Friday, October 31, 2008

No Place Like Halloweeeeeeeeen....

By Jeanne Adams

The holiday season begins at my house on October first. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday and always has been. Given that, I get to start in September these days, which is when I put up the Halloween decorations. Every room gets something, even the half-bath.

For one month, I'm worse than those little old ladies you see with 4000 Santas out all year long.

From September 30th on, I get to read Halloween books to my kids without any remorse (I do it all year long, by the way, I just get to do it guilt-free for the months of September and October) and we get at least one new one every year.

We start planning the outdoor decorations in September and begin issuing the invites for the annual Ad(d)ams Family Halloween Party - a wickedly fun event where the adults get to dress up and say BOO! Of course, if you insist on coming sans costume, you have to bring something to eat. I get about half and half every year. Grins. We had a Cavalier, a Catholic Schoolgirl, an Elfin Warrior and a Karate Master this year along with assorted other characters. It was great fun!

But back to the books...The favorite new book this year is one by Carl Reiner, you know him from all the way back on the Dick Van Dyke show and from his later work in Oceans Eleven. The book is called Tell Me a Scary Story...But Not Too Scary. It's marvelous! I've read it to my youngest about six times per night for the past four or five nights. We've even read it during the day sometimes too. Bwah-ha-ha!!!

Past favorites have included The ABC's of Halloween, The Runaway Pumpkin, and A Very Brave Witch. You've never heard anything funnier than a four year old yelling, as you read, "RUNAWAY PUMPKIN!!"

Then there's the costumes for the kids. We discuss this at length from Labor Day on. This year we have a Football Player (Miami Dolphins, for some unknowable reason) and IronMan.

For the Halloween party, my darling hubby and I were Biker Trailer Trash. There were people who arrived at my door who did not recognize me. I guess I'm glad about that, since I pulled off the trailer trash thing pretty well!

I put the picture down below. What do you think?

And then there's the pumpkins. Gosh I love carving pumpkins. What is not to love about those fabulous orange canvases? There doesn't seem to be anything you can't carve into a pumpkin. From ghosts to vultures to bad-ass bikers, you can create a pumpkin tribute. One of my "Bucket List" items is to get to the famous Keene, NH Pumpkin Festival. It's one of the world's largest pumpkin festivals. This year's count was 22, 596 carved pumpkins. Check it out at

The other fun thing is the Life Is Good Pumpkin Festivals. Wow are they delightful! Life is Good partners with a local charity to set up twelve festivals scattered in various parts of the country and the classic Life Is Good style t-shirts are in full swing.

There's always a specially designed Festival shirt. Really cool! They also have cool Halloween gear if you want style without costume!

And oh...the candy. Considering we've had our Halloween party already and there's still cake, pie, brownies and we're making cupcakes today (Halloween), I probably should be doing at least three hours on the exercise bike per day for the next ten weeks.

Then again, I also bought five bags of candy. I'll give 'em out too. Really. I will. *VEG*

I always buy the candy I like, don't you? This is just in case I don't give it all away to the mini-goblins then I'll have good stuff around. I hate to have leftovers of candy that I won't eat. *shudder* Now that's scary. Besides, it hurts my Scotch soul to throw anything away, especially candy!

(By the way, the picture at the left is our pumpkin effort this year...)

As to candy, my favorites are malted milk balls, tootsie roll pops and tootsie rolls. Jeez, they make me drool. I've got to stay away from the blinking things until tomorrow night. Cripes. It's like they call to me.

....Jeanne....we're heeeeeerrrrreeeeee....we're deliiiiiciousssssss....

Scary. Verrrrry Scary.

So, are you dressing up this Halloween? What about your kids, if you have any?

When you shed that "normal" face of yours, whose face are you going to assume?

What about candy? What's your favorite? Mars Bars? Snickers? Tootsie Rolls? What kind of candy do you despise?

Last but not least, any good Halloween books to recommend?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

by Jo Robertson

I recently took a train trip (see Amtrak Zephyr, left) to Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame. The ride took fifty-two hours and went through some interesting and beautiful country in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, and Indiana.

My husband was thrilled because we traveled through a small town called Helper, Utah, named after the small trains that “helped” the larger ones make it up the mountain. Helper Junior High, which Boyd attended decades ago, still sits on the hill with the same name blazoned across the front.

To the right is the rock formation called Castle Gate, a mile from Helper.

The trip wasn’t so wonderful to me, but I was game to try it, not having ridden on a train in ages. I’d forgotten how small the compartments are, how claustrophobic the sleeping bunk is, and how wobbly the ride is.

I won’t be repeating the experience.

When I was a girl, my mother traveled with us children through East Germany (under Communist control at the time) to meet my dad at his new army assignment in
West Berlin. It was the middle of the night, and we’d made a temporary stop at a station in the Russian sector. My mom was a trickster and seldom obeyed the rules (one of the reasons I loved her), so even though we’d been warned repeatedly NOT to look out the windows, she peeked around the shade.

Zoom, that vinyl shade shot up like a jackrabbit, clattering as loud as the guilty sounds of rogue rifle fire. Instantly alarms sounded, lights flashed, and frighteningly large men in Cossack uniforms brandished even larger rifles. My six-year-old psyche was scarred.
Is it any wonder I don’t like train rides?

When we travel
ed to Egypt in the late 70’s, we took the Luxor train up the Nile from Cairo to Luxor and the temple of Karnak. I understand the Luxor train is much improved now, but then it was a nightmare.

Riding the Luxor train was an experience out of the Eighteenth Century. The joints between the cars were mere open spaces about twelve to eighteen inches separating one car from the next. We looked down at the dizzying tracks while we bravely leapt from one car to another, hoping we wouldn't slip and lose a foot -- or two.

The sleeping car had some kind of dusty debris that wafted down during the night to stick in my hair and the bed linen was disgusting. I didn’t dare change into sleeping clothes.

In the dining car, we passed a waiter who was drying a glass with a cloth as black as onyx. The toilet? Well, everyone was dumping waste on the tracks in those days and the Luxor train was no different.

But the next morning we woke up to the most amazing landscape. Ninety percent of Egypt’s population lives on five percent of the land around the fertile Nile River (see above). Men were harvesting crops with wooden ploughs like they did two thousand years ago. Lush, green, and gorgeous, the Nile area is a sharp contrast to the surrounding Sahara.

We visited the Temple at Karnak (above right) and thrilled to the ancient antiquities (Ramses II, below right).

This was an amazing train adventure, but not one I’d want to repeat, at least not the train part.

Boyd's favorite mode of transportation is by car (it’s very hard to fit his large frame into a tiny train or airline seat). He likes to stop at every historical marker between northern California and Timbucktu and read the inscriptions.

I love flying. I like the quiet, isolated feeling I have in the crowded company of strangers where I can read and sleep, my two favorite pastimes.

What about you? Do you prefer to travel by train, plane, or automobile. Why? Any train experiences? Unusual road trips? Airplane nightmares?

Tell us your stories. I’m dying to give a $15 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky random commenter.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


by Susan Sey

So I've been sitting on this news for so long it almost doesn't feel like news anymore, but since my agent is currently in possession of a contract with my name on it (and since I am currently in possession of my first ever revision letter) I'm going to go ahead & spill it:

I sold.

Seriously. I sold a book. TWO books, one of which isn't even written yet. I can't tell you what kind of cold pit of terror that little fact opens up inside me. But there it is. I sold my Golden Heart winner, Money Honey, in a two book deal to Berkley not even a week after I got home from San Francisco.

But do you want to know the really good part? The really rewarding part?

I never meant sell Money Honey. This was a book I wrote purely to prove to myself that I could still write all the way to a happy ever after.

Now I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that prior to writing MH, I suffered a deeply personal loss. The kind of loss that sucks the wind right out of a girl's eternally optimistic sails. The kind of loss that rips a big, gaping hole in the center of your soul. For a while there, it took every ounce of my energy just to get through the day, & I had to wonder if I'd ever have another creative impulse again.

But slowly, as time did its magic thing, I healed. And after a while, I started writing again. Not romance, of course. I didn't have the wherewithal for a happy ever after just yet. Just the usual, repetitive, cathartic stuff where I imposed a narrative on my loss. Where I gave it a story line & made it make sense.

After a few months of that, though, I had an idea for a romance. Mind you, it wasn't a good idea. It involved a hero with a lengthy criminal record & a heroine with such a heinous backstory there was no really plausible explanation for why she was still functioning like a normal human being. But I figured, hell. Why waste a good story idea on what will most likely end up in the recycling bin anyway?

So I wrote it. I wrote the darn thing & fell in love with my crazy characters & mourned when every contest I entered it in confirmed my suspicions that it was fatally flawed. So I put it under the bed & wrote something else. And that something else landed me an agent, so I felt pretty good about my comeback.

But when it came time to prep my 2008 GH entries, I just couldn't put MH under the bed. I ponied up the extra $50, kissed it goodbye & sent it off. My beloved dark horse. Imagine my shock when it finaled.

Imagine my shock when it won.

Imagine my utter & absolute astonishment when it sold.

So that's my story. I wrote a book I knew wouldn't sell just to prove to myself I had a happy ending left in me. And that's the book that brought me my own happy ending. So how about you? Has the universe ever rewarded you for doing exactly the wrong thing? Let's hear about it!

p.s. Look for Money Honey in the Fall of 2009 from Berkley Sensation! But if you forget, don't worry. I'll remind you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


by Suzanne Welsh
The winner of TOUCHED BY LOVE by our guest blogger Tracy Garrett is


Congrats Louisa! Email me at swwelsh2001 AT yahoo DOT com with your snail mail addy and I'll see that Tracy mails you your copy!

Classics remade

by Suzanne Welsh
I'm currently reading a book in the Scoundrel Of St. James series by Lorraine Heath. (Who will be joining us in December as a guest in the lair again.)
The series is an interesting concept where the street kids of the book Oliver Twist have grown up and shows us what their lives might be like now. Cool idea for a series of books. Cool for me because I loved Dickens when I was in middle and high school. Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and of course The Christmas Carol. I'm secretly hoping to see Dickens make an appearance in one of these books...but then that will be up to Lorraine.

So, as I try to market this to my friends and family, I've said "You read Oliver Twist didn't you?" And to my surprise many have said, "Uh, no." So then I go for the chessy 70's musical, "You saw Oliver!, right?" Again, the perplexed look and "Uh, no." Geesh...

What did these people read in high school? How could they have missed the movie with the cute boy holding out his bowl in the orphanage and ask "More, please?" And the twinkle in the Artful Dodger's eye as he picked a pocket and scampered away?

This got me to thinking. If I had a chance to do a book about child characters from my favorite classics in literature, what book would I pick? Which characters would I choose?

How about Nancy Drew? Would she still be trying to solve crimes? Maybe she's a profiler for the FBI? Or maybe an undercover police officer? Or maybe a DA? Or maybe even a CSI?

How about the March girls from Little Women? Would you write their stories different?

Or Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Little House On The Prarie series? Would you write their stories different? Or maybe write their children's stories?

How about you? What book would you like to write a character's story in a different way or in a more adult life?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tracy Garret: Spurs, Boots and Good Men

by Suzanne Welsh
Tracy Garrett loves a good man, especially one wearing boots and spurs. In fact, she loves those strong heroes so much, she writes about them in her historical western romances. So naturally while sitting on her balcony overlooking the autumn changes around The Lake of the Ozarks, our conversation turns to her newest book, TOUCHED BY LOVE.

Tracy, TOUCHED BY LOVE is your second Historical Western romance. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I'll let the back cover blurb do the talking:


Jaret Walker is a loner, a gun for hire with a heart of ice. He's never had anyone to call his own, and he likes it that way. But when a promise made to a friend leads him on a ride through the desert and to remote Two Roses Ranch where he meets Isabel Bennett, the woman he's supposed to protect, all he can think of is making her his. She's the kind of woman a rough-riding cowboy like him can never have. But her hot gaze tempts him like no other woman has before...

The moment Isabel Bennett lays eyes on Jaret Walker, she remembers the dreams she's denied for so long. She's sworn never to marry. It's the only way to protect her ranch. But when Walker rides into her life, she decides to let herself taste what she's giving up-a passion that burns through her with each kiss-and a desire that won't be denied...

Touched by Love, coming November 4, 2008, from Zebra Historical Romance.

In the beginning of TOUCHED BY LOVE there's an interesting opening scene centered around a Mexican prison. Was this a real place?

Perote Prison was a real place. Originally a castle, it was built by the Viceroy of Mexico in the late 1700s 7000 feet up the mountains overlooking the port of Vera Cruz. It was intended as an ammunition storage facility and a military training school, and as a second line of defense for Vera Cruz. The Mexican Army used the huge fortress to keep both military and political prisoners. Texans captured during three disastrous expeditions against Mexico were incarcerated and died within its walls. The shell of the building still remains, but photos are allowed only by special permit. [Photo by J. J. McGrath & Walace Hawkins, "Perote Fort- Where Texans Were Imprisoned", Volume 48, Number 3, Southwestern Historical Quarterly Online]

When I needed a place for Isabel's brother to be taken, I began searching for prisons in Mexico and found this place. The location was ideal-and it has two macabre stone figures guarding the bridge.

Jaret Walker (big sigh!) is my idea of a cowboy hero. In fact I envisioned the early John Wayne character while reading this. Was there anyone you had in mind as you wrote it?

I never have a specific actor in mind when I write, but Jaret has a lot of the stubborn honor that John Wayne's characters always showed, with a liberal dose of Clint Eastwood tough-guy thrown in. Mmmm...Clint....

The women who helped settle the American West were made of strong stuff and in TOUCHED BY LOVE, Isabel is the backbone of her ranch. What made her so determined to hold on to it?

Isabel takes the legacy of the ranch very seriously. The land has been passed from mother to daughter through several generations, and she believes it is her responsibility to maintain it for the next generation. Besides, she loves the rough, harsh land-it's a part of her soul.

Without the uber-strong women who came west on foot, horseback and wagon seat, I believe the U.S. would be a very different place. Isabel is one of those women. She takes the legacy of the ranch very seriously. The land has been passed from mother to daughter through several generations, and she believes it is her responsibility to maintain it for the next generation. Besides, she loves the rough, harsh land-it's a part of her soul.

More wine?

Even though western historical romances have been quiet for a few years, they're starting to make a comeback in the market place. What about the western do you think appeals to romance readers?

There is something about a loner-a man who lives and works alone for weeks or months at a time-that seems to tug at our protective instincts. A cowboy, lawman, gunslinger-it doesn't seem to matter what they do, we love the dark, handsome heroes. The resurgence of westerns at the movies and on TV is evidence. Deadwood, 3:10 to Yuma, Seraphim Falls, Tombstone, Missing. I've seen the trailers for Appaloosa and it's on my must-see-soon list! Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen in boots and spurs? Be still my heart.

Do you think these heroes translate in to contemporary characters? How?

Absolutely, whether the setting is "western" or not. I think the qualities of honor, duty and good-guys-win are timeless. The romance hero always has a strong sense of right & wrong, does what is necessary despite personal insult or injury, and looks darn good in a cowboy hat. lol

Before we head out on the boat to tour the Lake, I have one more question. Is there another western in your future?

I certainly hope so! I'm in the middle of writing Wolf's story [he was the tracker in Touch of Texas who was searching for his kidnapped children]. And I have several other characters standing around in my office waiting for a turn to tell their stories.

I'd like to ask the Bandit readres a question now. Who is your favorite movie or TV cowboy and why? You choose the winner and let me know who it is, please?

Tracy is offering an autographed copy of TOUCHED BY LOVE to a lucky commentor. And don't forget, if you want to order YOUR copy of TOUCHED BY LOVE, just click on the cover picture.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Finding the Inner Goddess

by Nancy

Believe it or not, I got the idea for this blog in New York City. We recently spent a long weekend there, and one of the places we visited was the remodeled hall of Greek statuary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you've ever been to the Metropolitan, you know spending a few days there would be easy, if not for having to eat, sleep, and leave at closing time. As a child, I loved the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, about two children who take up residence--temporarily--in the museum. So I'm always happy to stop in there.

Renovations on the museum's front steps led us to enter through a lower entrance to one side of the main one. Because we came in this way, we entered the museum itself via the display of Greek statues. One of the first ones I saw is pictured at right, Artemis, goddess of the moon and the hunt. Some of you may remember that I loved Greek mythology as a child. My favorite Greek god was Hermes, the trickster, but my favorite goddesses were Artemis (Diana in Joan's favorite part of the world) and Athena (Minerva to the Romans). Artemis ran around in the woods whenever she felt like it, didn't have to wear long skirts, and hung out with animals. She also was an archer, which tied in nicely with my fondness for Robin Hood. So if your inner goddess is Artemis, you like the outdoors, enjoy animals, and prefer vigorous exercise.

Athena, of course, is the goddess who sprang full-grown from the head of Zeus (Jupiter). She was the goddess of wisdom, had an owl companion, and wore a warrior's helmet. She was often pictured with a shield and spear, which led me to think she probably kicked butt and took names, even if she did wear long skirts and even if war was technically the domain of Ares (Mars). There were several statues of Athena in the museum. This one turned out best in the pictures. Athena, to whom the Parthenon was dedicated, would be the inner goddess of someone who likes owls or maybe other raptors and is thoughtful but doesn't hesitate to act decisively when necessary.

I didn't see any statues of Hera (Juno), the queen of the gods and consort of Zeus. I was hoping for a nice one with peacocks. Hera was regal, jealous of Zeus, and fond of peacocks. I don't remember her as having any special area of expertise, but I could be mistaken. So if Hera is your inner goddess, you may like beautiful birds and enjoy wielding authority.

There were numerous statues of Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess who rose naked from the sea. But with judicious camera work, I got a photo that's G-rated. Why is she so rarely depicted fully dressed? Being the goddess of love and beauty doesn't require leaving little to the imagination, but maybe male sculptors liked her that way. She was also the mother of Eros (Cupid) and consort of homely, ingenious Hephaestus (Vulcan). So if Aphrodite is your inner goddess, you're very passionate and want to help the people around you find happy relationships.

I also didn't spot any statues of Hestia (Vesta), the goddess of hearth and home. She doesn't seem to get as much attention as some of the others, but hearth and home are as vital to comfort and safety now as they were in the Bronze Age. If your inner goddess is Hestia, you like nesting and the homely arts of cooking, baking, and perhaps sewing.

This last pair of busts is thought to be of Persephone (Proserpina), the queen of the underworld and consort to its dread god, Hades (Pluto), and her mother, Demeter (Ceres), goddess of the harvest. Persephone doesn't seem to have done much except draw the unwanted attention of Hades and then, after he took her to the underworld, make the mistake of eating half a dozen pomegranate seeds. Because those half-dozen seeds condemned her to spend half of every year in the underworld, Demeter mourned her absence and refused to make the plants grow. Thus winter came to the Greek world. If your inner goddess is Demeter, you're probably very good with plants and maybe even make your own cereal (Ceres being the root of that word).

My inner goddess is probably a melding of Artemis and Athena with a little Aphrodite thrown in. I prefer jeans to suits, though I like to look well turned out when the occasion requires it. A house without animals will never be a home to me, and I like sports like karate and archery and, once upon a time, softball and tennis. On the other hand, the outdoors now aggravates my allergies. I try to be thoughtful and act decisvely but don't always succeed, and I love owls. And I feel strongly about things if I feel anything at all. My homemaking is largely a matter of intention rather than execution, and I'm best with plants that people prefer to have die. I have zippo abililty at match-making. I know this, alas, from experience.

In the movies, Princess Leia is probably closest to Athena. For Artemis, I'd pick Lara Croft. I haven't seen a good Aphrodite on screen lately. I teach the silent film It, and I certainly think Clara Bow had the sex appeal and intense feelings. She didn't seem to do much toward matching other people up. Hera would be Dame Judi Dench as M. No one comes to mind for Ceres or Persephone.

Which goddess's traits do you embody? Can you think of movie or book characters who have some of these goddesses' characteristics?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In the Cave

We writers talk a lot about going into the CAVE. That’s where you disappear to do little else but work like a maniac until the book is finished. You don’t socialize, you don’t have fun, you don’t blog, you don’t answer email, you don’t do laundry or clean your house or shop or talk to anyone.

It’s like you’re hibernating. Because you ARE. You’re in THE CAVE.

That’s where I am, right now. But it’s my day to blog and for just a minute, I’m thinking about other places I’d rather be. KJ talked about her adventures traveling in the Middle East yesterday, but I’m thinking about someplace closer, someplace where I could just go, disappear, chill out, recuperate, veg out, do nothing at all. I suppose I could crawl under the covers, but I want to sit outside, read and stare at a beautiful view.

I don’t feel like getting on a plane so I’m thinking someplace local, within driving distance. Since I live in Southern California, I’m thinking of Balboa Island. This tiny piece of land in the middle of Newport Harbor is less than one hour from Los Angeles but a whole world away from the feeling of a big city. It’s peaceful, a bit old-fashioned and quiet.

Or maybe I’d head for Cambria, up the coast in Central California.

Or even farther north to a favorite spot, the charming Victorian village of Ferndale, California. It's got the most beautiful beach . . .

Where do your dreams take you when all you want to do is get away from televisions, computers, cell phones and the world?

And is there one book on your TBR pile you’d take with you? I’ve got our own Christine Wells’ The Dangerous Duke in my hot little hands and I can’t wait to start it!

How about you? Where would you go – and what would you read?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kingdom of Jordan: An Undiscovered Jewel

By KJ Howe

I just returned from a trip to Jordan in the Middle East. It felt like walking into another world, one that echoes deep historical and biblical significance as well as a fascinating modern culture. The trip kicked off in the capital Amman one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world. Built on seven hills, you can visit the ancient Citadel, including the al-Qasr, "the palace," which dates back to the Islamic Umayyad period. Corinthian columns mark the site of the Byzantine basilica which is thought to date from the sixth or seventh century AD.

After discovering the city, take a short side trip to Jerash, one of the most complete ruins of a provincial Roman city in the world. Jerash was buried under sand and rubble for centuries until its discovery in 1806, and excavations began in 1925. Two theaters, an unusual oval-shaped forum, temples, churches, and baths round out the breathtaking sights. Fans of Roman times take note…there is a reenactment of gladiators fighting to the "death" and chariot races.

Ready for more? Visit Mount Nebo, a traditional burial site where Moses was buried or tour the mosaic Byzantine churches. Afterwards, stop by a fascinating mosaic workshop and learn how mosaics are crafted. Next I visited a crusader castle called Shobak, created by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Damascus to Egypt.

Wadi Rum was also fascinating. T.E. Lawrence lived in the desert with his Bedouin friends and allies during World War I in this stunning vista of sand dunes and rose-tinted mountains. I also had the opportunity to ride a camel as it prepared for an upcoming race. These amazing animals can run up to 47 km/hr!

The highlight of the trip was Petra, a city carved in the mountains and set in a canyon that only has one entrance, known as the "Siq," a narrow passageway which could be easily defended against attack by an invading army. Petra is a death city with great facades of tombs and burial halls, courts, and temples, all hewn deep in the mauve, rose, ochre and blue sandstone. Stunning! You can have a tour by one of the Bedouins who lived in the caves there.

For anyone who loves shopping, gold souks and street bazaars will fulfill all your needs. And if you feel in need of pampering, stay at a spa by the Dead Sea where you can float in water so high in salt that you feel like a cork bobbing on the surface.

Spending time in Jordan conjured up potential ideas for both historical and modern novels. Regardless of the time period of your books, Jordan’s setting would be a character in its own right. If you could travel to any country in the world, where would you go?

Bandit Booty Galore!

CONGRATULATIONS to Helen, who wins a signed ARC of DENISE ROSSETTI'S fabulous upcoming release, THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW!! Email Denise via her website with your snail mail details and collect your prize!

Christine Wells also has some tardy prizes to announce:

From her Happy Cake blog, ArkieRN wins chocolate for her sad scarf story. Woohoo!

From The Thinking Woman's Spy, Limecello wins a signed copy of THE DANGEROUS DUKE and RebekaH and Dina win the Dangerous stationery! Please contact Christine via the contact page on her website to claim your prize!