you, I didn't say I like being lonely. In fact, I rarely feel lonely. Between the internet which allows me to chat with all the Banditas; my AOL chats with my sister, mother and at least two of my kids; and the phone which rings constantly with people worried about the state of my estate, my FHA loan rate and my need for exotic vacations in places no one has ever heard of, I'd say I have plenty of contact with people. In fact, at my work people leave their nice warm comfy beds just to come to see me...patients because of their labor and doctors because I took the time to call them! And then there is the gaggle of nurses, who love to chat into the wee hours of the night! All these interactions with others is good and provides fodder for both story ideas and characterizations.

No, I'm rarely lonely, but I do enjoy having time for me and my thoughts. I enjoy putzing around the house in my pajamas with no one home to wonder if I'm "getting dressed" today. Rocky, the wonder dog, doesn't mind at all! He knows that jammies mean one of two things. Either I'm writing all day or we're heading back to bed for a long nap at some point.

When I'm home during the daytime the television is never on. The CD player on the other hand is. I enjoy listening to mood music while I write. In an action scene? Usually you'll hear some ZZTop or Lynard Skynard pounding out in my office. A sexy scene? Some Sade or Alison Krauss.

Having alone time in the evenings allows me some freedom to catch up on reruns of The Closer, NCIS (a very cool, underrated show in my opinion) or any CSI, and the latest Project Runway (did y'all see last nights outfits?!)...I already have my hopeful finalists picked out!

And then there's the reading!! OMG...let's see I just finished Sherrilyn Kenyon's ACHERON,(absolutely loved it) and am reading Sophie Jordan's TOO WICKED TO TAME, (very good so far!). SLAVE by Cheryl Brooks is next on my list.

One other project I'm starting this week is a scrapbook for a Christmas present for one of my daughters. (can't tell you which one since they occasionally read this blog!)

So do you enjoy having alone time? When you do, what do you indulge in?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You, in five words or less

by Susan Seyfarth

So I've got marketing on the brain. Websites, specifically. Every published author has one, right? A whole bunch of unpublished writers have them too. You never know when that dream agent or editor might like your latest submission enough to google you. And you never know when The Call is going to come, either.

The Boy Scouts don't say "Be Prepared" for nothing.

So in an effort to be ready for success when it comes a-knockin', I decided to research websites. And I discovered something that struck terror into this author's heart.

Tag lines.

Oh yes, the dreaded tag line. Take everything that sets your work apart from its competitors, distill it down to three to five words, then make it witty & memorable.

People can do this. Honest to Pete. Here, want proof? See if you can name the companies that go with the following tag lines:

1. The Happiest Place on Earth

2. Finger Lickin' Good

3. Every Day Low Prices

I bet you knew all of them, didn't you? (And if you didn't, check the comments trail. I'll bet somebody has mentioned them all by now.)

Now how does this apply to your favorite writers? My tour of writers' websites garnered these beauties, the ones that left me both satisfied with a job well done & kind of pissed that such a good tag line was now off the market.

Susan Donovan--Brain Candy for Smart Women
Kristan Higgins--Real Life. True Love. Lots of Laughs.
Jane Porter--Classic Romance. Modern Lit.

So I sat down to think about my goals. When I write a novel, what am I trying to do? What's the experience I want to provide for the reader? What should my books be like? Here's what I came up with:




It's taken me some time to figure out these aren't the easiest qualities to keep in balance. I mean, I can do honest & emotional. I can do honest & amusing. I can even do emotional & amusing, depending on what kind of emotion we're talking about.

But try keeping the emotion raw & honest & see how easy it is to get the chuckle. Geez. I'm sweating just thinking about it. Susan Elizabeth Phillips does this beautifully, but I noticed her website doesn't venture into Tag Line Land, so no guidance there.

Bottom line? I'm totally stuck here & thought I'd see what the rest of you are doing.

So, now it's your turn! What's your brand? Do you have a tag line? (For your writing or even yourself.) Three to five words (preferably witty & memorably, mind you) that sums you (or your writing) up in a neat, bite-sized chunk? Let's hear them!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

With The Faire Folk

by Nancy

Today we welcome Gillian Summers and her alter-egos, Berta Platas and Michelle Roper, to the lair. Gillian writes the popular Keelie Heartwood paranormal YA series. The first book, The Tree Shepherd’s Daughter, came out in 2006 and was quickly optioned for film, and the second, Into the Wildewood, came out this June. Welcome, Gillian!

Keelie’s adventures take place in an unusual setting but one many banditas and our buddies love. Could you tell us a little about it?

(Michelle) Keelie’s adventures take place in a Renaissance Faire, where the atmosphere lends itself to magical fun. I’ve been attending the Georgia Renaissance Festival for over fifteen years as a mundane and in costume. I love it. You can suspend belief and pretend you’re somewhere else. And as a writer my mind swirls with ideas, and I start going, what if?

(Berta) I'm a big fan of Ren Fairs, too, and I love the diversity of people that inhabit the real fairs. We decided that each faire would have a different theme, as real Ren Faires do, so the first one is pirates, and the second one is Robin Hood. The only thing we didn't add was kissing wenches. We'll have to put them into a future book!

Keelie makes an unusual discovery about her heritage. Can you give our readers a peek without spoiling the revelation in the book?

(Michelle) All of her life, Keelie thought that her one pointed ear was an accident of birth, something to endure, like her very unusual allergy to trees. When she goes to live with her father at the Renaissance Faire, she discovers that he has two pointed ears, and that her allergy to wood is altogether something different. She eventually discovers that her father is an elf, which makes her half elf and explains the one pointed ear. That tree allergy turns out to be something totally different from anything she ever dreamed it would be.

(Berta) We thought the contrast of a mall-loving girl from a big California city getting stuck in the woods with a father she barely remembers would be conflict enough! Then she finds out she's not entirely human, and it answers a lot of questions for her.

Her father’s pet gives Keelie fits. How did you come up with him and his antics?

(Michelle) Knot was based on my cat, Jean Luc. He would stalk me whenever I walked in our backyard. He would stare at something in the woods, his eyes would dilate, and he’d bolt up a tree as if something invisible was chasing him. He’d be walking along minding his own business, then take off in a run like his tail was on fire. I finally concluded the fairies were chasing him. He’d done something to them, and they were after him. That became the basis for Knot and his antics.

(Berta) Jean Luc's antics seem totally normal to me. Cats are so schizo. My cat Blender likes to be ON whatever I'm working on, whether it's cutting out a costume. He loves to trash tissue patterns, wrapping himself into them like a burrito. He enjoys laying across my computer keyboard, checking out everything I put into my mouth, and when he's bored, he swats Woody the golden retriever across the nose. Woody obligingly chases him, and usually is the one who gets into trouble for knocking stuff over. That Knot was more than a mere cat was easy to believe.

Of course, considering that both of you are Georgia Romance Writers, there’s a love interest. But the path of true love doesn’t run smooth here, either.

(Michelle) No, Keelie has some ups and downs with her love life just like any teen girl, except she has to deal with the fact the elf she likes is a lot older than her, even though he looks her age.

(Berta) Keelie's totally new to the romance stuff, and she's surrounded by dashing pirates and hunky guys in armor! Even though she's just lost her mother, she's distracted by the handsome elf who seems to like her right back. In the last book of the trilogy, we were set to say goodbye to Keelie, but then we discovered that our publisher wants three more books, starring Keelie! She's going to be a busy girl, and we have to come up with more Ren Faires and romance.

There seems to be a touch of Gossip Girls or Mean Girls in this series. Was that accidental or deliberate?

(Michelle) I’m the mother of two daughters, ages 26 and 19. I’ve been through the teen drama with them, and I think it’s just a part of life dealing with mean girls. There are going to be girls you like in school and girls you don’t like. I think it’s something our readers can identify with— having to deal with a bully, or someone who is less than nice. You have to find a way to handle it. Keelie does with the help of her new friends and the family she finds at the Renaissance.

(Berta) I remember my teen years very well, and I recall that high school was torture one day, heaven the next, depending on who talked to me, whether my locker jammed, and what heinous glop was served for lunch (and whether I could ditch it without being seen). Mean girls were a part of it, although I was never bothered by any. Gossip Girls and Mean Girls are fun to read because everyone loves a good villain.

There’s also a bit of falconry in Tree Shepherd’s Daughter, while Into the Wildewood features a unicorn. How did you decide which fantasy motifs to include?

(Michelle) Berta and I sat down and plotted out the books. The hawk and the unicorn are an evolution of the characters and settings from the original plots. We talked about what we liked in the Ren Faire, and we both love the Birds of Prey show. Having an injured hawk, like Ariel, who couldn’t live on her own, resonated with Keelie’s situation. When she first arrives at the Renaissance Faire, she feels trapped, and when she meets Ariel, she identifies with the hawk. They couldn’t be free. Keelie wanted her Mom back, and Ariel couldn’t fly. Keelie wants to see Ariel have her freedom.

(Berta) Yeah, what Michelle said. Also, Keelie's magic grows with each book. Maybe by book six she'll be befriending dragons. Just kidding.

In Into the Wildewood, a purple dragon figures prominently. Was there any particular inspiration for that?

(Michelle) Yes, there was a goofy purple dragon at the Georgia Renaissance Festival with big googly button eyes greeting the little kids at the gates. The image of the purple dragon stuck with me as we plotted Into the Wildewood. I kept thinking about Keelie being stuck in a suit like that at the Renn Faire, so I put her in one.

(Berta) And a right smelly suit it is, too!

Keelie’s love of shopping, and the trouble it causes her in Into the Wildewood must appeal to many teenage girls. Don’t you both have teenaged daughters?

(Michelle) Yes! My daughters are older but at one point for a year or so during their teens, malls, shopping, and Starbucks were essential to their social existence. One daughter loved Old Navy, and the other daughter loved Hot Topic, but they always found their way to the bookstore. However, now my thirteen year old son hates the mall except for going to the bookstore.

(Berta) My daughter is 14 and loves the mall, although she's just as comfortable buying t shirts online at Threadless. Her goal is not to look the same as everyone, but to look different, albeit cool. It's a balancing act, and I'm not sure I have a grasp of "coolness" when it comes to clothes. The best part of being a writer as that we can declare an outfit to be adorable, and each reader interprets that her own way!

You’re both members of Georgia Romance Writers and have writing interests beyond Gillian’s. Can you tell us a little about them?

(Michelle) I’m in the midst of revising two young adult novels, Whitney Wilbur Wipes Out and Jessie Fairechild’s Ride, and a middle grade fantasy, Odin’s Code. When I can’t stand writing about teen drama, I sneak off and work on my time travel.

(Berta) We both have so many projects! We're in the same critique book, which is how we ended up partnering on young adult books, so we get to read each other's "other lives." I write Latina women's fiction, and my next book, Lucky Chica, is about a lottery winner and will be out in January from St. Martins. There's more information on my website. I'm currently finishing the edits on a book about an accidental tarot reader, and I'm in the middle of writing a Pygmalion story about a photographer and a faux cowboy. Michelle and I also have a couple of non-Keelie books mapped out. We'll just have to clone ourselves.

Our guests are giving a copy of either The Tree Shepherd's Daughter or Into the Wildewood (winner's choice) to one commenter today. For more about Gillian Summers, visit her website.

Readers, have you ever been to a RenFaire? What did you like or dislike? What do you like about fantasy set in the real world? About teenage characters?

Michelle, Berta, and Gillian will be appearing at DragonCon over Labor Day weekend ( If you’re there, catch them on a panel or at their 10 am Saturday book signing and say hi.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bandita Booty!

by Anna Sugden

Thank you to everyone who dropped by and had fun with Virginia Kantra, Regina and Dylan.

The random number generator has picked a winner, who will receive a copy of Virginia's fabulous book Sea Fever.

Don't forget to check out Virginia's website and her MySpace page , where you will find a fun video about the selkie legend.

And the lucky winner is ...


Congratulations, Dina. If you send your snail mail address to me at anna at annasugden dot com, I will pass on your details to Virginia.

To Spa or Not to Spa

By Kate

For my birthday, my boss gave me a $150 gift certificate for a massage at a luxurious day spa in my area. My problem is, I received this thoughtful gift on my birthday over a year ago.

That’s right, I haven’t used it yet. What’s wrong with me? I have friends who would absolutely love to spend the day lounging around and pampering themselves at the spa. Me? I’d rather walk on hot coals.

Don’t get me wrong. A few times a year, I do the mani-pedi thing because I admit I like my toenails to look pretty. And those ladies who double-team you with one doing your toes and the other doing your hands? I love those ladies, mainly because they’re so fast! Fast is good. I tell them, the faster you paint my paws and claws and send me on my way, the better I’ll tip you. It’s a win-win.

I have a friend who actually has planned a week-long spa vacation on a beach somewhere, where she’ll spend every single day going from massage to kelp wrap to waxing to—oh dear God—yoga? Then nature hikes, more massage, maybe a cucumber and radish sandwich for lunch and a mid-afternoon parsley juice refresher.

Just shoot me. Really, I’d rather eat dirt. I’m so not a girlie-girl.

Part of my problem may center around that table I have to spread out on. Is it just me, or does it resemble a torture device? Show of hands.

I guess I blame my lack of love for all things spa-centered on my childhood. I grew up with four brothers who treated my attempts to fluff and pamper myself with mockery and cynicism. My mother, while wonderful and thoroughly feminine, was hardly a role model due to her whirlwind life of bandaging or swabbing or rushing to the emergency room after one of my annoying brothers fell out of a tree or got hit by a stick or swallowed ant poisoning.

Because of that houseful of boys, I learned early on to eschew the joys of slathering and lathering in favor of bike riding, kite flying, tetherball and hide-n-seek. Today, I’m pretty much the same way, although I admit I do a lot more slathering in my futile attempt to stave off the many insidious signs of age. But that’s a topic for another day.

I suppose I’ll have to get that massage one of these days, but I’m not looking forward to it.

So help me out. I know many of our Banditas are girlie-girls and day-spa queens, so what do you love most about the spa? If you had the whole day to spend at a spa, what would you do? Sit in a jacuzzi? Wrap yourself in mud? Get a massage? Or would you rather go fly a kite?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hiatus in Hawaii!

by KJ Howe

Aloha! I’m saying hello from the annual Maui Writer’s Retreat and Conference held this year for the first time in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s a great opportunity to learn from the master’s in the field. Teachers include David Morrell, Steve Berry, James Rollins, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Ann Hood, John Lescroart, and Sam Horn. No matter what you write you will fit in, as everything from narrative non-fiction and memoirs to thrillers and literary fiction is covered. The aspiring authors are split into small groups for intensive workshops. But, there is always time to sneak off to Waikiki beach!

Before breaking into our home room groups, we are treated to general sessions such as:

Where does the next great idea come from?

Rejection, It’s Your Friend

Writing Human Nature: Is there such a thing as human nature?

From Despair to Delight: Developing a transformational attitude towards the rewrite

10 Things You Need to Do to Get Published


Whether you’re a reader or a writer, nothing beats getting away and immersing yourself in your favorite books. Where is your dream spot for a conference? How much time would you like to spend playing vs. working? Who would you most like to work with?
The person who designs the most compelling conference wins a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card, so dream big!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Songs for Submissions

by Donna MacMeans

Do you remember the TV show Ally McBeal? I used to love that show. Ally was an attorney that worked with an ecletric Boston law firm. You might recall one of the threads dealt with personal theme songs. Ally had several. The Peter MacNicol character (Cage) channeled songs & dance routines to boost his self confidence.

In San Francisco I attended a motivational workshop which suggested everyone should have their own personal theme song to sing to themselves when a motivational push is needed. Facing a scary job interview? Sing to yourself first (grin). Of course it has to be a motivational inspirational sort of song.

Do you have a personal theme song?

Mine is Defying Gravity from Wicked. This is the showstopper, you know, the one they toss in right before intermission - the one that keeps playing in your head as you head out for souvenir CDs. Any way, here's a part of the lyrics:

Something has changed within me.
Something is not the same.
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone elses game.
Too late for second-guessing.
Too late to go back to sleep!
It's time to trust my instincts.
Close my eyes, and leap!
It's time to trust my instincts.
Close my eyes, and leap!
It's time to try defying gravity.
I think I'll try defying gravity, and you can't pull me down!

If you're unfamiliar with the song, try this link:

(I couldn't imbed the youtube version, but they do the full song on the clip on the website.)

Now personally, I think this is great music for mailing submissions. I have it on my ipod and play it when things aren't going great - it always pumps me back up.

I had this song playing in my head when I wrote THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT so it's only appropriate that a copy is the prize for today.

Do you have a theme song? There's some great ones out there. Does it help when times are tough? Anyone have accompanying dance moves? (I do mine while walking the dog at night)

And Another Winnah!!

The winner of Victoria Dahl's latest release, A RAKE'S GUIDE TO PLEASURE, is . . . Pat Cochran.

Pat, please email me at jo (dot) lewisrobertson (at) yahoo (dot) com with your snail mail address and I'll forward it to Victoria.


Friday, August 22, 2008


With all the excitement of the Bandits meeting up in San Francisco, I forgot to annouce the winner of Jo Davis' TRIAL BY FIRE!

The winner is............drum rolllllllllllllllllllll...Jane!

Jane, send me your snail-mail addy to swwelsh2001 AT yahoo DOT com, and I'll see that Jo send you an autograph copy! CONGRATULATIONS!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Meet Virginia Kantra and an extra special guest!

with Anna Sugden

I'm delighted to welcome one of my favourite authors and favourite people (and the lady who gives the best workshops any aspiring writer can attend!) to the Bandita's Lair ... Virginia Kantra.

USA Today bestselling author Virginia Kantra is a six-time RITA Award finalist and winner of numerous writing awards including the Golden Heart, Golden Leaf, Holt Medallion, Maggie, and two National Readers' Choice Awards. Her new Children of the Sea series debuts with Sea Witch (July 2008) and Sea Fever (August 2008 ).

Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of three kids, Virginia is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love.

Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.

Visit her on the web at or

Anna: We have an extra treat in store for you too. Virginia has managed to convince a special guest to accompany her today. Let me hand you over to Virginia, who will introduce her guest.

VK: Thank you so much for inviting me to blog with the Banditas! I’m actually hard at work on Sea Lord, the third book in the Children of the Sea series, so I’ve asked Regina Barone to come with me today to talk about simple summer recipes. Regina?

REGINA: You didn’t say this was, like, some celebrity chef gig.

VK: Well, not exactly. But you’re such a great cook, and I know your mother doesn’t always let you try out new things at the restaurant, so—

REGINA: Sure. You want recipes, I got recipes. No problem.

VK: Oh, my gosh, Regina, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about Nick’s dad being a TV chef .

REGINA: It’s fine. It’s over. You want Food Network, I can do Food Network. How about Lemon Chicken Salad?

VK: That sounds great.

REGINA: Okay. You can substitute the chicken breasts in this recipe with leftovers. Or you can use that rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

VK: Good tip.

REGINA: Hey, I know how hard it is when you’re struggling to put food on the table for your family. Especially when you don’t have a lot of time.

So, you want two skinless, boneless chicken breasts—that’s four pieces, about a pound and a half. You can marinate them in some olive oil, a little lemon juice, some garlic…

DYLAN: She's marinating the Golden Rooster?

VK: No, no. It's chicken.

REGINA (to VK): Oh, my God. What the hell is he doing here?

VK: I thought...If you couldn’t come…

DYLAN: That’s not usually a problem for her. Not with the right partner.

REGINA: You shut up.

DYLAN: Did you think I wouldn’t want to see you again?

REGINA: I was counting on it.

VK: Guys . . . Could we get back to the cooking lesson?

REGINA (takes a deep breath): Um. Okay, so you want to cook your chicken breasts.

DYLAN: You mean, grill.

REGINA (ignoring him): Under the broiler is fine—about 5 mins a side. While the chicken cooks, combine in your blender or food processor:

1 egg
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Then slowly add ¾ C olive oil, processing. . .

(hisses to DYLAN): What are you doing?

DYLAN: I’m watching.

REGINA: You’re brooding. What do you think this is, a romance novel?

DYLAN: Close enough.

REGINA: Too close. Back off.

DYLAN: That’s not what you said the other night.

VK: What are you supposed to do with the olive oil?

REGINA: Add the olive oil, processing until the dressing is thick and creamy. Arrange the cooked chicken on a bed of lettuce. You can use the pre-washed stuff, but for the love of Mary, don’t buy iceberg.

ANTONIA BARONE, Regina’s mother (shouts from the distance): What’s the matter with iceberg?

REGINA: Ma, I’m trying to cook here. Where was I?

DYLAN (softly): Chicken.

REGINA (takes a deep breath): Top the chicken with the dressing and serve with crusty bread and a nice cold bottle of Pinot Grigio.

VK: Thank you, Regina.

REGINA: Is that it?

VK: Well, if you have a question for everybody . . .

REGINA: Sure. What do you all like to cook in the summer time?

DYLAN: I have a question. Who wants to cook? How many of you just throw something on the fire and open a beer?

VK: And thank you, Dylan.

I, for one, would really like to hear your responses. We’ll be drawing one poster to receive a copy of Regina and Dylan’s book, Sea Fever.

DYLAN: We have a book?

Anna: Thank you Virginia, Regina and Dylan. That recipe sounds fab, Regina. I know we have lots of cooking fans here in the Lair who will be thrilled to exchange summer recipes with you. And Dylan, I'm sure there are a few grillers lurking too.