Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jodi Thomas Talks Texas, Then and Now.

by Suzanne

One day I was pushing a cart full of groceries through the store, ignoring my three children argue about which items they could add to the cart, feeling very mommish and worn out. As per my usual habit, I cruised through the book/magazine section looking for something new to read. There was this Western Historical Romance by an author I'd never heard of before, Jodi Thomas. Thinking, "why not?" I threw the book into my cart.

That began my love affair with Jodi's books. (I've read them all!)

So imagine my thrill at meeting her at an RWA conference. Then seeing her again at the Richardson, Texas annual "Buns And Roses Tea" last fall. And to top it off, get to invite her to join us on today's blog!

Suzanne: Jodi, thank you for taking the time to visit with us. You are the Writer In Residence at West Texas A&M University campus. What does that position entail and how are you enjoying it?

Jodi: I enjoy being writer-in-residence. Once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess. I have an office in the library and most afternoons you'll find students visiting and reading their work to me. I teach one short class each year for the continuing education program and am very excited to be teaching in the West Texas A&M Writing Academy from June 8-12 www.wtamu.edu/oce. or phone for information: 806-651-2037. I feel like if I'd had a working writer to talk to I might have saved a few years struggling, so in June four multi-published writers plan to meet in Canyon, Texas on the campus of WTA&M and spend a week working with people who want to be published in fiction. So please tell any future novelist to pack their lap tops and book a room in the dorm for a week. They'll love the workshop and they'll experience a taste of my beloved Texas.

Suzanne: I'd like to do this virtual interview either in your campus office or your favorite spot on campus. If you could describe it to me, we'll try to give your readers a casual glimpse into that spot.

Jodi: I'll do better then that, I'll take you on a walk in my world. My office is on the second floor of Cornette library. My window overlooks a small campus. Last Thursday I sat out in snowy weather and watched a rodeo, today I plan to drop by the baseball game. Walking across campus I see students who look like they just climbed out of bed and headed to class. (I swear they still have their pj's on) and I see cowboys in their hats and boots climbing out of their pickups. (Some drive a hundred miles round trip a day from their farm or ranch to attend here.) I live in a place where men still hold doors and tip their hats in hello. If the wind is blowing over 30 mph. we think it's a calm day. I work among librarians, who I've decided are the kindest people in the world. My favorite spot on campus is the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum where I often walk and think.

Suzanne: What a fascinating place to visit. As a RWA Hall Of Fame Author for you Western Historicals, you've taken your readers into the world of the Texas cowboy. What do you find so romantic and enduring about these characters?

Jodi: I love setting my stories in Texas History. Between 1830-1890 Texas was a wild place where strong people carved out lives. I like to write men who are strong and try to do the right thing. They live by a code of doing what is right. I like to write characters like this because I know men who live by such a code.

Suzanne: Your most recent western historicals were the anthology, GIVE ME A TEXAN and the single title, TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN. Can you tell us about those stories?

Jodi: GIVE ME A TEXAN was about a man who'd always thought he was ugly, but he had a gift for listening. When he offers marriage to the prettiest girl he's ever seen, he does so after hearing what she truly wants. After one meeting, they board the train and head to Amarillo. GIVE ME A COWBOY-a story about early rodeo days, followed TEXAN in February 09. Check out the short look at a video of GIVE ME A TEXAN AND GIVE ME A COWBOY on my website, http://www.jodithomas.com/

TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN is a Whispering Mountain story about a man, Teagen McMurray, who had to grow up at 12. He takes over the family ranch, holds it in turmoil and raises his little brother and sister. In so doing, he hardens by 30 to a man who doesn't know how to talk to anyone. He has one friend he corresponds with by mail-a bookstore owner in Chicago. The book opens when the friend wills Teagen his wife and three daughters. And, Teagen, who has feared nothing in his life suddenly finds himself afraid of a little widow and her daughters.

I loved writing this story. I think it's one of the most tender love stories I've ever written. The reader will laugh and cry with my characters in this touching love story about a hard man who learns to be tender.

Suzanne: A few years back you stepped out of the past to write contemporaries set in West Texas, the first of which was The WIDOWS OF WICHITA COUNTY How did it feel to work in a new genre after being so successful in the historical market?

Jodi: I love historical fiction, but every now and then a story came to mind that didn't fit in the past. WIDOWS OF WICHITA COUNTY was like that because it's based on an oil rig accident. My husband tried to get me to make it fit in a historical, like change it to a stage coach accident, but I couldn't. The learning curve was huge on that book. When I finished, I told him to shoot me if I ever wrote another multi-viewpoint book again because it was far too hard. About six months later I called his office and told him to go home and lock up the guns, I was starting another one. I'm now working on my sixth contemporary, (and by the way, we have no guns in the house). I have to admit that I love writing in both styles and when I'm working in one time period, I'm thinking about what I'll do when I get back to the other. For a list of all my books click
Suzanne: TWISTED CREEK was one of my favorite books last year. Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?

Jodi: TWISTED CREEK is about a woman who believes bad luck follows her and when good things start to happen, she doesn't think any of them can be true. She loves one person, her Nana and her grandmother is growing old and forgetful. This book is a journey into seeing people through someone else's eyes and learning to love. Readers will fall in love, not only with a place, but with the nesters, the people who stay at the lake after everyone else leaves at summer's end.

Suzanne: Your newest release is REWRITING MONDAY. It takes place near TWISTED CREEK, doesn't it?

Jodi: It does take place near TWISTED CREEK. I plan on writing a series of books set around a cluster of small towns.

Suzanne: At first glance your hero and heroine are ordinary people. What twist do you give them?

Jodi: I enjoy taking ordinary people and showing how they, just like all of us, sometimes stand as silent heroes in our lives. Pepper is a type A personality who never slows down, never backs down, and never commits in a relationship. Mike is a shy man who does his job as editor of a small town paper, not because it's the life he would have chosen, but because it's where he's needed. When they meet, she's on the run from a mistake she made that may end her career as a reporter. He feels her come into his life like a breath of fresh air, unaware that his past is about to destroy all the peace he's known.

For me this story also came to life with the secondary characters, a couple who loved one another and was separated by so much time they weren't sure they could ever get back to where they once were. REWRITING MONDAY is a story about last chances, first loves, and the longing we all have from time to time to rewrite a moment in our lives.

Suzanne: What is in store next for your fans? A historical or contemporary western?

Jodi: My next story will be set in the historical time period. THE LONE TEXAN will be the next book set in Whispering Mountain. It will be out in October. The hero was a wild kid with no one to care for him, the heroine was a cherished sister with three big brothers. Sage is a doctor returning to Texas after being widowed and Drummond, a young gunfighter who's loved her since he was a boy, is the last person she wants to run into. Their love story is as wild as Texas in 1859.

Suz: Thanks for being with us today, Jodi! It's been a great pleasure to chat with you. So, readers, which are you? A contemporary or a historical fan? And if you could go back to any time period, what and where would you go? Me? Definitely western america.

Jodi has agreed to give away an autographed book and a tote bag as a prize package to two lucky winners.

**don't forget, click on any book cover to order Jodi's books, or any on the sidebar to order the Bandit's newest releases!**

Monday, March 30, 2009

All About Barbie, But What About G.I. Joe?

by Jo Robertson

I wanted to write a post celebrating Barbie’s fiftieth anniversary on March 9. But then I thought about the “dolls” that boys play with when they’re younger. We don’t call them “dolls,” but that’s certainly what they are.

So, Barbie and G.I. Joe.

A few years ago Dr. Big and I visited Scotland on a golfing vacation. He wanted to play the original courses of the birthplace of golf – St. Andrew, Carnoustie, and Turnberry. I wanted to tour the castles.

Among our group were two young couples, the men insanely we
althy and quite worldly, the women blonde and vacuous. I privately dubbed the women Barbie I and Barbie II and told Dr. Big they’d be killed off by the third tee in my upcoming mystery. Their conversation spun around fake boobs, manicures, and hair extensions.

Surprisingly we became friends and by the end of the trip, I confessed to them that I’d given them the names of Barbie I and Barbie II. They were immensely flattered and I saw beyond the surface of their glitz and superficiality to the warm, if somewhat self-absorbed, women beneath.

Barbie is an icon so entrenched that the story above gives you a perfect picture of these two women by simply naming them.

So to celebrate Barbie’s anniversary I thought we’d play Barbie Trivia. See how many of the questions you can get right about Barbie before you look at the pictures below or scroll down for the answers. By the way, the Barbies to the left went for $17,000 at auction. Wow! Got any mint Barbies lying around?

1. What was the first Barbie wearing?

2. Who was Barbie’s younger sister who made her debut in 1961?

3. What was the first source of controversy about Barbie? What were Barbie’s original dimensions if translated on a 1/6 scale?

4. What was the cost of the original Barbie?
5. The last question is about G.I. Joe. What does the G.I. stand for?

Here's some Barbie history:

Barbie was born in March 1959 and has wormed her way into the hearts of young girls for fifty years. I was too old for dolls when Barbie was born, so my connection with her came through my three daughters. And did they ever love Barbie!
Yes, the first edition Barbies to the right were dressed in the black and white zebra-striped bathing suits.

Having seven children, our family couldn’t afford all the glitz and glamour that came with Barbie – her townhouse, her horse, her spa. Just the basics. So my girls made their own dollh
ouse out of a discarded appliance box and fashioned their own clothing line from scraps of fabric left in my sewing basket.

Small wonder that they also sewed their own Barbie outfits for each other to commemorate milestones in their own lives. Barbie Graduate when my oldest graduated from college, Barbie Married when my second walked down the aisle, Barbie Business when my youngest got a huge promotion at work.

The Angela Merkel Barbie to the left was the first female diplomat to be made into a Barbie.

The controversy question is a tricky one. Initially mothers were concerned about the realistic portrayal of Barbie's bustline -- a doll with breasts -- my goodness! -- but the real controversy centered around her waistline. Her waist was widened in 2000 to reflect a woman's natural figure and a belly button added. On a 1/6 scale Barbie's original dimension would've been 36-18-33; she would've been about 5'9" tall and her weight on her trademark pink scale was 110 pounds! Many wome felt that this unrealistic ideal woman would affect girls negatively.

Barbie was the brain child of Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, who’d watched her own daughter play with dolls and saw that she enjoyed pretending with dolls that were more like women than babies. Handler had a hard time selling the idea of a full-figured doll to the company, but eventually prevailed.
Barbie's little sister was Skipper and the first Barbie doll cost a whopping $3!

Barbie had the grown-up doll field until Hasbro produced the G.I. Joe action figure in 1964. Joe was a 12-inch “doll” much like Barbie but designed for boys.

Does anyone remember those early action figures, which included Batman, Superman, and other heroes? My sons had several of them, and their favorite was Joker. It wasn’t until the 80’s that the 3 ¾ inch hard action dolls became popular on the heels of the Star Wars movies.
The G.I. initials stand for "galvanized iron" instead of the "government issue" that many believe. On their inventories the military referred to many of the supplies made of galvanized iron, such as trash cans, as GI.

I always wondered why G.I. Joe and Barbie didn’t hook up. Seems a natural development to me.

What’s your experience with Barbie dolls or action figures? Did you play war with your action figures or house with your Barbies? Do you think Barbies are as popular now as they were initially?

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The winner of the autographed copy of Jaye Wells Urban Fantasy RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is WENDY!! Yahoo for you, Wendy!!

Please send your snail-mail addy to Suzanne @ swwelsh2001 AT yahoo DOT com. (Be sure there are 2 ww's in that addy.) And I'll be sure that prize is sent ASAP!! Congratulations, Wendy!!

Bandita Booty!!

Round and round the random number generator spins and where it stops ... we have a winner!!!

Anthea Lawson!!

Congratulations!!! Not only are you a Rita finalist for your First Book, but you're the random winner of the $15 Amazon Gift Certificate for commenting on Rita/GH Call Day!!

Maybe you should consider playing the lottery. :-)

Please send your snail mail address to me at katecarlisle99@yahoo.com and I'll send you the Gift Certificate this week. Congratulations again!

P.S. I wanted to give a tip of the hat to Shelf Awareness.com for the book game we played. Thanks again to everyone who commented!

The Squishy In Between

by Susan Sey

So I was working on an outline for my latest masterpiece, & I surprised myself.

This almost never happens.

I am, in a word, predictable.

I've had the same five CDs on shuffle in my car well over a year. I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Lunch, too. (Different from breakfast, but the same every day. Just in case you were worried I've been eating the same meal twice a day, every day. Even I know that's not good for you.)

On Friday nights I make pizza & after church on Sundays we have eggs & bagels. I love to eat out but am sometimes reluctant to try a new restaurant in case I don't like it. I'll have wasted my "out" meal--a luxury for me--on something I didn't like. Wah.

And when I write, I write single title contemporary. I don't seem to have any power over this. I write in the world as it stands, & no matter how dark a backstory I give my characters, they speak in charming, zippy back-and-forths. Nothing for it, this is simply what I do.

So I was surprised--nay, shocked--when my latest masterpiece in progress took itself a jag into the paranormal. Light paranormal, actually. Extremely light. Questionable, even. But paranormal nonetheless.

Which has me nervous. Even if I enjoyed gadding about in new & unusual places (ha), I'm not sure it's a great idea to write myself into a questionable place in the library. Or the bookstore for that matter. Why mess with the Squishy In Between when you can write something easily defined, easily shelved, & easily consumed?

When I buy a book, I like to know What It Is. This may be my obsessive/compulsive nature coming out, but that's why I have a particularly soft spot for category romance. Those authors are SO GOOD at defining the read. Is this a lost love book? A secret baby? A marriage of convenience? I like to know. The enjoyment comes from having my expectations met with skill & charm.

I'm not sure readers like to be surprised but for now I'm stuck in the Squishy In Between. Neither here (straight contemporary) nor there (paranormal.)

What do you all think? Is there room in your library for something that doesn't FIT? Do you like to be surprised, or do you buy a book because you know what you're getting? Do you have any favorite books that weren't what you expected? Or any authors who are great at serving up a surprise?

Saturday, March 28, 2009


by Suzanne

Have you ever people watched? Just sat on one of the benches at the mall and watched the crowd? It's fascinating. You never know what you'll see.

There's always the harried mother of at least three small children, trying to get her shopping done without losing a child or her mind. Sometimes they take the time to sit and regroup. Maybe a bottle or a drink, or a wipe of a runny nose. Maybe time to soothe tears or give a hug.

There's often the fashionably dressed woman in heels, bustling
through the crowd, her heels tapping out a warning to more sedate walkers to get out of her way. Since I don't wear heels and makeup to go to the mall, these women always amaze me. I wonder if they're on a lunch or dinner break from work.

If you go early enough on a weekday, something I get to do having days off during the week, you'll see the senior crowd. Often white-haired women in groups of two or more in sweats walking the perimeter of the mall as fast as they can, chatting as they go. Sometimes it's a family member pushing a wheelchair of the elderly, or a couple holding hands as they slowly window shop.

There's usually a few groups of teens milling about. Some are in to fashion--to the extreme--sporting fashion labels that I certainly can't afford. Others are into their own kind of fashion--pierced facial features, spiked hair, dog collars. Even those into extreme Goth. Funny how you can watch these groups and be surprised which ones are the most curteous, while others aren't. (Usually not who you would've thought.)

Which brings me to the point of this blog. People watching. It's what writers do. Everyone has a story. My RWA chapter sold tee shirts and mugs a few years back with the saying. WARNING: What you do may appear in my next book. I had mine at work until someone broke it. Hmmm, wonder if that was the next person I meant to kill off in a book? (This is the tote bag with the same slogan available at Cafepress.com.)

Watching people lets me think, "What is that person's story?" Is the Goth kid rebelling against society or really a serial killer waiting to happen? Is the harried business woman trying to buy a power suit with her last few dollars in order to make a good impression on a much-needed new job? Have the older couple walking the mall been happily married, or does one of them have a secret they've hidden from the other for fifty years?

How about you? Do you ever people watch? Do you ever make up your own stories about people you observe?

Friday, March 27, 2009


By Suzanne Welsh

As many of you know I'm the resident vampire of the Lair. Not so much because I drink blood, but because I work at night, which means I also prowl the Lair at all hours in the dark. So it seems rather appropriate that I invite my friend Jaye Wells to the Lair after hours to discuss her Urban Fantasy series.

Suz (offering Jaye a glass of Merlot):Welcome to the Lair, Jaye. Have a seat here near the fireplace. Please excuse the sleeping cabana boys and poor Sven the masseuse over there. They've had a hard day taking care of our Banditas and Bandit buddies. RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is your first book. We love "call stories" in the Bandit Lair. Care to tell us yours?

Jaye:(takes a long swig of wine and settles in) Thanks, Suz. Okay, I love telling this story. My husband left for Japan the week my book went on submission. At the time, we laughed about what would happen if I sold while he was gone. So funny, we thought. Little did we know.

Fast forward eight days. I'm sitting in a play area with my son. We were cutting snowflakes out of construction paper when my cell rang. Now, I'd convinced myself that if The Call was coming it would happen before noon. I don't recall why I thought this. So when my phone rang at like five on a Wednesday evening and I saw it was my agent, I was convinced he was calling with bad news. I figured he was letting me know we'd gotten the first rejection.

So I pick up and he says, "Are you sitting down?" I sighed, still thinking it was bad news, and went to sit on a stool that was literally a foot off the ground (kid's area, remember?). So I'm squatting there, waiting for the bad news, when my agent informs me that he's gotten an offer for a three book deal.

I leapt off the stool and screamed "OH MY GOD!" Then I promptly burst into tears. Remember: I'm in the middle of a play area surrounded by tired mothers and toddlers. I'm sure they thought I was insane.

After I'd calmed down a little and assured my son that I was crying because I was happy, my agent drops the next bomb. Since this was the first response we'd received, he needed to call the other editors. Then he said words I never thought I'd hear, "We'll probably go to auction."

Well, sure enough two days later, my poor tired husband gets off a plane from Japan. I literally walked in the door from picking him up and got on the phone. The next several hours flew by with me pacing around the house as I fielded phone calls from my agent. Toward the late afternoon, he called to tell me Orbit had preempted. So at 5:30, ten days after my book went on submission, I had myself a three-book deal. And my husband made it home just in time to drink champagne with me.

Suz: What a great story! I've read Paranormal Romances for years, what is the difference between and Urban Fantasy and a Paranormal Romance? Also, how is an Urban Fantasy different from Sci-fi or Epic Fantasies (ala Lord of The Rings)?

Jaye: To me, the main difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy to be one of focus. In paranormal romance the plot centers around a budding relationship and usually ends in a happily ever after. In urban fantasy, the central plot revolves around one character's goals--be that defeating the bad guy, saving the world or what have you. You often find romantic elements in urban fantasy but you're much less likely to get a happily ever. But all this flies out the window when books get into bookstores. A lot of books I'd consider UF are being shelved in romance right now.

As far as UF versus science fiction or epic fantasy, the biggest difference for me is world building. Science fiction and fantasy don't occur in "our" world. Generally the author creates a unique world--another country or planet or galaxy. But in UF, the world is more like an alternate reality where vampires, werewolves or what have you actually exist in our modern world.

It's difficult though because there are exceptions to both these answers. Urban fantasy is really such a blending of genres that there aren't a lot of hard and fast rules or formulas--just generalities.

Suz: What sparked your interest in Urban Fantasies?

Jaye: There's a swagger to Urban Fantasy, a bit of rebelliousness that appeals to me. I love the blending of genres and the challenge of world building and the sense that I'm going on a journey with the characters.

Suz (reaching for the wine bottle and topping off both glasses): I had the pleasure of reading a copy of RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. In it, your heroine, Sabina Kane, is an assassin for the Vampire race. That's not a typical career choice for heroines. How did you make her sympathetic to the readers and did you find that hard to do?

Jaye: That's a good question. Honestly, some readers won't find Sabina sympathetic. She's foul-mouthed, has anger issues and is really good at self-deception. She's also got no qualms about violence. With a character like that, the goal isn't sympathy--it's empathy. You aren't supposed to feel sorry for Sabina, but you do need to understand why she does what she does. And that is achieved by showing her motivations and how her situation affects the choices available to her.

Suz: You did some "other world" building in RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. Can you tell us about the world you created? Was it difficult coming up with unique characters for all the worlds?

Jaye: When I sat down to create Sabina's world, it was important for me to understand where the dark races came from. So I started at the very beginning--literally. The dark races--vampires, mages, etc.--all started with one important event. According to some Jewish traditions, Eve wasn't Adam's first wife. Instead, a female named Lilith was created from dust just like Adam. When she demanded Adam let her be on top during sex, she left him and went to go consort with demons at the Red Sea.

I basically took this folklore and reworked it so the affairs Lilith had after she left Adam resulted in the creation of the dark races. Everything else just kind of came together from that, including the changes I made to the vampire mythos. For example, there's a direct connection between the fact Lilith left the Garden of Eden before the fateful forbidden fruit incident, and the fact apples can rob vampires of their mortality.

Coming up with main characters was pretty easy. Some of it comes from instinct based on the needs of the story, and other times they just pop up while I'm working. Vinca, who is Sabina's nymph roommate in the book, is an example of a character who just appeared. She ended up being one of my favorite characters.

Suz: Without giving anything away, you have a romantic interest in the book for Sabina. Do you want to tell us about him and will he continue to play an important role in the other books?

Jaye: Adam is a mage who initially causes a lot of trouble for Sabina. But he ends up being an ally and mentor of sorts, who helps Sabina get in touch with her magical side. Yes, there's also some sexual tension, but their relationship is far from a romance at this point. He will continue to play an important role in the overall story, but whether he and Sabina will end up together? Well, I'll just say there's a lot of story left to tell and you never know what might happen.

Suz: Are you planning more stories for Sabina?

Jaye: Absolutely. Right now I'm contracted for three book in the series. The second book, MAGE IN BLACK, is scheduled for release in January 2010. Plus, short story prequel of sorts will appear in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, vol. 2 this winter.

Question for the readers: If you were a character in an Urban Fantasy novel, would you rather be a mage or a vampire?

Jaye is giving away an autographed copy of
RED-HEADED STEPCHILD to one lucky commentor.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

To Take a Thief

by Nancy Northcott

Today, we welcome Karen Kendall to the Lair. Some of you may remember Karen from last year, when we discussed the video for her first romantic suspense novel, Take Me If You Can. On April 6th her new book, Take Me Two Times, will be released. It’s the sequel to Take Me If You Can, and several characters from that prior book will reappear. Karen joins us today to discuss the joys and pitfalls of sequels and series.

The joy part is easy: as the author, you get to revisit favorite characters that you’ve already developed. Though Take Me Two Times is Gwen’s story (secondary character from TMIYC) it was great fun to bring back Avy (an art recovery agent for the company ARTemis, Inc.) and Liam (the sexy and incorrigible British master thief) in Take Me Two Times. I also delighted in keeping Sheila, the obnoxious office manager for ARTemis, alive on the page and torturing Gwen. And crazy rock star Sid Thresher is back, too! I have such a soft spot for Sid, disgusting as he is . . .

Now for those sequel/series pitfalls.

One of the dangers of bringing popular characters back is their tendency to try to steal the show from the hero/heroine of the new book. This is hard to avoid, because the author has already spent a lot of time fleshing out the former characters—and if the author is like me, she’s banging her head against the keyboard while trying to get a handle on the new ones! Oh, how tempting it was to let Avy and Liam have extra chapters instead of diving deep into the old hurts and conflicts of Gwen and Quinn, her old lover. I had to rap my own knuckles several times.

Another difficulty in developing a sequel and working with former characters is keeping those characters’ conflicts alive . . . you know, the same conflicts that you slaved to resolve in the prior book. Or you can invent a whole new set of conflicts that spin off from the old ones—but again, this is hard work. And then how do you engineer the plot so that the subplot connects properly with it? Believe me, that was an issue that led to further head-banging on my keyboard. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the “t” key and the “y” key are still embedded in my forehead and will one day have to be surgically removed.

But, wait! There are even more problems in series. Have you planted the characters for the next book solidly in the previous one? And have you developed a series “arc”? And what if you made a character an only child in one book but then desperately need to give him a brother in the next? Ooops. What if you’ve made a character a villain in an early book but then decide you’d like to redeem him and bring him back as a hero in a later one? Everything an author does in those early books of the series affects what she can do in later ones. (Does anyone remember the sequel to National Velvet? Was I the only person who noticed that the horse in NV was a gelding, and therefore couldn’t possibly have produced the foal that stars in International Velvet? Again, oooops.)

I’m still developing the third book in my TAKE ME series, Take Me For a Ride (to be released in November ’09) and due to something I mentioned in the April book (Take Me Two Times) I had to set it in a city that I’ve never set foot in! I could have kicked myself as I bought stacks of guide books and looked at Google images and studied maps and did research on the internet. Yep, I had to take off like a rocket on my armchair travels . . .

I hope very much that I’ll get to write more books in the TAKE ME series. But I’m sure that those books will bring their own sets of problems, many of them generated by what I wrote in the first three. Of course a lot of these problems end up being enjoyable puzzles to solve, but I’ll never admit that publicly. What’s that you say? I just did? And on the internet, too. I guess we just discovered yet another pitfall of series and sequels: the art of keeping certain things hidden throughout the books until you’re able to reveal the Big Secret in the end.

Yes, I do have a big secret in the TAKE ME series—and that’s the identity of Kelso, the silent partner in ARTemis, Inc. (Well, sometimes he’s not so silent, but nobody has ever seen him and believe me, they’ve tried.) Who do you think he is? If you want to take a guess, go ahead!

And please feel free to ask me any questions about the characters and books in this series, which revolves around an agency that recovers stolen art. Thanks! Happy reading.

When you read series, do you find yourself becoming interested, as Karen did, in different places? Have you ever read a series in which a character who initially looked like trouble turned out ot be a hero or heroine you loved? Do you have a favorite series with an plot or character question that isn't resolved until the end?

For more about Karen and her books, visit her website, where you can also read an excerpt from Take Me Two Times.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's That Time Again...

By Kate
RITA and Golden Heart calls are going out today! Somebody's going to get THE CALL!!!

If it's you, we want to know! Leave us a comment and we'll celebrate with you!!

But meanwhile, the Banditas are on edge. Even if we don't have an entry in the contests this year, we're nervous for our friends. How can we pay attention to anything but the telephone? Will it ever ring?

We can all relate, right? After all, we Banditas met when we all finaled in the Golden Heart in 2006. I'll bet we all remember that day, right? Good things happen on RITA/GH Day, right? But it’s very stressful! It means so much! Who has time to blog???

Deep breaths, everyone.

Since we're all in a tizzy and unable to concentrate, today's post won't be about the weather (It’s a sunny 74 degrees today and I wore a wool jacket. *sigh*) or deadlines (Ack! Don't ask! The book’s due this week!!) or the core emotional theme of my book (huh?) because nobody cares! We're all staring at the telephone!

I think we need a small distraction while we wait for the phone to ring, so I've got a pop quiz for you! You’ll like this quiz. It’s all about our favorite books and authors.

I’ll go first.

What book is on your nightstand now? Jennifer Lyon’s BLOOD MAGIC

What was your favorite book when you were a child? Cinderella

Who are your top five authors? Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Pat Conroy, Robert Crais, Julie Garwood

What book did you fake reading? One Hundred Years of Solitude

What book did you buy for the cover? Hmm. Have I ever done that?

What book changed your life? Catch-22

Favorite line(s) from a book: I'm thinking, I'm thinking. Any suggestions?

What book would you most want to read again for the first time? The Prince of Tides

Whether you take the quiz or not, one random commenter will win a $15 Amazon gift certificate!

And don’t forget to let us know if you GOT THE CALL!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009


by KJ Howe


What images do those two words conjure up in your mind? Bandits (not Banditas!) toting Uzis, large suitcases of money, a woman being dragged out of a car? I've been doing research on this topic and the results have been fascinating—and somewhat unexpected.

Did you know that:

Hundreds of businessmen a year are kidnapped with ransoms reaching $30 million dollars a year.

When it comes to the vulnerable super-rich and famous people, so much secrecy surrounds the business that experts can't get an estimate in the money paid out—the only info available is that one in three kidnappings goes unreported and ransoms of $5 million aren’t uncommon.

Some wealthy individuals implant homing devices in their bodies, although the pros say that the devices aren't helpful and they leave a telltale bruise.

The cost of protection against kidnapping has become a major business. Armored Mercedes, multi-million dollar kidnap ransom insurance, $4,000/day professional kidnap-negotiation services have become the price to pay for being a possible target.

In the movies, the kidnap/ransom agent draws out the call, engaging the kidnappers. In real life, the conversation is short, punchy, and never sweet.

In the United States, 95% of all kidnappers are caught. In places like Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Russian and the Philippines (hot spots for kidnappers), 99% of kidnappers are never convicted. Kidnapping is often accepted as yet another form of business for out-of-work police and soldiers. In some countries, the same gangs negotiate over and over again with the same kidnap negotiators and get to know one another's voices.

The survival rate of people with kidnap insurance is 85%. The policy often includes lost wages to a corporate victim, a family vacation and psychiatric help afterward—all of which are desperately needed. People who are kidnapped have an incredibly difficult time readjusting to real life—being held in captivity with no news is like being in a time capsule, the world goes on but yours doesn't. Also, when a member of your family gets kidnapped, it's like the whole family is kidnapped. The family is imprisoned in the home, waiting for the next call, for any news.

There are more fascinating facts and figures involved in the netherworld of kidnapping, but I need to save something for the novel I'm working on...so please forgive me for holding out. LOL

I'd love to hear whether your thoughts on these questions or any others the blog might stir up:

Should ransoms be paid or is that playing into the kidnappers hands? (Some non-profit organizations can’t afford to pay or have a strict no-pay policy.)

Should kidnapping protection be left to private industry or should the government get involved?

What advice would you give to someone who has been kidnapped?

What is the best book/movie you’ve read/seen about kidnapping?

Thanks for dropping by the blog today! Hope I didn't scare anyone. :)

The Secret Language of ...

by Donna MacMeans

When I was writing THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE (which has a release date of April 7th, but you can preorder by clicking on the image at right *g*), I wrote a "wordless" scene where the heroine and her nemisis have an entire confrontation by virtue of the postioning of their hand fans. (Don't worry, it's possible to determine the substance of the "conversation" by the reaction of witnesses - but if you have any doubts - I've put a full list of the meaning of the various fan positions on my website.)

Here's the thing - I'm not sure I buy all the supposed "secret" languages of the Victorian era.

How discreet can a "secret" communication be if every woman in the room can interpret the meaning of the various signals? Certainly the men must have been privy to this language as they were often the intended recipients of the signals. Somehow I have difficulty believing this was high on the priority list of the eligible bachelors. To compound the problem, I found different interpretations of the same hand gestures.

For example, if a woman rests the fan on her right cheek, it means "yes." If the woman rests the fan on her left cheek, it means "no."
If she drops the fan - which I must admit, if I were transported back to the nineteenth century, I'd be doing this constantly - it means either "We will be friends" or "I belong to you" depending on which interpretation you follow. (By the way, I stole the fan image on the left from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It dates from 1840.)

I purchased a hand fan for the Dallas RWA convention to use when I awarded the winner of the Golden Heart - Long Historical award. I learned that the crisp "whump" of the fan being snapped open is a highly desired sound. I also learned that it's best to have a firm grip on that baby when dramatically snapping it open as the fan is likely to sail across the room! (Yes, I know that from experience!) However, I could not find an interpretation of that particular gesture. (This fan, by the way, is another is the V&A collection and is an example of a fan manufactured to match a particular fabric. This one dates from 1880).

Some of the described gestures translated in the language of the fan sound like they'd look a little ridiculous in the execution. For example, if one should place the fan behind one's head with a finger extended...no it is not an insult of Victorian proportions...it means "goodbye." (Hmmm....maybe it IS a crude insult and the "goodbye" translation is grossly understated) But how silly would that particular gesture appear?

The whole concept of a secret language of fans made me think about more modern secret languages. For instance, an earring stud worn in a man's left ear means something entirely different than one worn in their right ear, doesn't it? We all know that a gold band worn on a woman's left ring finger means she's married, but does it have a special meaning if she wears it on her right hand? I have to admit I'm clueless if these things do have a secret meaning. *g*

I did a quick Google search and discovered that many things are purported to have a secret meaning from the way we sleep (our bed positions) to the way we talk. (In the midst of an argument, the response "nothing" tends to mean something else indeed!)

So my question for you is - are you aware of any secret meanings in modern culture? Share please so we all can learn - or laugh if that's the case. *g* Heck - feel free to make them up! I think to a certain extent, that's how the secret language of fans began.

As THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE is a sequel to THE EDUCATION OF MRS BRIMLEY (blantant self-promotion here), I'll send a copy of Mrs. B to the person with the best "secret" interpretation to ... anything (but keep it G-rated please.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

by Anna Sugden

There used to be a storytime programme on BBC radio called "Listen With Mother" which started with just those words.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then, I'll begin.

What better way to open a blog post about sexy voices? After all, the guys I'm going to talk about could read me a bedtime story any time!

I remember listening to the director's voice-over for Love, Actually where Richard Curtis talked about having Alan Rickman round to his house and ended up reading his son a bedtime story. As you might imagine, Richard Curtis was also drawn in by the great Alan Rickman's voice and story-telling skills.

Who can forget the amazing scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral when the delicious John Hannah read that WH Auden poem with his yummy Scottish accent? (He's pretty sexy in Sliding Doors too). Did I mention that I bumped into him once in a book store?

And who can deny the appeal of Sam Elliott's deep, gravelly voice. I love the movie Tombstone, as much for listening to him speak as for the romance between Wyatt and Josie and the divine Doc Holliday (I'll be your huckleberry!)

Then, there's George Clooney. Somehow, whenever I hear him speak, I can hear the twinkle in his eye.

And Eric Roberts (yes, his sister is Julia) - I remember a Molson beer commercial years ago where the strapline was "long, cool, good and bubbly ... come on". Be right there, Eric!

Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart is another favourite - the man could make the back of a can of bathroom cleaner sound fascinating!

Though I'm not a huge fan of the Irish accent, Liam Neeson is a major exception. His voice and accent complement each other perfectly.

So, come on share with us - who do you think has the sexiest voice? Who would you like to read you a bedtime story?