Sunday, May 31, 2009

Road Trip!

by Susan Sey

I had an epiphany the other day.

I didn't find an image of the Virgin Mary in my morning oatmeal or anything. It was pretty pedestrian as far as epiphanies go. My sudden blast of insight was more related to the ten-hour road trip I was preparing for.

When I was a kid, we regularly drove up to our family cottage in Northern Michigan for the weekend. It was a four hour trip, one way. Sometimes my dad would drive back to the city for the work week, leaving my mom & sisters & I alone at the lake until he returned late Friday night.

Every afternoon while he was away my mom would load up the giant van & take us all to the Dairy Queen in town. I can't remember what we all ate but she had an enormous Peanut Buster Parfait. Every day, rain or shine, without fail. Peanut Buster Parfait.

When I was a kid, road trips just...happened. Like Christmas & birthday parties & dinner & clean clothes. They just magically occured & I didn't bother to think about where they came from. I got in the van at home, got out several hours later at the cottage & voila. Summer vacation was upon us.

I thought about this as I stood in my bedroom the other day with suitcases piled up to my knees, a mountain of clean but unfolded laundry mounded on the bed, & an excel spreadsheet in hand listing out everything I needed to do/pack/remember. Getting a family from Point A to Point B is no joke. Succesful military campaigns have been mounted that require less planning.

When I was a kid, I thought the daily trip to DQ for was us. Now that I'm older (and have survived a few solo, ten-hour road trips sans my husband,) I know better.

That Peanut Buster Parfait was my mother's sanity. It was nothing less than an oasis of selfishness & indulgence. It was something to look forward to every day while trapped for a weeks in a tiny cottage with one bathroom, balky plumbing & no other kids for miles around. I don't remember if she read romance novels or not, but I hope she did. If ever a woman needed a HEA, it was my mom during those long weeks at the lake.

This little epiphany of mine got me thinking about other transitions I've made, other times life has forced me to rearrange my thinking. Most particularly, I've revisited how I define a good book anymore.

Before I tried writing, I didn't cut books--or authors--a lot of slack. I loved a good book. I adored a great one. I read them over & over & over again if a book took my fancy. But if a book failed to live up to the promise of the blurb? Or petered out after a promising start? Or finished with an unsatisfying limp? Oooooh. I did not forgive easily.

But now that I write books--or attempt to write books--I have a great deal more empathy for what the author tried to do rather than what she actually did. I can admire an ambitious plot turn, even if it isn't artfully executed. I can befriend a hero or heroine who isn't quite as sympathetic as I'd have demanded before.

I especially love books that are set in unusal locations (Ancient Rome, anybody?) and unpopular time periods (Vietnam War era stuff really appeals to me right now for some reason.) I love the fact that the author sank a year or more of her life into swimming upstream with no guarantee it would pay off. I love that somebody listened to her heart & wrote what was in it instead of trying to force her idea into a pre-formed & saleable slot.

So tell me: When was the last time you changed your mind? Got a fresh perspective? Redefined something? Took a risk? And you're talking to somebody who recently gave both her children homemade summer haircuts, so don't hold back. Nobody's going to judge you here. :-)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Snacks

by Jo Robertson

The other day I heard the ice cream man jangling his bell as his truck turned the corner near my house. No one ran after him as they did when I was a child -- lots of little kiddies racing down the street, pennies clutched in their hands.

But the sound of that bell had an almost Pavlovian effect on me. Suddenly I wanted a treat – preferable the banana popsicles of my youth. Where did all the banana popsicles go, anyway? Can you still find them in your area?

Summer snacks are the best kind. When the thermometer soars and it’s too hot to do anything outside except lie in the shaded hammock, all I want is a cool snack to ease the pain of sultry summer.

Here are some of my favorite summer snacks:

Homemade ice cream. Oh, you knew that was gonna top the list, right? I’ve shared my favorite ice cream recipe before, but I’ll repeat it below. Nothing's
much better on a summer's day than a delicious, very large bowl of light, homemade ice cream.

Peppermint patties. The large kind that you nibble on while drinking a tall glass of water and reading your favorite book. My brother and I used to crouch on the floor and draw with our colored pencils, each of us with a glass of ice water and a peppermint patty.

Ah, the good old days.

California Cuties. No, not the girls, but the small oranges that are so sweet and so perfectly sized for children's tiny fingers to peel. They're a cross between a sweet orange and a mandarin orange and are delicious! In fact, any fresh fruit is on my list of favorite snacks.

Right now strawberries are on in California and will continue to produce until October. Yummy. I love strawberries!

Soda. Your choice. Although I’m just saying that in my not-so-humble opinion, Pepsi outweighs Coke in the on-going Pepsi-Coke controversy. Lots of ice in a tall tumbler and hearing the fizz as the soda pours over the ice. Yum!

Now I know the experts say soda doesn’t quench thirst nearly as well as water, but in my world, they're just plain wrong.

Jello. No, no, not the yucky horribly-flavored kind you get in the hospital. I’m talking about the kind you bling up with lots of goodies. Apricot jello with crushed pineapple, bananas, and miniature marshmallows. Strawberry jello with Cool Whip and fresh strawberries.

And I'm definitely not talking about the lime jello with shredded carrots my mother used to make. Whoever thought that was a good combo?

Any dessert that doesn’t have to be baked.

Like my Chocolate Dessert.
· Break one angel food cake into pieces and spread in a 9x13 pan
· Melt a 6 ounce package of chocolate chips with 3 tablespoons of water. Cool
· Add 3 beaten egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of powered sugar.
· Fold in 3 beaten egg whites and 1 cup of Cool Whip.
· Pour mixture over cake and chill.
· Top with chopped nuts.

Any entrĂ©e that doesn’t have to be cooked. My advice – use the grill!

Jo’s Homemade Ice Cream

2 quarts of half and half
1 can evaporated milk
3 cups sugar
1 TB lemon extract
2 TB vanilla extract

Mix well with wire whip and pour into ice cream maker.

Okay, sharing time! What's your favorite summer snack? Sweet or salty? Dry or liquid? Got any favorite, non-labor intensive recipes for us?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sherry Thomas visits the Lair!

by Christine Wells

It's my pleasure to welcome back to the lair a historical romance writer who has received many accolades since her highly anticipated debut PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS wowed readers in 2008. Sherry is a double RITA finalist this year with PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which is a strong contender for both best debut and best historical romance. You can read more about Sherry on her website.

Sherry's third novel, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is out now. Go and buy it. You'll be glad you did! Here is the blurb:

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith's. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won't rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

First of all, I have to say that I read Not Quite a Husband almost in one sitting, sending my children to bed early and burning my husband's dinner (he assures me he likes his roast pork a little char-grilled). Can you tell our readers about your hero and heroine?

Leo Marsden and Bryony Asquith are no longer married. In fact, since their marriage was annulled, legally speaking, they were never married. But of course it was an annulment based on lies--non-consummation and a manufactured invalidity with the wedding ceremony itself, as they lived in an era when divorces were hugely damaging, and annulments a much more discreet way to end a marriage.

Bryony is a physician and surgeon. The fact that she is a doctor plays an important role at several points in the story. Leo is a mathematician. I'm not sure whether his being a mathematician matters tremendously to the plot, but I want him to be a mathematician because I find that kind of brilliance sexy. :-)

Bryony and Leo are English but the story is set against the backdrop of an uprising in the North-West Frontier of India. What made you choose this setting?

LOL, it was what I could find.

The book is inspired by the movie The Painted Veil, which is set in 1920s China. In the movie, the remote, dangerous location is absolutely necessary for the couple to repair their relationship, because it forces them to be in close proximity and rely on each other in ways that they wouldn't in a big city.

So given that I had a certain time window in which to set my book, somewhere between 1894 and 1899, I went looking for colonial conflicts around the world. My original idea of central Asia did not work--it was not really a destination for Englishwomen. I looked as far as South Africa and New Zealand, but eventually decided to try my luck with the area where Osama Bin Laden may be hiding today, knowing that the Pashtun tribes of those mountains have a long history of resisting foreign influence.

And bingo, lo and behold, there was a spate of trouble in the North-West Frontier of India in 1897. I mapped them out and settled on the Swat Valley Uprising, because it happened so unexpectedly and violently--the British garrison in Swat Valley was caught completely by surprise. (I didn't want my H/H to be headed knowingly into danger, lol, can't have them be too stupid to live.)

I've noticed that the theme of estranged lovers recurs in all three of your published novels. It's one of my favourite tropes. What draws you to write about heroes and heroines with shared pasts?

DELICIOUS is more of a forbidden-love story, but PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and NOT QUITE A HUSBAND are definitely estranged-lover stories.

I think it is not so much heroes and heroines with shared pasts that draw me, but the idea of how do you deal with a relationship that has gone off the rails. How do you recover from that kind of disaster and rebuild? That fascinates me. It goes to the very foundation of what romantic love is. Is it a lesser entity--rising with lust and waning with time--or is it grand and beautiful, capable of the kind of forgiveness, understanding, generosity, and commitment that make life worth living?

I would like to believe the latter so I aspire to it in my books.

Laura Kinsale once commented that readers are hard on heroines, that if you don't write a "nice, kind, smart, sassy, beautiful, not-too-strong, not-too-weak heroine" you need to prepare yourself for flak. The heroines you write are strong, flawed and not always "nice". Do you think readers' tastes are changing a little? Or do you agree with Claudia Dain, that just as there are alpha and beta heroines, there are alpha and beta readers?

I never think about likeability when I read romance heroines. My two favorite heroines of all time are Louise from BEAST, by Judith Ivory, and Melanthe from FOR MY LADY'S HEART by Laura Kinsale. Neither of them would even look at me in real life, but I'd probably totally girl-crush on them! Whatever Laura Kinsale was doing, she was doing something right.

When I write, it's the same: I don't ask myself whether my characters are likeable, I only ask whether I understand why they are the way they are.

I'm not an authority on whether reader tastes are changing, since we did have these strong, flawed, and not always "nice" heroines before, in very, very successful books. Maybe it's like milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Readers can like more than one kind of heroine, just like you and me can like more than one kind of chocolate. Maybe the supply of dark chocolate has been low, so people have been consuming more milk chocolate. But now that dark chocolate is more readily available, people are realizing that they like it too. :-)

Please tell us 3 quirky things about you.

1) I have a dysfunctional sense of vocabulary. When I came to the U.S., I was thirteen, and had an English vocabulary of about 150. I had to quickly bring myself up to speed to handle school and then beef up my word bank to tackle the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is a vocabulary-heavy--or at least used to be--standardized test American high school students have to take). Words like "puissant" and "invidious" entered my vocabulary long before words such as "potty" or "nerd." As a result, it often has to be pointed out to me when a word is a 25-cent word, or an archaic word, or that I can just say "collarbone" instead of "clavicle."

2) I am incapable of writing anything based on my own life. I'm writing a contemporary romance on spec, and the heroine is 1/4 native-American. And I have been mulling whether to take out that 1/4 native-American part. Because, well, the ancestors of Native Americans came from Asia and I'm from Asia and I don't want people to think I'm writing about myself! Nuts, ain't it? That's how much I don't want the facts of my life to end up in my books.

3) I cannot eat alone without reading. There will be times when it's midnight, and I finally sitting down to my dinner, then I get up, while my food grows cold, and search all around my house for something I want to read.

Sherry has generously offered a signed copy of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND to one lucky reader who answers her question:

I am personally neutral on the "exotic-ness" of book settings--a well-done setting is a well-done setting, whether it is the familiar pleasure grounds of London, or the jungles of Amazon. But since NOT QUITE A HUSBAND is set rather far and away--the North-West Frontier of British India, today's North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan--I'd like to hear what are some of the great less-used settings you have read in romances, settings that truly come alive.

My personal favorites are Provence as portrayed by Judith Ivory in BEAST, and Hawaii in Laura Kinsale's THE SHADOW AND THE STAR. (In fact, recently, while planning for our long overdue family vacation, and looking over which island of Hawaii we wanted to go, I instantly recognized the landmarks on Oahu from THE SHADOW AND THE STAR, so of course that's where we are going! I'm going to re-read the Hawaii portions of TSATS before we leave.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another May Winner!!!

I'm excited to finally announce the random winner of an autographed copy of the first book in Susan Mallery's fabulous new Lone Star Sisters series, Under Her Skin. The winner is ...


Congratulations, Cheryl!!

Please send your snail mail address to me at and I'll forward the info to Susan.

Susan had a great time visiting the Banditas! Thanks to everyone who came by say hi!

Sara Bennett's winner!

Thanks, everyone, for a fun day talking historical romance in the lair yesterday and for giving Sara Bennett such a rousing welcome. The winner of the signed copy of your choice of any historical romance from Sara's backlist (including her new book LED ASTRAY BY A RAKE) is:


Anita, please contact Sara on and she'll organize your prize for you. Congratulations!

Burning Questions About Weird Stuff

Since today is my regular day to blog and I'm a little busy playing grandma to my new grandson, my very good friend, Nancy Haddock has kindly agreed to host the blog today. Please welcome Nancy, and check out her new book, The Last Vampire Standing...

Hellloooo, Banditas! It’s a kick to be back with you, and mucho mondo thanks to Suz for inviting me!

I’ve done a good many blogs lately, a number of them on the serious side. Today, we’re having fun! After all, it’s still the launch month of my book Last Vampire Standing, so let’s keep the party going! (And, yes, darlings, there is a copy of my new release up for grabs to those who leave a comment!)

So, does anyone remember the film Jumpin’ Jack Flash? There’s a scene in which Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Terry Dolittle, poses the question, “What is Martinizing?” She wondered about stuff like that.

Of course, Googling provided the Martinizing answer. But what about questions Google and the Internet can’t answer? I have burning questions about weird stuff, and perhaps you’ve wondered about these, too. To wit:

Why do weather people only have to be right 10% of the time to keep their jobs? Did they only have to be 10% right on their meteorology exams?

Does antimatter matter not? If so (or not), why are scientists making it?

Why is the green M&M the only “female?”

Do aliens take pictures of Earth and beam them home? Are we making funny faces in the pictures?

Why did advertising folks corrupt words like Light to Lite and Glow to Glo? Did the containers get too small to hold the correctly spelled word?

When the magnetic poles reverse, will water in the northern hemisphere drain counterclockwise?

If a late flight can “make up time in the air,” why don’t planes fly faster all the time?

Why does it take four supervisors to watch one construction worker do his job?

Which fragrances combine to make up New Car Smell?

Why do our legs take longer to tan than other parts of us?

Where are all the lost socks? In parallel universes, with parallel washers and dryers, do they lose their socks, too? Are there enough lost single socks floating around somewhere to make pairs again?

If someone is out to get you, and you’re not paranoid about it, is there something wrong with you?

Okay, your turn. Come on, now, I know you have your own burning questions about weird stuff, so leave a comment and spill. Can’t think of a question? Jo-Jo the Jester, the stand-up comic in Last Vampire Standing, is still looking for material, so leave your suggestion for a vampire joke. If you’re a published author, please also leave your web URL or title of your last or upcoming book. I like sharing the stage!

For more opportunities to win a book, see the Beach Party page on Nancy’s web site –

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And The Winner is . . .

Once again, we have booty to give away!

The winner of Stephanie Bond's 4 Bodies and a Funeral is (cue fanfare)

Donna S!

Congratulations, Donna! Please email me via with your contact information, and I'll pass it along to Stephanie.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Led Astray by Sara Bennett!

by Anna Campbell

It is with great pleasure I bring back another familiar face to the lair, Aussie historical romance star Sara Bennett. Sara's going to tell us about her latest series and also about what else has been happening in her world.

For more information about Sara and her books, check out her website:

Sara, welcome back to the lair. Your June release, LED ASTRAY BY A RAKE, kicks off a new five-book series called THE HUSBAND HUNTERS CLUB, set in the Victorian era. Can you tell us about this story?

Nice to be back, Anna. LED ASTRAY BY A RAKE is the first book in THE HUSBAND HUNTERS CLUB series, which is a fun series about five respectable young ladies from Miss Debenham’s Finishing School who form a club and make a pact to marry the men of their dreams rather than the men chosen for them by their families and the stuffy society they live in. These men may not be entirely suitable, and the girls swear to hunt them with all the feminine wiles in their possession. Love, they declare, will conquer all! Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, and there are lots of problems along the way. LED ASTRAY is about Miss Olivia Monteith and her chosen husband, Lord Dominic Lacey or, as he’s known in society, Wicked Nic. He seems to revel in his bad reputation, but Olivia knows he has a good heart and that they could be very happy together, if only she could persuade him to see past her respectable facade. When this fails, she decides to meet him on his own territory, at the Demimondaine Ball, and take the serious step of seducing him. I won’t give away the rest of the story, except to say that Nic has a dark secret in his past that Olivia may find it hard to forgive, even loving him as she does. (By the way, gorgeous Haddon Hall on the right was Sara's inspiration for Lacey Castle, the setting for this story).

Ooh, sounds delicious! What's coming up next from THE HUSBAND HUNTERS CLUB?

Marissa Rotherhild’s story is coming up next. She has her sights set on the Honorable George Kent, but when she arrives at his manor house for a weekend party, George isn’t there. Instead she meets his brother, Valentine, and falls in love. But Valentine is on a quest to find a lost rose and if Marissa wants his attention then she must help him, no matter how dangerous it may become.

Like Bandita Donna MacMeans, you set your books in the Victorian era. What's the appeal of this time for you?

The Victorian era is a long period, from 1837 to 1901, and you have lots of changes during that time. My new series is set in 1837, at the very beginning of the Victorian era, so everything seems new and exciting. A new queen on the throne, a new age of science and reason, the industrial revolution replacing the old ways. In this time of dramatic change, the girls of Miss Debenham’s Finishing School feel that they are making their own new beginnings and that they should be allowed to make their own decisions for the future.

You also write paranormal romance as Sara Mackenzie. What's coming up for your alter-ego?

I recently had a short story called THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER AND HIS WIFE published in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PARANORMAL ROMANCE. I am about to start work on a second story, this time for THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PARANORMAL TIME TRAVEL. I also have a trilogy outstanding—and yes, my fans are always asking when I’m going to finish it. And I promise I will!

Do you ever get the urge to kick over the traces and write something outside the historical romance genre?

Funny you should ask that! I used to write mainstream historical, back in the dark ages, and recently one of those books has been bought by a German publisher.

This has encouraged me to think there may still be a place for these longer, character-filled books, set in the Australian past, and I’d like to write another one. It is just finding the time that’s difficult.

Congratulations on the German sale. What writers have been your biggest influences?

I read widely, and lately I’ve been reading lots of nonfiction. I suppose when I first started writing romance I read Johanna Lindsey and Katherine Woodiwiss, and I also loved the Angelique series by husband and wife team Sergeanne Golon. I wish I could get hold of some of the old French movies they made of the first few ANGELIQUE books, but they’ve never released them with English subtitles. I also read a lot of crime fiction and I like a spooky ghost story. I’ve just finished Sarah Waters' THE LITTLE STRANGER, which was brilliant. And I'm catching up with the Cynsters, with Stephanie Laurens' latest, yum.

Do you see any trends emerging in romance and in historical romance in particular?

Well, I’ve heard the historical is popular again! Seriously I don’t think it ever really went out of fashion, and there are so many periods of history and so many different kinds of historicals. I don’t know what the next big thing is. I just write what I write and hope everyone will enjoy it. I think that’s all a writer can do.

Sara, is there anything you'd like to ask the Bandits and Buddies?

What kind of historical would you really like to read? Medieval, Regency, Tudor, Viking—what?

Sara has very generously offered one lucky commenter their choice of a signed book from her backlist of historical romances. What a great opportunity to catch up a wonderful story you might have missed out on. You can see her bookshelf here: Good luck!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When Characters Do Things That Make You Crazy

Today we welcome award-winning author Stephanie Bond to the lair. Stephanie left a corporate computer programming job to write fiction full-time. To date, she’s sold almost 50 romance and mystery novels. Stephanie currently writes the BODY MOVERS humorous mystery series. Today she'll share some reader reactions to her characters.

The characters in my first published romantic comedy were Ellie and Mark Sutherland. Over twelve years later, I still get emails from readers asking, “So what are Ellie and Mark up to these days? Any children?” Those emails make me smile, because it’s flattering when readers feel as if the characters I’ve created are real people, whose lives go on after the book ends.

By far, the character I receive the most email about in my BODY MOVERS sexy mystery series is Wesley Wren, the younger brother of the main character. Wesley is a 19-year-old man-child whose parents abandoned him and his older sister over ten years ago, and left them to fend for themselves. The Wren children were raised with silver spoons in their mouths--the best of everything, including private schools. At the time their parents skipped town to avoid being prosecuted for a white collar crime, Wesley was 10 years old and Carlotta was 18. Carlotta was barely equipped to take care of herself, much less her younger brother, who was traumatized by the sudden disappearance of his parents. To make things worse, Wesley was a slight, bespectacled child with a genius IQ, so he didn’t fit in at school, especially not when faced with the rude awakening of going from private school to public school. Carlotta indulged him--she was, after all, the one who’d held him every night when he cried himself to sleep after their parents disappeared. No one but Carlotta knows how much he suffered. So when Wesley’s behavior turned mischievous, she overlooked it. And later, when his behavior turned destructive, she was powerless to stop it. More than a sister, but not quite a mother, Carlotta can only advise, threaten, hope and pray.

Wesley is too smart for his own good. Instead of going to college, he opted to make his living cobbling together computers and playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker. He’s gotten himself in deep debt to two loan sharks, Father Thom and The Carver. But he’s not all bad…he loves his sister dearly, and he does all the cooking. He’s a lovable, down-on-his-luck, good-looking (think Leonardo DiCaprio) almost-man.

And apparently, from all the emails I get from maternal women who want to wring his silly neck, he’s very real to them. Most of the readers admit that they are mothers themselves, many with children older than Wesley, and they all have a remedy to cure his bad behavior, ranging from family therapy to tough love. I read all the e-mails with great fondness and big smiles because if Wesley triggers such high emotion from readers, that means he’s a real person to them.

I get a lot of email about Carlotta, too, mostly from people wanting to know which of the three men who are interested in her she will pick--the hunky cop Jack who arrested her brother and reopened her parents’ case, the sexy body-moving Coop, who is Wesley’s boss and has such a good influence on the young man, or the persistent Peter, her first love, who is now back in her life and trying to make amends for dumping her when her parents’ scandal broke all those years ago. I think it’s wonderful that readers have their own opinions as to who she should end up with. (As of this writing, reader feedback is running 49% Jack, 49% Coop, and 2% Peter.) That means readers are vested in her choice--Carlotta is real to them.

And then there are the, ahem, nasty e-mails. I’ve received a few about the sister-brother body-moving duo. There’s the reader who thinks the Wren children are “the most wretched people walking the face of the earth.” And the reader who thinks Carlotta “is a slut because she’s stringing along three men.” The same reader thinks Wesley “is a drugged-out punk who never learns from his mistakes. I hope he gets shot dead.”

Okey-dokey. Well, it’s one thing to be rooting for a character and hoping they’ll make this decision or that decision, and to be disappointed when they do something ill-advised…but to despise a character so much that you let them ruin your day…hm. That might be taking things a little too far.

Just remember--when characters do things that make you crazy, it’s a good thing. If characters were boring and predictable, you’d lose interest, right? When the first BODY MOVERS book was released, I was a guest at a book club discussing the book and one member commented, “Carlotta seems like the kind of character who’s going to make a lot of bad decisions before she makes a good one.” Then the reader grinned and added, “Gee, I hope so.”
How about you--do you let book characters make you crazy? Why do you think you’re critical of particular characters--do they perhaps remind you of people in your own life?

Stephanie is giving away a signed copy of 4 Bodies and a Funeral to one commenter!
Books 4, 5 and 6 in the BODY MOVERS series will be released back to back April, May, and June 2009. (Books 1-3 are still available at all Internet bookstores.) For more information, go to To read an excerpt of book 4 in the BODY MOVERS series, 4 BODIES AND A FUNERAL, click here. Stephanie is speaking at the June Georgia Romance Writers meeting on the topic "What are You Waiting For?" -- How to identify and overcome obstacles, real and imagined, standing in the way of taking your writing career to the next level.

After the GRW meeting, she'll be signing all 3 books in the Body Movers trilogy at the Barnes & Noble at The Forum.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who's In Your Foxhole?

By Kate

I want this guy in my foxhole, the one in the pink boxers.

U.S. Army Specialist Zachary Boyd leapt from his sleeping quarters and grabbed his helmet, vest and rifle — but not his pants — and took his station behind sandbags.

Zachary Boyd's story makes me think about the people in my own life who watch my back, who support me, who would jump out of bed, grab the important stuff and come to my aid no matter what the personal risk or cost. These are the people who pass what I like to call my Lone Pine test.

Here’s how the Lone Pine test goes ...

If my car broke down in Lone Pine, California, a mountain town about 200 miles away from my house, who could I call? Who would I trust to come pick me up?

Those are the people I want in my foxhole.

Here’s my foxhole short list:

My DH. Seems he’s always watching out for me, in so many ways. He’s my doctor, my cop, my mechanic, my bartender, my accountant, my stand-up comedian, my chef, my computer geek, my best friend.

My mom. She’s fiercely loyal, my biggest fan and my best gal pal. She sends me cards for no reason and makes me smile. She goes around town buying my books and gives them to the library or her friends or complete strangers.

My two closest writer friends, the ones I called last week sobbing because several horrible things had happened and there was no one else on the planet who could talk me down off the ledge but these two. They have helped me in immeasurable ways and I owe them so much. They know who they are. :-)

There are a few others -- and they know who they are, too. And the thing is, I'll be there for all of them, too.

So, on this Memorial Day holiday, I wonder ... who’s in your foxhole?

And Happy Memorial Day to all!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Need a Hero?

by KJ Howe

Please welcome talented thriller author Shane Gericke to the lair. Today Shane touches on a subject near to our hearts--everyday heroes. Here's our friend Shane enjoying a beignet at Cafe du Monde, a landmark New Orleans coffeehouse.

With Memorial Day around the corner, I find myself thinking about heroes.



But not just the heroes of Important Things.

I think of everyday heroes, too.

Nurses who work overtime because a frightened patient needs reassurance.

Widows who raise their children by themselves, with class, pride and dignity.

Couples who work three or four jobs to give their kids a little bit extra . . . or maybe just to put food on the table every night.

What they have in common is courage.

Tons of it, every day, in every way.

I find such courage incredibly romantic. Being brave is one of the more romantic things we do for somebody else. It's not an easy gift, like chocolates, cards and violins. It takes effort and risk that might--or might not--be reciprocated.

It takes guts.

Which brings me to New Orleans.

My wife, Jerrle, and I vacationed there this past week. We were delighted to see the Big Easy coming back from the death blow of Katrina. It's dried out. It's rebuilding. It's lively. It's looking good and walking tall.

And it's filled with those everyday heroes.

One was a vendor in the French Market near the Mississippi River. We were looking for New Orleans spices to bring back as gifts for friends. We got his name from another vendor, and went to visit. We found the spice packets we wanted, and spoke for a while. The talk turned naturally to the hurricane. Turns out that he lost $200,000 worth of property he'd worked his butt off to buy. It was gone. Vanished. He got the princely sum of $10,000 from FEMA, and that, he said, was dispensed with an attitude that they were giving him gold. Basically, he lost nearly everything.

But he kept on grinding his spices and packing his bags and getting them to his various customers. He worked the spice cart and sold us what we wanted. He never gave up. To me, that defines an everyday hero—knowing what you have to do, and doing it without complaining.
Another example literally walked right up to us. Jerrle and I were heading out of our hotel in the French Quarter one night. We'd have a bite to eat, then go listen to Dixieland music. We recognized a Japanese woman who was also staying in the hotel. We’d never met, just saw each other once in the elevator.

She walked up to us and asked, in halting English, where we were going. We told her, and she asked if she could join us. We like talking to people we don't know, so we said sure. We found a small restaurant, and ordered drinks and gumbo.

Turns out she was traveling the Southern United States to see some of the things she'd only read about. Her husband couldn't get away because he was running their business—they teach English as a second language in Japan—so she was getting around by herself, taking buses to various cities. After a few days in New Orleans, she'd head to Memphis, then somewhere else. It was important to her to "walk the walk" instead of just talking the talk. So here she was, by herself, in her sixties, learning everything she could about America.

She'd asked us if she could come along because walking around the Quarter by herself at night worried her a little, and she was just plain lonely. So she asked. Imagine that courage that takes, to ask strangers in a strange land if you can put yourself into their hands for the night. We had a lovely dinner, spent several hours listening to jazz, and learned a lot from each other.

Yet another everyday hero is New Orleans itself. Jerrle and I hung out with a friend of mine, Erica Spindler. This being Romance Bandits, you probably know Erica's work—starting as a romance writer and moving into romantic suspense. I write crime thrillers, and know Erica from the book conventions that all us writers attend to meet fans and each other. She and her husband volunteered to take us to lunch, and then show us around the city they love.

Lunch was terrific--my shrimp-and-oyster po'boy couldn’t be beat. Then, we took the "Destruction Tour"--seeing the areas hardest hit by Katrina in 1995. Ironically, it was raining.

A good portion of the city is still flattened, by flood waters or FEMA bulldozers. The spray-painted X of condemnation is a scarlet letter on hundreds, maybe thousands, of buildings. But even in areas like the Lower Ninth Ward—the hardest hit area of them all—everyday life is alive and well. People are rebuilding. Kids are playing basketball in the streets. They're laughing, and high-fiving, and taking back their lives. Brad Pitt, the movie star, is building homes in the Lower Ninth. They're brand-new, affordable, and use green technology to the utmost. It takes a monumental amount of courage to come back from the biggest natural disaster in American history, and these folks showed it by the bushels-full.

But what could be the biggest act of courage came from my wife, Jerrle. Because on June 3, we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. That’s 30 years of putting up with me and the odd, romantic life of a writer.

She's my everyday hero. Happy anniversary, hon. Here's to 30 more.

National bestselling author Shane Gericke (pronounced YER-key) began writing professionally in high school. He spent 25 years as a journalist, most prominently at the Chicago Sun-Times, before plunging into crime thrillers. His first, BLOWN AWAY, was named Debut Mystery of the Year by Romantic Times magazine, and appears in five languages. It's followed by CUT TO THE BONE, and in summer 2010, MOVING TARGET, the third in his cops vs. serial killer series featuring police detective Emily Thompson. Shane is an original member of International Thriller Writers, and a director of the International Festival of Thrillers in New York, aka ThrillerFest. He belongs to Mystery Writers of America and Society of Midland Authors, and will speak with any group that will have him. He lives in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, where the series is set. He invites you to visit him at He'd buy you coffee while there, but it's digital, and the powdered creamer wouldn't dissolve.

Shane and romantic suspense superstar Erica Spindler stand atop a bare foundation in the Lower Ninth Ward, the hardest hit area of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. This was a family’s home, and for weeks, it was submerged by tons of filthy flood water. It had to be bulldozed. Despite such rampant, widespread destruction, the Big Easy is coming back, walking tall, looking good.
Shane, thanks for joining us today! As for everyone else, we'd love to hear who your everyday heroes are...

Goin' To the Pets

By Donna MacMeans

As many of you know, I lost one of my best friends earlier this month. This is Oreo, who was my constant companion for sixteen and a half years. She was a pound puppy, a mix someone had left at a shelter, and we loved her dearly. She loved us right back.

We originally brought her into our home in the hope that caring for a pet would teach our children responsibility. You can guess how that went (VBG). Oreo knew when I wasn't feeling well, and would attempt to comfort me by squeezing her hot furry body alongside mine. She followed me around the house and laid by my feet for company. If she felt she wasn't getting enough attention, she'd nose my elbow up so she could cram her head underneath for a pet. Her constantly wagging tail was her most dangerous feature.

All this is to say why I'm so proud to be included in a new anthology of short stories, all love stories which also express an appreciation of the animals we love and who, unfailingly, love us right back. All author proceeds from this project have been donated to the Animal Adoption Foundation (AAF), a no-kill animal shelter in Hamilton, Ohio - a very worthy cause. TAILS OF LOVE is slated for release in just a little more than a week on June 2nd.

If you could, I'd like you to tell us a story about a pet you've loved. My contribution to the anthology, a story named "Lord Hairy," involves Hannah, one of the school girls from THE EDUCATION OF MRS BRIMLEY. Accordingly, I'll choose one of the pet stories from the comments to win a copy of Mrs. B.

In honor of the book's release, Bandita friend Michelle Buonfiglio is running a contest from May 12 through May 26th in which she invites readers to post a picture of their pet (limit 2). Random photos will be chosen to win prizes. Winners will be chosen on May 27th (Thursday) so you haven't much time. Put those adorable photos to good use at: