Saturday, January 31, 2009

Welcome NYT Bestseller Angie Fox!!

Interview by Kirsten Scott

Can I just say this? I love Angie Fox. I mean, I seriously do. First of all, she’s darn cute, super friendly, and a really great writer. She did hit the NYT Bestseller list with her debut novel, The Accidental Demon Slayer, so you might be tempted to hate her, but you just can’t. She’s that kind of person. 

I “met” Angie as a virtual member of my local RWA Chapter, the Rose City Romance Writers, and then got to meet her in person last year at Nationals. But you really meet Angie when you read her work – and can’t stop laughing from page one.

I’m delighted to host Angie today, and she’s got some fabulous prizes for us – so stick around and say hello. She can’t wait to meet you.

Angie, how did you come up with the idea for The Accidental Demon Slayer?
I started off with a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight-laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a fifth level demon? Ohhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

Sounds like you started with a great hook, and the perfect mix of quirky characters and a unique plot. When you’re developing your novels, does plot trump character for you, or is it the other way around?
For me, it’s both. When I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when she’d learned she was a demon slayer and all hell was after her, she took comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’ Simple. I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where my heroine can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard).

It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, my heroine can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. I had fun with it. In fact, I suspect Pirate the dog is my editor’s favorite character. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Pirate helped talk my editor into buying The Accidental Demon Slayer.

So did plot influence character? Maybe there it did. But I can tell you that as the book evolves, Pirate the dog does his share of influencing the plot too. 

I suspect Pirate is everyone’s favorite character – who can resist a Harley-riding dog? Which brings up an interesting question. How did you know you could put a dog on a Harley? Are you a Harley rider from way back, or did you have to do a lot of research for the book?
Loads, actually. I’d never been on a motorcycle before, and I had to figure out how to get Pirate the dog onto a bike! I went online and learned about the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club, made up exclusively of Harley riders and their dogs. I ended up meeting some of them, along with a few other bikers along the way. These bikers were so great to me. They hoisted me onto the back of their Harleys (with dogs in tow). They took me to biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink). And they laughed at me when I tried to put my helmet on backwards (I still say I was distracted by the Pomeranian wearing a tiny pair of motorcycle glasses).

After a few outings with my new biker friends, I was able to make my geriatric biker witch characters a lot more realistic. And I took home some great pictures, too.

Now those are pictures we’d all love to see. Especially that Pom. But moving on, everyone in the Lair loves a Call story. Can you tell us yours?
I’d entered the beginning of the book in the Chicago RWA’s Four Seasons contest. Leah Hultenschmit from Dorchester was the finals judge and she requested the full. I quickly finished the last eight chapters and sent it off to her on a Thursday. Then I spent Friday on email queries to agents. When the 212 popped up on my caller ID the following Tuesday, I was elated and thought it could be an agent I’d queried. Nope. It was Leah wanting to buy The Accidental Demon Slayer.

It was the neatest feeling. But I could barely hear her because my two small children had picked that moment to battle over a lump of green Play Dough. Leah asked if I wanted her to call back and I said, “Nooo” and ducked into the garage. In August. I probably lost five pounds of water weight talking to her. So hey, a sold book and weight loss too! It was such a surreal moment to know an editor had read my book and liked it.

When I hung up with Leah, I immediately called my husband, who was in a meeting. So I called my mom, who was gone. I called several friends, who weren’t home. Then I looked at the clock and realized that we had houseguests due in just over an hour, so I grabbed a quick shower and hummed a happy tune while scrubbing toilets and picking green Play Dough off the kitchen floor.

The Accidental Demon Slayer is an absolutely hilarious and perfectly paced novel (something I could use some help with, by the way!). It was no surprise to me that it was an instant success. What was your reaction when you learned it was a New York Times bestseller?
Complete shock. The phone rang on a Friday afternoon, as I was writing the climax of the The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, which is the sequel to The Accidental Demon Slayer. I almost didn’t answer the phone. After all, who would call in smack dab in the middle of a demon invasion?

Luckily, I picked up because it was my agent, saying that The Accidental Demon Slayer would be #34 on the New York Times list the next day. I didn’t know what to think. Heck, I’d just wanted to sell enough books so that I could keep writing about biker witches, demon slayers and talking terriers. I had to ask my agent to please email me too, just to make sure I wasn’t phone-hallucinating.

How does your family feel about your career as a romance author?
Well, I admit I had these fantasies of my husband saying things like, “Oh let me fix dinner. You look like you’re really focused on getting that dialogue right.” Or my kids saying, “Wow. Mom is a published author. We’d better not use her laptop cord as a jump rope.” Alas, my home life hasn’t changed at all. Well, other than the fact that it might be a bit strange that my four-year-old knows what an editor is. She gets calls from her “editor” on her Tinkerbell play phone.

What do we have to look forward to next from you?
I’m really excited about the release of book 2 in the Accidental Demon Slayer series, called The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers – look for it on April 28th (available for pre-order NOW on!). In it, the straight-laced Lizzie decides she’s going to learn everything about her powers, and at the same time, write the proverbial book on demon slaying. And, as you might have guessed – things don’t quite go according to plan.

Right now, I’m writing book 3 in the Accidental Demon Slayer series and also writing a short story for the next Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance.

Angie has generously offered to give away a signed, first edition copy of The Accidental Demon Slayer, along with a “Kiss My Asphalt” t-shirt like the one that appears in the first chapter of the book. She’s also going to be around all day to answer any questions you might have about demons, biker witches, how you get little dogs onto the back of Harleys, or how you remove green playdough from the carpet (that’s actually my questions, not Angie’s--LOL)! 

Thanks so much, Angie!

Friday, January 30, 2009


by Jo Robertson

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Parenthood” where the wife of a very focused, rules-oriented man rebels against her husband’s structure by sneaking into the closet, opening a plastic box of goodies, and chomping down on a Hostess cream-filled cupcake.

She has this wonderfully defiant look on her face.

Guilty pleasures.

We all have them, right? Those things we adore, but feel a teensy bit guilty about doing? Let me share some of mine with you.

Guilty Pleasure Number One: When I was a young mother with seven kiddies ranging from 18 to 7, I often sneaked off to a movie by myself. I had a “movie purse,” just the right width and depth to fit an icy 7-11 Big Gulp, along with various snacks -- Skittles, M&M’s, maybe even a sandwich and chips. I loved the quiet, nearly empty matinee theater and the intriguing anonymity of sitting in a darkened movie by myself, chomping on my goodies.
Hint: a diaper bag like the one above works best! Oh, and be careful not to tip the bag!

I learned not to tell my friends of this penchant because, well, they thought only weirdos went to a movie alone. Ha! Not so. I’ve found that many people like to do this. Or only maybe people with large families who want to escape. By the way, I always saw lots of working-class men there, especially if the movie playing was an action flick.

Guilty Pleasure Number Two: Pepsis. See GP#1 above. Fully-loaded with sugar and caffeine, none of that diet stuff for me. Sigh. This is more an addition than a guilty pleasure. I wonder if they’ve invented a patch that would help me kick the habit?

Guilty Pleasure Number Three: Dexter. This wickedly funny and brilliantly witty and macabre drama show about a serial killer who targets only bad people aired on Showtime network. It's in its third season, but you can buy seasons one and two on DVD. The writing is superb!

Guilty Pleasure Number Four: Romance books with covers of sexy men. Damn it! Why should this be a “guilty” pleasure?
I read Anna Campbell’s Tempt the Devil on my recent trip to New York and felt compelled to hide the cover of this gorgeous man on the front. But I wanted to stand up in the aisle and shout, “Yes, I’m reading one of THOSE books and I LOVE the cover, damn you all!”

I didn’t. So those books remain my guilty pleasures.
Here are some fellows I'd love to see on the cover of a romance novel. I persuaded each of them to take his shirt off just for this photo session! Enjoy!

What about you?
What are your guilty pleasures?
Reading in a hot, scented bath with candles and your favorite book?
Shopping – can anyone spell S-H-O-E-S?
Sunbathing even though you know it’s bad, bad, bad for your skin?
Chocolate? Ice cream?
And don't forget today's the last day of the Bandita Invasion at RNTV. Join us there for lots of fun, good company, and a chance at prizes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And the Winnah is....

Jeanne: Hi Everyone! My fabulous friend Heidi Betts let her cats choose the winners...okay, not the most standard way to do it, but....Here's what she posted:
From Heidi: Let's see...little pieces of paper everywhere, cats picked...
Congratulations, ladies! Please visit the Backlist page of my website ( & pick a title you’re interested in...& this does include the HOTTER THAN HELL anthology...then e-mail me ( with your book choice & mailing info, & I’ll get your prizes right out to you!
Jeanne: Also, from my blog in early January, I realized I totally forgot to pick a winner!
So...Gannon, drop me an email at Jeanne AT JeanneAdams DOT com and give me your snail mail so you can get some slurpy Godiva!

Countdown Booty!!

A fabulous soiree at the Ritz ... a Top Chef challenge ... a chocolate party ... a Sydney Harbour cruise ... a luau! So many fabulous party ideas -- and I got woozy just reading the various cocktail concotions y'all came up with. Yummy! I'm going to be taste testing all weekend.

The most intriguing idea for me was the murder mystery party, and there were lots of variations on that theme. I loved them all! But I'm going to go with the lovely lady who called it first ...


... as well as the crazy darling who took that theme to its most insanely funny conclusion, with a feathered creature leading the entire Bandita Brigade on a worldwide food fest ...


Now, that would be the end of the prizes -- but then someone special went and created her very own HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER party page, complete with men in kilts, gladiators, and oh my, cabana boys! Plus fabulous food, a delectible cocktail treat, and sensational fashions for everyone! So I'm thrilled to give away a third gift certificate to ...


Congratulations, ladies!! Email me at and I'll send your $15.00 Amazon gift certificates back to you by email!

Thanks so much to everyone for your fabulous ideas. Be sure to come back on Tuesday for the HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER launch party extravaganza!!

Fortunately and Unfortunately...

by Jeanne Adams

Or, Please welcome Heidi Betts to the Lair!

Jeanne: Today I’d like to introduce the fabulous Heidi Betts. Heidi and I have known each other since…well, we won’t go THAT far back in time. (Besides we're both younger and better looking than those two ladies!) *dusts off hands*

Anyway, Heidi is the author of about 20 books and three novellas – we looked it up and here’s the breakdown - 6 historicals, 9 Silhouette Desires, 3 novellas (only 2 published so far, though, 3rd comes out in July), and 2 single title contemporaries (working on the 3rd). I tried to add it all up, but had to email Heidi and get help! Ha! All told, she’s written for Silhouette, Dorchester, and St. Martin’s. Whew!

She’s here today, however to talk about her latest release Tangled Up In Love (St. Martins, February 2009) which will be in stores February 3rd. Not long to wait!! Yeah!!!

It’s her contemporary single title debut and the first book in her “Chicks and Sticks” knitting trilogy. I’m thrilled to welcome Heidi! Hey, girl, pull up a comfy chair, we’ll have a cabana boy bring you something warm and toasty, and we’ll chat.

Heidi: Good morning, everyone! Thank you so much to my friend, Jeanne, and her fellow Romance Bandits for having me! (I love cabana boys, by the way, so feel free to send as many as you like my way. *g*)

Jeanne: So, are you excited to see TANGLED UP IN LOVE on the shelves? Wait, there was something else you wanted to talk about too, right?

Heidi: Absolutely, I’m excited. That other thing? Oh, that would be Fate, because I truly believe that without it, this series would not exist.

Have you ever read the adorable children’s book FORTUNATELY by Remy Charlip? It’s wonderful, and if you haven’t, you definitely, definitely should. The path that led me to write TANGLED UP IN LOVE was so littered with Fortunately/Unfortunately situations that the book jumps immediately to mind every time I think of it.

Jeanne: Really? I’ve not read the book – and I’ve read a lot of kids books in the last few years! – but I think I’m going to get it. So how was it like fortunately/unfortunately?

Heidi: Well, first, I can’t tell you the number of times my agent began phone conversations with “I have some good news and some bad news.” Oh, how I came to loathe those words! And when all was said and done, he got a copy of FORTUNATELY to add to his personal bookshelf — as well as stern orders never to use that phrase with me again. :-P

Jeanne: Ooh, if you said that to me I’d be scared… (Y’all have to check out Heidi’s blog, WIPs and Chains to know why I’m scared…her alter ego is scarwy!) Bwah-ha-ha! Just kidding. Sort of.

Ahem, back to the matter at hand...So what on earth made you want to write a contemporary about knitting? And how is that unfortunate?

Heidi: That’s a story you’ll appreciate. You see, I’ve always wanted to write romantic comedy, but the timing never seemed to work out for me. (Unfortunately.) Then I came up with this idea. A brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. An idea I loved, and just knew was going to be a big hit. I showed it to my agent. He thought it was rather impressive, as well, and sent it immediately over to St. Martin’s Press, where an editor loved it. (Fortunately!) Unfortunately, they had another author already writing for them who was doing something similar (and^%#!), so she couldn’t make an offer. Fortunately, she loved my writing and wanted to see something else.

It took me all of about two seconds to tell my agent that, yes, I would definitely be willing to work up a few more ideas…well, okay, ideas I had; it was proposals that would take a bit of time to flesh out. He suggested I call the editor and talk to her about what she might be looking for. Smart man. Because, you see, it was during that conversation that she happened to mention how much she enjoys knitting, how popular knitting has becoming thanks to books like Kate Jacobs’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, and how much she’d love to find a hot and sexy knitting romance unlike anything that had been done already. (Hey, I write hot! I write sexy!) And then she uttered the eight words that changed my life: “I don’t suppose you know anything about knitting.”

Jeanne: Grins. I think I need popcorn, I just love this story. :>

Heidi: Me too, of course. *vbg* And the good thing is, I do! I do know something about knitting! As a matter of fact, when I first came home from college and announced to my parents that I wanted to write romance novels instead of becoming a teacher the way they’d expected, my mother taught me to knit so that I could sell dishcloths and bath mitts to local craft stores. (It wasn’t much, but it satisfied my parents’ demand that I work while also allowing me time to stay home and write.)

Jeanne: You’re serious? You actually knitted for craft fairs, shows, and so forth while you began writing? That’s great!

Heidi: Yepper. And imagine my amusement when I realized that my knowledge of what I’d always considered simply a hobby might now open a wonderful new door in my writing career!

This phone call took place on a Friday, and I spent the entire weekend wracking my brain for hot, sexy knitting ideas. By Monday morning, I had a one-page proposal ready that I thought did a pretty good job of fitting the bill. It didn’t take long to hear back, and the news was all good this time. (Fortunately!) The editor — and everyone else at St. Martin’s — loved it. In fact, they wanted me to turn that single idea into a trilogy. The only instructions they gave me were to make it as sexy and funny as I possibly could.

So, you see, it was definitely Fate that led me down the knitting romance trail…and reminded me that sometimes what we want to happen isn’t necessarily as great as what’s meant to happen. And I’m so very grateful that things worked out the way they did, because now I get to write three books about three amazingly fun couples I never would have met otherwise. I finally get to spread my wings and write the hot, sexy, funny contemporary romance I’ve always wanted to write.

Jeanne: Wow, that is so great! I love it when it all comes together like that.

Heidi: So do I. ;-) And now that I’ve had my chance to share, I hope you’ll tell me what you think… Do you believe in Fate—or as my agent would call it bashert (which is Yiddish for “it is as it should be”)? Or are you more of a mind that life is just a series of random events dotted with coincidence, and no one is up there leading us to anything?

I can’t wait to hear your responses. Thank you so much for spending the day with me, and for letting me voice my enthusiasm over TANGLED UP IN LOVE. I’d love to invite everyone to visit my website ( — where you can read an excerpt for TANGLED to tide you over until the book hits shelves on February 3rd! — my WIPs and Chains blog (a.k.a. The Dungeon), and my knitting and romance blog, Must Love Yarn, to read more about TANGLED…or to simply chat and have fun!

Also, if the Bandits don’t mind, I’d love to give away three autographed books from my backlist to three commenters on today’s post. (Jeanne: Yeah, like we mind when our guest gives away books!) This includes the HOTTER THAN HELL anthology, by the way, even though it might be a little higher on the page than others.

Thanks again for having me in your Lair!

Love, stitches, and very sharp needles…
Heidi Betts

Also, don't forget to pop over to Romance Novel TV to see today's vignettes and photo. Finish the vignette and win!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The latest prize winner

PJ is having quite the week. Not only did her hang-gliding granny win Day 1 of our finish-the-vignette contest over at Romance Novel TV, but I heard from Helen Scott Taylor that PJ is also the winner of Helen's debut novel, The Magic Knot. Congrats, PJ, you lucky gal!

My New Love

by Suzanne Welsh
I have fallen in love, again.

This is really not a novel thing for me, as I tend to fall in love quite frequently.

When I was 12 I saw Romeo & Juliet for the first time. You know, the one that actually showed Leonard Whiting's naked butt? Seems my English teacher was unaware of that feature in the movie. Oh, I was in complete, adolescent , heart throbbing love.

My Senior year I discovered The Flame & The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. And I adored this book and character so much that I went through 3 copies that year. I was in love.

During nursing school a new sci-fi movie came out about an orphan, a princess, a rogue space pirate and an evil empire called Star Wars. Oh and that rogue space pirate....yeah, Harrison Ford....I was soooooooo in love!

Not long after, I met my dear husband, and I was in love in real life. Still am. Then quickly three little bright-eyed happy cherubs filled my heart with their pug irish noses, laughter, and their lives. Still love them, too.

But then I discovered another author, Julie Garwood and her books. My all time favorite is Saving Grace. Gabriel McBain was the hero of my heart. A Scot, loyal to those without a clan, loyal to a clan who didn't want him until they had no leader. He hates the English, but marries an Englishwoman to protect her from the English King. Oh yeah, and he has a son who may or may not be his....................I was SOO in LURVE! (And while I'm on the subject, don't you think Gerard Butler...another love of mine....could play Gabriel?)

The next time I fell in love it was with Nathan Cantrell. Who you ask is Nathan Cantrell? Well, he's the hero in my first novel REFUGE. Here's his description through the heroine, Laura Melborne's eyes:

Laura stared into the shadows. At first all she could see was the red glow from a cigar. As he took shape stepping into the light reflected off the snow, her heart picked up its pace. Something in the depth of his deep blue eyes, the steeliness of his jaw and the stern set to his lips beneath his dark moustache held her mesmerized. Black hair curled just beneath his hat. His sheepskin coat, turned up at the collar, stretched across his broad shoulders. His long legs were covered in the blue dungarees she'd seen so many men in Denver wearing. He wore heavy boots and in his left hand he held the glowing cigar.

In her need to escape Nigel and the whirlwind of activity in Maryland, she hadn't given much thought to what her husband might look like. But after meeting his brother, she'd imagined him to be a younger version of the polite, kind-hearted lawyer and family man. Nothing had prepared her for this very handsome, very large man whose entire being hummed with intensity and anger.

Dear Lord, what had she gotten herself into?

Sigh...maybe someday REFUGE will get published. That's Tom Berringer in the movie "Last of the Dog Men" (another great movie!) and he's my image of Nathan. Mmmm yummo! Nathan and Laura started my love affair with writing my own stories. With each new book I fall in love with the hero and want to be the heroine. It's an on going affair.

So, who is my new love? That's him over there-------------------->

Peter Rabbit.

Actually, Beatrix Potter, her life, her art and her stories. I loved The Tale Of Peter Rabbit as a child, but I never knew anything about the author until I was an adult. When my kids were small I loved to read them Beatrix Potter's stories, but still knew little of her life.

Now here's a little known fact about me...I have a fascination with biographies. So when the movie "Miss Potter" appeared on my TV, I of course had to watch it. Turns out, Beatrix had a love interest. The movie fascinated me so much I had to google her and find out more.
[That's Renee Zellweger portraying Beatrix in the movie]

Before Beatrix became a published children's author she had a fascinating life as one of the foremost mycologist and illustrator of fungi in England. She also wrote papers presented by her uncle to the Linnean Society and the Royal Society (Big scientific group of men back in her day.) THEN she became a published author, after 6 publishers rejected her children's books about a naughty rabbit.
Yep, you guessed it, all those years ago Peter Rabbit was my first "bad boy"!

So, do you have any secret loves you want to share? Do you fall in love with characters, authors, actors as often as me? If so, who is your latest love?

Don't forget to check out four more Banditas invading Romance Novel TV today. It's been one zany day after another so far!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Debut Author Helen Scott Taylor is Hanging with the Banditas

by Trish Milburn

For several months beginning in August 2007, Helen Scott Taylor and I were two of the 10 finalists in the American Title contest sponsored by Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine and Dorchester Publishing. The prize for the winner? A publishing contract with Dorchester for the winning book. American Title works a lot like American Idol. There were five rounds of online voting, and each round had us putting up some other portion of our book -- first line, descriptions of the hero and heroine, first love scene, etc. Helen and I made it all the way down to the final two, and when the final votes were counted, Helen was declared the winner.

And that's as it should be. See, after the contest started, I sold my first book, a YA novel that will hit shelves this April. But since I was still unsold as of the contest deadline, everyone said I was eligible to stay in the American Title contest. So, at the urging of several fellow writers, I did so. But the final placements allowed Helen the awesome opportunity to have her first novel, The Magic Knot, published. And hopefully I benefitted with a bit of publicity for the novel I'd already sold.

At the time, Helen and I hadn't met in person. But we finally did at the Romantic Times conference last April, then again at the Romance Writers of America Conference in July. We both even ended up on the same city tour of San Francisco prior to the RWA conference, unknown to either of us until we bumped into each other on the ferry. I've discovered over the past year and a half that Helen is a pretty cool gal. So I'm thrilled to host her here in the Lair today.

Q. Your book, The Magic Knot, comes out today. Were you able to sleep at all last night?

A. A friend e-mailed me last week and told me The Magic Knot was already available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. So I’ve had a few days to get used to the idea that it is finally on sale. But even so, the official release date is exciting. I hope it will be on bookshelves now. Although as I live in the UK, I won’t get to check out the high street booksellers. So if anyone sees it on sale in Borders, I’d love to know. Or better still, I’d love a photograph of my book on the shelf.

Q. Tell us a little about The Magic Knot. Was this your first manuscript? How did this story come about?

A. The Magic Knot actually started life in my head as a short contemporary story about Irish identical twin brothers who ran a pub in Cornwall. That is the only part of the original premise that survived. Somewhere during my pondering over the story, the Irish brothers became fairies, I threw in an evil druid and a fire-wielding Irish fairy queen, and my Magic Knot paranormal world was born. This is the third manuscript I wrote. The first was a short contemporary, and the second was a paranormal about a parallel world inhabited by Demons that I’m still hoping to sell once I’ve revised it again.

Here's the back cover copy for the book:

What woman wouldn’t be attracted to Niall O’Connor’s soft Irish brogue and dark good looks? But Rosenwyn Tremain must find her father, and she isn’t going to let a sexy, stubborn Irishman and his motorcycle distract her. Rose’s intuition tells her he’s hiding something, a secret even the cards cannot divine. Her tarot deck always reads true, but how can one man represent both Justice and Betrayal?

Magic. Niall’s body tingles with it when he finds the woman snooping in his room. Rosenwyn might believe she’s a no-nonsense accountant, but her essence whispers to him of ancient fairy magic that enslaves even as it seduces. Her heritage could endanger those he’d die to protect, but her powers and her passion, if properly awakened, might be the only thing that can save both their families, vanquish a fairy queen bent on revenge, and fulfill a prophecy that will bind their hearts together with…THE MAGIC KNOT

Q. The Magic Knot was the winner of the American Title contest sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times. What was it like to go through all those rounds of the contest? And how did you react when you found out you'd won?

A. Taking part in the American Title contest was a fantastic experience. I’m so grateful to Romantic Times and Dorchester for running the contest and giving me a chance to have my book published. As you were with me competing for the winner's tiara right to the final round, I don’t need to tell you it was hard work and stressful taking part—but a lot of fun as well. I made so many new writing contacts and friends through the contest. I didn’t get much writing done while I was taking part as a lot of my time and mental energy went into promotion. But that was wonderful practice for all the promotion I’ve done running up to the release of The Magic Knot. I was amazed when I won. I was delighted to be selected as a finalist, but I thought I’d be knocked out in the early rounds as Romantic Times is not on sale in the UK and I assumed that would be a disadvantage. It was only when I reached the penultimate round that I thought I maybe had a shot at winning. Looking back on the experience now, it feels surreal, especially when I remember going up on stage in Pittsburgh at the Romantic Times convention to accept my prize.

Q. I noticed on your Web site that you've gotten some very nice reviews for The Magic Knot? Were you nervous to read the reviews as they came in? Do you remember who gave the book its first review?

A. I was jittery waiting for the first reviews of The Magic Knot to come in. The first review was from Manic Readers. I found out about the first review when a MySpace friend contacted me and congratulated me on the good review. So far all the reviews have been good, some great. I’m fairly thick skinned, but I’m not sure how I’d have felt if the reviews were bad. I’m delighted (and relieved) that everyone who has read the book so far has liked it. I have relaxed about the reviews now that I have a number of good ones. I keep telling myself you can’t please everyone so not to expect all the reviews to be perfect.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I’ve written the first draft of a sequel to The Magic Knot featuring Michael, the Magic Knot hero’s brother. Currently, I’m revising and editing. Michael was a tough hero to write as he is a bit of a rascal. But he turned out to be remarkable and to have much more depth to him than I had suspected when I wrote The Magic Knot. Right up until I wrote his final showdown with the powerful villain in the sequel, I wasn’t sure how Michael would win out, but he triumphed in his own inimitable way.

Q. When you have free time, what do you like to do?

A. Between running my own business, writing, and kids, I don’t have much free time. I do try to make time for a walk every day, but I’m a fair weather walker so I’m afraid the cold and wet puts me off. I love reading but don’t get much time to read these days. When I go on vacation or have time off over Christmas or Easter, I read as much as possible.

Thanks so much for being with us today, Helen. And here's to oodles of sales for The Magic Knot.

One lucky commenter will win her very own copy of The Magic Knot, so be sure to ask Helen any additional questions you have.

If you'd like to read the first two chapters of The Magic Knot, visit Helen's Web site at

And don't forget that the Bandita Invasion of RNTV continues all week. Stop by today to enjoy more Bandita vignettes of the photo entitled GIRL IN A CAGE. Try your hand at finishing the stories! That's

Monday, January 26, 2009

Countdown to the End Time

by Nancy

Two or three times a year, I discover a new author whose work captivates me. I love finding new books to enjoy, new sequels to await, and never mind what this does to the TBR pile. Much rarer, though is the experience of reading a new author and being totally blown away by the world that author creates. I had this experience last year with author Jessica Andersen's The Nightkeepers, the first in her adventure-packed, hot Novels of the Final Prophecy. Fellow bandita Anna Sugden put us in touch with each other. I'm delighted to have Jessica join us today and celebrate the release of the series' second book, The Dawnkeepers.

Jessica has a Ph.D. in genetics and did research on glaucoma before launching her writing career with Harlequin Intrigue. Her medical-themed books for this line have earned her RITA and Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award nominations. While researching a book, she came across the Mayan prophecies about 2012. Following up on them inspired the Nightkeepers.

Welcome, Jessica! Tell us about the Nightkeepers series so far.

I’m happy to!

The long-count calendar of the ancient Maya ends December 21, 2012, on the day of a potentially dire astrological conjunction. The NOVELS OF THE FINAL PROPHECY tell of the ancient myths that come to life in the years leading up to the end-date, and their opposition by the Nightkeepers, descendants of an ancient race sworn to protect mankind from the apocalypse.

In NIGHTKEEPERS (June 08, Signet), the Nightkeepers’ last king is forced to team up with a sexy female narcotics detective in order to reunite his scattered warriors and fight the demons of the Mayan underworld, Xibalba. Wielding ancestral magic based on bloodletting and sex, the king must choose between duty and his love for the human woman who is the gods' destined sacrifice.

In DAWNKEEPERS (Jan 09, Signet), Nightkeeper Nate Blackhawk isn’t about to let the gods determine his destiny- especially when it comes to his feelings for Alexis Gray, his ex-lover and nemesis. But when they’re forced to work together, racing to recover seven antiquities before the demons get their claws on the vital artifacts, Nate and Alexis will have to face their feelings- and their past- in order to defeat an ancient enemy.

Would you like to share an excerpt from one of the books?

Absolutely!! From DAWNKEEPERS:

As Alexis walked to the throne, she knew she was alone yet not alone. He was here, too - the lover of her dreams, the one who was Nate yet not, the one who loved her like he had, but didn’t break her heart. That was how she had always known it was a dream before. Now, though, she wasn’t sure what to call it. She’d touched the statuette and been transported into a dark, formless corner of the barrier, yet now she was back on earth- she knew it from the taste of the air, and the strong sense of being underground.

When she reached the end of the arcade, the pathway she was on curved and widened, forming a platform in front of the throne. There, in the center of the flat space, she saw shadowy footprints in the dust, those of bare human feet, standing facing the throne.

Almost without conscious volition, acting as she had done in the dream, she toed off her shoes and stepped into the footprints. They fit perfectly, as they had in her fantasies. The certainty that she had been in this chamber before, that she’d done this before, was overwhelming, as was the knowledge that the moment she blooded herself, placed her hands on the altar and said his name, he would be there with her.

The certainty - and the nerves - had her hesitating. Then, knowing she didn’t have a choice, not really, she pulled a ceremonial knife she didn’t recognize from a weapons belt she didn’t remember putting on, and drew the blade sharply across her palm. She hissed against the pain, and blood flowed, dark crimson in the amber torchlight. Then she reversed hands and cut her other palm. Her bloodied fingers slipping on the haft of the knife as she set it aside.

“Gods,” she whispered, hope and fear spiraling up within her. “Help me to be worthy.” More, she prayed for the gods to help her understand what the dreams were telling her- about her mother. About herself, and the man who wore the hawk medallion.

Knowing there was no other way, she closed her eyes and pressed her bloodstained palms to the altar, and said the words that had come to her in a dream, though she was no seer: “Tzakaw muwan.” Summon the hawk.

A detonation rocked the room. Water splashed the walls and the footpath, and the sound of ripples turned to thin screams coming from the carved onlookers, who hadn’t moved, yet somehow seemed to gape in awe.

She turned, knowing what she would see.

He stood opposite her, at the edge where the stone and the water met. His eyes bored into hers, hard and intense and no-nonsense. He wore combat gear, with his black shirt unbuttoned at the top to show a glint of gold. He was Nate, yet not, just as she was Alexis, yet not.

She was the smoke and he was the hawk. And that was all that really mattered as his eyes darkened and he strode toward her, his intent as clear as the need inside her...

How did you become interested in Mayan mythology?

That goes back to when my parents used to take me down to the Yucatan and go ruin ratting. That was just before Cancun really became a tourist destination, so it wasn’t too expensive. It was also back before many of the big ruins were closed to the public, so I got to climb up inside El Castillo at Chichen Itza, dangle my toes over the edge of the sacrificial cenote, and generally immerse myself in the ruins. Those experiences stuck with me for a long time, although my occasional ‘gee, I’d like to be an archaeologist’ thoughts got lost amidst my other interests. Then one day I stumbled on a reference to the Maya long count calendar, and how it would end on 12/21/2012. That totally reawakened my early interest in the Maya, and became a series proposal!

How closely do you adhere to the myths, and how much do you embroider?

Because I needed to be able to deviate from the historical record in places, and because the Maya are a living culture, I conceived the Nightkeepers as the remnants of an older, magic-wielding culture that lived with the ancient Egyptians, then the ancient Maya (accounting for some of the apparent cultural similarities between the two groups). Thus, while the Nightkeepers’ myths aren’t exactly the same as those of the Maya, they’re largely parallel and consistent in feel. Both groups worship their ancestors, use blood sacrifice and sex as channels to reach their gods, and revere sacred foods such as chocolate and maize. However, the Nightkeepers’ religion places far more emphasis on the power of mated pairs- and the magic inherent in lovemaking- than the Maya did.

Our regular visitors know I really love super-heroes, and your Nightkeeper magi seem to be in that tradition. Did you make conscious choices to make them that way, or did they just sort of evolve?

I’d say the answer to that is “yes” and “yes.” LOL! I’m a sucker for a super-hero, too, particularly the ones that start off as everyday people. I wanted to write about people like you and me who got ‘that call’… you know, the one where your (adopted) parent says, “Um, you know those stories I told you when you were a kid? Well, they’re true, you’re one of the people in them, and you’ve got four years to save the world.” So in that way, yes, I set out to write about a group of super-heroes. But in so many other ways, the stories evolved out of the Maya tradition, and the momentum that the characters themselves built as I started writing.

Which heroine and heroine would you say have the darkest romantic conflict?

I’d say that each of the characters and their romantic conflicts have some very dark aspects. Because balance is an important part of the Maya tradition, each of the mated pairs is a complex mix of light and dark that balances out when they come together despite their obstacles. Of the books that are finished so far, SKYKEEPERS (coming August 09) is easily the darkest, due to the nature of the hero’s past, and the sacrifices he’s asked to make. But I know for certain that at least one, maybe two of the future books will take it even further than that as we get closer to 2012 and things start spiraling.

Which character do you think has the hardest road to travel, if you can tell us that without giving anything away?

I’d like to think that each of the characters has, for them, the hardest road to travel. When dealing with a nine-book story arc, with each book focusing on a different hero and heroine, I think it’s important that although the larger stakes need to increase from book to book, the stakes for each hero/heroine pair have to be the absolute highest for them, personally, in their book. And that means giving them the hardest decisions possible for their personal circumstances.

The Final Prophecy series is very different from your other books, Harlequin Intrigues. Tell us about those.

Glad to! My Intrigues are almost always science-based, either medical suspense or forensic procedural, often inspired by my own lab experiences. Because I’m the sort of reader who loves coming away from a book feeling as though I’ve learned something, I generally explore a cool aspect of science in each Intrigue. I try not to lecture - and my editors make sure I don’t! - but I also try to include interesting details that the reader might not have known going into the story.

What are you working on now, and what are your long-range plans?

I’m working on the fourth ‘Keeper book as we speak. Signet just bought books four through six- yay! And assuming sales are good enough for them to continue with the series (fingers crossed), there will be three more after that, bringing us up to the final battle at the end of 2012!

Do you have any upcoming signings where our visitors might meet you?

My upcoming signings are: Feb 7, Farmington, CT; Feb 14, Millbury, MA; and Mar 28, Framingham, MA, as part of a major multi-author signing run in conjunction with the New England RWA conference. More deets on all of the above are on my website:

Readers, what’s your favorite kind of epic tale? Do you expect an apocalypse, as so many cultures foretell, or not? If you were going to visit the world of a particular culture’s myths, which culture would you choose?

Jessica's giving a signed copy of Dawnkeepers to a randomly chosen commenter!

Don't forget, the Romance Bandits are blogging on RNTV all week! We've written vignettes and are giving away prizes. After you comment here, pop over and join us.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Countdown to Launch!!

By Kate

Save the Date! You’re invited to a party! A launch party. Right here in the Lair, ten days from now, on February 4.

It’ll be huge, wild, fantastic! You won’t want to miss it. Because we’re celebrating the publication of HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER – my first book!! After twenty years of writing, you bet I'm celebrating this one!

And I don’t mean to brag but—oh okay, I’ll brag just a little. RT Magazine gave HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER their highest rating and called my bookbinder protagonist, Brooklyn Wainwright, “brilliant, feisty and funny.” I hope you’ll agree!

So that’s why we’re having a party! It’ll be unlike any party ever in the history of the Lair—because you’re all going to help me plan it!

Now let's get serious. We’ve got some stiff competition. I mean, remember La Campbell’s incredible masquerade ball to launch Tempt the Devil? And I’m sure you recall Madame Wells’ cabana boy extravaganza starring, among others, Sven the masseur and his hunky brother, Lars for her launch of The Dangerous Duke. And speaking of dangerous, can we ever forget Jeanne’s Dark and Dangerous crazy wild office party hullabaloo? And there are so many others. I mean, you'd think this place was Parties R Us.

So in keeping with the party spirit of the Lair, I want something big, really big, maybe even bigger than anything ever seen before! This occasion calls for a blowout, call-the-cops, raise-the-roof, wildest-ride-of-your-life shindig that will have everybody talking for years to come. Come on, twenty years in the making? This party’s got to rock the universe!

So help me out. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to? We’re talking real life – or virtual partying, if that’s your preference. Was it an intimate soiree or did it involve a cast of thousands? Did you fly off to some exotic locale or hang out around somebody's pool? What did you wear? Who did you see there? And most importantly, what fabulous cocktails were you drinking?

Okay, I admit I’m desperate for some great new party ideas, so I’m giving away TWO $15 Amazon gift certificates to the two most fabulous party details you’re willing to share. And if you’ve got a new drink recipe, I want to hear about it!

And to keep the party going, be sure to stop by my newly decorated
blog anytime in the next ten days, leave a comment and be eligible to win a fabulous book launch party package including books, Barnes & Noble gift certificate, chocolates and more!