Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brenda Novak's in the Lair

We're thrilled to welcome back NY Times Best-selling Romantic Suspense author Brenda Novak! Drumroll please!!

Brenda's my long-time friend, mother of five, and wife to hottie Ted. And she's flat-out the nicest person I know. Oh, yeah, and the author of 32 books. She also sponsors a hugely successful Online Auction for Diabetes Research.

Brenda, I know the auction is a project near to your heart. Can you tell us a little about it?
Third Auction Coupon winner is our very own Bandita CAREN CRANE -- yay, Caren!!

Brenda: When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at five years old, I knew enough about the disease to realize he would require constant care,
but the long list of side effects really threw me. I thought if we gave him insulin, and he suffered through the many fingertip pricks and shots, he'd be fine. Unfortunately, that isn't necessarily the case. Diabetes affects every major organ--your heart, your kidneys, your liver, your nerves, etc.


Then I thought about the number of people facing the same risks and knew I had to fight back. I decided it might be smart to do an event on my web site so that my fans and publishing friends could participate--and the idea for my auction was born. This will be auction #5. Last year, we raised $252,300. This year we're shooting for $300,000.

We have over 2,000 fabulous items up for auction, many of which you can't get anywhere else. And this year we'll have something new--$1 "Buy it Now" opportunities for aspiring writers. This will enable them to get their work in front of some of the most prestigious agents and editors in publishing for only $1. I will randomly list these items throughout the auction--it could be in any category--and the first person to find such an item will be able to buy it for only $1! There will be other fun $1 "Buy it Now" auctions for those who are not writers.

Jo: Wow, Brenda! I love the new $1 “Buy It Now” opportunity! I've participated every year in the Auction since its beginning and love the excitement of bidding and the good feeling of knowing my money's going to a worthy cause. Can you tell us some of the items that are up for bid this year?

Brenda: One of my personal favorites is Anna DeStefano's Coach handbags. Who doesn't love a good handbag? LOL Or Dianne Despain's antique jewelry. I just got an antique cameo worth $600 from Kathryn Caskie. There are meet and greets with editors and agents, a fabulous painting from my all-time favorite artist Marilyn Sears Bourbon (I own three of her paintings and want more!), a whole list of fabulous offerings from Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love and Mary Buckham, a complete collection of Christine Feehan's wildly popular DARK series (all autographed), a stay in Nora Roberts' inn, opportunities for people to name a character in various authors' books (authors like legal thriller writer John Lescroart!), lunch with Barry Eisler in San Francisco, a handmade quilt from Anne Stuart, and over 100 autographed books from Booklovers Bookstore, including an autographed copy of one of the best books ever written--CLAN OF THE CAVEBEAR by Jean M. Auel.

The second winner of the $25 Auction Coupon is, ta da -- CrystalGB. Congratulations!
I could go on and on. There's SO much in this year's auction--something for everyone. And these items make unique gifts. You could immortalize your friend, sister or mother by buying the "name a character" item. How fun would it be to give that away?

Jo: You can find out more about the auction and the items for bid at Brenda's website -- Check it out! You don’t have to wait until May 1, when the auction officially starts to see what’s available and plan your strategy for bidding. The Romance Bandits have a basket up for Auction this year and we’d love one of our readers to win it!

Now, let's hear something about your new series, Brenda. I know the books are The Perfect Couple, The Perfect Liar, and The Perfect Murder. The titles are so intriguing. Tell us more
about them.

Brenda: I'm excited about these books! They're all part of my Last Stand series that began last year with TRUST ME, STOP ME & WATCH ME, but they're only loosely connected, both to the series and to each other, so they also stand on their own.

In THE PERFECT COUPLE, Zoe Duncan’s thirteen-year-old daughter goes missing from her own backyard while home sick from school and private investigator Jonathan Stivers is called on to help find her. But he's never had fewer leads to work with--and is sure of only one thing: Sam was taken by someone close to the family. He has no idea how close until he realizes that the “perfect” couple next door is anything but...

Jo: Ooooh, I love the premise of that story! Additionally, anyone who buys a copy of THE PERFECT COUPLE in the first week it comes out and sends Brenda the receipt will have the opportunity to join her fan club and receive a Brenda Novak tote with goodies. See details at THE PERFECT COUPLE comes out Tuesday, July 28 so you'll need to buy it between July 28 and August 5 to be eligible.

Brenda: THE PERFECT LIAR is about obsession. After air force captain Luke Trussell goes home with the wrong kind of woman, he's falsely accused of rape, putting his career and his reputation at stake. He didn't force his attentions on the woman who's been coming on to him for months, but she has the bruises--and the DNA evidence--to make her claim convincing. And Karina Harter is determined to have him, or make him pay.…

In THE PERFECT MURDER, investment banker Sebastian Costas is trying to unravel the truth behind the murder of his ex-wife and son. The evidence suggests a murder-suicide, but something he heard the week before the killings won't allow him to accept that. He believes her second husband, a cop, killed
her and the boy, then faked his own death. But proving it isn't easy--or safe.

Jo: These books sound wonderful. Look for THE PERFECT COUPLE's release on July 28.

Okay, now for a quick personality test. Will the REAL Brenda Novak please weigh in with her answers?

1. Favorite food? Thai food--Yellow curry (spicy ) I also love pizza, but I know that would make me sound like too much of a kid, sort of like picking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

2. Preferred sleeping wear? Comfortable underwear

Jo: No need to elaborate!

3. Hugh Jackman or Daniel Craig?

Hugh. I think he’s gorgeous, but I’m sort of mad at him right now. LOL I was planning on offering a day on the set and lunch with him as part of a promotion for my next book, and his publicist got involved AFTER I had it all lined up and screwed it all up. So sad…

Jo: Ah, now, that just breaks my heart. Hugh's quite popular in the Lair and as you can see, we're on a first name basis with him.

4. Favorite non-romance writer?

Wow--too many to pick just one. Margaret Mitchell is probably my all-time favorite. I think she’s as good as Charles Dickens at characterization. Someone who's still alive and writing? Philippa Gregory would be one. I read THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL while on a three-day drive to Cabo San Lucas with my entire family (yes, we drove!) and couldn’t put it down. Janet Evanovich is considered mystery, so I guess I can name her, too. :-)

5. Most romantic place in the world?

Prague. I visited the city last year and was captivated by its beauty. More than any other European city I’d seen on this particular trip (we drove through Germany, France, Italy, Monoco, and Austria, too) it felt we were stepping back to a far more romantic time and place. The famous Charles Bridge, which connects Old Town to Mala Strana was simply magnificent. And there seemed to be such an upbeat air to it all (whereas Venice had the feel of decay and ruin that made me depressed).

Thanks for joining us today in the Lair, Brenda.

Our final winner for a $25 Auction coupon goes to . . . wahooo!! RUTH C. Congrats, Ruth.

Brenda and I have some special prizes for our Bandita readers and friends.

First, throughout the day we’ll choose 4 random posters to win a $25 off coupon for Brenda’s Online Diabetes Auction. Check back often to see if you've won. Meanwhile check out the auction items at Brenda's website.

Second, at the end of the day one lucky poster will receive a free autographed copy of STOP ME, the book that was just nominated for a Rita.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn to weigh in. Ask Brenda anything you want to know about her career path, writing process, the auction, or her books.

Or, if you’d like to play the game, what are YOUR answers to the five questions above?

And don't forget to come back to see if you've won the $25 Auction Coupon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Personal Grooming & Other Dangerous Hobbies

by Susan Sey

My curling iron exploded last week.

Okay, so maybe exploded isn't the right word as it implies flames & suchlike. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say my curling iron spontaneously disassembled itself. While I was using it.

It was a shock at the time. There I was, holding a tube of million-degree metal inches from my eyeball when one of the screws holding it all together shot across the room. I had just enough to time think, "What the hell was that?" when the other screw shot out, too, & the whole deal went SPROING (seriously, it made that noise) as the clampy bit that grabs your hair hurtled across the room at high velocity.

I wish I could say this came as a surprise but it didn't. Not really. For some time, I'd been contemplating putting the old girl out to pasture. It was at least a decade old. The plastic bit that keeps your thumb from roasting alive had disappeared years ago. The little foot that keeps it from melting your bathroom counter? Same thing.

But my inner eco-warrior kept saying, "Oh come on. You use it, what? Like once a quarter? You really want to toss this one in the landfill while it still adequately bends your hair?"

Well, yeah. Yeah I did. But I want lots of things I probably shouldn't have. Dessert for breakfast. An unlimited supply of paperback books. A reason (any reason, please lord) to skip the gym. And since my idea of personal grooming rarely extends beyond showering, brushing my teeth & using deodorant, could I really justify a new curling iron?

Clearly I could not.

Was I being frugal? Environmental? Stingy? Careless?

Nah. I think I just hate change. I liked my old curling iron. It had an on button, an off button & it curled the hell out of my hair. (No easy feat, that. Teflon only wishes it was my hair.) Now I have to go back to the dance & find a new partner, which a recent trip to the beauty aisle at Target has assured me will be complicated. Nano-ceramics will, apparently, be invovled. Jeesh.

Now some people like newness for newness' sake. I am not one of those people. I will wear underpants until they are nothing but a band of elastic. I once owned a car that required a set of instructions if anybody besides me drove it. ("The gas gauge doesn't work so you'll have to reset the trip tyche every time you fill up & calculate your mileage to see when you're due for a fill up. You also have to roll down the window & let yourself out the drivers' side door as the inside handle's broken. Speaking of the driver's side window...")

I think maybe it's not newness I dislike so much, but the choosing. I hate trying to pick out the best new thing from a whole bunch of other new things. It's so much pressure. What if I choose badly? What if I screw it up? What if it's an expensive mistake? What if the choosing process forces me to acknowledge unflattering truths about myself? (Underwear shopping is great for letting those unflattering truths out of the bag, by the way. I'll bet I'm not the only girl out there wearing her unders to shreds.)

Same goes for starting a new book. Is this the right hero? The right heroine? The right match up? What if this other guy's better? Is this the right tone? The right conflict? The right place to start? I have probably written more Chapter Ones than any person on the face of the planet. And it's all because I'm the kind of girl who holds onto her curling iron until it explodes on her.

So how about you? Do you hold onto stuff (or habits or theories or people) until they blow up on you? Or do you thrive on novelty? Does new give you a kick or a headache? What was the last thing you kept too long, from leftovers to an outgrown boy/girl friend?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Demon Booty!

We have booty to give away! Lisa Shearin is graciously giving a Raine Benares gift basket to one of the commenters on her guest day. The basket includes all three Raine Benares books and assorted other goodies!

The winner is (drumroll, please . . .) Suzana! Congratulations, Suzana.

Please email and arrange to collect your winnings!

To everyone who didn't win, thanks for stopping by and better luck next time!

You Have Won ... Bandita Booty!!

Okay, no, it's not £1,500,000,000.00, but it's practically as fabulous!! :-)

The random winner of an autographed copy of Homicide in Hardcover is . . .


Congratulations, Pissenlit! Please send your snail mail address to me at and I'll send you the book ASAP!

Thanks to all for a fun day of dreaming!!


Bandita Booty!!

by Anna Sugden
We have a winner!!

One lucky commenter has won her choice of either "Nutcase" or "What Looks Like Crazy" by Charlotte Hughes!

So, without further ado ... Congratulations to ...


If you email me at with you snail mail addy, I'll pass your info on to Charlotte.

A Trip To Station Five: Too Hot To Handle!

by Suzanne

Welcome Banditas and readers, please move to the back of the van and buckle up, because we're going on a field trip today. Actually, Jo Davis and I are going to take you with us on a trip out to Station Five to see how her team of sexy firefighters spend their day. Jo needed to do some on sight research, so as her trusty sidekick and handy photographer, I of course got an invite, too!

It's a long drive out there, but we have plenty to talk about, like how happy Howard and Kat are since their wedding. We also talk about the serial killer who nearly took the delicious "Six-pack" from his woman. Now that would've been a shame.

We pull up outside the firehouse, a modest brick building with two large bay style garage doors, both open for our arrival. As we all pile out of the van, who comes out to greet us, but the sexy, but surly Captain Sean Tanner, himself.

As the captain walks over, we notice two other hunks straighten from their task of waxing the engine to smile at us. Oh,'s Julian Salvatore and Zack Knight! Is it getting warmer out here?

Sean stops in front of us, over six feet of lean, rough-hewn male. He's in his early forties, dark brown hair just beginning to go silver at the temples. Though his smile is welcoming and transforms his face from hard to handsome, it doesn't quite reach cool green eyes that hint of terrible loss. But we don't have time to dwell on that as he puts us as ease.

Sean: Ladies, welcome. It's good to see you.
Jo: Great to see you guys again! How have you been?
Sean: All right, I suppose. Work has been busy, which is either good or bad depending on where you're sitting.
Suz: I know exactly what you mean. I'm a labor and delivery nurse, so I understand what it's like some to hang around some nights for hours with nothing to do. The second you wish there was something going on...
Sean (nodding): All hell breaks loose. Believe me, we know. (He turns to call to Julian and Zack) Are you two going to stand back there and gawk, or come and meet two pretty women?
Julian: Coming, Cap! Who am I to refuse such an invitation?
Zack (rolling his eyes): He's such a walking gland.
Julian (shooting him a grin): At least I can get a date-
Zack: Who probably needs a round of antibiotics afterward.
Sean: Boys! Good God, those two are hopeless.

Jo and I exchange a Look. Julian and Zack might be hopeless, but they make for darned fine eye candy. Both have black hair, but Julian's is cut a little longer, falling attractively over dark eyes. Zack's is shorter, and his eyes are laser blue behind his wire-rimmed glasses. Both are about the same height and build, though Zack is a little more lean. Julian's grin is completely unrepentant, while Zack's smile is shy.

Zack: Sorry about that, but Jules knows exactly what buttons to push.
Julian: Hey, it's not my fault you're as sensitive as a little girl.
Zack: I've got your girl right here-
Sean: Um, Zack? Why don't you give Jo and Suz a quick tour of the station. I think Jo needs a refresher on some of the procedures and such.
Zack: Great idea. This way, ladies!

Zack leads us into the bay where the big engine, called a quint because it has the big ladder on top, is sitting next to an ambulance. In one corner there's a boat used for water rescues, and there are other mysterious pieces of equipment lying around. Everything is neat and orderly. For a building full of men-plus one woman-that's saying something!

Zack: This is the quint-our single most important piece of equipment besides the ambulance. Not to mention a main attraction with the kids. The aerial ladder reaches 105 feet. The quint weighs 65,000 lbs, or 32.5 tons, and carries a price tag of nearly $200,000.
Suz (running my hands over the smooth, shining chrome): Cool!
Jo: Wow, that's expensive! How long does a quint stay in service?
Zack: It depends, but somewhere in the area of 12-14 years. Retired trucks are auctioned off by the city to volunteer departments. The last one auctioned fetched around $35,000. Ready to go inside and we'll see what Tommy is making for lunch?
Jo (dubious): Uh...Tommy's cooking?
Zack (smiling): Not to worry, Eve is helping him. I promise we won't poison you before we send you home.
Jo: Thank heavens!

Jo and I follow him inside, both of us noting how well his cute rear fills out his regulation navy pants. In the kitchen, an attractive, dark-haired woman who must be Eve is standing beside Tommy Skyler, instructing the blond Brad Pitt look-alike in making something tasty. Glancing up, both give us a smile and exchange hellos.

Zack: Come on, let's leave them to it while I show you the living quarters. Down this hallway are the bunks-two beds in each room with a stand of lockers between the beds for semi-privacy.
Suz: Eve doesn't share a room with a male firefighter, does she?
Zack: No, but that's a good question. Our station is updated and set up so a woman doesn't have to share either bedroom or restroom/shower facilities. Many stations aren't so fortunate, and the women must bunk with the men, use the same showers, etc. Which can really cause unhappiness with some of the wives and significant others.
Jo: I can imagine! How do male firefighters really feel about having a female on the team? Be honest.
Zack: At our station, we're more than cool with having a woman. Some aren't, which is a shame. The physical agility test to become a firefighter is strenuous, so if she can pass, be a team player, she's earned her spot same as anyone else. Eve, in particular, is awesome. You couldn't ask for a better person to have at your back.

Zack gives us a peek into the rooms, which are amazingly small, especially given the size of some of these guys! And those beds don't look like they'd comfortably accommodate a growing teen much less a man!

Suz: I've seen college dorm rooms bigger than this.
Zack: Tiny, huh? You should see Six-Pack trying to move around in here. He's got it worse than any of us. Speaking of the devil...

Lieutenant Howard "Six-Pack" Paxton emerges from one of the rooms and strides toward us. Oh. My. Gawd. The man is six feet, six inches of pure, muscled testosterone. A woman could drown in those big brown peepers and his spiky brown hair bleached blond on the ends is just too fetching.

Six-Pack: Girls, enjoying your visit?
Jo: We are, thanks! Zack is treating us like royalty, and Tommy is making lunch.
Six-Pack (grimacing): Well, two out of three isn't bad. (He throws Zack a pitiful look) Isn't the bottle of Tums empty?
Zack: Eve bought a new one and brought it this morning. Extra-strength.
Six-Pack: Bless her.

A peek into the pantry and we see the LARGEST box of TUMS every! Which makes you wonder just how bad Tommy's cooking really is?

Zack: Say, I was just about to show the girls the locker room, maybe bunk them out in our gear. Want to help?
Six-Pack: Sure, that'll be fun. Ladies?

Our two hot guides lead us to the end of the hallway and through another door. In this long, skinny room are a row of open lockers with hooks in each. Zack explains that each man on each shift is assigned a locker where they store their equipment when off-duty. Sure enough, coats, pants, and hats, and boots are crowded into two thirds of them. The A-shift lockers are empty.

Suz: Where do you keep your gear when you're on-shift?
Six-Pack: Out in the bay, next to the quint. Saves time to have all the stuff out there, ready to go.
Suz: Ah! So that's why there were boots, coats, and things lying out there.
Zack: Exactly. Why don't we get you guys dressed so you can get a taste of how it really feels to be weighed down by all our gear?
Jo: Sounds like fun!

Zack and the lieutenant borrow two sets of gear from another shift in case they need theirs in a hurry. First, Jo and I step into fire pants and then boots several sizes too big. The boys help us pull up the pants and secure them with suspenders. Already, we feel like we're made of lead, but the heavy stuff is yet to come.

Next comes the coat, which is heavier than you could imagine! But the real kicker is the oxygen tank and face mask-a unit we learn is called the SCBA, or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. Jo doesn't like having the mask over her face one bit, and we laugh while she gives us a mock glare. Once the microphone is secured to our collars, the thermal imagine camera is last. Since there's only one of those, Zack hooks it to my right front strap. Now that I'm fully equipped, I feel like a slight shove could push me over-and I wouldn't be able to get up!

Jo: Lord, this is like being encased in cement! How much does all this equipment weigh?
Zack: Over 50 lbs. Comfy, huh?
Suz: Right! All the good citizens of Sugarland better be glad Jo and I will never be called out to save them dressed like this, because they'd be in real trouble!

Zack and Six-Pack have a good laugh, then undress us. (Just the uniforms, unfortunately!) After they put their colleagues equipment away, Zack gestures back the way we came.

Zack: So, are you brave souls ready to try Tommy's cuisine?
Jo: You bet!
Suz: Lead the way!

How bad can it be? After all, compared to what these guys have to do every day, the dangers they face, what's a little indigestion?

That's our trip to the firestation, (which Jo and I really did go to a firestation for her research and my personal desire to meet firefighters). And as you can see, Jo's second book about the Firefighters of Station Five, UNDER FIRE, is hitting the shelves May 5th! This is Zack, the sexy shy hero of the group and trust me, it will melt your panties off, again!!

So, do you like heroine driven books or hero driven books? And if you like hero-driven books, what are your favorite group of heros?

Jo is goin to give an autographed copy of UNDER FIRE to one lucky reader today! And if you want to see more of Jo's HOT firefighters, go to

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Trouble With Books...

by Suzanne

This Romance Bandit gig is a very cool thing. One of the benefits, at least for me, is that when I do an interview with a guest, I get to read a new release about a month ahead of anyone else. (And being the restrained person that I am, I NEVER rub it in to friends that I got to read a favorite author before them...Yeah, RIGHT!) This is very necessary for me in order to pull out interesting questions, so you, our readers get to learn about the books, without giving away any twists.

So, in preparation for Lorraine Heath's return to the blog in June, I asked her to send me an ARC or a synopsis of the newest release, SURRENDER TO THE DEVIL, so she and I could get her blog post done ahead of time. Since I have a new grandson due around June 1st, I didn't want to get behind on things. (It's a grandma thing.)

Lorraine happily complied with my needs and sent me the book. Now here's where I made my mistake. I opened it. Sigh. Lorraine is what I call a beginning to end author for me. What you say is a beginning to end author? Well, here's my way of categorizing authors or books:

1. TRY AND SEE: Usually a debut author or someone who has been recommended to me by a friend as someone whose books I should try. I usually start these early in the afternoon or evening, or even during a slow period at work. If life or work interrupts, well that's okay, I don't mind. If it's pretty good I'll come back to the book. If it's not one that holds my interest, then I figure I haven't wasted too much time on it.

2. READ IN SPURTS: Anthologies and fairly good books that don't grab me and hold me deep in the story. Anthologies are good for this, because I can usually read one of the stories in about an hour. And in an anthology, usually two stories are good. (By the way have you ever noticed that in a 3-story anthology, usually one story is really good, one is pretty good and well, the other is meh?) So I can invest time in short bursts, still have time to get the ironing or cooking done and not feel guilty about mid-afternoon reading.

3. CRITIQUES: These are those lovely stories my critique partners, (Sandy Blair and Jo Davis), send me--usually in big chunks and across the computer. I try to read them as quickly as possible so I can get any changes or ideas back to them ASAP. Also, luckily for me I love their writing and characters, so this is not a hardship for me!

4. BEGINNING TO ENDERS: These are the auto buys. The favorites. Those authors who I know will deliver a story that takes me away to a world beyond my four walls, to lives and loves I know I'll be bereft over when they're finished. (Julie Garwood, JAK, SEP, Suzanne Brockmann, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, and of course, Lorraine Heath.) These are the books I plan on spending the day or evening/night reading. They are my dirty little passions...and I do not want to be interrupted reading them.

So, the moment I opened Lorraine's newest book, I knew I was in trouble. I had to be up early for a chapter board meeting. I needed to sleep. Did I go to bed? Did I act responsibly? Nope, I indulged. AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT!! (I'd tell you more about SURRENDER TO THE DEVIL...but that's for June's blog...hehehe)

So, how do you categorize your books? Do you have BEGINNING TO ENDERS? Do you set aside a whole day or evening/night to read?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Trouble with Demons

Today fantasy author Lisa Shearin joins us in the Lair. Lisa writes the popular Raine Benares series, which started with Magic Lost, Trouble Found. Her third book, The Trouble With Demons, is due out this Tuedsay. Welcome, Lisa!

Who is Raine Benares, and why is she in so much trouble?

Raine Benares is an elf and a seeker, a finder of things lost and people missing, kind of like a gumshoe/private detective with daggers—lots of daggers. Raine’s occupation is at odds with being a member of the notorious Benares crime family. Some of the things Raine’s hired to find are better off staying lost, and one of those is the Saghred, an ancient, soul-stealing stone of cataclysmic power. When the Saghred bonds with Raine and she can’t get rid of it, she suddenly finds herself with the kind of attention a girl can do without: the sadistic leader of a goblin secret society, the sexy but secretive commander of the Conclave Guardians, and a renegade goblin prince. And when attacks in back alleys fail to capture Raine, the goblins take the legal road. As Raine said, “I couldn’t be bonded to just any old stone of cataclysmic power. Mine had lawyers.” Oh, and by the way, at least once in every book something big gets blown up—warehouses, embassies, gates to Hell—just your fun, garden-variety pyromaniac targets.

Raine has interesting problems with the men in her life. Can you tell us a little about them?

Tamnais Nathrach is a goblin nightclub owner and a friend of Raine’s. He wants to be more than friends. Like most goblins, Tam wears his black hair long—and his fangs aren’t for decorative use only. If a fight gets dirty, a goblin won’t hesitate to use their fangs to lethal effect. Tam won’t hesitate to use his fangs to nibble on Raine’s neck or the tips of her pointed ears.

Mychael Eiliesor is an elf and the commander of the Conclave Guardians, the most elite magical fighting force in the seven kingdoms. At first he’s after Raine to keep the Saghred from falling into the wrong hands; later he wants to keep Raine from falling into anyone’s hands except his own.

Would you like to share an excerpt with us?

I heard the creak of leather as Tam came to stand directly behind me, the heat of his body warming me. Warm and nice. Except it wasn’t nice; it was dangerous. Don’t forget dangerous, Raine. Tam was dangerous to anyone who crossed his path, but mostly to me, especially now.
And I was dangerous to everyone, period.

Tam’s strong hands settled on my shoulders and gently pulled me back against him. I knew it was a bad idea, but I leaned into him anyway, my head resting on his chest. Just a minute or two wouldn’t do any harm. A little comforting never hurt anyone, and right now, I could use some.

Our reflections looked back at us out of the glass.

I watched Tam’s hands slide from my shoulders to my arms. His hands were deliciously warm. My numerous brushes with death today had left me shivering—and not just from cold.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. Those two words said everything, but told me nothing.

Tam could be sorry for any number of things: the bond that linked us, using me to cram that demon into a bottle, me being accused of practicing black magic, or even the crap heap my life had become thanks to the Saghred. But it didn’t tell me what I could do about any of them. The only thing I wanted more than to run was to do something, anything to find a way out of all of this.

Tam wrapped his arms around me, pulling me closer, his head bowed, hair falling in a silken curtain around us. The side of his face softly brushed against mine, like a cat—a big, dangerous cat. A shiver ran through me. This was about to go beyond comforting.

My heart sped up, and not just from Tam’s touch and his scent of fire-heated spices, of cinnamon and cloves. Getting within arms’ reach of Tam had always been risky; the kind of risk where your clothes somehow ended up on the floor. Now risk had turned to danger. Thanks to our bond, we were as intimate as two people could be and still keep their clothes on. The Saghred had forged our bond.

The rock never did anything without a reason—and no wards held it now.

I swallowed hard. “Tam, no.”

“Raine, I would never hurt you.” Tam’s voice was a husky whisper against my ear. It was the whisper of a man torn between what he wanted and the knowledge that what he wanted could ultimately destroy him. Tam wanted me. Tam’s black magic wanted the Saghred. Deep down, he knew it. He knew it and he didn’t care—or he couldn’t stop himself.

In one swift, smooth move, Tam turned me to face him. I didn’t fight him; I needed to see his eyes, to see if Tam was the only one home in there. I looked up into twin pools in a midnight forest. Not the solid black orbs that they’d been under the embassy, no black magic glittering there, just desire. A woman could drown in those pools. I could drown in those pools. But if did, I’d drag Tam under with me. It might not be tonight, but it would happen. The Saghred would see to it.

“No, Tam,” I said quietly. “I’m the one who would hurt you.”

His heart pounded beneath my hands as he pulled me tight against him, his body hard against mine, his breath warm against the tip of my ear. I expected his lips next, followed by a nibble of fang. Neither happened. We stood there, not moving, not speaking, not safe. Definitely not safe. And we both knew it.

Tam pulled back just enough to gaze down at me. “It won’t happen yet.” His denial was murmured on the barest breath. He bent his head, his lips poised above mine. “Not yet.”

I didn’t stop him, and I should have.

Tam’s kiss was a brush of featherlight silk, tentative, cautious; but his breathing had taken on a ragged edge—for me and for the power that had slowed to a soft pulse inside of me, anticipating, waiting. The touch of his lips quickened that pulse, and my breath along with it. Suddenly I was returning his kiss, my mouth pressing insistently against his, my tongue touching the smooth sharpness of his fangs. Tam shivered at the contact, and his breath came in a quick hiss as his long fingers gripped my hair, holding my head still as he kissed me hard and deep, devouring. His other hand left my waist to explore other places. I heard a soft groan; I think it was me. A slim slice of my consciousness knew it was more than me, more than Tam.

Stop this, Raine. Stop it now.

I couldn’t.

My hands took on a life of their own, sliding from Tam’s chest to his throat. I lingered there, my fingers resting against the vulnerable pulse point, feeling it quicken and throb at my touch. Tam’s arms tightened around me, and suddenly my feet weren’t touching the floor.

This was more than sensation, more than Tam and me. Magic curled in a sensuous swirl of heat through my belly and lower, along my skin and through my mind, and I saw Tam and I pressed together as if I were standing outside my body, a witness to passion that I had no control over. Tam’s magic answered mine, his power responding, transforming those swirls into living vines, touching, entangling.


Heat flared in the center of my chest, awake and eager, and I came back to myself, passion turned to panic.

I wasn’t across the room; I was clenched tightly in Tam’s arms. Our lips parted and we froze, pressed together, breathing fast, our hearts beating faster. Inside of me, the Saghred’s burn went from an exultant blaze to a triumphant smolder.

The rock had just given Tam a sample of the ultimate fix and a taste of me along with it. For a recovering addict, it could be damnation. Tam might be willing to risk it; I wasn’t going to risk Tam or myself.

I got my hands between us and pushed hard against his chest. “Tam, let me go.”

I was panting, so was he. A shudder ran through his body and his hold on me loosened just enough that my feet touched the floor. I was ready to fight him if I had to, but Tam released me.

“I’m sorry,” he managed between breaths.

I pulled air into my lungs, trying to clear my head, and took two steps back. I’d have retreated further, but my back was against the glass wall. Tam made no move to come after me.

I exhaled and tried for some more air. “My fault. Shouldn’t have . . . let you get that close.”

Tam’s lips were parted, breathing softly. “I should have had more control.”

His dark eyes were still drowning pools, reflecting fear at what had happened, but desire at what we’d done. I looked away. I couldn’t drown if I didn’t go swimming again.

“Though control would be easier to come by if you didn’t feel so good.” There was still fear in Tam’s eyes, but his sly grin was sex itself. “And if you hadn’t tried to stick your tongue down my throat.”

“I didn’t try to—” Then memory collided with sensation. Oh yes, I did. Damn.

“Maybe next time we should just stand across the room and talk dirty to each other,” he suggested.

“There can’t be a next time.”

Tam didn’t answer. He might be a scoundrel, but he didn’t make promises he couldn’t keep.

You're an exhibition fencer. How did you become interested in that?

I took fencing and archery in college and the love of both never left me. My husband and I started taking lessons and jumped at the chance to become part of our fencing club’s Renaissance group, The Ship’s Company. We did fencing shows and demonstrations at movie premieres, Renaissance faires, museums and schools.

Since I’ve begun writing Raine’s adventures, unfortunately I haven’t had the time to get back into the fencing gym. But I have five years of fencing experience to fall back on (my Olympic weapons of choice are the foil and epee). And while I was working on the manuscript that would become Magic Lost, Trouble Found, I took private rapier and dagger lessons, and took a lot of notes for future book use. My fencing coach, Wes Caudill, helped me block out the fight scene in the first chapter of Magic Lost, Trouble Found, and is always available for any and all of my combat-related questions.

Like Raine, I like to be creative in my fighting style. Though unlike Raine, I’ve never used a rose bush branch as an offhand weapon. I prefer the more traditional offhand weapons: a dagger, a second rapier (fighting with a pair of rapiers is also known as a “case” of rapiers or Florentine style), a dueling cloak (though I never quite got the hang of that), but what was just too much fun was a rapier and a bullwhip. Yep, you heard me right. Believe me, nothing distracts an opponent like a six-foot whip wrapping around their blade. Hmmm, a bullwhip. That sounds like a weapon Raine would like.

We love call stories here in the lair. Would you like to share yours?

I got "The Call" from Kristin Nelson offering to represent me, and "The Email" from Kristin telling me we had a two-book contract offer on the table.

"The Call" came during the day while I was at work (at the day job). When Kristin said she loved my book and wanted to represent me, I did a lot of silent "squeeing" and fumbling to find a pen and paper to take notes. That alone shows how completely befuddled and caught off guard I was—I'm an editor, writer and proofreader at an advertising agency; I've got pens and paper all over the place. I had two other agents who were also considering my book, but I really wanted to sign with Kristin. Why? Because she was so excited about my book and seemed to love my characters as much as I did. For me, that was a must-have for an agent.

The frustrating part of getting The Call at the office was that while my co-workers congratulated me, they had no clue how freaking huge and mammoth and humongous this moment was for me. It's definitely more fun to squee with people who know why they're squeeing with you.

As to The Email from Kristin saying that we had an offer of a two-book contract from Ace Books—that one came at home. I'd just gotten home from work and had been checking my email like crazy every day. When I saw the subject line "We have an offer," first I stopped breathing. Second, I let my breath out, took another one, and told myself to keep breathing. Then I opened the email.

And screamed.

Bear in mind that I was at home and so was my husband Derek. Now he understood how huge, mammoth, and humongous this news was, so when I burst into tears, I got the perfectly appropriate response of enthusiastic hugs and kisses (not that I wanted that from my co-workers). Our dogs (two retired racing greyhounds and a Jack Russell Terrier) were crowded around us and jumping up & down—they had no clue that mom had just scored a two-book deal, they just wanted to share in the excitement.

For more about Lisa and her work, check out her website. Lisa will be participating in a panel and signing at Barnes and Noble in Cary, NC, on June 23. For more information, click here.

What's your favorite love triangle? What do you like about swashbuckling adventure, and what's your favorite one? What criteria do you think a heroine should use when choosing between two hot guys?

Lisa is giving away a Raine Benares gift basket with copies of all three books and assorted other goodies to one commenter.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

YOU HAVE WON £1,500,000,000.00

By Kate


This was the message that greeted me when I opened my email account today. I was so excited! All I have to do to collect my winnings is to call Mr. Mark Williams and give him my name, address, phone, age, sex, occupation, driver's license and social security number. Once he has all that info, I'm sure Mr. Williams will rush my winnings to me by overnight mail. Right?


By the way, in case you didn't catch that number the first time, it's £1,500,000,000.00.

One. Billion. Five. Hundred. Million. Pounds.

That's over two billion dollars. Just so we're clear. I'm not sure how Mr. Mark Williams can afford to give me all that money, but I'm more than happy to take it off his hands.

In fact, I have a whole list of things I want to buy, starting with houses in all my favorite places. And I'll need a private jet, of course, so I can fly there whenever I want without having to take off most of my clothes in the security line at the airport. And of course I'll give tons of money to charities and organizations that provide food and medicine and animals and housing to people in need. We would all do that, right?

Now that I've told everybody I'm going to be immensely wealthy, I suppose I'll start getting emails and phone calls from everyone I know, asking me to loan them some money to buy a house or pay off a loan or whatever. That's okay. I've decided to be generous. Whatever you want, I'll give it to you. I want everyone to share in my joy!

Maybe I'll buy a publishing company. And a boat. Hmm. A personal trainer? I'd better make a list. It's going to be so much fun spending all this money!

So, play along with me. What's the first FUN thing you'd buy with your big winnings?

One thing you won't have to buy is a copy of Homicide in Hardcover, because one random commenter will win an autographed copy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gabi Stevens Climbing Mt. Everest

by KJ Howe

The publishing industry is a challenging one during the best of times. In this economy, finding a home for our books might parallel climbing Mt. Everest--a true test of nerves, an endurance event including the risk of life and limb, and a feat to truly admire. Today I'd like to welcome someone who has recently reached the summit! A warm welcome to Gabi Stevens who will tell her tale on the rocky path to publication:

Three weeks ago, my new agent sold my new paranormal series, Time of Transition, to Tor. The first book, THE WISH LIST, is due on bookshelves May 2010. I'd had publishing success in the past, but my career stalled when an editor left my publishing house. Despite having an agent, despite contest wins, good reviews, and a burning desire to succeed, my writing career was going nowhere. And then, as an added insult, I had to get a day job to pay tuitions for twins (yes, I know I was lucky before). When the first two years passed without any nibbles, I thought it was a fluke, but as the drought continued, it became harder and harder to keep going, to keep writing, not to quit. I started doubting my abilities, believing that I didn't have what it takes, that I'd never have another book published. I tried switching genres, switching critique groups, and going through many, many months of utter despair. So why didn't I quit? Here are...

The Top Ten Reasons I am Still in the Game:

10. I already owned the equipment — Computer...check; research books…check; paper...check. Are you kidding? I buy my paper by the case at my favorite office superstore.

9. The lovely fellow writers I have gotten to know over the years — They are a support group. They wouldn’t let me quit. They "get" me.

8. I couldn't turn off the voices in my head — If you're a writer, you know what I mean. Too many characters were demanding life, and every time I considered leaving them behind, they'd protest.

7. Nothing feels as good as typing "The End" — It’s a sense of accomplishment when you've finished a novel. And now I have three completed novels and three proposals that I can regale my agent with.

6. Time means nothing — Time exists, but the way we measure it is arbitrary. Why do we have a twenty-four hour day with sixty minute hours made up of sixty second minutes (I know, I know, the Babylonians)? I read a book once where the calendar was kept with a deck of cards. (Think about it: fifty-two weeks in a year, fifty-two cards in a deck; four suits times thirteen cards equals fifty two, and you have jokers for leap years.) And age is just a number. In my head I will forever be twenty. Only wiser than when I was actually twenty.

5. The importance of teaching my children that having a dream and pursuing it is (almost) as important as succeeding.

4. It's just cool to say you're a writer — the Muggle world...I mean the non-writing world...doesn’t "get" it anyway, but they're impressed.

3. I needed an excuse to keep my book buying habits — I read a lot. Too much. No, really. When I run out of books, I read my husband's robotics journals. I don't understand them, but I read them. I have no TBR pile. Actually I do right now, but it's only three books. Check back in a week.

2. I enjoy it — Yes, writing is hard, yes, it can be frustrating, but I like to play with language and words. I like looking up grammar rules and definitions. Diagramming sentences should be required for all students. It's fun.

And the number one reason I haven’t quit…

1. Embarrassment.

Yup. My prime motivator was not being able to face my family and friends. I couldn't tell them I failed. I try not to care about what others think about me, but this was different. I couldn't quit because I felt I made a liar of myself and disappointed those who believed in me. I wanted to be able to hold my head up, and I couldn’t have done that if I had quit. (Hey, this is about my reasons for not quitting.)

Wiser men than I have written about persistence, so I leave you with these words from Isaac Asimov: If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success—but only if you persist.


Thanks for sharing your story, Gabi. Your perseverence is inspiring and I can't wait to read your novels! If you're a writer, what are you willing to sacrifice to make your dreams come true? If you're a reader, do you like hearing "CALL" stories about your favorite authors? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Gabi Stevens was born in California to Hungarian parents. They never understood how she could make up stories and entertain herself for hours at a time. She must not have understood that she was a storyteller either because she waited until her twins turned one and she feared her brain was turning into mush to write her first book.

An award winning author, Gabi now lives and writes in New Mexico where she lives with her robotics engineer husband, three daughters, and a neurotic dog. She loves to play games, has a wicked addiction to reading, and avoids housework and cooking whenever she can. She is the author of a new paranormal series, The Time of Transition, from Tor. The first book, The Wish List, appears in stores May 2010. You can follow her blog at

A special congrats to Bandita Donna MacMeans who is going to be up on stage tonight at the RT conference in Orlando accepting a special award. We're cheering you on, Donna! KJ

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Rooster Takes Orlando!

by Donna MacMeans

Hi - First wanted to announce the winner of Lisa Cooke's blog on Tuesday. MsHellion - you're the winner! Please contact Lisa at with your information.

Second - BIG NEWS! Romantic Times announced the winners of their 2009 awards and yours truly won Best Historical Love and Laughter! I'll accept the award on Friday -- right before the Vampire Ball.

So that's where you'll find the GR and I - down here in sunny Orlando at the RT Convention.

We packed our bags and boarded the airplane. The GR insisted he could fly on his own but when I insisted he'd be too tired for the planned events, he relented and claimed the window seat.

We didn't even make it out of the Orlando airport when the GR tried to pick up chicks.

We arrived at the Wynham Hotel and the GR insisted on leading the way to the room.

He consulted Sheila Clover English of Circle of Seven about making a book trailer. The GR gives new meaning to the term "hunt and peck".

The GR checks out his competition in the arms of cover model CJ Hollenbach - you know, one "rooster" to another.

The cheeky bird flirts with Kensington author Delilah Marvelle

and inspires Linnea Sinclair to violence with her space blaster.

After spending the night in the bar sharing stories with romance reader Bud Rice (husband of Ellora's Cave author Dee Brice), but GR signed the bar bill to my room. Now how am I going to explain that $500 tab on my credit card???

Finally, Kensington author Sally MacKenzie reduced the GR to a pool of fur, feathers and alcohol.

I just wanted to leave you with this - the floor show of the Ellora's Cave models.

And so while the GR and I are out circulating among the fans of romance down here in Orlando, I can't promise that I'll be able to drop in frequently to answer questions and comments - but I promise I will read them. I'll send promo items gathered from RT (including a book) to two commentors from today's blog. In that spirit, tell me - what's your favorite kind of promo? Can't guarantee that I'll find it here on promotion lane, but I'll send the GR out to "peck" out the best.